EARPEACE: What inspired you into wanting to play the drums?
Richard: I’d heard a lot of music through my parents growing up, particularly 60s rock and Motown soul stuff and I grew up really loving the sounds and the rhythms in the music of artists like Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix and especially Michael Jackson. I’d previously enjoyed taking lessons in the violin when I was a kid but when I moved schools I got the opportunity to start learning music again and I chose the drums and never looked back!
EARPEACE: How did you meet the bands you have been involved with and how did life in a band develop from that starting point?
Richard: Band life in the two groups that I’m currently involved with has developed in very different ways. One is a techy/groove-metal band (of sorts) that I get to go on tour with and play shows in many different countries and the other is a jazz and soul function band that is booked for private functions and public performances. With Down For The Count, I met the rest of the band members through a local music centre that we all attended up until our late teens. Band life has developed enormously over ten years from playing our first function booking at a nearby birthday party to playing much more up market weddings and corporate events in well known London hotels and other venues all over the country. We’ve even expanded into putting on public performances and are now in the process of organising and putting on our own one day swing festival in London later this year.
On the other side of things, I got involved in Hacktivist after I met our guitarist Tim while recording the drum parts for another project I was involved in at the time. Unlike “DFTC” I joined the band after it had already been formed, but they did not have a confirmed drummer. I kept my eye on their progress and eventually got back in touch with Tim to put myself forward for the role. I met the others when we met up to jam through some of the tracks to see if we all played well together and it went on from there. Things moved forward very quickly with the band when Josh (our bassist) and I had completed the line-up and life became very different as it was the first chance I’d had to properly tour, make music videos that appeared on TV and have the music we made actually released in shops and on the radio/internet etc.
EARPEACE: What is your fondest memory and biggest highlight of your drumming career?
Richard: At this point the highlight of my career as a musician has probably been playing all of the festivals I did with Hacktivist last summer. It’s a fairly vague answer, but being able to play at such reputable festivals like Reading/Leeds, Download and Rock Am Ring (amongst others) in front of thousands of people all over Europe in one summer was a huge moment for me as a musician especially as it was the first time I had even been to some of the festivals in the first place!
EARPEACE: What are some other notable and key moments of your career as a drummer?
Richard: I’ve been lucky enough to go and play at some really famous places around the UK throughout my drumming journey so far, whether through being booked to play for functions at The Savoy Hotel, The Four Seasons, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons or Pinewood Studios, performing with my county’s youth orchestra as a teenager at The Royal Festival Hall, The Royal Albert Hall or Birmingham Symphony Hall or playing metal shows at Camden Underworld, even an upcoming gig at Brixton Academy. It’s amazing to be able to go and see a different side to places that I wouldn’t easily have the opportunity to go and visit, let alone actually perform there.
Another extremely fulfilling moment has been getting some journalistic/media interest in the music we make in Hacktivist. Seeing pictures of me and my band mates alongside articles that people have written in nationally published newspapers and music magazines is very exciting and quite surreal when it first happens. Another example is having the opportunity to go and record at Maida Vale Studios for the BBC and then have the footage played on Radio 1. It was a very proud moment for me hearing myself play drums on a national radio station.
EARPEACE: Have you ever dipped into other genres other than the one you are known for and why?
Richard: Yes, I’ve played in quite a few different genres like classical, folk, pop-punk and more straight forward “classic” rock over the years. I even played with a hiphop/world music crossover ensemble for a while. The reason why is because it’s fun! I’ve been playing drums since I was 10 years old, so the different genres have all been part of my musical education but aside from that, playing different kinds of music is a great way to have fun with friends and meet new people from all walks of life, broaden your horizons and even, to a certain extent, learn about history/art/culture.
EARPEACE: Who, in your opinion, would you rate as the best drummers in the world and why?
Richard: I could talk for pages about the different drummers that I rate and why but I’ll try and keep it brief. If I had to choose the best from living drummers I’d have to say that, for me, it’s all about Vinnie Colaiuta, Jojo Mayer, Tony Royster, Thomas Pridgen, John Blackwell, Mike Portnoy, Travis Orbin and Travis Barker. Whether for their technique, sense of timing, groove, musical playing or showmanship (or all of the above), these guys have genuinely amazed me when I’ve seen/heard them and just as a matter of personal taste for how and what they play within their genres (there are always the Gadd, Peart, Jordison fans with valid opinions), I put them ahead of the rest.
EARPEACE: What advice would you give to young drummers wanting to play in bands?
Richard: It’s another topic that I could go into for pages, but mainly, PRACTICE!!! Properly. Ideally to a metronome. That’s a given really, as with anything else in life you want to excel at, you can’t beat putting in solid time and hard work at bettering your abilities relating to your chosen outlet. Look into as many different styles as you can, even if it’s not the type of thing you want to play directly, its amazing how phrases and rhythmic concepts from different styles can be related to other genres and give you more creative ammunition and ability. Also, try and learn something, anything, from other drummers you watch/meet. Whether it’s a new kind of technique, a certain lick/fill/solo idea, a tactic for performing live or an approach to drumming or playing music as a whole, it all can help you improve.
As for directly facilitating playing in a band, surround yourself with other driven musicians, particularly ones that you consider to be on a higher level than you and ones that are into the same styles as you. Other than that, I advise learning to read and understand music theory at least in terms of rhythm/musical subdivisions and drum notation if not from an overall harmonic sense as well. This will help you understand more about music, how it works and what to play and on another side of things, help you learn songs/patterns quickly and be a more versatile and “employable” drummer.
EARPEACE: Drummers are probably exposed to the highest level of volume when playing Live compared to other band members. What is your opinion on the importance of hearing protection?
Richard: I put a lot of importance on protecting your hearing as a musician. In an art form that is predominantly aural (forgetting the visual performance aspect when playing live) your hearing is as much of an important tool as your ability to move and actually make a sound with your instrument. A musician with a poor sense of hearing would be, like a painter or sculptor with a poor sense of sight, at an extreme disadvantage when trying to produce your art. It could mean you would have a limited ability to play accurately and interpret and interact with what is going on within the music you want to play.
EARPEACE: What have you got lined up over the next year?
Richard: A fair bit of playing and writing is coming up for me in the immediate future this year. First off at the start of May I’ll be going out with Hacktivist supporting nu-metal royalty, Korn on their European tour. We also get to play with Limp Bizkit later towards the summer and then we also have been fortunate enough to be booked to play the main stage at the Reading & Leeds festival this August. Other than that we’ve got a few festival dates over in Europe and we’re working on getting material sorted and finished to record for an album to release. With DFTC we have quite a busy summer of functions and we’ve also been asked to play at the Twinwood Festival, then we have our own Jazz/Swing festival “Rhythm Junction London” that we’re putting on in September and more bookings and public shows to take us through to the end of the year.
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