20 Questions Vol 1: The Drum Chronicles
20 Questions Vol 1: The Drum Chronicles
Have you ever heard the statement “welcome to the Boy’s club”, well of course you have… The world has been riddled with occupations that were for the longest time very male-dominated and I guess in a way drumming used to be just that… however, these days, if you listen closely, all you will hear is the sound of shattering glass ceilings as it is no secret that ladies really can multitask in the very best way possible, behind the Drum Kit.
Today we have the incredible honor and privilege to sit down with three of South Africa’s most prominent female drummers in their respective fields as we give them the full MiTech 20 Questions treatment. So, move over Ringo, Step aside Bonzo, make way for the legends of tomorrow.
The Stars of today's 20 Questions are:
Click on the links above to learn more about these Epic drummers.
Good morning Ladies and again thank you for taking the time out of your day to answer a few questions for us and no doubt at the same time inspiring all future female drummers, thanks to you, they can see that all it takes is a little drive and ambition two characteristics the three of you share without question. So, with that, let’s get to the 20 Questions, shall we?
Where did you grow up and tell us a little about it?
“I was born and raised in JHB and have lived here my whole life. My whole family and most of my friends live here so looks like I am here to stay!”
“I grew up in Pretoria… Only got into music after school, played baseball in primary and I were a drum majorette in High school”
“I grew up in Edenvale, aka The Vale. Started out tap dancing at age 3, which lead me to the stage and an entertainment-focused lifestyle. I knew from very young that I was going to be on stage in some form. I immersed myself in dancing, modeling, acting classes, singing & piano lessons. In college, I studied a TV Presenting & Drama course where I was coached in various avenues such as Broadcast Journalist, Film Analysis, Makeup Artistry, Singing, Acting, Presenting, Dancing - Everything targeted at the pursuance of a career in the entertainment industry.”
How old were you when you started hitting things?
“I think I was a toddler when I started smacking my mom’s pots around, if that counts? I started hitting the drums when I was 13 though. I had to beg my parents to let me start lessons for a year before they finally gave in and found me a teacher. 20 years later, and I am still hitting 😊”
“Well, first of all, I never knew girls are allowed to play drums because there is not a lot in the mix. So, the first female drummer I have seen is Cindy Blackman (Lenny Kravitz drummer) and then I saw an all-female production think it was a Pieter Toerien thing. So, I only got into the mix at the age of 21. I thought girls can only play piano of flute or something haha. It's definitely a man's world... Personally, I think there is truth to that, but once the "boys'" see you play like "one of the boys" you get respect. It's always funny doing a gig at a bar and the reaction is always astonished to see a girl on drums. But lately, the female musicians are popping up everywhere”
“I was age 15 when I first truly appreciated the look and sound of drums. I was mesmerized. A long-time friend of mine, Paul Mathis, gave me the odd drum lesson before immigrating to The States, wherein he left me his kit to keep jamming on. From there on, I began teaching myself...”
What made you personally want to play the drums?
“My father is a musician, so I grew up surrounded by music and instruments my whole life. In addition to that, I used to tap dancing, so I think the rhythm part of the dancing pushed me towards a more rhythmic instrument.”
“I just fell in love with it from the moment I saw the first female drummer and I worked at The Performer theatre and I would only have my eye on the drummer... And I have always been different so everybody always chooses the bass or guitar etc but there is something about the drums of any song that set the mood to the song ever since that moment, I was hooked”
“I have just always loved drums. It felt different to the piano, I felt more connected to them, more alive creating a myriad of tones over numerous sound sources.”
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own style?
“I had one of the best teachers in JHB at the time. Alec taught me passion for my instrument. So it was easy for me to become obsessed and spend every waking moment researching drummers, watching them play, learning their techniques, and being inspired by some of their ideas. Later on though, my taste in music became my biggest influence. My love of hard rock helped me develop my style and passion for playing in that genre.”
“So basically first my parents did not want to buy me drums (they thought I am going through a phase, because normally at that age you have already established hobbies and know what you want to do with your life) , and second at that age our family went through a financial dip - I’m still studying so there weren't any funds to give me the proper education. So my dad bought me my first set of drums - very cheap set from cash converters hahaha... And I already trained my ear working at the performer knowing what the bass sounded like snare ext. So, I would choose some easy songs and try to play along with them. Maryke is one of my friends now but she was the first female drummer I have known, and she played in our church so I would not sing along I would just look at her and she played on an electric kit so eventually, she became my teacher (but we chatted more than actually practice)”
“I began playing along to albums that I enjoyed listening to. My taste in music is very eclectic so I found myself experimenting with different genres and drum grooves. After a handful of private drum lessons, I decided I wanted to study drums on a more full-time basis. In my 1-year course with Andre Luke, I was schooled across the board - Transcription, Reading, Odd Times, Latin, Jazz, Independence, Theory etc. When I completed that year, I was already actively working as a drummer in the industry. I had sessioned for: The Sick Leaves, Melanie Lowe, Josie Field, Chix With Six, Broadway Screamer. I was virtually 1 of like 5 female drummers in the country at the time, so style wise, that wasn’t such a big deal - Being a female drummer was pretty badass & a rare find in South Africa. From there I went on to play for Jack Parow for 9 years, Jesse Clegg for about 4 years, 1st Project, Mashlab with Arno Carstens. Touring the world.”
Who do you look up to in the world of Drummers and why? (Male or Female)
“I love Michael Thomas, Virgil Donatti, Thomas Lang, Travis Barker, Mike Portnoy, Dave Weckl and many more. There are too many great drummers to only focus on one.”
“Well, band-wise I really appreciate Larry Mullen Jr (U2) just because he compliments the music is not an overachiever drummer. he is solid and tight. Cobus Potgieter from our own soil. But I mean I can really appreciate any drummer that is passionate there is so many actually to name, Chad Smith, Tony Royster Jr is also one of my favorites I actually saw him with Katy Perry's tour in 2018 in SA”
“Marco Minnemann, Steve Judd, Riley Breckenridge, Steve Gadd, Stewart Copeland, Dave Weckl, Benny Greb, Sheila E., Chis Coleman. The list could go on for days. Each one of them have a unique style that make them stick out above the rest. I also find them to all be very inspiring. Even though they’re lifetimes ahead playing wise, they at least don’t make me want to give up trying.”
Could you give us a “Rig Rundown” of your kit?
“I play a Tama Swingstar, 22’bass, 10’ and 14’snare, 10’,12’,13’ and 16’toms, remo heads, Iron Cobra Flexi double bass pedal, Paste Alpha range of cymbals – 14’ hi hats, 16’ and 18’ crashes, 18’ swiss crash, 20’ ride, 6’and 10’ splash, and pro mark sticks – variety.”
“So at the moment I am actually re-equipping my whole kit. I recently sold everything I was on my way to move to America So I recently bought the small red Sonor Safari kit from Mitech I actually lost hope and thought that my hourglass is running out in the drumming environment because I am already in my 30s but I had to make a mind change and not to give up and push through so that’s why I don't have a big kit at the moment. Well, Drums is not the cheapest "love" to have. well, my favorite cymbals still is Zildjian K series I absolutely adore the Sonar Mint Sparkle kit I have always had huge kits but lately I enjoy the smaller sizes with some oemf. I can even do with DW drums”
“I am endorsed by / endorse Sabian, Sonor & Vater. My kit is a 6 piece Sonor essential force, Sabian cymbals are a mix of the HHX, Evolution series, Chad Smith signature holy one china & I move between Lil John Roberts’ Philly Style, Stewart Copelands’, 7A Manhattans, Monster Brushes, Wire brushes - All depending on the style I’m playing or the artist I’m jamming with.”
What is the single biggest crowd you have played in front of to date?
“I think it was around 15 000. Pretty amazing feeling, I must say!”
“Haha uhm I wish it was bigger but about 3000 people in a live crowd. I play at Mosaiek Church and it's on KyKnet every Sunday and obviously more people see that. I always play and give everything, if I make mistakes, I will do it passionately and just have a jol to take in that moment. I love music and how it can change anybody’s state of mind or surroundings for that moment you forget about all the problems of life. That’s my goal when I am on stage, to give you a performance that will entertain you. That helps me also just enjoy the moment and feed off the energy of the crowd”
Best drummer of all time in your opinion?
“Any of the options above. They are all insanely talented in their own right.”
“Oh $#@!... Me! hahaha you have to believe in yourself, haha no I am still on my way... I am surely a passionate drummer. I love passion more than technical drummers. Just because music is a frequency and I can feel what your feeling. Well Roger Meddows Taylor, So simple but so amazing. So, Roger, Larry and Chad and Cindy. As you can see, I love old school rock”
Do you find yourself drumming on your steering wheel while driving and if YES then how do you deal with the staring as you cruise from point a to point b?
“Of course I drum on my steering wheel….and everywhere I possibly can for that matter! When people stare, I put the music louder and drum harder, as if I have an audience, and give them a show!”
“If you don't air drum are you even a drummer?”
“I always have a pair of sticks that live in my car. You never know when you're going to be in heavy traffic or early for a meeting or delayed elsewhere :)”
How do you keep your chops up, what does your daily practice regiment consist of?
“If I am honest, at the moment it is difficult to keep the chops up seeing as I spend so much of my time teaching and lecturing. So, unless I have a gig that I am preparing for, I hardly get time for myself to practice. However, I am working on scheduling myself rehearsal time so I can work on them.”
“I have a set time in the morning and afternoons where I will sit and practice rudiments and later watch videos on YouTube and try to learn from people out there how to master it and to try to refine my skill. It's a new thing that I started to implement in everyday life. I want to be known as one of SA's best female drummers, so I am putting in the time to reap the reward at the end of the day”
“Well, right now I have just joined a band in Alaska called Thera. We are busy writing new material at the moment and I’m still learning all the old repertoire so my current regiment is all about prepping for the future of Thera.”
Give us a typical “Day in the Life of…”
“My days are incredibly busy. I lecture Marketing at the Academy of Sound Engineering, teach drums at Kingsmead College, do Marketing consulting, run my business “www.BeatThatDrumSchool.com”, session for drum gigs, Dj, do events…amongst a few other things. Regardless of what I am doing, my career keeps me very busy all the time.”
“Haha Okay so basically wake up and then coffee then I will have breakfast $#@! shave and shampoo haha and then I will do my rudiments and then some admin time - I am also a free-lance Videographer, an artist Manager and also some social media marketing stuff. Then I will go back and then watch some YouTube drumming stuff... End off making dinner and then just Netflix and chill”
“Wake up, make a pot of bullet proof coffee, work out, sit behind my kit for as long as the day will allow me to. I try to schedule all my non drum related commitments on one day so I can achieve the most uninterrupted practice time possible.”
Have you ever dealt with performance anxiety and if so, do you have any tricks or “hacks” you like to use to calm yourself before a show?
“Of course I have, very much so when I first started playing gigs. The difference is that at the beginning the feeling is an anxious one, and as you perform more and more you learn to use those butterflies as a form of excitement and resource for your energy, rather than being scared or worried.”
“I have yes but I will just take a moment to be alone and just take a few deep breaths”
“Many times! I just always make sure that I am as prepared as I’ll ever be, I remind myself that I’ve dedicated my life to this and then I have 2-3 shots (OF COOL DRINK 😉) to take the edge off… Depending on the type of show obviously. The last show I played 2 weeks ago was opening for Taking Back Sunday and it was my 1st show with Thera, so I wanted to make sure I was on top of my game. I didn’t drink a single thing until my kit was loaded back into my car.”
South Africa is known for Really good festivals, tell us your best festival story
“I really loved playing Oppikoppi the one year with Evolver, I remember the crowd being amazing! My favorite festival, however, was the one year at Woodstock with Chix with Stix where it was raining very badly. Unfortunately, a lot of people didn’t come out, but the people that did gave us all the energy they had, rain, mud and all. It was incredible!”
“Haha Well I recently played a Festival with Saarkie the all-girl band, but I won't mention the name. It was such a jol with the crowed. Having Arno Carstens look at me - Such a groupie. And he’s HOT! hahaha you have to enjoy the beauty too. It went amazing till I saw Him watching us… I freaked out, took a photo obviously… the rest is a state secret”
“My most memorable festival moment was Oppikoppi 2010. I was main stage about to get up and play my first show as Jack Parow’s drummer.”
If you didn’t become a musician, what would you be doing right now?
“At the moment I’m not a full time musician. So I guess I would be doing everything else I do. Marketing, Djing, Presenting, Acting etc. However my dream….is to open a cat shelter one day.”
”I don't even know? Music saved me. I actually studied to become a pastor, but I am happy how everything turned out”
“I’ve always loved languages so I’d say a linguist.”
What is the weirdest or funniest question you’ve ever been asked in an interview?
“This would have to be from Sameer Naik who interviewed me for the Saturday Star. He asked “. If you were held at gunpoint and told that if you didn’t impress them with your dance moves you would be killed, what dance moves would you bust out?” It made me literally laugh out loud, and then imagine myself doing the Macarena for them!”
“What is my favorite part of playing drums as a girl? (MFM radio interview) my answer was “to sit with my legs open with no one telling me to sit like a lady”
“The only thing that comes to mind is when I was in Holland with Jack Parow and we had a tv performance and interview. There was a Dutch philosopher on the show with us. He was so perplexed that I was drumming in a bikini, he came up behind me on the kit and rambled off something in dutch on live television while using my arms as a puppet. I obviously played along as if I knew what he was saying. Ha!”
If you could collaborate with any musician local or international, who would it be and why?
“I always say I would love to play for Prime Circle, I have always loved their music. Internationally… well I can name a few hundred I would love to work with, but we will run out of time.”
“Blue man group haha I would love to play with Bruce Springsteen”
“Thrice, as a band, because...Thrice 😊 Anderson.Paak as an individual. I love hip hop and he is at the center of the industry right now.”
If you could be a fruit, which one would you be and why?
“I would be a passionfruit. They smell so tropical and, if I can have a lame moment for a second, it would mean I was passionate!!! Haha”
“uhm, a Pineapple because tough on the outside and nice and bright and pretty on the inside”
“Coconut - Hard to crack open but when you do there’s so much goodness inside”
Tell us a “Drummer” joke
"Hey buddy, how late does the band play?" - "Oh, about half a beat behind the drummer."
“The tempo is whatever I say it is”
Do you have any interesting projects going at the moment?
“I do, but it is currently top secret. Very exciting and I can’t wait to launch it 😊 *Watch this space*”
“Yes, very excited I joined the team from Drumlab. Neill Ettridge started the drum school, he is currently running everything from the UK - My friend Tommy Fraser is his partner now and out of all the female drummers I got the spot to join the team in JHB and Pretoria with amazing drummers like Jason Moser Vinnie Henrico, Tommy Fraser and Nelis Du Plessis. So, I am very excited about the new branch opening in Pretoria East and to be part of it all and to share my female drummer roots with the new and upcoming guys and girls. Also, some session work with Saarkie and Joe Foster”
“Thera - Alaskan female fronted melodic screamo band I’ve just joined. This is the first time I’ve been a part of the creative process with a band. Being included in the writing phase and not just being a hired gun. It’s awesome. You can check us out here: wearethera.com ……So stoked to be apart of this band. They’re an amalgamation of Architects meets Bring Me The Horizon meets Saosin meets Brandnew. Female singer. I’ve never played this style before, so it’s positively challenging for me.”
What advice would you have for any aspiring female drummers out there?
“It doesn’t make a difference that you are female. Go out there and be the best drummer you can be!”
“It's not a man’s world, never give up, find a reason to win. Surround yourself with people that believe in you and that are better musicians than what you are. ALWAYS BE OPEN TO LEARN.”
“Never make it a competition between yourself and the next girl. We need to encourage and support each other whenever possible. Don’t rely on your looks or being female to get you further - this is 2019 ladies, people want to see real talent and groove. There are so many more female drummers out there in the world now compared to 10 years ago. 99% of them have serious chops. Do your homework, arrive early and network whenever the opportunity arises.”
Thank you so much to these Kick @$$ ladies for taking the time to talk to use here at MiTech Direct and thank you for being the living embodiment of inspiration to everybody looking to start a career in drumming. Trust me, folks, keep an eye on these ladies. They are all on the trajectory to greatness.