Hi to all you Modern Drummer cyberspace visitors. My name is Wayne Proctor and I am from the U.K. I’ve been involved with music nearly my whole life, from tinkling on my grandparents’ piano as a small child to playing drums with some really fantastic artists in the studio and on the road. I’ve known for a very long time what I wanted to do with my life. Music and drumming was always a source of happiness and joy for me, which gave me an endless enthusiasm to keep working at it. The more I did it, the more I would want to do it some more.
After reading through all the other blogs on this Web site and reading what all the other drummers in the world have to say, I was at a loss as to what I could offer to the drumming community that hasn’t been said before. But as I started to write, I realized what I have to offer isn’t about technique or a new-fangled way to play your bass drum with a quadruple pedal; it’s more about the heart and commitment you need to play the instrument.
I’ve been lucky to study with teachers who have a great balanced view of so many aspects of playing the drums and being a professional musician. My time studying with Francis Seriau at Drumtech in London was one that had a massive effect on my whole life. I found the topics we covered on a drumming level had an equally important psychological aspect. If I was uptight and tense and struggling with something, he would offer me advice more as a therapist than as a drum teacher. He knew my problems lay internally, not in my outward ability. Sometimes all he had to do was point out that I was looking uptight and tense, with hunched up shoulders. Other times he would know my mind was somewhere else and would bring me back to the present; he knew all I had to do was relax, focus on the task at hand, and live in that moment–enjoying the sticks in my hands and the noise they were making, and feeling the details of that experience through my senses so I could adjust them until I found what I wanted to hear. I needed to be made aware of myself and how I was getting in the way physically and mentally of achieving the sound I wanted to create. These lessons were invaluable. I learned to enjoy the path of getting to my goals rather than be frustrated and disheartened. More than anything, it made me aware of how important it is to recognize the difference between playing the drums and really playing the drums, to really live each note we play and make every note count.
Everything changed after my time with Francis. Maybe I didn’t get it right every time, but I now had the tools to know what I was looking for when playing live or recording. I knew that I had to be in the present and be aware to be able to make changes when something wasn’t sounding or feeling right–I knew to enjoy each note. That enjoyment was in the details I was overlooking to begin with. I was too busy being self-critical and internally commenting on something I had done to be aware of what was really happening with my body and my playing. Once I became aware of these details, I was more relaxed and every groove became its own entity. The notes inside the groove had more meaning.
I’m not saying I had achieved Steve Jordan’s groove or Thomas Lang’s technical ability, but I knew with every time I practiced or played, my enjoyment of the details created more enthusiasm to play some more, which would move my ability further. Sometimes the journey to find what I was looking for was (and is) hard, whether that it was getting the right feel, sound, or arrangement for a song, or just getting that sticking pattern right. Sometimes it flows so easily, like I’m plugged into a perfect creative conduit where all the practice, listening, and studying just comes together. That journey always inspires me, and no matter what, I just enjoy the ride. The greatest thing about discovering the details along your way is that we all hear them differently and approach them from a different point of view, each of us creating our own sound on the drums. Our own voice is already in our hands and feet; we just have to learn to let it out.
Personally, I have always gravitated towards drummers with personality and character in their playing. Sure, they have technique, but they always use the tools they’ve developed to serve the bigger picture. This kind of approach to playing the drums is what really clicks with me; it really does make me very excited when I hear great players playing great parts with some soul. From the moment I first saw a Jeff Porcaro video, something resonated in me–the way his groove felt, his sound and touch, that something extra that brought so much joy to all the records he played on. It’s like the way you knew you liked the feel of a song before you knew who the drummer was, and then you checked and there it was, that name that you knew it would be. It’s in the sound, the choice of note, the feel—it’s the drummer’s personality coming through the instrument through the music. It’s the musical choice that only that musician would make.
Everything I’ve done as a professional musician has been to serve the song in the best way I think possible. Whether that song requires a blistering double bass drum assault at 200 bpm, or just grooving away on a shaker, it all requires the same focus. It takes time to develop the ability to do both, and each approach is as important as the other. Steve Jordan once said that playing simple doesn’t mean playing dumb; it takes a lot of hard work to play something simple with conviction, consistency, and a good feel. It’s just learning to enjoy the different details that each point of view offers so you can enjoy playing the drums as a whole, not just when you’re doing your favorite grooves or fills. It’s the whole experience. I love the sound of a great drummer doing his thing on a song, making it move and giving it shape and texture. Knowing all the little movements and details that are involved in making that groove sound so good, it makes me smile from ear to ear and laugh out loud when they just keep on doing it.
When you start to bring a lyrical context into this picture, and the great “song” drummers of the world who can support the lyric perfectly and create a backdrop for the artist to express themselves openly on, then I’m virtually exploding with excitement! I’m extremely fortunate to work with some very gifted artists who want that kind of support from their drummer. I currently play drums for English singer/songwriter Ian Parker. His music requires a lot of heart; his performances can be very raw at times, so being dynamically and creatively sensitive is really important. We tour a lot, and I’m currently in Germany finishing the last leg of our first European tour. In fact, I’m in my bed writing this blog and have to lean out my window to get a wireless signal to send emails! Every night is new for applying all the things I’ve talked about, and I’m having fun finding that next detail to make that feel that little bit more grooving and that groove have that little bit more heart and personality.
For this tour I’m using my Slingerland kit, and it sounds beautiful. I’ve been playing Slingerland drums for nearly nine years, and I’m really proud to say I endorse these drums. I played Slingerland before I got my endorsement, so to get a deal with the drums I love is very cool. I feel the same about Paiste cymbals. I tried every cymbal known to man when I worked in a drum store as a teenager, and Paiste is the only manufacturer to give me everything I’ve wanted from a set of cymbals. Everything is packed up in Hardcase cases, I hit everything with Vater 5B sticks, and everything’s held in place on my rug by Baskey Rugglugs. Please check out the Web sites of these companies, as they make great products and are really worth checking out.
If anybody is interested in more of what I’m up to, please check out www.wayneproctormusic.co.uk or www.myspace.com/wayneproctormusic. Thanks to David Bower at Slingerland, Danny Zimmerman and Pete Harvard at Paiste, Dave Eyres at Hardcase, Lee Wursley at Vater, Ian Baskerville at Baskey, and a very special thanks to Modern Drummer for letting me bang on! All the best to you all, and good luck!