Dave Watts of the Kyle Hollingsworth Band : Modern DrummerHey there, Modern Drummer readers! Thanks for taking a peek at my first <i>MD</i> blog. My name is Dave Watts and I’m writing to you from the road with my current project, the Kyle Hollingsworth Band. We are based out of sunny Colorado, but we’ve recently packed our bags and hit the highways to bring our music to a venue near you. We’re touring in support of Kyle’s latest solo record, Then There’s Now, which we recorded early last year. Kyle is the keyboard player in the String Cheese Incident, and we’re playing quite a bit of that material as well. We both share a love of funk, Afro-Cuban, jazz, and electronic music, so this band is really a drummer’s dream gig. You can check out the new album and more about Kyle at www.kylehollingsworth.com.

In fact, the same concept of eclectic music is the MO for my own group, the Motet. The Motet has just finished our sixth release, and it’s available for free download at www.themotet.net. You’ll hear that I have a deep love for Afrobeat grooves and the music of Fela Kuti, as I’ve taken a few of his songs and arranged them with some interesting sonic twists. Now that I’ve been sucked into the world of laptop recording, you’ll also hear my experiments with house, drum ’n’ bass, and down-tempo electronica. But more on that later…

I’ve been to Cuba twice to study traditional bata drumming. I highly recommend going to Havana or Matanzas to get a taste of some of the most incredible drummers on the planet. Embargo be damned–don’t let politics get in the way of cultural understanding! I’ve seen twelve-year-old kids down there shred congas so hard it would make Giovanni Hidalgo break a sweat. When you spend enough time in Cuba you realize that people there grow up playing percussion like we play basketball. Your average cab driver in Havana will explain clave to you with one hand, point out a local rumba session with the other, and drive the cab with his knee!

So, my latest obsession has been working with the DAW Ableton Live. If you haven’t checked out this program yet, you need to! I have three or four projects including KHB where I bring my laptop and digital interface on stage and play to tracks that we’ve created for live performance. I’ve been trying to use samples in a live setting for years, but finally technology has gotten to a point where you can be as creative, spontaneous, and dynamic as you need to be without having to lug 150 pounds of gear. Using my Roland SPD-S pad I can drop any number of loops or one-shots to change the vibe, go to a new section, introduce percussion parts, add synth pads, or instantly change tempo. And using a basic synth controller you can MIDI map a myriad of effects to further manipulate whatever rhythms you may be looping. It’s an exciting time for us drummers, with the endless sonic possibilities these programs have to offer. You can check out my main project for this type of stuff at www.myspace.com/junowhatband.

Good luck out there, and whenever you’re in a tough spot, remember what Art Blakey once said: “When in doubt, roll!”