Greetings, fellow MD readers! My name is Mike McKee, and I’m from Raleigh, North Carolina. This is my first blog entry for Modern Drummer, and I appreciate you reading it. It’s such an honor to be a part of a publication that made a huge impression on me early on and continues to impact me today.
My musical education began literally on day one, as my father was working on his PhD in music history and my mother was a full-time piano teacher in the house in which I grew up. My friends and I had a neighborhood band that was lacking a drummer, so at age twelve I found items around the house that sounded close enough to a drumset. (My mother still covers her amazing chili with my first crash cymbal.) After mowing countless lawns and doing odd jobs, I eventually pieced together an actual drumkit. The bands I played with came and went, but during that time my life became surreptitiously submerged into live music. I found my formative years filled with playing and attending piano concerts, playing drums in church every week, and jamming with neighborhood bands.
After high school, I studied at Campbell University. While there, I taught myself the art of perpetual networking, which led to gigs and sessions with a wide variety of groups and musicians. I was averaging three to five gigs per week, along with rehearsals, eighteen-plus hours of classes, working a music retail job, and holding down relationships. At the very least, I was learning to juggle the elements of life as a full-time musician.
It was serendipity that led to me meeting one of the founders of my full-time gig, Delta Rae. I was running monitors at a frat party for a hip-hop group in Durham and was blown away by the keyboardist/vocalist, Eric Holljes. I intuitively gave him my drummer-for-hire card, and a year later he called me asking to audition for his new band, Delta Rae. Within the first few notes of the demo I was given I knew this band was not only amazing, but it was the band I needed to be in. I learned the material inside and out, auditioned, and got the gig.
Being with Delta Rae has inspired me to expand my known world of drumkit and hand percussion to new and innovative sounds. In addition to drumkit, in the live show (and on our debut record Carry The Fire) I play heavy chains on metal trashcans, floor toms muted with weighted cloths, hi-hat/China cymbal combos, and use several different types of mallets. Soon, bells and hammered dulcimer will likely be added to the sonic arsenal. The amount of care and caution that is involved in the songwriting and arrangements in this band challenges me to create and practice well-thought-out percussion parts. Each pattern, dynamic, and sound needs to be intentional and purposeful.
Working with producer Alex Wong on Carry The Fire was an invigorating and humbling experience. Alex, who’s a classically trained percussionist, introduced me to new concepts of writing and performing drum parts and methods of capturing them in the recording process. New concepts, such as structured tempo fluctuations and organic loop creations have opened my eyes to a refreshing approach to creating, performing, and capturing songs and sounds.
Although the bulk of my time is touring/performing/recording with Delta Rae, when I am home in Raleigh I love playing with small jazz combos, doing freelance session work, and hanging out with my wife, Melinda, and our puppy, Sophie Rae.
Thanks so much for reading, and see you on the road!
For more on Delta Rae, visit www.deltarae.com.