Some great things have happened in my career, but being featured in the current (April 2015) issue of Modern Drummer is a dream come true, especially as I’ve also just discovered that both MD and I were born in 1977.
Because I’m a drummer who is always in search of new ideas and inspiration, I’m hoping that my feature will help you and your drumming move forward. To give you a better sense of where I’m coming from on the drums, here is a solo, “Alexander Hedgehog,” and some thoughts about it and playing in general.
I am often asked about what makes a good musician? And what makes for a good solo? First, there are some long answers for these short questions. But for now let me establish a couple of key factors and touch on things that fascinate me, as well as what I’m striving for with my playing and what you might want to consider for yours.
Creativity, groove, musicality, individual style, dynamics, imagination, sounds and colors, melody, virtuosity, feel, passion, timing, composition—but most importantly joy and happiness are what I’m searching for when I start to play or compose. That might not be the same for everybody, but this is the wonderful nature of being a drummer and one of the most amazing things about being a musician—you’re allowed, indeed required, to be yourself on stage. My concept is: Be anything but average. And always remember that the key to failure is when you try to please everybody, so just keep believing what you believe in. In other words, be yourself and do your thing. But always play for the music, not for your ego.
Okay, so “Alexander Hedgehog” starts with a big storm around the full kit. Whoosh! Then, when I play very quietly (using VF Rutes). Close your eyes and visualize the sound as that of a little hedgehog as it walks on dry leaves. The solo is based on a 7/8 left-foot rhythm (that’s a Tycoon hand-hammered cowbell), and in the beginning I’m just grooving before adding fills, different sounds, rhythmic phrases, and melodies. Got that? A big whoosh. A hedgehog on dry leaves. And then groove.
The whole idea is inspired by the likes of Dave Weckl, who in the ’90s would program drum machines to play odd-time metronome ostinatos while soloing over them with incredible freedom. I thought I’d try taking that to the next level by playing the ostinatos myself while soloing at the same time. As you might know, this is not very easy unless you’ve done some serious independence development exercises. I was lucky to have learned a lot of four-way coordination and grooves from another favorite, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandes, and that made it possible for me. So what you see and hear with this video is the result of me being inspired by other players. Hopefully you will also be inspired.
Since my last blog, (link here), a lot of great things have happened. My twenty-five-date Solo Masterclass Tour across twelve European countries happened with sold-out venues and great responses. Then, after my solo spot in 2014 on DrumChannel.com in Los Angeles this year while attending NAMM, my percussion partner Kornel Horvath and I (together we are Thunder Duo) videoed a session that is scheduled to run in March (check DrumChannel.com for the schedule).
Also, Professor Peter Erskine invited us to present a masterclass at the University of Southern California (USC), and that event wrapped up with a standing ovation. Wow! Being so far from home, meeting so many great new people while seeing friends, and just enjoying life means so much for us.
And hopefully what you read in my MD feature and see and hear in “Alexander Hedgehog” will mean something to you.
In closing, I thank the following companies for their faith in me, and their support for my efforts. They care about their players. Sonor Drums, Zildjians Cymbals, Vic Firth Drumsticks, Remo Drumheads, Tycoon Percussion, Roland V-Drums, Hardcase, Kickport, and Sky Gel.