Talking About Composing and Albums

Hey Modern Drummer readers, Anika Nilles here. I am a drummer and songwriter based in Germany. Since 2013, I have been working as a freelance musician releasing my own compositions created around the drums. Composing and writing music has been an interesting process to me over the last couple of years. I feel the most interesting part in writing instrumental music is combining rhythmic and melodic ideas and bringing in emotions and feelings, all while keeping a balance between complexity and simplicity.

Writing music in this direction turned out to be a passion for me over the last few years. Composing from a “non-harmonic” instrument is challenging in several ways. The groove, and how it can sound in a musical context, is found by collecting ideas and imagining a song structure. Also, there are periods where I’ve been in a playing and creative mode on the drums while other times I’ve been more focused on the harmonic parts.

On my first album Pikalar, my producer and good friend Joachim Schneiss and I spent a lot of time on the production and let all the details shine. We had a bunch of musicians participating on this record, with a trumpet section, percussion, and several keyboard players—all built around the drum parts.

With my band Nevell I perform those tracks live on stage. It has been really important to me to find some cats to play with and who also share the same passion for this kind of music style. Especially out in my area, it’s hard to find great musicians who are able to serve that kind of music. So it turned out that my bandmates are more international, coming from Spain, the Netherlands, and Germany.

We’ve been working on a new album, an eleven track record, which keeps the direction of instrumental-fusion. It is our first record under this lineup, which has been an interesting and fun journey. The writing process has evolved with the new album, so it has been a new experience to write more with a band vibe this time.

As the leader I still dropped the main ideas coming from the drums and produced the first layout of the tracks. From there it has been an interesting journey for me, to let go of my own ideas at some point. Getting the fingerprints of the other cats on it turned out to be refreshing and inspiring. Also for this record we have some extra musicians on board such as Nate Werth on percussion from Snarky Puppy and Ghost Note, which gives an extra flavor to some tracks.

While recording the drums for the new album I fell totally in love with the Tama 5.5×14 hammered steel snare, which I used for six tracks. My other favorite instruments are Meinl Byzance 16″ Sand hats and the 15″ Byzance Jazz Thin hats.

Thanks for reading!

Anika Nilles and Nevell “Smooth 7”


Check out Anika Nilles “Pikalar” here 


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