At a performance at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center this past fall, Karl Brazil confidently slammed home the pop mainstay James Blunt’s set while trading enthusiastic smiles with the close-knit backing band. Brazil maintained a serene yet jubilant demeanor while dressing Blunt’s material with the powerful left-hand stickings and fills that define much of the drummer’s aesthetic. As he continues on Blunt’s worldwide trek through the majority of 2018, Brazil explains to MD how he developed his calm nature on stage over the past fifteen years in the singer’s backing band.
“I think that mindset comes with experience,” Brazil says. “We’ve done a lot of touring together, and even though James is a well-established artist, we share the same dressing room and tour bus. So we’re very comfortable as friends and people, and everyone’s confident at what they do. We also set up in a close space together, no matter how big the gig is. James doesn’t have any drums in his wedges. He just has his vocals and guitar, because he’s hearing enough acoustically on stage. So we’re all listening to each other quite a lot.”
When he’s not with Blunt, Brazil keeps a busy schedule touring with the pop star Robbie Williams while filling in off days with session dates. “I finished Robbie Williams’ stadium tour last year,” Brazil says, “and that’s all to a click, because we’re synced up to pyrotechnics and backing tracks. So James’ gig is very different. There’s no in-ears or click tracks. It’s very dynamic, and you can hear everything that’s going on. But that’s the great thing about the two main live gigs I do. Robbie’s on a click, and even with that, the click moves. And when you play with James, it’s a bit like swimming with goggles on underwater. When you take them off and come out of the water, it’s like two different worlds. But I’m lucky enough to experience both of them.”
While growing up in Birmingham, England, Brazil surrounded himself with many of the city’s established musicians. Eventually, though, the drummer realized he needed to branch out. “I had to look out for auditions and things happening in London,” he says. “The only thing that will get you out there is to play different gigs and throw yourself into auditions. And auditions are quite a tough process, especially if you put the effort in, travel there, and don’t get the gig. When you come out, you feel a bit deflated. But you have to remember that if you don’t get the gig, you’ve still met people and made your mark. If you weren’t right for one reason, you might be right for something else. You don’t know what you’re giving them.
“There’s no real golden strategy to getting gigs,” Brazil adds. “I think if you’re a good player, a half-decent person, and a professional, and you work hard at being good at what you do, everyone gets an opportunity. It’s what you do with that opportunity from there on.”
Brazil plays Gretsch drums, Sabian cymbals, LP percussion, and Roland electronic drums and uses Remo drumheads, Vic Firth sticks, and DW hardware.
Also on the Road
Eric Kretz with Stone Temple Pilots /// Chris Sharrock with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds /// Joe Bergamini with the Doo-Wop Project /// Eloy Casagrande with Sepultura /// Zach Simmons with Goatwhore /// Chris Ulsh with Power Trip /// Brian Chippendale with Lightning Bolt /// Glen Sobel with Alice Cooper