The 2011 Guitar Center Drum-Off champ and Roland U.S. V-Drums Contest winner shares his thoughts on soloing.
J.P. Bouvet’s musical roots started growing early. Nurtured by his bass-playing mother, J.P. began playing the drums at age nine and by the sixth grade was in his first band. Moving from Lakeville, Minnesota, to Boston turned out to be a turning point in his development as a musician; while in Massachusetts he discovered drummers like Dave Weckl and Vinnie Colaiuta, who continue to be some of his biggest inspirations. “I’m drawn to musicians with a unique sound,” J.P. says.
Bouvet admits to being a bit of a workaholic, typically practicing up to six hours a day when time allows. In the weeks leading up to the 2011 Guitar Center Drum-Off finals, he even skipped classes to make sure he kept up with his regimen. That routine involves keeping a log of his daily practices, in which he writes down new ideas and areas that need improvement.
This is no “basement star,” though. In fact, Bouvet has already been taken around the globe in his playing career. His working band, Helicopria, features a lead singer from Turkey and a guitarist from South Africa, and the group has done two international tours and released a pair of albums. “I really love playing with this band,” Bouvet says. “It’s a perfect balance between music that will make you want to move and music that rocks out. It also has a depth that I really enjoy; it’s challenging for me.”
In addition to his abilities as a team player, Bouvet has developed substantial soloing skills, which obviously came to his aid when competing in—and eventually winning—recent Roland and Guitar Center drumming competitions. “I try to make each solo a composition,” J.P. says, “and I think of them in sections. For example, for the Guitar Center Drum-Off, I had a few ideas I wanted to elaborate on, things I thought were impressive, fun, or unique. Once I decided what I wanted to play within each section, I would develop the section and find a place to start and a place to finish.
“I like to build a basic structure of the solo and leave room within that to improvise, Bouvet continues. “The next part of my planning is to find a way to link the sections together, because they might not necessarily be related. I think the transitions are just as important as the sections themselves, because they’re the glue that holds it all together and makes one section relevant to the next. One of the most important things in a solo is that it has shape. It needs to start somewhere, go somewhere, and tell the listener a story. It’s easy to get bored of too much of the same thing.”
Bouvet’s super-studious approach to his craft seems to have helped the twenty-one-year-old to keep a level head, even when thrust into the spotlight among drumming luminaries like Terry Bozzio, Mike Portnoy, Dennis Chambers, and Aaron Spears at the Drum-Off finale. “The other drummers in the competitions were really cool guys, and we spent a lot of time hanging together,” J.P. says. “For the Drum-Off we were flown out four days before the finale. We also got to hang, tour the DW factory, and appear on drumchannel.com. I met some drumming legends and some of my heroes along the way. Throughout the process I settled into a humble, determined routine. I didn’t want to look back and say, ‘I should have done this, I could have done that….’ I believed this was my shot, and I wanted to know that I did all in my power to make it happen.”
The plan clearly worked. Upon winning the 2011 Roland U.S. V-Drums contest last August, Bouvet was awarded a TD-20SX V-Drums kit, among other prizes, and was made an official product specialist for the company. And for his big Drum-Off victory, J.P. took home $25,000 in cash, a custom DW drumkit, a set of Meinl cymbals, endorsement deals with those companies and with Remo and Vic Firth, a Roland TD- 20SX electronic kit and PM30 drum monitor, an Audix DP7 drum microphone pack, a $500 Converse gift card, a 2012 NAMM VIP experience, and a trip to New York to record at Converse’s Rubber Tracks studio.