Tuesday, October 9, 2007

In On The One

I mentioned that I'd had a few days in Singapore last week, that the flight coming back was my best flight ever. After I landed I had an interesting and fun evening. Here's what happened.

I got into Heathrow at about 3PM, rescued my car from long term parking and headed home. I must confess that I always feel good to get back in my car, to put my foot down a little bit and enjoy a bit of German performance. Of course, this being West London, when I put my foot down it's invariably on the middle pedal, but the principle remains.

This time getting in the car still felt pleasant but it was all a bit miserable. I'd left behind the warmth of Singapore and the tropics, I'd flown past Sri Lanka on the way back, even contemplating asking the pilot if he could just take a small detour and drop me off in Colombo. I reckoned it was only a few inches away on the airmap thing and he might just have said yes. And here I was in the greyness and vastness, the pissy rain that you don't feel but makes you soaking wet, of my birthplace.

As I sat in the bus going from the terminal to the car park I saw my plane parked on the runway and thought of the vastness of air travel and the wonder of it. Slightly over 12 hours ago I had been getting on that plane in Singapore and there it was standing on the London tarmac, probably about to take off again as soon as its army of support staff had done its duties.

I drove home, I unpacked my case, which took me all of about 5 minutes. Then I made a few phone calls. The usual stuff; the office to be told that everything was fine, the girls, to be told the same, that kind of thing. A quick shower and then I headed out into the evening for a Mimosa band practice. I felt fresh and good, the sleep on the plane was nice and tiredness was something for wimps.

I got to the studio and sat around for a while, chatting to the people that I've got to know and waiting for the band before us to vacate. They're a nice bunch of chaps, I've mentioned them before and we've all got quite friendly over the couple of years. Their music is rocky in an Indie sort of way, a little bit American sounding but somewhere along the Muse, Creed, power chordy tangent. I've sat in and listened to them practice many a time. There's not the slightest hint of funkyness to their sound but I mean that in the nicest way, just that they're a rock band through and through.

As I sat in the reception area they came out of the studio for a fag break. Just for the sake of the American contingent a fag break isn't some sort of beating up gay people thing, it's a break taken in order to smoke a cigarette, those things that non Americans often light and inhale. Mike, the singer, the one with tattoos all over his arms and the voice of a bank manager looked at me with a glint in his eye. He then explained that Sam, their drummer, wasn't there and asked if I'd like to sit in.

I jumped at the chance. At worst it meant I'd get my kit set up earlier than usual and I'd be fully ready to play when the other Mimosians turned up. At best I'd have a good blast playing some songs that I had heard enough to have a vague idea of how they should sound, but were also unknown enough for me to have to fly by the seat of my pants. I grabbed my drums, bunged them into the studio and set up as quickly as I could. They continued playing as a trio without drums while I set up, desperate to join in. It's nice to listen to them with Sam, the regular drummer. He's a fantastic player, a music college kid with more technique in one hand than I have in my whole body.

I'm also confident enough in my own playing to know that I'm an ok player if I concentrate on doing what I do best, which is to sit there and carve out a groove. Ask me to sound like Phil Collins in his Genesis drum days or to play No One Knows with all Dave Grohls fills and I'd be as lost as a Aussie rugby fan looking for his seat at the world cup final, but to play 2 and 4 and make it feel good is something I can approach with some confidence.

I was set up, I sat at the kit and they began a song, one I was vaguely familiar with. The great thing about being older, as a drummer at least, is the knowledge that flashy isn't necessarily good, that the basics are what makes a good drummer. Now I'm not saying I'm a great drummer, but I know that getting gigs and getting work, being asked to play in bands comes from being solid and playing the basics really well.

The bassist, the one who wears make up and has a penis, looked at me and gave me a nod to indicate that they were expecting some drums soon. I did a little sixteenth note intro and came in with a bit of a bang, which was good as drums do tend to make a "bang" sound. If I'd come in with a "twang" or perhaps a "twarp" then I would have been on a guitar or trumpet and I would have sounded like a total wanker.

The reaction of the band was positive. They all looked stunned, pleasantly so. I listened hard to what they were doing and tried to play what I felt was right for the song. There were no funky ghost notes on the snare, there was not much in the way of deft little touches around the kit but there was plenty of power and punch. We finished that song, naturally I totally fucked up the ending, something I can do to songs I know intimately and have been playing for years.

Then we moved on, 2 more songs followed before it was time to finish. During the last song Greg, the percussionist from Mimosa, strolled in. He looked a little startled to see me playing with these guys, probably a mixture of surprise that it was me combined with shock to hear me playing that style of music. It was interesting to watch his reaction as things registered with him.

As the others packed up they were very complimentary about my sound and my playing. It was nice to hear and it was good to feel, but I was as pleased as punch anyway. A brief break from the norm can be such fun sometimes and this was one of those things. As well as the fact that they're a good bunch of chaps with some fine songs.

Then we started our Mimosa band practice. I was warmed up, damn near boiling actually and perhaps a bit too rocky to start with, but I mellowed and got into it in a big way. The contrast between the two styles of music was fascinating.

I often have these affirmations in my life, when something happens and it acts like a little nudge. It doesn't change my opinion and it doesn't make me formulate a new one, but it reminds me, in quite a large way, of how or why I love the thing so much in the first place.

This reminded me just how much I love to play music and drums.

And I do.

1 comment:

L said...