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Bateristas El Sur


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Interview translated from Spanish;

Q. First you where a drummer...when did you change to percussion, what made you change perhaps 180°?

Ans. It wasn’t something I ever decided to do, it just happened. I still play drum set on sessions and my new book on Hudson music is basically a drum set book. Originally the percussion was to compliment my drum set playing but it became more and more a part of what I did. Part of the reason for this was that a lot of percussion can be practiced without blasting the neighbors. That was a basic practical thing which meant I was spending a lot more time on perc because I could not practice drum set at home.

Then I started to add it to the drum set, tablas on the left of the hi hat, bongos. Then congas in place of the floor toms etc etc. I started using entirely different set ups for different situations. Sometimes just perc and a bass drum. Sometimes a Trilok style hands only kit. I got known for always turning up with something different and having boxes of sounds and atmospheres. On the whole, nearly everyone I worked with preferred this approach instead of straight forward drum set. I also got very used to having so many different sounds at my fingertips and found I had less options when I would go back to regular kit.

Q. How do you see drummers today? What do you think about them?

Ans. That is a big question. I am assuming you mean the overall shape of drumming trends today. My feeling is that too many players look to the outside for their values rather than looking inside themselves. For me, far to many young drummers sound similar. I really preferred it when there was less technique and more character. Bonham, Bruford, Elvin, Gadd, Paice, Moon, Steve Jansen, Copeland. All distinct personalities who referred to within themselves for their values. It is kind of more like that still in the percussion world because players are often bringing different cultural colours together to make up their identity. Giovanni is great for example but how many players do you hear who play anything like him.

I feel strongly that players should bring in different colours into their kit playing, such as Benny Grebb for example. Bear in mind, the original traps kits were a compilation of whatever percussion sounds were around at the time. There was no hard line distinction between drummer and percussionist as there is today.

Q. How long have you 've been making clinics? You have some drum books edited, how and when did you started to write? Not every percusionist/drummer knows how to put the ideas together to make a book.

I don’t really think of them as clinics in that way. I try to make them educational performances. Wherever time permits I try to explain some of the techniques and rhythmic structures etc. My primary objective is to entertain, educate and hopefully inspire. I see that as my responsibility. Out of that responsibility I have developed an educational method which is delivered with clarity and without needless complications, jargon and confusion. I think too many people are happy to take the educational responsibility lightly and are more concerned with showing how great they are and how impossibly difficult it all is. I don’t for a second suggest that achieving excellence on an instrument is easy. I would categorically state though that it is along an orderly and logical path that all these performers develop their skills and it is for us to unearth that path and reveal it to those wishing to travel that way.

Q. How did you react when you received the invitation to come to Argentina, What did you know about us?

Ans. I am always excited about going to a country for the first time. Argentina was filled with mystery for me. I had no idea what to expect. I was really happy to find out what a great place it was, the people, the climate, the food, wine and culture. To me it combines the best of countries like Italy and Spain along with the positive aspects of a place like LA.

Q. What was it you wanted to show the drummers and the students down here? Did you? What do you think?

Ans. There has not been a massive amount of exposure to some of the Indian rhythms etc so that was my main focus. It is such a rich rhythmic tradition and is such a useful tool for any musician to employ. Pointing the way to start orchestrating this stuff on other percussion is also a vital core of what I was showing.

Q. How was the experience to work with Phil and Frank and what do you think about Jota and Gustavo?

Ans. It is always great to hang with drummers over a period of time like this. All such great players but all so different. It is great to see such a varied line up and hopefully it opened up peoples eyes to the infinite possibilities in drum set and percussion. The participants were great. They all helped make it such a positive experience.

Q. Tell us about your last works and about your new book.

The book came about over a long period of time as I’d been trying to apply the Indian knowledge to the drum set and it took me many years to do that, to find ways of articulating those rhythms onto the drum set. Slowly it came about through other percussion instruments as everything become ‘one’ and stopped being separate instruments in my mind and I began to think of them as a family of instruments which is why I call myself a multi-percussionist. I was teaching the South Indian rhythmic system and that became the core of the book. Once I had my approach to the system in place I was able to approach the system in a slightly more abstract way so that the building blocks could be utilized by all musicians. I give people the building blocks and would then move on to whole compositions. I got a lot of positive feedback from students using this method. They could understand and perceive the building blocks and then see how they were built into the larger compositions and themes.

The next logical step was to articulate it onto the drums. Really, the book gives you two things, there is the system that can be for everyone and then there is the application for the drum set. The book contains the South Indian syllables / building blocks and the rhythmic structures and then the applications for anybody to use. I wanted to model the book on the book that covered African drumming on the drum set where the first big chunk is the history, the drums, the idiomatic setting and then the extrapolations on the drum set. I believe it is a book that will last a long time and is not a moment of fashion that won’t be of interest in five years. The whole development of the book came from the education method so it is kind of organic in that way. It never started out to be a book, but it ended up being one!

Regarding current stuff. After Argentina it was straight to Frankfurt for solo performances on the main stage, a duo with Dave Langguth and also a guest performance with Selva Ganesh, Jonas Hellborg and Niladri Kumar. Then it was a solo slot at the Adams drum festival in Belgium and also a duo slot with Simon Phillips. This was followed by a short clinic tour in Holland. Around this time my new book received 5 stars in Modern Drummer magazine. I was also featured around this time on Jon Hassell's new release on ECM, 'Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street'

Before that It was India for the launch tour of my new album with Bickram Ghosh. The album, entitled 'Kingdom of Rhythm' came out on the HMV / Saregama label and was launched in Kolkatta by the governor of Bengal along with a sold out concert featuring flame throwers and fire dancers. The show was broadcast live on TV. This is one of seven albums I have recorded in India in the last two years. Five have been released so far. Numerous projects are in the pipeline. I have just started work on an album with Mark Schullman. The first track will be featured on his forthcoming DVD release. This and much, much more. I feel very grateful to be doing so much music that is really close to my heart.

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