Category Archives: Blog

It’s the Season to be jolly – December Blog 2015

It’s the season to be jolly – December Blog 2015.

Wow, I can’t believe the year is already over! It seemed like it was only yesterday that I performed at some year-end functions and celebrated the start of 2015, and now I’m busy (or about to) do it all again for 2016. Plus, yesterday one of my students told me that she’s been coming to me for lessons for twelve months and I honestly couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t have guessed that it was more than six months. Where does the time go?

Something that I always tend to think about around this time of year is just how many special occasions we as working musicians miss in regards to various family or friend related events while we’re out on the road gigging or doing PR for upcoming projects (you know the ones: birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, New Year’s Eve etc.). I really can’t tell you how many times that I’ve personally said to my wife that I’m going to gig less, or take a break for a few months (and meant it), but then that phone rings and I’m right back out the door. I guess that it comes with the territory though and I firmly believe that it only takes turning the “right” people down once in order for them to not ever want to call you again.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I love my life and I’m bringing this all up simply because it’s the Christmas season and I’m very excited because for the first time in a very long time, I’m going to be able to spend some real quality time with my family and friends over this busy period. Heck, I even turned down a gig for the 24th (which is something that I would not usually do, but it was a friend’s gig and he was really cool about it) so that I can celebrate Chrimbo with my wife and her side of the family.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this, it’s great doing what you wanna do for a living, and if this is your passion you need to follow it. It is easy to keep thinking that we’ll spend some ‘quality time’ with those we care about tomorrow while we’re young and not really thinking too far ahead, but what if (heaven forbid) tomorrow never came?

You always hear stories about people on their deathbeds saying they wish they had worked less and spent more time with those they love, and maybe they’re right? So on that note I’ll end on this: if you have a couple of days off this year, maybe rather than polishing your cymbals or browsing eBay for 2nd hand drumming gear try spend some time doing the “little” things with the important people in your life. After all, it’s Christmas and I’m sure they’d appreciate your time, especially if your time is often spent away from home.

Until next time, merry Christmas and thanks so much for all your support this year! May 2016 be even more kick ass than 2015 was and stay driven. Oh, and come January we’re launching the official “UK Drummer Podcast” so watch this space and make sure you check it out!!!

Travis Marc.

If you can’t join em – November Blog 2015

If you can’t join ‘em, try someone else – November Blog 2015.

There are countless sources dedicated to drumming out there. Some cover topics from clinics to gear reviews, whilst others focus on interviews, blogs, podcasts, or even the selling of 2nd hand drum gear.

Regardless of what their main content is, I quite enjoy most of these sources. I think that there’s room for them all and they can be pretty cool to use to better one’s own playing or insight into drumming as a musical instrument. Plus, all these platforms (websites, social network groups, pod casts, interactive video lessons etc), really help give us drummers the impression that we are all part of one big supportive drumming ‘family’, which we don’t often get to see with other instrumentalists.

I’m part of more drum groups and websites than I care to admit, (especially given my often over-opinionated views on social media in general), and even though I don’t often get involved with many forum-type conversations,  I do enjoy reading some of the banter between complete strangers on topics such as drum sizes, laughing at some of the drumming jokes or the odd moans and groans regarding expensive gear, or the comparison of how big the space for the drum set up was on someone’s last gig.

I have noticed though, that some discussions seem to get a little heated every now and then, and have on occasion even seen a couple instances where a group of individuals will sometimes stick together and almost ‘gang up’ on someone because it’s felt that this specific individual has the wrong opinion. This makes me wonder if we’re really as close as we all sometimes imagine. I mean at the end of the day they’re just personal opinions and different personalities and opinions aren’t always going to relate – that’s just human nature. Plus, as much as I love drumming, it’s important to remember that it’s just drumming – we’re not exactly saving individual’s lives over here people. So things really don’t need to get too heated or mean, do they?

If you’re one of the individuals who has felt bullied within a group or forum-type situation I would like to apologise on behalf of these mean spirited “drummers”. Please remember that most drummers, (especially those without anything to prove to others), are usually really supportive and keen to share their knowledge. I guess just like any other industry there are some people out there who don’t want to break bread and share with others. It’s a pity, but give them time, they’ll come around one day. My advice to you is to forget about them and don’t spend another minute letting someone else’s words or opinions put you down. Take a look at your own diary, if you’re getting bookings there’s no need to worry about these other people.

The drumming community can be incredible. It can be a wonderful and supportive place where you will make some truly great, lifelong friends, and if you haven’t had luck making friends within a specific group/site/forum/whatever, try somewhere else. Or as this month’s blog title says – if you can’t beat ‘em, try someone else.

That’s it for now, have a good one everyone. See you at the LDS. Practise hard.

Travis Marc.

Be Prepared – October Blog 2015

Be prepared – October Blog 2015.

There’s an old quote that says ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’. It’s a saying that can be applied to most aspects of life, but can be particularly true for musicians, whether they’re hoping to be viewed as sidemen in other people’s projects or as musical artists themselves.

If you’re a regular reader of these blogs you’d know that practise is a topic that I’ve written about many times over the last year. It’s a subject that I’m extremely passionate about because simply put, I really enjoy the way that practising and working on ‘myself’ makes me feel. The reality though, is that while some people do spend time on trying to make their craft better, there are many musicians who find the process boring and mundane.

While that’s perfectly ok, (each to their own at the end of the day), I often wonder how prepared these types of musicians might be if they were to suddenly have the opportunity to play in a musical situation away from their usual musical comfort zones.

Hypothetically (and purely for example purposes) lets’ say that you are a hard rock drummer.Your band just finished touring and you’re going through a bit of a quiet period. Money is running a little low and you’re super close to taking a part time labouring kind of job before next year’s tour begins, when suddenly you get a call to tour as the drummer for a new emerging reggae type act. Would you be ready?

If the answer is yes, then my friend you have done your homework. You’ve put in the time and should feel confident that you can take on some work out of your usual comfort zones and do a good job while doing so. If the answer is no, well then you should get back in that practise room because you have unfortunately done no preparation and will end up ‘winging’ the gig should you accept to take it. In which case you make yourself and the musicians who hired you look extremely amateur, which isn’t even the worst part. The worst part is once the gig (or tour, or whatever they were hoping you could do) is over, they will never call again because there will be someone out there who is simply better prepared and suited for their situation. You’ll then feel terrible about yourself and probably go take that part time job you were dreading having to take while your own band was taking some down time, because mentally you might convince yourself that music simply isn’t meant for you.

So what can we do to try and be as prepared as possible, should that random call (or email) come one day?

Practice.
I’m not going to preach about this one, if you don’t know what it is, go check out the previous blogs.

Broaden Your Horizons.
Stop playing or practicing that John Bonham chop that you’re so great at and start focusing on things that you’re perhaps not too good at. If you’re a punk drummer and struggle to play slow, try playing along to some ballads. Likewise if you’re a jazzer, listen to and start trying to play along to some Megadeth etc, etc. It’s all going to make you better and a more rounded player, which will ultimately make you more prepared for gigs out of your comfort zone.

Focus On Your Weaknesses.
But don’t beat yourself up about them. Make notes about the aspects of your playing that really need work and well, work on them. Eventually, you’ll find that the mistakes you frequently make are no longer mistakes and you’ll feel pretty good for it. Don’t get too cocky though, because there is always room for improvement.

Find Your Own Voice.
It’s tough out there, and many drummers are after the same gigs. While it’s great to be after the sideman job as drummer for the latest popstar, there might already be someone who gets those calls before you do. Instead focus on a few aspects of your playing that give you your own voice that people will want to call you for. But while developing this voice, make sure you continue to broaden your horizons in case that random gig does come about.

Only Be A Yes Man If You Can Really Do The Job.
While we all want to believe that we’re drummers of all styles, if you do get a call to do a gig that you don’t feel you can truly do justice, please don’t do it ! You’re going to embarrass yourself and tarnish what might be an already established reputation. Rather recommend the gig to someone who you know, could do the job. Trust me, people will remember this type of honesty and start to trust your judgement should your recommendation check out. Plus (more often than not) if the person you recommended got the gig ever gets a call for a gig they can’t do the favour might be returned.

Good luck, and I’ll chat to you all next month. Keep rocking.

Travis Marc.

Passion – September Blog 2015

Passion – September Blog 2015.

My goal behind this months’ blog idea is a simple one…

I want you to understand how important passion for your instrument is, how having passion can help you to improve faster as a musician and even how it can be a ‘make or break’ factor in regards to your career.

To start let’s look at the definition of the word ‘Passion': Passion is a strong feeling of enthusiasm, or excitement for something, or about doing something.

If we look at some of the worlds most accomplished people, it’s often easy to see how passionate they are about the things they love and more often than not, how their driving passion (along with lots of hard work) has helped them get to where they are. Think about it. Can you imagine Dave Grohl having done the Sonic Highways series if he wasn’t passionate about music? It would be interesting to see what someone like Gregg Bissionate’s career would’ve turned out like if his passion didn’t shine through like it does. Obviously hard work and time are huge factors too, but would the work or required effort even have been done if it wasn’t for the initial passion or love these personalities had to start off with?

Recently, I seem to have taken on a small influx of drum students who, although on the surface appear to want to play the drums, don’t really seem very interested in the actual instrument, the influential players who came before them or ever practicing in order to try and improve. In fact most of them (stereotypically speaking) just want to bash things, rather than taking the time to realise that there’s so much more to drumming than simply trying to break them. When asked about what music they like and want to learn, I find I’m often answered with an “I don’t know”, or “I don’t really care about music” type of attitude.

After lessons like these, I tend to find myself thinking back to my early years as a drummer and, as old as it makes me sound, I wonder about what drumming and music in general will be like in the next twenty (and more) years.

I think about how I couldn’t wait for Friday’s to roll around so that I could get to my weekly drum lesson, show my teacher the progress I’d made and see what we were going to do next. I would go through such effort to find out about drummers and different techniques and concepts.
I try think about what elements might be missing from the mind sets of my students and what I might be able to do to help them be more enthusiastic about what I’m trying to teach them.

The missing ingredient, as far as I can see (and I’m probably stereotyping of course), would definitely appear that there’s a lack of passion in these types of individuals and I personally feel that the wanting to learn (as great as it is) simply isn’t enough. After all if you can’t be passionate about what you’re wanting to do, or at least passionate about working towards what you’re hoping to achieve, is there really any point?

This is purely my opinion, food for thought you might say. I’m not trying to deny anyone their place in this world and I believe that every single person (rich or poor, old or young) has the opportunity to ‘make it’ in whatever field they’re trying to be successful in. All I’m saying is, if you can’t find a reason to want to do what you’re doing, and be somewhat passionate about it, you might be setting yourself up for failure from the start.

Until next time, keep pushing, keep working and keep doing whatever it is you’re doing. Just do it to the best of your ability.

Travis Marc.

Common Courtesy – August Blog 2015

Common Courtesy… Remember that? – August Blog 2015.

So I recently viewed a video that was making the rounds on social media where, as a social experiment, a guy pretends to be disabled and reliant on crutches. He is going to keeps drop his keys near people to see how they might react. No big deal. Th idea is that the bystanders (not knowing that they’re being filmed) will see that he can’t bend down to pick up his keys and as such they will simply pick the keys up for him. I mean that’s common courtesy right? Well, thats what I thought was going to happen, but it didn’t…

I was totally shocked to see that most people that this guy would drop his keys near, simply refused to pick them up for him. Almost as if picking up this guys keys was ‘beneath them’, or that they might somehow catch this man’s disability by touching something of his. This same (sad) reaction was repeated time and time again, until eventually the man pretending to be disabled drops them near a homeless man sitting on the street and without hesitation, the homeless man picks up his keys and hands them to him. Crazy huh, video or not, it potentially says a lot about where we’re headed as a civilisation (or ‘uncivilisation’, if such a word exists).

The video (which you an find here – https://www.facebook.com/Oli96.8FM/videos/881108125312633/?pnref=story) really got me thinking about people. Is this truly how we act now? Are compassion and courtesy traits that a lot of us no longer have? Do they make us appear weak? I had so many questions going through my mind. Surely as humans, we haven’t stooped so low?

Then I started to think about music and how the music industry has changed over the years, how we all interact now etc. Could the way that we want to be perceived online (via our social media accounts) contribute towards how self indulged a lot of us are now? I mean every second person is a mini celeb of some kind right? So maybe that makes us feel entitled in some way. I’m not sure, maybe the truth is that we simply don’t care anymore?

Now I’m sure that some of you might be thinking – ‘dude, what has this got to do with music or drumming’, but it’s got loads to do with it. How many times as a musician have you sent out an email without a response? Or left a voicemail on someones phone only for them to not get back to you? Often, when the person you left the voicemail with does get back to you, the common excuse is how sorry they were and that they’ve simply been so busy blah, blah, blah. My personal favourite is the ‘sorry I never had the time to learn that song for tonights gig excuse’ .Aren’t these all just different forms of excuses which could fall under the ‘we don’t care, or have no common courtesy umbrella’?

Sure, maybe they’re not as hardcore or selfish as not wanting to pick up a disabled mans keys but in some shape of form I personally regard the above behaviour as really rude .Maybe we all need to take a little step back from our own lives (I’m sure our Instagram Model careers won’t suffer), and remember what it’s like to be good humans again, to interact using our voices and eye contact rather than status updates and help those in need out in hopes that should we ourselves ever need some help, that our fellow man might be there. Be courteous people, try do something nice for someone at least once a day and you’ll see the world change. We’re better than this.

No one wants to be in a band with someone they can’t stand. Be courteous, be friendly, be on time and work hard. Till next time.

Travis Marc.