Chris Barnes and Jules Tabberer-Stewart Interview – by Travis Marc – 2011.
Earlier this year I decided that it would be a great idea to to do interviews with the editors of UK based drumming magazines ‘Rhythm’ and ‘Drummer’. Many drummer throughout the world read one or both of these great magazines every month without ever taking a moment to think about the time and effort the individuals behind each magazine put in for our own personal enjoyment. I therefore thought that it might be nice to try and get some insight into how drumming and writing about all things drums, became such a huge part of both Chris Barnes (editor of ‘Rhythm; magazine) and Jules Tabberer-Stewart’s (editor of ‘Drummer’ magazine) lives. So without further a due let’s see what the respective editors had to say…
(Chris and Travis Barker of Blink 182 at Reading Festival)
Hi guys – Can we start with you guys briefly introducing yourselves to our readers. Who you are and what it is you do at your respective magazines?
C – My name is Chris Barnes. I’m the editor of Rhythm Magazine, the UK’s best-selling drum magazine. My job is to oversee the entire running of Rhythm and to be an ambassador for the magazine. It is my responsibility to ensure that each issue meets its deadline, is of consistently high quality and meets readers’ expectations. I manage a fantastic in-house team of three drummers – Art Editor Dave Tupper, Staff Writer Rich Chamberlain and Production Editor Chris Burke – and work with a raft of freelance drum writers and photographers around the world.
More specifically, my job covers a number of areas: I commission all feature content (interviews, practical features) and gear reviews; maintain regular contact with manufacturers, distributors and artists; conduct interviews and write news stories; field interview requests from drummers and PRS; check out new drum talent; co-ordinate the photography of all new drum product (in our brand new state-of-the-art photo and video studio); liaise with Rhythm’s CD Editor Pete Riley to formulate our video tuition content; meet with other departments within Future Publishing (Rhythm’s owners), including Marketing, Advertising and Licensing; alongside Rich I contribute to Rhythm’s daily web and social media output (www.rhythmmagazine.co.uk/Facebook/Twitter); attend interview/feature photoshoots; oversee the development of other Rhythm-branded products including digital editions (Rhythm is now available for Android devices, http://bit.ly/scDvOZ, and iOs devices http://bit.ly/stt1iL), tablet apps (we just launched a Kits Out! app for iPad http://bit.ly/pfySGk) and special editions; and spend a lot of time out on the road at drum events and meeting with the industry. We’ve also recently begun producing a lot more video content for our website which myself and Rich film and edit personally.
As you can imagine, day-to-day life is busy, eventful and a lot of fun!
J – I’m Jules, editor of Drummer Magazine. I’m a drummer myself, having played for 18 years plus now. My job at Drummer is to direct and oversee the editorial content within magazine. Each magazine has it’s own unique stance, it’s own ‘voice’. Effectively, the editor is that voice. I commission features and decide what goes into the magazine, which artists we interview, who goes on the cover and more. I then read and edit every word and every piece of editorial that goes into the magazine. I write some features myself too. I also work closely with our design team and with photographers and our art director to get the look and imagery looking right. I also have the responsibility for ensuring the magazine comes in on budget, and is completed to deadline.
How did you become the editor at the magazine you work for?
C – I started working for Rhythm as Staff writer in June 2004, having been a reader of the magazine for a number of years prior to that. I cut my teeth under the editorship of the fantastic Louise King. I was subsequently promoted to Features Editor, then Deputy Editor, before filling the Editor role in late 2009, just in time to ring in the magazine’s 25th year.
J – I think the opportunity came about for me because of a variety of experience and skill that the publishers valued. Firstly I am a passionate drummer myself. Like many of our readers, I have worked incredibly hard with my bands to be commercially successful in music, having toured, recorded and worked my socks off as a drummer. I’ve been part of a community of drummers in the South West for many years and I’m proud to be a performing musician. I’ve worked in music/drum retail, which has given me a good understanding of the trade, the needs of the industry and what drummers want and what they are looking for. I’ve written for various fanzines, magazines and publications over the years, so that’s where my writing skills have been forged. I also spent many years working within kids in local communities, which gave me good communications skills. Add to that my qualifications and my transferable working skills (such as communication skills, time management, presentation skills, public speaking skills, people management for example) and the publisher decided that I have what it takes to be the editor. I’m incredibly proud of my achievements and becoming editor of Drummer, for me, is the pinnacle, the crowning achievement.
You guys both seem extremely passionate about drumming – away from writing about drums and drummers, can you tell us how did your interest in the drums begin? Also, playing wise – do either of you currently perform in any bands etc?
C -Music has always been around me and I’ve always played musical instruments, inspired by my talented older sister. I started off with the violin at a very young age, although my parents quickly put a stop to that… I’ve played guitar and bass for many years and gigged and recorded with a variety of bands, some more serious than others.
I was always drawn to the drummer in bands. In my heavy metal teens I would forgo the mosh pit to secure a decent spot to watch the drummer do his thing and the groove of a tight rhythm section has always done something to me. I first played drums in my late teens when the drummer in my then band taught me my first 4/4. From there I seized any opportunity to get behind the kit and taught myself the basics. I bought my first kit (a Tama Rockstar) and progressed steadily, mainly through jamming along to music, playing with other musicians and studying the lessons in Rhythm.
I’ve played drums in various amateur bands and, since working at Future Publishing, I’ve been surrounded by talented musicians (mainly from the guitar mags – Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar Techniques) and have been a part of a handful of rock, punk and covers bands who’ve gigged around the south west.
For the time being my playing is confined to the V-kit at home. Ironically my job restricts the amount I am actually able to play with other people, but my days are certainly jam-packed with drums.
J – My first experience of drumming came at age 14 – I was a late starter in some respects. I was heavily into my music even back then, bands like Nirvana, Rage Against The Machine and Pearl Jam were who I was listening to, and I wanted to be in music. I’d always wanted to learn drums. I remember listening to Queen records when I was a kid and wanting to be Roger Taylor. So, finally at 14 I had the opportunity to learn drums through my school and I went for it. I also had video that I watched religiously – it was Music Makers; The Drums with Geoff Nicholls (who now writes for Rhythm magazine!). I used to practice to that video every day. I joined a few bands and got tighter and improved my technique. I was also inspired by other drummers of local bands that my own band would share the stage with. In particular, Muse were a little known local band around where I lived in Devon and I used to take a lot of inspiration from both Dom Howard and Chris Wolstenholme (who used to be a killer drummer as well). That was around 1996/97. From there I joined other various bands and we pushed hard to get signed and make a career in music. Right now, I’m still in two bands; Sancho Panzer and Klay. I’m also in a covers band with some friends. Honestly, being an editor takes a lot of my time, so it’s not possible to dedicate the same amount of time to my music career as I once did. But I’m still in bands, I still play drums and get out there and gig when I can. I also play at home every day on my Roland kit, to keep my chops, timing and groove in order.
In regards to our previous question, what drummers influence you in regards to your own playing?
C – It’s often down to what I’m listening to at the time – I’m currently really inspired by Ash Soan’s Grooves album (find it on iTunes), Ben Johnston from Biffy Clyro is refreshingly different for a younger player and John Stanier from Battles’ playing is relentlessly hypnotic.
There are drummers I always come back to, of course. In terms of groove playing I’ve always been a huge fan of Stanton Moore, JP Gaster from Clutch and Bonzo. For their individuality and instantly recognisable style you can’t beat Stewart Copeland or Dave Grohl. Then there’s Phil Rudd. The list goes on… I have great respect for so many players and day-to-day I get exposed to so many influences and inspirations.
J – For me, it was always about the rock bands. Dave Grohl, without shadow of a doubt, is my hero (no pun intended). It was amazing getting to meet him finally this year. Another big influence on my playing was John Stanier, who now plays in Battles. I used to be into a band named Helmet, and he was their drummer for years. I used to spend hours and hours getting down some of John Stanier’s grooves and fills. Abe Cunningham from Deftones was another influence too. Obviously I have huge respect for the heroes of our instrument, the ground breakers, such as Buddy Rich, John Bonham, Keith Moon, Ringo Starr, Steve Gadd, although I would say they’ve influenced me to play drums and be a drummer, more than directly influenced my playing style. I have huge admiration for what those drummers have done and how they can play.
Back to the writing aspect of our interview now – What would you say your favourite interview or feature experience has been while working as editor at your magazine?
C – I’ve certainly been fortunate enough to interview or meet plenty of my childhood heroes – Dave Grohl and Neil Peart are highlights – and I’ve crossed plenty of names off my list, but some of my most fascinating experiences whilst working for Rhythm have been through opportunities to travel the world. Over the years I’ve visited Japan (Tama factory tour), Niagara Falls (Regal Tip), California (NAMM show), Meductic, Cananda (Sabian), and many more – and I recently enjoyed a weekend in Germany with Nicko McBrain and Premier on the Rhythm sponsored Evening With Nicko tour. Never a dull moment!
For me the greatest pleasure comes from meeting the huge spectrum of people this industry has to offer – whether it’s Rhythm readers, rock stars, cymbal smiths or vintage drum collectors. The drum industry is a fantastic place to work and I feel blessed to be able to do this for a living.
J – Wow, that’s a tough call. The thing about being an editor of a drumming magazine is you get to meet so many players that you personally look up to and admire. But you remain professional at all times! I don’t know that I can pick a favourite, but memorable one’s have been Chad Smith, Nicko McBrain, Simon Phillips (because my Dictaphone broke down half way through and we had to do the interview all over again!!!) Roger Taylor and Donovan Hepburn. Although I didn’t interview him, I was a bag of nerves when I met Dave Grohl. They say you should never meet your heroes, but Dave was a true gentleman.
Chris – do you read ‘Drummer’ Magazine?
C – Yes, of course. At the end of the day I’m a drum fan and I like to read drum magazines as well as make them.
What about you Jules, do you read ‘Rhythm’?
J – Yes, absolutely. I really respect and enjoy what Chris and the Rhythm team produce every month.
What advice could you offer drummers on going about getting featured in either of your magazines?
C – Build up a relationship us, our contact details are in the magazine. Drop us a line to introduce yourself, keep us up-to-date with what you’re up to, come say hello at drum events. Be persistent, but don’t overstep the mark. Getting to know people in the industry and maintaining those relationships is key. Be professional at all times. A good reputation goes far in this industry and we’ll soon hear about you. If you’re talented and have something worth sharing, there’s every chance there will be some space for you in Rhythm.
Knowing about the magazine helps before you make initial contact too. The number of times I’ve received an impersonal blanket email from a drummer who has little idea about Rhythm and is just vying for ‘any’ coverage.
Of course, there’s no guarantee of a feature for anyone, however big a name they are, but don’t be put off if we turn you down. Rhythm is a carefully crafted and balanced magazine and we can’t accommodate everything all the time. If we know you’re out there, you have something decent to say and the time is right, then you’ll get your shot.
J – As a drumming magazine for the community, we love to feature the drummer’s that are doing some truly exciting or really inspiring work. It’s not all about the big guns! We have a responsibility to support up and coming drummers as well, and I love to feature the drummers that everyone is noticing because of their talent. Obviously, whatever we do in the magazine has to appeal to a wider audience, we want to sell copies of our mag after all. I get emails and letters every day from artists and bands. Personally, I would love to feature many of them, but I have a responsibility to create a magazine that appeals to all drummers and supports the drumming trade. I would say, when you’re at a point in your career where you’re in a band or working with an artist that is getting lots of interest or making waves in the music scene, that’s the right time to look at getting some exposure in a national publication. Often, if you’re doing something great, don’t worry, we’ll find you! We work closely with drum and cymbal companies (plus stick, drum head companies etc) on the artists that we feature, but also with Press and PR agents and band managers, who contact us as well on behalf of their drummers.
Drumming wise – what would you say is the most important piece of advice you ever received and who gave you that advice?
C – Rhythm dedicated an issue to the art of session drumming earlier this year. During the making of that issue I spoke to plenty of pro drummers – like Kenny Aronoff, Donavan Hepburn, Neal Wilkinson, Karl Brazil – whose playing can be heard on stages and on the radio all over the world.
These guys have immense drumming prowess and can play rings around most of us, but they have reached this level because they’re professional at all times, are easy to work with and deliver the goods to get the job done without an ego getting in the way. As musicians, whether we’re recording, playing a gig or writing a new tune the ultimate goal is to make the best music we can. If we put ourselves before the music the result will be sub-par. It sounds obvious but, when playing with other musicians, it’s important to remind yourself to approach your playing from a musical perspective and keep the inner animal under control. Unless you’re required to play a solo, of course!
J – I worked with a producer called Joe Gibb a few year’s back. He gave me some great direction on areas to develop my playing for studio work; working to a click and getting super tight to the grid, keeping it simple and feeling the groove. For me, it took the stress and mythology out of performing when the red light goes on and allowed me to enjoy it. The result was the drums on the record sounded so much better because I was confident and not so up-tight. Ultimately, practice makes perfect and gives you confidence.
(Jules showing his crazy Drummer side)
Any last thoughts or words of advice?
C – We’re incredibly lucky that the drum community is a beautiful, welcoming place to be. Enjoy it, support it and get involved!
J – Enjoy being a drummer. It’s not all about speed, incredible chops, who’s better or what you can do to beat them, magazines, endorsements, getting signed to a record label or anything else. It’s about music. If you’re happy with what you play and you enjoy playing with other musicians, it’s all been worthwhile. If you get success off of the back of that, it’s a bonus.