Danny Farrant interview – by Travis Marc – 2011.
Danny Farrant is the solid groove maker behind Punk legends the Buzzcocks. In addition to his role within the band he is also an accomplished drum tutor and has recently launched a series of online video lessons which seem to be creating quite the buzz. Here’s what Danny had to say in a recent interview with us…
Hi Danny, in regards to your drumming, can you tell us how you originally got started on the instrument?
I can actually pin point two really specific moments. The first was when I was about six years old, my brother and I were sitting in my bedroom listening to some stuff and I was pretending to air drum. I’m still not entirely sure what he knew regarding drumming but he kept telling me where to aim my hands in regards to the high toms and floor tom, and how to go around etc. Around the same kind of time Cozy Powell had released a new single called “dance with the devil”, and I can remember hearing it and automatically being able to play the same pattern that he had played on the song. Mind you, it was probably nothing close to his rhythm, I mean I knew nothing about drumming at the time but it sounded the same. From that moment kept pestering my folks to get me some drums, and finally when I was about nine I received a snare drum for Christmas. My dad kind of understood the root that someone wanting to learn drums should take, and wanted to see if I’d do any work on the snare drum before actually buying a whole drum kit. I worked at it a lot though and three months later he gave me a hi-hats. Long story short, I stuck at it and eventually I bought a kit for twenty five pound from a guy at the local pub. Looking back now, I realise that it was really a load of rubbish that he just wanted to get rid of. You know, odd bits of stands that didn’t quite fit each other and bits of drums that were kind of falling apart. I managed to get some kind of kit set up out of it though and landed up playing an old marching bass drum, a snare and a little floor tom, and I used to play along to punk rock records. I told my dad that I wanted to be a punk rock drummer and he told me that he wasn’t going to get me any more drums or any drum lessons unless I started attending the local orchestra rehearsals on Friday nights. I didn’t really want to do it, but decided to go check it out just once. I saw the guy at the back playing timpani and percussion and before I knew it I was hooked. I would go to that one every Friday night and even started attending another one on Saturday mornings. My older brothers were into things like “David Bowie”, “T-Rex” and “The Beatles” and my dad was into jazz and classical music, he even played clarinet and saxophone, so I guess we were a pretty musical family. I just always loved music, so to me it was obvious to me that I was going to do something.
Let’s talk a bit about your role within “The Buzzcocks”. How did your position within the band originally come about?
It’s a little bit more complicated than this, but the gist of it goes something like this. My mate overheard a conversation in a pub between the Buzzcocks manager and someone else, about how the band were looking for a new drummer. So he tried to call me and let me know, but I was out so didn’t answer. The next morning I listened to the message and was amazed. I knew that I had to some how get in on the auditions, as I had really learnt how to drum by playing along to records by bands like the Buzzcocks. Luckily about four years prior to this I was playing in a band called “Spear of destiny” and had toured with the Buzzcocks bass player while he was performing in a band called “The Alarm”. When the drummer from “The Alarm” had to go off and play with his band “The Stiff Little Fingers”, I sat in with “The Alarm” and ended up playing with Tony Barber who was then the bass player for the Buzzcocks. Anyway, I managed to retrace Tony’s number and gave him a call. He arranged to stick me on the end of the audition list for the following Monday, so I went through a few of the songs,although I knew a lot of them from learning them in the past. I did the audition, got a call on Tuesday telling me that I had gotten the gig and was on tour by Thursday night. We were on tour for seven months, and that’s really how I got into the band. There’s a certain element of danger being in a band like the Buzzcocks let me tell you, and I think that there should be a certain amount of danger or uncertainty when it comes to being in a band else it’s not really rock n roll.
You recently released the first in a series of drumming videos, in which you teach basic drumming concepts to the guitar hero generation. How did the concept for these videos come about, and what has the response been like?
It’s kind of weird really, it was really my response to what I felt I was seeing to an over complicated kind of approach I was seeing in a lot of video of things like Youtube. A lot of the tuition videos on the net are amazing, but so often you have to sit through about fifteen minutes of speech and explanatory conversation before you even get to play the kit. So I thought that I’d attempt to take my twenty fives years of teaching experience and try and put something out there that was slightly more simple and fun. Since I did the video, I’ve watched a lot more drumming videos on Youtube and I have come to the realisation that having to conceptualise and put these types of videos together is a lot harder than many of us think. As it’s really quite hard to keep certain things directly to the point. I think we did a good job though, and were able to explain a fair amount of what it really is about to play the drums. I really just wanted to impart some of my knowledge onto beginner drummers in an easy and friendly way without scaring them off with chops etc. The groove that I play in the first video is quite basic, but I think what people sometimes forget is that drumming greats like Phil Rudd have made careers out of playing grooves similar to it, and I personally think that if it’s good enough for guys like Phil then it’s good enough for anyone.
I got together with a mate of mine in Bristol to produce the video. Originally we weren’t entirely sure how to put the the blocks and the guitar hero type concept together, but it seemed to develop quite quickly and before we knew it we had made something that we felt was user friendly and easy for anyone attempting to learn the drums to utilise. The response has been fantastic, a lot of people have been in touch and told us how great they found our “no nonsense” approach, which is great as that is exactly what we were hoping to achieve. I’ve personally also been offered a few interviews, so it’s great. I think it’s great that we’re able to pass our knowledge onto people who are new to the drums and know that we’re doing so in a way that allows them to have fun. Drumming, whether you’re doing it for yourself or in a band is suppose to be a lot of fun and I think we’re living in a time where a lot of people have forgotten that.
Where are you hoping to take these videos and what are your hopes in regards to them?
Well I’m actually on my way to Bristol now, and we’re hoping to produce a few really simple “how to” type videos. How to get started on the bass drum, how to hold your drumsticks, really basic concepts that are often overlooked. We’re not going to go into anything like the heel toe technique or double kick drum methods etc, we just want to cover how to get started. There’s videos out there that will obviously go into more depth, but we’re trying to explain things to the group of people who have literally just bought their drum sets and want to play a beat.
Who, or what are your current drum influences?
I love dipping into new types of music all the time. As far as I’m concerned there are only two types of music, good and bad. I don’t personally have the time to divide myself down into any specific genres or anything like that. If I like it, I like it, and if I don’t, I don’t it’s as simple as that. I suppose I’d have to say as direct influences I’m really into punk rock and old jazz from the 1940’s and 1950’s, again my dad was a saxophonist, so he let me listen to guys like Philly Joe Jones and Tony Williams. I can’t say that they were huge influences, because I wanted to play to play like Paul Cook from the “Sex Pistols” and Budgie from “Siousie and the Banshees”, but when I listen to some of those old jazz drum solos I always feel pretty inspired to try and figure them out and make some sense out of them. My heart is in punk rock though, with a bit of ska and reggae. Some of the early UB40 albums were also amazing, simple stuff to play but it was so well placed. I also really love Stevie Wonders playing, he’s a great drummer, he’s wonderfully loose, yet fantastically expressive. Oh and of course Clyde Stubblefield, I love Clyde Stubblefield, I spent about three months trying to learn how to play “the funky drummer” when I was in my twenties. I want to post a Youtube lesson on how to play that song sometime. Apparently Clyde is in a bit of a bad way health wise at the moment and you can help him out by donating money to a charity called chip in, so I personally will be chucking a bit of money into that, as well as trying to advertise the cause by uploading the video. “The funky drummer” beat is actually one of the most sampled beats ever used, and Clyde has never even received a penny from it, so it’s time to give a bit back. I find with music that in many cases it’s often the situation where there’s actually too many notes and not enough music, especially with drummers, it should really be about the music. Less is more.
As a kid, I was actually never really into Led Zeppelin. Being a punk it just wasn’t a done thing. Now though I realise just how great John Bonham actually was, and apparently John was really into Clyde Stubblefield, so again if it’s good enough for John Bonham it’s definitely good enough for me. I recently also really got into both Charlie Watts and Keith Moon. Keith Moon had such a great sense of danger to him. Then there’s Buddy Rich, who had such phenomenal technique, but never forgot to actually play for the music, he also had such drama to his playing, he could do a drum solo and inspire the entire audience. He was one of the few drummers that could always make people smile or laugh when he played, he just gave you such a good feeling about things. A really great drummer can bring joy and inspiration to an audience.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the music industry in regards to the Internet and how it has changed the scene?
I think that all of the developments that have come through with the Internet have got to be good in some way. We have got to move on with technology and keep up with the times, if we don’t we’ll be left behind. A direct example might be to look at someone like Bach, when the piano was invented he got a hold of one straight away and wrote the 48 preludes, which totally showcased the instrument. I think that this is indirectly what we have to do now with the Internet. The fact that people can watch live performances by bands on Youtube is only going to inspire them to go and actually buy tickets to watch that band live in real live. If it’s me and I’ve seen something that inspires me, I need to get out and try and see whatever it was that inspired me in real life, because it’s an attraction that I feel I need to get close to. I actually recently went to see Keith Carlock perform live, purely because I had seen some of his video clips on the Internet, had it not been for those video clips I might not have known who he was, so it’s really amazing. Live shows used to promote albums, but now days it’s really the other way around, because people can download an album and the album can really promote an artists live show. So I think bands should work on their live skills so that promoters are willing to put book. You can think about the Internet how ever you want I personally prefer to be optimistic about it. I know that for the Buzzcocks it has been a really good thing. We’ve recently been out on the road promoting the re release of our first two albums through EMI and the shows have all been well attended and amazing and it’s because people have been able to find out about us and our music through the Internet.
What’s next for Danny Farrant?
Well the Buzzcocks actually just finished a string of shows in China, and on Tuesday we’re headed over to Brazil to do a few shows, then Chile and Italy, the list goes on and on. More immediately, as mentioned I’m going to be shooting a few more videos for my “how to” series. The Buzzcocks are touraholics so we’re just always on the road. We’ve recently been in the studio with producer Dave Allen (Human League, The Cure, Depeche Mode) and I’m hoping to work with him to make a Buzzcocks minus the drums DVD, because I can only imagine that as beginner learning how to play the instrument that it must be a lot of fun playing along to the real band and not just a generic play along.
What do you do when you’re not drumming?
Drum ha ha. It’s all I do man, I love it…
What is the most important piece of drumming advice you have ever received?
Honestly, there’s tons, but the advice that really stands out for me it involves playing double strokes, and attempting to accent the second stroke of each hand. It was one of the first things that I worked at in regards to my technique and it really worked and rubbed off onto the rest of my playing. It strengthened my fingers and even affected the tone at which I play at.I also think that technique should include trying to find the correct sounds that suite your playing, apposed to how and how many notes one plays, it’s another thing that I really aspire for. The sound of ones instrument should count just as much as everything else.
Any final thoughts or advice?
Play with your mates, study the greats and listen, listen, listen. It’s all about ears. Let go of your worries and play for the music, we all get things going on in our heads sometimes, but if you can forget about them, and let your ears guide you to the music everything will be OK. Besides that listen to as much music as you can.
For further information on Danny please visit www.buzzcocks.com or visit www.dannyfarrant.com
(Please note that the rights of the pictures used in this interview belong to those who own them or took them, thank you).