Derrick McKenzie interview – by Travis Marc – 2011.
Derrick McKenzie is the Funky drummer behind British band “Jamiroquai. He recently showcased his skills in a master class at the ACM in Guildford and welucky enough to interview him this is what he had to say…
Hi Derrick thanks for your time. Let’s start with a very common question – Tell us a bit about how you started drumming and what it was that originally made you want to play the drum kit?
I started drumming at the age of 6 years old on the floor to begin with, just playing along to records and the radio but obviously did not take it seriously at all. it was not until I was about 8 or 9 years old that I joined in a band, but of course still not taking it seriously till I was about 13 or 14 and a friend of mine introduced me to some real players like Billy Cobham, Harvey Mason, Steve Gadd and Sly Dunbar. I spent a lot of time listening to their tracks and trying to copy their playing. Eventually meeting up with a close friend of mine who was heavily into Jazz at the time, his name is Kenrick Rowe, he introduced me to Rudiments and was very adamant that rudiments were the root of all good drummers. I went out and bought the book. Rudiments for the Snare Drum and practised a lot of what I know now from that book, as well as listening to a lot of music too.
You’re here at the ACM today doing a master class for the students, have you yourself had any formal tuition, or are you self taught? In addition what are your thoughts on having basic drum tuition during the early stages of a drummer’s development?
I have had two Lessons in my whole career to be honest, by a great drum teacher called Lloyd Ryan, he’s a great jazz drummer and taught me some really good practice techniques that I still use to this day. Basic tuition is very important in early stages of playing especially to develop technique and to play efficiently and effortlessly.
How do you approach your master classes/clinics? Do you go in knowing what you want to do, or do you pretty much play it by feel?
When I do Master classes I normally play it by ear, and normally I have another musician with me to help me with the vibe of the master class. If I plan and it goes wrong then I’m stuck, so for me, it’s better to play it by ear as this builds confidence for me to explain how I work and for the audience to interact on a more formal level.
You’ve been performing with Jamiroquai for years, what have been your low points and highlights within the group during this time?
My High points are really just being in the band and always taking tracks and songs to another level. This is the most important thing for me. I also like to make sure that what I do on can always be improved upon. I enjoy meeting all the lovely people I have met whether they’re fans or industry people. My low points basically come when I am not playing or working, I just feel that there is something missing and I sometimes get a little depressed, ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!!!
Can you tell us if you have any specific warm up or practice routines and if so what do they entail?
My warm up or practice techniques are basically sitting down with a practice pad and my snare book and my iPod and practicing grooves and rudiments for about two hours or so, this helps the muscles to warm up gradually and also gets me mentally ready for the gigs. Normally I do the rudiments very slowly at first and then gradually speed up. I also use a metronome, this is very important as I have to listen to a metronome a lot on stage. Or should I say a click. J
Who or what inspires you or who are your influences?
Music inspires me to be honest, creating new tracks, recording and producing inspires me also, as these are all extensions of what I do. Who inspires me, well I have to say the list is too long to mention but from a drummers point of view, Billy Cobham, Harvey Mason, Steve Gadd, Art Blakey, Dennis Chambers, Phil Gould, Mel Gaynor, Mark Mondesiour, Stokely from Mint Condition, Aaron Spears, Taylor Hawkins, Jon Bonham, Dave Grohl, Travis Smith (Trivium), Travis Barker, Omar Hakim, Dennis Bradford, Bernard Purdey, Stanton Moore, Richard Bailey, and many, many more.
What’s next for Derrick Mckenzie? Have you got any future plans that are not music related, if so please tell us about them.
I am on tour with Jamiroquai this year so that will take up a most of my time to be honest.
What do you feel has been the most important piece of drumming advice you have ever received and why?
Always start slow to learn something new and then slowly speed up, whilst you do this you can actually hear the sound of the exercise you are doing change, and also listen to how it changes. Never go into exercises or grooves like a bull in a china shop. Always be efficient at sessions and be over prepared as opposed to under prepared.
What advice could you offer our readers about trying to stay positive within what can often be quite a negative industry?
Always believe in yourself and keep pushing the boundaries, as in drumming there is no limit. You can go as far as you want it to go. Never let anyone put you down or step all over you not only as a drummer but as a musician, you are part of a unit and should be treated as a respected musician, it’s very important for self esteem and drive to get through the low times that you will face in this industry.
Could you offer up and coming drummers any advice on how to try and get into the session scene should they not want to join bands permanently?
I have always been a band member personally, but always prep well for your session, be on time, and be very flexible. A producer or band may ask for more out of you on a session than just one or two songs.
Be Nice Be friendly, Be Humble, Be Efficient, and most of all ENJOY WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!!!!!!!!