Richard Wouters Interview – by Travis Marc – 2010.
Richard Wouters recently performed a showcase at the Barfly in Camden, with his band Civil Twilight. We were able to chat with the groovy sticksman before the show and asked him a few questions about his newly found fame within the U.S. Here’s what Richard had to say…
Let’s talk a bit about how your drumming career began. what initially attracted you to the drums and what is your general approach while playing the instrument?
What first attracted me to drumming was the rhythmic nature of it. I had played guitar for a while before I picked up the drums but I always enjoyed beating on stuff more than I did strumming guitar strings. I remember when I was a little kid I used to make miniature drum sets out of pots and pans and pillows and play along to music on the radio. I must have been 6 or 7 years old at the time. I guess it was always just kinda in me.
Do you, find time to practise your drumming now that the band are on the road so much ? If so, what does your general practice routine look like?
I try practice on the road, but I don’t get to nearly as much I’d like. When I was younger I was practicing 4-6 hours a day, sometimes more. I’m really into rudiments and I have a whole routine that I do that covers a range of different sticking combinations and accenting at different tempos. You can get a lot of mileage out of a simple paradiddle if you change up the accents, spacing, limbs that you use, and then move it around the kit. These days I just take a practice pad with me on tour and I’ll work on rudiments whenever I get the chance. I do find that playing shows every night keeps me feeling pretty good though. There’s nothing worse than feeling out of touch with one’s instrument.
Tell us how Civil Twilight started, as well as that initiated the move to the United States?
We started as a few kids playing around and trying to write songs in our garage in Cape Town. We were really young and we had all just started playing our respective instruments, so we decided to “jam” together. Many years of jamming later, it developed into Civil Twilight. We decided to move to the States to see what it was like to play in one of the best music scenes in the world, and see if we could hold our own on an international stage. We wanted to make a career of our music and we figured if we made it in LA, we could make it anywhere. I’m not sure if that logic is entirely sound, but that was kind of our thinking.
How did the deal with Wind Up records come about?
We recorded an album in America and our manager passed our record onto a music supervisor who works for Grey’s Anatomy and some other shows. She really liked the music and ended up getting a number of songs placed in TV shows. Wind-Up heard the music on a TV show and ultimately they called up our manager and said they were interested in offering us a deal. After some negotiations we decided to take it.
In addition to Civil twilight, what else are you up to. Also, what’s next for Civil Twilight?
Right now I don’t really have time for much else besides Civil Twilight. We are very busy these days, constantly touring, and we have a very full schedule this year. Civil Twilight is kind of my thing. I’ve been in this band forever and don’t really care to play in any other band… It’s exciting because things are starting to take off for us in America now. What’s next for us is more touring in America over the summer, and then hopefully some UK and European dates. We’ve probably got about another year worth of touring on this record, and then we’ll go back into the studio and make another one.
Have you ever performed at, or attended any drum clinics. Regardless, how would you personally approach a drum clinic if you were performing?
I’ve attended drum clinics by Efrain Toro, a master latin and jazz drummer from Puerto Rica. He later became my tutor and I learnt a lot of what I know from him. I would not be where I am today without his influence and tuition.
How do you warm up before a show ? Some guys do push ups, some guys play rudiments, what do you personally do to warm up?
I don’t actually do warm ups before shows. I generally find that by the end of the second song I’m pretty warm as it is. I just try to get a few minutes to myself before taking the stage and just relax and calm myself down. Then I take the first couple songs slow and try get into a groove – ease into it physically and mentally. So much of performing and playing is mental – thinking right, and not thinking too much.
Where do you see yourself as a musician within the next five years?
I’m not sure… I’ve never really had a good answer to that question, and certainly have never got any of my predictions right. Id like to keep making good music that I’m passionate about, keep building a following with Civil Twilight, and keep becoming a better musician.
What (if any) do you feel has been the most important lesson you have had to learn through out your career as a successful drummer/musician, and why do you feel this particular advice was so important to you?
Focus on playing simply and with feel. Put emotion into your playing before speed and technique. This is what music is about and this is what will connect with your audience.
If you could offer our readers some advice on how to maintain a long career within the music industry (as you have), what do you think you would tell them?
My career has been different to many people’s in that I’ve been playing with the same group of people my whole career. So, I would say find other people to play with that you gel with musically and as people, who you can enjoy playing music with and who you can grow with. There is no rush, and if you keep the main thing the main thing – the enjoyment of making music with others – you’ll do well. Most bands break up because they can’t get along, not because they don’t have success. Even if you have major success, you still have to get along.
Let’s talk briefly about your gear, tell us why you use the products you use as well as if there are any new products on the market that you would like to try?
I use Vic Firth sticks, Sabian Cymbals and Evans drumheads. I use all coated 2-ply heads and Hand Hammered cymbals. Evans coated heads have really great tone and attack and Sabian’s HH cymbals are my favourite cymbals. They sound amazing; rich, dark and colourful. As for my kit, I almost always use my vintage ’76 Slingerland kit, which I love. I love vintage drums – the warm, round, full tones. Right now I have no real desire to use anything else.
Any last thoughts or words of wisdom?
Yeah be kind.