Blog of the Blues interviews Simon Dring, former drummer with The Oli Brown Band and recently drummer for The Billy Walton Band on their UK tour
Blues Blogger: "When did you get into drumming and how did you become a professional drummer?"
Simon: "I have been fascinated by drums since I was about 6 years old, and spent many years hitting pillows, saucepans, chairs and boxes with my homemade sticks. I used to put on tapes and records and play along for hours on end. I got my first real drum when I was 9 years old and haven't looked back since. I played in bands in and out of school and upon completing my A Levels back in 1995 I was offered a few hours a week teaching drums at my high school. My intention was to go to University, but teaching and playing work kept coming in, and I'm still doing it now!"
Blues Blogger: "You've been the drummer for Oli Brown and Billy Walton on his recent tour and for others. Describe one highlight with each act?"
Simon: "I played for Oli for 4 years and had some amazing experiences gigging and touring across the world. In particular we travelled to Memphis Tennessee to play, and spent a few days recording at the legendary Ardent Studios which was was an incredible privilege.
With Billy Walton, I think a big highlight was playing my first show with him back in February this year. He'd just got off the plane from America and came straight to the gig. No soundchecks, no rehearsals, we went straight in and did 2 gigs that same day. Kept me on my toes, especially when he kept playing songs I didn't know at all!"
Blues Blogger: "What attributes do you need to be a successful drummer?"
Simon: "Obviously good timing is the primary one. You're the one keeping the band together, and it's your job to keep the song at the right tempo and feeling good. Being able to listen whilst playing is a very important aspect of music too - I need to be able to react to what's going on on stage and play accordingly. Some musicians start a song and then put their head down and don't come up for air until the song is done. I think it's important to keep your ears open and go where the music takes you on the night. That's when the magic happens.
But just as importantly as being a strong musician, you need to be a easy person to get on with. No matter how good a player you are, if you are a pain on the road or in the studio, no-one will want to work with you. A positive attitude helps immensely."
Blues Blogger: "Do you ever do anything special to remind the crowd you're there behind all the people posing with their guitars?"
Simon: "What can I do?! I am always aware of my job in the band - to keep the song grooving and to let any other soloists shine. If I do have a solo spot in a show I make the most of it, but otherwise I just concentrate on locking in with the bass player and doing my best to support the front man (or woman)."
Blues Blogger: "What is the best advice you've been given and you would give to a young drummer?"
Simon: "Tough question. One piece of advice that I always remember is something I heard Steve Washington (Take That, Texas) say. He said listen to as much music as you can, in all sorts of styles, and don't just stick to what you know or are comfortable with.
I would also say any drummer should take every chance he/she gets to play with as many different musicians as possible in different styles. And a sneaky few more - learn to read drum music, and make sure you are comfortable playing to a click (metronome). Comes in very handy for both studio and live performance. Oh, and NEVER arrive late. EVER."
Blues Blogger: "What are your ambitions for 2012?"
Simon: "My ambitions for 2012 are simply to keep playing as much as possible. I am lucky that I have a variety of bands who I perform with - blues, pop, rock, funk, dance - loads of different styles. Variety is the spice of life, and it keeps challenging me in my playing.
I am very grateful to the companies who supply my equipment - Premier, Paiste, Hardcase, Protection Racket, Evans and Baskey - I really appreciate their support."
More info on Simon's website www.simondring.co.uk