We met Gareth at The UK Drum Show 2018 and heard his story of his drum circles and small drum school. Gareth has recently relocated to North Wales, looking to expand his collection of students. His drum circles have gained funding from local charities to support groups in care homes, especially to benefit those suffering from Dementia and Alzheimers: "they have noticed a difference in the people who took part in the drum circles, reporting increased appetite, more restful sleep and a memory of rhythm."
"Tuned high, my snare has a wonderful attacking solid tone. In the quieter moments the drum really sings with a crystal clear responsive tone. I detuned it and again it powered it’s way through the songs, solid and reliable."
Firstly I’d love to know your drumming story; how did you start and develop?
I was always hitting things as a small child. Ice cream boxes, shelves, paint tins, anything that made a sound. One day I saw Adam And The Ants on TV and I was blown away by the 2 drummers playing the tom heavy tribal beats on the rack of toms. After many years playing along to records/radio I was accepted into the Musicians Institute (MI) in London to pursue their 1 year diploma course. I met a group of amazing drummers and learned from some amazing teachers, with the added bonus of named pro drummers coming in to play. A few weeks after I finished at the MI I started as a stage drummer for Riverdance. I was with the show touring the world for about 4 1/2 years playing TV shows and sold out arenas every night. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. For several years after, I played, wrote, arranged and demoed songs with a variety of artists, in many different styles. Following this I formed a ‘jam/improvisation’ band and found myself thoroughly enjoying this. We gigged around the UK for a few years and recorded a CD.
How would you describe your playing style?
I consider myself a chameleon blues/rock drummer who loves tribal beats. I try to play what is needed for the song and love to make the people dance!!
What artists / drummers have inspired you? Who has had the most impact on your playing?
John Coghlan (Status Quo), Dan ‘Woody’ Woodgate (Madness), Frank Beard (ZZ Top), Vinnie Appice (Dio), Cozy Powell, Keith LeBlanc (Tackhead), Steve White, Stanton Moore, Tony Coleman (BB King), Drummers from Adam And The Ants, Prince, Ian Hunter, Morphine, They Might Be Giants, Paul Weller. The drummer who had the most impact on me was Ricky Lawson. He performed a clinic when I was at the MI in London. When he spoke about drummers playing the same beat for various songs the art of drumming fell into place for me. I realised what kind of drummer I wanted to be
What lead you into the education role?
I was approached by a friend who knew someone who’d spent a lot of money on a kit but didn’t know how to play it. I showed him what I’d been taught by all my wonderful teachers at the Musicians Institute and the lessons I had with Colin Woolway. By word of mouth, and a round of advertising, increasing numbers of people contacted me who were interested in learning to play. My business grew from there.
My teaching approach is to give each student a good foundation that we can build on. It is like teaching someone to talk...with a drum kit. I start by using pages from the Colin Woolway ‘Drumsense’ book, then add a bit from Joe Morello ‘Master Studies’ Vol 1+2, and of course George Lawrence Stone the latter two for stick control. Along the way students are learning to read, play with a click and just try to be a good solid drumming groove machine. I tailor each lesson, personalising them to meet the needs of each individual student. Whatever they want to know and learn I will help them with.
Talk us through the drumming circles you run.
My partner (who is a psychotherapist) and I thought it would be fun to start a community drum circle playing hand drums & percussion for people who had never played before. We would begin by showing people how to hit the drums and encourage them to tune into their own rhythm to begin with. Then I would start a pulse, inviting people to listen, and then play whatever they feel. Usually this starts as a cacophony with everyone trying to find their own space in the groove. When the group starts listening to each other it turns into a great moment because everyone starts playing as one. Jams can last from 3 to 35 minutes with the groove changing many times as the participants become increasingly confident and comfortable. We were approached by the local Alzheimer’s Society to facilitate a one off drum circle for people living with Alzheimer’s. This was an experiment to see how everyone would react and was amazing. The group started playing as soon as we gave them a drum and then played for 40 minutes without stopping. No one in the group expected that to happen. We managed to secure some funding from a local charity to host 12 circles at the start of 2019 for people living with Dementia and their carers. A local businessman gave some funding to carry on for the rest of 2019 and into 2020. Based on the idea of listening to a pulse then join in, we added playing grooves based around nursery rhymes and songs. We decided to call it ‘Find Your Groove’. We have taken it into local care homes and they have noticed a difference in the people who took part in the drum circles, reporting increased appetite, more restful sleep and a memory of rhythm.
What do you do to stay creative?
Listen to music, watch drummers/bands live and on the internet. Step away and relax. But most of all my students help me to be creative by having to breakdown and explain grooves and how to apply them to the drum kit. Someone will always ask a great question that will take the lesson in a totally different and unexpected direction. I find that really inspiring
Could you talk us through your setup and how you’ve utilised the snare?
I’ve been playing my DW drums for a while now. I have a 22” BD, 10,12,14,15 toms. While at the UK Drum Show I finally got to try out some Amedia Cymbals and now play 14” Hats, 16”,17” crash, 10” splash, 20” ride, 18” razr crash (sounds like a china/crash). My De Broize Oak snare will either be my main or secondary snare depending on the situation. It blends so well with the Maple drums and my beech snare.
How did you discover De Broize Custom Drums and what were your first impressions?
I was at the UK Drum Show 2018 in Manchester and every time I walked by the De Broize stand I couldn’t get near it so this prompted my curiosity. When I finally got to see the stand on my last day I was drawn to the Oak collection of snares. They were visually beautiful and nothing like any of the wood snares I’d seen at the show. The first snare I picked up and played was the one I bought a week or so later. I just thought the whole idea of making drums from recycled wood was fabulous. The drum has a personality with a history that had been lovingly added to by a skilled builder and drummer.
Can you give us an in-depth review of your De Broize snare?
I fell in love with the drum the first time I saw it at UKDS ’18. The first thing I noticed was a wood knot in the stave had been used as a feature in the drum shell. I thought the drum stood out from the rest and shows off it’s 100yr old character combined with a Hulk sized percussive punch. Tuned high, my snare has a wonderful attacking solid tone. In the quieter moments the drum really sings with a crystal clear responsive tone. I detuned it and again it powered it’s way through the songs, solid and reliable. I had a grin like a Cheshire cat when I added the rim. It gave a loud satisfying solid ‘bop’ sound - marvellous. Playing a cross stick alone on this snare is just a joy to the ears. Such a crisp, clear musical ‘click’ sound. But what makes this so wonderful is the different clear defining tones when the rim is hit with different parts of the stick. I’ve never heard that before in a snare drum and is another colour to add to my sound. This is a special drum and I’m a grateful lucky bunny to own and play it.
What can we expect from you in the future? New music? New bands? What are your ambitions?
To keep teaching and facilitating drum circles. I’m working on filming some lessons for the internet and beginning to offer Skype lessons too. There are some plans for new music but nothing set in stone as yet. I’m very much enjoying playing some great drums & cymbals and hope to carry on doing so long into the future.