We met Nathan at the UK Drum Show 2018, as someone who had just passed our stand and ended up friends. After staying in touch I got to know his story and watch his recent development. From finalist to champion, an inspiring journey of perseverance, with the 2019 Young Drummer of the Year Competition winner. As one of the newest members of the family, we have an in depth discussion of his musical upbringing, inspirations and aspirations.
"It was insane to play, had an immense amount of pop and like I said cut through perfectly, It was really versatile and worked for my faster and slow tracks. It also had a great sensitivity which meant I was able to use a big dynamic range with the snare. I remember hitting it in the room during setup and everyone just going "damn" and wanting to check it out, it was an absolute monster!"
Firstly, what is your drumming story? How, Who, What got you started on the instrument? What drummers have inspired and impacted on your style? Tell us all..
Man It's a long story! I guess I started to show a natural feel for rhythm and music when I was 1 or 2 years old, there's videos of me head bopping and grooving to different songs and also a story of me tapping along to Stereophonics and the Thunderbirds theme tune. I'm from a really musical family and most of my musical upbringing comes from my Dad. He's a massive Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, so I was brought up listening to Bonham and Paice. I started lessons when I was 6 and moved through the grades, Bonham was a massive influence on my playing and I played along to Zep all the time. When I was 9, I started having lessons with my current teacher Jon Broberg. He has massively impacted my playing through the years I've been learning from him. He's also the reason I found out about Young Drummer. To be honest, my next big shift in my playing was when I first discovered Larnell Lewis and Snarky Puppy and I started to learn swing patterns as well back when I was 13 thanks to another teacher of mine who I was also studying with at the time. I started to play in jazz bands as well, and started to learn different polyrhythms, and started to get into proper chops. Definitely the biggest impact on my playing that would be the main inspiration for the next couple of years came in 2016 when I first discovered Benny Greb from his Drumeo video. Benny hugely influenced my playing so much, I'd play his videos on repeat, I'd watch his DVDs every week and I'd slow down every video and try and learn every groove and every chop he did. I once learnt the whole of his Notting Hill video from the 2015 Meinl Drum Festival. I think one of the most unbelievable things I've been able to do is hang out with him and call him a friend and mentor. I first met Benny when he played at the RCM Festival of Percussion in 2017 which was funnily enough on my birthday, then in 2018 I was lucky enough to go to one of his drum camps in Germany. It was an incredible experience, being able to personally learn from and hang out with Benny for the week, it's something I'm going to be doing again soon. I also hung out with him again at 2018's and 2019's UK Drum Shows. He's a great person to talk to and chill with and I'm grateful to have had these opportunities to meet some incredible players. Late 2018 I massively got into Shariq Tucker and JD Beck. Their approach to playing really broadened my playing, Shariq's chop style and phrasing have really influenced a lot of playing in the past year. JD's unique modern breakbeat style really influenced playing my playing early this year, his ghost note style and linear patterns are incredible. The current biggest influence on my playing is 100% Mike Mitchell, I got into Mike back in March this year and his explosive chops, fast grooves and all around style of playing have massively influenced my shift into modern jazz drumming over the past year. I've also recently massively got into Lenny Reece, Chris Dave, Justin Brown and Eric Harland. What I like to do is take influence from all the players I'm into and make something new out of it, so I'm always looking for new ways to push my boundaries and make new things out of things I've been listening to, I really feel like I've found my own style and sound recently as I've been working on my own playing style as well. Wow I waffle man!
From finalist to champion! How was your first experience of the Young Drummer of the Year Competition?
I first entered Young Drummer when I was 10, and I did it really just for the experience of entering and seeing if I enjoyed the concept of the 2 minute solo and trying to construct a solo that cohesively includes different ideas to show off your playing. Jon Broberg told me about the competition as he'd taught previous finalists Jake Brown and Joe Blanks. I didn't make it into the top 40 that year let alone the final, I really enjoyed the experience of entering and wanted to do it again and again. I loved the discipline of the time frame as it forces you to focus on certain ideas and how you can develop them. I really enjoyed it and I knew I was young enough to enter for a long time so I decided to keep entering, I made the top 40 for the first time the next year when I was 11. Then I made the top 40 for the next 3 years and then the final for the first time in 2018, I was gassed!
Talk us through how you approached the competition and getting to the final that year?
I decided to keep my solo from the entry the same as what I'd perform on the day with just some minor changes to adapt to the kit setup I'd have on the day. The track we got sent that year was rock track by Jacob Coley, who's an immensely talented musician and songwriter, I decided to play for the music with the track and keep it quite simple. I also wanted to include some good dynamic changes. In terms of the track with bass and guitar players I just noted down the different sections, the feel and the ending pattern and just sat back in grooves for it. Definitely looking back I did the best I could but I wasn't good enough to win that year.
What was the main drive to go for the title again? Did you change your approach at all?
Definitely yeah, I wanted to really push myself this time, I decided to change my solo from my entry as my entry solo was quite relaxed and restrained, because I was relaxed about getting in as I wasn't really bothered about getting into the final. So, I decided to properly go for it in my solo and get into different grooves and really push my limits with it. That's why included a tempo and groove change and a chop section too, and I'm glad I did. With the track, I decided to still play for the song, but in the sections where I can go for it I wanted to properly go for it. So there was an instrumental section with stabs that I knew I could go ham in and still try and be tight and I was able to work something out which worked. Then for the final track I decided to do what I did last year but make the grooves more complicated and relax more into the pocket properly. I also was less nervous this time as I was more used to the occasion, this helped keep the adrenaline down as well so my timing was better and I didn't rush anything. Yeah man I just really tried to put it all out there.
Well.. You went on to win the 2019 competition. Can you talk through your reaction to this?
Oh man, I really had no idea what to do! I couldn't really believe it, I remember putting my head in hands and thinking "what the hell is going on?". I went and gave Mike a hug and I thanked him, then I got passed the trophy and all I could do was smile and look at my family. I had to give a short speech as well and I have no recollection of what I said but there's a video of it and it's jokes because I get handed the mic and I just go "pfftttt"! Honestly man I was speechless and it didn't sink for a long time, I just thanked everyone I could, and I congratulated everyone and thanked them for an amazing day, honestly it's so dope to hang with everyone and make some amazing friends. I remember getting my phone back and being overwhelmed by the love and support I got. To be honest I still watch back videos and I can’t believe it was real!
Apart from opening a stage at The UK Drum Show, what other opportunities have arisen since winning this competition?
The week after the final I went on BBC Midlands Today and did an interview, supported Steve Smith in Coventry on his UK Clinic Tour with Mike, played at the RCM Festival of Percussion with Tommy Igoe, sat in on a Squeeze Sound check with Simon Hanson and jammed with Yolanda Charles and Glenn Tilbrook , networked with some incredible drummers and companies and I get to play at the next YDOTY final as the 2019 winner.
Talk us through the whole UKDS experience?
Man it was crazy, I arrived on the Friday with my kit and gear and met up with Mike to go set up my kit in his room with everyone. Most of the other people playing Mike's room were also in his room setting up their kits as well, so I met Matty Brown, Ben Thomas, and Camille Bigeault. We chilled and chatted whilst we set up. Whilst setting up, I went into the main exhibit hall to your stand and grabbed The Layer Cake snare, which I was able to use and try out in my masterclass, it'd been cranked up like a piccolo and popped so so hard it was insane. After setting up they put my kit by the side of the stage ready for set up on the Saturday morning. On my way to the hotel I went back through the main hall, met up with Joe and Lourens from Meinl, and then bumped into Kaz Rodriguez and Aaron Spears! I already knew Kaz from the 2018 final and he introduced me to Aaron, he was so chill and nice and we had a really great chat! On my way back to the hotel and bumped into Norbert from Meinl and also Benny which was dope, so it had already been mad and I still had the rest of the weekend to go. Saturday was amazing as well, I set up and soundcheck in the morning, met up with some people beforehand, met up with you and thanked you guys, saw Matt Garskta play, then just chilled for a bit. My masterclass went really well and I had an amazing time, it was an incredible experience, I really enjoyed especially playing my own tracks and having a great response from the audience to them. It was just amazing to go on a stage like that and just be me and play whatever I wanted, I had an incredible time and it's something I'll never forget. Afterwards, I met Joe Donovan from Blossoms, I had a small signing and picture session, it was great to chat to people about what I played and also the competition, and it was all really overwhelming to see the support people had for me. I filled the room man! I was shocked when I saw that I'd filled the room as I never expected to. I watched Ralph Peterson's, Chris Coleman's and Matty's sets which were all insane, I met up with people from different companies like Sonor, Cambridge drums, Zebra, Meinl and Vater. Then I had to say goodbye to Layer Cake and handed it back to you guys. After the show had ended I went into Benny's set up and soundcheck and somehow got in, then grabbed food and went to his evening event. He did a teaching segment, that was great because he talked about a lot of things he talked about on the camp which brought back memories and refreshed those concepts and ideas in my mind. Then man, Moving Parts were crazy, I'd wanted to see them for a long time and watching them vibe off each other on stage their chemistry was insane and it was just an incredible gig. Benny really is next level with those guys, just seeing him interact with other musicians is nuts. Afterwards, I met up with you guys and we went for a drink at a local pub and had a chat which started this whole process. The Sunday was really chill, I met Beanie Bhabie and Ray Luzier at breakfast which was super cool, I just looked around the show with some mates and watched Nikki Glaspie, Beanie and Zach Danziger. Man Zach was insane, he blew my mind! I just chilled for the day really which was great because Saturday was a madness! Then before heading home I watched Ali Richardson and Marco Minneman who was absolutely mental. And that was it man, it was just crazy and I'm so grateful for everything that happened that weekend.
You utilised one of our snares in your setup. Can you talk us through your setup and how this fit in?
Yeah man the snare worked perfectly, I used a Sonor AQ2 kit which was the prize from Young Drummer, with a Benny Greb signature snare which pops! I used a big range of meinl cymbals including some which were also from the competition. I used a stack of a 20" Pure alloy ride and an 18" sand thin crash, 14" pure alloy hats, an 8/10" electro stack, 18" sand thin crash, 22" sand crash ride, 18" pure alloy medium crash with a ching ring and a 20" dual crash ride. The snare fit perfectly as it gave me another tonal option especially for the different breakbeat stuff I played where I wanted a high end pop to come through. It cut through so well without overpowering the kit and was just perfect.
Could you give a short review on the 'Layer Cake' snare drum?
It was insane to play, had an immense amount of pop and like I said cut through perfectly, It was really versatile and worked for my faster and slow tracks. It also had a great sensitivity which meant I was able to use a big dynamic range with the snare. I remember hitting it in the room during setup and everyone just going "damn" and wanting to check it out, it was an absolute monster!
What was your first impressions of De Broize Custom Drums and your relationship now, especially with a collaboration on a signature snare drum?
I first met you guys and tried out your snares back at the 2018 UKDS, I thought they were great, told you guys about Young Drummer and we decided to keep in touch. You were really chill and it was great to have your support. The snares were great too, I left a review saying “Incredible pop, tone, sensitivity and dynamic range! Amazing drums!” and you guys have just got better and better! We kept in touch via Instagram and in the months before the show we sorted me trying out Layer Cake after choosing it from a selection of snares. We hung out during the show and had some drinks down at the pub and it was so dope to hang out with you guys, for real man De Broize feels like a proper family and it’s just so good. Then we finalised the deal for a signature snare and I became a part of this amazing family! Sam, Luie and everyone in the De Broize family is so kind and welcoming and I can’t thank you guys enough for the support you’ve shown over the past year and I’m so grateful and privileged to be a part of the family.
You've been composing your own music under the name 'Jacques Akita'. Explain your style and what to expect from the new releases?1 response
Yeah man, Jacques is an experiment really, like a way for me to fully express myself musically and do what I want really. It's definitely modern jazz and drum focussed, but I wanted to make the music interesting as well. So I produce parts and then record live parts and all live drums as well. I try to push the boundaries of jazz and make something new. I have a lot of new music on the way as I'm working on an album for 2020, and I'm definitely trying some new stuff out, some tracks I'm working on are more hip-hop based, I'm trying to broaden the styles that I do, and go for some fully live tracks as well. I've got some incredible musicians featuring on the album I'm mad excited about it all and I hope you like it! It's all going to be a new level of quality, sound and playing so I'm absolutely gassed for it all! I'm planning to go all out!
Tell us more on any other projects, events you have coming up?
Yeah man, I've been in the studio a lot with a band I'm in called Paradise Circus, we have a single coming out on December 13th, and an EP soon! I also have some stuff coming soon for James Broadfoot, and some cool stuff coming with Hot House Music! I have gigs round an about and stuff, and also have a clinic later this week with Jon Broberg which is going to be a lot of fun!
What advice would you give to anyone perusing the YDOTY competition?
To be honest man anyone entering should just be themselves and don't be afraid to "show off" your chops and cool grooves, YDOTY is about young drummers expressing themselves and that's what everyone should do the best they can. Just be yourselves, they're always looking for something new so just be you and do your best, if you get to the final, leave it all out there and do your best because it's an amazing day even if you don't win.