The DrumJockeys and Electronic Music
Hopefully for a lot of you reading my blogs, you will take the time to peruse the other pages of my website. My goal is to have a very content rich site made up of a combination of what I do, other projects that I’m involved in, and educational resources for the steel pan player and percussionist. If you go to my demo reel page and video page, you’ll notice that I’ve been living in a lot of different and very diverse “worlds” of music over the past 15 years. A lot of the blogs that I’ll have upcoming here in fulfillment of my 30 Days/30 Blogs challenge will pertain to these different styles in one way or another.
One of these styles that I’m referring to is my love for electronic music. For some, I might as well just insult their mother for making a comment like that! Yes, I’m saying that I enjoy listening to House, Drum’n’Bass, Techno, Dubstep, Lounge…you name it. I have many DJ friends and am a fan of many other DJs. Unfortunately, some musicians see this as “blasphemy” as the DJs aren’t really producing any music, they are just sampling what other musicians have done previously. Although one cannot argue that they are relying on the musicianship of others, there is no denying that many DJs are very creative and are certainly pushing the boundaries of music sometimes even more so than the musicians themselves. I had the pleasure of meeting and playing with DJ Logic awhile back, who has a very impressive resumé of playing with some top-level musicians. He’s very creative and musical. I also recommend that anyone go and check out the DVD “Scratch” which is a documentary on DJs and their amazing scratch techniques and abilities. These guys do some pretty insane stuff!!! Many times their scratching ‘polyrhythms’ can rival most drummers on the scene today. I feel like I’m in good company, as well,when you list some of the top drummers that incorporate electronic music into their music, like JoJo Mayer, Johnny Rabb, Adam Deitch, and many others.
My first real introduction into the electronic music scene was actually while I was teaching a drumline. I was looking for a show idea for my indoor drumline, and a mutual friend suggested Johnny Rabb to me. At the time Johnny wanted to promote his JohnnyRabb drumsticks a bit, as well as help write for an indoor drumline, teaching the kids the Freehand Technique (click on the link for more information). We decided to have a “Techno” show where we mixed House, Drum’n’Bass, and other electronic genres together in a sort-of timeline that began with the famous “Funky Drummer” beat. The Funky Drummer beat was created by legendary drummer Clyde Stubblefield on a James Brown recording. Since then DJs have sampled it over and over making it the most sampled drum groove in the history of music. Sadly, Clyde has never been compensated properly for any of that. Unknowingly, he has helped to fuel multiple musical genres over the years. There’s a great video somewhere on the ‘net where drummer JoJo Mayer describes how the Funky Drummer groove morphed into Jungle/Drum’n’Bass. I suggest doing a search on YouTube to check it out.
One common argument that some musicians make to me about their disgust of electronic music is that there’s no “heart” or “soul” to the music…it’s just machines putting loops and samples together. Well, my answer to this is that yes at times some of this can be true, but at the same time I witness many living musicians that play without any “heart” or “soul” in their music. The mere fact that the DJs are usually sampling real players means that the feeling of the original groove is often times still there. I can say that for me, personally, many of the samples that I’ve used aren’t 100% perfect, just like a human feel. The goal is never to make something sound robotic…ironically that’s what today’s pop music world seems to love as everyone is going crazy with AutoTune!!!
Thus; here’s where the DrumJockeys enter the picture. The “DrumJockeys” is a side project that is quite simply a duo made up of myself and drummer Johnny Rabb. The basic premise of our duo is to incorporate a DJ element (triggering and looping samples real-time) and an ‘acoustic’ human element (live drums and percussion). Although we do a lot of Drum’n’Bass, our range of genres is very broad. At the same time, we incorporate an entertainment value by visually showcasing the Freehand Technique along with our musical and technical prowess on our respective instruments. Often times we will take normal drum and percussion instruments and use them in a creative way to try and cop some of the DJ sounds (so we’re reversing the whole process). Johnny’s signature cymbal, the Drumbal (which I’ll explain more about in an upcoming blog) is a favorite of ours to use, creating everything from an 808 snare “clap” to changing the pitch and timbres of drums and percussion instruments. You can also check out a creative way that I turned the LP “Scratch Whistle” into a device that mimics a DJ scratching a record (click here). We are also able to incorporate an educational component, as well, as we have done many clinics and masterclasses together. Currently, the duo has been on a short “hiatus” as Johnny and I have been very busy pursuing our own endeavors, but hopefully soon there will be some shows, music, and videos on the horizon. You can check out some music on our Myspace page and also our Facebook page.
To me, most electronic music is not only interesting to listen to, but can be very fun and exciting to play. It’s not only challenging, but in some ways you could say that it’s good for your timing “chops” as playing with samples is sort of a ‘funkier’ and more interesting way to play with a metronome. All in all, it’s all about the music. Everyone has opinions and different tastes; that’s what makes the world go around. I would just encourage many of you that may not be all that familiar with these genres to do a little digging and listening. I’ll be happy to provide some suggestions for you, so feel free to contact me with any questions!