Posts Tagged ‘Drummers’

London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony Drummers interview

Ralph Salmins, Paul Clarvis, Mike Dolbear

London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony Drummers

The opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics on the 27th July was a spectacle for the eighty thousand people within the stadium and the estimated  four billion that watched from around the world. Danny Boyle, Artistic Director for the ceremony, wanted drummers to feature heavily throughout the event and so used one thousand of them to add drama, movement and intensity to the telling of the history of Great Britain. Many of those drummers were volunteers and some had never even played before.

The task of auditioning and training the drummers was given to Ralph Salmins, Mike Dolbear and Paul Clarvis, as well as 21 drum captains. To tell us more about the event from their different points of view I interviewed Mike Dolbear, Nick Marangoni, a professional drummer who was one of the drum captains, and Gillian Bennet, who moved to the UK from Brisbane, Australia last year and was one of the volunteers.

How did you become part of the Opening Ceremony?

Mike – Ralph Salmins was originally approached by Martin Koch, who was the Musical Director for the whole of the Olympics. Within the second meeting Ralph felt the job was to big for him on his own and put my name forward to coordinate the drummers, which I agreed to be involved. I didn’t really know what I was getting into because of the confidentiality.

Nick – At the beginning of March Mike told me that they had some drum captains who had dropped out. Most of them got together in November and they did the auditions for the volunteers and went to the stadium to test the sound.  In March all the dates of the rehearsals were given out and some captains couldn’t commit to them. At the end of March we were supposed to do some meetings with Paul Clarvis to practise the patterns, just for the teachers. Mike knew that I’m a teacher and I do some percussion groups with my students so he asked me if I wanted to be involved. For me it wasn’t the same as it had been for the others because I was filling in when someone dropped out.

Gillian - I first heard about it in November at a Christmas party because a friend I work with said, ”I got in. I’m going to be in the opening ceremony” and that’s all he could tell me. I thought I had missed my chance to be a part of it and at the end of January, on the last date you could apply to get an audition, I heard someone in the office say, ”They’re looking for male drummers”. I quickly went online and I thought if they only wanted male drummers I”d go for something else.

To read the interview in full click here to visit


West End Drummers Part 8 – Tim Weller (Billy Elliot)

Tim Weller

West End Drummers Part 8 – Tim Weller (Billy Elliot)

Tim Weller took over the drum chair on Billy Elliot in 2005 at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London, where the show won an Olivier Award for ‘Best New Musical’. The music is by Elton John and it features some staggeringly talented youngsters. With a show so heavily based on dance the relationship with rhythm is especially important.

Outside the show Tim keeps busy with sessions and pop gigs, including The Divine Comedy, Beverley Craven, and Will Young’s latest album ‘Echoes’, which entered the UK charts at number one at the end of 2011.

In the following interview Tim talks about the use of vintage drums in recording, the importance of a good relationship with your deps and playing drum kit on computer game music with the London Philharmonic…

What first got you into playing drums?

My junior school had a very forward thinking music teacher, so as well as there being a school orchestra, they had a pop band that played covers… quite an eclectic mix – a lot of heavy metal, a bit of Creedence Clearwater Revival, and some John Denver. This band used to do concerts at local schools and play in assembly. On Saturday mornings, while all the staff had meetings, there was an extended hymn practice and they would play a few tunes. When I was seven the guy that was in the band was called Steven Bachelor and everyone thought he was really good. He had a big yellow Tama kit which was always up on the stage and he was very, very cool. Everyone used to sit in assembly and look up at him so I guess I got interested in it then. He was the first person who made me think, ‘I want to do that’.

I was about 11 when I took over the gig, sharing it with one or two other people. One Summer we went on a tour, which was essentially a school trip, to France in these two minibuses stuffed with gear. They drove us all the way to the South of France playing in youth hostels on the way and then a couple of years later we made an album (which I will never play to anyone). We also did a tour to America and Canada, which was great. It was this music teacher who promoted it all and it was quite unusual for the time.

Back then there were no grades for drum kit, you couldn’t even study drums in school except classical percussion. I did a little bit of that but drum kit didn’t really exist as an instrument in the education system at all.  It was only later when I’d left school that I really started studying anything. I went to Drummer’s Collective for a bit and then to Bob Armstrong who I’ve been with on and off ever since; he is fabulous.

I was really into heavy metal as an 11 year old; Rainbow, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Whitesnake and Deep Purple. From obsessively reading the backs of record sleeves I saw drummers like Ian Paice and Cozy Powell shift through different bands. Like any teenager, I liked the idea of what you imagine that lifestyle would be like. Then I noticed Simon Phillips who started cropping up in credits and I followed his career. He was the first person who I became aware of as a session rather than a band player and I thought that that would be even better.

A local drummer from Tunbridge Wells, where I’m from, took me under his wing and he used to make me compilation tapes of Billy Cobham, Steve Gadd, Lenny White, Simon Phillips, all those sorts of people. I used to hang around in the local music shop and joined as many local bands as I could. I also hooked up with Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello’s band and he used to let me watch him rehearse. He was always really helpful.

How did you join the show ‘Billy Elliot’?

I knew the trumpet player who was on it and he introduced me to Dave Adams who had the drum chair and let me sit in. He’s a fantastic drummer. They had had quite a long exclusive, and he was probably desperate to have a night off, so one night he said, ‘Here’s a pad, you can learn it if you like’. I learnt it and depped on it and then, when he left to do The Lion King, I got lucky and got the gig.

To read the interview in full click HERE to visit


West End Drummers Part 5 – Andy Newmark (John Lennon, Eric Clapton etc)

Andy Newmark

West End Drummers – Part 5 – Andy Newmark

Andy Newmark’s discography reads like a who’s who of musical greats – Sly and the Family Stone, George Harrison, Carly Simon, John Lennon, Eric Clapton, David Bowie, Carole King, Sting… and this only hints at the work he has done as a musician since his early twenties. In 1999, aged 49 and after several decades as a renowned session drummer, Andy decided to change paths within his drumming career and audition for the Lion King, which was opening in London’s West End.

In this month’s West End Drummers one of the greats talks about his personal experiences of changing from a session to show drummer, what John Lennon was like to work with and how 30 seconds of playing changed his life as a 21 year old.

How did you get involved in the West End?

I knew people in New York City in the Lion King and I heard that the show was coming to London. I spoke to one of the guys in the orchestra in the New York show and asked if I could get an audition with Joe Church, the MD who was coming over to conduct auditions in London. They said I could come along and I showed up but I wasn’t chosen for the job initially. They chose Ralph Salmins and that was that; I hoped maybe I could be a dep for Ralph. A few months later the Lion King production office called me and said it wasn’t going to work out with Ralph as he had another show and decided that he didn’t want to leave it. Would I like the job? So I said yes and that’s how I got it.



West End Drummers Part 4 – Tim Goodyer (Shrek)

West End Drummers Part 4 – Tim Goodyer – ‘Shrek The Musical’

Tim Goodyer is the drummer for ‘Shrek, The Musical’, which opened in London’s Theatre Royal on 14th June 2011. Prior to Shrek, Tim held the chair for ‘Dirty Dancing’, which had the highest number of pre-sale tickets in the West End’s history and ran for five years.

In this interview Tim talks about what is involved in working on a show from it’s opening and the importance of experience for musicians in the West End.

When did you start drumming and how did you get into the West End?

I started when I was about 11 and my mum signed me up for percussion lessons just to get me out of the house! I really liked it from the beginning so I practised a lot and I went to a local music centre where I played in orchestras and the county big band; that kind of thing. I’d go and sit in at NYJO (National Youth Jazz Orchestra) and I met Ian Thomas there. I used to watch him play and I asked him who he’d had lessons with. He put me onto Bob Armstrong, who was really good for my general technical development; I still rely on a lot of that stuff that he taught me. In terms of tuition I didn’t go to college or anything like that. I left school at 18 and did any crap gig I could get; some awful pubs, working men’s clubs and the East End pub scene, which was still going at the time. I did local shows…anything like that cos I could read. That’s how I started out.



West End Drummers Part 3 – Elliott Henshaw (Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert)

West End Drummers Part 3 – Elliott Henshaw – Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ opened at London’s Palace Theatre in March 2009 and Elliott Henshaw has held the show’s drum chair from the beginning. Elliott’s great love is big band drumming but his capabilities spread across the board and have gained him work with a variety of shows and artists, including Shirley Bassey and Tony Christie.

What inspired you to start drumming?

I started playing when I was 13 but my interest in drums started before that. When I was 11 years old I was actually playing the saxophone and I was really into jazz and big band. My dad took me to see The Buddy Rich Big Band and after that particular concert the sax went in the bin and the drums were all I wanted to do.

From about 11 through to 13 I was very stereotypically banging on cardboard boxes and Tupperware at home. Then I snuck into the practice room at my high school where there was a kit, sat down, had a bit of a tap and the music teacher came in. I thought I was going to get a telling off but he said, ‘I like what you’re doing there. Are you free this Friday? Our school band’s got a concert and we’ve not got a drummer’. I was totally thrown in at the deep end!

From that moment I joined the school big band, then the school jazz band immediately after that. I was lucky because from day one I was playing in bands and that did me the world of good. I was self taught up until the age of 18, when I went to college. My ears were really good in those days and that’s how I developed. All that time I was mainly listening to Buddy Rich, along with anything else I could get my hands on. Without a teacher I was naively thinking, ‘Buddy Rich is only human. If his hands can move that fast then so can mine.” I was pushing myself to do crazy things!

At 18 I went to Salford University and I studied with a guy called Steve Gilbert who is an incredible drummer from Manchester. There were two drum teachers at Salford; Dave Hassell, who everyone knows, and Steve. With Steve, a lot of the lessons were spent just talking. He really trained my mind in how to approach certain gigs or situations mentally.

Whilst in my first year at college I auditioned for the big band. I knew the style better than anyone but because I was self taught I couldn’t read. I didn’t get the gig and I was devastated. At that point I knew I had to get my reading together.