Posts Tagged ‘Show’

Drio interview – Benny Greb, Jost Nickel & Onkel

nterview with Drio – Benny Greb, Jost Nickel and Onkel

Drio ‘make’ some cymbals…

Interview with Drio – Benny Greb, Jost Nickel and Onkel

The headline act for the Meinl Drum Festival 2012, ‘Drio’, was unusual, comical and full of musical ingenuity, which is what the interview experience was like for me when speaking to them! The three drummers responsible were Benny Greb, Jost Nickel and Onkel, who replaced Wolfgang Haffner at short notice due to ill health.

I spoke to the trio before their performance at the Meinl factory in June this year to talk about the idea’s conception and their own work and sounds as individual drummers.

What we should expect from Drio at the festival?

Jost - An entertaining evening!

Benny - Every one of us has been in situations where two drummers get up and jam together. Norbert asked me to do the headline spot and he said the dangerous sentence, ”You can do what you want” so I said, ”I want to invite two of my good friends and do something together”.

I only wanted to do it if there was rehearsal time for it so we wanted to prepare something. I don’t want to say that jamming is worthless but we’ve all seen that and Jost said at the rehearsals that it’s sometimes frustrating if you know you played below your potential or what you could have done if you”d had two days to prepare or something.

Benny Greb

Originally I asked Jost and Wolfgang whether they wanted to do this because we had talked about it years before. Wolfgang wasn’t able to do it because of his health situation and we wish him a speedy recovery.

Although that was very unfortunate we got very lucky because Onkel was able to fill the spot. We searched through all the endorsers and thought that would be the perfect fit. So we have two drummers that have known each other for almost twelve years and we’ve known each other for almost eight or nine years; we’ve been on tour together. We rehearsed for two days and threw together our ideas. There will be a lot of jamming and soloing as well but we will do nice musical compositions. We”re going to be silly as hell. There are some very silly spots in the show! It’s action packed at the end.

Jost – It’s hard to talk about it but Benny is responsible for the comedy parts of the show.

Benny – I am responsible for that?!

Jost - Yes you are. I like the idea of being entertaining since we are quite limited. We are playing drums and percussion so we have to find things that are entertaining. The audience has seen a lot of drums so the ideas where we don’t use drums are good. It was very important to me.

Onkel - We laughed a lot while we were rehearsing!

To read the interview in full click here to visit


Brian Frasier-Moore interview (Madonna,Christina Aguilera,Janet Jackson etc)

Brian Frasier-Moore – Madonna

Brian with ‘that’ kit

Interview with Brian Frasier-Moore

Brian Frasier-Moore knows a thing or two about playing for the biggest acts on the planet. The Goodie Mob, Jazzy Jeff, Aaliyah, Jill Scott, Usher, Janet Jackson, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake and Patti Labelle are just a few of the people he has played for over the years and now he is on tour with Madonna. I met up with Brian the morning after Madonna’s Hyde Park gig to find out what it takes to hold the drum chair for the Queen of Pop.

How did it all start for you and your playing?

I grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I grew up playing in church; my dad is a preacher. I was a little kid running around banging on stuff so that’s where I got my start at the age of maybe five or six. It was a great start for me with all the responsibility as a little kid.

How did you develop your playing so that you got to the level where you started touring?

I’m not sure if people have the opportunity to go to a Pentecostal church but there’s a lot of different styles of music and time signatures. I think that growing up in that environment prepared me for the responsibilities of what these professional gigs need; being on time, being well groomed, being a people person. All of those things come into play and maybe that’s why I’ve been blessed to have these amazing experiences… because of skill level on drums, although I don’t think of myself like that but I think the other things around it make up for what it needs to be.

When I first started out with the Whitehead brothers, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince and things like that, those different styles of music that were in me help me now. I’ve played with different artists from Goodie Mob to Madonna, which is very different, so I’m grateful for that.

Would you say the Whitehead Brothers was your first big break?

Well, big break, yes.

How did that happen?

It was a Philadelphia based group. One of the guys’ fathers is Whitehead from McFadden and Whitehead and it was all the most popular musicians at home so that was really my big break.

A quick story is it was our first show here in Hammersmith. We were hyped before the show, ”We’re going to kill it and have fun!’. We opened up for Blackstreet and afterwards we were, ”Yeah! We killed it. We killed it!” and then the intro of Blackstreet, that’s when Gerald Heyward was playing drums, the intro came on and completely changed our whole world! From that point on, learning from Gerald about drum sounds, how they need to be thick, the selection of drums and wood came into play because my drums sounded so thin! That was my big break in gigs and understanding how it goes.

What did you do next?

After that it was Ginuwine and Aaliyah. That came about from a musical director in Philly as well. We did both of those on the same tour; we would play with Ginuwine then run back, change our clothes and go play with Aaliyah. That boosted me for Christina, which I had to audition for. That was a three day audition. It just seems that I’ve been really blessed.

So you worked with Christina right from the start?

Yes, from her first record. ‘Bionic’ was the last record and the last time I worked with her. It’s been 10 years that I’ve worked with her but all good things have to come to an end at some point. We had a great time and she’s my friend.

To read the interview in full click here to visit


West End Drummers Part 9 – Andy McGlasson (Ghost)

Andy McGlasson – Ghost the Musical

Andy McGlasson is the drummer for Ghost The Musical at London’s Piccadilly Theatre. The London show opened in July 2011 following a 10 week stint in Manchester and is about to open on Broadway, which has given Andy a lot of input to the part as the original drummer. Andy has played for a vast range of artists that include Lady GaGa, Lionel Richie, Will Young, Leona Lewis, Pixie Lott, Shirley Bassey, Westlife, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and even Orville the Duck! He has been the original West End drummer for nine different shows, including Hairspray, Sister Act and Spamalot.

Tell me what led you to start playing drums

It was at the age of 11. I used to listen to my dad’s old LPs and I was constantly tapping. My parents thought they’d get me some drum lessons as something to do, then it progressed very rapidly from there. What started out as an activity to keep me out of trouble after school quickly became regular lessons and lots of running about for my mum and dad.

What was your first musical?

At the age of 14 I started my first semi-professional gig, which was every Saturday at a hotel with a dinner dance band. At that point I was already doing brass band rehearsals, orchestra rehearsals, regional big band rehearsals, pop bands; every night was packed with an activity. Sometimes I’d do something straight after school then run home, get my dinner and be off to another rehearsal or a gig. In fact, when I was in my 3rd year at High School one of the girls in my year asked me out on a date, which was great but I remember getting my diary out and saying, ‘Yeah, brilliant! I can do five weeks on Monday’. I think she went off with one of the rugby players in the end.

My mum and dad were really supportive. They would say, ‘Right come on, we’re going to this jazz club tonight and tomorrow there’s a great rock band in town, let’s go’. My dad would invariably blag his way backstage just so I could meet the drummer and chat to him.

I did that throughout my school years and when it came to leaving at the age of 17, it was a question of ‘Do I go to college or see how it goes?’. I was already doing a lot of professional work so I thought I’d give it a year and see how it went before deciding whether to apply for a music college or not. It went well and I started to pick up quite a bit of freelance theatre work such as summer seasons, pantomimes, gigs in cabarets venues, working men’s clubs, jazz gigs, jamming with my mates, as well as a few sessions.  I was lucky and, if I’m honest, growing up in Scotland was really beneficial as although the music scene was much smaller than in London, I probably got asked to do certain gigs that I wasn’t really ready for but there were fewer players to choose from. Quite often I’d be on a session or a gig with a big named visiting jazz artist, hanging on for dear life hoping I’d get away with it.  Mind you, it’s still feels the same now!

When I was about 21 a touring production of Les Miserables came to Edinburgh and I was asked to dep as one of the guys in the orchestra recommended me. I took over from Dave Adams and did the last three months on it. That finished and then another theatre tour came to Glasgow the following year with Dave once again playing drums. I also depped on that and eventually took over the rest of the tour. Then, I finally got asked to start on my own show, and that’s how I got into doing the bigger musicals whilst juggling all the other things I had on.

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 7 – Lion King percussionists

Damien’s Set Up

West End Drummers Part 7 – Damien Manning, Mike Hamnett, Dave Elliott (Dep)– The Lion King percussionists

The Lion King is one of the most richly rhythmical shows in the West End with Dave Adams on drums (see part 6), Mike Hamnett, Damien Manning and Chris Baron on percussion. Mike and Damien play from the theatre’s boxes so they are visible throughout the whole show, which is an integral part of the musical and is especially great to watch as a drummer.

The percussionists form a very close team and are passionate about their playing, which adds a unique and magical element to the musical. I caught up with Damien Manning, Mike Hamnett and Dave Elliott, Chris Baron’s dep, to hear about their experiences as percussionists in the West End.

What are your backgrounds as percussionists and what other shows have you done?

Damien - I”m classically trained but always had a passion for world/ethnic/hand drums. On leaving college I played with many orchestras, bands and theatre companies here and on tour abroad. Since 2002 I”ve been Director of bateria (drums) at Paraiso School of Samba and have been to Brazil many times to take part in carnival; Samba is my passion. I”ve been depping on the Lion King since 2000 and when Thomas Dyani left in 2009 I was invited to take over.

Mike - I”m from Manchester and I’m a graduate from the Royal Northern College of Music. I studied with Dave Hassell, Ian Wright and Heather Corbett and graduated in ’92, going straight into the first UK tour of Les Miserables when I left. I did other shows like Cats, Evita, Phantom, Fame, Oliver and I finished that and got a call to come and play for the American producers on this on a Wednesday. I went back home to Manchester, had a few beers with my friends, got a phone call asking if I wanted the gig. I asked when it started, ”Tomorrow morning is the first rehearsal at 10am”.

I’ve also worked freelance with BBC Philharmonic, BBC Concert Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orhestra. I”ve done about 35 world premières of marimba pieces and played piano in Dave Hassell”s latin band. I play 4th trumpet in the Hertfordshire Big Band and I teach kit and percussion at Canterbury Christ Church University and direct the big band.

Dave – I”m from Bournemouth and I studied at Chetham”s School of Music in Manchester. I graduated from Trinity College of Music this summer where I studied jazz and classical and I”ve been depping on the Lion King for about 16 months for Chris Baron. More recently I began depping on Legally Blonde (drums) Jersey Boys (drums) and I currently hold the percussion chair on Mamma Mia! World Tour.

I’ve studied with Dave Hassell, Gene Calderazzo, Gary Kettle and various others along the way such as Eliott Henshaw and Ralph Salmins. I was involved in the youth music organisations like NYO, NYJO and BBC Young Musician and was a finalist in Mike Dolbear’s Young Drummer of the Year. I”ve also worked with the London Sinfonietta and English National Opera.

Tell me about your set ups

Damien – Mine is the most African, drum wise. I”ve got djembe, djun djun, kpanlogo, congas, bongos, timbales, shekere and a taiko drum, which is actually a surdo. Also caxixi, a talking drum (tama or dondo; it depends where you are in Africa but the variable pitched drum). A few bits and pieces of bells and sounds, colours, shades.

Mike – I”ve got pretty much the same set up but I”ve also got berimbau (used in capoeira) and some cheesy pop tambourine, soft shaker, tam tam and the wind gong. I have the slightly classical side. The London show differs from all the others; we were the first 17 piece set up. The New York show has 24 because New York theatres have numbers regulated by their size so that version was orchestrated to that. When they brought it over to us we had to reduce from kit and four percussionists to kit and three percussionists.

Dave Elliott

Dave - The marimba set up has congas, djun djun, djembe, cowbell, a couple of cymbals, shakers, shekere and African Gyil, which is like a small marimba. Also a wind gong and caxixi, so it’s a real mix in that chair. You have to have quite a strong tuned and rhythmic background to really do it justice.

Mike – From our point of view, we can always tell if it is a marimba dep who plays kit or doesn”t because the marimba part itself needs to groove in time and sit as part of the rhythm section in the same way as the guitar and bass do. If it”s somebody who doesn”t play kit, they may play it perfectly in time but it sits in a completely different way, which makes it more difficult to play with. We treat it as a kit player who has specific notes.

To read the interview in full click HERE to visit