Posts Tagged ‘West End Drummers’

West End Drummers Part 11 – Jim Fleeman – Matilda The Musical

Jim Fleeman

West End Drummers Part 11 – Jim Fleeman – Matilda The Musical

Jim Fleeman is the drummer and percussionist for Matilda The Musical, which is a Royal Shakespeare Company production that enjoyed a sold out season in Stratford Upon Avon before moving to the Cambridge Theatre in London. The musical is based upon Roald Dahl’s book and the music is written by comedian Tim Minchin. It has recently won seven Olivier Awards, including best new musical, and in this month’s West End Drummers Jim tells us about his own playing on the show from its beginnings to it’s current commercial success, which has included creating a part for dessert spoons!

How did you start drumming?

Our family was very musical. I have two older brothers and we all learned instruments. My eldest brother took up the guitar, my middle brother played piano, viola and trumpet and was a chorister and I started on piano and cello. In fact, I initially wanted to be a cellist. Then when I was eight or nine, my parents bought us a little toy drum set. We”d play out our pop group fantasies – often miming to the Sunday night top 40 program on Radio 1 – and because my brothers had the guitar and keyboard covered I tended to end up with the drum set.

I guess I took to it because my parents eventually bought a ”proper” kit; an old sparkling red Broadway kit with a snare, kick and mounted concert tom and a mounted ride. It probably sounded awful but I was very proud of it and they got me some lessons.

My brothers eventually started writing their own material and we”d get together and record it. I also started forming bands with school friends. My best friend was a sax player and we had a trio for a good few years that was great fun and a good learning experience. It was all instrumental but influenced by the rock and heavy metal stuff we were listening to so it was an interesting mix. We weren”t quite sophisticated enough to be aware of people like Jeff Beck, but it meant that there wasn”t really a template we trying to fit into and all we had to sound like was ourselves. We did local gigs and gigs at school and got into the final of one of the early TSB Rockschool competitions.

Because my friend was a sax player it wasn”t long before he started listening to jazz and I started picking up on that. When I was 16 we both went on the Wavendon Jazz Course and I met Trevor Tomkins. He was a fantastic inspiration and that was when I really got serious about playing the instrument.

I”d travel down to London every month or so for lessons with him, got onto the Leeds College of Music jazz course (the only graduate jazz course that existed then) and then onto the Post Grad Jazz Course at the Guildhall School of Music.

I did my first ‘professional’ gig when I was 14, depping for my teacher on a New Years Eve gig in Barbarellas nightclub in Birmingham. The doorman wouldn”t let me in because I was under age. It was the first time I”d been put on the spot in a gig situation, having to come up with appropriate parts for music that was mostly unfamiliar to me stylistically. That”s a useful learning experience and really means you have to use your ears and musicality to have the drums sit there in the right place and not be exposed as the heavy-handed wannabe rock drummer I probably was.

I obviously did OK as I started getting booked to play other gigs around the Midlands, which my parents had to ferry me to. At the same time, an English teacher at school asked me to play with his Victorian Music Hall group. Again, there was no music for me so it was a matter of coming up with parts for music that was new to me, make sure I started and finished in the right places, played what was appropriate and could roll with the punches when things went awry. I remember the old Music Hall great Tommy Trinder handing me a carrot from the stage and announcing to the audience that I had messed up his entrance. That”s a good learning experience too!

I suppose all that gave me a good grounding for playing on shows. Musical Theatre, probably more than other musical disciplines, requires a multiplicity of skills. You have to be able to adapt yourself to a variety of different styles and idioms, some of which you have no affinity for and most of which will be miles away from the music that inspired you and that you dreamt of being involved in. You have to be able to approach it with the same integrity and desire to derive some musical satisfaction from what you’re playing as you would anything else. Music might be an integral part of the piece but it’s there to serve the drama and the theatrical aspect will always take precedence.



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.