My Drumming Roots

My Drumming Roots

In this article, we explore how to find your drumming roots.

I decided to get introspective and go about finding my drumming roots are to trace my lineage; my drumming family tree, if you will. Now, of course, I know who my favourite drummers are! But I wanted to look deeply into my earliest influences would shed a light into how these had an impact on my perception of rhythm, phrasing and groove.

In order to do this, I had chat with the person responsible for introducing me to music that influenced and inspired me at the earliest stages of my life; my mum. And, before we get going, it’s worth mentioning that I was born in 1983, which will help contextualise everything below.


During this period mum introduced me to some great artists and bands of a variety of different genres. Among these were Queen, The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Phil Collins, John Denver, Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, Barbara Streisand, and KC & The Sunshine Band.

Hal Blaine (Elvis Presley)

It wasn’t actually until researching this article that I realised the impact that he’s in my life and where he fit in my drumming roots. Hal, who was part of the famous Wrecking Crew collective of session musicians in the 60s, played on most of the records that mum exposed me to. In retrospect, the take-away lesson from Hal was that, no matter who he was playing with, he played what the song and artist required of him.

Ringo Starr (The Beatles)

The Beatles were my first favourite band; they probably still are – everything about them was catchy, and sounded great. Reflecting back on it, Ringo taught me that the drums could not only drive a song, but could also be catchy and a hook. In this context, a grooves don’t always have to have a solid back beat on 2 and 4. He taught me to appreciate the drums as a musically expressive instrument more than just a time keeper.

Roger Taylor (Queen)

At the time, my knowledge of Queen extended only to the Greatest Hits records that were out at the time. Roger Taylor’s massive drum tones, feel, and songwriter approach to his parts were integral to the songs. In addition to this, how he chose to accent the back beat with slightly opened hi hats, like on Somebody To Love made a big impact on me.

Ralph Jones (Bill Haley & His Comets)

Listening to Bill Hayley’s music, there was an innocence to it particular to the 50’s with a rebellious streak that packed a punch. At the time rock ’n’ roll grooves were still being played swung over straight eighth guitar riffs, such as Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On and Jailhouse Rock. And yet, what captivated me about Jones was his snare sound on those records, and his feel, and those killer snare rolls. His playing also taught me about using the bass drums as a means to accent notes rather than just provide a steady pulse.


With my drumming roots firmly planted, by the mid 1990s I was bit more aware of the world, myself as a person and already playing guitar for a couple of years. I was on my own journey of musical discovery. Important bands that I started discovering, in no particular order, were Dire Straits, Faith No More, Criminal, Megadeth, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Metallica and Cannibal Corpse, but the earliest ones from this period were as follows.

Dave Grohl (Nirvana)

My first instrument was actually the guitar, so the focus of my musical foundations was more global than instrument-specific. I viewed songs as the sum of their parts with every component being as valuable as the other. With Nirvana writing such elegantly simple songs, Dave Grohl showed me that drum tracks needed to have energy; playing with intent and power. That keeping it simple is sometimes the best policy.

Lars Ulrich (Metallica)

As for both my drumming roots and music development, Metallica are still one of those bands that I hold dear in my heart. I’m a huge fan of all their studio albums except, really, for Reload and St. Anger… With that in mind, Lars’ drum sounds, feel, grooves and fills made a huge impact on me. They complimented James Hetfield’s riffs flawlessly. Looking at the song-writing credits on their albums, Ulrich was right next to Hetfield, teaching me about partnerships and working with other musicians to draw the best out of a song. Yet more specifically, on a style level, Lars taught me all about landing on 1 but crashing on 2 with the snare. Signature stuff, and so effective!

Billy Cobham

Ok, so I was a bit of a late starter as a drummer, but as a kid, my cousin introduced me to Billy Cobham’s 1973 album Spectrum. This has got to give me some credibility as a drummer, I hope! The drums on that album were fast, furious, yet had a tribal feel about them. Their tone was open and natural, and the music was syncopated. But, beyond this, the album introduced me to odd time signatures early on. And because of this, and the fact that this stuff was never explained to me as a kid, odd time signatures were never about odd time signatures, but about feel and how music could flow in different ways.

Matt Cameron (Soundgarden)

Before Wikipedia was a CD version of the internet called Microsoft Encarta. On the ’95 edition, which we had, if you searched for “Rock music” or “Electric guitar”, you’d get some audio samples from a couple bands. One of these was Soundgarden’s track Nothing To Say” from 1988’s Screaming Life / Fopp. The sample was only 30 seconds long or so… But that slow, brooding groove, the grace notes, off-kilter accents over the dark riffs and soaring vocals became a big part of my drumming roots.


Finding my drumming roots has been a great exercise, and a fun one at that! It’s let me revisit great memories, and given me a better understanding of myself as a drummer. I would totally encourage you to do the same if you haven’t. If you’re interested in listening to the albums that I refer to above see the list below then check ‘em out on Spotify, Apple Music or preferred music streaming service.


The Beatles Help (1964), Rubber Soul (1965), Anthology 2 (1996), Beatles For Sale (1964), Live At The BBC (1994) – Drums: Ringo Starr

Phil Collins … But Seriously (1989) – Drums: Phil Collins

Dire Straits On Every Street (1991) – Drums: Jeff Porcaro, Manu Katché

Pearl Jam Ten (1991) – Drums: Dave Krusen, Vs. (1993) – Drums: Dave Abbruzzese

Nirvana Nevermind (1991) – Drums: Dave Grohl, Bleach (1989) – Drums: Chad Channing, Dale Grover

Soundgarden Screaming Life / Fopp (1990), Superunknown (1994) – Drums: Matt Cameron

Billy Cobham Spectrum (1973) – Drums: Billy Cobham

Megadeth Countdown To Extinction (1991), Youthanasia (1994) – Drums: Nick Menza

Queen Greatest Hits I (1981), Greatest Hits II (1991) – Drums: Roger Taylor

Metallica Master Of Puppets (1986), Metallica (1991) – Drums: Lars Ulrich

Bill Haley & His Comets Greatest Hits (N/A) – Drums: Ralph Jones

Criminal Victimzed (1994) – Drums: J.J. Vallejo

Famous Musicians from West London You Should Know

Famous Musicians from West London You Should Know

London, the Big Smoke. It’s without a doubt one of the most exciting cities on this planet. It’s rich with historic and cultural heritage, and home to world famous musicians. It is massive yet everything is within reach, and its North, South, East, and West divisions have their own strong individual personalities. But, you probably already know this.

But did you know what a YouGov survey classified each area as? The North got intellectual and pretentious, the East poor and up-and-coming, the South was rough and suburban, and the West posh (and pretentious too, actually). Beyond the survey, however, my experience is that us in the West, are considered to be far from all the cool places and we’re a drag to get to. Nonsense!

famous musicians

The Rolling Stones formed in Ealing.

The West and its Rockin’ Famous Musicians

The West quite literally rocks, having played a pivotal role in shaping modern pop culture, being home to world famous musicians. For starters, Ealing and Acton are the birthplace to British Rhythm & Blues. The Rolling Stones, for instance, were formed in the Ealing Club, and The Who went to Acton High School (formerly Acton County Grammar School).

famous musician

Members of The Who attended Acton High School

Furthermore, in the 1960s Marshall Amplification was based in Hanwell. Another name associated with the area is Freddie Mercury who studied at the Ealing Technical College & School of Art. Also noteworthy is Acton’s Adam Faith, the UK’s first artist to have his first seven hits chart Top 5. Similarly Jimi Hendrix’s drummer Mitch Mitchell, and more recently Jamiroquai hail from Ealing.

famous musician

Queen’s Freddie Mercury attended Ealing Technical College & School of Art

But besides being home to famous musicians, perhaps it’s no wonder there is such a big community of musicians in West London – it’s a magnet for creativity. Abundant with rehearsal studios (e.g. Survival Studios and Panic Studios), world-famous recording studios as Metropolis in Chiswick, tons of record labels and iconic live venues such as The Troubadour, we have musically industrious economy.

The Locals

But enough of history; what about some of our current local musicians? Musos can sometimes be perceived as larger than life, mysterious and not necessarily relatable. This, as our experience of them is generally on stage, TV (YouTube), or our Walkman (iPod).

So who are they and what do they do? I thought I’d introduce you to a few to give you an insight into the music scene, community and industry from the comfort of your seat. Perhaps this might even inspire you to go check out more live music, or even pick up an instrument.

You see, musicians have to do lots of jobs. Meet Ed Thorne, a fantastic professional drummer who, as well as teaching privately and in schools, plays in a covers band, the iPhonics. But that’s not all; he works as a freelance sound engineer all over the country. When I asked him about how he feels about this type of work, compared to gigging and recording, he told me “it’s very rewarding striving to produce a good sound, both for the band on stage, and for the audience to enjoy and dance to!” And like the rest of us, he works so he can fund his originals band, The Fuse.

But you see, not all drummers do the same jobs either! I too am a professional drummer too but my work involves recording drums for artists all over the world, and giving private drum lessons. In addition to this I have launched products, published a book, amongst other things. The point is that we have to be entrepreneurial.

Metropolis Studios in Chiswick is a world-renowned recording studio.

Similarly, there are also those of us who play for big artists. Take Dave Troke, a fantastic bass player whose work includes, amongst many others, playing with stars like Leo Sayer, Dido, Professor Green and Donna Summer. “What I like about my job”, he says, “is that fact I get to play with different musicians, in different locations, and I love playing bass”. Indeed, he also feels honoured when he’s asked to play with artists he listens or had a career before he was born. Such was the case with Sister Sledge, which he recalls as his favourite experience. And again, like most musicians, he also teaches – although he does so at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute.

Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll?

So you see, it’s not all sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll – well, maybe sometimes. The truth is, however, that the job is tough, sometimes long hours for little pay. And to cope with the physical and mental aspects, we need to stay in shape and keep our chops up to remain relevant and maintain our reputation. And, unfortunately like everyone else, we also have to do admin – nobody is safe from admin.

I hope this has not only given you a brief insight into the music scene here in West London, with both its local and famous musicians. But but likewise, made you a bit more proud of living in such a culturally rich and relevant community.

Originally published by the Ealing Gazette, August 2015. Read the original here.