In April I wrote about Drumathon Live 2021 and my little part in helping to raise funds for five important mental health charities (catch up here). I’m happy to say that I completed my 12-hour drumming session on Friday the 21st May and came through it with just a little wear and tear on my hands and my old creaking limbs. What an experience it has been! Let me tell you about it.
I am, what I call a “jobbing drummer”. I’m not famous and I don’t play in famous band. In fact, I play mainly in pubs around my home county (Essex), just like I suspect a lot of you do too. To have been invited to play a part in Drumathon Live 2021 was an incredible honour and has been an unforgettable experience.
Drumathon Live 2021 took place between 15th and 22nd May and featured some fifty drummers playing back-to-back in a continuous stream (or often two streams). The roll-call included some of the UK’s (and indeed the worlds’) best-known drummers from a list of bands that would easily grace Glastonbur
Here’s just a few; Will Champion – Coldplay, Errol Kennedy – Imagination (Drumathon founder), John Beavis – Idles, Cherisse Osei – Simple Minds, Mel Gaynor – Ex Simple Minds, Phil Gould – Level 42, Nick Hodgson – Kaiser Chiefs, Roger Taylor – Duran Duran, Charlie Morgan – Elton John, Jason Cooper – The Cure, Derrick McKenzie – Jamiorquai, Christian Eigner – Depeche Mode, Jerry Brown – Girls Aloud, Mike Heaton – Embrace, Ian Matthews – Kasabian, Matty Brown – Stormzy, Jon Moss – Culture Club, Vince Dunn – Madonna, Paul Stewart – The Feeling, Loz Colbert – Ride/Jesus and Mary Chain, Alex Nunez – The Kooks . . . the list goes on and somehow, it also includes me!
Playing along to “drumless” tracks was the order of the day. Most drummers (myself included) selected whatever tunes they could find that had already had drums removed (I’m pleased to say there are quite a few) or removed them using an app called Moises, which works reasonably well for most songs but seemed to remove more than drums on some tracks making them quite tough to play along to. Others, notably Mike Heaton and Jason Cooper played along to recordings of live performances lasting 2-4 hours.
I selected 209 songs for my 12-hour set which I felt would minimise repetition and keep the set and the drummer (me) reasonably fresh. I have never played for 12 hours before and my set was to be overnight, 22:00 to 10:00 the next day. I knew it would be physically and mentally demanding. I selected a range of songs from the sixties through to present day. Mostly pop, indie and soft rock with sufficient slower numbers for a bit of a breather. I was allowed a 5-minute break per hour, with 15 minutes every 3 hours. In fact, I took just 2 breaks of about 5 minutes. Each song had a 4 count after about 3-4 seconds’ break. Because I was only able to use one track I couldn’t have a click track (otherwise it would be audible on the feed), so I had to rely on the tracks themselves. On such a long session a click would have certainly helped.
I used my own drums, a 4-piece white acrylic kit, hand built by Vici Drum Co. Manchester. The kit has internal lights, which I set light to sound to add a little extra visual interest (otherwise it was 12 hours of my ugly mug).
Cymbals for the set were supplied by Constantine (Handmade Turkish Cymbals), consisting of a Star series 20” medium ride (brilliant finish), 18” and 16” crashes from the Experience series and 14” Hi Hats also from the Experience series. There was also a 10” splash from the Natural series. I can’t begin to tell you how beautiful these cymbals sound. Each has its own unique quality and voice. Easily the most musical cymbals I have ever played.
Constantine are a relatively new maker and certainly new to the UK. If you’re seeking a sound that’s unique to you, they are well worth a look. These are hand-made (not “hand finished”), cast (not pressed). It means every cymbal is completely unique. Sadly, I had to give mine back but, oh how I want a set! They are available exclusively through Betta Drums.
Drumsticks were kindly supplied by The London Drumstick Company. They provided three pairs of the Signature series 5A Hickory sticks. I had my doubts that three pairs would be enough for 12 hours playing. In reality I could have done the whole gig using just one pair. These LDC sticks are seriously tough. Indestructible! They are also beautifully balanced, so even after 12 hours continuous playing my arms and elbows didn’t suffer the same fatigue as my back and thighs. I had sore hands but I expected that (and more).
A day or so before the session I had picked up a new snare from DSP Drums made by Dave Pierce in South Benfleet, Essex. Dave and I had designed the snare together and he had built it over the previous two months. Oak and Walnut staves with a 1” clear resin band through the middle. The snare is furnished with brass hardware and a matching DW Mag throw. This was the first time I had used it and after a bit of fine tuning I achieved an awesome crack, with deep woody tones and just a hint of additional top end from the hard resin. I love this snare!
Drum heads were somewhat of an experiment, coming from Williams Drumheads, manufactured in Brazil and supplied by 55DC. These were the Target series (in black) which I would compare them favourably with Evans hydraulics. A medium density head with well controlled overtones that allowed for minimal damping. They were great and will be staying on the kit for the foreseeable.
Remarkably, 12 hours seemed to go by pretty quickly. I was lucky to be able to play my set from the hospitable setting of Rebellion Studios, just down the road from me, near Colchester, Essex. Although I was alone for around eight hours it was amazing hour the hours flew by. By 08:00 I felt like I was in the home straight and managed a rousing version of LA Woman, followed by a funky Hit Me Baby One More Time, a combo unlikely to be heard in any other circumstance.
So far, Drumathon Live 2021 has raised £25,000.00 and with contributions still coming in the team expect to exceed last years total. This year’s charities all had a mental health theme, being; Mind, Child Bereavement UK, The Anna Freud Centre, National Trauma Council and NHS Charities Together. You can still donate to these important charities by visiting www.Drumathon.live. You can also watch highlights of this years action.
Plans are already underway for an even more spectacular event in 2022. I have already said that if they want an anonymous, short ageing drummer from Essex, I’m ready to go again.
Join fifty of the world’s top drummers right here on Shufflewire as they drum 24/7 for 7 days to raise funds for five mental health charities. Shufflewire’s own Stu Hardy will be playing for 12 hours starting at 22:00 on Thursday 20th.
Vastly underrated singer-songwriter Ian McNabb is about to release his twentieth studio album. In 1983 I was a 22-year-old part-time drummer, dreaming of going pro and hitting the big time. A few years earlier punk had hit our culture like a sledgehammer, shaking up the charts, the audience and the industry. For a few years, anything was possible.
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