Behind the sticks with Chris Mansbridge

Posted: 1 November 2019

Not only is he part of Heart of a Coward and in a function band, Chris also runs his music school, The Rhythm Room. We sat down with Chris to find out how he balances his time between the two and what inspired him to start his own music school. 

What encouraged you to get into drumming?

I’ve always enjoyed music. Growing up around my dad playing Phil Collins, The Pogues, that kind of music, so I was soaking that stuff up. Originally I wanted to play the piano. I don’t know why but I think it was because my friends were playing it so I thought it was cool. I quickly decided I didn’t like playing the piano but realised that the keyboard had a drum setting on it, so I started playing keyboard drums originally which is weird! That was about 25 years ago now.

I then built a kit out of flowerpots in my parents shed.  I had a workbench and started hammering in some plant pots, then got a garden cane, sawed it in half and made two drumsticks out of it. For cymbals I had some shovels hanging off some nails and they made the ‘tinky tunky’ sort of noise that emulated a ride or hi hat. I was away on that, playing basic rhythms and I think my parents were like ‘lets just buy him a drumkit and see what happens’ and 25 years later there’s not been a day where I’ve thought about quitting. I’ve always played. I’ve played something every day since I started.

What was it that properly got you into teaching?

It was having crappy retail jobs as a kid and jobs in between tours. I was so passionate about drumming and I really like helping people. When you see someone start to play drums, and it starts to click for them, there’s nothing better. You know, I’ve got students who come back and are like ‘I’ve started a band and I like this band’; it’s just the best feeling so I just really enjoy the process of teaching and watching someone develop.

What made you want to start your own school as opposed to teaching somewhere else?

Well, some of the services available didn’t fulfill the promises they were supposed to . I did lots of voluntary work that didn’t lead  to anything and the hours weren’t there. Certain other music schools have a set curriculum that they like to take their students through, and I think that, that’s not me. I don’t think you can put someone in a box. Everyone learns differently. Everyone has got their own individual way of learning. You’ve got people that like to listen more and I kind of get them to get into reading and then you’ve got people that are very pragmatic and read a lot but don’t listen enough so you have to get the best of both worlds and steer them in the right direction. Some people have different goals, being a musician or just doing it for fun or doing their grades, for instance. I don’t like to put a mould around anyone but instead help push them in the right direction.

You perform in a function band as well, so you play a lot of different styles. Do you have a favourite?

No. I’ve always been involved with quite heavy projects since I was very young so it’s something I have always done. It’s quite weird playing something as aggressive and powerful as Heart of a Coward then the next weekend you’re playing ABBA or something but I absolutely love playing everything. There’s not a gig I wouldn’t do.

Is it hard making the switch from HOAC to ABBA?

It’s more of a mental thing. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like a mental pain you have to go through. Mental anguish and the aggression of the music means I have to call on something else, flick the switch into that mode. A function gig is just a function gig really. But even then sometimes I turn up and I could be playing a song I’ve never heard and have to know what I’m doing.

And you can just jam it there and then?

Its definitely a skill I’ve learnt as I go along.  From teaching people a variety of music you get to know a massive pool of classic tunes. There’s been gigs where I don’t really know what I’m playing, I just watch the guys and hope for the best. Nod when it ends! No one ever notices though which is good because it means you can accept any gig on a whim and still look like you know what you’re doing. I was horrified the first time I did it but it went a lot better than expected and I proved to myself that I can do it.