We chat with Nathan about drumming with an out-of-this-world band
Posted: 26 September 2019
What encouraged you to learn drums?
I’ve been drumming for as long as I can remember. My dad was a musician, he sings and plays piano and he had a band, as well as having his own studio in our converted garage. Often, there were musicians coming through the house to rehearse and I was in there a lot of the time. Both my cousin and my godfather were drummers, and my godfather used to be part of my dad’s band too so I picked up a lot from them.
They used to play gospel and my dad really enjoyed jazz too, so that’s what got me started. We also used to go to church and I would play drums once everyone had left. After a while people started noticing that I had a sense of rhythm and progressed from there.
Are you self-taught or did you have lessons?
I got my first proper drum kit aged 6 and had lessons from then onwards. It was intermittent at first, then when I was in secondary school I took lessons properly and completed my grades too.
Did you always want to be a drummer or did you start with other instruments?
Not at the beginning, it was just drums from as early as I can remember! That’s changed a little now and I can now play a bit of keys and a bit of bass. It’s taken me a while to get to this point though, for ages it was straight up drums, nothing else!
What’s your practice routine?
My practice is not overly serious. I really like to enjoy what I do. I usually just put on some music that I enjoy and play along. Or I’ll put on a drum-along track or a drum-less track so I can practice the groove and my chops over that.
When you do that are you trying to replicate the original beat from the track or are you trying to come up with creative beats to play?
Both. When I’m called to do a session I’m usually required to play over a track, so I mix between copying what the drummer is doing and trying to get creative and play what I would play over that beat.
What styles of music do you usually play?
Well with Little Comets it’s usually Indie Pop, but most of my other stuff is straight up Pop or R&B.
What do you look for in a kit?
I’m happy to play anything really but if I’m looking for my ideal kit it all comes down to tone and durability. I need to be able to lug it around and ask ‘can this kit handle what I need it to?’. Because I’m often out with Little Comets or doing other session work it has to be universal and diverse in terms of sound too.
What kit are you currently playing?
I’m playing the Natal Originals Series in black and blue at the moment. I also have a black swirl Natal Originals kit.
What’s your preferred kit set up?
2 Rack toms and 1 floor tom, but it changes all the time depending on what I’m doing.
Who are your drum heroes?
When I was young it would be a drummer called Calvin Rodgers. He’s a gospel drummer and most of the music I listened to growing up was gospel. He was on almost every record I liked, so that’s how I got into him. Later on it was Tony Royster Junior who I used to listen to all the time. More recently I’d say Stanley Randolph who is the drummer for Stevie Wonder. He’s my favourite current drummer, his grooves are immense.
What’s next up for you?
At the end of October Little Comets go out on our UK tour, and we have a few other plans in the pipeline too that I can’t talk about just yet!
How does it work with Little Comets? Are you involved in writing the songs are do you meet up when you’re preparing live shows and suddenly have a bunch of songs to get your head round?
It’s a bit of both, so their Last album had a preproduction section where we got together and decided on different parts, then I recorded on most of the songs. This year I’ve recorded on 2 or 3 but there is also other songs that they’ve been working on separately, which they send to me so I can prepare for the tour. Most of the time I just learn the drum parts then when we get to rehearsal the band bring in samples and we recreate the full track.
What’s the best drumming advice you’ve been given?
Keeping it simple is definitely important, but I’d say no matter what you’re playing to try and be you. Try and be unique in how you play and how you sound. That doesn’t mean go over the top and do loads, you should still do what the song needs, but you bring your personality to the track. When I play a lot of people know that I’m the player. I could be playing the same beat as everyone else, and it doesn’t necessarily sound better than other people, but it’s got my stamp and my signature style on it.
How do you get that personality across as a drummer?
It’s a hard one to explain. For me some things come naturally and everything comes from a place of enjoying what I’m playing at the time. If I try to think about things too much then it doesn’t come across, but if I’m confident in what I’m doing and enjoying myself then my personality becomes part of my flow. It may not even come across in my sound but instead may come across in my stage presence.