Monday, 24 August 2009

15.0 / Rhythym is a dancer / Guy Wood

What: Drummer and music producer
Where: London, UK
Website: Death Ray Trebuchay

In a nutshell…
I’m a musician. I’m a drummer. I’m about 6 foot 3 and a half and I’m from Yorkshire. I've trained as a drummer for about 10 years seriously, and about 23 years not-so-seriously since the age of four. I am now in the current location of Dalston, in my studio.
The starting point…
When I came down one Christmas morning, my folks had bought me a bright yellow Remo Junior Pro drum kit, which was like the best thing I’d ever seen in my life. They were instantly elated that I wasn’t destroying the house anymore too. I probably had ADHD, before the term was invented.

Getting those drums was where it all began and I got involved in music. From that moment on, I noticed drummers. My mum would take to me to the theatre and opera. I went to see Tosca when I was about three. I was always exposed to music. We’d go to see a concert and I wouldn’t necessarily comprehend it's complexities, but I’d always visually connect with and start honing into that person playing the same instrument I had at home, it was infectious. I just became obsessive, absolutely obsessive. Through that and my mum driving me around Yorkshire to take advantage of every opportunity with schooling and lessons, I am now doing what I do.

Kabul Airstrike - Tickle me up by goodnessgreatness


The first gig I went to see, that really blew me away and made me go, ‘I want to do that’, was Dire Straits in Faro, held in some massive football stadium when I was seven. It was great. We used to go to the Algarve on holiday and my mum got these tickets. We arrived ridiculously early, like six hours early, and the whole place was shut. We couldn’t get in anywhere so we just sat on the steps and had a picnic and got in the press as we were the first people there. The gig was amazing. They had this drummer called Omar Hakim and another drummer, not sure who he was, but there were 2 of them with massive drum kits. It was 89’, full on stadium rock, Dire Straits, smashing it! It made me go ‘I want to play on a fucking stadium stage on a drum kit! I want to be them!’
Obsessive compulsive…
My mum is obsessed with Theatre and Entertainment. We’ve always had a kind of flamboyant household, which has definitely sculpted my energy for music and drumming. My mum’s always had big parties. She once had this charity party where an entire Circus came and camped in our fields in the country for about four months. Hanging out with them and the bands that came to the house created an energy inside of me, which is partly responsible for how I see myself as a musician today. Now that I’m older and have found a path, my voice as a drummer is that of entertainment mixed with art. Being a performer you have to give out that energy. That’s why I make the choices to play with the bands that I do. At the moment I value the gift of entertainment and the act of giving energy.

Home is where the heart is…
I grew up near a little village called Stamford Bridge, which is between York and Bridlington. It’s a beautiful place called Scoreby Farm House. I was blessed to grew up there. It was like a little country retreat. It got to thrash the shit out of my drums as much as I wanted without anyone complaining at all. It was a complete haven that affected who I am. If grew up in a terraced house in the middle of York, I wouldn’t have necessarily been able to play the drums all night long, so I was really lucky. I was schooled in York, which is a wicked city but I’m glad that I’m not there at the moment, in the most beautiful way – I love it and a lot of my heart is there but it’s a city that I wanted to break free from. It allows you (as someone living there) to let go of it. If you know somewhere is a great place and it’s given you a lot but you’ve moved on, that’s not a bad thing. I feel I have a strong foundation because of that, because of the steps I took. I feel comfortable about not living in York. The world is a huge place I get to explore, which is in my nature.

Under his belt…
Band-wise, I’m working on a project called Death Ray Trebuchay, which is a band of six very merry men that play psychedelic thrash, disco, punk music. We've been going for about two years. It’s formed of three horn players (trumpet, trombone and alto Sax) and then bass, drums and keyboards. There’s loads of crazed shouting and Beastie Boys-esque style rap going on. It’s a completely flamboyant boisterous band and it's amazing to be the drummer. I get to live out my dream of thrashing the shit out of a drum kit while it still being dance music and being humorous in some way. It’s pretty advanced serious music and it's challenging to play but at the same time it’s got kind of a light-hearted element to it. It’s not trying to take itself too seriously. It’s meant to be dance music, that’s the reason the band was formed. Originally we played a lot of Balkan covers and Balkan music, in our East London sort of way, taking a folk music and working out how to put our own vibe onto it, it's nice the way those things happen. Given that there are six people, all trained 'working' musicians, going into an original project, believing in it and forming a strong unit, is a really special thing to keep and to be a part of.

Deathray Trebuchay - Im Gonna Kick You in the Ass by goodnessgreatness

Quite quickly, the six of us became obsessed with the band and put a lot into the music and everyone is putting their personalities into it. We are slowly generating our own sound. It’s getting there. We’re just about to start recording our first E.P in the studio I run, which is another side of my life.

The other side…
I work with a fine musician called Jo Wills and we have a studio in Gillett Square, Dalston - we call it The Dalston Broadcasting Company. We have set up a company called A Fish Called Wampa, which Jo and I began about a year and a half ago and formalised, writing music for media, visual arts theatre and commercial clients of any sort. We have worked for the BBC and Toyota, we’ve just done some sound design for Dizzee Rascal's new music video and we have just signed up on a job with a Japanese karaoke company. So our client list is becoming quite broad-ranged and exciting and that’s great. It provides Jo and I with a financial bed and, in a sense, a routine. I think that’s been the hardest thing about being a musician – it’s this self-employed/freelance life, where there’s a lot of traveling and moving about and you kind of loose your roots quite quickly. We’ve been trailing around for a few years – playing, gigging, teaching, 'wedding' gigs galore and '£20 jazz gigs in some random pub in Chesterfield'. We had enough of that and we just wanted to hone our skills in one area, have an office and get a sort of day job.
School of rock…
School, for me, was always amazingly supportive. I went to a wicked school in York – a junior school called St Olave’s and a senior school called St Peters. They where always supportive of music. As a kid, you want to do everything – I was really sporty. There were loads of rad chicks and dudes at school and I wanted to be out partying, not practising for seven hours a day when I was 14 – 15 years old. I’ve got to thank the school for helping to keep me focused, I don’t think that I would have had the 'teenage' willpower to do music all the time without the guidance. They had lots of small ensembles, jazz bands wind bands and choirs, which meant that I was playing every night of the week from the age of 12 or 13 during school and after school. It was constant.

First band…
There were always school rock bands. I got involved with this band called Skirt. I was 13 and the rest of the band were older, at GCSE level. I was stoked as the older dudes had asked me to play drums for their band. I fancied all the chicks in their year so it was awesome, a total dream......ha ha. We played for ages. We got on the circuit, did Bright Young Things talent competitions and played at the Town and Country Club in Leeds. It was an amazing beginning to a sort of band career. I don’t see them very often now but we are still in touch. The bass player Ed Brooke is an amazing guy. He’s just had another kid and Andy, the lead singer, is now a teacher. We played right through to when we left school at St Peters. In the last two years of it's 'life' the band transformed and we renamed it - ‘The Constituency of the Rejected’, which was our post-teen angst-ridden alt metal, love child. We were into the Deftones and early Limp Bizkit. The music grew from very, very, very, homoerotic Gary Glitter inspired Brit Pop, writing songs about ice creams to writing tunes about Lyndon Baines Johnson and the conspiracy’s of the teenage mind. It was fucking awesome!

Sion - Get Your Knees Up by goodnessgreatness
Life after the school of rock…
After GCSE’s, I had a choice. I was old enough to realise that I wanted to be a musician and also old enough to realise that I couldn’t continue being a musician if I stayed on at St Peter's because of academic commitments. It was a very liberal public school but at the same time driven by its ratings and Ofsted reports so was pretty highfalutin, which is totally rad, but I decided that I needed to spend a lot of time playing. The tutors that I had were great pros. One of them was a classical player, Janet Fulton that played in the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and BBC Philharmonic orchestras and the other guy was called Damian Harren. He was my kit and contemporary percussion teacher and they are both responsible for helping me get into music conservatoire, and furthering my career. They where like ‘If you don’t do it now, you’re never going to do it. You need to start practising four hours a day. You need to learn all the repertoire’. I left school and went to Leeds College of Music to study my A-levels, and practise... alot... which was a massive step.

And... a massive step for my dad as he, my grandad, my great granddad and my uncles all went to that school, all the way through. My dad wasn’t the greatest academic but held on to the philosophy of carrying through tradition, which is integral to my beliefs. Music doesn’t run as a profession in my direct family. My dad's side of the family ran FW Wood and Sons, a chemist, with shops around northeast Yorkshire. That side of the family are essentially business focused, so for my Dad to give me the support to go off and be a 'bohemian' and leave St Peters was a huge step. That’s when I really began to develop my relationship with my dad on an equal level, no longer just a Dad/Son thing. He knew that he didn’t need to 'train' me up into his profession to follow in his footsteps, and so we both started to learn from each other. He’s like my total best mate. Allowing me to do that was the biggest part of my music career, because if I didn’t go, I would never have gone to the Guildhall School of Music to do a four year Bachelor of Jazz degree in drumming and then do a masters there. I never would have done that. I wouldn’t have been good enough to get in.

Play that funky music
I started at Guildhall as a classical percussionist. I was really into solo repertoire for marimba and vibraphone and late 20th century contemporary music and wanted to study that throughout the four year degree. But I thought within that as a percussionist I’d still be able to play the drums, as that was my main passion. However, I had this thing when I went to Leeds that I just got really involved in contemporary music and high art music. I think I wanted that intellectualism of being a late teen. Genuinely, some of that music is amazing but I got to Guildhall and, after about three months, I realised that the classical percussion degree, as far as I was concerned, was primarily sitting at the back and playing a triangle part in a Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique. You'd sit there for five minutes counting bars and then you have one hit of a triangle, which you'd probably forget because it took you too long to get off your stool to go over to the triangle and hit it before you went back to sit down for another ten minutes.

I realised that music was more creative, for me, and I wanted to write. I wanted to perform and play original music so I left the classical course and they took me onto the jazz course about half way into the first year. For the first two years you still have to do classical studies as well, which is really important, a great discipline and great technique training. I finished off the last two years of the degree doing jazz solely and drums as my major.

Working it out…
I taught for the college on a community project, on their outreach project called Connect, the year after I finished. I was kind of a tutor. I did loads and loads of teaching mainly in east London. We’d do these mass multi-instrumental projects with kids from the ages of 8-16 years old that would be playing anything from a violin to shakuhachi to tabla to bass. The projects were all bespoke and the aim would be to write original music with the kids for a performance or recording session. It was wicked. I did that mainly for a year and through that went on to do a masters in leadership, which sounds like some military training, but it wasn't, it was predominantly about how to lead yourself as a musician, as a creative artist. I majored in composition for moving image and that got me into an internship with a company called Brains and Hunch. Chris and Tom who run it are wicked. They’re such beautiful friends. They’re a company who work for advertising and branding. I worked with them for a year and then through that I set up A Fish Called Wampa with Jo.
Leaving jazz behind…

Even while I was studying and playing jazz, I had a real issue with it's 'traditionalism'. I hate to say it because a lot of jazz players are my best friends but they are part of a very introverted and cliquey scene. It’s quite contained, which really frustrated me while I was studying. For such a 'free' art, it was weird that people looked down on working with artists from other genres.

It wasn’t until the third or fourth year that people started to open up and work with, say, a cellist from the classical course or do a project with an opera singer and use the resources available to them. It was all quite closed like we’re just going to play Bebop and that’s it and if you’re not playing Bebop like that, then you’re shit. It became quite bitchy and I lost sight of why I was studying jazz music. I listened to jazz as a teenager and the reason I got into it was because I didn’t understand it, it was mystical and had this captivating energy. So, when I was playing it every day, studying it's theory and analysing performances, the fascination and mystique and the reason for it's existence, kind of disappeared, but, most importantly the spiritual connection remained. The stuff I listened to (I was really into Coltrane and early 60’s Miles Davis) managed to convey this awesome power and had a magical quality. But I was surrounded by priviliged people (including myself) who were middle class, lived in a different country, a different demographic and culture and a different world of reason. It was really hard to see the purpose, in New York in the 60’s, even if you were middle class, music was created and was there for a reason – invented for a reason, political, social and all the rest and I couldn't really find that purpose at all while I was at college.


Electronic music has always been a massive passion of mine. Hiphop, skateboarding and drum and bass raves were looked down on while I was studying. I almost tried to forget that side of myself but all of a sudden I went ‘What the fuck is going on? This isn’t what I believe in’. I got sucked into that snobbery thing quite quickly, so towards the end of my degree I made a conscious effort to detach myself from that shit as much as possible and begin to find my own voice and my own way. I started writing a lot of music on computers and writing dance music and trying to find my own 'mid 60’s energy'... ha ha. I realised that we are our own people and we have our own things to say. We don’t need to copy all the time.
Likes and dislikes…
It gets exhausting. I’m definitely not a no person. If you’re not a no person and you say yes to things all the time, you find yourself in a situation were you’ve got three hours to sleep in a week and people are shouting at you for not completing things. It gets a bit too much. I’m trying to learn how to plan a schedule but it’s a bit of a challenge. I just end up in chaos quite a lot. Then just traveling and not being able to see your friends means, essentially, I pine for a sense of community.


On the other side, I love the fact that I don’t have a schedule as it gives me an awesome sense of freedom and the opportunities that just arrive. For example, I can get a call tomorrow about doing a show somewhere for some rad musician or a great studio job might come through and everything's beautifully kinetic. I also get to work with my mates all the time. That’s pretty rad – the majority of my network is made up of my close friends.

Sion - Untitled by goodnessgreatness
Organised chaos…
A couple weeks ago was crazy. On the Monday morning, I was in a field in Cambridge at the Secret Garden Party, camping in the back of my car. We had two shows on the Thursday and Saturday night and I was meant to come back on Sunday but couldn’t drive – I definitely couldn’t drive. We were meant to be going back for a rehearsal with Death Ray Trebuchay but myself and two other band members where still in the field so we cancelled.


We drove back to London in a sorry state, came home and had to go to the studio to sort some Fish Called Wampa business out for a couple of hours. Then we packed my drum kit back into the car and went to the Proud Galleries in Camden to play a gig with Death Ray on Monday night. We went back to the studio and unloaded the drum kit at 2am and got to bed at about 4am. On Tuesday, I got to the studio at about 10am to work on finishing the Dizzee Rascal job for lunch time. We then went out to pick up equipment, came back to 'cave' and finished in the studio at about 11pm. On Wednesday, I did a 10am – 6pm stint in the studio. Thursday morning was spent driving round London running errands for the studio and then I did a recording session on Thursday afternoon

All of Friday was spent in the studio. In the evening, I did a gig at Pizza on the Park for a jazz singer, covering for her drummer. The gig finished at midnight and we headed back to Hackney to unload the drum kit at the studio at about 2am. I caught up on a few hours sleep and went back to the studio on Saturday afternoon to wire in the desk. I picked everything up to go to the Hackney Wick Festival for Saturday night. And then, at 7am on Sunday morning I forced myself out of bed and came to the studio to pick up the band and drove through to Standon Calling Festival near Cambridge. We played a lunchtime show on the main stage and then came back to London and worked in the studio, ready for recording the Death Ray E.P. Then, I went home and died at about 9pm.

IAMWAMPA - That's Right Mother Fucker (remix) by goodnessgreatness
Excess skin…
I collect drums and anything to do with them – cymbals, vintage maracas… If it’s got a skin, I’ve got it!
Obstacles and hurdles…
The biggest obstacle is constantly comparing myself to other people, other drummers, others musicians. It’s taken me a long time to develop confidence in myself, not having to play like any other drummer. I think the insecurity was born at college and is quite a big hurdle.
Words of wisdom…
What you do today is who you are tomorrow.

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