Contours impressed us so much with his live drumming at a recent Banana Hill event that we felt compelled to find out more. The obvious enthusiasm with which he plays and the crowd’s ecstatic reaction as he brought out his Egyptian drum in the middle of Thris Trian‘s set helped to make the night one of the best we’ve been to this year so far.
Signed to Bradley Zero‘s rather appropriately-named ‘Rhythm Section’ label, he talks us through his life in drums…
How did you get into drumming?
Well, my Dad’s a drummer so I grew up with a drum kit in the house. He was big into his jazz, prog rock and a lot of African music too so I was always exposed to the likes of Bill Bruford, Neil Pert and Art Blakey. I had an amazing drum teacher at school too called Brian. He was a short Geordie guy with a cracking moustache and amazing technique!
Talk us through the drums you currently own…
I don’t necessarily own loads of drums but I have acquired a lot of percussion over the years. Aside from my drum kit, I’ve got some great bits I’ve picked up from my Dad including Djembe’s, Darabukas, a Gato drum, Kalimbas, Tabla and a multitude of shakers. I’ve picked up various bits on my travels as well including some bits of Moroccan percussion including Qarkabeb used predominantly in Gnaoua music They are basically metal castanets. They sound amazing and give Gnaoua its really hypnotic feel. I’ve also got a beautiful fish skin tambourine and tamtam drums used a lot in Moroccan and Egyptian music.
Is there a ‘holy grail’ of drums – one that you really, really want?
I saw a couple jamming with a djembe and couple of dundun’s in Piccadlly Gardens the other month and it sounded incredible. Their interplay and the tone of their drums just sounded so good. That’s what I’d love: a set of African drums that just work really beautifully together.
How do you feel that your background in drumming affects your ability to produce music?
I think being a drummer has a massive influence upon the way I approach music production. When I started off messing around with production software, having knowledge of rhythm was a good starting point. It can be pretty intimidating trying to get to grips with where everything is in programs like logic. Having the drumming background just meant I was able to construct interesting patterns without having that immediate software knowledge.
One of the main things about being a drummer/percussionist first and producer second is that I didn’t feel too constrained by the grid lines. I love the use of live instrumentation in tracks because it gives it that swing and that raw rhythmic tension that’s hard to reproduce if everything is strictly quantised.
After seeing how the crowd reacted to your improvised drumming at the latest Banana Hill, how do you think the introduction of acoustic instruments in a DJ set or otherwise electronic gig/club can affect the atmosphere and overall ambience?
I think the introduction of live instrumentation – particularly percussion – into DJ sets and a club environment can really elevate the atmosphere. People seem to respond really well to that presence and the energy that a live musician can bring. That said, I have a lot of respect for the role of the selector and the art of DJing, so I think it is one of those where you really need to know the DJ you are jamming with if it is to work well.
How does it affect the DJ/artist playing at the time?
I think it can push the DJ to play in a slightly different way so that they and the percussionist work off each other. Bouncing off each other and experimenting with space and building tension can be pretty fun and that’s basically what it’s all about.
Finally, can you provide us with your top five percussion songs?
DJ Sotofett – Tribute to Sore Fingers
Collocutor – Agama
Pearson Sound – Wad
Ray Barretto– Espíritu Libre
Richard Spaven – Network
Discover more about Contours here:
– Kim Kahan