When I grow up I want to be a….rock drummer.
Ever wondered what it takes to be a rock drummer? Rick Jupp took time out from rehearsals for Elbow’s upcoming tour to share some of his influences with Northern Soul‘s Chris Payne, and give some tips and advice to all the young drummers out there.
Chris Payne: When did you first pick up a set of drumsticks?
Rick Jupp: I honestly can’t remember life before sticks. There was no big ‘crash cymbal in the sky’ moment. I was really restless as a kid – always outside doing sports; football and rugby. Me and Pete (Turner) were best mates throughout primary and high school. In third year at Tottington High, we used to go in the music room during lunch breaks and just play – blues, Johnny Be Goode, that sort of thing. That was when Mark (Potter) got involved. Mark always looked like a rock-star as a kid.
CP: Was there a teacher at school who particularly encouraged you?
RJ: All the teachers were really supportive. We used to play at assemblies. I do remember Mr Sutton, our art teacher, being a real supporter of what we did. Still is – I saw him last year when John Grant played the Bridgewater Hall.
CP: Who were the drummers who first inspired you?
RJ: Roger Taylor of Queen. I just couldn’t work out how he managed to sing and drum at the same time. Blew my mind! As a young kid I wasn’t really that into music. I was always playing outside. Then I got into U2 – first Under a Blood Red Sky, then Boy, The Joshua Tree, through Rattle & Hum, and taught myself really. Also played along to some heavier stuff – Anthrax and AC/DC. Phil Rudd of AC/DC is a big influence.
CP: So what are your favourite tunes drum-wise?
RJ: Absolute favourite? Well, I love Jimmy Chamberlain’s drumming for Smashing Pumpkins, so Starla by the Pumpkins. Also Matt Cameron’s work for Soundgarden on the Superunknown album – so I’d say Fresh Tendrils on that.
CP: Which drummers inspire you now?
NJ: Jojo Mayer – an incredibly technical player who has the most languid style, and sense of groove. And Benny Greb, he just knows his drums. He’s a great teacher with a command of the sonics of drumming, he uses the full range of the drums and cymbals. Again, groove over content.
CP: What are the best tips you could give to a young drummer?
RJ: Listen listen listen. Listen to loads of different drummers. Listen to melody. Listen to other people, the people you’re playing with. And do your practice. Do all your singles, paradiddles, doubles – if you’re on your own, do it to a click track or to music – but don’t go crazy! Listening is the important bit. Also, keep it simple and laugh off your mistakes. Most of the best music is created through mistakes. And be respectful to your fellow musicians.
CP: What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
RJ: Steve White says just take your time. I’d agree with that. Take your time and enjoy it.
(I remember an entire arena chanting “Steve White He’s Alright” at an Oasis gig. An official “ledge”, as they say…)
CP: And your most memorable gig with Elbow?
RJ: Manchester Academy first time. It was the biggest gig we’d done up to that point. Up ‘til then it’d been around 500 seaters, so to make that jump up from 500 to 2,000 was something else. Marc Riley was introducing us onstage – I think it was the Asleep In The Back tour. It’s a proper touring venue, the Academy.
CP: What’s your favourite Elbow tune to play – not your favourite Elbow tune, but the one you enjoying drumming on the most?
RJ: Real Life (from The Taking Off and Landing of Everything). It’s an odd drum track – just a pulse, with a made-up paradiddle. It’s really challenging because it came out of a mistake, really. I tried to do a paradiddly (I’ve checked, and this is a word) beat over a pulse. We recorded and looped it. When I listened back I was like “Am I going to be able to do this?”. It’s repetitive, but requires loads of concentration.
Also, Newborn. I love playing it but there are so many dynamics. Guy’s on guitar on that one. There’s a build at the end that doesn’t work if it’s too subtle, but the drums can’t overpower. We’re all playing off each other, all leading AND following.
CP: I mention that I love ‘Open Arms’, but that they haven’t played it live in recent gigs.
RJ: That tune splits the band into those who love playing it and those who don’t so much, but we get an incredible reaction from the crowd when we do play it.
(I’d suggest they rename it ‘Broken Arms’ and get it back on the set list…)
CP: Does anyone else in the band fancy themselves as a drummer?
RJ: [without missing a beat] Craig.
CP: Haha! I thought that might be the case.
RJ: He’s good!
CP: Everyone’s a drummer.
RJ: Yep. Everyone’s a drummer.
Words and images by Chris Payne
Elbow kick off their sold-out UK tour at Manchester O2 Apollo on Thursday, February 5, 2015 and play an intimate charity gig for War Child at their beloved Manchester Roadhouse on Tuesday, February 24.