Cherisse Osei (Simple Minds, Kelly Jones, Bryan Ferry, Paloma Faith, Mika) - Interview

Cherisse, a massive thank you for taking the time out to do this. You have been playing professionally for sixteen years and your CV is incredible but how did it all begin? What made you pick up the sticks?

There was always music being played in the house as my parents are big music lovers so from a young age I was exposed to many different styles of music. I was always naturally drawn to rhythm and fascinated with different styles of drumming. I loved to sing and dance and actually wanted to be a singer/actress when I 'grew up'.

I’m not really sure why I chose the drums but I think it was more like the drums chose me! I was given my first drum kit by my uncle when I was 5 (which was a pink Mickey Mouse drum kit) and I do remember playing a little. I think I ended up breaking it which Im sure my parents didn't mind too much ;) So when I heard a drum club was starting up at my Secondary school in 1998 I was one of the first members! I clearly remember sitting behind the kit for the first time and instantly feeling like I was at home & this was what I wanted to do…Forever!

Speaking of your impressive CV, can you tell us who you are currently working with and who you have worked with in the past?

I’m currently working with Simple Minds - have been touring with them for 4 years and have made the past 3 albums with them. I’ve also been touring with Kelly Jones (Stereophonics lead singer) and we recorded a live album and made a documentary about the tour which was released on 3rd Dec (2020). I have previously toured/recorded with artists including Paloma Faith, Bryan Ferry and Mika.

How do you approach a tour? Can you talk us through how you prep for it, what/how do you programme and how do you get familiar with the songs? How does a tour with Simple Minds differ to a tour with Kelly Jones, for example?

I make sure that before a tour or recording session that I’m prepared. My method is to start learning the songs by charting them out first and then playing along to them to ensure I can play the parts technically. After that (if there is time) I usually record myself playing to the songs. I use these test recordings to analyse every aspect of my playing, right down to the smallest detail to see exactly where I’m going right or wrong. Then when I get it to a place I’m happy with I then move on to the next song. I play the songs as many times as possible to get them into muscle memory which can then be adapted if the songs change in rehearsals / recording studio.

Also I make sure that if I’m using my own equipment (which is usually the case) that everything is working properly i.e nothing clattering or squeaking. I might need to put on new drum skins, tune the drums, tighten all the screws and check my cymbal stands etc.

The only real difference between preparing for Kelly Jones and Simple Minds is the gear/pieces of kit I use. With Kelly Jones it was mainly an acoustic stripped back vibe with a second percussion set up and with Simple Minds it is one huge set up with lots of electronics / trigger pads / Ableton etc, so quite different!

You play Tama Drums, can you tell us a little bit about that? What Drums are you using at the moment and what other gear completes your set up? What Sizes are your Kit? Any companies that you love dealing with?

I am very lucky to be an endorser of Tama drums and have been playing Tama drums for 17 years. My kit is a Starclassic Bubinga and it’s made from 100% Bubinga wood which is also know as African rosewood. The drums have a deep low end / full and fat sound which is what I love about them. I play a 20”x18” kick, 10”x7” tom, 12”x7” tom, 16”x16”floor, 18”x18”floor, 20” gong drum.

For cymbals I’m endorsed by Zildjian - my set up is:

15” 70’s New Beat Hi Hats

17” K Dark Crash Medium thin

16” A Custom crash

20” 70’s A Ride

18” A Custom crash

17” A Custom Sizzle Ride

For sticks I’m endorsed by Vic Firth, heads by Remo and electronics by Yamaha DTX. My other endorsements include: LP, Protection Racket, Hardcase and Provenance Snare Drums.

I love dealing with all of my endorsement companies! They all give me wonderful equipment and constant worldwide support - I can’t thank them enough!

On the subject of your kit, you have your Rack Tom positioned to the right of you and some electronics in the place of where a Rack Tom would sit traditionally. What are the pads you use as these don’t look like traditional Roland or Yamaha pads? Are they used as Snares/Claps or do you use them to trigger Ableton?

I do indeed have my rack tom positioned to the right of me and this is so I can have two pads there. Those two pads are Yamaha TP65’s and my other pads are two Yamaha XP80s and 2 Dauz pads. I also have 3 acoustic triggers (Yamaha Piezo Triggers) and an external kick trigger next to my kick pedal. I use all of those pads to trigger samples from my Yamaha DTX900 module (elec snares/claps,kicks) and then I use my Yamaha DTX Multi 12 as a midi trigger for Ableton.

Do you use any electronics/software or backing tracks in any of your gigs? Does it change from Artist to Artist or do you have a preferred method of playback that you stick with?

It varies from artist to artist. You figure out what you want to achieve with the live show and then figure out what electronics/software is needed. With Simple Minds we are using an Ableton Live rig as some songs have loops and extra sound layers/FX. With Kelly Jones we didn’t use any electronics/software as the set didn’t require it.

You have been fortunate to tour extensively all over the world. You have played many festivals, venues and made several TV/Radio appearances. Do you have a stand out gig or festival in mind that sticks with you? Whether that’s because it’s a career highlight or something that will stick with you for another reason?

It’s really hard to chose as so many of the shows are memorable. With Mika, we played Parc de Princes in Paris to 60, 000 people – our own show! It was supposed to be Mika and Annie Lennox as a double headline and they just put the first day out as Mika and the tickets sold out within an hour! So when we played it was just mayhem! Looking out in to the crowd and they were all Mika fans singing his songs and dancing. It was absolutely incredible!

Playing Glastonbury with Bryan Ferry was amazing! It’s Glastonbury!! Headlining the West Holts stage – It was really quite nerve wrecking but was so magical and exciting!

You played at the closing ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Paralympics, what a once in a lifetime event! How did you prepare for an event of such size? Not only was the stadium packed with people but it was televised worldwide to billions of viewers. How did you prepare for that? I’m freaking out at the thought of it!

It was definitely a high point for me performing on top of that London bus at the Closing Ceremony of the Beijing Paralympics in 2008. I prepared for it in the same way I prepare for all of my gigs. We did a recording of the track at Metropolis Studios in London - I wrote all my drum parts for it before hand in my home studio and then we recorded the track in a couple of hours. Once the track was recorded we flew to Beijing the following day to rehearse for a few weeks with the other performers in an airport hanger by the Great Wall of China (not a bad location). Then we performed the show as we rehearsed it. It was an incredible feeling coming out in the bus and then rising out on a hydraulic riser playing the track. Also the pressure was on as it only went out to a TV audience of 1.5 billion!!!

You played at the UK Drum Show last year? How was that for you?

It was amazing playing at the UK Drum Show! I played in my drum teacher Mike Dolbear’s Masterclass room and it was a real blast. I really enjoy giving masterclasses and it’s definitely something I will be doing more of in the future.

The majority of your work is in a live environment and you spend a lot of time on the road. How do you keep yourself in touch with the ‘normal world’ going on around you and keep yourself healthy both physically and mentally?

Whilst on tour I try to keep in touch with the ‘normal world’ by watching the news! In most countries around the world they have a BBC world news channel so I watch that because it’s in English! And also I use the news app on my phone.

Being a touring musician means you have gruelling schedules and being a drummer is very physically demanding. I play in a real physical way so after a show I'm usually done in! So in order to keep physically healthy I have a set routine that I do each day/show - I warm up on a pad for 10/15mins before the show, then after the show I ice my arms or put them in an ice bucket for 10mins and then do a stretching session for 20/30 mins. On my days off I try and run or cycle in the hotel gym to keep up my stamina.

Obviously eating well helps to keep you physically and mentally healthy. So I definitely try to get my ‘five a day’ ! I find exercising on my days off really helps with my mental state of mind. Also checking in with your band mates regularly and having some one you can talk to / trust helps keep you sane and get you through some of the tougher times of the tour.

What’s your favourite piece of gear you own? Are you a vintage Drum lover?

I am indeed a vintage drum lover. I have a few vintage kits (Hayman/Ludwig) and have a collection of vintage snare drums that I’ve been collecting over the years. My fav is my 70’s 14”x 6.5” Black Beauty which I use for most gigs and is my main snare with Simple Minds.

How are you keeping yourself busy during these strange times?

Since the tour with Simple Minds was unfortunately stopped in March I’ve been recording a new album with them. We have just finished it so that has been exciting and is sounding great. In the summer I spent time in Berlin filming videos for Yamaha DTX Drums. Later, in the Autumn I worked with film Composer Lorne Balfe on a film, and perfumed in a live stream at Abbey Road Studios for the Video Game Awards, which was fantastic as I got to play with the London Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestras. I also been giving online drum lessons from my home studio which something I’ll continue to do. Recently I’ve become involved in a couple of new projects - which involve writing and recording original material. So oddly I’ve had an extremely busy time during this pandemic..but no rest for the wicked eh?!

If you had any advice for your younger self what would it be?

My advice would be….Practice…Practice…Practice. Play as much as physically possible ;) Learn as much as you can and explore different techniques and styles. Listening to great music is as important as actually playing the drums in order to develop good ears. Also learning about music history is essential, but above all enjoy yourself and have fun :)

What’s next for you? Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

Next I hope to be back on the road with Simple Minds this year and am really looking forward to that. Hopefully in 10 years time I will still be doing what I love doing! I am still developing my own style and hope that I will become more of the drummer that I want to be. That is quite a tough thing – like a lot of drummers I am going on a long journey just trying to discover where my playing strengths really lie and how to use them to be the type of drummer I want to be.

Also I hope I will still be teaching and be able to inspire more girls to pick up the sticks. There is an increasing number of up and coming female drummers and because it’s becoming more widely accepted I’d like to continue to be part of that movement and hopefully be an inspiration to others. Just to be a good human being is a goal in itself and to make good cup of tea!! :)

Finally, can you share a quick tip or give us a small exercise you always use?

Im afraid its a typical answer but its got to be the classic PARADIDDLE!! Sounds so good in any form and is so much fun to play :)

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