Woody, you’re the man responsible for the thunderous drum sound in Bastille. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Could you tell us a little bit about how you started playing Drums?
My Dad is a guitarist and singer around my home town of Plymouth, so I grew up around bands from quite a young age. I thought (wrongly it turns out) that if I played drums I wouldn't have to learn to read music. So I started out with drum lessons in school from the age of 11, joined the obligatory school bands and covered a few gigs for my Dad's bands from the age of about 14 and it all progressed from there.
Can you tell us who you are currently working with and who you have worked with in the past?
Well this year hasn't exactly panned out how anyone had imagined, so I've been doing a lot of recording from home studio. Aside from recording demo drums for potential future Bastille material, I've played on a few other people's releases. Most notably on a tracked called 'Kill TV' by this outrageously talented artist called ONR, who is so talented infact that he managed to get Nile Rodgers to play on the song as well. That was fun and a bit different from the usual process as I'm obviously there to please a client rather than being the artist, so I sent over a few options based on the initial demos and we agreed on the parts that I then multi tracked.
I've also started a record label called Du Monde Records and we're working with an artist called Ulysses Wells who we're really excited about.
How did you end up becoming a part of Bastille?
When I first moved to London I was working temp jobs in the daytime and then doing music in the evenings, which was essentially like doing two jobs at once and not sustainable. So my Dad suggested that I try teaching drums and we went out and posted around 2000 flyers through the doors of my area. I got about 2 students out of it, but also a phone call from a solo artist who was looking for a drummer. That happened to be Dan from our band. So I played with him under a different name for a couple of years and we picked up Kyle and Will along the way, before forming Bastille in 2010.
On the Bastille gig, you play some seriously impressive venues around the world. Do you have a pre-show routine or warm up?
I really should do. On the last US tour I had a set of V Drums backstage to practice on which definitely helped, and if we're doing arena shows then I have a mini drum kit that can be set up about as far away from the dressing rooms as possible. No one wants a drummer for a neighbour. We always do the same vocal warm up routine before each gig which helps to get everyone into the right mindset. But I should definitely be doing more stick warm ups than I do.
Bastille’s first album had a very tom heavy presence. How did you write those tom parts and co-ordinate them on a live stage when other members were also playing drum parts on top of your own?
It's just practice to be honest. The album was made in a tiny box room studio and we just layered everything up to achieve as big a sound as possible, without much thought as to how we would pull it off live. So everyone ended up having a drum and now Kyle or Charlie end up playing additional counter rhythm parts that I can't do, as I don't have 4 arms!
You’re a British Drum Co artist, right? What Drums are you using at the moment and what other gear completes your set up? What Sizes are your Kit?
Using a BDC Legend Kit - 22x18, 12x8, 14x12, 16x14 and an assortment of snares, but the BDC Merlin is my go to, its a beast. I like the shallower toms as they're a bit punchier and it means I have more room to stuff electronics and pedals underneath them. I've used Sabian cymbals since day one and they've always looked after me really well, as well as Remo heads and Vic Firth sticks. And then there is the chaos of my Roland electronics...
As I mentioned before we layer up a lot of stuff on the records and then worry about playing them live later on. So what tends to happen is I'll track real drums on a song, but when we add additional programmed stuff on top of it. So the Roland triggers are used to perform those extra parts at the same time, which often gets a little tricky! The whole setup is based around an SPD-SX which is still a phenomenal bit of kit, then I have a mixture of trigger pads, bar triggers, kick triggers and acoustic triggers connected to that. We expanded the number of triggers we can use by adding a Roland TM-2 to the setup. It means that I can actually perform the electronic parts, rather than just pushing play on a backing track and sitting there like a lemon.
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?
On the first album tour there wasn't much staying healthy going on as we partied pretty hard most nights as everything was so new and exciting. Now that we're more established we've calmed down a bit, so we make sure to go out and see something of every city that we're in to help avoid cabin fever setting in. We all have our own exercise routines that we'll do most days, but frustratingly the rest of my band aren't really arsed about football so that rules out 5 a side! It's really important to do both of those things, as it is really easy to accidentally get yourself into a reclusive little bubble where you go tour bus-dressing room-stage-repeat. We have had largely the same crew with us since day one and they would most certainly give us a talking to if we started operating outside the realms of the real world.
What’s your favourite piece of gear you own? Are you a vintage Drum lover?
I have a load of vintage stuff for recording that I love. My 50s 15" hi hats have been on pretty much every album that we've ever done. But my new favourite toy is a bell brass snare drum from Masters Of Maple in LA. You need two hands to lift it and it sounds immense, you can hear it on the last single we did 'Whatcha Gonna Do?' If I had to save one thing from a fire though, it would be my one of a kind Premier 'Plymouth' One Series snare. Keith from BDC made it for me when he was still at Premier, and that thing came around the world with us on the Bad Blood tour. You can hear that one on the collaboration we did with Haim called 'Bite Down'.
How are you keeping yourself busy during these strange times?
I'm a father of two. So that keeps me incredibly busy. Inbetween that I try and cram in the record label and remote recording stuff.
If you had any advice for your younger self what would it be?
A student loan is not free money.
What’s next for you? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I still love playing with the band so I hope that we get to keep on doing this. I would love to expand the label into a larger entity and keep on making music with anyone who wants me. So basically, more of the same.
Finally, can you share a quick tip or give us a small exercise you always use?
Practicing to a metronome can be boring (but incredibly necessary!!!) so if you're working on an exercise, try using a programmed R&B or Hip Hop track as your metronome instead. 99.9% of tracks in those genres are programmed in the computer so they'll likely have a consistent tempo, they're more fun to listen to than a click track and you also get to hear what the exercise sounds like against actual music. Don't be a bedroom drummer, playing with other musicians is infinitely more fun and satisfying!
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