MEET THE MUSICIANS: MATT BROOKS, DRUMS
Earlier this year we called on session drummer Matt Brooks to help us showcase some of the songs featured on our new Drums 2018 syllabus. Matt is a London-based session drummer, musical director and band fixer currently working with Matt Wills (Virgin EMI) among others. We asked Matt to tell us how he got into drumming, his career highlights, and advice for aspiring musicians, to get to know a bit more about the man behind the kit.
In your career to date, who have you played with and where have you played?
So far in my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to play the drums for Nicole Scherzinger, Meghan Trainor, Raleigh Ritchie, Allie X, Chlöe Howl, Julian Perretta, Marcus Collins and many more.
Stand out festivals are Glastonbury (for its rich musical heritage and esteem among musicians and the music industry), V Festival, Isle of Wight Festival, British Summer Time Festival and MTV Crashes in the UK, and SXSW in Texas, US.
Some of my favourite venues to play are the smaller ones like Birthdays, Oslo and Omeara (all in London) because they’re intimate and allow you to be close to the crowd which usually has a positive impact on the whole vibe of a show. Even with that said, the O2 Arena, KOKO Camden, and Kentish Town Forum in London, Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam, and Le Trianon in Paris - which are all larger venues - are some of my favourites.
What’s been your career highlight as a drummer?
Honestly, the biggest highlight of my career as a drummer has been being able to call drumming my career. Knowing that I’m able to do something I love and be paid for it, is always a great feeling and one that makes me feel very blessed.
What do you love most about what you do?
Since I started working in the music industry, I’ve gone from just drumming for the various artists I’ve worked for, to being in a position of leadership as a Musical Director (sourcing musicians and arranging the songs for live shows). I’m beginning to really love this aspect of what I do because I get to work with artists from early on in their careers and help play a part in helping their careers progress and being an instrumental part of that.
Aside from that, going on stage and playing shows is fun, and most of the time, you’re doing it with friends so it’s a great experience.
What inspired you to learn the drums?
I wanted to play drums for as far back as I can remember but I didn’t have the opportunity. At around 11 years of age, my church got a drum kit and I remember just going and hitting it after services until one day I went to do the same thing and found myself playing a groove. The music of a Gospel artist called Fred Hammond was a key part of my development and in particular, his album ‘Pages of Life: Chapters 1 & 2’.
How did you learn to play the drums?
I’m what is considered “self taught”. For the first few years of learning to play the drums, I didn’t have a drum kit. I would sit down and air drum/play on my hands and knees while listening to albums and try to memorize the music and the drum parts and the more I did that, the more it made sense to me and I was able to apply what I was learning into my playing. Also, playing in church and being thrown in at the deep end really helped. I remember the first time I played and it didn’t go well so I was taken off and the drummer at the time took over. That made me want to get better, and also the pressure of performing in front of a crowd prepared me for the stages I’d play on as a professional and were a key part of my development.
What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Don’t turn your nose up at small beginnings. We all have the visions of 90,000 people in Wembley screaming, all of the best gear and techs to set it up for us, but the chances are, your career won’t start like that. Be hungry and passionate about what you do and be willing to put the work in. The right attitude and work ethic will open the doors to the opportunities you’re seeking but, in the words of Guvna B, “If you don’t put the work in, how’s it gonna work out!”
What do you think is the #1 skill needed by professional drummers?
It would be wrong if I didn’t answer: good timing (lol), but alongside that, the more I play the more that I realise it’s the small things that make the difference, for example: playing 16th note hi hats with one hand instead of two. Even though the same amount of notes are played in the bar, the way the groove (and consequently the song) will feel, is different. Knowing when to use these approaches (and other methods that create similar results) will really increase your employability.
Aside from, and in some cases more importantly than, the music, I would say people skills are the #1 skill any musician should possess. Knowing how to work as a team and within a team is important. When the pressure is on, still being able to communicate in a kind and polite manner goes a long way and being easy to work with and likeable will get you more work than being the world’s best musician with a terrible attitude.
Who are your musical heroes and what would your dream collaboration be?
As artists, Fred Hammond/Commissioned and John P. Kee were instrumental in my musical development and it was always a dream of mine to play with one of them.
As drummers, Marvin McQuitty (Fred Hammond, Israel & New Breed) and Donavan Hepburn (Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Take That, Adele) have been most influential to me in terms of my approach to the drums and my style of playing. I’ve also been influenced heavily by Dennis Chambers, Bernard Purdie, Calvin Rodgers, Travis Barker, Abe Laboriel Jr, Vinnie Colaiuta and many more.
The artists I’d love to work with now would be Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Nile Rodgers.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently the Musical Director and drummer for Matt Wills (Virgin EMI), and Tayá (Atlantic Records) and I’ve just started back as the Musical Director for Chlöe Howl (who I used to tour with a few years back). I also have a few projects that I’ll be setting up for next year (although I’m unable to give names for the time being).
Watch Matt put his spin on some of the songs in our new Drums syllabus and hear why he thinks they’re such great tracks to learn in our Drums 2018 Showcase. You can also watch full-length versions of the songs in Matt’s Drums 2018 Sessions
Find out more about Matt: mattjabrooks.comwww.facebook.com/MattJABrooks twitter.com/mattjabrooks www.instagram.com/mattjabrooks