An evening with Gavin Harrison

So, yesterday it was quite a day.The weather was crap unlike the previous days, but who cares?

Gavin Harrison was in London for a clinic in Wembley Drum Centre. I arrived there with my flatmate at around seven o’clock, just a bit before the doors opened. The tickets were courtesy of this fellow gentleman and colleague.

Waiting... to be born again...
Waiting… to be born again…

We were just sitting and waiting until 19:30, when Gavin Harrison finally walked in and stood behind the kit, welcoming us with some nice English jokes.

He started playing the Porcupine Tree song, “The Sound of Muzak” where he totally nailed it, of course.

Gavin Harrison nailing "The Sound of Muzak"
Gavin Harrison nailing “The Sound of Muzak”

Then, the questions started.

I will keep the most interesting ones archived here. First one:

“Do you plan your fills at all, or you come up with them and compose them totally on the spot?”

“I used to have my fills archived into a library-toolbox of fills and every time, I was thinking of which of these fills could sound cool in a particular part of the song.
Then, I realised that many times, I was just playing a very simple and indifferent fill to fill the silence because I couldn’t fit in the one I had in mind.
And then I just stopped having a library. I just kept styles of fills named with names that are easy for me to connect them with what I am doing.
For example, ‘curl’ means that I am starting from a low pitched tom and I am working my way up the kit, but I don’t know what I will play exactly. It’s a bit of a gamble, but after practicing and practicing, it pays of.
This way, you sign every fill with your signature, because every one of us is unique and this way you let yourself being creative instead of playing somebody else’s fills.”

He also referred to the fact that he uses 5 over 4 all the time in his fills as well as the pattern RLRRL, because it really sounds interesting -indeed it does- and demonstrated it while playing the intro and the bell part of the song slippin’ away.

Also he repeated once again when he was asked a question about double bass drumming that he always starts with the right foot and he always plays singles.

These were the main technical and interesting questions. For me, the most important and inspiring thing he said yesterday was the following:

It’s not so much about talent, it’s much more about determination.

Then, he continued with the following story:

“When I was really young back in the 70’s I had my first lessons with a tutor in London that he had a really modern approach to drumming compared to other drummers.

He convinced me to play matched grip and he gave me some exercises to work on.

The exercises were really hard and he couldn’t play them in the following lesson(s). So his tutor told him:

“Kid, it’s not about the five quid, -this was the price for drumlessons back then- come back again when you are able to play these exercises.”

Then Gavin went back home determined to work on the exercises and it took three months before he was back, playing them to him.

During this time interval, he had negative thoughts like: “probably the other students were done in 10 days” etc, but he continued practicing hard.

When he asked his tutors how fast the other drummers went back to him, he responded:

“You are the only one who came back.”

Well, this is a very big lesson, no matter what you do in life.

Just keep your head down working on your stuff and stop being ambiguous, making bad thoughts about everything.

It takes a leap of faith for the nice things to happen.

And I am writing these words while I am considered to be really cynical and pessimistic about everything.

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