Q&A: Craig Blundell
6 June 2012
For over 30 years, Craig Blundell has dedicated hour upon hour studying his trade and has gradually built up his profile and reputation over the last few years as a true ambassador for British drumming on the international scene, carving his own unique path to become one of the very best drum clinicians and educators in modern day drumming.
What is your earliest memory of drumming?
I remember playing along on a load of Tupperware pots and pans in my mum and dads kitchen when I was about 3 years old; I was the evenings entertainment. There are some pictures in circulation, even back then, my left hand was a bit weak!
What was your most embarrassing moment behind a drum kit?
That's a great question, I have so many. 1) I once left my bass drum pedals behind on a previous gig when I was in Ireland so had to kick a bass drum mic for the whole night while my snare was on a stool as I forgot the snare stand, it was a shocking gig. 2) I did a bingo cabaret gig in 1990 with Shirley Bassey in Wales and told everyone about it. I was so nervous, I did the gig and couldn't help thinking the audience weren't paying her much respect and she wasn't very good. I got her autograph for everyone I knew, turns out she was a Stars in their Eyes look-alike! 3) Playing a washboard at Thorpe Park in 1990 in a Dixie band has to be right up there also.
Who would you consider your favourite or most influential drummer, teacher or otherwise and why?
It would have to be two people, Bob Waterhouse and Alan "Bomber" Mills, my two teachers that spent time with me when I joined the Royal Marines Band. These two guys will never know how much they motivated my need to get better and they are utterly the reason I do what I do today. Their guidance and knowledge build a massive foundation for my work ethic and my need to get better as a musician, I will never be able to thank them enough.
What would you consider the most defining moment in your career?
That very first session I did for Mike Rutherford working on some Celine Dion demos absolutely changed everything to the way my instrument is recorded. I was young naive and eager to impress by filling the track with lots of 'widdley' bits. The project didn't require it, it was a steep learning curve of playing for the song not yourself and one I couldn't comprehend and took many years to understand. I still had the day job and the thought of playing drums for a living was a dream. I made a good job of really screwing it up with my playing that day and will never forget that musical lesson. Everything changed from that day to how I play my instrument and the music I wanted to play for a living.
What’s your current equipment set-up and why do you choose it?
I have quite a weird set up, primarily because of the type of work I now undertake. toms wise I play 8", 12", 10", 8", across the top, 14", 16", floors, a beautiful 20" x 8" gong drum and an array of snares. All of which are the Premier Elite Series. They are such aggressive yet musical drums and are always a pleasure to work with whether it's live or in the studio.
Which drummers would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Another great question - Buddy Rich, my number one inspiration for the super human approach. Steve White, for being my long time close buddy and having phenomenal hands and has pretty much been my mentor in this industry. Tony Williams to share just how you play those fills in that time and space and to manipulate a kit so much. Marco Minnemann, another great that never ceases to make me smile with his amazing approach to pushing boundaries. Bill Bruford for his masterful approach to the art and John Heisman for pushing time signatures into the mainstream that had never been heard before.
What are your plans over the coming months?
I'm in the middle of a crazy time at the moment, I've just returned from Japan and have been in the studio to play on all the jingles/beds and incidentals for BBC Radio 2 which goes live in August. It's a huge honour for me to have my drums playing every 5 or so minutes on one of the biggest radio stations in the world. I'm still writing the second Dr oKtopUs album and then I need to record Frost's next album. I'm still writing and producing jingles for "TalkSport" as well as working on a couple of remixes for the summer. I have a big clinic tour for Roland in the UK then I have a tour of Ireland then its over to the US and Europe. August sees me host the "Freddie Gee" drum camp in Winchester alongside Whitey and then it's the small matter of cycling 928 miles in 10 days from John O'Groats to Land's End for charity. Finish all that and then a long lie down.
What are your feelings about the music industry in general?
Ah they have changed so much, times are changing, the industry is changing, it's a real challenge, the deadlines are shorter and the competition is staggering. All that said, I absolutely love it and wouldn't change a thing.
What is the most important advice you would give to an aspiring drummer?
Simple! Never give up, carve your own path, create your own identity and be true to yourself. Advice I always try to adhere to myself - it really does work.