Through the Throes of a Musical Teenagehood

I was asked by James yesterday about my musical endeavours; specifically how I began as a metalcore vocalist and moved to drumming in various styles. The story is not too long but I figured to pen it here due to some of the undercurrents which are at the foundation of the change in musical tastes and the social aspects of it all.

I suppose I was about thirteen or fourteen when it really started, making this tale begin in 2010. Me and my friends in an unspectacular English secondary school were all heavily into music, specifically forms of metal or rock to varying degrees. Two of the loudest amid the group, who tended to lead things, were very much into the “scene” or “emo” subculture at least in their musical tastes, and things sort of culminated in us all — I think the group of friends peaked at nine-strong, but the band(s) were of four or five — forming projects and writing songs and so forth in school.

I, due to the fact that I was the only person who wanted to, ended up a vocalist for any little projects which popped-up. At the time, bands like Rise Against, Saosin, 30 Seconds to Mars and others were what I was listening to — in fact it was Rise Against’s The Sufferer and the Witness which was the first album I ever bought; second came 30 Seconds to Mars’ A Beautiful Lie, and so on. All sort of emotional semi-pop angst-ridden teenager music; very stereotypical.

Time went on, and after a year or so of nonsense I switched to drums. I cannot remember exactly how the change occurred; I remember becoming extremely insecure and unconfident, and this obviously did not lend itself naturally to any frontmanship even despite the fact that I only received positive feedback for my singing, and had performed in choirs (one at Exeter Cathedral, actually) and various school projects with the music department (including a cover of Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer I remember well). Regardless, I recall being sat in my bedroom, breaking the handle of a plastic axe (likely for Hallow’een) into two “sticks” and beating upon a plastic set of draws a somewhat complex pattern in 4/4-time. Thus began an passion for drumming, for percussion, for making a lot of noise behind the mental security of a drum kit.

That Christmas, 2011, I received an old, broken mess of half a drum kit from my grandparents and set it up first in my bedroom, next in the conservatory, then at my grandparent’s house. I spent a few sneaky lunchtimes at school stealing parts I did not get with the kit… at least I put it all to good use, I suppose..?

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The next year for my 16th birthday my grandfather made a small room in my garage for the drums and my cousin’s amplifier and guitar, as he picked-up musicianship with me. We learnt together and jammed every weekend for about three years straight.

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…the drum kit and room increased in size…

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…and continued to grow and evolve…

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As this was all progressing over the course of three to four years, my taste in music changed quite drastically. Disillusioned with my social circle and the constant edgy, childish nonsense being pursued, I started listening to bands like Tool, Circa Survive, Mastodon, Opeth, and King Crimson. KC has been especially influential to me, in ways I cannot actually begin to articulate. The moving away from popular forms of metal and into progressive rock, the ambient music of NOBODY™, and various other bits and pieces encouraged a development in my drumming style; away from the straight, fast, loud drumming underpinning metal, and into softer, more complex, subtle forms of playing found elsewhere. The list of bands, artists and albums which underpinned this transition would be too long to write-out here.

In mid-2014, after dropping out from Exeter College and essentially losing all of my friends in the process of moving from secondary school to sixth-form and the subsequent leaving of sixth-form, I entered the Academy of Music and Sound. Unfortunately I dropped out from there for similar reasons I left Exeter College: disillusion with my social life and dissatisfaction with the college environment.

Nevertheless, I continued drumming. My cousin who had always jammed with me (as a guitarist) lost interest in playing guitar around this time, and I further lost the contacts I made at the Academy to my disappointment. Then, late last year, we moved house, losing the garage where the magic of youth was expressed in various fashions. That room was a sort of temple and its loss has been greatly demoralising — to say nothing of the aloneness a solo drummer undergoes without a band or anyone else to be creative with. Enough of all that, though.

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Maybe something will occur in the future, I hope it does. I will not be ceasing drumming any time soon. It is a form of meditation for me, a form of alchemy not quite like any other. It has stuck with me like little else ever has, and vice versa.

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