The life Of… a Session Drummer

By Robert Moutrey, Drummer (Crocodiles, MACHIINE & Moody Gowns and many more)

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Survival Guide Edition 1

Interview with Robert Moutrey, Drummer (Crocodiles, MACHIINE & Moody Gowns etc)

Briefly explain your role. How does this tie in to the band generally?

Crocodiles originally set out as a noise-pop duo in 2008, performing with guitars and drum machines. As their experience grew and their tastes changed, so did their style,  sound   and   composition.   They   expanded   into a five-piece band including bass, keys and drums, and their songs became more melody focused with emphasis on composition.

Ultimately, this meant that the rhythm section took more of a backseat to vocals and guitar. However, this didn’t mean to say the rhythm section was less important. Writing and composition of Crocodiles’ songs is carried out by Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell, but they need a drummer to interpret the parts that are recorded… that’s where I come in.

I translate recorded drums and percussion from Crocodiles’ records and re-interpret them for live performance. My role is to provide a solid and reliable rhythmic backdrop for the rest of the band to play on top of during live performances. Essentially, I drum for Crocodiles on TV, radio and international tour dates.

 

What steps would you recommend students take to try and become a paid musician?

Become part of a wider musical community and whatever that involves. It’s easy to fall into the trap of locking yourself away and practicing your instrument ‘9 to 5’ like someone will walk past your practice studio, stop, and think “hey, I like that, I’m gunna ask ‘em to play with me”. Take chances, get out and meet new people... it’s different for drummers or instrumentalists. Money in music goes towards melodies and lyrics as they are the main source for royalties. There is money from the gig fees but they’re usually split evenly (between band members) after  expenses.  Bearing  this  in mind, don’t let anyone tell you that you are spreading yourself too thinly.

If someone asks you if you want to jam… go! Have a few beers and make new friends. But then think about the outcome. Friends are friends but they won’t  pay  your bills for you. If they’re wasting your time, get out and find someone else who wants to put the work in… oh yeah, don’t do any ‘pay-to-play’ gigs!

 

What five tips would you give to someone for working successfully in a professional environment?

  1. Hit the ground running. First impressions mean everything. Before I turned up to my Crocodiles audition (if you could call it that - the guys are pretty relaxed), I had been playing along to all of their songs for at least three weeks. I turned up to the practice studio and it was just Charlie on guitar and his girlfriend at the time sketching out the melodies. Nothing like what I had anticipated.  But  I  played like we were performing to 2000 people because I was prepared. There was no way I was going to fluff that opportunity!
  2. Make notes, take notes, listen and take no notice    of what others do. Most likely other people in your position work  differently,  but  it  doesn’t  matter.  Do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel comfortable. So long as you hit it, no one will care. Ultimately, you’ll probably end up relying on your memory anyway.
  3. Be adaptable, both personally and technically. I have met some great players, but if you’re an      no one wants to work with you. At the end of the day it’s a job like any other, if you don’t like being told what to do, write your own music!
  4. Write your own music. Being able to offer options/ opinions on say, how to end a song, where the middle eight could go, how that harmony of the backing vocals should sound etc.; these are all very useful skills.
  5. Make sure your equipment works and that you have a backup.

 

How proficient/flexible on your instrument do you need to be?

This depends on the type of music you like to play. Personally, I’m a fan of old 60s/70s pop, ‘rock and roll’ and punk. This means that my job as a drummer is to play to the song; no showboating. If someone wants me to spice something up a bit I can cobble together some cheeky bossa nova or whatever, but ultimately the more I noodle the less likely I am to get hired.

When playing for other people it is most important to respect their vision and play to that. You only ever need to be as flexible as the songwriter/artist needs you to be. Proficiency on the other hand, well, if you can’t play what they want you to play... you’re at a loss.

 

Is this something you can make a living from?

It’s difficult to make a living from drumming alone. It is not my sole source of income. I know people who do rely on it to pay their bills and one day I hope to achieve that also. But I’m not put off by the idea that I have to build   a reputation and I have to work hard, not just in music but in other areas too. Earning a living purely from playing the drums will ultimately mean many months away from home, staying in a different bed every night and living out of a suitcase.

Sometimes you have to play shows that you don’t want to play. Sometimes you come away from a three month tour without the money to pay the rent. I’m quickly getting used to the idea that I will never own a home. You just have to be pragmatic about the whole thing and not lay all your hopes on that mansion in Beverley Hills.

 

How important is networking?

There are two sides to music: there’s the ‘industry’ and then there’s the ‘community’. Networking, I would assume, is incredibly important to those working in the industry; going to the right nights, meeting all the right agents etc. First of all, I’m probably not good enough to drum for the likes of Adele or Drake or other ‘Industry’ professionals, and second, I wouldn’t want to. That’s not me.

For me it’s about community and by that I don’t mean the holding hands and singing prayers kind of community. I mean people who go to real venues, listen to real music and have real feelings... ha! No but seriously, there is a touring circuit out there that pays reasonable money to serious musicians. We’re not talking life changing amounts of money, but if you’re sensible and  you  know  your  local promoters, booking agents, man with a van etc. it’s possible to arrange a small UK/European tour yourself. Just make sure you’ve got the right paperwork and a satnav! 

 

If you could look back and give yourself one piece of advice when you started out, what would it be?

Be patient and know your music history, not just know it… but enjoy it! When I first moved to London to find a band I must have played with ten different groups and met with at least 30 different people to discuss projects.

I was so desperate to get off the ground with music that  I didn’t give myself time to go out and appreciate what was already out there. That would have been a far more productive use of my time. Instead, I worked myself into a rut. None of those projects ever turned out into anything and only from a mutual connection did my phone ring with Crocodiles on the other end. Sometimes, you just have to wait.

 

Briefly describe what touring life is like?

You  wake up, you spend six to ten hours in the back of     a van, set up your instruments, if you’re lucky you get to wander around a new city, then you play, pack up and maybe get a bed for the night. It’s not as glamorous as    it sounds. But sometimes,  the  stars  align.  The  sound on stage is incredible, the audience literally climbs on stage, there’s only a two hour drive  the  next  day and the accommodation is upstairs so you can party all night. And most importantly, you’re doing what you do best, with the best people you can think of and no one can touch you... until the van breaks down and the French mechanic looks at your hungover state and shakes his head disapprovingly!


Robert Moutrey

Drummer (Crocodiles, MACHIINE & Moody Gowns etc)

By Robert Moutrey, Drummer (Crocodiles, MACHIINE & Moody Gowns and many more)

Survival Guide Edition 1

Interview with Robert Moutrey, Drummer (Crocodiles, MACHIINE & Moody Gowns etc)

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