The Pisces Rising at Summer In The City

I am delighted to announce that I’ll be playing percussion in a live orchestral performance for The Pisces Rising – a popular YouTube channel which re-orchestrates well-known theme tunes into large, epic-sounding masterpieces – at this year’s Summer In The City YouTube festival at the ExCel in London.

The performance will be on the main stage at half-past-five this Saturday, 11th August.

Lack of updates…

I don’t generally make ‘New Years resolutions’ – but one thing I did want to do as of the start of this year was to update this page more, and be more active here. So far, not so good…!

So what has been going on? Lots of work with Sistema in various local schools, which I am still enjoying and finding really rewarding. And lots of gigs with Ultra ’90s – in all it’s various flavours (Original, Fresh and Jam), both on drums/percussion and as a keys player and MD.

And in between all of that, we have had the eleventh annual Keyboard Camp this year, just one week ago. (More on that in a later post…) And I have been trying to get my studio setup and fully functional at my new house!

Beginnings of the new studio
Beginnings of the new studio

Having moved house at the end of summer last year, it has taken a little while to move all my gear across and start to get myself familiar with the new studio space. The big plan for this year is to get my recording work properly up-and-running, so I am going to try and start pushing that online a little more as I get everything finalised. Expect pictures and sound clips from the new studio sometime later this year!

Soundtrack recording session on marimba
Soundtrack recording session on marimba

There are also a few other exciting gigs and other opportunities coming up soon, which I shall be writing more about due course. I am currently writing this in a Costa just off the M5, on my way to another run of gigs in Devon on drums with Ultra ’90s – I’ll be home on Thursday night for a day or so, before heading straight back out on the road.

And as the year goes on, I hope that I’ll be able to stick to my ‘non-resolution’ of writing here more – and uploading ‘on-the-go’ a bit more! And, most importantly, that I’ll keep playing, keep teaching, and keep learning.

'Loading' the van – on tour with Axel Loughrey, 2010

Ten Years, No Day Job

March 2017 is something of a landmark for me, so here is a short piece of writing (and a few old pictures) all about it.

Cardiem live on BBC Radio Norfolk, 2009
Cardiem live on BBC Radio Norfolk, 2009.

It was back in March 2007 that I officially declared myself ‘a professional musician’. Nothing materially changed for having said it, of course – I was still doing one gig every few months, teaching two or three private students, and earning very little – but it meant something to have said it, to have ‘made it official’. It was a line in the sand.

'Loading' the van – on tour with Axel Loughrey, 2010
‘Loading’ the van – on tour with Axel Loughrey, 2010.

I registered myself officially self-employed not long later (although it would be another couple of years before I was earning enough for that to have any real tax implications), and I joined the Musicians’ Union. And I resolved not to give in to any of the pressures to get a ‘real job’ (even just while I was building up my income from music).

In the ten years since then, I have gone from intermittent gigs and two or three students to having a thriving business gigging, recording, teaching, writing and arranging music (and – yes – doing actual tax returns).

Crystal Bats at Norwich Arts Centre, 2013
Crystal Bats at Norwich Arts Centre, 2013.

I have had some amazing opportunities, and met – and worked with – some incredible people. From my work with the Sistema programme, and the chance to travel to Europe and perform at iconic venues like Milan’s La Scala, to touring with Axel Loughrey, Ultra ’90s, Crystal Bats, etc…

I have learnt a lot, improved as a person and as a musician, developed new skills, and done things I never expected I’d be able to. And along the way, I have played some huge shows, made some really fun records, I have recorded tracks at my own studio, and seen my students go on to study music at university and start to build their own successful careers in the industry.

Showing the Carrera Cherry Custom at London Drum Show 2014
Showing the Carrera Cherry Custom at London Drum Show 2014.

Obviously, I am hugely grateful for everyone who has been supportive over the last ten years – especially right at the start…

Too many people to mention have helped me, supported me and given me advice in that time. But a few who deserve mentioning in particular are Rory Marsden, Simon Dring, Chris and Kelly at PXP, Ivan at Pellwood Drumsticks, and Dave Carrera.

Recording keys for Jamie Roe Band, 2015.
Recording keys for Jamie Roe Band, 2015.

There is so much left to do, and so many more goals I want to achieve… The last ten years have been hard work, incredibly difficult at times, and the whole thing has often seemed hugely daunting – but most of all, they have been more fun, and more rewarding, than I could have ever hoped. Which is why I can’t wait for the next ten years.

Production Rehearsals with Ultra ’90s

I have played drums for Ultra ’90s almost since the show’s inception in 2008 – and more recently, I have played percussion with the new Ultra ’90s Fresh lineup as well. However, with the popularity of Ultra ’90s expanding quicker than ever, I am very excited to have been offered the chance to take on a new role, leading yet another lineup as an MD, keys player and vocalist.

So despite playing hundreds of Ultra ’90s gigs on drums, I am spending four days this week at Thatspace in Rochdale with Chris and Kelly from PX Productions, relearning the set on keys and programming my synth rig with the correct sounds and samples – plus developing new skills, including working in Chamsys to patch and programme lights, and rapping!

Synths with Ultra '90s
For the gear nerds… Synth rig with Ultra ’90s: Nord Stage2, Nord Wave, and Moog Little Phatty

The rehearsals are long days –there is a lot to get through in a ninety-minute show packed with high-energy ’90s dance classics – but I am relishing the chance to push myself to be better and become and more versatile, more well-rounded musician with a plethora of skills to offer.

I will still being gigging with Ultra ’90s and Ultra ’90s Fresh as a drummer and percussionist this coming year as well, but I am enjoying seeing the show from a new angle, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to gig a set I know well in a totally different way.

There will be ‘official’ publicity shots for the latest incarnation of Ultra ’90s online soon, and I will be posting the dates of my first shows as MD when I can – so keep an eye out for all of that… In the meantime, here is a gallery of shots from the first couple of days in rehearsal.

Sistema Europe Summer School in Milan

I am delighted to have been chosen to be one one of the tutors going to this year’s Sistema Europe Summer Camp, which is being held in Milan, Italy; a colleague from Sistema in Norwich and I will be going with a delegation from Sistema England, to work for eight days with students and other tutors from Sistema-inpired projects based across Europe.

This is a very exciting opportunity for me to work with some fantastic music professionals and to learn from them – and to be more involved with the Sistema movement as a whole, to just here in Norwich but throughout Europe.

Keep checking back here after 21st August for more updates on my time working with the Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra in Italy, and all the wonderful activities we get up to!

Carrera Drums announcement

As most people will know, I have been a proud ambassador for Carrera Drums since the start of 2011, and have been honoured to play their drums and be involved with the company for the past four years.  Everywhere I go – on live shows and in recording studios – I get compliments on my Carrera gear from artists, from other musicians, and from engineers and producers.

Sadly, however, Carrera Drums is winding up in spring of this year, and will cease trading as of the end of March.  This is the official announcement from the Carrera Drums website:

It is with the deepest sadness that we have to announce that Carrera Drums will stop trading as of the 31st March 2015.

Dave Carrera has fought serious health issues over the last 3 years which have now deteriorated to such a level that he has decided to focus on attempting to recover or stabilise his condition which, even with good extraction, a dusty workshop hinders.

We have all had fun making some fine instruments for some of the finest drummers active today and want to thank everyone for there support, kindness and love over the last 5+ years.

Any works currently in progress will be completed and shipped before end of March 2015 and customers have been notified.

We are also selling all tools,stock and items via our eBay page, search for Carrera Drums, but welcome direct emails to info@carreradrums.com with sensible offers for our drum shell making molds and tooling which if agreed to, must be collected by end of March 2015 

Again, thank you to everyone who has helped us over the years and we wish you all every success in your futures. 

Yours sincerely 

The Carrera Drums Team

For my part, I am gutted to see Carrera Drums end in this way; their extraordinary attention to detail, high-quality craftsmanship and innovative way of thinking will be sorely missed in the UK drum building scene, and by the musicians who use and work with their products.  Of course, the health of Dave Carrera – whom I am lucky to consider a friend – is the most important thing, and I fully respect his decision – which can’t have been at all easy – and the reasons for it.  I will continue to use my Carrera Drums live and in the studio, and will be very proud to keep flying the flag for this amazing, ground-breaking company.

Carrera Cherry Custom
Carrera Cherry Custom

New Witchers track – ‘Undivided’

'Witchers' cover art
‘Witchers’ cover art

As you may have noticed, Witchers have been on something of a ‘hiatus’ lately.  We’ve been through a couple of line-up changes, and various of the band members’ personal lives have taken priority recently.  However, out long-awaited self-titled album Witchers will be finally be released this year, in May – after three years of work! – and tomorrow you will have an opportunity to listen to Undivided, one of the tracks from the album, on Soundcloud for the very first time.

Personally, I’m extremely proud of my involvement with Witchers and my playing on this album; it’s been a long time coming, but I can’t wait for people to hear the fruits of all our hard work!

The idea is that, as we get closer to the release date there will be some live shows (our first live appearances since Cambridge Rock Festival in August 2013!) to promote the album, and to get people talking about Witchers again.  I will be able to reveal more about these shows, and more about the record in general and its release, nearer the time.

In the meantime, however, please ‘Like’ Witchers on Facebook, and follow our Twitter account – and, most importantly, check out Undivided online tomorrow!  We love it, and we hope you will too!

Bones From My Back release date

Bones From My Back release date

I am delighted to be able to announce that my debut solo album, Bones From My Back, will be released on 8th December – and available to stream here at www.manek.org.uk from a week before (1st December).

Making this record has been quite a journey for me, and I can’t wait for people to hear the music I’ve been working on for the past year; I hope you’re all as excited about it as I am!

Witchers at Cambridge Rock Festival

Witchers at Cambridge Rock Festival

Witchers will be taking a break from finishing up work on the forthcoming album to make an appearance at the Cambridge Rock Festival on Friday 2nd August in a rare ‘back-to-the-roots’ set as a four-piece.

Our set is at midday on 2nd August, for forty minutes.  I’m really looking forward to playing live with Witchers again, and getting back into the festival scene.

If you want to come along, we have some tickets available from the band – you can get in touch with me here, or contact us through the Witchers Facebook Page.