It feels like only yesterday that I wrote a ten-year retrospective, looking back on a decade of working in music. But that was, in fact, a whole two years ago!
But over on social media, the #TenYearChallenge is all the rage. Clearly, I have always been ahead of the times… But I thought I would jump on that particular bandwagon, of an evening, and see where it takes me.
It’s actually been a lot of fun, looking for photos from gigs and sessions from ten years ago – just marginally before smartphones were ubiquitous, and everybody began to photograph everything – thinking about what has changed in that time, and what has stayed the same.
Witchers at The Haymarket, Cambridge (2009)
Ultra ’90s at The River Rooms, Stourbridge (2019)
I still have the t-shirt I’m wearing onstage with Witchers at the Cambridge Haymarket in 2009 (although the arm tattoo visible in the 2019 picture is a much more recent addition). The orange Premier Series kit moved on a couple of years later, when I became an official Carrera Drums Ambassador in 2011 – but I’m still rocking the unusual ‘equilateral triangle’ drum kit setup on the majority of my gigs, and I am still a proud endorser of Pellwood Drumsticks.
Playing with Cardiem was the first time I ever sang with a band – backing vocals, and then some lead vocals too. When the other guys decided that a song I had written for the band, Tongue-Tied Lullaby, should be one of the five we selected to record for our first EP – and that I should sing it – I was both flattered and extremely nervous, and I think the photo from the session in 2009 captures that.
Singing ‘Tongue-Tied Lullaby’ on the Cardiem EP at The Mill Recording Studio in Norfolk (2009)
Ultra ’90s Fresh at the Big ’90s Weekender in Hunters Quay, Dunoon (late 2018)
I never intended to sing with Cardiem at all, or to write lyrics, but Jamie was insistent that every member of the band should sing and more-or-less bullied me into it.
Fast-forward ten years (although the photo above is from November 2018, as we’re only a month into this year and no photos of me on vocals currently exist), where lead vocals are a regular part of most of my gigs – and, although we haven’t gigged together since 2015, Jamie is still sending me song demos he wants me to write lyrics for – and I am very glad that he did.
A lot has changed in the last ten years. But underneath it all, everything feels the same. From the desire to keep learning, keep playing, keep singing, and keep moving forward – to the bizarre array of faces I apparently can’t stop myself making when I play the drums.
Cardiem at The Blueberry, Norwich (2009)
Ultra ’90s at Orsett Hall Hotel, Thurrock (late 2018)
In 2009, I was still wondering whether this crazy idea of making my living from music would even work out for me at all. I dreamed of doing gigs and tours all over the country; of having my own recording studio; of having students with their own success stories.
I remember talking to seasoned pros about life in the music industry, and hearing their tales of how touring wasn’t all glamour and fun – the late nights, the bad load-outs, the travel, the food… I remember wondering how anyone could possibly complain about living the dream! These were problems I wished I had.
“God, if I can one day prop up a bar telling impressionable, wide-eyed young musicians who want what I have with every fibre of their being that gigging every night ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, then I’ll know I’ve really made it!” I thought.
A year later, in 2010, I got to see probably my favourite band of all time – The Hold Steady – live for the very first time. They were touring the UK promoting their latest studio album, Heaven Is Whenever. The fifth track on the record was the spookily apt Rock Problems.
She said I just can’t sympathize
The Hold Steady – Rock Problems
With your rock and roll problems
Isn’t this what we wanted?
Some major rock and roll problems
Ten years on – and only a few weeks out from going to my fifth The Hold Steady show – I still come back to Rock Problems any time I’m driving home late at night; or being woken up too early in a budget hotel; or tucking into yet another overpriced motorway service station sandwich; or sharing an airing cupboard-sized dressing room with eight other performers, a tarantula, a lizard and a meerkat. “Isn’t this what you wanted?” I ask myself.
Here’s to ten more years of rock and roll problems.