Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Drummer Boy Follow Up

I was so astonished to hear and see the original Drummer Boy Solo youtube video (see original post HERE)that I did some more research. I found out that his name is Jacob Armen and the video was taped off a Johnny Carson show in the late eighties.

Jacob at 7 years old

Jacob 20 years on

Found this interview with him on Ragazzi:

At what age did you start drumming? Was the drum kit your first instrument? Do you play other instruments? Did you get any support by your family?

At 8 months old, my father held my hand and made me feel the pulse of the rhythm. I started to tap my hand to the downbeat of music. As my father explains to me, it would take 6 to 8 consecutive quarter beats for my timing to become shaky. At 18 months, my father had me sit behind a full 5-piece drum kit where he taught me how to play 2/4, 4/4, 6/8, 12/8, 5/4, 7/4, 9/4 and swing. I still feel a little weird watching myself play at that age in the video clips. If it weren't for my father, I probably would have not discovered drums at 8 months old or at any age for that matter. Since he is such an educated musician and an accomplished composer/keyboardist, I still have a lot to learn from him.

- Do you think your enormous technical abilities are a gift or was it hard work?

Well, if I call it a gift and thank the Man upstairs, you also need to religiously dedicate your time to it. So I think it's both.

- What inspirations do you have musically and apart from music?

Music is and will always be my greatest inspiration and apart from that, true people will always inspire me. Friendship is very important to me.

- Most of the drummers are either good in groove playing in 4/4 or in - a little stiff sounding - odd times - only a few like Vinnie Colaiuta or you can play "groovy" in odd times! How did you develop this ability? Can you recommend special exercises to improve grooving in odd times?

My being polyrhythmic has a lot to do with my cultural background because I don't think or attempt to play in any special way - it all comes naturally to me. My best advice to play "odd times" is to rather feel the pulse and not primarily focus on the count as much. Then it becomes natural.

- What do you like better - playing live or recording?

I am a performer and I love to play in front of an audience. But when I record music in an isolated studio atmosphere, instead of imagining people around me, I actually like to invite people during recording sessions. So I don't think of constructing rhythms and I just allow everything to fall in its place naturally.

- What musicians - dead or alive - would play in your "dream band" apart from you? What style would this band play?

Any accomplished musician who listens and absorbs other musicians without copying and has his/her signature in music is a type of musician I would like to form a band with. This will eventually evolve to a unique style, which will incorporate a lot of musical anticipations from all styles.

- If you got the chance to ask a deceased drum hero one question - whom would you ask and what would be your question?

I would ask Gene Krupa about his experience battling with Buddy Rich. "So who really was the intimidator?"

- What are your plans for the future? What things do you want to learn rhythmically and in general in your further life?

Life itself is a rhythm. Everyday you learn from nature. Everyday new discoveries are made with medicine. In other words, every discovery has a sequence, which creates its own rhythm. To me rhythm is such a deep, interesting, and endless topic that cannot be expressed in a couple of sentence. With this understanding, my goal in life is to take the level of my drumming as far as I can. And last but not least, to make my father proud.

Written by Frank Bender

Check out Jacob's Website.