Life of a Drummer – Artistic Cycles – Growth and Creation

I have been playing music since I was a child. I have been playing the drums professionally for about four years, and I have considered myself an artist for about the same amount of time. I have always been an intense character with regards to things I’m passionate about. This manifests itself as obsession and compulsion, which has meant I’ve always pushed myself to practice hard, and practice often.

What tends to happen is a prolonged period of hard work, followed by a short period of sudden and explosive improvement. If I look back over key moments of the past few years, I can almost traces these rises and plateaus, and remember vividly how good I was at the time.

Jonathan Curtis
Sitting at Dave Weckl’s Yamaha PHX Hybrid kit.

However, these periods always seem to end the same way: I hit a brick wall where suddenly the very thought of practising would fill me with dread, and I would take a few weeks of half-hearted attempts at practice, with very little productivity actually occurring. This would generally make me feel very down, grating with my deep sense of inferiority and my competitive instincts. After a week or two of lethargy, I would suddenly find myself inspired, with new vigour and lots of motivation, the cycle would begin again – prolonged, slow, hard work, sudden, explosive improvement, and then the brick wall.

This has continued for most of my playing life, and continues to this day to a lesser or greater extent. However, I have come to realise, especially since I began work on the Eclectic Band, that the brick wall event is actually a cue to stop working myself, and to start working on my creations, so to speak. It feels like my mind and body’s way of marking a switch from self-improvement to artistic growth. It always seems to correlate that the less I practice during a day, week, or month, the more I work on new musical material and other creative ventures. It is common, if I have not done my customary x amount of hours practice, that I will instead work furiously in my office with keyboard, bass, and Sibelius, scoring out new material and fleshing out ideas.

It seems, then, that I’m a cyclical creature, and my artistic tendencies come in phases which alternate between desperate self-improvement, and desperate creativity. Reading this, you may start to gain an impression that I am a monk-like artistic avatar, where my every waking breath is dedicated to art; it isn’t, and I’m not, but if drumming is my job and you consider how much of your week is consumed by your job, it equates to a lot of time playing and thinking about drumming and music. Besides, I’m nowhere near relaxed enough to be a monk.

Chubby Brown

I’m back behind the kit on the Chubby Brown warm up tour next week. We’re on the east coast, then across to Manchester. I’m looking forward to working with the whole team a lot more in the future.

Eclectic Session

I’ve mentioned it already, but the Eclectic Band are back in the studio next week. I am rather excited. After another rehearsal with Steve on the guitar last night, I’m confident that the new material will sound great.

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Quote of the Week

It’s only art if it has the potential to be a disaster.

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