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LUCIUS BORICH: SYDNEY DRUM & PERCUSSION SHOW INTERVIEW

Lucius Borich

Let’s face it, pressed to name the members of any band, most people will tell you who the singer and guitarists are. It’s an unfortunate fact of life but knowing the drummer’s name is a less likely scenario. Sure there are exceptions but in general it’s not the guy sitting at the back of the stage pumping out the beat who will earn the bulk of the spotlight. In Australia, this even more evident … so when you actually ARE known by name for your drum skills, such as COG’s Lucius Borich, it says a lot about your stature as a musician. Lucius has been playing drums since he was three years old and has become one of Australia’s most accomplished drummers. It was a no-brainer to invite him to perform at the inaugural Sydney Drum & Percussion Show and AM’s Greg Phillips was thrilled to catch up with Lucius to chat about his career and the upcoming drum show.

You are playing at our Sydney Drum & Percussion Show on May 27th. You recently presented a drum clinic at Park Sound Factory in Wollongong. What kind of things did the audience there want to know from you?
There were some good questions actually, like what’s the most important thing do you think you should focus on? My answer to that was to try and find a space to practice. Drummers can sometimes have quite a frustrating time because it’s a loud instrument, to find a good space to do what they actually need to do. We spoke about that quite a lot.  There was a different range of age groups there so I tried to incorporate everybody. For the young young kids, I took it back to when I was young, living in units and flats and trying to get creative with how to practice. Whether it’s air drums or beat boxing, because I didn’t actually have a drum kit until I was about 11.  My very first drum kit when I was about 3  but was unfortunately was stolen when I was about 4 or 5.  Then I didn’t have one for ages and it was kind of tricky, so that question was pretty good. We got to come up with something pretty creative, possibly things people hadn’t thought about.

Did you attend drum clinics when you were younger?
I went to a few but they were very few and far between. But I do distinctly remember going to some really cool ones.  I went to Billy Cobham, which was fantastic.  I saw Simon Phillips and at that point and I was studying him quite hard, so he was exciting to see. Doane Perry from Jethro Tull, I saw him.  I was pretty fortunate because my dad’s a musician and he’s always had pretty great Australian drummers and we’d go and watch some of these gigs.  I never had drum lessons, I was all self taught.  It was all based on watching, listening and asking questions while I had the chance to sit with these great drummers.  The other thing I got that was quite informative were VHS tapes which I had to use.  You probably remember those back in the day … Steve Smith and Steve Gadd … they were all releasing videos. So they were really informative and they helped as well. So between having the drum space to practice when I was about 12, the videos and watching some live stuff, it was my world, my drumming practicing world.

You say you studied Simon Phillips, who joined a later version of The Who. Were you also a Keith Moon fan?
Yeah I was, I mean Simon was one of the guys I listened to a lot and Billy Cobham. They were around at the same time.  I didn’t really focus on one or the other. Obviously he was the one that came through town to do the drum clinic.  He must have been playing at Townsville at the time.  From the late 60’s, 70’s all the drummers were a big influence on me, Mitch Mitchell, John Bonham, Keith Moon.  My dad was a big Hendrix fan so I listened to a lot of Mitch Mitchell and he came from a jazz background so all that dexterity, that was really informative.

What about the new breed of drummers? Any that you’re currently impressed by?
That’s a really good question because everything is really just sound bites now. It’s only 30 seconds to a minute on Youtube or Facebook. You start out in terms of a whole gig or an album, like how is it been done in the past and has it been done with integrity. Are these drummers as good as they show themselves in these little snippets, these 30 seconds, one minute snippets? It’s quite interesting.  You see the different social media platforms and how they produce themselves… how they look outside the practice room, online and stuff.  There are a lot of bedroom warriors, like we all were back in day and now they have a format they can integrate.  For me it’s hard to tell because it’s just soundbites. I can’t see whether they are a really good drummer or not. I got my idea of what a good drummer was by listening to a whole record or seeing a whole performance live. A lot of stuff I’m seeing now is all recorded. It’s probably chopped up before it’s released to the public and there’s bugger all live footage.  A lot of these drummers are getting a lot of hits and views.  It might be just in the practice room or something, which is fine. It’s a space, which is important for growth of course but I reserve my judgement.  What are they like when they perform live? What are they like when they are in the studio cutting an album? You know … 3 or 4 albums. What are they like when they do a drum solo in front of people, not just in the bedroom and stuff like that.
If I take it back to the early nineties, I really liked Jimmy Chamberlin from Smashing Pumpkins. I thought he had quite a jazz approach and he was playing in a rock format. I really enjoyed his playing and solid playing, like John Stanier from Helmut and Battles and Danny Carey from Tool, who’s very good.  I get my inspiration from other areas really but there are great drummers and they’re awesome and it’s really great to watch how individually people are developing.  It’s such a wide spectrum now, it’s incredible. I only imagine if I had that amount of interaction online to view, where my playing would be at now, there’s so much variety.   It could be to the detriment too because people are spending too much time watching other people instead of developing their own stuff. There’s some great players out there obviously  but I just reserve my judgment because I find it very hard to distinguish whether they say they are or who they actually are, that they are playing what they are actually playing and they haven’t been sliced and diced and edited.  It’s incredible how it’s going, people are getting all sorts of deals and sponsorships based on small pieces.  It doesn’t matter, it’s just how it’s all come about these days.

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You’re playing our very first Sydney Drum & Percussion Show. What can punters expect to see from you?
I’m going to do something based on my recordings with COG. I think I did some good work there, coming up with my own ideas for the songs. I can integrate some of my electronics with the organic. I cross both together.  So I’ll be playing some songs from COG, which I think is some of my best playing that I’ve done on those recordings.  I’ll do that live and I’ll see where it goes really. I don’t like to have too much structure. I mean the structure will be in the  songs but if I feel like doing a bit of a improvisation at the end … I might do something like that.  It will be more performance based I think. I really want to bring forth what I play in a songwriting context … of a whole song. I think there’s enough chops in all the songs, enough cross rhythms to have a bit of a bullet spectrum there for any drummers to wrap their teeth around.

You played Frank Corniola’s Ultimate Drummers Weekend before. Do you like mixing with other drummers at events like that?
Yeah drummers are a very happy bunch, they are fun people. The characters I’ve been around in the past, it has always been a enjoyable and its always a lot of fun.  When we get serious, we get inward but I also know it’s a lot of fun. The drumming community is quite tight and quite healthy and we know we are the foundation of all music.  It’s good to get together and honour that part of what we do with our role within music and being a musician. So developing that and conversations backstage, watching each other, it’s always a lot of fun.

You play DW drums. What factors are important to you in a good drum kit?
I look for something that’s pretty easy … straight out of the box, you don’t have to do too much and it sounds pretty good. It’s obviously going to depend on budget. I’ve also played kits I’ve found on the street at gigs,  something that someone has thrown out.  I’ll just grab that and see how it sounds. I will work with it and I’ll see if I can produce something out of it .  I’ve played some big festivals with drums that haven’t even got a brand on it. But I’ve been with DW now for 20 odd years.  The durability in them is something I look for definitely.  If you’ve got a budget to spend that amount of money, you definitely want durability.  Obviously the tone too.  Before I was with DW, I used to play with Gretsch and before that, I played with Tama and Pearl and I had a lot of snares  I did have a good range and variety and I think it really helped. By trying different brands, I was able to see what was comfortable  and what sound suited me. It was a long period of growing and being a drummer and and working through different brands and seeing what suited.  Finally I think the DW suited me because of the durability and strength.  I have never had a problem with tuning them. I’ve got a PDP kit as well and the old wooden hoops and I used that on many gigs. I have a top of the range DW kit but I still do play the PDP. I have a variety of snare drums. Matt from Love Drums makes beautiful snare drums and has made me a few. I did the Glenn Proudfoot album a couple of months ago and I used that one snare, a 13 inch  and it was fantastic. He’s an Australian craftsman and we work well together, so much so that we have come up with a brand of drumsticks called Ascension drum sticks with him.

Matt basically approached me about the snares. He brought me a few and I was very impressed. So I worked with it in the studio and then live a few times with COG and we struck up a good friendship. Then he said, I have just invested in this drum stick making machinery and I want to get into making sticks. He asked where I was at with the sticks I use and endorsements etc. I said I had been with Vic Firth for a long time and they are a great brand and liked playing with their sticks. I didn’t know whether I should move on from them but I said to him, if you think you can cut the mustard with an Australians drum stick, something that really has the durability and flexibility that I need, let’s have a look at it.  So he did some tests and stuff and before I made the announcement which was only 4 weeks or so ago to say I was now with Ascension, we’d worked on it for about a year and a half before that. We’d been shaping and going back and forth and saying, no it needs more work. I thought  If I am going to leave Vic Firth, and do this then I don’t want to just be an endorsee, just the face of the brand. I’d like to invest my time and energy into being part of the business and co-managing it on all levels. Once I had the sticks that I was happy with, I thought OK now I am going to have the conversation with Vic Firth and they were more than happy to see me branch off with my own company. I wasn’t being sponsored by someone else, it was different. I wasn’t leaving because I didn’t like Vic Firth, it was a whole new business venture. It’s all made in Melbourne and I take a lot of pride in that. It’s a really satisfying feeling making Australian drumsticks that are durable and flexible and we are getting great feedback.  So we’ve been going 4 months and things are going pretty well.

You’ve just come off a run of dates with COG that were all sold out. That must be a great feeling to know you’d be playing to full houses each night?
It was amazing. You have a break and sit back and tend to other parts of your life that need tending to. You think you know that you have produced something special in the past but then you think, does it still have value? Is it relevant still? If we put on shows, will anyone care? When Luke and Flynn and I made the decision to do it, there was  a bit of nervousness. I mean, we thought we could pull some people but to sell out all the shows within a  day and put on more shows which also sold out, it humbled us beyond belief. It was quite emotional really. People were so happy to see us play again and the vibe was really relaxed and everyone was enjoying each others company. I made the decision to move up north and the other guys are up there too. We thought, well people have come out and proved that they still like the music and proved that they want more so let’s make some more music. So I made a decision with the family to move us all around the same area and get busy and write more material. It gives us the confidence as an independent band to push it forward and open the next chapter. We’re in house we can record and produce ourselves. We’re hoping to get a couple of songs out by the end of the year. We’ve come up with some nice little sound bites at rehearsals for the shows we just did. Someone would say, quick turn the tape on and capture a groove or riff or bass line or something. So we’re really excited about that.

Cog Website – http://www.cog.com.au
Cog Facebook Official- https://www.facebook.com/COG-12878803369/
Ascension Drum Sticks – https://www.facebook.com/ascensiondrumsticks/?fref=ts
Lucius Borich Drums – https://www.facebook.com/Lucius-Borich-Drums-1423988967903754/
DW Drums Australia – https://www.daddario.com.au/pages/dw-drums

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