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Cathy and Nick Rich

Interview by Sean Mitchell // May 02 2009
Cathy and Nick Rich

My main goal in drumming is to just play from my heart and to really give back to the younger generation. I love kids, especially those who are enthusiastic in drumming.

Cape Breton is an island at the northern tip of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. The communities are modest, and the area boasts about 150,000 hard-working Cape Bretoners. Having been known primarily for their coal mining industry, it is not a place you would expect to find a major music festival, but since 2001 Cape Breton has been home to the world renown Cape Breton International Drum Festival. Creators Bruce Aitken and his wife, Gloria Jean, have hosted nine world class events, and 2009 sees yet another huge success. Not only has the illustrious Mr. Aitken managed to land such big fish as Virgil Donati and Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez for this year’s event, but he has also added a huge helping of class and nostalgia to an already spectacular event.

Bruce will be honoring the late Buddy Rich with a posthumous Legends Award and will be presenting it to Buddy’s only daughter Cathy. As if that weren’t enough, Bruce and Cathy have arranged for Buddy’s only grandson, Nick, to perform at the 2009 festival. Of course it is not everyday that two of drumming’s most gracious families come together to put on such an amazing event. Bruce, Cathy and Nick were more than happy to chat about the man to whom the world owes an eternal debt of musical gratitude, and his grandson who will bring the Rich name into the new millennium.



Bruce let me ask first, what prompted the decision to honor Buddy this year?

Bruce: It’s been on my mind for a while, but I was unsure how to go about it. Then I became friends with Cathy, and I asked her what she thought about the idea. She was thrilled. So it went from there. Ever since I was small boy I heard people say Buddy Rich could do more with one hand than most drummers could do with two. I used to quote that a lot. So I wanted the kids, especially in this region, to see what he was all about and why he is considered the greatest drummer who ever lived. What better way than to honor him posthumously with the Legends Award and to have his only child, Cathy, accept this award on her late father’s behalf?

How did it come about that Nick came to take part?

Bruce: Cathy suggested it to me, and we decided it was historically too great an opportunity to miss. I mean, the only child and only grandchild of the greatest drummer who ever lived, together in Cape Breton, and Nick to play the drum festival. That’s huge. But I think the main thing that won me over was his playing ability. Nick is an awesome player in his own right, and we are proud to have him play our festival. It will give so many people old and young the opportunity to share drumming history in the making—and see and hear Nick and treasure his performance for life.

Nick, what was your initial reaction in being asked to perform at an event honoring your Grandfather?

Nick: I was extremely excited! To be asked to play an event like this is an honor—especially an event that is paying tons of respect to my grandfather. I played the 2008 Buddy Rich Memorial Concert and that was the ultimate tribute to Buddy. I feel blessed and honored that I got that opportunity as well.

Cathy, as you now enter into a whole new era of the Rich name-- with Nick in the spotlight-- what are the feelings being that the roles have reversed, and you are now the parent watching the child excel in this industry?

Cathy: That’s a great question because it is so amazing to me that lightening has struck twice in our family. Being Buddy’s daughter was an unbelievable ride. I had the best of all worlds. I got to meet the greatest-of-thegreat and call them friends, I got to travel all over the globe and be with my father, who was and still is my biggest inspiration.

I knew that Nick was special from the beginning. He was always an entertainer and he constantly kept us on our toes. He has my father’s incredible wit and sense of humor. We always encouraged him to follow his heart, and after trying to steer him in any direction other than drums, I realized that drums were his passion and that I had no other choice but to help him in any way I could to follow his dream. At this point it is such an incredible rush for me to witness his ascension into the world he has chosen.

Bruce, what does it mean to you to have Cathy and Nick at the festival?

Bruce: It means a great deal to us as a festival, and as a community of drummers and musicians and people in general. We have always tried to give more than the normal and go the extra mile. It’s always been on my agenda to keep promoting drumming legends so the history stays fresh in the minds of those who follow us. It’s the tradition of taking care of the last generation so that we can learn from them and improve as drummers and people. Having Cathy and Nick is like the passing of the torch, from generation to generation, and seeing and hearing firsthand from those who have lived the history. Their input into this year’s festival can not be underestimated in the big picture, and their contribution to Buddy’s legacy is a true testament to preserving and sharing his music and genius so we can all benefit and learn from it.

Cathy, how are you feeling prior to not only receiving an award on Buddy’s behalf but to have Nick cap off the event with a performance?

Cathy: I am always honored to accept any award given in recognition of my father’s contribution to the music industry. It is especially exciting when it is given on behalf of the drumming community. I have always hoped that by doing what I do to preserve his legacy, new generations of drummers will always know who he is and the sacrifices he made to keep jazz alive. Having Nick there with me is icing on the cake and makes it even more special. The fact that he was asked to perform only validates my belief that Nick will be a force to reckon with in his chosen field!

Bruce how big of an influence was Buddy to you?

Bruce: Actually, as a child growing up not as much, consciously, but subconsciously probably quite a bit-- as my dad was jazz and big band crazy. He had many, many 78 records and later of course LP’s with Buddy drumming on them. So they would be playing and I would hear them, but not actually know who the drummers were. But I dug the swing, and I know that stuck with me and has been a huge influence in my playing.

Nick, how do you prepare for your solos at drum events, and what do you have in mind for this one?

Nick: I don’t really ever “prepare” solos. I believe that a solo should come directly from your heart at that particular moment. It should be based on your mood at the time, I feel. It’s all about feel and just letting your emotions speak through the drums. So, I don’t really know what I have in mind solo-wise for this festival. I guess we will just see what kind of mood I’m in. As for preparing to actually play, practice is a must, and constant everyday routine of hand and feet exercises is the only way to progress.

How would you best sum up your style?

Nick: I love way too many different styles of music and play way too many different styles of music to sum up my style. But I would consider myself a drummer who could be placed in any musical situation and be able to adapt to the environment. Thanks to Dave Weckl.

Do you do many festivals, and will we see you on that circuit more often?

Nick: I don’t do many festivals; I really am a studio/band guy. But I love to be able to play for fellow drummers and meet some of the nicest people around the world. I won’t be one of those recluse drummers that you never see anywhere. I’ll play festivals anywhere and everywhere, as long as it doesn’t interfere with my projects.

Cathy, did you always know Nick was going to be a drummer and perform at the level he does?

Cathy: No, actually, we got him an Easy Bake Oven when he was four and prayed that he would become a chef! But seriously, Nick had talent in so many areas that he could have excelled in any and all of the arts.

I realize Buddy wasn’t a “rock” fan, but how proud would he be to see that Nick is out representing as well as he does?

Cathy: Nick was two-and-a-half when his grandfather died but in those two and a half years they seriously bonded. My father was in love with Nick, he was so proud to have a grandson and spent every waking moment that he could with him. I don’t think it would have mattered what Nick did; my dad would have been proud of him simply for the person that he is.

Have there been challenges for Nick in the industry that can be attributed to having a famous grandfather?

Cathy: He faces the same challenges that all artists face: being in the right place at the right time, not getting the gig you wanted, the changing atmosphere in the record industry, getting his original band to the next level, and trying to constantly evolve as a musician.

Nick, your grandpa was the foundation for many techniques and concepts in drumming. What do you hope to contribute to the future of the Rich name, as we enter a whole new age of drumming?

Nick: Well, as I have stated so many times, Buddy is my idol and the reason I play today. My main goal in drumming is to just play from my heart and to really give back to the younger generation. I love kids, especially those who are enthusiastic in drumming (like my two sons, Brooklin [3] and Lexington [1] ). I hope to be able to open up a school for underprivileged kids who don’t get the chance to play a DW kit, or hear the amazing brilliance of a Sabian Evo crash cymbal. I just want to be known as somebody who gave it all back to the people who didn’t get certain opportunities I did.

Cathy, did Buddy ever do drum festivals or was he into that stuff?

Cathy: Drum festivals were really not as prevalent when he was around. He wasn’t really a “clinician” because his patience didn’t allow it, but you could talk to him all day long about the art of drumming and music, and walk away with an encyclopedia’s worth of knowledge. Any type of clinic he did was usually with his band.

What do you feel you want to contribute to the drumming industry as the future of the Rich name?

Cathy: Nick will be the future of the Rich name. Buddy was always about young people, and being contemporary, so Nick fits all of the criteria necessary to bring the name full circle.

Nick, tell me about your studies with Travis Barker. How has studying with him shaped your playing?

Nick: I met Travis when I was 15, and he was my number-one influence at the time. The great people at Zildjian (Kirsten) got me the opportunity to meet him and chat with him. He gave me his cell number right there and said contact me when you wanna jam. So I did. A few months later, Travis and I were sitting face to face with two practice pads playing marching rudiments. I did drumline and drum corps, but Travis’ knowledge on that genre really took my hands to another level. I thank him to this day for showing me the techniques that made him the drummer he is today.

What are you currently working on right now?

Nick: I am wrapping up an album right now with my band Opium Alibi that we just finished recording at The Studio at The Palms in Las Vegas. We worked with producer/ engineer Mark Gray, who has worked with everyone from Dr. Dre, to Britney Spears, to Elton John, to The Killers, to Barry Manilow. It was an amazing experience to be in a studio that has the original NEVE console from Abbey Road that The Beatles recorded on. The Palms is by far the best studio I have ever worked in. That album will be released beginning of 2010.

I am also in the band From Behind these Walls, soon to be known as Falling in Reverse, with singer Ronnie Radke (Escape the Fate). Plus I’m working on my DVD and my own signature practice pad line, which will be like no other! And, I’m gonna be releasing a signature stick with Vic Firth.

Cathy, 2008 saw the return of the Burning for Buddy events. What can we expect to see from the various projects you have going in the future?

Cathy: The Buddy Rich Memorial Concerts are something very close to my heart. It was my dad’s wish to do something for young people and to keep the music alive and the band working, so the concerts are the best way to achieve that. The new DVD will be out this month, and we are excited to be back on track. Not sure what the next one will be, but it will be amazing! We are currently in the process of redoing www.buddyrich.com which also incorporates the Buddy Rich fan club. There will be new products and features, so go check it out.

Can you fill me in on the latest from the Buddy Rich drum company?

Cathy: As of now, SJC Custom Drums are building our high end, made-in-America kits. We are proceeding very carefully with a midprice line to reintroduce at NAMM 2010.

Nick: The company is going great! We are starting off at a nice pace for an independent drum company. I played the drums live at The BR memorial, and not only did they sound amazing live, but on the DVD those drums had such an amazing tone and look to them. I am honored to play a drum with my last name on it and my grandfather’s name on it. Everyone in Cape Breton will see BRDC product because those are the drums I play. It’s going to be amazing, and I am so excited!


To read more about Nick and The Budy Rich Drum Company visit them online:






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About the Author
Sean Mitchell

Sean Mitchell has been an active participant in the drumming industry for over 20 years. He has studied under Crash Test Dummies drummer Mitch Dorge and Drumming's Global Ambassador Dom Famularo. Sean is also a songwriter and regularly performs with his wife (and singer) Jill Mitchell. Sean proudly endorses Aquarian Drumheads.

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