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Will Taylor

Interview by Rich "Doc Spoons" Spooner // March 01 2012
Will Taylor

We do it all ourselves. Coming from the hardcore scene means that the punk DIY ethic is very important to us.

As a teacher you can meet hundreds if not thousands of students throughout your career. Some are just there for fun, and some are serious about making music a career. Some have the ambition but lack the drive and raw talent, some have the talent but lack the attitude, and some are just there because you are cheaper than a babysitter. All have their place and their reasons for being a student of music. However, once in a while, you may be lucky enough to get the complete packagea student who just digests every detail of the information you impart and comes to the next lesson with it nailed and ready for more, a student who inspires you to teach and someone you know is capable of going all the way.

The subject of my interview this month was just such a character for me. I first met sixteen-year-old Will at his audition for the music college I ran in Watford (UK). I was head of music and taught music business, ensemble studies, music history and drums, and he showed up for his audition on time and blasted out some technical drum corps snare work and then blazed some furious chops round the drums set. He was a breath of fresh air and duly gained his place. Will spent the next two years at college learning from and inspiring both his peers and his tutors.

That was a number of years ago now, we have stayed in touch and I have watched with interest and pride as he started to achieve all of the things we saw in him as a sixteen year old. Well, I've said enough for now so I'll let him make his introductions....over to you, dear boy!

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Hi, I'm Will Taylor. I'm 30 and live in North London (England). I'm a rudiment addict and love rocking out with my band, Spycatcher. I love teaching drums and passing on the knowledge others have given to me. I collect taxidermy and could be mistaken for a Dickens character!!

Yeah, you do look a bit Dickensian. Let's tackle that first. You do have a strong personal image. How did you cultivate it and does the amazing mustache take lots of maintenance?

You mean why do I dress like a Victorian? (laughs) The tasche (mustache) came about after being insanely busy about a year ago, and I just forgot to trim my beard for a month and suddenly the ends were there. A friend said I should curl it and I've never looked back! It's bought me nothing but good luck since I grew it! I do like fashion and I'd spend far more money on clothes if I could. I guess I like to look a bit different. Clothes are the first thing people see when they meet you, It's important to have a good image (and chops!). The tasche does take a bit of grooming but waxing and trimming are now part of my daily routine.

Excellent! So lets talk drums. Who inspired and influenced you to play drums?

I joined a marching band at age 11 playing trumpet. When I saw the drum line play for the first time it was one of the greatest sounds I’d ever heard, I begged my folks for lessons for four years and they finally caved when I was 14. Since then I've been trying to learn and play as much as possible. I've had many influences over the years from Jeff Pocarro to Vinne Paul, Stewart Copland, Vinnie Colaiuta, Carter Beauford, Will Kennedy, Tim Alexander and all the drummers in the early 2000s hardcore scene. I love hearing people play.

So how important was a musical education in helping your career in music and what did you learn from it?

Going to several music colleges was just amazing for me. Not only did I get to study and play drums everyday, but I also learnt how to play with other musicians and more importantly how to interact with other musicians and find out what they wanted from me as a player.

Okay so now fast forward a number of years. You had a great time in 2011 with your band, Spycatcher, following the release of the album Honesty. So tell us about them.

We're a bunch of guys who have played in various touring bands before and love playing. We all have different musical backgrounds but share a love of the hardcore punk scene. We've seen the highs and the lows and just love making music and performing live. It's what gets us out of bed. We write honest music about life and coming from a shit town. A journalist once coined the phrase "Grit Pop." I think it's a rather accurate description!

I like that. Consider it stolen! So what were the highlights of your many live appearances last year?

There were a lot. Our album getting released and getting received so well by the press was great. We've done some cool tours but the absolute highlight so far has to be living my childhood dream of playing the Reading festival. The tent was rammed and it was just amazing. We came off stage and immediately did an interview live on Radio 1(UK National Radio with listenership of several million). It was just nuts!

Spycatcher have a great attitude to working with social networking and exploiting social media to their advantage. You guys have even been known to give away free downloads and demos of your tunes. How much of this do you think has helped raise the profile of the band?

Social networking is so important for any band. You are essentially your own PR man. Plus it's a,great way for your fans to speak directly to you. It's awesome to have genuine feedback from music fans. Periodically we give away free music via our Facebook page. Last Xmas we gave away a cover of “Closer” by Neo, and for Halloween we covered “Maneater” by Hall & Oates. We even shot a video for that one! It's good fun and we get a kick out of it. Tour video diaries and studio blogs are another great way of keeping interest in the band flowing.

I think Maneater was a definite highlight for me. The video was great! So do you guys write and record your own music?

We do it all ourselves. Coming from the hardcore scene means that the punk DIY ethic is very important to us. My guitarist runs his own recording studio so it means we can get in there as much as we need too. It's awesome. 

For a relatively new band, Spycatcher have had a big impact on major radio stations and the music press in the UK. You guys have also toured with and supported some great bands. To what do you guys attribute your success so far?

Well we have an excellent press/radio plugger! I'm not sure really. I think people just connect and get the music. I know how faux that can sound but I believe that's what's got us to the position we're in now.

Makes sense. So AirPlay, YouTube, and albums aside, how important is the live performance to you? 

It's all about playing live. Doesn't matter if it's 10 people or 3000, I'm going to get up there and give it my all. That's why we sat for hours in our rooms playing along with our favorite bands, pretending we were headlining Wembley Stadium. Playing live is so much fun and a real escape from the pressures of everyday life. It's just you, the drums and your mates rocking out. What's not to love?

Wise words indeed, mate! A lot of younger readers will imagine that touring is a glamorous life. How is it for a hardworking band like Spycatcher, and how does it compare to the stereotype?

Touring is great. I love it but it is not glamorous. We have an old LDV van, which is essentially a bag of crap. It's freezing cold and you'd swear there were no doors due the amount of wind that gets in there. We generally sleep on people’s floors who are kind enough to put us up—if not we sleep in the van. There's the immense amount of time spent waiting around for sound-check and stage time, but it's all just part of it. Don't get me wrong though, it's a small price to pay for having a right laugh, playing music and partying a lot. ‘Living the dream” I believe it's called!

After spending some time listening to your album Honesty, I think that there are really great drumming moments on it that showcase your precision, control and dynamics. How did you come up with the drum parts and do you replicate them to the letter in a live set?

Thanks! I get egged on by the rest of the band. When we jam stuff, I try to keep it simple  and rocking but then usually my singer, Steve, will air drum and sing a fill at me or what he'd like to hear at that point. Or I'll keep playing a beat until it naturally evolves into something that everyone's happy with and feels good. Most of the time I play things note for note as on the album. I've changed a few fills on some songs, and I've also added some extra fills in a song or two to give it a bit of an extra kick live. One of the cool things about touring is seeing the natural evolution of your drum parts

So, getting it all together takes practice. What is a typical practice session for youchops, reading, grooves etc., and do you use acoustic drums or a pad to get your chops together?

Living in a London flat it can be hard to get on a kit, so most of my time is spent on a practice pad. It's not ideal but it allows me to learn and practice. I do have a kit set up in my room, and I try and play as much on it as I can without annoying the neighbors.

As for a practice session, I'll start on a pad in front of a mirror, mucking about with some rudiments, playing very loose, allowing the sticks to work for me. I'm normally learning a snare piece so I'll spend some time on that, or if I’m writing something for a student or drum line, I'll be figuring out parts and the jotting them down. If I can get on the kit I'll try and do some coordination stuff, do some different styles, just start playing and see where the idea leads—or I'll just whack on AC/DC and rock out for twenty minutes!

Thats no surprise to me, as you have always worked hard at improving your playing. So what is your approach to getting new licks or drum parts together enough to perform with the band? Do you write with the guys, jamming out songs or do you work on specific parts and introduce them as you work?

With Spycatcher we do jam stuff and sometimes the part will be there in seconds; it will all come out naturally and everyone digs it. Sometimes I like to go away and have a good think about it, but mainly I'll get emailed a rough track that someone’s recorded and I'll listen and jam along on a pad till I've got something I like. Then I’ll try it on a kit. As for licks I find improvising around a groove is how I generally stumble across things. If it sounds good I'll play it round and round so it's stuck in my head.

Aside from the kit, you have also had considerable experience in playing, and now teaching, drum corps. Has that discipline and routine helped you develop your style and direction?

It definitely has when it comes to learning and practicing. We used to do 7 to 8 hour rehearsals just going over exercises and then learning new music. We'd just run it and run it until it was right, and I use the same method when I'm learning/practicing now. I love the drum corps style of playing and I'm always learning something new thing from it. I've been studying it so long it has become a huge part of my playing. It's embedded in me. I often find I think rudimentally when coming up with drum parts. I'll always try and a make a straight sticking pattern more fun by mixing it up, unless playing a slow single stroke roll, all as l rim shot sounds the nuts in that part of the song! I definitely wouldn't be the player I am today if I hadn't done marching band and drum corps.

So, tell us about your Drum Line!

I run the Beefeaters Drum line with a good friend Bryan Mclellen (Vega 4/Tape the Radio) at the London Centre of Contemporary Music in London Bridge. We started it because we loved the drum line/drum corps style of drumming, and we really wanted to push the students’ technique and rudimental knowledge while working as team and making your section as good as it can be.  We only have one two-hour lesson a week so it's a full-on two hours of almost relentless playing! It's great and I love it, though some of the students may say otherwise.  We're in our third year and it keeps getting better and better each year. I think it was such a great thing for the college to invest in. I believe we're also the only non-military drum line in London!

So with all the stuff you've been involved in over the years, aside from musical ability, what do you consider to be the most important aspects a musician can have in order to work in the music industry?

Be a nice guy. No one likes a dick! Be cool, be fun, and have a laugh with people. You could be the greatest drummer ever, but if you’re a tool, no one will want to hire you. So as Bill and Ted said, "Be excellent to each other."

Speaking of being excellent, and on a slightly different tip, I have noticed that you are starring in an advertising campaign for clothing company Ben Sherman. The reason I know this is because your face and mustache is on their website and I practically fell over a cardboard version of your torso in a German clothing store. How the hell did this come about, Will?

A very dear friend put me forward for it. What Ben Sherman like to do is get creative people for their shoots and get them to pick the clothes out of their line that they would actually wear—see how you style yourself. It was a great experience and I got to go to Miami for four days which was amazing! 

Okay that's clear. No plans to change the day job then! So, if a modeling career is on hold, what's coming up this year for Will Taylor and Spycatcher?

Spycatcher have some fun things coming up. We're off to Austin, Texas, for South by South West festival. We've got a couple of tours with Make Do and Mend, Set Your Goals, and some headline dates. We are also re-releasing our debut album on a new label, Search and Destroy, and we're writing for album number two, so it's all go! As for me, I'm teaching drums a lot and looking to take on even more students and I've also got some ideas for a educational book which I'm looking have done by the end of this year.

So a full agenda then! speaking of your teaching work, I have regularly enjoyed working on twisted exercises you have written and sent me to check out over the years, and I'm really pleased to announce that you are going to be doing some teaching articles for The Black Page in the coming months. So what kind of stuff can we look forward to from you?

Yes! I'm very excited about this. I love sharing my ideas and getting feedback from other drummers. It will all be technique-based stuff, exercises, rudiments, and  how they work on the kit and how you can actually use all these things in "real-world” playing with your band.. I promise it will be a lot of fun! 

Will, thanks for your time and best of luck with your career this year, really enjoyed catching up with you and looking forward to those lessons in The Black Page! I realize we haven't had time to talk about your taxidermy collection yet, so I guess we'll save that for next time. Can't give it all away, can we?

Catch Will Taylor on TWITTER @willtaylordrums and Spycatcher online www.spycatchermusic.com

View the Spycatcher Music Video for the single “Remember Where You Were When Michael Jackson Died” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUbdqhlOUVQ




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About the Author
Rich "Doc Spoons" Spooner

Richard “Doc Spoons” Spooner is a British professional drummer and educator, based out of Switzerland. Doc is touring & recording with multi-platinum selling artist Philipp Fankhauser. Doc proudly endorses C&C drums, Paiste cymbals, Agner drumsticks, Baskey Drumruggs & Luggs, Hardcase Cases,Protection Racket Bags & Tour Luggage,Porter & Davies Monitoring, Big Fat Snare Drum, Kelly SHU, Tuner-Fish. Visit Doc online at www.docspoons.com  or follow him on Twitter@DocSpoons



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