Paul Kodish - Roland Drums

Paul Kodish talks electronic drums

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Paul Kodish is the drummer for drum & bass, jungle and dubstep producers when they want to recreate their sound live. He’s currently touring with dance idol DJ Fresh – and he’s been using the Roland TD-20 V-Drums to get his sound. We caught up with him before a triumphant London show to chat about his experiences as a drummer and how the kit he’s using now is like a dream come true.

A lot of drummers play acoustic kits with rock bands – but how is it different for drummers in the world of drum and bass or dubstep?

Andy (Gangadeen – Chase & Status) is a right-across-the-board drummer. He’s played with pop acts like the Spice Girls and Massive Attack, and with electro outfits like Chase & Status. I’ve primarily – for I don’t how many years – dedicated my life to drum and bass. I’ve lived and breathed the music like a jazz musician would. I’ve learned a whole different understanding of how the music works and how it’s produced. I’ve been living in a very un-drumming world. Even though it’s called drum and bass, the majority of people involved aren’t drummers or even musicians, they’re just amazingly talented in programming, which I was always fascinated by. Even in the ‘80s when I was a pop drummer, I was into people like Kraftwerk and Gary Numan and anything that sounded a bit different.

Then at the turn of the ‘80s and ‘90s when rave and acid house started kicking in, I couldn’t get my head around acid house music because it wasn’t rhythmically challenging enough for me to get interested. But that’s when jungle came to the forefront. I was living in Willesden and there was an epicentre of jungle there, a place called Jumbo Studios, which housed Reinforced Records. That was one of the places it all started. It’s where Goldie was heavily involved in making Timeless and Inner City Life. Reinforced were also responsible for launching 4hero – a really influential drum ‘n’ bass outfit.

I was involved with these guys as a drummer, not a programmer, so it was a bit of an alien world, even though I loved the music, because there wasn’t much to do. I just started practising jungle beats to lay them down live. I didn’t have the technology to do that so it was always on an acoustic kit. The most frustrating thing was I could play the beats and breaks – I knew what an amen and a tramen were – I could play all the breaks but I couldn’t get them to sound authentic. You can’t do that without an electronic kit. And that’s why we’re talking about the V-Drums. I’ve finally got something where I can achieve what I’ve been trying to achieve for 20 years. The D-Drums along the way were good, but it was limited. But with the V-Drums – here we are doing it with DJ Fresh and making it sound how we want it to sound, not just a drummer on an acoustic kit emulating jungle beats. That misses the point.

I remember very well Timeless by Goldie – that was the time that drum and bass stepped into the mainstream – did you used to have to perform on acoustic kits or was that a choice?

You listen to those old records and all those breaks were real acoustic drum kits and real acoustic beats all chopped up and time-stretched. Now I can take all that and put it in V-Drums and I can play it properly. In a way it’s a dream come true. I’m very excited about what the next 10 years will bring. If they’re doing this now, what they are going to do in 2025?

I think it has opened a lot of doors. A lot of drummers used to be technophobic – you know, they’d say “a drum machine’s going to put me out of a job,” but I don’t think I ever looked at it like that. Technology was like the future of drumming for me not the death of drumming.

With computers, the whole session-drumming thing got wiped out but being able to produce some beats at home with machines closed some doors and opened others. Some drummers will say there’s not much work about but you’ve got to move with the times otherwise you’ll get left behind being miserable that there’s no session work.

I’m sure even Steve Gadd struggles with session work these days, you’ve got to do other stuff and, for me, that was getting involved with electronics.

Is it true you don’t use acoustic drums?

I was in Apollo 440 and playing with Jean-Michel Jarre – we had a D-Drum kit but that was just used for playing individual hits. I used to tune the drums really tight and high to try and get that authentic sampled sound out of the acoustic kits. I just used to have them whacked up to oblivion. If you shut your eyes and didn’t look they sounded like samples. They sounded amazing. Cliff Hewitt, who was the other drummer with Apollo 440, he used to say, “forget about that – get on the electronic kit,” and I used to say “I’m never going to be a pure electronic drummer,” but here I am.

At the end of the day, it’s got to sound right with the music. If your music uses acoustic and electronic kits then use both. I’m not going to diss acoustic drummers. This is just what I do. I like the way I work with DJ Fresh. A lot of electronic artists program me like they would a machine. I know there’s an old drummer joke in there somewhere… something about punching in the information, but I like that.

I like being in the studio with Fresh and he’ll say “no, put the kick there.” It’s unconventional. I was talking to our sound engineer earlier and it’s a nightmare for him because there are kicks where snares would normally be, and a crash where a bass drum would normally be – it’s all over the place. But to me that’s trying something different.

Paul Kodish is the drummer for drum & bass, jungle and dubstep producers when they want to recreate their sound live. He’s currently touring with dance idol DJ Fresh – and he’s been using the Roland TD-20 V-Drums to get his sound. We caught up with him before a triumphant London show to chat about his experiences as a drummer and how the kit he’s using now is like a dream come true.

A lot of drummers play acoustic kits with rock bands – but how is it different for drummers in the world of drum and bass or dubstep?

Andy (Gangadeen – Chase & Status) is a right-across-the-board drummer. He’s played with pop acts like the Spice Girls and Massive Attack, and with electro outfits like Chase & Status. I’ve primarily – for I don’t how many years – dedicated my life to drum and bass. I’ve lived and breathed the music like a jazz musician would. I’ve learned a whole different understanding of how the music works and how it’s produced. I’ve been living in a very un-drumming world. Even though it’s called drum and bass, the majority of people involved aren’t drummers or even musicians, they’re just amazingly talented in programming, which I was always fascinated by. Even in the ‘80s when I was a pop drummer, I was into people like Kraftwerk and Gary Numan and anything that sounded a bit different.

Then at the turn of the ‘80s and ‘90s when rave and acid house started kicking in, I couldn’t get my head around acid house music because it wasn’t rhythmically challenging enough for me to get interested. But that’s when jungle came to the forefront. I was living in Willesden and there was an epicentre of jungle there, a place called Jumbo Studios, which housed Reinforced Records. That was one of the places it all started. It’s where Goldie was heavily involved in making Timeless and Inner City Life. Reinforced were also responsible for launching 4hero – a really influential drum ‘n’ bass outfit.

I was involved with these guys as a drummer, not a programmer, so it was a bit of an alien world, even though I loved the music, because there wasn’t much to do. I just started practising jungle beats to lay them down live. I didn’t have the technology to do that so it was always on an acoustic kit. The most frustrating thing was I could play the beats and breaks – I knew what an amen and a tramen were – I could play all the breaks but I couldn’t get them to sound authentic. You can’t do that without an electronic kit. And that’s why we’re talking about the V-Drums. I’ve finally got something where I can achieve what I’ve been trying to achieve for 20 years. The D-Drums along the way were good, but it was limited. But with the V-Drums – here we are doing it with DJ Fresh and making it sound how we want it to sound, not just a drummer on an acoustic kit emulating jungle beats. That misses the point.

I remember very well Timeless by Goldie – that was the time that drum and bass stepped into the mainstream – did you used to have to perform on acoustic kits or was that a choice?

You listen to those old records and all those breaks were real acoustic drum kits and real acoustic beats all chopped up and time-stretched. Now I can take all that and put it in V-Drums and I can play it properly. In a way it’s a dream come true. I’m very excited about what the next 10 years will bring. If they’re doing this now, what they are going to do in 2025?

I think it has opened a lot of doors. A lot of drummers used to be technophobic – you know, they’d say “a drum machine’s going to put me out of a job,” but I don’t think I ever looked at it like that. Technology was like the future of drumming for me not the death of drumming.

With computers, the whole session-drumming thing got wiped out but being able to produce some beats at home with machines closed some doors and opened others. Some drummers will say there’s not much work about but you’ve got to move with the times otherwise you’ll get left behind being miserable that there’s no session work.

I’m sure even Steve Gadd struggles with session work these days, you’ve got to do other stuff and, for me, that was getting involved with electronics.

Is it true you don’t use acoustic drums?

I was in Apollo 440 and playing with Jean-Michel Jarre – we had a D-Drum kit but that was just used for playing individual hits. I used to tune the drums really tight and high to try and get that authentic sampled sound out of the acoustic kits. I just used to have them whacked up to oblivion. If you shut your eyes and didn’t look they sounded like samples. They sounded amazing. Cliff Hewitt, who was the other drummer with Apollo 440, he used to say, “forget about that – get on the electronic kit,” and I used to say “I’m never going to be a pure electronic drummer,” but here I am.

At the end of the day, it’s got to sound right with the music. If your music uses acoustic and electronic kits then use both. I’m not going to diss acoustic drummers. This is just what I do. I like the way I work with DJ Fresh. A lot of electronic artists program me like they would a machine. I know there’s an old drummer joke in there somewhere… something about punching in the information, but I like that.

I like being in the studio with Fresh and he’ll say “no, put the kick there.” It’s unconventional. I was talking to our sound engineer earlier and it’s a nightmare for him because there are kicks where snares would normally be, and a crash where a bass drum would normally be – it’s all over the place. But to me that’s trying something different.

I love acoustic as much as electronic kits but what’s the difference for you?

If you stuck me behind an acoustic kit it would sound odd to me. We’ve been talking about incorporating a few real acoustic cymbals into the kit to give it a live feel. If you couldn’t see me playing, it sounds like a machine – which is a compliment to my playing, I suppose, but on the other hand, I could just be miming for all the audience knows. It might be nice to have a few acoustic cymbals. I’ve been using the Gen 16s, which have been working well, but I might get a bit of a balance with some acoustic cymbals. Andy from Chase & Status uses acoustic cymbals with his electronic kit.

I’d say it’s not so much balance – the scales are tipping towards the electronics so I’d like to add a bit of acoustic cymbal-age in there. You could just use cymbal samples but you don’t get the wind movements – that can’t be replaced.

I think over the years I’ve changed my style of drumming – simply because my head is so buried in that kind of music (jungle and drum and bass).

Sometimes I have to pop my head out of it. I was in the pub with Andy and he sat in with the house band, who played a bit of jazz. At the end of one of the tune he passed me the sticks and I absolutely cacked myself.

That spoke volumes about where I was at that moment in time. Just to sit down and go [beatboxes jazz beat] was more scary than getting up in front of 50,000 people and giving it loads.

Do you feel slightly sad – like it’s not your world any more?

No – things change. I might wake up one day and say I’m going to get my pork pies out bash out some Bonham beats.

You get wrapped up in it, which is good. You’ve got to mean every note you play. Whatever kind of music you’re playing, you have to mean every note you play. With electronic music I have to be bang on the money with the click track. If I slip, heads turn – they turn for a reason because I’m creating the pulse.

I think if I was to put the message out to any up-and-coming drummer – electronic or whatever – it’s that you’ve got to love the music you’re playing. Understand it as well. I could sit with a jazz band and swing away for hours but I wouldn’t really know what the hell I was doing. I love that kind of music but not in the sort of way I’ve buried my head into drum and bass.

Doesn’t that mean you get the call for all the DnB gigs now?

Yeah! I became a specialist – but that means I don’t get the call for the other gigs. Some teachers are like, “you’ve got to learn every style” because you’ll get more gigs but I’m not sure if that’s true. Maybe in the old days of session drumming… I suppose it’s a different approach. I didn’t sit down one day and say I want to be a specialist. Before electronic music came around I was into funk. I was into Parliament and Cameo in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I was into Frank Zappa. I’m a massive fan of Miles Davis, but I was into pop music as well. I loved Led Zeppelin. I like good tunes. I think it took a while for me to find my place and it was definitely when jungle arrived. It was like, “This is indigenous British hip-hop music. It’s not copying anyone, it’s an innovation.” It was like punk rock for me. I liked the attitude. It was a revolution, like finding a skateboard for the first time.

 

Let’s talk about how you’re using the gear at the moment. You’ve got a rackmount computer?

Yeah – it’s called a Muse Receptor. It’s a roadworthy rackmounted computer. You can put any software you want in there. It’s linked with my Roland TD-20 via Ableton. The program changes are on there because the bass drum and snare sounds change on each track.

We’ve got all the filters for the filtered snare drums. It’s all automated. It’s a great machine. You can do that with any computer – but the Receptor was something we used in Pendulum and it got handed down through that live drum and bass scene. But, they’re computers, y’know. They go down now and again but we’ve got back ups.

How do you change the patch with each track?

Everything is changed automatically with Ableton.

So when the set starts you can’t really stop anywhere?

You can because Dan [DJ Fresh] has got a footswitch to put that section on loop, so we can rock out as long as we want. He just puts his hand up to let us know. There’ll be a little cue in our ear so we know where we are.

Are you looking forward to using the TD-30?

I’m looking forward to using the TD-30KV because it’s looking likely that we can swap out the Receptor. Less is more with electronics – the less stuff you have the less stuff can go wrong. It’s the sound too – with dubstep producers and drum and bass producers, if it doesn’t sound right they’ve got the hump. Fresh will spend the week creating a snare drum sound. Which producers do that? But then you hear the sound and it makes sense.

Do you think you might use the TD-30 as a production tool?

Oh definitely – I can’t wait to start getting smoke out of that machine. We eat technology for lunch. That’s what we do, just plug it in and press as many buttons as we can until there’s steam coming out of it. The technology is big part of the music. Just getting something and using it to the max until you can’t get any more out of it and then just going “next.” I can’t see a company like Roland going out of business unless electricity runs out and then it’s back to caveman times.

 

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