I attended NAMM as part of the WordPress sponsor team last weekend, staffing our booth, offering WordPress advice to artists and businesses, and chatting with all the drummers I could.
The exhibition floor was… huge. I never saw all of it, you just couldn’t. But I got to wander around wide-eyed in the forest of cymbals, chat about gear and beats with a lot of drummers I respect, meet the Tom Tom Magazine contingent, saw new hero Sarah Morrow with Dr. John. And I made ‘chk chk chk hissss’ cymbal noises with Nicko McBrain on the very first morning, so I could have died happy before it even got going.
The best thing happened at the very end, though, listening to Maison Guidry (plays drums with Stevie Wonder and Chick Corea) answer questions. I saw him play a short demo on the exhibition floor with the fullest, fullest joy on his face.
I stuck around to listen to him answer questions from the crowd afterwards. Responding to a technical question about a super intricate beat, he started to explain but then stopped and said (this is all paraphrased from memory, so forgive inaccuracy), ‘You can’t play that. You have to start by playing one-eighth of those beats, and then eventually when it’s natural and it’s part of you, you add some more.’
Then he went off on this long amazing tangent about music being a language you learn like a child (‘eventually you start using words like compensatory‘), about not running before you walk, about breaking down odd time signatures to their simplest (‘you have seven fingers, right?’) and how you have a job and a responsibility to your band and your audience (‘first job is to count, second job is to make people dance’). It was super inspiring to me to hear a guy that young, that committed, that successful and celebrated, insist: the moment you let ego in, you are failing at your job as a drummer.
Music scenes are lousy with ego! Pretty much always, and whether earned or undeserved, it’s always gross and uninspiring to encounter. I hope I can keep Maison Guidry in my mind next time I come across it.