By James Moriarty (Insomniac)
James: Hello Tommy.
Tommy: Hello, James.
James: How long you have been playing drums?
Tommy: I started at the end of sixth class, I think I was 10 and now I’m 34, so I’ve been playing all those years.
James: Who was your first teacher?
Tommy: I grew up in Kilkenny, and even though there was a pretty strong music scene there, there weren’t many academic types, everybody kind of learned in their parent’s garage and learnt songs from CDS and tapes. So I didn’t really have anyone to learn from. But, after trying to learn on my own for I would say about a year and my parents did find somebody, I think he was recommended by the local music shop. A guy called Paul O’Byrne who played with a local band, Engine Alley.
He was the person who taught me how to play the high hats and then play the Bass Drum, Snare drum along with that. I think before that I was playing all the bass drum parts on the Floor Tom and all the snare drum parts here on my left, so it was all right, left, right, left kind of stuff.
I don’t think I really knew what the bass drum was for. The thing about it was I didn’t even have a drum kit. I just had a table in my room and I had rolled up magazines.. Comic books, actually I think is what they were…
James: what was the name of your first band?
Tommy: In Kilkenny, when I went to first year in secondary school, I met a very good friend who is still one of my best friends now. Literally, I think that might have been my first day in secondary school, actually when they’re doing all those kind of introductions. Um, so me and this guy, Ruthso, David Ruth is his real name, and his friend Chris Walsh, we basically got together in first year of secondary school and stayed playing together for about three years after secondary school. We’d all gone off to college, but we’d still come home to Kilkenny and rehearse and play gigs on the weekends.
James: Thats really cool.
Tommy: Yeah. So we were called.. originally we were called, I think ‘Dive’ was our first name, which is a Nirvana song as well.
James: Do you think is it important to study music in college?,
Tommy: I don’t regret it one bit. I think it was an incredible thing to do. I have such a broad understanding of everything in music now, in terms of, I had drum lessons in college and I was forced to learn lots of things that I might not have been disciplined enough to learn by myself, which I’m very grateful for being forced to learn because it’s really helped me. And also, I’ve learned so much about composing music and writing for different instruments and theory of harmony and composition and arranging all those things, that again, I probably wouldn’t have learned if I had just studied independently at home by myself or just pick things up along the way.
It was a really intense four years of learning everything that I could really need to know about music. So that’s number one. I don’t think I ever would’ve learned all that stuff had it not been for going to college.
Number two is I met incredible musicians, students, and teachers, and they are still people that I play with all the time now that I’m friends with. All my friends here in Dublin are musicians, because I met them all in the Newpark Music Centre, which was the jazz college that I went to.
James: When did you form your band BARQ?
Tommy: It was maybe two and a half years ago now I think. Um, but before that, the four of us had been in a hip hop covers band called gin N juice and we had been doing that for maybe three years. You know, the hardest thing for most bands at the beginning is to decide, who are we, what’s the sound of this band, what kind of style are we going for? That takes a long time to develop, in a way, we had been developing it for three years as Gin N Juice. So two and a half years ago when we finally decided to start writing music and make a new band which was BARQ, we’d already started off straight away with the sound, which is very lucky and that really helped us. It was just a matter of writing songs, but we knew what they should sound like. Just a big help.
James: Is Gin N Juice still a band?
Tommy: Yeah,we still play as Gin N Juice.
James: that’s pretty cool.
Tommy: So I’m with BARQ. We play events, we played festivals, we put on our own gigs sometimes, but Gin N Juice is a good old working band. So that’s where, that’s how we earn a living as musicians. It’s the band that pays all of our rent and we just go around the country playing pubs and clubs.
James: What would be the biggest venue you played?
Tommy: The Royal hospital Kilmainham. It’s where they have The Forbidden Fruit Festival. So it’s a huge area. Big open grass area behind the IMMA museum in Kilmainham. And we played there supporting THE CORONAS last summer and there were 15,000 people.
James: That’s a lot of people!
Tommy: That’s a lot of people. Um, so big, huge festival type, outdoor stage. And then just a big grassy field that just went on and on forever.… its a lot of people to to come out in front of. So that was a big one and in Longitude this year we played on the main stage there, which is an enormous stage and I have no idea how many people were there, it’s just a sea of people. Big festival stages like that are incredible to be on because it’s a bit like stuff that you see on MTV or videos when you’re growing up.
James: So what was your best performance?
Tommy: Um, we played last year at Electric Picnic on the main stage in the Body and Soul area. I think we were on at midnight on a Saturday night or Sunday night. The stage is down here(points), it’s down low and then the whole place is kind of like an amphitheater… It’s like a bowl. Yeah. So everybody is just kind of sitting within this bowl and so when you come out onto the stage, it’s just people curving up towards the sky in all directions away from you. Plus it was midnight, so it was pitch dark, so you see a lot of phones and stuff and the lights were incredible. And uh, again it was one of those ones where we were just ready for it. We were ready to play like crazy. We just got on, smashed it, you know. We weren’t nervous and people reacted.
James: What is your favourite thing about being in band?
Tommy: I would say, let’s say two things.
One is that I decided to be a drummer when I was 10. Like I said earlier and now I’m 34 and I’m in a band. So I’m doing that thing I decided when I was 10, you know, and it just feels amazing to me. It feels a little bit like, you know, I’m living my dream. Every time I get up and play the drums, I’m kind of reminded that this was my dream when I was ten, and I’m doing it. So that’s a big one. That’s a huge thing that I’m constantly reminded of every time I play gigs. Uh, the second thing is probably a bit more practical that you get to travel sometimes, as a musician. Yeah. That’s a really nice way to travel. And so some of the coolest places I’ve been; Los Angeles, New York, Toronto.
James: Ok. I know for me that when you have to do your rudiments, they can get very tiring, frustrating and boring. What would be some advice to sort of make them more enjoyable?
Tommy: I’ve two very good bits of advice. And remember me saying earlier that, um, I was grateful for going to Newpark because Conor Guilfoyle and Kevin Brady forced me to do drum exercises that I never really would have done myself. It’s, it’s exactly what you’re saying. I found things like that a bit boring. And when I went to those guys for lessons, we did lots of rudiments. It’s rudiments out the wazoo you might say. And the things that really made them interesting for me. I think I have three things actually. Firstly, it was a jazz degree. So we were taking solos all the times. I’d keep coming across things that I wasn’t able to play, the ideas that I would hear in my head that I didn’t have the technique or the chops. yeah, I couldn’t pull off the sticking that I needed to create that idea in the moment while I was improvising. And I found that really frustrating. I find that more frustrating than practicing rudiments, so when, when the seesaw tips that way
James: rudiments become fun
Tommy: rudiments become fun because now they have a purpose!
James: Thank you very much for your time.
Tommy: You’re very welcome, Great. That was really awesome!