Let me open this by saying that I am, or at least consider myself to be, a feminist. Nevertheless, there is something about seeing a woman sitting behind a drum kit that gets my kick pedal squeaking. Maybe it’s the violent and passionate heaving of their playing or the fact you can sometimes see up their skirt, but, regardless of what it is, whenever I see a female drummer, I smile, especially because they’re usually so fucking good.
With this in mind we recently spoke with 2 of the Sydney’s hardest hitting female drummers, Kate Wilson and Leah Keramea, to talk about Shoesoul, dislocated knees and packing your knickers into your cymbal bag. Here’s what they had to say.
Music Feeds: What was your attraction to the drums? Did you play any other instruments before finding the drums?
Kate Wilson: I’d just quit the piano, and my parents, in the interest of having a well-rounded renaissance child, insisted I pick up another instrument. My level of hand-eye coordination proved quite discongruous to the pursuit of well… most of them, and my fourteen-year-old self thought it was quite the coup that I was allowed to take drum lessons. Which turned out to be quite fun indeed!
Leah Keramea: I was classically trained in piano for 13 years, but by the time I got to high school Nirvana was the big fuck you I was looking for and the piano just didn’t seem as cool as guitar or drums. The many hours of practicing made it more of a chore than an enjoyable experience too. But because of my background with piano and theory I was able to teach myself guitar then soon after I became obsessed with drums and haven’t stopped since!
MF: Would you prefer to be playing any other instrument?
KW: At about 3am, trying to load out, it is my whole heart’s desire that I instead played the flute, recorder, triangle, harmonica, or shaker egg. I’d love to learn the trumpet. It’s all about Ennio Morricone and those cowboy laments. Poor cowboys. So tormented! I’d also like to make better use of my guitar.
MF: Were you musical as a kid? Or did you find music later in life?
LK: Very musical as a kid, I was forced to learn piano by the olds and didn’t really appreciate it, just way too much practice, but as I got older I learned to love it – but still hated the practicing…
KW: I could play through the entire “ABC for Kids” songbook, and I thought my mum’s record collection was awesome! (I knew at a young age that my Dad’s was horrible. Boz Scaggs and about 200 different versions of the Pachelbel canon for fuck’s sake!). And I forced everyone to listen to 2WS. All the time. But community radio was a revelation when I was about 13 – I was shocked that this music was so underexposed and so different from anything I’d previously heard.
MF: What are some of your influences?
KW: My favourite drummers would be Loz from Ride (and now Jesus and Mary Chain) and Jez/Graham from Swervedriver. I’m quite disappointed that my name doesn’t abbreviate to something that ends in a ‘z’. I love old funk/soul too. So shoefunk or soulgaze, basically Shoesoul! That sounds a bit COBBLED together… HAR HAR.
LK: John Bonham, Dave Lombardo and Dave Grohl (Nirvana stage, when he used to be cool) were massive idols to me throughout high school, but while getting older my style and influences changed to the likes of Mick Harvey, Thomas Wilder, Jim Sclavunos and Epic Soundtracks.
MF: Do you think drum solos serve a purpose? Cool or just a wank fest?
LK: Total balls! Well I guess it all depends on musical taste because I also think guitar solos are a huge wank fest! Whenever I hear the words drum solo I think of Tommy Lee rotating upside down while playing a 20 min drum solo and also the drummer from Iron Maiden with his 80 piece drum kit… its just not needed!
KW: Surely the idea is to play as loudly as possible over the top of everyone else? If they all turn off and let you do your thing, that’s a forfeit!
MF: What sort of gear do you use?
LK: Nothing fancy… Mapex maple 5 piece with an extra floor tom from another kit which sounds massive! and a recently a new addition – Gretsch Mod 4 piece with mega long kick drum. Paiste Cymbals.
KW: At present, someone else’s kit if possible with mine being in dire need of maintenance. Leah’s is great! Mine does have polka-dots though, which I thought was a bit unusual, until recently discovering Brann Dailor from Mastodon has the polka dots also. I felt about 600 times more rock upon finding that one out!
MF: Do you think Drumming drunk is better or worse?
LK: Drumming drunk is much more fun, in fact anything drunk is much more fun (not so sure about being a better drummer while drunk).
KW: Like most biological variables, the relationship is best expressed as a bell curve. However, I continue to nobly press on with empirical research to further elucidate this phenomenon.
MF: What’s it like being surrounded by males in your band? Do they listen to your input?
LK: Absolutely, we are all in it for the same reason – to make music we love! We all listen to each other’s ideas and criticisms, it doesn’t really make a difference just because I am female.
KW: It’s not a big deal at all. Gender isn’t something I really even think about and I’m pretty sure the others don’t either. Everything’s quite democratic. Of course, I can’t compete in the numerous pissing contests or wang-offs, which means, on occasion that all the band money gets spent on Ralph subscriptions and Lynx deodorant! But hey, all you can do is flick your hair and giggle about things like that really.
MF: If your drumming style was a fruit/vegetable what would it be and why?
LK: I’d have to say peach, cos it’s oh so sweet! OK, can I vomit now?
KW: “First it was a drumming style, now it’s a carrot!” Reprising Rob Scnieder’s derpy role in derp derp badoom tish derpy derp bang bang bang derpy derp diddly derrrrp!”
MF: Has there been any crazy stories from recent shows/tours?
LK: Every night we play is a weird/ funny story, you never know when we might crack a rib or dislocate a knee or throw a guitar ten metres from the stage… broken bones and broken gear are always an interesting combination.
KW: Not really, but these are easily arranged through the common practice of stuffing all the undies and t-shirts from your luggage into your cymbal bag before flying somewhere for a gig.
MF: Tell us a bit about some bands your listening to at the moment?
LK: Can’t stop listening to Rowland S. Howard, These Immortal Souls, Lydia Lunch, Teenage Jesus & The Jerks, The Wreckery, Birthday Party, Nick Cave. There are also some great local bands like La Mancha Negra, Nevada Strange, The Whores, Silver Moon, Mickey Gloss, The Laurels, Talons, Songs, Psychonanny & The Baby Shakers, The Nhomeas and obviously The Holy Soul.
KW: The Walk On By of course, The Whores, Dead Farmers, Warhorse, Silver Moon, Songs, Slight of Build, Sounds Like Sunset, and what I’ve heard of the new Ghosts of Television record is pretty damn mind blowing! I’m listening to a lot of Ghost Club at present who are from NZ/UK and affiliated with the whole Flying Nun thing, also Husker Du, Jacques Brel, Oneida, and Dungen this week.
The Holy Soul and The Walk On By are both playing the Goodbye Sunshine Festival on 15th of August. The Laurels, The Holy Soul and The Walk On By have all recently released 7’ singles available from shows and Repressed Records Newtown.
Check out Kate and Leah’s bands at:
Hit that shit!!