We caught up with former "Yokes" and "Blue-Sun" stick-man Ray Nolan, to talk about his new band The Rambleers, and his incessant need to hit things.
AIMR: What attracted you to the drums in the first place?
RN: They seemed like the most fun instrument to play and my older brother played them for a while too, I was fairly young when he had them but I do remember being given out to for playing with them.
AIMR: How old where you when you first picked up the sticks?
RN: I was 15 when I bought my first kit. I was working in a pub and I saved up the money for my first kit after a few months, it was around £300. The drums were good but it had these really shitty cymbals and they bent the first time I hit them.
AIMR: Did it come naturally to you?
RN: Yes I picked it up fairly quick. Although I did play them for at least 2-3 hours a day for the first 2 years. But I decided to get lessons, so I could learn quicker and learn as many different styles as I could, and to read music. In school we used to get an hour for lunch and I lived close to the school, so I would be home in 5 minutes. I would scoff my lunch and head straight out to the shed and play the drums and then end up being late back to school.
AIMR: Who were your original influences?
RN: Guns N Roses. I think "Coma" was the song that convinced me to play the drums.Then later after hearing Led Zeppelin II and seeing "The Song remains the Same" It was John Bonham. I was blown away by the way he played, from the "Moby Dick" solo to the delicate percussion on "Rain Song" No one comes close to him in my opinion. Other favourites would be Levon Helm (The Band) and Brian Downey (Thin Lizzy) They are both fantastic drummers with great feel.
AIMR: What was the first album/song you bought was it purely for the drumming?
RN: The first CD I bought with my own money was "The Man Who" by Travis, that kind of music was big a the time and I listened to a lot of indie music after that like Blur and The Verve. Then I moved on to Metal and heavy rock for a while. After hearing "Live and Dangerous" by Thin Lizzy. I bought it, just to learn the drumming for those songs. The drumming on "Massacre and Emerald" is brilliant and I think Brian Downey is a very under-rated drummer.
AIMR: What was the first gig you attended?
RN: It was a metal band called Raging Speedhorn in the Temple bar music centre when I was about 14. It was an over 18s gig. We had met the band in a cafe/bar before the gig and they got us in. Most of us did look over 18 at that stage anyway. It was the first time I had seen a proper mosh pit and I got beat around the place, but it was brilliant.
AIMR: What was the name of your first band and were you any good?
RN: First band was called the Yokes, we were together for about 3 years and then it just faded away. The music was described as "Psychedelic punk rock" It was a 3 piece band, and I loved playing with them, because there was no restrictions to what I could play. On some songs, we all played completely different things, but they came together great. We released one album called "Sound" It got album of the month in "Connected" (magazine). http://www.myspace.com/theyokesound/music
AIMR: When and where did you play your first gig?
RN: It was in the Voodoo Lounge in Dublin in 2003. I was 17 and a lot of my friends from school came to the gig and it was a great night. It was before the smoking ban came in so I tried to be cool like Slash or Keith Richards and play with a smoke in my mouth but I couldn't pull it off and just ended up nearly choking myself and blinding myself with smoke. It was still brilliant though and we were all hungover to-bits in school, the next day.
AIMR: Was there a eureka moment when you said this is what I want to do for a living?
RN: After the first gig, I knew I would play music for the rest of my life. I haven't made a living from it but that doesn't bother me. Its the buzz of playing live and the drunken antics that go on, when touring around the country.
AIMR: How many bands have you been in before and how many are you currently in?
RN: I have played in 4 bands in total. I currently play in a cover band Guns N Roses tribute band User Illusion and an original band The Rambleers. I am with User Illusion about 3 years now. G'N'R, would be my favourite band, and I just saw an ad for it one day and said, I 'd give it a shot. I am playing with the Rambleers, just over 6 months now and am loving it. They are amazing musicians and it is great to play with people with such skill and commitment, as they have.
AIMR: Are you a drum whore then?
RN: No I have never played in more than two bands at once, and the two I am in at the moment are both very different.
AIMR: What did you learn from each of the experiences?
RN: I've learned many different styles and timbres. How to adapt to other musicians styles, and feel for playing.
AIMR: Do you drum in your sleep or have drumming dreams?
RN: I don't know if I drum in my sleep, but I have had many dreams about drumming in a big stadium with Bon Jovi!, even though I don't particularly like Bon Jovi. But maybe it's just what I relate to. Stadium rock.
AIMR: What is your favourite drum beat and why?
RN: My favourite to play would be "Rocket Queen" by GNR. I love the funky groove between the bass and the drums. "Fool in the Rain" by Led Zeppelin would be another one, the carnival drum break in the middle is a bit cheesy, but I love it!
AIMR: Who is your favourite drummer and why?
RN: Obvious one but John Bonham because he played great grooves, beats, fills and didn't try to show off or have a huge kit, with loads of different drums. He could get more out of a basic 5 piece kit, then Keith moon or Neil Peart could, with their 20 -30 piece kits
AIMR: Do you play and other instruments?
RN: No. I did do violin lessons for a while, but never kept it up. I've never been fully committed to learning another instrument. I'm happy enough with the drums.
AIMR: Are you a frustrated songwriter?
RN: No not really. I know I would not be strong at writing lyrics, so I stay away from that. Obviously as a drummer, I am responsible for the pace and tempo of a song, so I make my mark on a song that way, and try to be involved in the arrangements, as much as I can.
AIMR: Will we ever see you do a Dave Grohl and front a band or solo project?
RN: No I have no desire to be a front man. I know my own limitations. I do help with backing vocals a lot, but my voice would not be strong enough to carry a band on its own.
AIMR: Why is drumming dismissed by the mass media when it is one of most important components in popular music?
RN: It can go unnoticed because you don't always see the drummer or the drums are not always high in a songs mix, but you can't dance without a solid drum beat. I think its a case of you don't know what you got till its gone.
AIMR: Have you done much session work and are you available for session work?
RN: Never done session work. I won't play music, that I don't like.
AIMR: Who would you like to work with then?
RN: Can't think of many who around today really. Maybe Slash or AC/DC. I'm sure that would be fun.
AIMR: What advice would you give any budding drummers?
RN: Keep practicing and practice with a metronome, because timing is the most important thing a drummer needs. You may be able to play fast and do great solos, but if your timing is bad. Then you're not a good drummer.
AIMR: What's next for your band?
RN: We have just set up a website www.therambleers.com and we are releasing our debut album in April called "Roots". The album launch is in the Grand Social (formally Pravda) on April 2nd and we are currently booking gigs for an Irish Tour for May, June and July. So we are very busy at the moment!