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We kicked off our annual Freshers’ Week in style with an exclusive drums masterclass from UK drumming legend Mark Richardson – drummer in Skunk Anansie and former drummer of Feeder.
When he’s not in the studio or touring the world with Skunk Anansie, Mark runs Music Support, a mental health charity, and works at ACM as a Wellbeing Advisor.
In his masterclass Mark gave the new ACM students a unique insight into his career, his approach to drumming, and life in a successful band.
“What I enjoy most is the fact I come from a little town on the north-east coast of England called Whitby and I’ve had 25 year career and really, if I were to sum it up – it would be that it really doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. 50% is about playing and being a great player and 50% is about who you are as a person and how easy you are to get on with – how are you when the pressure is on and when things get difficult, that’s the sort of thing I really like to tell people – that it’s really possible to have a career in the music industry no matter who you are or where you’re from.”
The masterclass was hosted by Mark’s fellow bandmate Ace (who also works at ACM, as our Head of Creative Industry Development). Giving a short intro to his career, Mark revealed that he first started out in music when he joined the band Little Angels. After a split in 1993, he spent some time in a band called B.l.o.w. before meeting Ace and Skin shortly after at the Kerrang! Awards. This chance meeting lead to an audition and ultimately Mark joining Skunk Anansie. After a 7 year stint, Skunk Anansie parted ways, ultimately reforming in 2009. In the break Mark took the opportunity to join successful rock band, Feeder.
Mark went on to speak about the importance of ear protection as a musician, checking all the students had earplugs before giving his first drumming performance of the class, (the aptly titled?) ‘I Will Break You’, by Skunk Anansie from the Black Traffic album. Mark’s hard-hitting performance had students captivated, with one asking how he achieved his kick drum technique without the use of a double drum bass pedal. Mark explained that he doesn’t like to use a double pedal but he can achieve a similar sound using the kick and floor tom.
Discussing studio recording, Ace asked what he does differently in a studio setting as opposed to a live environment. Mark shared that he plays much quieter in the studio to avoid excess noise on the microphones – saying that sometimes he actually replaces the cymbals with electronic pads when recording to ensure a controlled sound for the producer.
When asked about getting work in the music industry, Mark explained that aspiring drummers don’t need loads of chops to get work, and that the key to being a good drummer is performing what the song needs – which isn’t necessarily every fill they know. He reminded students that Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ is one of the most famous songs in the world and has a very simple drumbeat.
As the session drew to a close Ace and Mark spoke about the different roles involved in a DIY band. Signed to their own label, Skunk Anansie have embraced the changes in the music industry and coordinate everything themselves, from their own press agent to recording sessions. Mark shared that his role within the band was to produce all the video content before showing students some of his videography work for the band.
The session ended with a final performance and further questions from the clearly eager students!
We’d like to thank Mark for taking the time to hold such an informative and inspiring masterclass.
Skunk Anansie live at Highfield Festival, 2016
If you’d like to study at ACM and learn from incredible musicians like Mark Richardson, please call our Admissions Team on 01483 500 841 or visit www.acm.ac.uk/open-days/ to book a place on an ACM Open Day today.