When it comes to spotting new drum talent, our colleagues at Rhythm magazine like to think they're on the money. But while many great new drummers grace their pages each year, it takes a special talent to get the team down en masse to a show to witness a drummer with such a perfect combination of technique, showmanship, thrilling drum parts and hard-hitting power as Marmozets' Josh Macintyre.
Marmozets are Britain's most talked-about and exciting new alternative rock band, playing music that is powerful, angry, melodic, intricate and catchy in equal measure. Josh's drumming is adroit with the shifting time signatures, angular riffing, metal power and sublime pop sensibilities that make Marmozets such a joy live and on record.
The GoPro cameras Rhythm has been allowed to clamp onto Josh's kit will add testimony to the energy, skill and power of his playing; though Josh himself, it transpires, was not so happy with his own performance on that gig. "With my drumming I'm never 100 percent happy," he had already confessed to Rhythm. "I'm very, like, OCD with my drumming and how I do things. I can be sat at the side of my drum kit for half an hour just fiddling with the height of a cymbal."
"I'm very OCD with my drumming. I can be sat at the side of my drum kit for half an hour just fiddling with the height of a cymbal"
Born Young And Talented
It all began, not so very long ago, when an uncle with cool records and a drum kit first inspired young Josh to pick up sticks. After a while bashing on pots and pans and, when he could, on his uncle's kit, the mostly self-taught youngster found himself in a band with siblings Sam and Becca.
"We were about 12, 13 at the time," recalls Josh of Marmozets' origins, "it was like a [school] house competition, a music competition, and they had to put a band together. At first there were about 20 people in the room to do this band and then everyone started dropping out, and it got down to me, Bec, Sam, a friend called Joe, and Jack [Bottomley, Marmozets' guitarist].
"We won the competition, we did two covers, and then after that the teacher was like, 'You guys are really good, you should start practising after school. Then we used to go round to Jack's after school and jam there."
One Christmas, Josh finally got a drum kit, where previously he'd only been able to get on the kit at whichever venue the band were playing.
"It was second-hand from a charity shop, £50. It was the best thing ever. And I remember they took me to the kitchen and it was all set up, it was like my biggest dream ever, to get my own kit. I remember getting told off by the neighbours though because it was [Christmas] morning!"
"It was like my biggest dream ever, to get my own kit"
The band fully formed when their guitarist friend Joe left for University, at which point Sam Macintyre swapped from bass to guitar, and Jack Bottomley's brother Will was brought in for four-stringed duties. A band made up of two sets of siblings could either be a blessing or a constant battleground. Luckily, it seems both families are pretty harmonious within Marmozets.
"It's cool 'cos we've all grown up with each other," says Josh, "so we've always connected with each other, it just flows really well in rehearsals and stuff, we just feed off each other really. We know each other inside out so we know how to work with each other. I think it's a big bonus.
"People always ask, do you argue? Everyone argues. What family doesn't? What friends don't argue? Everyone argues. But it definitely helps being a family, you're always sticking with each other and wanting the best for each other."
Growing up in Bingley, a quiet West Yorkshire town, it wasn't easy for the underage band to get gigs in the big cities of the nearby Leeds/Bradford conurbation.
"Bradford was the first, the 1 In 12 Club, it was about 100 capacity, we used to play there a lot when we started. But Leeds, it wasn't till later on when Will joined, because some of us were getting older – it used to be 18-plus and some of us were still 16, 17, so we used to get rejected a lot of the time. But it was the Well, used to be called Joseph's Well, that first took us as a family.
"I'd seen a lot of cool bands there like And So I Watch You From Afar, and so we started playing Leeds a lot more. And Keighley we played a lot of times, they've got some really cool venues there."
"It definitely helps being a family, you're always sticking with each other and wanting the best for each other"
The five Marmozets had varied musical backgrounds, with the Macintyres brought up on the Christian music of Keith Green and Hillsong United, with the aforementioned uncle bringing some Foo Fighters and Nirvana into the mix, while the Bottomleys' dad "was really cool, he was into Big Black and all of that stuff, and bands from the '90s".
But drums-wise, young Josh didn't necessarily look to the usual star drummers for inspiration. "My uncle first showed me drumming, he has always been my biggest inspiration. When we've been doing these shows I definitely think of him and thank him for showing me it."
Marmozets' debut, The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets, landed at the end of 2014. It's an astonishing first record, packed with hooky, melodic rock tunes with some mind-bending time signature changes alongside head-banging accessibility; rhythmic complexity and musical skill combined with youthful, punky energy.
It's a rare feat to combine all of that in a genuinely non-contrived way – that they pulled it off in style is due in no small part to Josh's seemingly innate ability to lay down exactly the right groove for each track, whether it's a tom groove, angular rhythms with odd-time stabs or intricate snare work serving the songs' more vocally-led moments.
"For me it's literally just feel," explains Josh. "Feel, you can't, pen and paper, learn. You can but you can't, it's like a process. I think once you've been with a band for so long, and you know each other inside out, that's definitely helped me.
"Feed off the people you're playing with, that's the most important thing, that relationship with your band"
"It helps me now when I'm jamming with other people, you just know how to feel it. And it's years of practising and playing with other people and listening to music. There's so many things you can put down but you know it's right when you're looking at the band and they're going like, 'That's the one.'
"Feed off the people you're playing with, that's the most important thing, that relationship with your band or whoever you're playing with."
But there's no doubt that for all the groove and feel evident in Marmozets music, there's also a fair bit of maths to be done too.
"When I get people asking me the time signature, like maybe they want to learn the songs, I always say I really have no clue – it's always been felt. Some songs, when it's like the really crazy ones like 'Vibetech', I just kind of play it and then when I get to band practice I'll say, 'I've got this beat,' and the guys will try and nail it first time. And if it doesn't [work] maybe we'll count it out then; and then literally after that there's no counting, everyone's just learned it.
"Jack and Sam are really good at making stupid time signatures," he adds. "like, instead of coming in on the '1' you'll come in on the '&' of '4'. I've got used to it now. There's only so many time signatures you can do – it's more like the rhythm that you play. I think once you know your '1's and '&'s you're pretty set."
Josh has recently landed a sweet endorsement deal with the mighty DW and taken delivery of a beautiful DW Collector's series kit. "I've always dreamt of playing DW, but it's always been out of my reach," says Josh. "I've tried loads of other kits, not been endorsed but just experimenting, but it never really worked for me. Then DW, one of the guys at a festival just came up and my stomach just dropped, I was like no way! They were saying, 'We've been watching you and it'd be really cool, we're just helping out with Queens Of The Stone Age right now…'"
"I've always dreamt of playing DW, but it's always been out of my reach"
Josh is in genuine awe that he's mentioned in the same sentence as Josh Homme and co, but there's no doubt that Marmozets are on a meteoric upward curve. The shows are getting bigger (by the time you read this they will have just finished up a run of dates supporting Muse), which means that Josh can no longer on a whim take his entire drum kit into the crowd, as he has been known to do.
"I think I'll have to be a bit more careful with it!" he says, the thought of risking his precious new DW clearly a troubling one. "We used to do it because we'd be on support with other bands, it wouldn't be sold-out shows so it'd be really easy to put it in [to the moshpit]. But I remember one time we played a festival and I made the mistake of trying it and it was full, packed, and it literally took me 10 minutes to get the kit in the crowd. The promoters were like, 'Come on, seriously? You're running over time!'"
The crowds might now be further away, but there's certainly no less energy up on stage.
"It's been weird recently, these sold-out shows on a drum riser. I think it's only tonight [in Bristol] there's no drum riser so it will be really cool, no barrier. I sometimes feel I'm a little bit away from everyone, but to be honest I'm always just in my own little world anyway so I still go crazy, I still enjoy it just as much.
"Up close and personal it's really nice, but the big ones it's just cool because there's that amount of people there to see you, and you still feel connected. And the band are the best, it's never changed. Whatever size of stage they're still running about like kids doing their same thing."
Hit The Wave
The band have toured almost relentlessly since going in to record their album a year ago, and Josh is quick to acknowledge that all that time on the road has made the band even tighter.
"I always seem to recognise that we've got tighter when we've finished a tour and go back to practice. We're twice as strong. With music or with any job you have, you always learn more. Even the greatest ever drummers in the world, you always want to add more, there's always something you can learn. I think it's definitely showing in this tour."
"Even the greatest ever drummers in the world, you always want to add more, there's always something you can learn"
Having played that material so much live since, is there anything, we wonder, that Josh would go back and do differently?
"I'm definitely still really happy with the way it turned out," he says. "I think there'll always be things like, 'Maybe there's something I could have added,' But even from last night [Marmozets' London show at Camden's Electric Ballroom], it's probably our biggest headliner we've ever done, there was like 1,300 people, sold out – we've got like six sold-out shows [on this run].
"I definitely walked off stage the happiest, like, 'Wow that many people want to come and see our shows! And I appreciate that, but I've got to get myself in a mindset before I play. But I'm happy with how [the album's] done and I like playing it live. Maybe one fill… but I'm more excited with what I've got to show next, on the next record."
Speaking of which, it seems as though Marmozets have written so much material already that there's no 'difficult second album' looming; rather there's a sizeable editing job to be done.
"We've already got a stack of songs," confirms Josh. "If we had a Macbook and it had the biggest hard drive in it, you wouldn't be able to get it all on! So many different songs. Ones that are dusty on the back shelf that will probably never be touched… but we've already got an album on the way, and we definitely want something out by next year.
"We want to take our time with it, not just like let's bring out another album because this one's doing okay – we're very delicate with what we write. A lot of thought goes into it. And the stuff we're writing I personally think blows the first album out of the water.
"Myself with the drumming, it's got a lot more groove. It's definitely really cool, keeping it tight, keeping it fresh, doing what we do."
In fact groove is something that Josh is very keen to stress is his priority. And despite, or perhaps because of, the rhythmic complexity of Marmozets' music, there is assuredly a very solid groove behind the songs – importantly, you can happily nod your head to even the odder-time tracks, and the kids can still mosh like crazy to them.
"I guess it's 'cos our kind of music is very much about being tight, I don't want to show off. But I may show off in the one fill I do in a song. You have these drummers that do fills galore every two bars and for me sometimes that gets so boring because I've seen so many of these amazing drummers that are so fast or know every paradiddle, and it's mind blowing but after a while you're like, 'I've seen that chop done a hundred times.'
"For me it's about that one groove... that's what makes some of the greatest drummers so great, when you hear them you know it's them"
"For me it's about that one groove. Like Darren King, Mutemouth's drummer, he'll just play like literally the same groove within a whole song or maybe just change it onto a ride or put one different little snare hit in – then when he does that one fill you can tell it's a fill he's really thought about. And that's what makes some of the greatest drummers so great, when you hear them you know it's them. You can hear them from the next room and be like, that's that person. And that's what I like about a drummer, they can do that one fill and you know it's like, oh, that's Dave Grohl."
Back To You
The world of the Marmozets is certainly a weird and wonderful place to be right now; the band are on a meteoric rise, on their way to conquering the US tour-by-tour – and undoubtedly they'll be once again blowing festival crowds' minds this summer. The band are also signed to legendary metal label Roadrunner, and for a band so young, they seem to have avoided those much talked-of music industry pitfalls.
"It's been quite crazy," admits Josh. "I just try and enjoy it and just stay who I am – my mum taught me that. Stay humble, stay yourself. There's been a few years when it started to get crazy when I was young, and you can be stupid and do crazy stuff and learn from it, but I think some of the best testimonies are from the people who've stayed strong the whole way through; never had to have this testimony like, 'I did drugs for 20 years and I've only just realised I don't need it.' For me I just want to be the best I am.
"The music industry's a weird one," he considers. "The whole world's messed up in any type of industry, it is, you've just got to do what you want to do and make the best out of it. People always ask me when I'm home, 'It's a crazy business, isn't it? You'd best be watching out for yourself, are you sure you should be doing that? You're gonna be like the rest of them, doing drugs.' And it's just like, 'Be quiet!' I wish people in this world would be a bit more positive about stuff.
"That's the best thing about my mum and my family, they know the consequences out there, we've been in it quite a few years, even how young we are. They're like, 'Be careful,' but they always tell me, 'You're there for a reason and you're going to change people's lives, you're gonna help people,' and that's the thing for me."
There's no doubt that Josh is a fantastic example to young drummers, one of the reasons Rhythm has championed Josh and the band since they made him one of their 'drummers to watch in 2014', over a year ago. Since then he was voted third in Rhythm's Best New Drummer poll at the end of last year, coming in just behind Royal Blood's Ben Thatcher and Prince drummer Hannah Ford.
"Thank you for that," he enthuses, "absolutely incredible, I found out about that when I was in America and I couldn't believe it. Something like that I never thought… even being in a magazine. I used to flick through and see drummers and go, 'Wow that's so cool, maybe one day I'll be in there.' You always have those dreams. And then seeing myself in there and being awarded that. And especially seeing my great friend Ben coming second, he's such a great rock drummer, so tight, and he's such a good dude. The support's been incredible and I'm so excited for my drumming career.
"I want to be someone that helps out as many drummers as I can and brings the drums forward"
"And personally I want to be someone that helps out as many drummers as I can and brings the drums forward. Whenever I see someone covering our songs or finding a new drummer from a band that's maybe on tour with us, like, man I love it so much! It's cool. I have respect for every drummer, any drummer. So thank you very much. Such a good finish to 2014, and already been an amazing start to 2015 with you guys supporting me. For me it's very surreal and I'm very thankful and feel very blessed."