Be a successful band drummer

Godsized/Jamie Lenman
Godsized/Jamie Lenman

The dream changes," says Dan Kavanagh. "It used to be I wanna be a rock star and now it's, 'Man, I'd love to make a living out of this.'"

To the outside world, Dan appears to be in the thick of living the dream, juggling gigs with Godsized, Red Racer and former Reuben frontman Jamie Lenman. But the reality of the music industry in 2015 is a nightmare-like landscape filled with empty pockets and labels that refuse to put up the kind of money that would have been viewed as loose change as recently as a decade ago. And so while Dan might be flitting from gig to gig with his trio of commitments, this alone still isn't enough to provide a sustainable income.

"Music is an amazing hobby," he says. "Sometimes you get paid, here and there a grand, but very rarely. I don't know anyone that is in one band and that's it. Jamie, Godsized, Red Racer, none of us can just do that as our job. Some of the guys are full-time musicians doing sessions and producing, but I'm not, I'm in three bands and still work full time."

Here Dan gives us the benefit of his experience of life in a band in the 21st Century, and coping with the requirements for and realities of making it as a working band drummer.


"I've always been fast in the studio. I didn't want to say anything but I thought I could get my tracks done in a day. It was obvious by about 6pm that I would get it done in the day and I would never stop telling people that I did the album in one day! It does make you wonder about other drummers. I heard the other day someone was impressed because the session drummer they're working with did four tracks in one day. I said, 'What the f**k was he doing all day?!' I just don't get it. Some people are stuck in that old mind frame where you'd do a track a day and get flown in and out of the studio."


"It is incredibly hard. But so is anything that's good in life. You're going to have some long drives and you'll miss your family and get paid no money and sleep, if at all, somewhere horrible and cold. However, if you love your songs and your bandmates you won't think about the brutal 18-hour drive to Munich, you'll think about going and rocking out."


"You'll have all sorts of fun and experiences that money can't buy. If you do this for the love of it all, the business bulls**t will fall into place. I can remember in my early twenties I was in a band where all we wanted was to get a record deal, we didn't even know what that really meant. I've been in projects where before you've got the band sorted you're thinking that you know this person at this label and that person at another. But the band sucks and you're up against people that built their band out of love, they're the real deal. It's tough for a UK band but it's do-able if you're doing it for the right reasons. It is nigh-on impossible if you're doing it purely as a career. I wouldn't advise being a musician as a career."


"I was in my late twenties and had done the whole being a drummer in a rock band thing for 10 years and it became, 'F**k this, it's not happening for me.' I'd tried to push it being in some really bad bands, they sucked but I thought they might get a record deal. I did all that business thing. I thought it wasn't going to happen for me so I stopped. Jamie then got in touch and from out of nowhere we started making a double album. From there I got into Godsized and had a rehearsal with them in a tiny gap I had during the recording of Jamie's album. I just said yes to things that I liked doing and now Godsized is a massive part of my life."


"I'm a hard hitter, I don't think anyone can take that away from me! I think that gets
me gigs in a lot of ways, what I play, I play with confidence and I get into it. I try to be aware that it's not all about fills, but sometimes it can be. It's fun to go off the track but I get massive enjoyment from locking in. I've got three gigs and I've got all of them because I can turn up and play the songs. That's all people care about. It's the same getting the gig for Dillinger Escape Plan as getting the gig with Kylie. It's all about playing the songs."


"I heard Metallica and then decided I wanted to play the drums, it was that clear-cut. For about 15 years all I listened to was Metallica. I find it funny that Lars gets a lot of s**t for his drumming, that blows my mind. I think he's one of the best and most influential drummers of all time. He does these great snare and cymbal accents, he's similar in that way to Keith Moon, he follows what is happening and if hears the guitar doing something he joins in with it.

"I've just had a call for us to play a festival in Hamburg that [former Iron Maiden frontman] Blaze Bailey is the compere of. He wants us to be Iron Maiden for a few songs. They were the first band
I saw, so to go play 'Fear Of The Dark' or something will be amazing."


Check out the full interview with Dan Kavanagh in the Summer 2015 issue of Rhythm, available here.