Royal Blood bassist Mike Kerr: my top five tips for drummers

(Image credit: Adam Gasson)

Want some pointers on how to play better with a bass player? 

Here’s Royal Blood’s bassist/frontman Mike Kerr to tell you how the band’s drummer Ben Thatcher has nailed the art of playing with a bassist - and how you can too…

Ben is always looking for a good time, you can hear that in his playing.

1. Get on the grid

“Ben has always been a very sought-after drummer, even from an early age with local bands. In the studio it’s mad – once we find the tempo of the song that we want to play it’s almost as if the click can be on or off. 

"I remember a lot of times in the studio we would forget to have the click on in Ben’s ears and he would record and it would still be exactly on the grid. He is very much on the grid.”

2. Don’t be a robot 

“Ben is tight, almost like a hip-hop drummer. But, he manages to do that without sounding like a robot. It has feel and flair amongst that tight playing. He knows how to push and pull over the top of that. 

"I think you have drummers that are very tight and impressive and then drummers that are very loose. Ben knows how to do both so well and he knows how important and appropriate it is to be tight and loose and when to do which.” 

3. Enjoy yourself

“Ben’s really creative. He still plays drums like he enjoys playing. You can tell someone who has been playing drums for years and is bored and just going through the motions. 

"Ben is always looking for a good time, you can hear that in his playing. You can hear a massive difference when a drummer is enjoying themselves.”

One thing that we realised about recording is how I have a hatred for cymbals. I hate them so much.

4. Be creative 

“If I show Ben a riff, nine out of 10 drummers would all play the same thing to that riff. It’s about not doing the obvious moves and I think with Ben a lot of it comes down to his musical influence. 

"He likes r’n’b and hip-hop and he won’t thrash something out, he’ll often go for something groovier. By default a lot of the time a song will come from me, a song idea will come from me. 

"But there’s a lot of new tunes where Ben would make these beats and send them over and we would construct the song from the drums up. That was a new angle that we hadn’t really done. 

"A good idea, a chorus, a verse can just come out from being in a room together and, for lack of a better word, jamming.”

5. Don’t go cymbal crazy 

“One thing that we realised about recording is how I have a hatred for cymbals. I hate them so much. They have a time and a place but they are so overused. In the studio the whole game is controlling the cymbals. 

"With a lot of these new songs there’s really tasteful cymbal use from Ben and that makes recording the drums so much easier. 

"Everyone wants to hear the overheads, basically because that is reality, that is what drums actually sound like, you don’t put your head in a kick drum or right next to a snare drum. So you need to get the overheads right to have a great drum sound.”

Rich Chamberlain

Rich is a teacher, one time Rhythm staff writer and experienced freelance journalist who has interviewed countless revered musicians, engineers, producers and stars for the our world-leading music making portfolio, including such titles as Rhythm, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, and MusicRadar. His victims include such luminaries as Ice T, Mark Guilani and Jamie Oliver (the drumming one).