Sophie Alloway

Sophie Alloway is a fantastic UK drummer who tours internationally with a ton of artists. She’s also in one of my favorite bands - the Lydian Collective.

In this episode we hear about:

  • Her work with different artists
  • Her work with Lydian Collective
  • Lydian Collective's latest album Adventure
  • Her process for learning a new track
  • Some interesting analysis of her Lydian Collective tracks
  • How to think about groove as a band leader
  • How she approaches developing and maintaining her chops
  • Her ‘Desert Island Disks’


Definitely check out Lydian Collective's tours and music over at https://www.lydiancollective.com/


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Jack (00:02):
Today. We have the fantastic Sophie Alloway on with us, an amazing drummer and artist who I've been following for awhile, primarily through her work with the Lydian Collective, one of my favorite bands, but she works with a number of other people. In fact a lot of other people. As you'll hear in the interview today, we cover a number of topics like her work with the Lydian Collective, her methods of practicing and her thoughts on it, her favorite artists, some kind of conversation around band leadership, band leading and kind of just a general chat about what she's been up to and her approach to stuff. We also have a nice conversation about her Desert Island Discs, although that goes overboard and we realize just how difficult it is to choose Desert Island Discs and stick within the limits of only a few artists. I hope you guys enjoy. If you want to comment on this, access the show notes or research any of the links and items mentioned in this episode. You can head over to leanmusician.com/podcast

Jack (01:00):
So Sophie, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. It's great to have you here. I find it hilarious that we both have colds today. It's just a very English occurrence, isn't it? (laughs)

Sophie (01:06):
We do, sadly, yes. Even beautiful Italy and Germany couldn't cure me of this. So I just got back yesterday. (laughs)

Jack (01:17):
Uh, cool. What were you up to there?

Sophie (01:17):
I was doing a little tour with Chihiro Yamanaka, a Japanese pianist. She signed to Blue Note. So she goes between Tokyo and New York. She's a fantastic player. Classical background which is evident in her repertoire and playing, but she's a great jazz player as well. And she and I got together last July to do another little tour of Italy. It was something that the tour manager put together with me and an Italian bass player, Ilaria Capalbo. So yeah, I had all settled and it was really nice tour. Great. Nice to see the country. Good venues. I was very excited to play at the Blue Note in Milan on the Sunday night.

Jack (02:09):

Sophie (02:09):
So yeah, great people and my pleasure to play!

Jack (02:15):
What's the set-up with that group?

Sophie (02:15):
So Chihiro was on mainly piano, does a little bit on Fender Rhodes for some of the groovy attracts and then mainly upright bass. A couple of the gigs had an electric bass, so swapped over to that and then me on the drums.

Jack (02:32):
Fantastic. And how long have you, did you say, sorry, how long have you been playing? Is there, is there anything that's released that we might listen to?

Sophie (02:39):
Well, no. But there was a little discussion, but I -- it was sort of informal-- about me, maybe doing some recording, but she's, um, because she records in New York through Blue Note. She has access to some rather good drummers over there. So I know Jeff Ballard is lined up and Jeff Tain Watts, one of my ultimate heroes.

Jack (03:02):

Sophie (03:04):
Did some stuff with her. So yes, it's a lovely idea. But I think she's probably got this next record sorted. (laughs) But one day it would be great to do something. It's just logistics and budgets as squeezed as they are these days.

Jack (03:22):
Yeah. And what, so what else have you been up to? Say over the last few months?

Sophie (03:26):
The last few months I have, let me see. I always do a lot of different things. So I work for the very good friend of mine, Camilla George, she's been doing quite well sort of on this new London jazz scene. And we did Aberdeen Jazz Festival a few weeks ago, which was great. She's got a great band, love the compositions and this sort of slightly modern Afrobeat jazz approach that's quite hot stuff in London at the moment.

Jack (03:57):

Sophie (03:57):
So yeah, I had a great time doing that. Been doing a project with Pete Letanka. A sort of Abdulla Ebrahim project, which is great cause I was in Cape town for a couple of weeks at the beginning of the year. And yeah, it was really nice to come back and within a week. (Laughs) Play all that wonderful music and January I do a lot of gigs around town, a lot of little jazz gigs in Central London, although there are far fewer than they used to be.

Jack (04:34):
Yeah, sure.

Sophie (04:34):
I spent 10 years just doing crazy amounts of gigs one week after the next. And for one reason or another, I think it might be related to that awful B word that we.

Jack (04:49):

Sophie (04:49):
Won't mention,

Jack (04:49):

Sophie (04:49):
The political scenario or fiasco.

Jack (04:53):

Sophie (04:53):
A lot of those gigs have gone, but I will get back on our feet. We're very resilient over here and yes, I feel the future will be positive, but I've definitely been a little bit hurt by that and a lot of venues deciding that they can't afford the music or they're anxious about what's going to happen. But yeah, generally there's nice stuff happening. I'm back with the Lydian Collective.

Jack (05:22):

Sophie (05:22):
Tomorrow and Thursday. We've had a bit of a break for a few months.

Jack (05:24):
And what are you guys working on at the moment?

Sophie (05:27):
Well, time will tell. (Jack Laughs) I'll find out tomorrow morning. Well, so we had a great year last year. Weall culminated with us supporting Billy Cobham at the Jazz Cafe.

Jack (05:40):

Sophie (05:40):
For two nights. And that was a great experience. Very good for dealing mentally with the pressure of that, you know, having a packed house, two nights of people who want to see Billy Cobham (both laughs) and then realizing that they have to see me first.

Jack (05:58):
Oh, how awful.

Sophie (05:59):
And it's just, well you say (Jack laughs) that, but I-- I mean I've been there, I've been, you know, I've had my heart set on seeing a particular musician and then thought, "Oh no! There's a support act." (Both laughs) And often you go, "Wow! They were incredible and I've made a new discovery."

Jack (06:15):

Sophie (06:15):
And sometimes you just say, "Well, I really have my head in the zone to see the main artists." But we, yes, we made some great new friends. We acquired a few new fans and I didn't get too freaked out by the pressure, which is great. So it's all baby steps to, to progress. (laughs)

Jack (06:38):
So is tomorrow kind of a general rehearsal or is it actually you're working on new material?

Speaker 3 (06:43):
It will be a general rehearsal because we have our next-- actually our next gig is Kansas Smitty's. Let me just look at my diary of destiny in (Jack laughs) case this goes out before then. Tuesday, the 23rd of April, we'll be at Kansas Smitty's and then we've got Cheltenham Jazz Festival on Sunday, the 5th of May. And yeah, we've got Cambridge Jazz Festival later in the year and yes, several things going on. So we're meant to be recording an EP. In fact, we should maybe start on that earlier in the air, but yeah when there will be some new material. Definitely the tracks are already lined up. We just need to record them.

Jack (07:30):
And what's the reception been of adventure, like your latest album?

Sophie (07:34):
Yes, it's been fantastic. One thing about our fans is that they're not shy on getting in touch with us and telling us how much they love what we're doing. So that feedback throughout the world has been really positive. I mean, obviously we're not dealing with huge listening figures. I mean, we've, I think we've got to a million now, which is great if you're talking about jazz, but it's not quite in the realm of snarky puppy. (laughs).

Jack (08:06):

Sophie (08:07):
And you know, those kinds of artists who are perhaps doing a similar-ish thing, but we'll get there. It's, it's tough to reach the world,igging live 'cause you need a booking agent that can get you access to a lot of the festivals. But we're working on it.

Jack (08:26):

Sophie (08:26):
And yes.

Jack (08:27):
But you've been doing for a long time, the whole YouTube thing as well as general social media, which you've been doing really well and that's made a big impact.

Speaker 3 (08:34):
Well, thank you for saying so. Yes. I was the last one to join up, about seven little becoming up to seven, no, six years ago,

Jack (08:43):
Right, okay.

Sophie (08:43):
The Lydian Collective, so I was playing a fusion gig. Up in North London near where air and the keyboard player lives. And I mean it was great, I loved that band with Paul Carmichael,

Jack (08:57):
Right, yeah.

Sophie (08:57):
But I think the audience members was, it was made up of a grand total of Dave Platel's wife and (Jack laughs) then Aaron who I didn't know at this point. Aaron Wheeler, great composer and the Lydian Collective leader. And he loved it and he approached me and eventually, yes, I got back to him and we made it happen. I was absolutely blown away by some of the tracks that I heard a couple of the live sessions on YouTube that he had done with other players.

Jack (09:28):

Sophie (09:28):
And I just thought, yes, I want to be involved.

Jack (09:33):
And what was it, particularly that like excited you about it? Cause I mean, I had the same experience when I listened to you guys leading in for the first time and I just kind of bookmarked it immediately. I knew that I (.

Sophie (09:42):
Oh great!

Jack (09:42):
Kind of listen to it just both as a listener and as a musician. Was it, was it that kind of thing you were like, "Hey, there's something new here. I really loved it."?

Sophie (09:50):
Yeah. Well, I love the writing and there's a sort of-- I have to be careful how I say this. The melodies are quite poppy.

Jack (10:01):

Sophie (10:02):
But the harmony and everything is very clever and the arrangements,

Jack (10:06):
And the rhythm. I think they're great.

Sophie (10:06):

Jack (10:06):
They're just phenomenal. They're great I love them.

Sophie (10:11):
Yes. So that grabbed me and it was, I think we have a lot of similar influences. We're all big, steely Dan nuts. (.

Jack (10:22):

Sophie (10:22):
And there are too many people to mention. But Aaron and Todd, the guitarist had been very influenced by Avishai Cohen.

Jack (10:30):

Sophie (10:31):
Who I was sort of less familiar. I'd heard him with Chick Corea. And since then I've seen him a couple of times and yeah, that's amazing stuff. But somehow it just, it spoke to me instantly. And he sent me two tracks. One was 31.

Jack (10:47):
Yeah. (Sophie plays track 31 in the background.).

Sophie (10:47):
Yeah maybe loops was another one to sort of audition with.

Jack (10:54):

Sophie (10:54):
And when I heard 31, I just thought, what, what's happening here? I don't understand it. I get a lot of messages from people saying what time signature is it in?

Jack (11:04):

Sophie (11:04):
But I wrote it out and then I, I sort of yeah.

Jack (11:08):
'Cause You mentioned on the, on the jazz podcast you said actually, you know, I found that slightly difficult and it's challenging to sort of get.

Sophie (11:15):
Yeah, absolutely!

Jack (11:15):
And so I'm interested what your process is for something like that, you know, when you presumably writing it out really helps you consider everything. Is that right?

Sophie (11:26):
Yes, it does. Cause I mean I was a late bloomer in terms of reading music. So I had been playing for years.

Jack (11:36):

Sophie (11:36):
Just jamming along with records before I thought, okay, well what's, what's this? If someone puts a chart in front of me, what do I do? (Sophie Laughs) And I, but now I find it very helpful when I'm learning someone's music in terms of retaining the arrangements and the phrasing to write it out, write out the rhythms.

Jack (11:59):

Sophie (11:59):
And that's something that I've been doing recently, you know, with Chihiro's stuff and Camilla's material and anyone I work for, if they don't send charts or even if they do, I try to kind of expand on that and really get into the music before I go and rehearse with them.

Jack (12:18):
And is that regardless of kind of the initial complexity of the groove? You just want to get your head inside it and is that,

Sophie (12:26):

Jack (12:26):
Like a creative process?

Sophie (12:26):
Well, yes. I suppose if I'm doing a gig where the grooves are relatively simple, I could just write out, you know, the boonk-cank-bung bung cank or.

Jack (12:33):
Yeah, absolutely.

Sophie (12:33):
Whatever it might be [inaudible]. That's enough as a guide. But ultimately you want to be free from charts if possible so you're not restricted or you don't have your head in that when you really should be looking up.

Jack (12:50):
Well, I'm just, I guess that's what I'm really interested in is.

Sophie (12:52):
Sophie: Yeah.

Jack (12:52):
Like your process for like, you know, how much guidance do you give yourself and you knowin terms of that chart, what you write down and what you leave for your own kind of creativity.

Sophie (13:03):
Yes. Okay. Well, specifically as you mentioned, the Lydian Collection, first of all, there are no charts. That's one thing I asked Aaron initially. I said, you know, this tune 31 is quite tricky. (Jack Laughs) Do you have anything written? And he said, no, no, just, you know, just do your thing or words to that effect.

Jack (13:24):
But that's nice to be given that trust as well, you know?

Sophie (13:26):
Absolutely. And I think that's important 'cause I suppose most people who call me for work have heard what I've done or how I play or they've seen a gig or they've checked something out online. So I'd assume that that trust would be there to begin with. That they, they trust me to make the judgment and they think my playing is appropriate for their writing.

Jack (13:50):

Sophie (13:50):
Did I answer your question or have we gone off track? (laughs)

Jack (13:54):
I was kind of interested how much detail you put down on your own notes to remind you say for a new project because I think one of the things when I see amazing drummers like yourself, I just, because my whole world is composition and writing and piano and things like that, you know, it's only recently that I'm getting my head really round, you know, the whole construction of groove. That what always amazes me when you see someone who does something that you don't quite fully understand is how organic it can be. You know, you've got intense levels of detail going around. But you, you do have a core group, but there's so many different variations and I guess how much detail do you give yourself on any project in terms of notation?

Sophie (14:32):
Yeah. But [inaudible] the main thing for me would be form, structure, is their phrasing that either the composer would want me to play and double up on? Or maybe is there something that I feel might be nice as a unison pattern or at least for me to maybe play around the phrasing. So I might put that on, you know, in brackets on my own little chart. So I-- there are two things going on here. I, if there's anything specifically that they want that will get written down. So I tend to write my own charts with a structural guide like intro, eight bars.

Jack (15:12):

Sophie (15:13):
Come in on the "ah" of four at the end of the fourth bar. Maybe fill into that. And then how long the verse is, whether there's a transition in terms of the style or maybe high hat and cross stick in this first go to ride in the chorus. Anything like that is obviously helpful for me to have a sort of destination point so that I don't get, I don't confuse myself with where I'm heading.

Jack (15:47):
Yeah, sure.

Sophie (15:48):
Oh, maybe it's a high five, five, five. I always need to make sure I say the right numbers of fives. (Jack Laughs) I'm sure Aaron and Todd, when they announce it, they say four fives. But anyway, (Jack laughs) yes, high five, five, five was our most recent single.

Jack (16:04):

Sophie (16:04):
I don't know if you've heard it.

Jack (16:06):
I probably, I tend to just put you guys on shuffle and just enjoy myself. So, I am not that good remembering the names.

Sophie (16:09):
Oh! Well that's nice. Yes, I know it's a funky basically four-four dance track. (Jack: Yeah.) but played live and obviously there is detail in it and there are phrases and things. So for that I still have it somewhere. I wrote out a proper chart for myself because I was really struggling to remember the phrasing. (Jack: Right.) Aaron wrote the majority of the track and then Todd came up with these amazing unison part. (music Plays in the background)

Sophie (17:13):
And I just could not remember it. I couldn't retain it. I was having trouble coming up with sticking patterns that work.

Jack (17:23):
Kind of [inaudible] Is that alright? Sorry, you said unison pattern (Sophie: Yeah) and also sticking patterns. Could you just explain to the non drummers what those kind of are? (Sophie: Yes) And in relation to high five, five, five, five, five, (laughs).

Sophie (17:34):
Five, five, five, five, five yes, I was about to stop myself there and mention that. So I-- because we haven't played since so far I can't remember the exact phrasing (Jack laughs) now. But basically there are unison parts where guitar, bass, keyboard and me on the drums will be playing the phrase.

Jack (17:54):
So talk us through, I guess your -- one, how you, you know, you might describe the construction of that for someone who's kind of need to it and also how you then went about practicing that as someone who was new that material.

Sophie (18:06):
Yeah. So Todd wrote that section in addition to what Aaron had written with the bulk of the composition and I think we, he may have sent the demo round or we started jamming it and I just kept, I just kept sort of getting the phrasing wrong 'cause it's very syncopated. There are lots of semiquavers and pushed notes. So I wrote it down and I knew that for the first half of it, he wanted a sort of quieter thing. So high hat and cross stick. And then in the second part it could open up a little bit more. There's one hit in particular where he wanted complete silence so that it has more impact going into the next part of the phrase. So things like that, I had some guidance of what to do. And so we were all playing that section together. And in terms of the sticking pattern, there are little things that help me slightly when I'm approaching a syncopated phrase like that or a whole section where ultimately, do you want your right hand? I'm right handed so I lead with the right hand. Do you want that to, to get that crash cymbal? It's as a right handed person, the right hand and the right foot sit more comfortably together. So that would mean that my bass drum and whatever I'm playing say crash cymbal will be tighter than if I try and play a crash with the left hand and a bass drum. That's slightly more prone to flamming. (Jack: Right) So where they don't sit at the same point, but there's a slight gap. So I tend to prefer my right hand and right foot landing together. (Jack: Interesting. Yeah) So I would set up a fill maybe to give myself the best chance of playing the phrase tightly that might land with the right hand and right foot.

Jack (20:11):
And so with these, in terms of the work that you do away from the group, are you ever kind of sitting there really, really writing things out and constructing say those fills or those grooves yourself? Or is it kind of all jammed? What's your, what's your process for kind of getting your teeth into a piece?

Speaker 3 (20:29):
Well, I like to be pretty loose in my approach, which may sound contradictory to what I've just said, but bear in mind that if I'm dealing with a very structured piece, like a lot of the Lydian Collective compositions, they are very structured. And so my approach to that would be different from say all the work I do with Clement Regert with his wildcard project. I don't know if you've heard much of that (Jack: I do, I love it ) stuff. (Jack: It's brilliant) But yeah, we do a lot of gigs. And, so the core band is Clement Regert on guitar, Andy Noble on organ and me on the drums. There's a sort of revolving door, not in a bad way, people don't get fired, but there are lots of different front-line players, so different horn section players like it could be Dennis Batiste Graeme Flowers, Jim Knight, Roberto Manson, Dennis Rollins, loads of players normally on Alto or Tenor sax, trumpet and trombone clamor likes that the three piece horn section if possible. (Jack: Sure) And so that's much more organic. I have a lot of freedom, the charts, so sort of relatively simple and Clement trusts me just to play whatever I feel, which is great. So we don't really rehearse. We just turn up the sound check, run a few of Clement's tunes. He writes a lot. And we have an album recording coming up actually in a couple of months. And we're playing at Ronnie's this Saturday. (Jack: Brilliant) Supporting [Name inaudible] one of my colleagues, new acquisitions. (Jack Laughs) She plays them as well. So

Jack (22:17):
I love that term acquisition. (Sophie: Well, I (laughs)) Yes, it sound very corporate (both laughs).

Sophie (22:22):
No, of course it's not. (Jack: Yeah, I know) I hoped that whole snarky puppy scene. (Jack: Yeah, absolutely.) Yeah. So I'm looking forward to that, but that's a much more organic approach really.

Jack (22:31):
So in terms of, you mentioned both of them, obviously Aaron, Todd and then I've forgotten (Sophie: Ida Hollis on base.) Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah. (Sophie: Yeah) But with both of those two projects, so Wild Cards and with Lydian Collective, there's huge amount of trust obviously, which is obviously the backbone of any kind of collaboration, but there's presumably a different style of feedback from the band leaders. Is that right? In terms of when they're asking for something, you know, I'm just interested how, what you've noticed over the years about the difference, what works from band leaders about how they, you know, express their ideas and ask for things and, yeah. What's, what's your thoughts on what works and what doesn't work? (laughs)

Sophie (23:07):
Yes. Well, I mean, generally it would be because I should say I haven't been a band leader. The closest I've come is doing a big birthday extravaganza gig last September at 606 and then (Jack: Oh, cool!) Five years before that I did another one in Pub B. (Jack: Awesome) So I think every five years (Jack laughs) I like to celebrate or commiserate getting a little bit older by doing a massive gig and featuring different bands that I play with. Uso yeah, four and a half years time there'll be another, put it in your diaries, everyone. So I think with good band leading, it's, I appreciate that it's a tricky balance to get, to be able to give guidance on what you want. So that can be as simple as this is a Sam batoon do your thing. The B section goes to swing at 16 bars and then,ou know, we're back to the sandbar 'til the end, you know, have fun, knock yourself out. (Jack: Yeah, absolutely) That would be Clement's kind of approach. With errors, compositions in the Lydian Collective. He, he's actually a really great drum programmer, but he actually plays the patterns in with one of his whizz bang gadgets on the computer. (both Laughs).

Jack (24:31):
I love those whizz bang gadgets.

Sophie (24:34):
Yeah, they're pretty amazing. But he's a great drummer and then Todd plays very good drums as well. So depending on who's written it, they might send through a guide track and often I've just thought, wow, that's really hip. (Jack: Cool) I'm going to keep the crux of that and then expand a little bit. But yeah, good band leading. You don't want to, I don't want to be boxed in too much, but because of the nature of the music I get booked to play. That doesn't really happen anyway. There as I said, they will have checked out what I do and presumably they'll trust that I can provide what they want. Otherwise they'd call any of the thousands of brilliant players in London. So yeah, it's a little bit of guidance, but also giving trust and freedom. That's my summary of good band leading,

Jack (25:32):
But it's really interesting what you mentioned about Todd and Aaron kind of giving you sample grooves really. And it would be, are there any of the tracks that you can think of specifically where they did that quite clearly and you adopted it, but then you kind of evolved your work around it.

Speaker 3 (25:46):
I would have been a part that was based on the rhythm of the guitar pattern. (Jack: Right) So what I play is very much rooted in that. And actually I think for a lot of the Lydian Collective tunes, my drumming is inspired by the phrasing of the keyboard part or the guitar parts. And sometimes I felt always that unnecessary that I'm doubling up what's already been stated rhythmically. But the Aaron in particular likes that approach on the drums and it may stem from the fact that he, when he's doing his drum parts, he's approaching them in a way that echoes what he would be playing on the keyboard. (Jack: Yeah) So that's quite an interesting idea. But I'm not forced to follow those things at all. I think we're quite (Jack: Yeah sure) in sync with our approach to rhythm and groove. So generally whatever I play gets the thumbs up. (Jack: Fantastic) Aaron and Todd will be laughing, listening to this. (both Laughs)

Jack (26:53):
But then you've got other tracks like loops as well, which I think is really exciting because it brings, am I right? If I'm remembering correctly, it's all four of you come in staggered with all of these very different interesting rhythmical parts and it's kind of like an intro to Lydian Collective almost. It's like this is Ida, this is Sophie, this is Todd.

Speaker 4 (27:11):
Yes, absolutely! (Jack: It's cool.) and I think it's, we've often used it as an opening track because it takes awhile to find your feet with it. I think with the phrasing of it (Jack: Yeah) that it could be a game of where's the one not just to be tricky. We try never to do that and I think the writing comes from a very musical place rather than let's do something in seven or but that's, yeah, whatever the time signature maybe. But yeah loops and loops is a really interesting one with the transition to the sort of 6,8 fill and everything that happens in the A section as well. (Jack: Yeah, absolutely.) It's a great track. And I get to stretch out as well, which I like a little solo section.

Jack (28:01):
Yeah, absolutely. (music Plays in the background)

Jack (28:39):
You said something a minute ago when we were talking about bandleaders and you know, kind of the type of instructions that it would give. Just kind of usually they, to be able to give kind of clear direction they need to know about grooves and have simple names like sandbar and whatever. The one of the things I, I see certainly my students as well, it's certainly lack of understanding of the terminology that gets used by drummers for certain groups, you know, and for, for working with drummers. And I guess if someone was starting from scratch, not necessarily a drummer themselves, where, where would they start to kind of get an understanding of the overview of I guess basic grooves or basic groove terminology?

Sophie (29:19):
Well, I think it can be useful to have a reference. So, you know, sometimes someone might say to me and I'm just thinking, what if I'm writing notes for an upcoming gig? (Jack: Yeah) Maybe do an Al Jackson Jr kind of groove. Like he would have played on the Al green stuff. So that really laid back funky soul drumming where as a backup for the snare, he'd also play a low tuned high Tom as well on the two and four to just give it that really nice fat laid back sound. So references can be helpful if for anyone who's writing and looking to bring in musicians or it might be Chihiro said something the other day in rehearsal. She put this very tricky tune in front of me that she's been rehearsing with Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard recently, but there's no recording to listen to.

Speaker 3 (30:21):
So it was just a chart and she played this weird munch, you know, in 7-4 that crosses over the bar line. And again, my, I'd come off flies. My brain was a little fried (both laughs) but she sort of had a reference for that and she said, Oh, this is a chick Korea kind of style. Now I absolutely adore chick career and I've listened to a lot of his pretty staggering output over the years. So I would kind of go into my mental filing cabinet to do, do, do, do, do and go. Oh, okay. Maybe she means something from a, does she mean something from my Spanish fantasy with Steve Gadd O'Mara Roy Haynes approach and would just try and find the right group and it actually, yeah, once I got my head around the montuno in seven,it came out really well on the last two gigs. But just basic terminology for grooves. If it's a world music thing they might say, so this, the B section is a man bow (Jack: Yeah) or anything like a syncopated funk pattern. It's useful to say where you want the syncopation to come from. Do you want straight eights or quavers on the high hat but more intricate bass drum phrasing maybe to go with the bass player or uyeah, just a little bit of guidance. Like do you want the high hat and cross stick in the verse (Jack: Yeah) and then open up on the ride symbol for the bridge and the chorus is a bit crashy or whatever it might be.

Jack (32:04):
Uh-Hmm. No, that's really useful. You mentioned there that kind of mental library that all musicians have, is that, does that come from purely, well, I think I know the answer really, but presumably it comes from transcription as well as as just listening. Am I right?

Sophie (32:19):
That's an interesting point. I'm glad you brought that up. Because I don't know if I'm a lazy learner or if I just work differently, but I don't transcribe. I've never transcribed a drum solo in my life. Maybe I should have--

Jack (32:36):
I guess, I don't necessarily mean writing it down, but literally (Sophie: Right) just learning it yourself.

Sophie (32:40):
Okay. I take things from, yeah, I'll take elements and I have done that little ideas that I like. Especially with Steve Ghann such a massive (Jack: Yeah) influence to me and still is, I think today's his birthday actually. (Jack: Wow.) Yeah. (Jack: Well done to him.) 74 today. Happy birthday. (Jack: Happy Birthday)

Jack (33:03):
'Cause you mentioned on the jazz podcast about the kind of difference between maintenance practice and development practice, but you didn't go into that and I'm kind of really interested in (Sophie: Yeah) what you mean by that because you know, when I spoke to Terri Lyne Carrington, she was talking about how she was off on tour. Obviously a lot like, you know, anyone like yourself is, and it's sometimes tricky to find that time to go back into the practice room and that balance. What was the (Sophie: Yeah) difference between practice and, I'm sorry, maintenance and development?

Speaker 3 (33:32):
When I'm at home, which is most the time I really, I don't tall much. I'm definitely be up for traveling more now. I've done 10, 12 solid years in London doing crazy numbers of gigs and now I'm up for experiences going away. But luckily I tend to be home and I have my little practice set up.

Jack (33:53):
Is that all done now? Is it all finished? Because the both at the end of the podcast you were saying you were working on it.

Sophie (33:58):
The famous drum garage has not yet begun. (Jack: Alright) The garage is there, but it's, yes, full of my grandmother's furnish , (Jack: Right, okay) but I have a spare bedroom and I have a practice set up in there and yes, it's still on my mind to get a little studio done hopefully once the weather cheers up. But I, my approach to practice generally is to put my Spotify favorites on shuffle. Obviously other music providers are available, but I have a huge library of favorite tracks on Spotify that's I think are about 800 (Jack:Yeah) and I'll put that on shuffle and try and play along with whatever comes up. I used to do that when I was younger. I'd put the radio on and try and play anything. I remember Jeff Porcaro saying that that was his approach and it worked pretty well for him.

Sophie (34:58):
So I just to keep the chops in check, I tend to put on music and play with it. I try to do click work as well 'cause timing's certainly needs to be refined. (Jack: Right) Always. And you can, whenever you think, Oh, okay, I'm really getting somewhere with this drumming malarkey, something happens and you're sort of dragged back and you say, Oh no, I thought I'd sort it out. You know, dragging that fill (Jack: Right) or getting over excited when I play a sand bar. And yeah, it needs constant maintenance basically to just make sure that your-- to make sure that you're match fit for everything that's coming up. (Jack: Sure) As diverse as it might be. But I have good intentions. I'm signed up for Peter Askins' artists' works course. Artists' works is great for any of your students and listeners who don't know it. (Jack: Oh, right. Yeah) John Patitucci teaches bass on it, [Name inaudible] and teaches jazz drums. It's a great way to learn. And I'm also on Dave Wekl's drum school. I don't think I've logged in for six months on either of them. (Jack Laughs) However, at least they're there when I'm ready, (Jack: Like the gym right? ) Like the gym. Since that podcast, I've got myself together a bit and I'm yeah, the diet is good. Same about the week in Italy. I definitely ate far too much and didn't burn enough calories. But there was a lot of sitting in cars and airplanes on that tour.

Jack (36:46):
Yeah, for sure. Absolutely. And so just to go briefly back to what you said about the kind of the jamming along to the tracks and also doing click work. Is that, would you say that, that is maintenance that sort of, you know, exciting time? I know, but is that, does that fall into the thing of what you do generally to keep, you know, on track?

Sophie (37:05):
Yes, I suppose I am guilty of maybe playing what I already know quite a lot and just making sure that the vocabulary is there and that I can easily reach into, I don't want to say bag of tricks 'cause that makes it sound like, novelty

Jack (37:25):
No, but the way you described it with the library when you're talking to (Sopgie: Yeah, exactly) [Name inaudible] as well is that's vital for collaboration?

Sophie (37:34):
It is, yes. To listen to a lot of different music have, to have your ears in tune with, because I play a lot of music where I, that requires a lot of interaction from me and there's a lot of musical contribution I hope, I think from, (Jack: For sure) from what I offer. So don't get me wrong, I love rock and pop and that's a completely different discipline. (Jack: Yeah) But for this kind of jazz funk fusion, you really need to have yourself together to, whenever you have an idea, say the soloist is phrasing and you think, Oh, I want to get in on that. You don't want your body to sort of freeze when you're trying to reach for something and not be able to make that, that statement musically. So I think the playing along with tracks that I love, which also includes playing along with my drum heroes, which is pretty great, (Jack: Yeah, absolutely) you know, you get to play along with all your musical heroes. It just, it keeps everything sort of well oiled (Jack: Sure) so that yeah, you can react instantly. That's a good way of putting it. Just reacting to what's happening musically as a gig or you know, even if you're recording, I don't do as much recording as I used to, but yeah, being ready.

Jack (38:59):
So what's the, what's the development side of it? What does that intel? For you?

Sophie (39:02):
The development side is interesting. I feel it's been neglected and I, one thing I noticed in this current age of Instagram and everyone videoing everything, when I do listen back, I'm starting to think, okay, I've heard this before. So I'm listening to a solo of my, my playing. I'm starting to get to the stage where I think, right, you need some new stuff. So I tend to be stuck in the past a little bit with my music. I always have this little joke with people that I love from 1976-1981/1982, but the production went a bit for me. I love that kind of jazz, funk and pop and rock and what was happening then. Soyeah. And I'm trying to be aware of what all these new people are doing across the pond and in this country.

Sophie (40:04):
There's some great stuff happening as well that's very popular. So listening to a lot of the younger players and trying to stay relevant so I'm not just rehashing what you know, (Jack: Sure) but a party played in 1977 on a certain record 'cause that's great and it will live forever, but the things are moving on and I'm quite conscious that I, I don't want to get left behind obviously for work reasons. I want to continue to be relevant. But equally I think what people are coming up with now is very valid and it's a continuation of what has happened and yeah, I need to get back i n the practice room now I'm home and really work on just new ideas.

Jack (40:58):
So in terms of that development of it, is it purely just gaininginsight and input from existing or current players as you're saying? Or do you ever sit there and I guess try and generate new ideas from what you know and come up with your new things?

Speaker 3 (41:15):
Yes, I feel that every gig I do more or less, if my brain is switched on and I'm feeling inspired, I do 'cause of the nature of my gigs and the creative input within that, I do come up with new things and sometimes I'll just be playing, I'll be a company or soloist and I'll go, Oh, I like that. That's a keeper, when I remember it on artists another issue after we've played the next 10 tunes. But yes there is development happening all the time. But as far as targeted work, like sitting down in my practice room and putting on a attract that I've heard, I need to do more of that because I'm feeling that it's not stagnating but I, it's time to bring some new things (Jack: Sure) and to my playing, you know even kit sounds have changed recently. Obviously Chris Stave had a huge impact on Quest love did and a lot of the snarky puppy kind of guys and I'm checking out some, Sean Martin recently as well. We really enjoyed that. A tune called the Yellow Jacket, great track.

Jack (42:34):
Yeah, absolutely.

Sophie (42:51):
And the kit sound is different. So I'm thinking of maybe modernizing that without sacrificing myself. You don't want to lose who you are, but there's nothing wrong with evolving thing with the rest of the drum community.

Jack (43:06):
So are there any examples of, I mean you mentioned a couple of that like Yellow Jacket, which I played. But are there any other examples of kind of current artists that you're really finding are giving you great input for your work?

Sophie (43:18):
Well, as far as new discoveries go. (Jack: Inaudible) Ah, that's something I'll have to think about and let you know, yeah, that Sean Martin track, a friend sent it to me and it's, I guess he's referencing the yellow jackets, the playing's incredible. And it's just, yeah, I love it. And it really fired me up. Another person who's not new to the scene, but I really got into her heavily was Hiromi (Jack: Yeah, absolutely) and her trio Hilary Hughes, Anthony Jackson fan. (Jack: Yeah.) And Simon Phillips for me, maybe it wasn't an obvious choice, but I love what he does in that trio. They're taking a break at the moment, but when I saw them live, absolutely knocked me out. And she's incredible. (music Playing in the background)

Jack (44:57):
They both love it as well. I've heard them say on interviews that it's like boot camp, you know, playing with Hiromi. Really--

Speaker 3 (45:02):
Yeah. I mean, (Jack: inaudible they're good) it's absolutely, I mean, I don't know what's going on half the time in terms of the phrasing and the odd times that are happening, but it just, it really appeals to me and that's a tough nut to crack, to play really challenging music that the people respond to emotionally.

Jack (45:26):
Yeah, absolutely.

Sophie (45:26):
I, it's very difficult. So congratulations to her and them for doing that.

Jack (45:34):

Sophie (45:35):
So but yeah, I went to see the, have you seen the Blue Note film?

Jack (45:40):

Sophie (45:40):
That's called Beyond The Notes I think?

Jack (45:43):

Sophie (45:43):
I went to see it at, the cars on a Bloomsbury a couple of weeks ago, and it focuses on a lot of the classic Blue Note recordings and the story of how the record label was founded by two German Jewish immigrants, they were fleeing Nazi Germany and landed in New York, I believe. And they started this record label and they gave so many opportunities to the legendary players we know now. And most importantly, they encourage them to, to write their own material rather than just playing standards.

Jack (46:22):

Sophie (46:22):
And so it was fascinating. They had Herbie in there and Wayne shorter and modern supergroup of Robert Glasper and Kendrick Scott and Ambrose I can't be sure, I think is the pronunciation. Really great. So that inspired me to check out what a lot of these guys are doing on a tribe called quest.

Jack (46:47):

Sophie (46:47):
They were in there as well. They were a big influence for me, years ago. So just looking at the way jazz has evolved and the big influence of hip hop currently, which I like.

Jack (47:00):
Yeah, absolutely. So, kind of thinking about slightly, a slightly different thing, you've mentioned a number of artists that you, you obviously love, particularly the dramas. Would you be able to let, this isn't as an Island Disc, would you be able to kind of say maybe a few that you would probably take to it as an island? Any particular they could be drummers or it could just be music as well and it would be lovely to hear what specifically about that you love, you know, within the music?

Sophie (47:26):
Okay, well that would be amazing. It does at Island Discs where I can take the artist and the drummers. (Jack: Yeah) that would be a party and a half. Well in terms of musician, I'm not, I'm not gonna name specific tracks if that's okay.

Jack (47:43):
That's absolutely fine.

Sophie (47:43):
Because I think each of these artists and musicians has such a vast.

Jack (47:50):
Yeah, of course.

Sophie (47:50):
Collection of compositions and it, I don't want to devalue what they do by just targeting specific tracks. But Stevie Wonder was without a doubt, my first musical love. It was such an epiphany for me. Discovering songs in the key of life and inner visions. So he is a great drummer as well. His, I always say he taught me to play drums.

Jack (48:13):

Sophie (48:13):
Without knowing it 'cause I had no teacher or guidance. I just played along with those two albums.

Jack (48:20):

Sophie (48:20):
Quite obsessively. So Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan without a doubt and old Fagan's solo work as well. Chick Korea, Herbie Hancock, anything Michael Braca touched, anything Quincy Jones touched [inaudible] fire. George Benson. Yeah, the list is endless shack of calm.

Jack (48:42):
It's an unfair question, is it really? (laughs)

Sophie (48:46):
It is. Yeah. And I should say anything that Wayne Shorter has written as well.

Jack (48:52):

Sophie (48:52):
Incredible composer. The list is endless, but traumas. Yeah. As I said, maybe in other interviews I tend to find drummers that I like and check out what recordings they played on or who they're gigging with and go and see them. So yeah, Steve Gadd, Jeff Tain Watts, Penny Cola [inaudible], Bernard Purdie, Tony Williams, Elvin, Steve Ferrone, Keith Carlock, Jeff Porcaro, Harvey Mason, Steve Jordan, Dave Weckl, Brian Blade, all those guys.

Jack (49:28):
See you've given me lots of work 'cause I have to write all this down on the show notes.

Sophie (49:29):
Oh no, you can't write that down.

Jack (49:34):
I'm kidding.

Sophie (49:34):
Oh, but yes, so there'd be, I mean, I just love music and I sort of focused on the jazz and jazz funk but I am a huge fan of say, Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Hendrix, The Stones, The Beatles. And lots of different genres.

Jack (49:55):
Yeah, absolutely.

Sophie (49:55):
I think that's important for me 'cause it all infiltrates somehow and makes you the musician that you are at that moment and shapes your future as well.

Jack (50:08):
Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Well said. So we better wrap up, but I was just wondering what, you've mentioned a few things about what's coming up for you next, but kind of what are the next three to four months look like for you in your diary?

Sophie (50:22):
Three to four months?

Sophie (50:24):
Well, yeah. Well I'm looking forward to getting back on track with the Lydian Collective 'cause yeah, it's a great project and I've really missed them. I mean, we've had some social things, but yeah, I really miss playing music with them, so that's all good. The festivals we've got coming up, I'll check the dates and a lot with Clement Regert wildcard as well. We've got Ronnie's on Saturday downstairs and some festivals and things like that yes [inaudible] I did the album a couple of years ago actually, and she's doing Cheltonham, so we're starting rehearsals. Billy holiday project with David McKellmont I think that's, we've got Glasgow Jazz Festival and a couple of gigs around town. So yeah. And just trying to, now I'm back home trying to get back in the practice room and really, yeah, work on things. Oh, also just quickly, if you have time, does it an exciting gig with Lydian Collective and the Capital Orchestra, which is a new young orchestra led by Sam Gales.

Sophie (51:38):
He conducts sets and a few of us went to just check out their first gig and was really impressed with all these young, young cats. So they're doing a sort of Lydian Collective greatest hits if you like, so all orchestral arrangements and the four of us in the band will be playing with them. That's the Cadogan Hall on Friday, the 18th of October. So I'm fascinated to hear regarding the arrangements and making a full orchestra work with that,

Jack (52:13):
So did you guys started working on that yet or not yet?

Sophie (52:14):
No, no, not yet. And I think we're all excited about that 'cause it's so different.

Jack (52:20):
And who's doing your orchestral arrangements? Is that all of you or is it done by the collector?

Sophie (52:26):
I think Sam Gale, the conductor and the founder of that orchestra, he and Aaron, if it's one of Aaron's compositions, we'll negotiate should we say, I don't know if it's one of Todd's compositions, they'll do that, but yeah, that's going to be great. And it's in the proper big Cadogan Hall. So yes. No pressure.

Jack (52:51):
Yeah, definitely. Cool. Well, thank you so much Sophie for your time, it's been really brilliant to chat and I hope you get well.

Sophie (52:58):
Oh, you're welcome Jack! Yes, let's all get well and hurray for summer or spring first and then summer. But yeah, thanks so much for chatting to me and keep doing your great work with Lean Musician.

Jack (53:14):
Thank you.

Sophie (53:14):
And yeah, it's great that there are these online communities where musicians to learn and share ideas. I think it's really great what people like you are doing.

Jack (53:23):
Cool, thanks so much.

Sophie (53:24):
Thanks very much Jack, bye!