October/November 2013

by Ben Healy

Get Yer Kit Off: Sam Edgar

by Ben Healy

Get Yer Kit Off: Sam Edgar

When he’s not busy being a member of Auckland rock band Doppler, Sam Edgar happily drums for a diverse array of other artists, Lisa Crawley and Danny McCrum among them. He’s also just turned 25 so we asked him to get his kit off for NZM’s own 25th anniversary issue. Bassist Ben Healy was keen to pose the questions on our behalf.

How long have you been playing?

A pretty long time actually, I have photos of me playing on my dad’s kit when I was three and couldn’t touch the pedals, but started learning seriously about 15 years ago. My dad Steve Edgar was definitely the biggest influence on me learning the drums. I used to go along to set up with him during the day when he had gigs at night, and it just looked like the coolest thing to do. He kind of taught me the basics to start off with and then left me to go at it alone. I’d usually be practising out in the garage and hed come offer suggestions as opposed to a formal lesson, which was pretty cool because it wasnt regimented and pretty relaxed. My first kit was a  Sonor 503 Series 5-piece, which mum and dad bought when I was 14. Before that I was just playing on his kit.

Who is your biggest drumming influence?

Well there’s a couple of drummers that have influenced me the most. In no particular order; Abe Laboriel Jr from Paul McCartney’s band and Jeff Porcaro from Toto (amongst others) he’s my favourite. His groove, the placement of his fills, his phrasing, timing it all appeals to me in a big way. Its what I wanted to do.
Depending on what style Im playing, whether it’s rock, or funk or in a jazzy setting or whatever, most of it I can relate back to his influence. I borrow some of the licks he’s played in bands over his career in those styles, and just apply it subtly to what I’m doing.

Any favourite Kiwi drummers?

There’s Dad, Josh Sorenson who was my drum teacher at MAINZ, Paul Russell from Che Fu and Eight, and Tom Broome – I really like his playing.

You’ve played with a lot of different acts over the years…

There’s my rock band Doppler, Lisa Crawley, Annah Mac, Phil Madsen, Danny McCrum and Jesse Sheehan. There’s more than that but that’s all I can remember at the moment. With Doppler I’m part of the band so we write together as a group. With Lisa and Annah and Danny McCrum I’m more of a session musician, where they’ve already written and possibly recorded the music so it’s just a matter of learning the tracks and turning up.

With so many acts of different styles, do you find it difficult to adjust between playing say, loud rock with Doppler, pop next with Lisa and more acoustically with Phil?

Not really, I’ve played those styles enough to know what works and I don’t really play anything flash. I’m more of a groove player so I just play what’s required and feels good, so it’s easy to adjust for me.

Do you change it up from their recordings when you play with them?

Yeah I put my own spin on things, nothing too drastic because usually the song is good the way it is. But if there’s anything I think I could add to the benefit of the song I’ll give it a go and if they like I’ll keep it, if not I’ll leave it how it is.

What’s your current drum and cymbal kit?

A 4-piece Tama Starclassic Bubinga Elite and a combination of Sabian and Paiste cymbals. Apart from my first kit, I’ve always been drawn to Tama they sound great, look great and in my opinion the hardware is the best. My snare drum is a 14 x 6 Tama Starphonic made of cherrywood. It’s very versatile, a bit of an all rounder. I can tune it up quite high for reggae and make it sound like a piccolo snare or tune it right down with a bit of dampening on it and make it sound quite 70s and boxy. I like my drums to sound quite big and deep so I tune them quite low to get a nice phat thud out of them.

I was stuck on Paiste cymbals for ages but I played a couple of Sabian HH dark cymbals and ended up buying some hi-hats and an 18 crash, just because the sound blended really well with my Paiste set really well. So it’s a bit of a mongrel set up at the moment.

I really like both the Remo Coated Ambassador heads and the Aquarian Texture Coated heads. Whatever’s available at the time I suppose. My sticks are Regal Tip 8A maple, the weight in them is just perfect for me and I don’t really play anything else.

Sam Edgar GYKO nzm151How important are all these components to your sound?

It does feel weird playing another persons kit and the thing about drumming is that its all personal preference. Every drummer will have their kit tuned and set up differently from another drummer because thats what they like, so its always going to feel and sound different. It all comes down to the feel of the music and how you groove as opposed to the gear that really makes it sound like you.

What would other drummers notice about your style?

The fact that I dont really play that many fills, I tend to focus more on the groove and locking in with the rest of the band. Just playing whats required. The subtlety factor is big for me. I don’t really do a big thunderous fill at the end of every four bar phrase but I’ll use a little syncopation or leave a beat or add a beat in just to break it up in each section to change it up.

I don’t have a signature fill or anything. There’s a lot I like… and copy on a regular basis… but nothing really I’ve personally come up with that’s drastically different from anything else. I just take different things that I hear and modify them a bit.

With regards to studio recording vs live performance, how do you approach them differently?

I enjoy both I suppose. The main difference between them is that live there is no room for error whereas you can make as many mistakes in the studio and go back and over dub them! The feel is different too, more adrenaline and energy live and I find the studio more precise. I’ve used click tracks in studio and live. I have no problem with it at all if the song requires backing tracks live.

Any particular highlight gigs of your career so far?

There’s a few. Christmas In The Park 2010 and supporting the Pointer Sisters with Phil Madsen at The Civic. 2012 NZ Music Awards with Annah Mac and supporting The Exponents on their most recent tour with Jesse Sheehan.