Behind the Kit with Sam McIver (The Stone Angels)
Devon-based originals rock band The Stone Angels are off on tour in September.
I caught up with their drummer, Sam McIver, for a chat about life in an originals band, being on the road and the importance of sticks and coffee!
On Starting Drumming... As is the case with many drummers, Sam was inspired at a young age to take up drums by another player's enthusiasm.
He says, "I saw a band in secondary school who were runners-up in a talent show, and I distinctly remember watching the drummer having the best time of his life. - almost like there was nothing else he'd rather be doing, and I remember just being captured by the pure excitement and energy. I thought to myself, THAT LOOKS FUN, I've gotta do that!"
Sam got his first kit at the age of 11 or 12, he recalls, and has been playing for around 12 years. The rest, as they say, is history!
On Touring... This will be Sam's second tour with The Stone Angels.
Sam explains "the band itself formed in 2009. I joined early 2014. I'd started gigging the local scene at an early age with my first band and was fully aware of The Stone Angels and the talent they possessed. When the opportunity arrived [to join them], I took it!"
Speaking of touring - with a little experience under his belt from the first time, I ask Sam if there's anything he'd do differently this time. His down-to-earth reply: "Less Wetherspoons food...definitely! Perhaps a little more sleep and a sh*t tonne more coffee!"
With a few different cities to choose from, I'm wondering where Sam is most looking forward to playing... "It's hard to pinpoint which gig I'm looking forward to most. We've played in a few of these cities before but we've never played in these venues. If I had to pick one, it'd probably be The Peer Hat, Manchester. I've always been fascinated by Manchester and its music scene, and the first gig we had there at The Rebellion was amazing."
On Drum Gear... One of my favourite questions for drummers is always about their gear. Sam plays a Mapex Mars kit, plus both Zildjian and Sabian cymbals. Now I need to find out which bit of kit Sam couldn't do without...
"My Roland SPD-SX, without a doubt. I use it to trigger all Stone Angels backing tracks, which have a lot of synth work, extra guitar, vocals etc which we all wrote in the recording studio. Without that kit, the sound wouldn't be half as big."
And of course..."sticks are pretty useful too."
Funny guy 🤣
As your experience as a musician grows, you learn a lot of new stuff, so I ask Sam if there's any advice he'd give his younger self. "Yes. There'll always be someone better than you."
On Life and Influences... I want to know a bit more about Sam's day-to-day life - what he does for a living and what his dream job would be. He explains "I do a fair bit of dep work and play in a functions group in my hometown, which pays the bills - just! My dream job would be to just have a sustainable career within the music industry. That can encompass anything because it's HUGE!"
Of his influences, he tell me "There are the obvious ones like John Bonham, Keith Moon, Neil Peart, Stewart Copeland, Buddy Rich. In recent times drummers like Taylor Hawkins, Dom Howard, Phil Selway, Tony Royster Jr and Jon Theordore have piqued my interest. However, there are some incredible players out there who are vastly underrated. I follow a drummer on Facebook called Jerrod j-rod Sullivan. Seriously, check this guy out! I've never met anyone famous, but I did have the chance to visit John Bonhams grave whilst on our last tour which was rather surreal."
How important is support of friends and family to you in your musical career?
"Family and friends are everything. I can't stress that enough. The love and support they give you inspires you to continue what you do best and enjoy most. They surround everything within your daily life as well as your career, and it's not to be taken for granted."
Sam's girlfriend, Alanah, is also a drummer, and I have it on good authority (i.e. from her) that Sam has stolen her Iron Cobra kick pedal, as his is squeaky. When I ask him about this, he assures me he's "borrowed" it...
On Being in an Originals Band... Working on originals rather than covers can pose its own challenges, and I ask Sam what he's found to be the most difficult aspect of being in an originals band.
"Finding a sound you're comfortable with and believe is different enough to get you further is very hard to accomplish. Not only that, I'd say the location has a very big affect. With being from Devon we can only recall two major bands really. Wishbone Ash and Muse. A few artists have been born here but all the had same idea to move and achieve stardom elsewhere."
It's been a lot of fun hearing from Sam, and his grounded answers have been very refereshing. I ask him if there's anything he'd like to add that I haven't asked about... "The sooner more A&R Representatives and Record Labels come south of Bristol, the sooner they will realise that Devon has some immense talent and originality and deserves more recognition when it comes to modern British music."
I'm sure this is true, and we look forward to posting some updates from Sam and The Stone Angels as they hit the road in a couple of weeks!