Be­hind the kit

Mark Pusey talks gear, ses­sions and Teenage Mu­tant Ninja Tur­tles

Rhythm - - CONTENTS - Words: Rich Cham­ber­lain photos: Ben Lyon­s­myth

With heavy­weight names such as Ed Sheeran on his CV, Brit drum­mer Mark Pusey has carved out quite the ses­sion niche for him­self. As well as the ginger-haired chart-con­queror, Pusey has played with the likes of Tom Jones, Olly Murs and Leona Lewis. Plus, if you’ve tuned into any of the mega Satur­day night tal­ent shows over the last few years, chances are that you’d have seen Mark be­hind the kit at some point. As a fine ex­am­ple of the mod­ern ses­sion star, who bet­ter to tackle our batch of must-know ques­tions?

What was your first kit?

“It was a Premier Bev­er­ley. It was in a spare room at home that my par­ents set up four days be­fore my birth­day and they locked the door to the room. I went in that room so in­fre­quently that I had no idea it was in there. It never oc­curred to me to open that door and look in. They even sent me round to my friend’s house – his mum had just bought an aviary and I thought it was the most bor­ing thing in the world as a 12-year-old kid: ‘Hey, come round and see my mum’s new aviary.’ But they got me round there so my par­ents had enough time to set the kit up. I ended up trad­ing it up about 18 months later for an APK, but that first kit was a Premier Bev­er­ley in white.”

Who was your first drum hero?

“In those early days it was re­ally any­thing I could get hold of. It was dic­tated by what my par­ents lis­tened to. As a 12-year-old I would lis­ten to what­ever was around the house. When I got into mu­sic at schoolI had a friend who was into the Dave Matthews Band, so Carter Beau­ford was a big early in­flu­ence. The older I got the more my mu­si­cal tastes ma­tured and it be­cameCar­los Vega and Jeff Por­caro, they were the main two.”

Did you take lessons or were you self taught?

“I had a teacher very early on. My par­ents were good enough to make sure I had de­cent tu­ition straight away. I had a teacher called Jim Fer­ris down in Devon. Then I started lessons with BobArm­strong. Then, when I was old enough to pay for the train fare, I would travel from Devon to see Bob. It was a seven-hour jour­ney there, a one-hour les­son and then a seven-hour jour­ney back. I started with Bob at 15 or 16 and that led to an ob­ses­sion and what I’m do­ing now.”

What is the one piece of gear you’ve got you couldn’t live with­out?

“I’ve got the Lud­wig 400 snare drum that Car­los Vega used on the Grease sound­track and ‘Wind Be­neath My Wings’. He used it with JamesTay­lor. He toured it with Olivia New­ton John. When he died I was given that and a load of other gear. That 400 works on ev­ery­thing. You can put a coated Diplo­mat on it and it’s su­per-sen­si­tive and it sounds beau­ti­ful. You can put aPow­er­stroke II on it and it sounds like a fat rock snare. It’s re­ally ver­sa­tile. I think it has some of his magic in .itTo me, it’s like own­ing Hen­drix’s guitar.”

If you could pick any­one at all, who would you most like to take a drum les­son from?

“Thanks to the in­ter­net, to­day it’s like you can con­tact and take a les­son with any­one in the world. I’d like to hang for a day with Jim Kelt­ner. I’d love to spend a day with him and watch him do­ing what he does in the stu­dio. I think what he has is in­nate.Maybe Vin­nie as well, but I’m not sure what he could show me that I’d get con­cep­tu­ally!”

What is your big­gest strength as a drum­mer?

“Ver­sa­til­ity. I have al­ways wanted to work and I’ve al­ways just been into mu­sic. It has al­ways seemed like good sense to me to be able to play ev­ery­thing pretty well. If some­one calls me up ask­ing me to do a Latin gig, if you can’t play Latin and don’t have a de­cent grasp of it then you’ve just lost your­self a gig and a week’s rent or what­ever. Ob­vi­ously, my strengths lie in dif­fer­ent ar­eas and no one is go­ing to ring me up to do a metal tour, but I know enough about dif­fer­ent gen­res that I could do a de­cent im­pres­sion of it.”

And your big­gest weak­ness?

“Fo­cused, repet­i­tive prac­tice. I lack the dis­ci­pline to go into a room and shed likeI used to as a kid be­cause we’re in the real world, work­ing, pay­ing mort­gages and all of that stuff.”

What’s the key to play­ing a big TV gig?

“Proper pre­pared­ness pre­vents piss-poor per­for­mance. If you’re su­per-pre­pared and know what you’re do­ing and you’re good, and if you’re play­ing those TV shows then you are prob­a­bly the right per­son for the job. It’s just a mat­ter of ris­ing to the oc­ca­sion. If you’re prop­erly pre­pared then the only pres­sure of those gigs is the pres­sure you put on your­self. It’s like if you’re driv­ing a car that can go 80mph and you’re go­ing at 70, it’s go­ing to be strug­gling and rat­tling around. If you’re in a car that can go 200mph and you’re go­ing at 70, ev­ery­thing will be easy. It’s about hav­ing more skills than you need for the job so that you’re only run­ning at 50 per­cent of your ca­pac­ity.”

What is your proud­est mo­ment?

“Get­ting a gig with­Tom Jones. I loved phon­ing my mum and dad and telling them. That was the first act that I worked with that my par­ents were like, ‘What, we know who that is, what are you do­ing with him?’ And I was like, ‘Play drums, that’s my job!’”

What was the first song you learned to play?

“There was a song called ‘Tur­tle Power’ from the

TeenageMu­tan­tNin­jaTur­tles movie and my brother had that on a cas­sete. I would play along to that. An 11-year-old doesn’t have the re­sources to go buy the lat­est Miles Davis al­bum so it was that or maybe some­thing from TheSimp­sons al­bum!”

Clear or coated heads?

“It de­pends on the type of mu­sic, on how hard I’m hit­ting, on the gig.I use mostly coated heads in the stu­dio. But, oc­ca­sion­ally, if you need more at­tack I use a thin­ner head that’s not coated so you get that ini­tial stick def­i­ni­tion. It’s rare that you need that in the stu­dio though be­cause peo­ple are af­ter warmth, rather than at­tack and full of clar­ity.”

Mark Pusey: from Ninja Tur­tles to Ed Sheeran

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