Interview: Richard Spaven

On the back of his successful gig at Manchester’s Band on the Wall, supported by Hunrosa and Stuart McCallum, we at Intertainment managed to catch a quick word with the versatile jazz drummer Richard Spaven, between gigs in Zurich, London and Berlin.

How would you say you first got into drumming?

It was like pots and pans at home really, it really was. My dad just sort of saw me do it on a regular enough basis to put two and two together and go and buy me a little snare drum. I sort of added that to the pots and pans and then just carried on from there.

I started lessons at about 8 and I did have a proper kit by then, but it was all made out of trash basically; all different colours, none of it matched. Freddie Wells was my mentor. My dad researched who to get lessons from and Fred was a big band drummer for jazz orchestras. So we’d hang out with him and go to his rehearsals and look after his music and pull his parts out and stuff, and I was always just around that jazz orchestra vibe a lot. And so, that definitely took me on a bit of a path of people to listen to at the time. Before I got my own taste in music, it was just a matter of listening to what was around me.

It seems unfair to simply label you a ‘jazz drummer’. Can you talk us through your particular style of drumming?

In effect, I was trained as a jazz drummer – that’s where the discipline side of it came from. But during that time I started going to clubs. That was where I really drew my musical inspirations from. It wasn’t until a little while later I started putting the two together. Really that’s the style – skills of a jazz drummer but the mentality of a club goer. That’s the best way I can describe it. The styles of club I went to was a lot of drum ‘n’ bass, like a lot of drum ‘n’ bass. A lot of broken beat as well, and then dubstep like Deep Medi and Mala and all that stuff, and that comes through in my music.

You released your latest album The Self back in June 2017, which features a few guest artists like Jordan Rakei. Tell us a bit about how that came to fruition.

It’s the third one I’ve done and this one had a real vibe from that start with how I wanted it to go down. I had a very clear idea for it in every respect – production, stylistically… I wanted it to be a bit heavier and less subtle; I wanted to dictate to the listener what I wanted them to hear.

Spaven’s 5ive, your first recorded EP, came out back in 2010. How would you say your music has developed since then?

I think that, as a producer, I’ve got better at releasing the music I really want to release. To take something from an idea to an actual release for everyone to listen to is quite a process. Just on The Self, I’m a lot prouder of the way I’ve done that because it really sounds like the ideas I had in my head at the beginning. You just improve in all aspects as time goes on really.

At your show at BoTW, you spoke a bit about your nostalgia for the city of Manchester. What’s your history and connection to the city, and BoTW in particular?

When I was about 18, one of my best friends moved to university at Manchester. I gave her a lift up there and started hanging out there and visiting a lot.

My first gig at Band on the Wall was back in about 2000, something like that, with Atmosfear, this dance/funk band that was coming back. They were successful in the 70s and they were doing a comeback, so it wasn’t original members anymore, but I just remember that as my first time at BoTW. Once you have that special experience somewhere for the first time, it always resonates with that. It’s really stayed. And then to go and do my own thing there and have such a great night, I loved it.

You’ve worked with a lot of renowned artists over the years and seem to be in high demand. Is there anyone, in particular, you’d like to work with you haven’t already?

I’d love to work with James Blake. He totally encompasses so many things for me, I’d be completely intimidated. He’s a complete genius, I love his stuff.

Are you working on anything else at the moment, or planning on?

I’m doing more drum events, which is a more recent thing, so I have a bunch of that to do. It normally gets me practicing before I’m scrutinised by a load of drummers.

I’ve actually already been in the studio and recorded the next album. We did it in Bath at Real World Studios, which was incredible. It should be September for that. It was more of a ‘band in the studio’ record than The Self is, so it’s done a bit differently. I haven’t even opened any of the files yet, but in the back of my mind, it should be September. Jordan is also on it, and I say that because he’s totally smashed it.

Find out more about Richard Spaven on his website here.


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