Since graduating from BIMM Bristol with a BA (Hons) Degree in Professional Musicianship a few years back, drummer AJ Rousell has been keeping himself busy with various projects. As well as being a live performance and studio session musician and educator, AJ is now also a published author, having written two books on his specialist subject. Most recently, AJ has been busy programming a drum camp ‘The Drummer’s Odyssey’. We caught up with the man himself to hear all about his work.
What made you want to start the Drum Odyssey Camp in the first place?
The starting point for TDOC18 was actually a personal wish. I have been a fan of Emmanuelle Caplette for years, and I saw that she was doing drum camps in France and Spain. I thought that if she ever came to the UK I would sign up immediately. As there was no signs of a camp coming to the UK, I started to consider whether it was something I could make happen. That was the starting point; the idea that if I would love lessons with Emmanuelle, then surely other drummers would too. It then grew into adding two UK drummers, and Pete Cater and Pete Riley were two of my top choices!
Tell us a little about the guest tutors who’ll be there.
So, all three of the tutors at TDOC18 are incredible in their own rights. Emmanuelle is from Canada and played the main stage of UK Drum Show last year, and has just finished a week as the drummer for American TV show ‘Late Night with Seth Myers’. Pete Riley is one of the main contributors for Rhythm Magazine and has played with the likes of Guthrie Govan and Republica. Pete Cater is a legend in the Big Band/Jazz world with his very own 15 piece big band, and is also playing the main stage at London Drum Show in November.
What plans do you have for the camp beyond the event in October? Will you be carrying out more in future? If so, how often?
I would like this to become a yearly event. I’ve been on a number of drum camps before, and for anyone who takes their drumming seriously they are an invaluable source of knowledge and inspiration. Yet I have always had to travel to get to a drum camp, so to be able to provide one in my home city is really exciting.
Who would be your dream tutor line-up for a Drum Odyssey Camp?
It’s hard to say because the nature of the drumming world is that new drummers can sometimes explode onto the scene and completely blow people away, almost overnight! The formula for TDOC18 is to have two UK drummers and one international drummer, and that is a formula I will be sticking with. I have ideas for a line up for next year which will be really exciting if I can make happen! That’s all I say about that though for now as to not give to much away…
Tell us a little about your books.
So, I have two books out at the moment; the first is “The Drummer’s Odyssey” and the second is “The Field Manual For The Church Drummer”. Both are quite different; ‘TDO’ is an exercise book for drummers wanting to improve their skills, using a system that I felt helps my practice and creativity. ‘The Field Manual’ is for drummers serving in their churches and is more conceptual rather than exercise based. I have spent my entire drumming life playing in churches and it is something I am really passionate about, so felt a strong calling to write this book. Churches are a great place to grow and develop as a musician, so a lot of the content in the book is really applicable to session musicians, it just happens to be delivered within a church context. Both books have had sales in America which is exciting, and ‘TDO’ received a 4/5 star review in Rhythm Magazine.
How do you feel BIMM helped you to achieve your current role as a professional drummer?
Naturally, BIMM was great for developing myself as a musician. It gave a space to practice, learn and grow as a drummer. But perhaps more importantly it taught me that in order to make a career, I needed to go get it and work for it. A lot of the advice from tutors always contained an element of ‘go the extra mile’, which is something I have implemented since graduating, and it has proven to be great advice.
Any advice for current/future BIMM students?
Work hard while at University, but start preparing for the working world before you actually leave! It can be a real shock to graduate and then suddenly realise you need work. My main advice to current/future students who are wanting a career as a musician is ‘don’t wait to be asked’. The more you play, the more you put out products or events, the more content you put online, or the more ideas you actually make happen, then the more your reputation spreads and people begin to know you as an active musician to keep their eye on. We live in a world now where you can release products, promote, advertise, and network all by yourself; you don’t always need permission or an invitation.
The Drummer’s Odyssey Camp takes place in Bristol on October 27th and 28th 2018. If you’re interested in booking yourself a place, get in touch by mailing AJ directly on [email protected]
For more information regarding ticket pricing/availability and to get in touch with AJ for sessions, pit work or drum lessons, check out ajrousell.com