By Jamie Franklin
Cassell The Beatmaker- Streets Interview
Hi Cassell. Can you tell us how you began playing drums as a kid?
I was about five when I got a toy drum kit for Christmas; it only lasted a day before I put holes in the paper skins. I remember tapping/banging with anything I could get my hands on…. just banging out rhythms. I joined a Music Academy aged nine, playing percussion in the Newham Orchestra. By the time I was 13, I joined my first band, which went on to win the ‘London Band of the year’.
Can you tell us what Roland/Boss gear you use, and how you use it with the band live?
How did you come to join The Streets?
While I was writing and recording with Plan B for his forthcoming album, I received a phone call from Mick Shiner, the publisher for both Plan B and The Streets. He informed me Mike Skinner was looking for a new drummer for the band and asked if I was interested. A few months later, while recording and writing in Germany with Akala, I received a call from Mike who asked me to come down and play with the band to see if the feel was right, as I had been highly recommended by Mick Shiner and the bass player Wayne Bennet. It sounded cool, so I met up with the rest of the band for a rehearsal in Terminal Studios.
We rehearsed for about an hour then went to the pub to chat. The rehearsal was just to verify I was the type of drummer Mike was looking for. One of the first things Mike explained was that he didn’t want a drummer who was going to do drum fills all over his music. He was looking for a drummer to lock the beats down and who had an understanding of using music software and electronic triggers. He said my job, along with the bass player’s, was the foundation/heart of the band’s solid groove. That suited my style completely as that’s the way I love my drumming to sound; I call it “The Meat and Potatoes”.
Which drummer has influenced you the most?
There have been many drummers who have influenced me and some are not even playing drums as a profession. I like Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, Dennis Chambers, Dave Weckl, Michael Mondesir and Josh McKenzie, to name a few, but my list is massive, they all have their own special style.
Can you go into a bit of detail about how you use the Roland Triggers with the rest of your kit?
At the moment I have three snare drums and the kick all linked to an MPC sampler, using triggers controlled by the TMC-6 MIDI- trigger interfaces. This is so I can mix the album drum sounds with the acoustic drums. For me the TMC-6s are easy to program and very reliable. I also use two V-Drum pads to trigger sounds, as they feel the best to hit.
Can you tell us which Streets tracks you use your Roland gear on most?
I use the Roland gear continuously throughout the whole show!
What do you do differently to work with your Roland gear in the studio when recording?
I pretty much use the Roland gear in the same way. However I would love to try using the full Roland V-Drums. So, come on Roland, hook me up; what you waiting for? Only joking, you guys have been brilliant.
How have you seen the music industry change since you began playing?
I have seen the music scene go from live musicians playing in bands to programmed MIDI sounds, moving on to DJs and backing tracks; now it seems to have done a full circle back to a mix of live musicians and MIDI. At the end of the day you can’t beat a good live band using MIDI technology alongside acoustic instruments.
Your keyboard player, Chris Brown, has been using the new Roland V-Piano in the studio and live on stage. How important is it to have a good connection to the other musicians on stage when playing live?
First of all, the Roland V-Piano is totally amazing; I never heard anything sound so realistic, with the option to take the piano sound where no other instrument has been before. The sound alone blends so musically with every other instrument in the band. That connection is inevitable.
You headlined Glastonbury at the Jazz stage this year. How was it and who did you get to see at the festival?
Glastonbury was great: the fans were totally amazing; they made our show reach that magical level. It was a pleasure to be there, the staff and all the people who don’t normally get mentioned were great; they are the backbone of the whole event.
I got to watch Steel Pulse and Q Tip; we had to shoot off straight after to Switzerland for the St. Gallen Festival.