Interview with Carlos Hercules – George Michael, Laura Pausini, Beverley Knight and Marti Pellow.
AW How did you begin your journey as a drummer, did you have any formal education, teachers, college etc?
I wanted to play as a child but never got the opportunity. It was at 16 I joined a local band and so the journey began. When I was 21 I studied in the Brooklyn conservatory of music in New York for two year under Scott Napoli. It was there I knew I wanted nothing else as my career.
AW Who were some of your early influences drumming wise and why?
I was playing in the 80’d and were heavily influenced by soul music as that time. Earth Wind and Fire-Fred White, George Benson Chic etc. I later found out that those drummers were Gadd, Clyde Stubberfield, John Robinson and Dennis chambers who was playing with Parliament Funkadelic.
AW How did you first break into the big arena tours, with George Michael and Laura Pausini did you audition or was it on recommendation?
I got my first break early 90’s playing with an artist called CJ Lewis, later I got on a tour with soul singer Beverley Knight and played for her for 22 years. This was a great platform to be seen and I got many recommendations from this. One being with a classical group called Bond, which happen to have a few of George Michael’s band members and MD. So when the GM gig came up I’d pretty much done my audition without knowing it. I got the Laura Pausini because a guitarist with GM Phil Palmer recommended me. I went to Laura’s studio played on a few singles and she offered me the tour.
AW I did hear when you did the George Michael gig it consisted very heavily on electronic drums and quite complex programming, was this a learning curve regarding future tours?
Thankfully I’d done many tours with electronics before the GM tour came up but obviously this was on another level, far more intense. It helped me tremendously prepare for future shows though none have been as intense as that since.
Reference the George Michael tour did you have any parts to read for the show also was the MD adaptable to your way of playing and input to the music?
I wrote out most of the GM parts as there was a lot of material although we did no reading on the shows. The GM shows were very strict musically so not much room to input too many ideas. They had to be subtle and tasteful. GM was a perfectionist who listened to the shows every night afterwards. The discipline was second to none.
AW You have adopted technology as part of your regular working rig, when did you first become involved with it?
Pop music has taken a huge turn towards electronic sounds so I’ve always been involved in that side of things from my early career to now. It’s a necessity for any working drummer these days.
AW How did you secure the gig with Laura as she is one of Italy’s top female artistes and not well known in the UK?
Yes to be honest I hadn’t heard of Laura Pausini before getting the recommendation and when I met her she was welcoming and warm and incredibly humble. So I played on the first 4 singles of her 20th year hits tour. We ate dinner together and talked with her family etc. Then she offered me the tour. I was still surprised when we started and I realised what a massive star she was. It’s been an amazing journey with her these past 5 years.
AW What was it like working with Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart?
Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart are to this day one of my favourite experiences. I only did a short tour with them, when they were inducted into the UK hall of fame and another highlight was the American music awards. Annie offered me her solo tour but I’d already committed to the GM tour so unfortunately it never happened. We still stay in touch today. And Dave is a genius he has such musical insights.
AW Reading about your past you have a long history of working with Beverley Knight how did this come about?
Yes Beverley has also been a huge pleasure and game changer for my career. She had recently changed her whole band and I got a call to audition but her first tour date was in 4 days time. So I wrote everything out and got by through the skin of my teeth and spent the next 22 years enjoying her incredible voice.
AW I heard time permitting you enjoy teaching, how did you become involved with education and why?
When I’m not touring I like to teach, I have been for a long while now. I think I have a lot of knowledge to impart and I love the challenge of learning how individuals learn and finding ways to switch them on. There are many valuable lessons in life through drums. I really enjoy watching my students enjoy their journey through music and life. I teach the readers the value of listening and the listeners the value of reading. For me music is emotional, my favourite players make everything feel great so I try to emulate that and share it with my students I find it very rewarding
AW Do you still practice if so do you have any particular routines, warm-ups etc?
Oh yes I try to practice every day or at least do a hand routine that involves singles, doubles, flams, paradiddles and finger exercises. It’s like a speed and stamina drill against the metronome increasing by 10 BPM every 10 bars to failure. I’m trying to grow as a musician so practice is very important. When I’m touring I miss practice and when I’m practicing I miss touring. Crazy!!
AW Are there any future tours/recordings you would like to mention to our readers?
Just more touring and recording with Laura Pausini and Marti Pellow. I’m also going to be doing some online tuition in the next few months that people can subscribe too.
Finally what words of wisdom would you wish to pass on to the generation of drummers?
The best piece of advice to all the drummers out there is ‘be the best you can’ both behind the kit and when your away from it. People like to work with good people so develop your people skills as well as your drumming skills.
Thanks again Ashley. It’s been a pleasure. C
© 2020 Ashley Wardell. All Rights Reserved
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