Chiminyo, aka drummer Tim Doyle, spoke to Charlie Anderson about his solo drum project and how he got started in drumming.
How did you first get into playing the drums?
I played in an indie band first, when I was 13. I was actually a guitarist and in the first rehearsal
we worked out that I was a better drummer than the other guitarist,
who was a better guitarist than me. So we just swapped. We were young, travelled up to London, did a few gigs. Then when I got to about 16 they were trying to get really serious, and trying to get me to not do my A levels so I said ‘you know what, I’m gonna do my A levels’. That coincided brilliantly with my discovery of jazz.
I went to a record shop and bought four or five classic records and then started to get into that stuff and it grew from there.
I think I started listening to jazz when I was 15 but I didn’t understand it. I grew up in the New Forest and I’m pretty sure there’s the odd jazz musician around but there’s not, or didn’t appear to be for me, a real pedagogy available for me to jump in and absorb.
I remember coming to uni and playing vibraphone. I’d been practicing really hard for a few years. I’d got the Real Book and I’d been learning all the tunes from that. And my vibraphone teacher, Jim Hart, was like ‘you should try to transcribe a tune’. And I was like ‘what’s that?’. I’d just never had a lesson where somebody had said ‘your ears are a very important part of this process and you need to hear the music in order to make it’. I didn’t have that discovery until I was 19 or 20. But I was definitely getting into jazz and trying to learn to play swing but was never truly supported by any kind of pedagogy at the time. It wasn’t until I came to London that I was really able to try and jump in and get involved properly, and understand a bit more historically about what I was getting into.
I went to City University, which is twinned with Guildhall. It’s basically an academic degree with lots of classical composition, lots of film composition and lots of essays and academia, and a little bit of jazz performance.
So I was very much concentrating on composition. Having not been fully aware and fully involved in jazz from an early age, I made the decision that I wasn’t going to jump head first into a jazz degree, having not really had any jazz education before that. So I ended up doing a bit of a try-out-lots- of-different-things kind of degree. And through that I found the things that I liked. I found my flavours.
How did you come up with the idea for your solo drum project, Chiminyo, and using all of the electronics?
Just after uni I became quite disenfranchised by the jazz scene, because at the time it appeared to me that it was going to be like playing standards in pubs and occasionally playing in more deps, so I was very interested in branching out and I was doing West African music, trying out some electronic music, and through trying to create an electronic project, I met up with a friend of mine who has a Prophet 6 synthesiser, it has an input that just said ’trigger input’ so we tried plugging my kick drum in, and it turned out that when I hit my kick it would trigger a note. If you held down a chord, it would arpeggiate the chord every time I hit my kick. It was really fun. There’s nothing more empowering than being a drummer and being able to completely dictate exactly all the decisions: change tempo, change feel, change anything, stop the gates, stop playing your kick and the bass stops. It was really enjoyable but we never managed to do anything with it because of time constraints. So I thought, ‘well, I’m gonna try all this myself’. I downloaded some freeware, used Ableton software and managed to re-emulate the same kind of thing, but it was very limited. I could only do a few things so I started doing videos and trying things out. Then I had a kidney operation and I couldn’t play drums for three months. I learnt to code using a 90s piece of software called Max MSP, which is a coding software where you can build all your own plugins and patches for sound and MIDI. I’d done a year’s work beforehand on this project with a vision of the limitations, what I could get my hands on and what I wanted to build in order to take the project forward. So I spent 3 months learning and building all the patches.
I managed to build a lot of software that allows me to do what is helpful for me, and the music I like to make. Since then I’ve dipped back into the software every time I was coming up with a new idea. I’ve got about 8 or 9 different things that I use now, which allow me to manipulate sound and software using my drums and pads.
Does it always work the way that you want it to?
No. The biggest problems I’ve had are normally when I hit the wrong pad. I’ll have a pad that will change me through sections of an arrangement. For some of my arrangements I have a pad that mutes everything, and I use it for the end of my tunes. There have been a couple of times where I’ve hit that pad by accident and not worked out why everything has just stopped. Then I just have to do a little drum solo and stop.
I’ve also had a few triggers that have stopped working. In the early days I had some really bad ones where two whole sections will happen at the same time and it will just sound awful, but nowadays I’m ironing out a lot of that. But I quite enjoy it when it throws me something that I don’t expect. It’s fun. Also, the crowds are on your side when that happens. So I’ve had a few situations where I’ve had to stop so I get the mic and make a joke out of it. They get that I’m trying something out and it will all work so long as we’re together.
Who would you say were your favourite drummers, the ones that have influenced you the most?
At the moment, Mark Guiliana is my go-to answer for that, particularly 5 or 6 years ago when I discovered him. He was someone who was really exploring the gap between electronic music and jazz. More recently he’s gone back into more jazzy sounding stuff but some of his earlier music really inspired me. And also Nate Smith is an absolute beast. Those are my two guys. When I was at uni I was very into Tony Williams, and Elvin Jones and Max Roach a bit. But now it’s more groove orientated, in terms of kit players.
When I was at uni I was studying bebop but I didn’t get on with my drum teacher that well. And I think what I got from him was ‘you can’t play this music’. It felt like I had 3 years of ‘you can’t play this music’, which is why I pretty much departed from bebop, which is really sad.
And then as the scene started to evolve I became aware that I could just be be, and that’s okay. Whereas when I was at uni I felt that I had to try and be Max Roach or Elvin Jones. Telling anyone what they should try and be and penalising them for not succeeding in imitating another person, that’s not a healthy thing. When you’re at uni, you’re a sensitive brain full of insecurities so it’s very easy for a teacher to plant ideas in your head of what you should be. It was only when I realised that ‘actually, I can play the feel that I know, because it’s from me’, rather than listening to records and trying your best to emulate it. It’s much more difficult and much more rewarding to play what comes out of you. That’s the thing about the jazz scene now, that I’m seeing and that I’m part of, it’s everyone using what is inside them to express themselves legitimately. I think I realised that most when I went to New York. I was just like ‘oh, these guys actually live this stuff’. That swinging, bebop and post- bop, it lives in New York, so strong.
If you listen in London, it’s not the same, it doesn’t feel like London. To me, London feels like grime, it feels like trap, it feels like drum ’n bass, or reggae. When you go to New York, there’s jazz everywhere, you feel it. It’s in the water. It was then that I realised why I was never able to get what my teacher was wanting me to get. It was because I didn’t live and breath it. It wasn’t in me. The situation now is an environment of everyone just being really encouraging and doing what comes naturally. Whether it’s jazz or not is just completely irrelevant.
What are you looking forward to?
I’m quite excited about Love Supreme. Three gigs in a weekend is quite nice. It’ll be fun.
Love Supreme Festival Jazz In The Round stage Friday, 10pm
Love Supreme Festival Jazz In The Round stage Saturday, 6:30pm
Love Supreme Festival Jazz In The Round stage Saturday night, 12:15am
Interview: Charlie Anderson
Photo: Lisa Wormsley