Photo by Janet Kimber
Morgan Doctor is one of those drummers who caught my ear for one reason and stayed in my headphones for another reason entirely. I first heard Morgan’s unbelievably catchy, hooky grooves on the The Cliks’ Dirty King, and knew she was a musician I’d continue to follow. Sure enough, I made my way to Other Life, her 2009 solo release, where the down-tempo, ambient songs could not be any more different from The Cliks boppy, surly rock if they tried to be. Thus confirming Doctor’s versatility, unbelievably solid feel and passion for mixing it up and keeping things interesting.
But weirdly enough, what really caught my attention about Doctor recently was the fact that she was attempting what sounded to me like the impossible: teaching drum lessons over the internet. She was inspired to teach students via Skype after being on the road for nearly three years and deciding to be a little bit creative about passing on her skills to aspiring drummers. We caught up via email last month and talked about long-distance teaching, lifelong learning, and what’s in store this year for Doctor fans the world over. Oh, and also about her fabulously-named dog, Cymbal.
Full name: Morgan Doctor
Nickname: The Doctor, Morgarama, Morganica, Morgie, Morgaliscious,
Age: 30 something
Hometown: Los Angeles
Where do you live now: Toronto
What do you do for a living: Play and write music
Bands You were in: The Cliks (most notably)
Bands You are currently in: Andy Kim, Dane Hartsell, The Morgan Doctor Band
Endorsed by: Vic firth, Yamaha, Zildjian, Evans drum heads, Quick stick
When and how did you KNOW you wanted to play drums and how did you make it happen?
I started playing when I was ten and to be honest I don’t remember what propelled me to take on the drums. When I started University though is when I got really serious about playing. I have taken private lessons ever since. I have taken lessons all along the way, from jazz and traditional East India percussion to straight ahead rock drumming
I kind of feel like being a drummer is a lifelong learning-project, even if you’re a teacher and an experienced professional. Is there something that you’ve learned recently that you’re excited about or have been incorporating into your playing?
I have been really getting into linear lines that can be used as fills or inserted into beats. I often find it’s the simple exercises that can make your playing exceptional.
Tell me about Skype drum lessons – what’s it like teaching that way? What are some things you like and some challenges about it?
I was inspired to do internet drum lessons after being on the road for almost 3 years straight and coming across a lot of people who were fans of my playing and wanted to take lessons but they lived in Europe or the States. I know people who do therapy sessions via Skype so I figured drum lessons would totally work. It is a great way to learn from a teacher who you want to learn from but can hop on a plane every week or month to take a lesson. The drawbacks are that you can’t pick up some of the subtle hand technique stuff that you would catch being in the room with someone and seeing their hands close up. The benefit I find is that people feel less intimidated and freer to play than if they have someone sitting in the room with them watching them.
Onto your actual playing: Your drumming styles are incredibly varied from your work with The Cliks to your solo work. Do you enjoy that kind of variance in your playing? Does one feel connected to the other?
I definitely enjoy the variation. I recall being on the road with The Cliks and thinking “Man, I’m really good at playing these ten songs but if you were to ask me to play some Latin grooves it would take me a bit to warm up to it.” It is good to keep your playing as varied as possible and know that even if you are studying jazz it will make its way into your rock playing.
Absolutely. And you are definitely keeping busy! Tell me about everything you’ve currently got your drumsticks on. What’s something you’re currently working on that you’re super-excited about?
This summer and fall will be full of touring with Andy Kim. We are starting in Canada then going down into the States. It is an honor and a great experience to be playing with a pop icon like him. I am also playing with a young hot artist out of Canada named Dane Hartsell (www.chrissmithmanagement.com).
I have been concentrating on my time off the road to work with my band getting our live show together (it involves a lot of live looping and electronics and a good portion of the songs are done as a duo-bass and drums). I am currently working on my third solo album, but this one will be a collaboration with Eccodek frontman, Andrew Macpherson. It is looking like I will be taking part in a documentary on drummers by Corky Laing.
Anything else you’d like to talk about that Morgan Doctor fans should get excited about for the coming year?
People can find me by way of my fan page on Facebook, on myspace page and my website at to keep up to date on all my playing and other stuff. I have been entertaining the idea of breaking down some of the beats I have come up with while playing with The Cliks and other bands and making some videos on Youtube. What do you think?
I think that would be a fabulous idea. It would be so cool for that kind of thing to be more readily available to drummers like myself, who really started learning by playing along to some of our favorite albums. Speaking of which: If you were making a mixtape for a drummer just starting out, what are the first five songs you’d put on and why?
“Cissy Strut” by The Meters – for the groove and linear funk playing
“What Sarah Said” by Death Cab For Cutie – Jason McGerr is a great drummer for pop music.
Anything off of Bob Berg’s album, “Another Standard”- Gary Novak shows off his jazz skills like nothing else
“Dancing Nancies” by the Dave Matthews Band – We all know Carter Beauford kills the linear grooves and has a style like no other.
I’m a huge Steve Gadd fan and think that he has mastered playing in the pocket and makes everything sound melodic and effortless. So most famously, “50 Ways to Leave your Lover.”
What are some things you like doing when you’re not playing drums?
Taking my dog Cymbal for a walk, doing yoga, reading a good book, or just having a drink.
Exclusive Interview by Tom Tom’s Temim Fruchter
The boxing ring stills are from EPK footage and Dirty King video respectively.