What’s Not To Like About Electrelane?

This band is amazing. Ok, so they are currently not playing. But that doesn’t mean that without enough push from their fans they won’t make a comeback! They have been compared to Velvet Underground (Emma’s and Tom Tom’s fav drummer – M Tucker!) and that comparison is not for nothin. THEIR TUNES ARE SO GOOD. And we (now you) were lucky enough to talk to their amazingly sweet drummer and get to know her a bit. Hey Kid! (Above Photo of Electrelane by Louis Decamps)

Full name: Emma Zuleika Gaze
Nick name: Kid/ Embers
Age: 32
Hometown: Brighton, England
Occupation: Drummer/ apprentice set painter
Current residence: Los Angeles
Current bands: Electrelane

How old were you when you started playing drums? Who or what influenced you to take them up? Did you play any other instruments prior to becoming a drummer?
I was 14. My dad was from the kind of family where it was proper for a child to take up an instrument- I think he was quite outraged that it was left so late (my parents split up before I was born)- he asked me to think about what instrument I would like to learn. He was shocked that I asked for drum lessons, but secretly I think he loved it, because it went against the grain. He paid for my first drum kit, much to my mum’s chagrin. I think I just always thought drummers were the coolest people in bands – my mum was a big music fan and there was always music playing in our house, as kids we would mime along, some sisters would fight over who was the singer, the brothers would want to be the guitarist, and I would always want to be the drummer….I didn’t have any competition…I don’t play any other instruments, I know a few chords here and there, but I most wish I could play piano and I would quite like to know how to play guitar – not to play them in a band, but I always think it must be nice to just sit and play the piano on your own.

What drummers do you most admire?
Klaus Dinger (coincidentally, died the same day as my dad), Charlie Watts, Stephen Morris, Mo Tucker, Robert Grey.

Did you play in any other outfits prior to Electrelane?
Only in Electrelane’s prior incarnations…so, no…

What kind of kit do you use and has your set-up evolved?
I just have a very basic Pearl, but I have a really beautiful snare and Zildjian cymbals. It has got more and more minimal over time – I just use a bass drum, floor tom, snare, hi-hat and ride. The snare got very thin out of necessity, because I am quite short and couldn’t get enough height over it otherwise…

Is there a particular drum sound or style you look for or aspire to as an instrumentalist?
I only know what I don’t like to hear out of my drums. I hate it when the snare ‘pings’, or when the bass drum is not really low. I tend to keep my skins for a long time as I prefer the sound they make, and I quite like them looser than they probably should be, I also put a lot of tape on them to dampen them even more- it’s really up to the individual drummer. When we played in Japan I set up my drums and went to get some water, when I came back, there were four tech guys standing over my snare and touching the dimple in the middle- they were really worried and asked me if I needed them to change it. When I told them I liked it like that, and that it was like that for a reason, they looked at me with a mixture of pity, disgust and wonder- after we had played one of them came over with a big grin and said “the bad drum makes good sound!”. I think with all instruments, or any kind of equipment, there are some people that use them as a tool and there are some people that just want to polish them and make sure they look nice.

What are the roles a drummer has in a band to you? What contributions do drummers provide for bands that get overlooked? How did playing in Electrelane develop your approach to drumming?
I’m not sure that what instrument one plays has much to do with influence within a band, or what contribution one has. I think as an individual in any band, regardless of what is played, it is important to be flexible in your ideas and to be open to new ones. I think in terms of Electrelane, we got a lot more easy going the older we got and the more comfortable we became, both with each other and with being on stage or in the studio. Being in band means a lot of compromise, not just musically, but personally.

Photo of Electrelane by Louis Decamps

I guess the most obvious thing is that a drummer has to keep the music moving – in my experience, I guess my style developed as a direct result of that…I would keep going when everyone was noodling around, so they could continue to noodle….people tend to think it’s easy to play motorik style, so I quite like it when people try and watching them get out of breath or stiff after two minutes. Drummers in general always have friends that are dying to get behind the kit, thinking it’s easy and anyone can do it – and people get quite red faced when they realise it’s a lot more than just hitting something with a stick. I read somewhere that the average gigging drummer has the stamina level of a premiership footballer…

Electrelane was a band that fed off live performances. You often recorded live as a group on albums like Axes. Why was live performance so important to the band and what did you get out of them as a drummer?
I think part of it is because when we write, we generally write together, by just turning up and playing- on some occasions, someone has brought something in, but mostly our songs evolve from jamming. Which is such a fun way to write. Although, we learnt very early on that we had to record everything on mini-disc, otherwise it was forgotten. I think we are lucky in that when we start to play, we can come up with stuff easily- the more comfortable we are each other, the better it is. We have known each other for a long time now, so we can pretty much do anything and not feel stupid…which is really nice!. Playing live is test for me personally- I suffered from stage fright quite badly for about 7 of the last 10 years, to the point of throwing up right before we went on. Since then, I have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, so it all makes sense now- I do look forward to playing live again, as I would like to think that I would be able to handle it better now. Recording live, for me, meant practise, practise, practise. We got really tight as a band because of that, and I suppose that makes playing live more fun because you don’t worry that someone is going to mess up, you just enjoy the experience. We recorded live because it’s such a different energy to when you play in separate rooms- those recordings have a totally different feel and sound to them. Recording live can also be tiring though, because when you are all in the same room, you get bleed over to different mics and so, you can’t really make any mistakes…

Electrelane have been on hiatus following 2007’s No Shouts, No Calls. Have you been working on other musical projects in that time? Have you been pursuing any outside projects or developing other personal interests?
I haven’t yet done any other musical projects, though I would like to. I have moved to Los Angeles and all my belongings had to be crated and shipped over, I haven’t been able to unpack any of it for a year now, but I am moving next week and my drums will be some of the first things to be unpacked…it’s going to feel good to play again, but I will miss my band mates…
While we are on hiatus, I have been learning to be a set painter, which is a really interesting job. Hours-wise, not unlike being in a band- long hours and lots of standing around waiting for other people…I have also been blogging some of my photography, but it’s not a serious thing, just something I like doing – my darkroom is also in the crate…

Who are you listening to right now? Are there any new or lesser-known drummers we should be paying attention to?
I think Ponytail are one of the most exciting bands I have seen live for a really long time- they are all amazing, and the drummer is just relentless. When I watch them, it makes me miss playing.

What advice would you give to young drummers?
Play with confidence – I’ve heard people say really mean things about my drumming and I’ve heard people say really nice things about it, it’s music, it’s art, it’s all subjective.  I’m a great believer in attitude over ability. Just have fun.

xo, Alyx Vesey for Tom Tom Magazine

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