Full name: Nicole Grant
Nickname/pseudonym: Nikki G
Hometown: South Lake Tahoe, CA
Where do you live now: Hollywood, CA
Bands you are drumming in currently:
Independent Musician/Drummer w/ various artists, some of which are…Sarah Ault, Street Drum Corps, Street Drum Corps-BANG
Bands you were drumming for in the past:
A long list of various artists some including Haun Solo Project w/ Actress Lindsey Haun and Brendan’s Band
What you do for a living:
I am currently a working independent musician (performance and session) for various groups in the Los Angeles region, and I am also a private music instructor with companies such as All Play Music and The Village School.
Tom Tom Magazine: When did you start playing drums?
Nikki G : I started my musical training at a very young age due to being born into a very musically driven family. I started on piano when I was four years old, and then by the age of five I added drumming to my musical roster.
Tom Tom Magazine: Reason that you started playing drums?
Nikki G : Interestingly enough drums were chosen for me. My mother is a classical pianist and she noticed at the age of four my sense of time and rhythm were steering me into the realm of percussion. My Grandfather was a percussionist, and so my Mother thought it would be beneficial to have a mentor in the family and so I was put in my school band a couple of years earlier than most, due to the fact I could already read music. From that moment on, I fell into what would soon become my life’s passion. So in a sense, drumming chose me!
Tom Tom Magazine: What is your favorite drum set-up? Why?
NG : I had to wait quite a while before I got my first drum set. I remember all I had was a throne and a bass pedal. I would line up pillows, and brace the pedal in order for it to hit the frame of my bed. When I got my first kit I had no idea how to set it up, and my parents, one being a classical pianist and the other a vocalist, had no idea either. So based upon what I started with, I grew into being a kid in a candy store when I was older and received, through the progression of kits, my first DW. I am a big supporter of DW because I’m reminded over and over that the quality is unbeatable live and in recordings. As far as my favorite set up of my DW, I would say my favorite is ever changing and is set for what will compliment the music I’m playing as musically driven as possible.
Tom Tom Magazine: What would your dream kit consist of?
NG : Oh boy, this is a dangerous question! Like I said, I’m like a kid in a candy store when it comes to drum shops. If I had my dream kit, it would feature a set up that was easily diversified in order to work well with all the different artists I play with. So drums ranging from a minimal 4-piece kit to a 6-8 piece with percussion tables or trash cans at my side.
TTM: What do you think the role of a drummer is in a band?
NG : I was mentored, and I mentor my students to become a musician and not just a drummer. The role of a musician is to reflect, compliment, and bring life to the story that is about to be unfolded through music. As a drummer there are of course the technical aspects of keeping time, complimenting the outline/structure of the songs, and being a foundational root for the band but as a musician it goes much deeper. It’s honing your craft and making it your own just as any other instrument. It’s creating a means in order to communicate the story as an individual or group in this world called music.
TTM: Do you play any other instruments? If so … how does that effect your drumming?
NG : Although I continued my studies for percussion/drums at Berklee College of Music and Musicians Institute, I started on the piano. This has only benefited my drumming and my overall ability as a musician. I can break it down even to the technical coordination aspects, and the sense of understanding a melodic instrument and a rhythm-based instrument has definitely made me a well-rounded musician.
TTM: What do you consider to be the most challenging thing about the drums?
NG : It’s all about playing musically, and in a drummer’s world, “In the Pocket!” Drumming is very demanding of coordination, and the technical aspects of clarity and speed but at the end of the day, a solid in the pocket groove is what will most likely get you that gig. Less is more in most situations, but that doesn’t mean it’s easier. The most challenging aspect is to truly understand “the pocket” and it’s appropriate place in the many styles of music.
TTM: What’s your favorite part about playing drums?
NG : It’s always been the ultimate cure. My favorite part is that drumming is a passion so deep in me that I can turn to drumming with every life aspect and know it’ll make a difference. My ultimate favorite aspect is when I can make someone feel. When I can convey emotions within my playing and make someone feel, I know the music serves a purpose. There is an unspoken understanding that many of us find in music, and my favorite part is that it brings people together through story telling.
TTM: Most notable show you ever played?
NG : I’ve toured on Warped Tour, was a Vocalist for 30 Seconds To Mars on Conan O’Brien, performed in KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas, but the one performance that sticks in my mind is my very first union gig. I played a musical as a union musician at the age of 16, and was along side performers who had played with notables such as Ella Fitzgerald, Ricky Ricardo, and Andy Williams. What I learned from those musicians, that were three times my age, I carry on and will continue to carry on throughout my musical lifetime.
TTM: Have you experienced any setbacks as a female drummer?
NG : I’ll be blunt, ABSOLUTELY! Unfortunately the truth about this part of the music industry is that drumming is heavily male dominated. I have been very fortunate to experience as much as I have, and granted on an individual basis I may have experienced more than some male drummers, I still find myself to this day passing up gigs because they request a male more often than I would like to admit. The progression is promising, and it’s great to see more and more women being recognized throughout the whole industry. It’s just a shame that the musical ability of a musician isn’t the main factor in all cases.
TTM: Who are your favorite drummers?
NG : When it comes to drumming, I’m all over the map with favorites. But some that stick out more than most are Moe Purtill, Gene Krupa, Louie Bellson, Josh Freese, and Matt Chamberlin.
TTM: If you could change one thing about the drums what would it be?
NG : Because I’m so open to many different styles and aspects, I would make it more of a norm to not only have drums but also incorporate more percussion and the world around us. For example, trash cans, pots, pans, stop sign, etc.
TTM: Where do you shop for your drum gear?
NG : Pro Drum Shop-Hollywood, and various online music shops like Musicians Friend.
TTM: What would you recommend to a new drummer starting off?
NG : Be a sponge! There is nothing more rewarding than truly taking every aspect of the art and being able to apply it to what will make you stand out from the rest. Originality is the key, and the more knowledge you have, the more you’ll have to say. Music can cause change for the better! So be a sponge to the musical world around you, and speak wisely.
TTM: What are some of your other hobbies / interests?
NG : Honestly all I’ve ever known is music, music, and music. I feel completely lost without it, and it has taken up all my hobby and interest spots.
TTM: Who are some of your favorite lady drummers right now?
NG : Coming from a very small town I didn’t have a lot of access to music stores so it wasn’t till I went away to college that I was able to embark upon some great women drummers like Cindy Blackman. I still today seek out female drummers, but it’s a very new adventure because of women in this industry being so hard to find. I’m more than excited to have stumbled upon Tom Tom Magazine, it makes me feel less alone.
TTM: Who are some of your favorite bands right now?
NG : So many awesome bands, so little time! I’ll just throw out the first five that pop onto my iPod shuffle. Beware, I’m very eclectic! 1st Muse, 2nd STOMP, 3rd Beethoven, 4th Glen Miller, and 5th Bad Boys of Batucada.
NG : Truly thank you for your time, and please know after stumbling upon such a great magazine I’m happy to be a sublime supporter!