My sister the drummer: Jas Kayser
Interviewed and shot by her twin brother and fan Ash Kayser
Jas Kayser became a musician the moment she touched stick with a cymbal, dressed as a clown. In the crowd, I wrestled with other primary school students to catch sight of Jas play. My original thought, laughter; being her twin brother I assumed this the appropriate response to my junior of two minutes waving her hands wildly in the air. But as I glanced around the room, I saw the brows of every teacher raise as they imagined the astounding musical journey this bright spark may take.
Since that day, Jas has studied at Wells Cathedral School, Somerset where at age 11 she added classical percussion, jazz piano and vibraphone to her repertoire. A sometimes tough ordeal, as being a younger member of most collective’s and also relatively new to the world of jazz and percussion made it hard to grab the desired rolls in the aforementioned group all the more difficult, meaning time spent in early morning practice was even more essential. During her time there she played with the National Childrens’ Wind Ensemble and the National Youth Jazz Collective (NYJC).
Before leaving she completed all her grades with distinction and was awarded a huge certificate for achieving the highest mark in the country in completion of Grade 8 Drums, an award that glistens proudly in the (once spare bedroom) now music room back home. Though it seems the neighbours are big fans of this interior adaption as we were once told that one of the few will purposefully do the gardening when he can hear Jas practice, for it makes for much better background music than the tractors in the opposing fields. This being said, I did sometimes wish that our walls were sound proof when I was revising for my final exams!
At 16 Jas joined the Purcell School of Music in London, where she continued with classical percussion, but jazz became her main focus. As well as attending the NYJC summer school and all female ensemble she also joined the Julian Joseph Jazz Academy, an academy which groups together other young musicians with the purpose of inspiration, collaboration and all-round awesome gigs (I’ve been to a few and they are truly brilliant!). Last summer Jas went back to the academy, but this time as a mentor for the younger students, teaching and sharing with them all the things she had learned up to this point. During her time at Purcell she reached the semi finals of the BBC Young Jazz Musician and achieved a full tuition scholarship to study a degree in Contemporary Writing and Production (CWP) at Berklee College of Music, Boston. Boston by the way, is an incredible city. I visited Jas for a week during summer and seriously loved the little jazz gigs and in-house jamming that went on.
Whilst in Boston she toured America, playing drums in an indie-rock band labelled The Furies, of whom she continues perform with. They just released a new EP ‘Omens.’ But when Jas isn’t busy jamming or cramming in time to complete CWP projects, she’s back home in Dorset winding me up and making sure I know that it’s my turn to hoover the stairs.
When did you realise you wanted to be a musician?
When I realized I wasn’t good at anything else! 😉
Who would be in your dream band?
Everyone in Beyonce’s Sugar Mama band.
Which album changed your life?
Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters; coincidentally, it was my first jazz purchase.
What’s your current phone wallpaper?
An accidentally blurry view from the Brooklyn Bridge in the evening.
What’s your most overused word?
I say the word ‘swell’ way too much.
Which musical era would you wish to go back in time to experience? Which artists would you want to hear play live?
1960s, Miles Davis’ second quintet! (Drummer) Tony Williams is the man! My favorite jazz albums were mostly recorded in that decade: Bill Evans, Freddie Hubbard, others…
Where are you happiest?
When I am onstage with a band.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Terrace Martin, Esperanza Spalding, Jack DeJohnette, Luther Vandross, Esbjörn Svensson Trio, Kendrick Lamar, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Brian Blade.
Which living musician do you most admire?
Terri Lyne Carrington
What is your most treasured possession?
My yellow Dr Martens boots, as they are no longer available to buy.
What would your superpower be?
To be able to play every instrument like a beast.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
An athlete. Before music, I was actually a really good cross country runner! Kelly Holmes was my sporting hero.
Are there any perks to being a female drummer?
Even though people complain about the lack of female musicians, and the lack of respect for those musicians, it is something that helps you stand out in certain situations. I think I just make the most of it.
What’s a typical week like for you at Berklee?
Ridiculously fun, lots of jamming, watching fellow friends’ gigs, having too much homework, and trying to squeeze practice into every free minute.
What would your top tip to younger female drummers be?
Don’t compare yourself to male drummers; actually, don’t compare yourself to anyone.
How important is image in jazz music?
Generally, it’s the least important aspect, although [jazz musicians] do have a reputation for always looking casual or quirky.
How do you get better at tempo and timing?
Playing along to records gives you a more natural sense of keeping time, because with some music, like jazz for instance, a song doesn’t really stay exactly the same speed from beginning to end. That is not a bad thing, though; it is natural and feels right.
What do you think your greatest opportunity has been so far?
Receiving a full scholarship at Berklee.