Emil’s Guide to Being a Rockstar

Emil’s Guide to Being a Rockstar

Drummers are nearly impossible to come by. Good ones are even rarer! We’re lucky that Emil’s sense of humour is almost as on point as his rudiments. He kindly offered us the chance to view the world through a drummer’s eyes while educating us on which kit is the best choice for a show. Thanks Emil, don’t leave the band again!

Drummers. For the most part we get a good gig. We don’t even need to be musicians to get the job done. Have some rhythm, wink at the ladies in the audience, knock over at least one drink on stage while moving a stand…boom, you got the gig. 

Hidden in the back playing Electronic Kit, Atlantic Beach

But there is one sucky part to being Lord of the Rhythm Stick. We are constantly hidden behind the guitarist’s ego on stage.

Okay, two things. The guitarist’s ego…and moving gear.

In my early twenties, about a hundred years ago, I used to take my entire kit to every gig. I had energy for days. Of course I did; I survived on sugar and chips and was made of rubber. These days, I plan every gig very carefully…and by carefully I mean, what’s the least amount of stuff I can take to the gig?

Acoustic Kit at the V&A Waterfront

But there is a second motivator for my slightly lazy behaviour. Not every gig needs the same equipment. In the same way that the guitarist sometimes takes a smaller amp or doesn’t always shove a ball of socks down his pants, drummers should change their gear to suit the show.

Jack Black Brewery with a cocktail kit

As a general rule, the venue normally dictates strongest. Is it large or small? Is it a venue where music is actively listened to, or is the music more of a background pleasantry, like candy floss floating past your picnic? Does the venue have good acoustics, or does it sound like we’re playing in a giant toilet bowl?

My go-to setup has become an electric drumkit hooked up to a VST system on my laptop. For those scratching their heads, this means I play my electric drumkit, and it triggers sounds of real drumkits stored on my PC. This works so well because a) the kits are recorded in high quality studios so they sound amazing and b) volume isn’t an issue. Need more? Turn up the speakers. Need less? Turn them down. I can still play as I want to.

And it’s easier to carry.

The acoustic kit only gets brought out from its cave for larger shows. And so it should be. I hit hard. I know I do. And I don’t want to hit softly. It makes my playing easier to reserve this setup for high volume situations.

In some cases, however, even the electric setup is too much, especially when playing background music in a restaurant. For those I resort to either a cajon, which is a wooden box that is surprisingly versatile, or what is commonly referred to as a ‘cocktail’ kit – a very small kit, with smaller than normal drums, played with brushes or rods for low volume.

Despite all the quips about gear, and hard hitting, the truth is that each setup offers its own unique challenge, and its own fun. The cocktail kit allows me to strip down to basics, really just focus on grooving with the band, while the full acoustic kit allows me to let loose and really express myself musically, and the electric kit allows total freedom from noise concern and endless sound possibilities via the PC.

And if I don’t want to carry the gear, I can just bribe the guitarist with a cheap beer or a fake phone number for a girl in the audience.

– Emil Terhoven, @eterhoven

Emil Terhoven has been drumming for almost as long as he’s been alive. He graduated with the top mark in SA for his Grade 8 Rock School examination. He went on to perform at some incredible venues: Grand West Casino and Entertainment World, Knysna Oyster Festival, V&A Arena, Cafe Roux, Die Boer, The Baxter Theatre, and various studio work in Cape Town and beyond. He is an original member of the FC Band.