Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lenny White Interview

By Titch Davidson

Lenny White is one of the world's greatest Jazz-Fusion drummers. Here's a look at how he developed as a musician and his advice for up and coming musicians.

What inspired you to start playing the drums?
I don't have a real clear answer for that. I wanted to play the trumpet, but gravitated toward the drums.

What were your main goals as a kid learning his craft?
I wanted to be on an album. My goal was to record with the top Jazz musicians of the day. I used to include my name on the backs of my favorite albums.

How did you approach your own development?
My approach to drumming is somewhat different. I practice exercises for co-ordination, not independence, but co-ordination of all four limbs. I think of rudiments as words. You take words and make sentences, sentences become phrases, phrases become paragraphs, and paragraphs become speeches. Taking drum solos is like public speaking. When you have a large vocabulary and a great knowledge of the language, people are impressed by your use of the language and your statements have meaning. The solo works.

Do you still set goals for yourself today?
I'm always trying to be a better musician. My goals are not confined to my instrument, although I still strive to play what I hear in my head on my instrument, so that should take the rest of my life.

What was the turning point in your career?
I'll let you know when I get there. I hope my career is still evolving ...

What was the toughest point in your career?
I stopped playing to produce records and that was a big mistake. It took me quite some time to get my perspective back, but when I did it made me a much better musician. I'm now coming back from an injury and it is a very challenging process. Sometimes you take the most trivial things for granted, until you're not able to do them. You got to stay up.

Have you ever suffered from fear or insecurity?
Fear and insecurity are things you can hopefully overcome. Sometimes you have to meet your fears head on and attack them to get through them. You won't get past them by avoiding them. Nothing is good or bad, big or small until you relate it to something. Always keep your situation in perspective. Think positive, things will get better, know that and think that.

How do you handle nerves?
I try not to get too high or too low about anything and that kind of gives me perspective. Everybody makes mistakes.

How do you stay motivated and inspired?
When you have an obligation to represent the music you feel passionate about, you get motivated. You want to leave a mark.

What do you think makes a great musician?
Knowledge and humility.

Do you have any good advice for young musicians who are trying to make it?
Have a dream and chase it. Be passionate about whatever you do and let everyone know it. Learn you craft to the best of your ability and then learn how to tell stories with your instrument. Learn as many songs as you can and have a good time.

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