• Michael Bugeja

PETE LOCKETT: EXPANDING RHYTHMIC VOCABULARY

Updated: Mar 10


At the end of this week, Malta will be experiencing a workshop by one of the world's most versatile and prolific percussionists. The event, Expanding Your Rhythmic Vocabulary, is based on Pete Lockett's book Bars, Beats and Building Blocks, which seeks to enhance the artist's command, creativity and rhythmic understanding of percussive instruments. Voted Best World Percussionist 2013-15 and Percussionist of the Year 2015, Lockett began to study drums in his late teens, initially taking a particular interest in the Indian musical culture, but going on to explore all the different music cultures of the world. He has performed and recorded with countless artists, among them Robert Plant, Peter Gabriel, The Verve, Amy Winehouse, Bjork, and Afro Celt Sound System. MikeBugeja.com caught up with Pete Lockett for a quick interview ahead of the event. Q You grew up in a non-musical family. What was it that sparked your interest in music so much that you decided to make it your life? It was a bizarre thing; I was just walking past a drum shop and I thought, I'll have a drum lesson, for no readily explainable reason. I went in and it made sense to me in a way that other things in my life hadn’t before, you know, education or anything like that. I was soon a drummer in a punk rock band. Similarly, my decision to transform from punk rock kit player to Tabla and percussion was totally unexpected. All this came about having started very late at age 19! Where there's a will, there is a way. My first musical memory was that first drum lesson! Q  What was it that attracted you towards rhythmic instruments more than any other instrument? An instrument either resonates with you or it doesn’t. There's no middle ground in there for me. It’s not really something someone can easily articulate into words. If inspiration grabs you with something artistically then you don’t really have a choice. It gets inside and possesses you positively.  I was lucky enough to get that with drumming.  Everything about it touched a chord deep within and an artistic force much greater than myself guides the way. Q Of all the different percussive instruments you've studied, which one proved to be the most challenging and which one is your favourite? I am a multi-percussionist. I wouldn’t select a favourite, just as much as a responsible parent wouldn’t have a fave child. They are all part and parcel of the overall picture and the techniques and musical formalities of one, in some way, always inform the possibilities of the other. In terms of complexity and developed musical forms though, the Indian rhythmic system stands out in many distinct ways with its detail and complexity. Complexity, of course, in itself doesn’t count for anything without an artistic vision to frame it in a certain way.  Otherwise, it would merely be a display and would mean little in communicating from the heart. That said, the challenges of mastering and utilizing the Indian instruments and rhythmic techniques is a huge and challenging task indeed. To me, this is the holy grail of rhythm. Q You've worked with countless artists on different projects throughout your career. How do you approach each project you're invited to be part of? Simply put, with an open mind. Education and study develop our skill sets but it can also steer us to think in preconceived and predictable ways. For me, I seek to go in with an open palette and desire to get to the heart of what the other person is about.  Once I am even partly informed in that direction then musical collaboration has so much more potential.  Of course, this is a two-way thing.  All parties need to be of the same mindset for it to be truly magical.  Otherwise you end up with more of a ‘juxtaposition’ rather than a ‘collaboration’. Q Can you perhaps give us a comment about how you came to discover and develop the 'partition' system that is core to expanding one's rhythmic vocabulary? This concept is core component within the Indian rhythmic system. Also, in the contemporary drumming world, this is an essential methodology for the construction and development of rhythmic concepts. Even going back to the ancient Greek musical system where combinations of 1s and 2’s created so many of the odd rhythms we find in the middle east and eastern Europe today.  It’s nothing new as such but I have repackaged it in a way that utilizes a lot of the compositional methods from India such as modulation and theme development etc.  It’s an amazing world of rhythm out there. Q How challenging was it to put your methods into words for the book versus presenting them in a live setting to an audience? Well, thankfully we are no longer limited to merely words now.  My book ‘Indian rhythms for the drum set’ on Hudson music came with a full audio program.  There is also an app-based version of the book where all the musical examples play when you scroll over them. It makes things a lot easier.  To me though, the key is to explain this material with extreme clarity and without confusing it with technical jargon at the outset.  Of course, you can get into that later but first, you have to welcome people in and get them comfortable and interested.   Q Will this be your first visit to Malta? It will be my first performance there, but I had visited the island a few years back with my wife.  We loved the place and visited all the archeological and historical sites, as well as the amazing countryside and waterside locations. Theres a bit of a connection as well, coming originally from Portsmouth where there was a very strong Maltese connection because of the navy. Pete Lockett's clinic and performance will take place between 7pm and 9pm on Saturday, March 07, 2020 at the Blata l-Bajda School in Pieta'. For more information, click here. For more info about Pete Lockett, visit petelockett.com.