“Never stand still, make connections everywhere you can.”
This is what guides Toronto-based drummer/percussionist/producer Topher Stott in his multi-faceted career.
An in-demand drummer and percussionist, Topher has performed with Alice Cooper, Richie Sambora, Steve Cropper, Jeff Healey, Earl Slick, Reeves Gabrels, Phillip Sayce, Jarvis Church, Clifton Broadbridge and Classic Albums Live.
As a composer and producer, Topher’s band “The Saints Of Cinema” is his playground for writing, playing and producing unique, genre-stretching music that is rooted in the rhythm section of Topher and bassist Ian de Souza. Topher calls “The Saints…” a “deep ambient groove project”.
Topher holds a Honours BFA-Music from York University (Toronto), where he focused on improvisation with Casey Sokol and David Mott, jazz with Don Thompson and Carnatic music with Trichy Sankaran. In 2005, Topher returned to York’s Music program as a teacher, specializing in Contemporary Improvisation.
While Topher is both a seasoned touring drummer and session player/producer, his love for playing live means you can often find him hitting club dates at home in Toronto. He leads two bands; the classic rock trio “Kings Of The Midway” featuring Michael Zwieg and Jeff Jones and his modern rock project “BIGFooT” featuring guitarist/vocalist Clifton Broadbridge and Big Wreck’s Dave MacMillan.
In 2007, Topher was one of the co-founders of the League Of Rock, a music league for adult non-pro musicians. Members of League of Rock can join a band, learn from high-profile professional players and producers, perform live in amazing venues and record in world class studios, all in ten weeks!
How do you incorporate Roland/BOSS products into your music?
I played the original OCTAPAD at the Ontario Science Centre almost 30 years ago and saved my pennies until I was able to afford one of my own. I was the only kid on the block to own a TR-808 and bring it to school for show and tell. Today, I am the proud owner of an HPD-15, HPD-20, SPD-SX, TD-6 and a TD-30 kit.
I have Roland/BOSS gear with me on every gig; from rehearsals to sessions to live performances. The SuperNATURAL sounds and the control that the Roland gear allows the musical statements that I want to make come to life easily. The ability to customize the sounds and setting means that I have an instrument that doesn’t sound like anyone else. It sounds like me.
I have toured with the gear extensively and have never had a breakdown. It is rock solid and the sounds are incredible through headphones, stage monitors and huge PA systems. The “Round Badge” preset on the TD-30 is the best set of virtual drums I have ever heard, bar none.
When I perform with Classic Albums Live, I am tasked with recreating live the sounds from hit records of 25-30 years ago or more. The Roland gear makes that task easy, because they have already created so many classic samples and sounds! The first show I did was a recreation of Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the sounds within the TD-6 and the HPD-15 had everything I needed.
Five Fast Facts About Topher
How has using electronic instruments such as the HPD-20 and TD-30 changed you’re musicality as a drummer?
I think instruments like the HPD-20 and the TD-30 allow me a level of expression that is second to none. I believe that the virtual instrument is different than the acoustic instrument and should be treated and played differently. With elements such as D-Beam and the extensive controls, I am able to create and manipulate sounds that are impossible in the acoustic world. These instruments encourage me to think about music in new ways.
What is your favorite drumming project that you’ve worked on?
I am really proud of the music that was made with my project “The Saints Of Cinema”. I am a huge fan of the musicians involved and it is a true pleasure to get to play with bassist Ian de Souza, who is incredible.
What do you feel is the future of drumming?
I believe the future of drumming will be tied to musicians taking control of their own paths. With incredible instruments in our hands and the internet to help spread the word, I believe that musicians have never been in a better position to make something happen.
If you could sit down with any artist for an afternoon, who would it be and why?
I would invite Ringo Star and then ask him to invite Ray Kurzweil and Steve Jordan over. Why? Ringo Starr is easy, he is my favourite drummer and an afternoon with Ringo would be full of incredible stories. Ray Kurzweil is an incredible mind and I have been reading a lot of his stuff lately. No one plays the drums like Steve Jordan. He is the undeniable truth on the instrument.
What tips would you pass along to someone just beginning to play the drums?
I would offer up the following five tips :
- Start with your favourite drummer and then work backwards to who influenced them, then figure out who influenced them.
- When offered the opportunity to play always say YES!
- Do not be afraid of technology – from YouTube to metronomes to play along tracks – you can get ahead by taking advantage of all that technology gives you but don’t allow it to replace focus and practice.
- Make your practice musical. Do not make practice only about technique or skill. Play always with the intention of pocket and musicality.
- Seek out your heroes – I was fortunate to spend some time with one of my favourite musicians, the great drummer Andy Newmark (John Lennon, Sly Stone, Roxy Music) in London a few years back – he casually offered an idea sitting around the table that instantly changed my playing for the better – I quote – “You either love the time or pass the time”.
Learn More About Topher
League of Rock: www.leagueofrock.com
The Saints of Cinema: www.soundcloud.com
Kings of the Midway: www.facebook.com/kingsofthemidway