Born into the dynamic arts community of Perth, Ontario and currently residing in Toronto, Nathan McLaren has had drumsticks in his hands since the age of 3 years old. The son of two professional musicians and teachers, he was introduced to many idioms of music at a young age. Since then, a percussion jack-of-all-trades, Nathan has been recognized thorough his knowledge of the drum kit, rudimental snare drum, and building/ designing acoustic & electronic instruments. Nathan has had the pleasure of teaching and performing all over the world from Canada & USA, to the UK, Europe, South Africa and the Middle East. When off the road, Nathan maintains a teaching studio with local percussion students, organizations, and International online students of all ages and playing caliber.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a drummer?
I realized that I wanted to be a drummer after being introduced to percussion sounds as a young child by my parents. After learning the basics, and being exposed to the stage at a young age and playing for my peers- the entertainment, the concentration, direction and discipline drew me in and created more of a ‘lifestyle’ and escape from the realities of childhood and growing pains.
What’s your favourite thing about playing on the Roland V-Drums?
Control, Versatility, & Creativity!
I was drawn to the V-Drums after seeing the TD-10 in my local music store back home as a teen. As a kid who played countless hours on the same kit day in day out, and had to spend his parents’ money to simply create a new cymbal sound, I was blown away when I sat down at the Roland V-Drum kit and pushed ‘Next Kit’. Countless options to begin and express what you think your ‘ideal’ drum kit and sound is, is now literally at your finger tips! Whether it’s playing your favourite genre of music or branching out to learn a new genre, you can achieve a suitable sound to learn with and make it much more enjoyable to experiment and learn.
Tell us how you started with NM Custom Drums
As a child I was always a ‘tinkerer’ with things around the house and little projects on the side. I was taught drumming doesn’t stop with the notes- it continues through to the instrument and every little piece that makes up the sound. It was an addiction and something I could share with my father in the workshop tearing things apart and learning what makes each drum different and putting it back together correctly.
In 2007, I started the foundation of NM Custom Drums after leaving college and looking at my ‘grown up’ future ahead of me. After having an unforeseen circumstance with a drumming career in the Middle East, I returned to my hometown of Perth, Ontario and was faced with my parents asking ‘What are you going to do now?’. With my families support, I began to create a brand that would design and create with those custom ideas and offerings I’ve always requested. As a strong believer in taking influences from other idioms, I started servicing acoustic drum sets and developing custom finishes, which lead to manufacturing drum sets, custom pipe band drums and percussion accessories. During this time Roland released the TD-20SX and we were right there to join in on the party with providing finishes to new customers.
In 2011 I officially closed the acoustic manufacturing to concentrate solely on Roland V-Drum customization and haven’t looked back.
Do you have any advice for Canadian drummers who want to turn their hobby into a career?
Don’t say NO! Too many people these days dismiss some great opportunities and never take that risk for fear of failing or simply not being able to do a sufficient job. You don’t know until you try it! We grew up doing homework, we’re blessed with technology, and we’re passionate about a language that we all love to share and that’s music. If you believe in what you play, and you put in the time and continue to broaden your arsenal- your confidence and well-being can carry you through any challenge. Failure happens, but confidence and direction can conquer all. Reach out to fellow musicians, fellow drummers- network and continue to go forward.
What’s your practice routine like?
As a young drummer, I was never once forced to practice. I was given every opportunity to build a practice regiment and I found myself behind the drum kit on a regular basis playing new tunes or practicing basic rudiments and grooves.
To me, life is a practice routine. Whether it’s listening, watching, dissecting, and creating- my daily practice routine slowly has evolved both physically and most importantly mentally. Whether it’s playing on a pad, on my kit, listening to drummers on albums, or even listening to sounds and rhythms of life- such as syllables that people make when we speak- my brain has created many outlets to learn and approach the drums with a clean mind and clean soul.
I may practice 20 minutes today and 5 hours tomorrow, but I know when I sit down behind the drums or on my pad I have a purpose. Perfect practice, makes for a perfect performance.
What keeps you inspired?
The language of music. My sister and I had the pleasure of watching my parents share their love and the language of music to their high school students as well as audiences growing up. I remember my first opportunity to play around the world in some very unique situations where I was put in the scenario that I may not speak the same language or know the customs of the land, but I learned that we are all equal when you put an instrument in our hands. We can share, we can learn and we can appreciate feelings, life, power, and most importantly passion. There’s no better feeling of doing what you do, and seeing every person in the crowd enjoy it, and get something from it- if that doesn’t happen, I haven’t done my job.
How has the role of the drummer changed for playing live?
The role of the drummer has never ‘changed’ per say, but it has grown with technology and ability and has kept many of the core values those who lead the way instilled in music through to today. We all keep time, we provide dynamics and enhance feeling but the ability to provide many other options through technology behind the scenes has made our role a bit different from our roots.
If you could jam with any other drummer in the world, who would that be?
Buddy Rich. Growing up, I was introduced to ‘Traps the Wonder Kid’ on Vinyl by my father, and even though West Side Story on record kept skipping when I would try to play along, I was determined to learn everything I could from this monster player.
What accomplishment are you must proud of to date?
Some drumming accomplishments to date that immediately stick out are teaching the Royal Guard for the Sultan of Oman in the Middle East, performing with the Top Secret Drum Corp from Basel Switzerland & Bagad Bro Kemperle from Kemper, France, and 4 World Championship titles as a member of CADRE from Toronto.
What projects are you currently working on?
Currently, I’m performing regularly with a local Toronto band called Nine Times composed of 3 long time friends and myself. Their relationship off the stage has really created a bond that is very easy to play with day in day out. In 2014, I started 416BEATS, Toronto’s Premiere Entertainment Drumline where we can energize literally any stage from a street corner to promotional events and sporting events. I will also be playing this summer with Middlesex County Volunteers Fife and Drum Corp from Boston, Massachusetts. Other than that, I have a bunch of small projects on the go as well with many talented musicians around Toronto.
If I may, I would like to thank those that have supported and stood by me through my years of drumming. My wonderful parents, Brent and Shelley and sister Sarah, my life long teacher and best friend Fred- I can never thank you enough for all that you do and the fuel you provide me to push me to full potential. Thank you!
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