Welcome to the first ever Roro drums podcast. So, in this podcast we are going to be talking all things drums. We’re going to be bringing you tips and tricks and interviews from wherever we can get them, we’re going to be answering your questions interviewing drummers from all walks of life, everything.
So if anyone’s got any questions they want answering help they want. Get in touch, go on the Drum Lessons Folkestone.co.uk website, fill out the contact form just drop us a question or hit us up on Instagram; @rorodrums, Twitter; @rorodrums2 or Facebook; Drum Lessons Folkestone.
And yeah, submit your questions or whatever that way and we’ll get around to answering as many as possible. I’ll be having guests on as often as I physically can.
So yeah, this let’s kick this first episode off with Francesco Borrelli. Now. Who is Francesco Borrelli you ask? He is currently drumming for the UK Pink Floyd experience, who are a top flight tribute act.
Now, I wanted to catch up with Francesco and the quiz him on what it takes to be a drummer in a tribute act of that level. How did he go about ditching the nine to five and start kind of sustaining himself from this? How, what it takes to be a tribute act and replicate another drummers playing.
So let’s jump straight in with it with the conversation I had, and hopefully it’s quite insightful for you all.
Francesco welcome. So basically got a few questions about what it takes to be a tribute drummer, what that entails what it means for you, really with the insight of helping others kind of reach that goal and obtain it with their selves.
Oh, that’s that’s absolutely fine.
Okay, so the first one is really simple. How long have you been playing drums?
Quite a while Really? I started playing drums when I was seven years old. Now. I’m 24 so it’s about 16/17 years.
Nice. So what got you started on drums in the first place?
Interesting story because basically I always try to hit things since I was like two three years old, like my mom always says that to keep me like, let’s say quiet, She would give me like a couple of pots and pans. I would sit on the floor in the kitchen just banging everything basically. One day when I was seven my father came back home with this massive red drums. And I still remember the brand was p percussion and I never stopped since then really.
Oh, that’s cool. I mean, it’s quite ironic that your mom wanted to keep you quiet so she gave you things make noise with.
Yeah, it is actually it is. She got me straight away basically.
So obviously currently you’re in the UK Pink Floyd experience. What kind of drew you to Pink Floyd in the first place?
That’s always because of my dad. It’s such an interesting case. In the first place when I started playing drums, I was very much into rock music but more on the like Deep Purple or Led Zeppelin, The Police and at some point when I was 14/15 I started getting into Pink Floyd music way more because my dad’s basically got all the albums the actual vinyl from that era and I just start listening to them and I remember when up when I was listening to dark side of the moon I just couldn’t stop anymore. For like months and months I would just keep listening to it. It just was like a real treat for me. And yeah, and then after that I started buying all the albums by myself. Yeah, Ummagumma and all the newest album, and I just love them. I just love them. So it’s always because of my family and my dad really.
So it’s really cool to see that family tie. My parents definitely had music on a lot. I remember my mum listening to Pink Floyd and U2, my dad’s a massive Rod Stewart fan. So it’s cool to see like other drummers where that influence have been passed down from their parents.
My dad was a rocker back in the 70s. So that’s what he gave me basically. He gave me all the love for music and especially all the knowledge I’ve got about rock music especially and not only I, I’ve been probably the biggest gig I’ve seen in my life with my dad. I’ve seen Iron Maiden live with my dad when I was 11.
Olympic Stadium. Yeah, it was quite I mean, he’s quite crazy in this way, but yeah, I owe him a lot.
Good, good, good. So what does it take to be a tribute drummer at that level, I mean, for most of us, we’re working nine to five during the week and playing tribute and cover bands at a weekend as a hobby. So kind of what does it take to take it to the next level where you’re where you out three, four nights a week?
Well, definitely a lot of commitment. Definitely a lot. Especially because the difference for me I mean, to play for a tribute band at that level, where usually the, I mean every time the audience, whoever comes to see you in the audience, They actually know Pink Floyd most of the time.
So yeah, you gotta be very close to what Pink Floyd are, to the way they sound live, to the way the sound in the album’s. So let’s say you haven’t, you haven’t got much space for creativity in this way of imagination, like everything you do needs to meet basically needs to be close to whatever Nick Mason and we do in that song. So it requires a different skill to what can be like to play with a different band or an original band. They like to compete different areas and they will require different skill to adapt a cetacean basically.
So I was going to ask how much of yourself are you putting into it and how much is it just all channel in what Nick did. So by the sounds of it you’re really trying to replicate Nick and his sound and his feel and almost take your own identity out of it almost.
It really depends to be honest because when you go play like all the oldest albums like dark side of the moon and animals and you actually relying on the album version, that’s where you want to give to your audience. While if you doing more like modern stuff from Pink Floyd and live version so you can see that drums sound is changing a little bit is getting like more that modern vibe that’s where you can put more of yourself into it and then at the end of Comfortably Numb where our music director literally told me ‘that’s your moment’so I’m allowed to do anything I want in a very big ending.
That’s great. Yeah, so it’s mainly channelling what’s already there but you get these moments to just be you.
So you’ve already sent me pictures of your kit and the thing with tribute bands that I’m kind of intrigued about is how authentic to the original do they get, you know? Do they travel down the route of having the exact same gear and set up? You know, but obviously you’ve gone for something that more suits you.
Yeah, I mean, I really think that if, of course, like you see Pink Floyd live back in a day he has a double kick drum, a lot of toms, a lot of cymbals, while if you see like modern lives, like Pulse you see that Nick Mason got a little bit smaller on his drum kit, but at the end of today like you need to play with the drum kit that you’re comfortable with.
Like if you give me a double kick drum I wouldn’t be comfortable with my drumming. It would look great but I wouldn’t be able to be like, as close to the original thing as well just be a little more there be a little more pressure me. So, I mean that will you need to try to do is to get the best you can out of the gears that you’ve got really. So don’t lose your identity in that way but still try to be as close as possible to the real thing.
So obviously your band has the laser show and the visuals and so is that where the replication of Pink Floyd stops just with the visuals and the sounds. I mean, you’re not trying to look like them and use the gear that they use are you?
To be fair, like we never had this kind of issue like, I think nobody ever come up and said ‘Oh, you should get bigger drum kit’in that way because at the end of the day when people come to see our show, they wanna, they want to basically have a Pink Floyd experience and that’s what we try to give. Despite the size of the drums and despite what we use on stage, but what we’re trying to give this like the feeling that you have when you listening to Pink Floyd even when you listening to an album.
And definitely we are close to there I would say. And of course even not having a double kick drums basically.
So there’s a lot of reviews about the UK Pink Floyd experience saying that, you know, if you close your eyes, it’s as if you’re at a genuine Pink Floyd gig. So for you as a musician, that must be a tremendous feeling to know that you’ve played so well that, you know, people can’t distinguish between you and the original.
Yeah, that’s basically our goal, at the end of the night is what matters most really.
So what’s been the hardest part for you and learning the songs? Has it been the kind of the different time signatures? Or is it trying to really get inside the way that Nick played? His dynamics? His feel?
Okay, I mean, the hardest part for me was really when I got into Pink Floyd experience that I had to learn about 20 songs in 10 days. That has been the hardest part Really?
Well, yeah. Yeah.
But the way I did was not going to listen to Nick Mason for those songs that I had to learn but, I’ve tried to kind of see how Nick Mason had changed through the old albums. And after that I’ve tried to get all the sounds and see what kind of snare drum he would use, what kind of hats he would use and the snare drum. What was the intensity? What kind of drum fill he would play there. And that’s basically the work that I did. And especially one thing that I think is very important when you play in this tribute band because, it would be quite unreal to play exactly every drum fill Nick Mason is doing because at the end of the day like a drum fill is a moment. so what you can do is to pick those drum fill that are very important to that song. Yeah, I if you take Brain Damage for example, there is a drum fill that goes [mimics fill] that drum fill is a drum fill that everyone knows. Everybody’s expecting that so it’s got to be played.
While for all the other songs, you can try to play different drum fill, but always in that Nick Mason style.
That’s really great. So do you play with a click track live or is it all quite organic?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, all the songs are with the click track because we got all the video at the back so we need to be synchronized with the video. So because we play with the metronome on stage.
So what challenges does that present for you as a drummer?
Quite a lot to be honest because Pink Floyd albums, most of the times are not being played with the metronome. So, the tempo is kind of dragging or rushing, we following that. We following those timelines and basically, in, in the song. So, our click tracks basically sometimes going up and down, up and down and focusing fully all of that.
Okay, so it’s obviously quite tricky if it’s fluctuating quite a bit.
Yeah. I mean it after over 70 shows I’m pretty much fine with it. It’s like, you get the feeling going. It was a little bit of a problem like the first couple of shows. Definitely.
Cool. So do you have any pre show rituals? Do you warm up? or anything like that? Or do you just, you know, chill out, have a few drinks? What does it take for you?
Usually what it depends, it depends on the night really, it depends the way I feel it in that moment. I tend to warm up about 10/15 minutes before a show. And just before we go on stage there is a band ritual, where we hug each other. We’re we asked God of Rock to give us the power and the energy for the gig. We never missed that. Really.
So what’s it like being out on the road? I mean, what are you out Thursday to Sunday?
Is it all sleeping in vans or is it hotels? You know, what’s it like being out on the road that much?
Ah, and it’s very nice to be honest, like, it can be quite stressful sometimes because you spend loads lots of time on the road, driving. Sometimes you gotta drive, like six hours from one gig to another so you can even sleep much of a night you gotta ended up sleeping in the van. But it kind of makes you feel like part of a big family at the end, because your colleagues, the guy that you’re on stage with, they’re not just colleagues, they’re like people that you spend 4,3,4,5 days a week together. So it’s like a big family meeting.
Did you gel with the guys straight away? Like you said, you’re spending quite a lot of time with these people. So was it kind of an instant click when you jumped in…
A lot, it’s but literally, it were like, as I said, we’re a big family we get along so well together. We always laugh a lot before a show. We laugh a lot. Even when we’re on stage. When we on stage and we looking at each other look we’re joking around it just like a lot of fun. Sometimes you even even, I mean, that’s from my side. Sometimes feels like I’m not working at that moment. I’m just like, having a jam with some friends. And that’s why I love most about it. Really?
Yeah and I think that’s really important. I think, you know, not only is this your livelihood, but you know to make it feel less like work and just fun. That’s the ultimate goal. Really, isn’t it?
Yeah, absolutely. Especially because I mean, I really think that when you audition for position like that, or even like, for massive artist in the world, being a great musician, it’s not the only thing. Because at the end of the day with all your colleagues with the artists themselves, you’ll be spending months and months together on the road. So you need to be a nice person, easy to get along with people even be very easy to stay on the road for even months with someone and you don’t get along with that would be a very, very hard vibe.
So let’s flip back to your early days as a drummer. Obviously, there’s a lot of new drummers starting all the time, kids and grownups a nd all of us from time to time get stuck on certain parts of learning. So was there anything for you that you kind of really struggled with and how did you get over that?
Oh, okay.Yeah. I think I’ve been kind of lucky in that way. Because my old drum teacher, which is like a really, really great musician, and he started playing drums when he was very, very young as well.
And he knew how to let say, deal with me in that sense. Like, for example, I was the kind of person that you couldn’t tell me how good I was, or if I was great, because that would kind of stop me from learning. That would make me sit back and says, ‘Okay, okay, I’m fine now.’ So I never had a lot out of him. He was constantly challenging. He was constantly trying to make you like, you wanted me to get good really, every time it doesn’t matter how much I was practicing, doesn’t matter how good I was playing an exercise.
He always wanting me to improve. And you always find the right way of doing it. Sometimes. It could have been like, he would be tough with me. It worked out so well. And that’s why I’m trying to apply even with my kids. I think it all depends on the person you’re teaching as well. You need to be able to find the right the right way to get someone interested lets say.
See, I can relate to that because in my early days, there were a lot of people surrounding me that were like, ‘Yeah, that’s good, but…’ you know, and that kind of constructive criticism kind of help keep the drive going. So I can really really relate to that.
So outside of the UK Pink Floyd experience What’s life like for you? Are you doing session work you in another band? I mean, what’s life like?
Yeah, I’m trying to get myself as busy as possible because as I said, I love playing with UK Pink Floyd experience but on the other hand, I love doing other stuff as well.
I’m a drums teacher as well. And I play with an artist called Iako, which is like we’re doing original stuff is an indie project and the prog rock band called The Hairen.
Okay so very busy.
Their life is like, yeah, they’re more like part time job for me Really? I enjoy doing them more I’m trying to give to myself as busy as possible, basically.
So it’s very obvious that you love drums and drumming and you’ve obviously been playing kind of most of your life. So how did you go about taking it from a hobby to something that sustains you? You know, how do you go about taking it to that next level?
With a lot a lot of work and sacrifice, I would say and also I would say, not to be scared to risk it. When I was back in University, I was working in pubs of course. I worked in lots of restaurants in London. And when I stopped university I found myself like in in the real world, and I was still working in a pub. And one day in January after Christmas said, ‘You know what? I’m just going to risk it. I’m going to stop working in pubs. I’m just gonna pore myself into music hundred percent.’
And that’s for every step to happen really, that’s what I found concerts, that’s what I found in audition for Pink Floyd Experienced when I got that job. But so, I would say sometimes you just need to try. Just try and see how it goes.
Okay, so what was your status at the time was you living at home with your parents or anything like that? I mean, to turn away from what’s more or less a guaranteed income to the arts where an income is very hit and miss. It’s quite bold step. So was that need for making it pay, you know, a real driving force behind you know, turning it into a success?
To be honest, because I’m I mean, I would say I’m quite young at the moment, I’m not only thinking about the money side. Like for me if I can with music if I can make enough money to live with, I’m fine. What I’m trying to do now that get as many experiences I can, to meet people, new artists, new musicians, trying to get every day more and more into the music industry. Then probably in the future, by when I be older than will, I start really worrying about money. While now I can just dive into and think about music.
Yeah, yeah. So is there anything else on the horizon for you after that? Apart from the other two bands that you mentioned?
Pink Floyd Experience, those two bands and teaching. I don’t think I, sometimes it happens I’ve got some dep jobs coming. So I can’t commit to anything else. Really.
That’s fair enough. So where’s your teaching based if anybody wants to get in touch and take lessons with you?
Definitely in Putney close to Putney Bridge in London in a school called Windsor Music School.
Okay, cool. So you obviously got very busy schedule. So is that…
I’m teaching from Monday to Thursday every week. I’m always there and then the weekend I’m in Pink Floyd Experience.
Who are you top 5 drummers?
Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Gadd, Steve Jordan, Nate Smith and Mark Guiliana
Tea or Coffee?
Buddy Rich or Gene Krupa?
Two great drummers but Buddy Rich was my first love.
It changes very often, it depends on the period, but the album that really left a print on me is Dark Side Of The Moon.
Something you want to improve on in your playing?
There are many things I’d love to improve, it’s a never ending work! At the moment I’m working on my creativity on the kit!!!
Italy or England?
Italy! I love England but Italy is my country.
Ringo Starr or Charlie Watts?
The great Ringo!
Favourite song to play live?
Pigs by Pink Floyd
Apple or Android?
Apple! I can’t live anymore without
Okay. So thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule to chat with me.
Thanks a lot for the interview. I never done an interview before and I was quite excited actually.
Okay, so we’ll get this podcast up and we’ll then create the blog post for it and stuff. And everyone comes to your show, when I was talking to David…
We will be playing on the Thursday 19th of September at the Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone few tickets available. So if people wanna come they can they can go and get on ukpinkfloydexperience.com and check all the tour dates and get whatever tickets they want and come to see us doing some Pink Floyd.
Yeah. So when I was talking to David, he mentioned that you do kind of a meet and greet afterwards.
So yeah, if people want to come up to me and, and all of us really ask any question about Pink Floyd, about our gears, whatever they want about what we had for dinner, anything will be happy to chat with them, shake their hands and say bye.
Well, thanks Francesco. I will let you get back to you’re very busy schedule. Once again, thanks for taking time out to talk to me and I hope you have a great rest of your day and great rest of the tour. And hopefully we can catch up again soon.
Thank you. Thanks for the interview. It was a pleasure, really good pleasure thanks a lot.
Thank you. See you later.
See you later.
Okay, boys and girls, that is top tips from a professional tribute drummer. Obviously Francesco is out there, he’s doing it, and he’s made it happen for himself. And as you can hear, you can do it to with a bit of bulls and determination and a good working ethic with you know, getting along with people and you can really kind of take that plunge and make your drumming more of a full time thing rather than a than a hobby.
So thanks for tuning in. I hope this has really helped you out and I hope you have enjoyed it. And stay tuned for more in the series where I’ll be talking to other drummers will be doing podcasts on like I said tips and tutorials. Any questions get in touch on the socials, Instagram; @rorodrums, Twitter; @rorodrums2, Facebook;
Drum Lessons Folkestone, go on the Drum Lessons Folkestone website.You know, we’re on all the standard socials, we love to chat and love to chat drums and so join us, get involved and until next time, I will see you later.