In Sawhili Blonde she uses both a drum machine and a standard drum kit to create her unique sound. We anxiously await her EP which is to be released by Manimal Vinyl Records sometime in 2010. Read her exclusive interview below to find out more about where this dynamic drummer has been and where she is headed …
Full name: Nicole Turley
Nickname/pseudonym: Coolio or Turlz
Hometown: Garden Grove, CA
Where do you live now: Los Angeles, CA
Bands you are drumming in currently: Swahili Blonde
Bands you were drumming for in the past: Seventh Sea, Blood Everywhere, Licorice Piglet, Black Umbrella, WEAVE!
What you do for a living: I worked in photography for a long time. Now I play, record, and mix music.
Tom Tom Magazine: When did you start playing the drums?
Nicole Turley: I started playing drums when I was around 22. Ivory (old friend and bandmate in Seventh Sea, Blood Everywhere, and WEAVE!) came over to a party at my house one night. She was starting a new band and asked if I would play drums. I told her it sounded like fun, so yes, but I had never played drums before and wouldn’t that be a problem? She said it didn’t matter because I had a strong dance background- so I should already have a good feeling for rhythm, patterns, and beats. We got together the next day – and Seventh Sea began.
Tom Tom Magazine: Reason that you started playing the drums?
Nicole Turley: Well… I’ve always loved music. I was a classically trained dancer for about 18 years – ballet, jazz, tap, modern, etc – and I was real involved with singing when I was a wee little gal. Music was always a huge part of my life. I always wanted to play an instrument, but never had the time. So when I stopped dancing around 21, the next creative activity I stumbled upon was drums. It felt very natural – and it seemed this was obviously what I was supposed to do next.
“Well, on planet Nicole, it would be something involving a bass drum as big as my body, a 3rd arm, animal pelts, lily pads, vines for sticks.” – Nicole Turley
Tom Tom Magazine: How long did it take till you felt like a “real” and legit drummer?
Nicole Turley: I guess that’s not something I really think about – being real and legit at something. I think maybe the real and legit part stems from your intention. If there’s something you really love doing, and you do it everyday because it’s fun and you receive joy from it- to me, that qualifies as being real and legit. Because it’s a pure intention- and when you have a pure intention, you’re going to keep progressing, developing, and growing- kind of just by default. Technical skill is important, but it shouldn’t be the whole reason behind why you do what you do. Individual style and feeling goes a long way.
Tom Tom Magazine: What is your favorite set-up for your kit? Why?
Nicole Turley: I really enjoyed the set up I had for my first band, Seventh Sea. All of us were really poor and couldn’t afford to buy instruments – so we all played what was given to us by friends. I was given a regular snare, old marching snare (which I used in place of a floor tom) and a rack tom or two. We had to rig everything to milk crates with rope- cause we had no stands. It was pretty funny- very MacGyver. Then a friend gave me a DW stand to put my rack toms on – so I could play standing up. That was by far my favorite set up. I loved being able to dance and move while playing – very fun!
Tom Tom Magazine: What would your dream kit consist of?
Nicole Turley: Well, on planet Nicole, it would be something involving a bass drum as big as my body, a 3rd arm, animal pelts, lily pads, vines for sticks.
TTM:What do you do to get better at the drums / Best way to get chops?
NT: I finally found out what chops means- hahaha- SUCH a dork. I guess just play everyday. I take drum lessons sometimes- to learn the basics of different styles- reggae, latin, rock, hip-hop, etc. Then I like to take different things from what I’ve learned and integrate everything into my own style and groove. That’s really fun.
TTM:What is your favorite drum warm up / what do you do to warm up before playing?
NT: Jeezy kreezy… I don’t warm up. I probably should. Hopefully my limbs won’t turn to stone.
TTM: What do you think the role of the drummer is? (In a band)
NT: It’s probably different depending on the style of music. Sometimes it’s more percussive. Sometimes it’s about accents. Sometimes it’s playing the same simple beat for the whole song. Sometimes it’s playing something drastically different for each section. Just depends on what you’re going for. I do think it’s very important to listen to all the instruments. Try to find a way to link to up and compliment what everyone’s doing. It gives the feeling of a strong connection- which is important.
“Just make sure the live drum parts are complimenting that. Not over doing it – leaving room to breathe.” – Nicole Turley
TTM: Do you play any other instruments? If so … how does that affect your drumming?
NT: I started a DIY project this year called Swahili Blonde – where I write, play, sing, record, and mix everything myself – actually, everything except guitar – my boyfriend’s been doing the guitar stuff. It’s been really fun and creative. I guess it’s effected my drumming in the sense that I pay extra close attention to what the other instruments are doing and how they interact with each other – and just make sure the live drum parts are complimenting that. Not over doing it – leaving room to breathe.
TTM:What do you consider to be the most challenging thing about the drums?
NT: The fact that I’m not an Octopus. I never seem to have enough appendages to play what I hear in my head. That’s probably why I use drum machine, along with live drums, in my recordings.
TTM: What’s your favorite part about playing drums?
NT: I like the physicality of it – reminds me a lot of dancing. A great blend of physical and mental exercise. And also how there are endless options of what you can do on a drum kit. It’s pretty amazing…
TTM: Most notable show you ever played?
NT: WEAVE! did a month long residency at The Echo (in LA) back in November 2008. That was really fun. The Echo pretty much let us do whatever we wanted. We got to book all the shows ourselves- bands, dj’s, everything. We decided each show would have a different theme – like the 1st week was Africa, 2nd week was ancient Greece, 3rd week was Egypt, etc. We encouraged all the bands and kids coming to the show to dress up as to whatever they’re interpretation of that theme was. There was a different installation artist each week. We got to play with all of our favorite bands around town. A great and rare experience…
TTM: Have you experienced any setbacks as a female drummer?
NT: No, not really. After Seventh Sea ended, I remember feeling pretty frustrated in trying to find kids to play with. You find out very quickly whether you gel with someone musically or not – and it seemed like for a while I had trouble finding something that felt like a good fit. But that didn’t last for too long. I’ve been pretty fortunate in the sense that I’ve always had very musically talented and creative people come in to my life-even if the project was short lived.
TTM: Who are your favorite drummers?
NT: Mo Tucker (Velvet Underground), Babatunde Olatunji (Badass), Chris Frantz (Talking Heads), Phil Collins (Genesis- old and new), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Ginger Baker (Cream), Steve Scales (Percussionist for Talking Heads) ,Budgey (spelling?), (Slits, Siouxsie and the Banchees), Valerie Scroggins (ESG), Donald Johnson (A Certain Ratio), Stephen Morris (Joy Division), Sheila E (Prince)
TTM: If you could change one thing about the drums what would it be?
NT: Nothing. They’re pretty fantastic just the way they are.
“I never seem to have enough appendages to play what I hear in my head. That’s probably why I use drum machine, along with live drums, in my recordings.” – Nicole Turley
TTM: Do you do anything else drum related besides playing in a band? (i.e. teach drums one on one, rock camp, drum circles, etc …)
NT: I haven’t had time to as of late – but I’d like to somewhere down the line…
TTM: Where do you shop for your drum gear?
NT: This little independent shop on Vine Street in LA. I think they’re called Pro Drum. They’re super nice and helpful.
TTM: Best piece of advice you got as a drummer?
NT: Just be patient with yourself. Play because you love to play. Try not to focus too much on the end result – that will happen naturally.
TTM: What are some of your other hobbies / interests?
NT: I’m kind of addicted to scrabble. It’s all about lexulous.com! Dice games are also fun.
“Play because you love to play. Try not to focus too much on the end result – that will happen naturally.” – Nicole Turley
TTM: Who are some of your favorite lady drummers right now?
NT: I saw the Butthole Surfers over New Years. Theresa played with them – she’s really great. And as of current, this lovely lady from Australia – Miss Stella Mozgawa. She’s pretty amazing.
TTM: Who are some of your favorite bands right now?
NT: It’s a great time for music in LA. Some bands, old and new, to check out are: Rainbow Arabia, Haunted Graffiti, Fools Gold, Soft Boiled Eggies, Geneva Jacuzzi, WEAVE!, We Are The World,, Crooked Cowboy & The Freshwater Indians, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Quark (or whatever Stella Mogzawa & Nick Maybury are doing), Warpaint, Very Be Careful, Indian Jewelry, Julia Holter, Jason Grier, Bubonic Plague, Nite Jewel.
Interview by Mindy Abovitz/Creator of Tom Tom Magazine
Tom Tom Magazine