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CM Talks Drums With Emmanuelle Caplette

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Emmanuelle CapletteEmmanuelle Caplette has earned a reputation as one of Quebec’s top drummers. She got her start playing in the drum and bugle corps as a kid before making the switch to a full drum kit when she was 18. She has played drums on a number of TV shows, including Just For Laughs, and is now the drummer in former Police guitarist Andy Summers’ new band, Circa Zero.

You can read more from Caplette and other great drummers in the CM 2013 Percussion Panel feature in the November/December issue of Canadian Musician.

CM: What are your go-to drums/cymbals/sticks in your live kit and how do you like your drums, seat, cymbals positioned?

EC: It depends of the gigs! I often use my Sonor Jungle Set – four pieces; kick, snare, tom, and floor tom. I like this setup. I play regularly with a hi-hat, two crashes and ride from Sabian. And of course, I have Vic Firth sticks in my bag!

I fixed my seat for my legs get a 90 degree angle. My drums are close to my body. I love making small movements because I save a lot of energy that way. For the positioning of my cymbals, they are low, straight, and close.

CM:  Are you particular about the tuning of your drums? If so, how?

EC: I tune my drums really low… like a pop/rock sound. I use Evans drumheads – EC2 Clear on top and EC Resonant on bottom. With those drumheads, I found the perfect sound with my Sonor drums. Really easy to tune! My bass drum is 16 x 16 in and the sound is amazing. It has a lot of sustain, which is surprising! The sound is great because it is a suspended system. The bass drum doesn’t directly touch the floor. The fact that it is suspended gives it a fatter sound.

And I’ll be honest with you, I don’t change my tuning. I use the same sound/tuning on a rock gig or jazz gig. Why? Because It’s my sound and trademark and people recognize it.

CM:  What is your practicing regimen and how does it differ while you’re touring?

EC: Honestly, that’s a hard question because it depends. Because, when I was in school, I had time to practice more and since I work a lot, as in have a lot of gigs, it’s hard to find time because I’m often on the road. Sometime I don’t have access to my drums or a practice pad. But now, I could say I practice two hours per rehearsal time – when I actually have the time. If I have time, I do it three or four times per week. And for me, it’s enough. If I practice more than that, I won’t be as productive. It’s really important for me to see my friends, family, and do sports! It helps me to be more creative in my practice time.

CM:  Who were your early drumming inspirations and/or mentors?

EC: My mentor is Jeff Porcaro from Toto. I fell in love with his touch, his sound, his musicality! I’m also inspired by Jojo Mayer, Manu Katche, Steve Smith, Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Jordan, Carter Beauford.

CM: What key lesson did you learn in your early years as a drummer that allowed you to take the next step in your playing?

EC: When I was young, I had the chance to do drum corps. I learned my technique and all rudiments. After high school, I wanted to continue my studies in drumset. It was my next step.

CM: You played in the drum corps for much of your childhood and, from what I’ve read, didn’t start playing a full kit until you were 18. Did all that time playing snare influence your style on a full kit?

EC: Of course, playing snare influence my style and my sound! And I’m really proud of it. I have a “tasty” playing and it’s because of my drum corps background. And I’m always clean when I do some fills.

CM:  What were the biggest challenges when you made the transition to a full kit?

EC: When I started on a drumset, I didn’t understand what means “groove.“ When you play in a drum corps, everyone must have the same gestures, giving this rigid character. For the groove behind the drums, I had to learn to move differently. But in three years of study, I learned a lot. I put aside the marching band and I’m focused on the drum set.

I’d say that jazz has helped me a lot. When you play jazz, you have to be relaxed. I discovered Jack DeJohnette, Tony Williams, and Joe Morello. I also spent hours listening to music and, of course, playing music with people. When I was at university, I worked on pieces by Tower of Power and the famous David Garibaldi’s grooves. This is something I’m still working on elsewhere.

CM:  When playing with other musicians for a first time, particularly in a live situation, what are the fundamentals, either stylistically or mentally, that you must keep in mind?

EC: First, we must be at the service of music. We have to play the good musical language. We need to listen to the other musicians and find the “time feel” of each. And that way, we will play and groove together. This is my mentality.

CM:  Having played live or in the studio with a huge number of people, would you say you have your own sound and prefer to follow the vision of the songwriter? If you feel you have your own distinctive sound, how would you describe it?

Yeah, I’d say I have my own sound and that’s why producers and songwriters hired me. I always respect the request of the songwriter. It’s really important. My sound is in the way I play; consistent sound, tasty, my musicality, my energy, my fluidity, my interpretation.

CM:  What are the key lessons or advice you’d give someone about being a top-notch session drummer?

EC: What I can say to people is to always persevere, believe in their dreams. There are periods of time where nothing seems to happen and these are the moments where you need to stay positive. Never give up! Have a great attitude is one of the most important things to get. Other things to keep in mind are:

-Practicing with a metronome as often as you can.

-Play with other musicians

-Practicing different styles of music

-Listing to music is very important

-Take lessons with different teachers

-Play for the music

-Work on your sound and style

If you want to play, don’t be scared to go in the jam sessions, go see lots of shows.

Also, you must have: a good personality and good attitude, an open mind, be passionate, and, of course, you must have a good sense of time and rhythm

CM:  What has been the highlight of your career so far?

EC: Play in the same band as Andy Summers of the The Police! Andy started a new band called Circa Zero. Last spring, Andy and Rob Giles [singer and bassist] were looking for a drummer for the band. They saw my videos on YouTube and they contacted me by Facebook. I was very surprised! They invited me to audition and I got the gig. We did our first show at El Rey Theatre On July 25. And next week, we are going to play at the Shanghai Rolex Master! It’s really exciting!!!

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