My name is Thomas and music has always been a part of my life.
It started as the son of a French Horn player and choir director at Sunday mass. My Dad always had something musical going on. To this day he still takes part in directing the choir at church in Delta. He and my Mom would often sing hymns and folk songs, harmonizing together on long car rides.
I remember playing the piano at a very young age. For fun of course, but I always had a fascination with it and with music in general. As a toddler, one of my loudest and most cherished toys was a Fisher-Price drum; foreshadowing perhaps? Being that my Dad was also an elementary school music teacher for a big portion of my childhood, there were always instruments around the house. Pianos, recorders, french horns, trumpets, violins, guitars - you name it. Most of the time they were used for good. Occasionally, my mischievous Father would take it upon himself to wake my older brother and I up by playing the famous military tune “Reveille” (look it up, you know it) on his trumpet. I do not think there is anything quite so irritating as an eyeful of light and an earful of loud trumpeting to bring you in to a new day. Perhaps it is the reason I am a morning person today, as I have yet to find an alarm that is quite as… alarming.
I did not formally start playing an instrument until the approximate age of 10, when my Mother enrolled my younger sister and I in her lifelong friend’s private piano tutoring. We studied the classic Royal Conservatory books. I liked it but being rebellious from a young age, I would always try to get out of it and practice as little as possible. Despite this, I excelled. I would latch onto songs and learn them so well that even today when I place my fingers upon the keys, they come back to me.
Fast forward a couple of years and we moved to an actual piano school in Surrey. There we had a small group learn under a great teacher. Aside from the RC Curriculum, we also learned a few scales and how to use them for simple soloing, and partook in recitals. This would mark the first time I got up in front of people to perform. I must have been about 12-13. Admittedly, I was not very good at it. I was very shy at the time and would get overwhelmingly nervous. All in all, I finished up in Royal Conservatory 5, dropping out because lessons were always on a Friday night and my dear Mom couldn’t put up with my complaining anymore. Did she not know that 13 year olds had very important things to do on Friday nights? To this day, leaving piano school is one of my more sizeable regrets in life - but perhaps it put me on a different trajectory that brought me to where I am now.
When I left piano, I was a young lad who had just entered high school. With high school came band class. I enrolled as an electric bassist in grade 8 concert band, played a rental for a few months and fell in love. It was time to buy my own bass guitar. The morning after I brought home my Ibanez Sounder Gio in Silver, I mysteriously came down with a “stomach ache” and couldn’t go to school. I knew my Mom would be running errands that day. I sat on the front porch in the sunshine with my bass, amp and a cd player and learned by ear the entirety of Nirvana’s classic album Nevermind. What a sight for my Mom when she returned home. My excuse? "I’m sick but not sick enough that I can’t play bass!” Yeah right.
Anyways right around this time, my older brother was a year or two into his brief yet intense love affair with the electric guitar. He had been experimenting with Digitech pedals and got a fancy Behrninger amp to boot. He also started jamming with his friends, having me fill in occasionally when the bassist couldn’t make it. At some point he decided to rent himself a drum kit to make jamming at our house an easier feat for him and his friends. This was a very pivotal point in my life as this marked the first time I sat down at a drum kit.
I was about 14. It was red 5-piece entry level Yamaha kit. I played it first out of pure curiosity. “You need to cross your hands” my brother would tell me, so I did. Pretty soon I was learning beats more complex than those my brother was playing. It wasn’t long before it was decided that I would rent my own drum kit, as it was evident this was not a one-off situation. Time went on and my skill grew. I even got involved with the extra-curricular jazz band and jazz combo as one of the drummers (all while still playing bass for concert band). With drumming, I felt a connection to music the likes of which I had never felt before. It was so immersive and I was able to express myself in a way that was not previously possible. As time went by, I got involved with some drum lessons for a brief yet enlightening period of 6 months. Beyond that my teachers were Neil Peart, John Bonham, Carter Beauford, Chad Smith among many other esteemed rock’n’roll drummers. I would listen to and play along to a plethora of songs, honing in my skill with each stroke. Sometimes today I think “My dear parents!”. I was so lucky to have parents that put up with such a racket - and so often. Their only consistent rule was to stop playing at 8:30pm. This, no doubt, is the reason why I am the drummer I am today. I also grew a great love for the art of improvisational musicianship. I would constantly jam with my friends and grew a great appreciation for what it means to be a musician alongside other musicians. The queues, the emotion and the immersion all shared between friends. It really is quite an uplifting feeling.
Beyond high school, I continued a few projects on the side while working full time in the airline industry at YVR. I carried on with a dear friend writing and recording and being a part of music. This was just beginning to flourish before ending, abruptly and regrettably. This was a huge blow to my own personal writing but sent me on another unexpected trajectory.
Having found myself without any people to share my music with, I took to craigslist. I tried out for a few bands and left them all due to differences, musical and otherwise. It was during this time that I met the remarkable Steve Johnson when he and I played together in a band for a brief time - him on bass and myself on drums.
It was not until perhaps the second or third time my dear old Dad let me know he had a friend who’s son was looking for a drummer, did it actually take. I got in touch with this fellow Luc. His drummer was leaving his band to travel and he needed a replacement. I had never played in a country/folk band nor had ever really listened to any country. I was somewhat skeptical but decided to meet up with him at The Clydesdale in Cloverdale and accompany him for his weekly set.
I arrived at The Clydesdale and met with Luc and the current lead guitarist Curtis. I was playing a barebones kit, with a kick, snare, hi-hat and ride cymbal, so I didn’t have much to bring in. These two chaps helped me carry it in anyways.
“Nice guys” I thought. We were off to a good start.
Once we were set up and playing, it was clear there was an instant connection. The bar was enjoying the music and singing along. I was myself again, immersed in the music.
From there, the rest is history. They offered me the spot after meeting the rest of the band - Stephan, and Vince - and we started gigging almost immediately. Things were going very well until Curtis the Kid, easily the most talented and technically skilled of the group up and went to Berklee school of music. The nerve! (Just kidding, you go Curtis)
Luck would have it as I remembered Steve. I had heard him play guitar just once out of the numerous times we jammed together previously but recalled it to be a positive experience. I got in touch with him, and he came out to a practice. Wouldn't you know it, his style fit the group perfectly and the rest, yet again, is history.
Thanks for taking the time to read about my journey to this excellent band. I hope you had as much fun reading it as I did writing it. I hope also to see every last one of you at one of our fun filled shows in the future. Come on up and say hi!!