Saturday, August 20, 2011


Not that easy a life.
Here's a note I received from a British drummer currently working on a ship in the Mediterranean:

"I’m presently doing a stint as a cruise drummer in the Med and stumbled across your page.  I’m 8 weeks in and the life is interesting!!!  Parties, people, places and lots of performances.  I’m playing in one of the lounge bands doing 3-4 45’s a night.  7 nights a week.  Haha I’m sure you can appreciate that my body seems to be taking a bit of a pounding.  I was just wondering if the creeping sense of lethargy is normal!?
 I’m feeling pretty bushed most of the time,  I’ve not got cramping issues but I’m certainly noticing that the later sets and the louder sets outside on the pool deck are getting harder.
 If you’ve got any advice – or can think of any pad routines to help me keep a lighter dynamic I’d be really grateful.
 Keep up the great work on the blog, you’re keeping me sane!
 Kind Regards from another drummer in the high seas
 - Edgar in Livorno"

What you need is a month in the Mediterranean. It's hard to think of recommendations that don't involve me flying to Rome, taking a week or ten days- two weeks max- to get "acclimated", renting an Audi and driving to Livorno- via Orvieto, Firenze, side trip to Siena so I don't wear myself out driving- and relieving you for a month or so, but let me see what I can do.

First, you  may want to read my cruise ship drummer survival and playing quieter posts, if you haven't already.

You didn't mention how long your contract runs- I'm guessing 12-20 weeks most likely? Long runs like that are extremely challenging. Keeping a lighter dynamic goes for both your playing and your mindset- especially your mindset, actually. The lethargy is normal due to the amount of down time, the repetitiveness of the routine, the weird combination of isolation and lack of privacy, and never feeling completely at home. For me, anyway. Playing a lot induces a good kind of fatigue, but if you're slamming your face off every night, you might look to pick your battles more carefully- if you're like I was for years, having to be in there attacking the gig physically every time you play, maybe this is a good time to get your Gadson posture together. Take a good mental picture of this and pull it up when you find yourself working too hard:

One thing I'll say about the playing is that even as you learn to play with a little more physical and emotional detachment (I'm projecting my own thing onto you), you still have to be focused and present. Don't adjust as a lot of people do- by not giving a crap about the music.

Media consumption: lots of comedy, not so much dark drama and series programs in general. Comedy keeps the synapses firing, while the current HBO-style series dramas just drag you down into obsessing over the soap opera. This is not a great time to get caught up on the complete run of Six Feet Under or Deadwood. I don't want to appear to condone illegal downloading, but here are two words: BitTorrent and MST3K.

Be talking to people. Barely talking to anyone all day, going out and doing the gig, then scuttling back to your room will drag you down fast. If you don't have any natural allies on the boat, learn to appreciate talking to not-very-smart people about BS. Work on it, anyway.

Try to avoid not liking people- fellow musicians, staff, crew, passengers. It sounds like New Age bullcrap, but it really does take a lot of energy to not like people, especially when you have to be around them all the damn time.

Get out of the room. Get off the boat. Walk every day the ship is in port. If you're missing half of them because you're sleeping late from partying, make an adjustment there. It's difficult to feel like a stranger everywhere you go. Find some local places to return to so they start feeling familiar, and the people there start treating you like a person, instead of a piece of cruise ship cattle.

It sounds like avoiding a lot of partying is out of the question- it is hard to bail from the major social thing you do every day. You know what to do to stay functional- don't drink every single shot they put in front of you. A lot of the bartenders think they're doing you a favor by pouring really big drinks, in which case,  learn to be comfortable not finishing them.

Finally: try to establish a work routine for your own stuff- practicing, transcribing, whatever. It's easier said than done- getting the privacy to work for long enough to take full advantage of your ample free time can be extremely difficult. Do your your best to find a space where you can set up shop and work undisturbed, or get your mobile unit together, so you can do an hour in one location, then quickly pack up and move someplace else.

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