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INTERVIEW: Tim Goodyer talks about the world of West End drumming

Laura  Barnes
INTERVIEW: Tim Goodyer talks about the world of West End drumming

MI Pro editor Laura Barnes sat down with prolific West End drummer Tim Goodyer to find out what it’s like working on some of the biggest theatre productions, why brands should take more notice of session musicians, and more…

When learning to play the drums, some dream of being a rock star, some develop an unquenchable thirst for playing any genre they come across, others discover alternative areas of the music industry as they delve deeper into mastering their instrument, then there are those musicians who are made for theatre and orchestral work.

Although he probably wouldn’t put it quite like that, Tim Goodyer is a mixture of all of this.

Despite insisting “a lot of it is down to luck”, Goodyer’s West End resume is undeniably impressive.
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He is currently playing in Disney’s sell-out Aladdin show at the Prince Edward Theatre London, with previous shows including The Book of Mormon, Shrek the Musical, Dirty Dancing, Saturday Night Fever, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Avenue Q, Mamma Mia, Grease, The Lion King, Beautiful Game, Kiss Me Kate, Fame, Footloose, Anything Goes, Jesus Christ Superstar, We Will Rock You… you get the point.

When asked how he got into drumming and working in theatre, Goodyer casually responds: “When I was about 11, a teacher at school mentioned that I had a good sense of rhythm so I ended up going to a local music centre.

“My mum said that by the time I was about 13 I had decided that I wanted to play the drums for a living. I don’t really remember consciously deciding that but by that point I guess it had kind of taken over everything else.”

During his studies he learnt tradition drums, spending a lot of time just on the snare. The local music centre also taught him how to read music.

“That’s how I ended up doing more theatre stuff really. I could read music and I was used to someone standing at the front conducting,” he explains. “It’s not rocket science but a lot of people don’t know how to follow a conductor.”

Goodyer says he didn’t really set out to do shows, “it just happened naturally”. He ended up getting booked for a tour of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat staring Philip Schofield and things went from there.

“The guy who had been lined up to play the drums was quite a big session guy at the time and he ended up blowing it out. So they were a bit desperate for somebody – that’s why they booked me. I was 23 and I was booked on a trial basis, but I ended up doing it for about two and a half years. And that’s what got me into London.”

Despite insisting he was booked out of desperation, Goodyer made a big enough impression that he ended up depping (being an understudy) for drummers of various shows in the West End, and has been the lead drummer in a number of show for the past 10 years.  

With so many shows under his belt, when asked what’s been the most interesting experience, Goodyer talks about his time on The Book Of Mormon – a controversial and hilarious show from the creators of South Park – Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

“It wasn’t like other shows. It was the kind of show that if you didn’t like shows, you could still go and see it. It was pretty hard-hitting and genuinely funny.

“The music was interesting. It was the first time that I had to fire off all the click tracks, loops and samples. Musically it’s not too hard, but logistically it’s quite hard to actually hit everything at the right time,” he explains.

Talking about the controversy surrounding the show, Goodyer admits that it was in the back of his mind during rehearsals that the show could become a target for “people who felt they were being offended”.

As it turns out, there weren’t many problems, and the Mormons even used the show to their advantage by plastering Charring Cross station with real Mormon adverts when the show opened.

“I thought we’d get 6 months to a year out of it. I worked on it for three years and it was very difficult to leave.”

Another show that Goodyer worked on that has made its way back into the news recently is Dirty Dancing.

Last month, the Musician’s Union announced it was protesting against the current tour of the show as it had cut a number of musician chairs, leaving only five.

“The producers’ idea for the show was for it to be as much like the film as possible. The band played a lot of background music really. The show was about 2 hours and 45 minutes long and we played about 45 minutes of music. All the big 80s tunes were the originals.”

“It was an easy gig,” admits Goodyer. “There wasn’t much to do. Then they toured it and cut one or two of the band members. Now it’s come out again on tour with only five band members.”

Goodyer says he was unsurprised by the news, taking the view that it is what it is. “It’s just saving money really. It’s how the world works.”

He does point out that times are getting harder for musicians, though. Shows are doing well, but there’s not a lot outside of them at the moment. “The recording scene is pretty bad. A lot of guys who did a lot of recording sessions 15 years ago are doing shows now.

“There’s so much great technology and everything is instantly available that anyone can make an album without needing to hire a drummer to play on it.”

Back to the theatre world, and Goodyer is currently playing in Aladdin. “It is pretty straight forward musically, but the thing that’s difficult about it is being in the middle of quite a big band and a huge cast on stage.

“The difficulty is to try not to be influenced by too many factors at the same time and bang on regardless.

“Ultimately you’ve got to follow the conductor. He’s got a big band and they all have their own sense of time within the music. When you listen to it back it sounds good, but when you’re in the middle of it you can sometimes feel like you’re being pulled and pushed about,” he admits.

“It’s a nice show to play. It’s quite traditional but it has some really nice arrangements.”

Speaking about arrangements, Goodyer says that one of the questions he gets asked the most is: “Does it get tedious playing the same songs every night?”

His answer reiterates how lucky he feels to be doing this job: “It’s just two and a half hours of work a day! On most shows I’ve been on there’s been an upbeat vibe. You play the shows and have fun.”

We talk a bit more about the rock star dream that so many young drummers have and I ask whether he thinks retailers and instrument brands should do more to highlight the session and theatre careers that musicians can have.

“I don’t think instrument companies realise that there is a scene outside of the ‘rock band’ thing. A lot of session players don’t get as much coverage as guys in rock bands. I think a lot of people underestimate how much young people coming out of collages look up to session and show musicians.

“I get a lot of letters, as do lots of other musicians in the theatre, asking if people can come watch you play. I think the instrument brands underestimate how many up and coming kids want to get into that side of the industry.”

Goodyer suggests that young musicians invest in themselves and learn to read music if they want a long career in the industry. “I think having a long term career in music should be encouraged a lot more by brands.”

As well as performing in Aladdin, Goodyer has a few other projects coming up. He will be performing with an orchestra for The Best of James Bond on September 30th at the Royal Festival Hall, playing with the Disney Orchestra at the Albert Hall in October, and touring with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in November where the orchestra will accompany archive material of Elvis performances.

Having just joined the Sakae Drums artist roster, Goodyer will be using the firm’s Trilogy series for the performances as well as in theatre shows.

“I’m using three-ply vintage shells in 12”, 14”, 16” and 22” sizes. I have an aluminium 14x6.5” snare drum – it sounds like a produced record when you hit it, it’s really nice.

“I’m using those drums for everything at the moment. I like the Sakae drums because they’re very musical sounding; they record really nicely and blend well with an orchestra.

“It’s always nice if you get to a gig, where you’re surround by people who have instruments worth more than your house, and you can turn up with something that’s really high quality.”

Tim Goodyer is currently performing in Aladdin The Muscial. Find out more about the show here. Check out his Sakae Drum profile here.

Tags: west end , sakae drums , Interviews , dirty dancing , Tim Goodyer , muscials , Aladdin , The Book Of Mormon

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