Jim Spinner


Name Simon Olyott
Instrument Drums, percussion, silly noises and telling everyone else how to play their instruments.

Oh dear….. you will cringe at this.

The best kit drummer in the world ever has got to be Bill Bruford. His style of playing and the music he writes and performs are very much in keeping with my tastes in jazz/rock, going way beyond the normal basic beat of most drummers, yet not getting too silly or avante garde.

Beyond Bill, there is Ian Paice (of Deep Purple), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) and Alan White (Yes). All these are technically capable musicians who provide percussive accompaniment to the main thread of the music.

Musically, the first record I remember having an effect on me was Paranoid by Black Sabbath. I moved on rapidly through Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull and Deep Purple and spent a lot of time dwelling on Yes before moving on to Genesis, King Crimson and Bill Bruford’s various bands.

Today my favourites are still Bruford and King Crimson in all their incarnations,  but the outstanding modern band for me is Radiohead  - wrist-slittingly brilliant. There are also a raft of excellent home grown British bands which are producing excellent music, OCS, Stereophonics, Kula Shaker etc. Shame current chart pop is so crap.

Background At school, I trained as an orchestral percussionist over the period 1975 – 79, in those days there were no recognised percussion grading exams to take. I took Music ‘O’ level and Grade 6 Music Theory. I played with school orchestras and also the Somerset Youth Orchestra, British Youth Symphony Orchestra and British Youth Wind Orchestra. I started playing kit drums in about 1978, mainly as a release from the tensions of school, though I did not play in any bands at the time.

In 1979 I went up to university in Cardiff and spent two years there playing traditional jazz. Going by the name of the New Varsity Jazz Band, we played in and around Cardiff and appeared to be quite successful, though we never quite joined the ranks of the established jazz bands. Perhaps we were too young or we didn’t smell enough.

On graduating, I moved to Basildon in Essex to work by day as an electronics engineer and joined a band called the Exhibits, playing covers of 60s and early 70s pop and rock standards. This was my first real rock band and it took some time to get used to what is required of a rock drummer.

In 1986 I moved back to my home county of Somerset to work for what was then Plessey, then Marconi then Thomson Marconi now Thales (I’ve left there now and work as a systems engineering consultant). Here I spent a couple of years not playing at all, but eventually I met the bass player of a local band called at the time ‘The Griff Band’ (see family tree). Their drummer was on the point of leaving and I was gradually eased in during 1988 and they have not been able to get rid of me since.
Equipment Roland TD7-K Stage Kit.
Equipment Details

I bought my first kit in about 1979 from the proceeds of a Summer job. I paid the princely sum of £100 for what was then an ancient Premier four drum kit with dodgy stands and cymbals. This kept me going through the trad jazz phase, but was obviously not good enough for rock drumming. In 1985 I bought a Pearl Export Deep seven drum kit plus all the necessary stands and cymbals. This is a monster kit  and served me well for many years. In the early days of playing with Quicksilver nee The Griff Band, this kit was fine. Over the last few years it became apparent that, for the sort of gig we play, an acoustic kit with no amplification was not good enough. I went out and bought microphones to alleviate the problems, but none of us in the band had the detailed know how or patience to mike the kit up properly.

So, last year I sold the acoustic kit and bought the Roland Stage Kit. These are not the Roland V-Drums, but a set of velocity sensitive pads driving a sound module, producing sampled drum and percussion sounds. As a kit for a gigging band they are brilliant. Set them up, plug left and right outputs into the mixer and it’s ready to go.

The kit provides 32 user definable drum kits. There are 9 velocity sensitive pads, each dual trigger so it is effectively an 18 drum kit (though this includes cymbals). Each trigger point on a pad allows two different sounds to be mixed together, There are 512 instrument sounds, 24 user definable and 24 pre-set sequences and the whole thing is MIDI driven. The sounds available cover everything I could think I will ever need. As a kit for the sort of music we play, it is ideal as it has broadened the range of songs that we can now do.

It has taken me about six months to get used to the kit. It needs more accuracy of stick on pad than an acoustic kit, otherwise no sound comes out of it. There is not the physical satisfaction of smashing the life out of the cymbals, but I can live with that. The feel of the pads is similar to a rubber practice pad, meaning there is not the bounce and feedback of skinned drums. I have found that I am having to re-learn how to play rolls, as I used to have my snare skin very tight. The only other criticism is that the range of cymbals is limited, really just ride, crash, splash and china type.

Despite the minor drawbacks, I am surprised I don’t see more of these kits in use. They are no more expensive that a reasonable quality acoustic kit, they are light, pack down into a small space and need no messing about when setting up for a gig. Plus I now have 32 kits to choose from – of course some will argue that, being a drummer, anything beyond the number one is beyond my comprehension.