Hola! It sure feels good to be back posting after a bit of a hiatus. Apologies for my lack of posts. I have been busy preparing for my legal practice exams for the past month or so and finally completed my exams last week. As they say in Nigeria, “No be easy ohhhh”!! Anyway, I am delighted to be back with my second instalment of “UnSung heroes” featuring drummer and producer Anthony “Sweetstix” Lewis. Anthony is a versatile and experienced drummer who has travelled the world supporting both UK and European artists such as Taio Cruz. He is a member of the London based alternative/pop group Velvet Stream who won MTV UK Brand new band of 2012. For those of you who are fans of The Voice, Anthony is also currently writing and producing for the talented Vince Kidd. Check out the insighful interview with Mr. Sweetstix after the cut.
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When did you start playing the drums?
I started playing the drums at 4 years old. My brother taught me since he is a drummer and DJ. The passion for drumming also came from church.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a professional drummer/musician?
The journey came from just loving music and then attracting the right people that love music as well. Church also helped and loving other musicians through the church who just by chance were some really talented guys. The club scene and open mic nights also helped.
So drumming became a job without you even trying?
Yes. The first bit of money I ever got from playing music was at a place called Whack! They asked me to play for this artist and were like “Hey here is a fiver for your travel”. I was like “What are you doing?!” The concept was bonkas to me but I guess that was the start of my career of being paid to play the drums.
What is the secret to being a great drummer?
The secret is to be keen to learn. It is to be open minded and not closed minded. You have to understand the place for drums. That comes with understanding music as a whole and as a language and the different dialects that exist in music. You get to the point when music is all about opinion but I just see it as good or bad.
Do you have a specific style of drumming?
People say I have a certain way of doing fills. I kind of just have my own sort of style. I like all music and styles of drumming so I take from all of them. I look at it from the perspective of music and not just drums. I love heavy metal, jazz, fusion, rock, pop, garage, grime, hip hop, drum and bass. I love it all! So I can play with all these genres in mind.
There are many. Travis Barker (Blink 182), Steve Jordan, Josh McKenzie (Labrinth’s brother), Abe Leboral Jnr (Paul McCartney’s drummer) and of course Bob Marley’s drummer.
Which artists have you supported and who has been your highlight to support?
I have supported many artists and I can’t really say there is a highlight because every artist is different. Good artists express themselves well and I’ve only worked with such artists. The artist who I have learnt the most from in terms of understanding drums is a European artist called Patrice. He was really particular about the way he wanted me to drum and it took me to another level conceptually about drums and music. There used to be a difference between the demands of UK and European artists but now music has become much closer.
If you could pick 3 artists to support who would they be and why?
Michael Jackson because I love his energy. Paul McCartney because I love his songs, he writes great songs and his melodies are incredible. If I could work for an artist who is not alive that would definitely be Bob Marley.
All time favourite gig?
My favourite gig was my first ever gig I did outside of the UK in Demnark. I was working with a band called True Tiger. We did a gig at a festival called Rothsgilder and there were thousands of people there. The crowd were amazing.
You were a regular drummer in the house band at Troy bar in Hoxton. How did that experience help your career?
Troy bar actually made my career in a weird way. I found out about Troy Bar from a friend of mine and I used to be the kid who would sit down and watch everyone and be really humble and quiet. But then a friend told me to go and play so I did. My friend Rick James was like “What the eff?!” After that I just kept going back and playing there and then it developed into an every Friday thing.
I was there every Tuesday and Friday for a long time but then I felt like I had to move on to the next level.
Would you say the open mic scene in London is a good platform for the development of UK musicians? Any where you would recommend?
Yeah for me it is definitely a good learning experience to help artists learn their craft when you gig to people on a regular basis. London is great for that. I’d obviously recommend Troy Bar and a night called Jam Tart. Pigalle club is also great which is where Jessie J did her thing every Monday in the past.
Tell us more about the Chiddy Bang tour?
I first met Chiddy Bang when I was on tour with an artist called Master Shorty whose entire album was produced by Labrinth. We were in Texas and I met the band whilst sneaking into a private J Cole and Mike Posner gig. It was weird. I was then asked to go on tour with them and had a great time.
Any advice to young and talented drummers who want to make music a profession?
Don’t be too keen for the money. Don’t be too keen for the lifestyle. Don’t be too keen to show people what you can do. Be keen on learning your craft because there will be one moment when everyone is looking at you and when they are, you just have to make sure that they remember what you did.
It is important to love music and be a fan of music. There is a lot of people that say “i love music” but then say “oh i hate heavy metal” or “i hate classical, what’s this crap”. How can you be a fan of music if you don’t understand everything that music is? It is important to be open to all genres as a drummer.
I am in the process of writing with my band Velvet Stream and producing music. The longevity for me comes from what I create.
To bring diiferent types of people and different cultures of people together through music. I felt that Michael Jackson had that connection. I still feel like I know nothing but I certainly try and feel what I am doing.
UnSung heroes words
I am a big fan of teams. There is an illusion that it is all about the main guy at the front but nothing ever happens without a team.
Thank you Anthony! Twitter: @sweetstix
Look out in the coming weeks for UnSung heroes #3. Ciao for now!