The Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) kicked off their annual Guildford Freshers Week with an exclusive drum masterclass from Mark Richardson – the drummer in Skunk Anansie and former drummer in Feeder.
When he’s not in the studio or touring the world with Skunk Anansie, Mark runs a charity, Music Support and works at ACM as a Wellbeing Advisor. In this masterclass students students gained a unique insight to Mark’s career, his drumming tips and life in a successful band. Mark said “What I enjoy most is the fact I come from a little town on the north-east coast of England called Whitby and I’ve had 25 year career and really, if I were to sum it up – it would be that it really doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. 50% is about playing and being a great player and 50% is about who you are as a person and how easy you are to get on with – how are you when the pressure is on and when things get difficult, that’s the sort of thing I really like to tell people – that it’s really possible to have a career in the music industry no matter who you are or where you’re from.”
The masterclass was presented by Mark’s fellow band-mate Ace (also the Academy’s Head of Creative Industry Development). Giving a short introduction to his career as a drummer, Mark revealed that he first started his career in music when he joined a band called Little Angels. After a split in 1993, Mark spent some time in a band called B.l.o.w. before meeting Ace and by luck Skin shortly after at the Kerrang Awards. This chance meeting lead to an audition and ultimately Mark joining the band Skunk Anansie. After a 7 year tour, Skunk Anansie parted ways before reforming in 2009. In the break Mark took the opportunity to join successful rock band, Feeder.
Mark went on to speak about the importance of ear protection as a musician, checking all the students had earplugs before giving his first performance of the class, ‘I Will Break You’ by Skunk Anansie from the Black Traffic album. The students were captivated Mark’s hard-hitting performance with one student asking how Mark achieved his kick drum technique without the use of a double drum bass pedal. Mark explained that he doesn’t like to use a double bass drum pedal but he can achieve a similar sound by using the kick and floor tom.
Discussing the world of studio recording, Ace asked what he does differently in a studio setting opposed to a live environment. Mark shared that he plays much quieter in the studio so avoids excess noise on the microphones – saying that sometimes he actually replaces the cymbals with electronic pads when recording to ensure a controlled sound for the producer.
When talking about getting work in the music industry, Mark told students that they don’t need loads of chops to get work and that the key to being a good drummer is performing what the song needs – which isn’t necessarily every fill you know. He reminded students that Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ is one of the most famous songs in the world and has a very simple drumbeat.
As the session drew to a close Ace and Mark spoke about the different roles involved in a DIY band. Signed to their own label, Skunk Anansie have embraced the changes in the music industry and coordinate everything from their own press agent to recording sessions. Mark shared that his role within the band was to produce all the video content before showing students some of his videography work for the band.
The session ended with a final performance before some final questions from the thoroughly inspired students.
If you want to learn from industry experts that live and breathe the industry every single day, book onto an ACM open day now: https://www.acm.ac.uk/open-days/
The Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) is a leading music industry education provider. Having trained musicians, producers, songwriters, and entrepreneurs for careers in the music industry for over 20 years, with state-of-the-art facilities, a world-class faculty, and extensive industry connections, ACM offers music programmes that develop students to their maximum potential and instantly immerses them in the music industry.