I’ve been drumming since I was 15. I played guitar first, but when I wanted to start a band there seemed to be a surplus of guitarists, so I decided to learn a different instrument. Drums were the perfect fit, and I found I had a natural rhythm and (despite how it might appear on the dancefloor) good coordination.
I’ve been in a bunch of bands since then, playing everything from emo and post rock to blues and disco. Anything with a good beat: I’m in.
Eight months after my diagnosis I took part in a Guinness World Record breaking event called Stick It To MS. 798 drummers, each with a full size drum kit, gathered together in a massive warehouse in Manchester and made a bloody racket, raising funds and awareness for the MS Society. It was perfect for me. At a time when I felt scared and lost and uncertain, the event gave me the opportunity to claw back some control and to Do Something. It gave me something practical to focus on, and my fundraising page became a convenient platform for sharing the news of my diagnosis with friends – giving them a chance to Do Something instead of just feeling helpless. So I threw all my weight behind it and (with much help from my amazing friend and fellow MSer Betti) ended up raising the most money on the day, winning a shiny new drum kit and a trip to the Marshall amp factory.
Skipping forward to a few years and several bands later, my music and my MS have collaborated again.
Most of my days are good, but unfortunately on bad days some of my symptoms affect my ability to play – weak arms and legs give me less stamina and pedal control, numb hands can make holding sticks a bit awkward, tingles when I bend my neck and balance problems can make just sitting behind the kit a bit more challenging.
I was forced to quit a band a couple of years ago when a tough few months left me unable to rehearse. It was a very upsetting time and it was hard to shake the thought that one day I will have to give up drumming for good.
Thankfully my common sense (and stubbornness) prevailed and I saw a solution: electronic music. I’ve always been massively into trip hop and electronica, but hadn’t ever pursued it as a musician. I decided that if my body was going to keep letting me down, I’d have to work around it, so I searched for someone to make electronic music with. Electronic drums, machines and sample pads give me much more flexibility – I can use alone or alongside my acoustic drum kit if I want, they are much less physically demanding and I can rely on loops and pre-recorded parts as and when needed. I’m not putting down my sticks any time soon.
My MS has very really altered the trajectory of the music I make. And actually it sounds pretty bloody good.