Bay the right beat for popular drummer

Stan Bicknell in his drum studio at his Papamoa home. Photo: John Borren/SunLive.

Fear-inducing circumstances are when globally celebrated drummer, Stan Bicknell, does his best work.

So when fast-paced drum and bass band Shapeshifter asked if he could learn a 90-minute set in just five days for their 2020/21 New Year tour, he naturally said yes.

“It’s the most work I’ve ever done in the shortest amount of time,” says Stan, who recently moved to Papamoa.

“Working on the material alone improved my playing massively. Every time I sign up for things like this it induces this fear, which I used to be quite worried about. But I’ve learned to like the anxiety – it’s an opportunity to improve yourself.”

Stan has had the kind of career aspiring drummer’s dream of – several brand sponsorships, a long list of tours for big names like Kimbra, and becoming renowned in the global drumming community for his unique, self-taught style of drumming which he specialises in teaching.

For local aspiring drummers, he represents a different type of career path that doesn’t have to be behind the band but front and centre, by appearing on online drumming platform Drumeo with other drumming greats and sporting 159,000 followers of his own on Instagram.

Stan, his wife and nine-year-old daughter recently moved the region from Melbourne, but he claims the opportunities haven’t halted after leaving their bustling city life.

In fact, the Shapeshifter phone call came in while Stan was driving his wife and daughter home from the airport – reunited after they completed their quarantine to follow Stan home to New Zealand.

“We moved here to be closer to family – my wife’s family are local and I’m from Hastings,” says Stan.

“During the last few years of living in Melbourne, we knew this is where we’d end up – it felt right. My daughter can now have that really Kiwi thing of growing up around her cousins that Melbourne couldn’t provide.”

Getting in the groove

Stan is pouring his technical drumming and teaching expertise back into the community as Mauao Performing Arts Centre’s newest drum tutor.

“I’m used to teaching older kids quite big, open ideas that I've come up with that can impact their creativity, because that’s the most important thing,” he says.

“So going back to teaching people in their formative years of playing is different because it’s a really significant time for their drumming. We’re going back to basics, and making sure they don’t pick up the bad habits I did being self-taught.”

Not that it seems to have hindered him – Stan has been drumming for 24 years, first picking up the sticks aged 14.

“I distinctly remember the wave of euphoria I got sitting at the kit for the first time, and that was it.”

He’s continuing to upskill by getting a Diploma in Music at Toi Ohomai and is putting his new skills to good use, by recording and producing artists in his at-home studio.

“The collaborative, communicative process of recording is something I really enjoy. Toi Ohomai has helped me make connections here that I thought would take me a year, let alone a few months.”

Finding the hours

Stan admits that having a music career can be a juggling act.

He has continued to work in hospitality alongside drumming, selling his coffee roasting business in Melbourne before coming to New Zealand and providing barista training here.

Family has always been a part of that juggle – while in Australia, Stan avoided signing up for tours during New Zealand’s school holidays so his son, now 17, could fly over and see him.

When it comes to mastering your craft, Stan says there are no shortcuts. He practices until new songs, licks or tricks become muscle memory that can withstand outside influences – like the noise of a live crowd mixed with the pressures of TV cameras at the recent Popstars final Stan played in.

“If you do the work, you see the results and that’s where you get the joy from. If you don't do the work and don't get the results, you miss out on those endorphins that come from the little victories that remind you why you do it.

“The work is what keeps me excited about drumming, because achieving goals triggers the next few months, or years, of drive.

“Putting in the work is the only thing I’m good at.”

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