IT is rare I get to chat with a drummer…
Especially one who has worked with some of the biggest names in new music. Ryan Hassan has teamed with white-hot rapper Kofi Stone and, between them, created something incendiary and hypnotic – in the mighty and memorable Bomb Squad. I speak to Hassan about the track and how he came to meet Stone; some of those big names he has worked with – whether there is more material coming along.
On the subject of drumming: I ask if that is the place he feels safest – as he steps up-front on Bomb Squad – and the heroes of the form that inspired him growing up. Hassan tells me about the countries he has toured and what is the next piece of the puzzle...
Hi, Ryan. How are you? How has your week been?
Great. I just released Bomb Squad, my first single, last week - so it’s been full on as well. Been working on the next tracks as well as practicing for collaborations I've got coming up.
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m Ryan Hassan. I’m a drummer and producer from Glasgow, Scotland. Right now, I play drums for Fatman Scoop, The Logans; Brian McCafferty - and a few other artists. I’ve previously worked with the Bay City Rollers, Clean Bandit; Kloe, Lucia, November Lights; That Drummer That DJ (and many more).
I’ve toured everywhere from the U.S.A. to Russia and with everyone from McFly to Kid Ink. I’ve also just released my first solo record, Bomb Squad, with Birmingham rapper Kofi Stone.
Bomb Squad is your new song – it is as explosive as the title suggests! What compelled its creation?
I was doing a live show called That Drummer That DJ where I took the biggest records across every musical genre and remixed them live - and re-drummed them live with different D.J.s. From that, I had the idea of producing my own beats; that kind of grew into producing tracks and asking guests to feature on them - and working them into the live set.
It just naturally progressed to releasing these tracks.
The song bridges the bombast and fury of Rage Against the Machine with sounds of Danny Brown and Grime. How did you come to meet Kofi Stone – and how closely did you work together on the track?
We met doing a festival together in Greece with Tinie Tempah. He was being managed by a friend of mine, Chris, who also manages Scoop - and he introduced us. Kofi came up to Glasgow twice after that (after two missed flights and a train). He laid down all his parts for what became Bomb Squad.
It came together quickly: the vibe just felt right from the beginning.
Will you two work together on more songs? Are there other tracks in your thoughts right now?
I hope so.
We’re both busy doing our own thing at the moment - and I've got some guest vocalists lined up for new material. I’m working on finishing them right now: maybe even a collab with Scoop would be great.
I'm really excited about the new material.
It is unusual for a drummer to steal the spotlight and, at the same time, allow another light to shine at the front! Do you see yourself on the microphone at some point – or are you happy creating those hectic beats?
Definitely not! (Laughing).
I prefer to always be behind the drums. I’ve always wanted to push the boundaries of what is possible as a drummer in terms of recognition and creativity. For me, playing varied styles of music; working with different artists and being out there doing live shows is the driving force.
I’m happy as long as I’m creating and playing drums.
Tell me about your relationships with the drums and how you got started? Who were the drummers you idolised growing up?
I started playing when I was eleven-years-old. I had a drum lesson that day in school; just playing a really basic beat - and I was terrible. I didn’t have the coordination or anything, but I absolutely loved it. A little while later, me and my friends started sneaking into school after it closed to get extra time playing the drum set…and that’s where I started to develop: from being pushed in that group to keep up.
We eventually got caught when one of my friends used a floor-polishing machine on a carpet - and burnt a hole through it and we all got kicked out of school. The school got a real drum teacher shortly after that and I never looked back.
I went to my first concert around that same time to see the punk band The Offspring and Ron Welty was playing drums. I was blown away hearing drums through a system that size - and I knew there and then that’s all I wanted to do. From taking lessons, I was really influenced by guys like Dennis Chambers and Steve Gadd - and my parents had already introduced me to people like Max Weinberg, Stewart Copeland and Pick Withers; who were great for me in terms of technique and diversity.
But, my poster-on-the-wall-drumming-heroes growing up were Travis Barker, Jose Pasillas; Chad Smith - guys like that.
You hail from Glasgow. How vibrant and varied is the scene in the city? Do you think Glasgow gets the respect it deserves?
I think the scene in Glasgow gets a lot of credit.
Such a small city has produced so many major artists and many more have been discovered there - like the famous Oasis story, as an example. I'm also very inspired by the New York scene; where you can find a really bustling jazz scene or Hip-Hop scene - as well as all the mainstream.
In addition to opening for Rod Stewart; you have toured worldwide and performed at big festivals. How instrumental and formative have these experiences been?!
Having the experience of playing huge stages and learning what it’s like to tour; right down to things like how to respect crew and engineers - and not getting in their way whilst trying to do their jobs. There’s a big difference going from doing six shows in a van with your friends to doing four months on an international tour; flying every day and having to build relationships with people around you (that you didn’t know before).
Just seeing the level of musicianship needed to cut it at that level; the discipline and everything else that comes with it. Watching Beyoncé’s band warming up, for example, was an awesome experience. It’s definitely pushed me in terms of my practise schedule and knowing how good a track has to be to appeal to audiences that size.
I think the days of touring musicians brushing their teeth with Jack Daniels are long gone! (Laughs).
Are there any tour dates coming up? Where can we see you play?
I’ve got a busy November and December with The Logans and Brian McCafferty - with shows all over Scotland. In the New Year, I’m going to be on the road with Fatman Scoop (dates to be announced) - and I’ll be doing some solo drum and D.J. shows starting in February in Boston, MA.
I’m hoping to be doing more with November Lights as well - but there’s nothing confirmed there so far.
Can you see yourself touring internationally as we head into 2018? What ambitions do you have for the year ahead?
Yes. As soon as Scoops' dates come out; we will be all over and with my own material. I’m going to be doing a bunch of shows in the U.S.A. - starting off: February 18th in Boston.
IN THIS PHOTO: November Lights/PHOTO CREDIT: Cameron James Brisbane
Who are the new artists you recommend we investigate?
November Lights are a band from Scotland who deserves major recognition. They really have some amazing songs - I love their sound.
I’m also listening to Jared & The Mill constantly. They have a song called Song for a Girl that breaks my heart in a good way….and PARTYNEXTDOOR. Not quite as new as the others - but his Seven Days record is a killer.
Devon Taylor is playing drums on tour (with him) and opening for Halsey right now - so he’s also worth checking out.
IN THIS PHOTO: Devon Taylor
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms
That’s a record that connects me to my family. It’s one of the first I ever heard - and it’s one I still listen to regularly.
Blink-182 – Blink-182
This is the album that really gave me the push to be a professional drummer. I doubt I’d be doing what I’m doing now if I hadn’t heard this album.
Death Cab for Cutie - Transatlanticism
Probably my most listened-to album of all time. I love the chilled vibe of their music and it’s a record that taught me the most about playing grooves and playing for the music - but still doing it in a creative way.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Be willing to suffer for your craft...
It could take a long time for anything to happen; there will be times when you have no money; there could be times when everything you’re working on falls apart but, if you love what you’re doing, then you push through - and every good thing that comes of it is worth it. Don’t always trust social media: no one sees the bad days behind the good photos.
Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?
I will be home for Christmas watching Christmas Vacation; playing the PS4 - and eating way too many chocolates (as usual).
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Demi Lovato - Tell Me You Love Me
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