Craig 'Hoss' Colquhoun
FT: What first interested you in pipe band drumming, and how long have you been involved?
CC: What got me first interested is an easy first question, Kincardine Scottish Saturday night parades in the summer. Every young kid that has been up on their dad's shoulders marching behind this weekly event has been affected somehow. Every Saturday night at 8:00 P.M. they shut down the main street for the pipe band. It's been going on now for 100 years as of 2008 is the Centennial. My family has home movies of me using two tree branches for sticks marching around in my Grandparents' backyard mimicking the drummers, I must have been 2 or 3.
Officially I started on the street with the band as a snare drummer when I was 10 and played in bands without a break for 30 years. I've been off since 2003, like a lost puppy dog. It's good to be back playing again.
FT: What has been your biggest inspiration in drumming over the years?
CC: This question is not so easy to pin point to one thing. I get inspired by a lot of different things. In pipe band drumming I can name a few memorable moments of inspiration. The first time I played a snare drum solo for Alex Duthart in Cambridge at the (then) Canadian Pipe Band Championships. He called me up to the table afterwards and said something like "that was very musical, you should try and play some runs using something other than paradiddles."
The second would be the first time I heard John Kerr's corps play with MacNish Distillery. Gerry Radford from Rivers Manitoba was playing 7 toms mounted on a rack. That changed the way I heard the melodies forever. Gerry and I are still best friends to this day.
The third would be hearing John Fisher play 6-8 marches with Ian McLellan on a video. The swing they had happening was so deep I couldn't speak. I heard it again in person out at the Winter School concert years later, I felt like I had a golf ball stuck in my throat, it was truly life changing.
The last one I'll mention would be hearing Jim Kilpatrick's Shotts corps live for the first time on the field. I had been playing in pipe bands nearly my whole life but I had been isolated from the top of the game here in Ontario. Jim played 5 guys in 2004 at Bellahuston Park. My dad (Stomper) and I were listening and again I was speechless. He said "you'll never hear drumming that clean again!" It was truly something to behold.
FT: What are some tips you would give to beginning bass drummers?
CC: Stretch, get strong, use smart, light, ergonomic equipment and play drums. There's no reason to not start on the bass drum. Having said that, good drumming skills are required in order to play some of the more intricate syncopation. So, sticks, a pad and a metronome are just tools of the trade. But I would start on bass drum as soon as possible. There are a lot of lighter drums on the market and an amazing array of good carrying rigs. The earlier you start, the more natural the actual playing will become. It's all about muscle memory. Teach your muscles early and it will always be second nature, like riding a bike or brushing your teeth. I wish I had started bass drumming at a younger age.
FT: How often do you normally spend practicing?
CC: Practicing for me is a mental activity. I'm constantly thinking about music. I use visualization to put myself in an actual playing experience. When I have music to play with a band, I completely go over all of the tunes in my head constantly. So I "practice" about 18 hours a day.
Exercising is a different issue. Actually getting a chance to put an instrument on is pretty rare for me these days. I will however be doing more of it to get ready for the summer. Being in "playing shape" is important for your body, especially for a broke down old bass drummer like me.
FT: What are some warm-up exercises you would suggest?
CC: Stretch. Stretching is something we're not very good at teaching. It's really important to properly stretch before ever wearing a drum. The one stretch that is imperative for me before I play is calf stretches. If my calf muscles are relaxed I play relaxed, if they are tense, I'll be sore all day.
FT: How do you prepare physically/mentally for a band/solo competition?
CC: Know the music start to finish, be able to sing all of the tunes completely. Know the rhythm inside the snare drumming. The Macro Rhythm is the key to accompaniment.
FT: What do you think is the key to a good bass solo?
CC: Be well prepared, play on an instrument with good tone to start with and use your technique to squeeze all of the tone possible from the drum. Breath while playing, holding your breath leads to nerves taking over. Know the material, always compete or perform once you can totally sing all of the parts. Most importantly LISTEN. Listen to recordings of your self before hand and really use your listening skills to increase your awareness while performing.
FT: How do you see the midsection evolving in the future?
CC: We've been through a transition period in sound for the last 10 years. I do think it's time for the sound to advance more. The structure of the mid-section has also changed drastically. For me it's not an argument as to a specific size or number of players, it's all about creating the sound that you want. I haven't heard a band with a mid-section that sounds like the one in my head. That's the goal for me. To create a mid-section that has big bottom end. The GHB pitch has also risen in this same time period. It's challenging to find great drum tone with the Low A on the chanters tuned to 482Hz and higher. I'm re-thinking it all. Re-inventing the sound scape to suit the new tuning and size of the bands. It's time for the next chapter. I guess I don't have an answer for your question I think it will answer itself in the next couple of years. These are very exciting times.
FT: What's your view on flourishing bass drumming?
CC: Flourishing was the only way I could break the prize list when I was a kid in Ontario. At that time we had the luxury of having a lot of really great bass drummers here. In order to break the prize list I played rhythm flourishing parts. It's very cool to see it done well. I was never that great at flourishing. The East Coast of the USA has been able to maintain a certain amount of flourishing which I think is a really great thing. It's very important in any kind of music to fully understand where we came from in order to move forward.
FT: What do you think of two bass drums in a competition circle?
CC: It really doesn't matter how many bass drummers are in the competition circle. What matters is the sound that is created. We fall into the trap of judging things by how they look. I often play and listen to music with my eyes closed, this is just to sharpen my listening skill. The goal is to create art that emotes a response in the listeners' inner being. I want to take the listener on a venture into a story. To make them weep in the Slow Aire and have them out of their seats by the end. Connecting to the listener on an emotional level is key. Maybe multiple bass drums has it's place. Again it's not about how many of what drum. It's about playing on instruments that create the sound you want. I think the band in my head actually has 3 or maybe it doesn't have any at all!
FT: What have been the highlights so far in your drumming career?
- As a ten year old, (after 2 years of sitting on the sidelines on a practice pad and knowing all of the scores) finally getting a chance to play on a drum.
- Hearing Vinnie Colaiuta play for the first time in person.
- Playing bass drum for the first time in the Bruce County Pipe Band.
- Sitting 6 feet away from Tony Williams at the Bermuda Onion in Toronto.
- Hitting the break to the reel on stage at Benaroya Hall in Seattle from Ian McClellan's foot with no rehearsal.
- Hearing Jim Kilpatrick and John Fisher backstage the same night doing the egg beater routine so fast, you couldn't see their sticks.
- Witnessing the greatness of Buddy Rich in person 7 times.
- Watching Tyler march off the field after winning the Worlds with Shotts.
- Having consecutive students win the WPBC Juvenile Best Bass.
- Playing at the WPBC with John Fisher in 2003 (not many bass drummers have ever had that privilege)
- Getting an e-mail from Roddy MacLeod to play in his new band.
We would like to give a big thanks to Craig 'Hoss' Colquhoun for taking the time to give us a great interview. The Hosbilt brand now offers a full range of sizes in tenor and bass drums, along with other drum accessories and beautiful head art. If you would like to learn more about Hoss and his line of products visit: