DRUMMER DARREN BECKETT SHOWED UP IN NEW YORK WITH TWO SUITCASES, HIS DRUM STICKS, AND HIS IRISH CHARM. HE WASN’T SURE HOW HE WAS GOING TO MAKE IT IN THE BIG APPLE, BUT BEFORE LONG HE WAS SITTING IN ON JAM SESSIONS AT SMALL’S JAZZ CLUB ON 10TH STREET, JAMMING WITH JAZZ GREATS LIKE WYNSTON MARSALIS. THESE DAYS HE TOURS THE WORLD WITH THE SINGER MADELEINE PEYROUX, AS WELL AS WRITING AND PERFORMING WITH THE KILLERS FRONTMAN, BRANDON FLOWERS. IT ALL STARTED WITH HIS FIRST KIT, A GIFT FROM HIS FATHER, ALSO A DRUMMER. “IT WAS HUGE, MY DAD’S OLD PREMIER RESONATOR WHICH WEIGHED A TON,” HE REMEMBERS. “I COULD BARELY REACH THE PEDALS. IT WAS A RUSTY GOLD COLOR AND SOUNDED LIKE THUNDER. HE WOULD SHOW ME THE BASICS AS I SAT ON HIS KNEE.” HE PROMISED HIS MOM THAT ONE DAY HE WOULD PLAY CARNEGIE HALL. THEN, IN 2008, THE DREAM CAME TRUE. WAS IT THE LUCK OF THE IRISH? OR PURE TALENT? BECKETT THINKS IT’S A COMBINATION OF THE TWO, AS WELL AS DOING WHAT YOU LOVE. NATURALLY, HIS MOM WAS VERY PROUD.
What’s the greatest drum solo you have ever witnessed live?
Elvin Jones at the Blue Note in NY. He was on an oxygen machine, and he didn’t have long to live. He touched my soul and everyone’s in the room.
Who was your drumming inspiration growing up?
My Dad, Keith Moon, John Bonham, Stewart Copeland, Elvin Jones, Buddy Rich, Steve Gadd.
Is there a personality trait that is common to drummers?
We tend to be a little nuts. I certainly lived up to that in my twenties when I was in this indie shoegazer band. I thought I was Keith Moon after seven pints of Guinness. Being a wild man didn’t always fit the vibe.
The gift of rhythm and timing is almost inexplicable, and so rare. Do you think it can be taught, and if so, how?
I think it’s a combination of the two. And of course, it’s something you have to practice. Listening is key to everything. Using a metronome can improve your timing, as can playing along to pivotal albums. Ultimately, I believe ‘feel’ and ‘groove’ are an expression of your personality and soul.
What has been the most formative live performance experience of your life?
It would have to be playing at Carnegie Hall in 2008. My Mother used to say when I was a wee lad in Belfast, “Son, the only way get to Carnegie Hall is practice, practice and practice!” A formative one that inspired me would have to be Paul Simon in Belfast, Rhythm of the Saints tour. Session great, Steve Gadd was playing drums and I met him briefly afterwards. I was 13 years old.
How did your relationship with Brandon Flowers come about?
I met Brandon 10 years ago when The Killers were just starting. We were both in London. I was with my band, Ambulance Ltd, and he still reminds me that I was a very “confident person”. We ended up supporting The Killers on many tours. He called me up in 2009 and said he wanted me to play drums on his solo album. He’s a great person and unbelievable songwriter singer and performer. I was recently in Vegas working on some new material with him.
Tell us a story about working with Lauryn Hill.
I remember we had a show in Senegal, West Africa. We rehearsed at Youssou n’Dour’s studio. He’s pop royalty over there. She didn’t show up for any rehearsals. But, she would call our hotel room at 3am to rehearse in her room. I would bang on plates and glasses with spoons. It was hilarious. We had this huge studio, but she wanted to rehearse in her hotel room. She was a bit of a night owl.
You lived in Cologne, Germany for a while. What are the main differences in attitudes towards music in Europe compared with the US?
I think the main difference is musicians are respected more in Europe. Conditions are usually better, clubs have better dressing rooms, nice catering, they really go the extra mile. Music like Jazz is more respected. After all, it’s America’s classical music, and America doesn’t seem to care much. Oh, and the tour buses have wifi.
You are touring with Madeleine Peyroux, whose voice has been compared to Billie Holiday’s. How do you drum to complement a beautiful female vocal?
Playing softer than soft, I use brush sticks a lot which are wire brushes that sweep across the snare drum. You have to listen and make sure you don’t breath too loud, because that can be louder than your playing sometimes! You are trying to compliment the singer, to make them sound better. They do what they do, just don’t get in the way. And of course, smile.