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Mohawk College Music: Tommy Metcalfe

First teaching himself the drums as a preteen, then music theory as a young adult, Tommy now wants to teach his students to find their passion for percussion.

Photo credit: Sarah Jessica

Originally from Barrie, Ontario, Tommy Metcalfe was raised in a family of drummers.

"I grew up listening to a lot of heavy music- a lot of punk rock, metal and hard rock," said Tommy. "My dad was a drummer who listened to all of the same stuff. Bands like Deftones, Tool, Refused, groups like that had a heavy influence on me growing up."

When it comes to influences, Tommy comes from a background of punk and rock, but since attending Mohawk, he's picked up inspiration from blues and jazz icons.

"Todd Sucherman, Vinnie Colaiuta, Gavin Harrison, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Roy Haynes.. it kind of ends up all over the map for me."

Photo credit: Phil Bickmore

Although Tommy also plays guitar, bass, and sings- he's focused on being a percussionist.

"My dad got me a drumset around 11 or 12, and I was self-taught for a long time. It wasn't until I started working around trained musicians that I knew what schooling could give you," said Tommy. "Once I turned 19 I started working at a casino in Niagara Falls as a backline assistant setting up instruments for acts, I started seeing other bands like Styx, and people that I'd never really given the time to listen to. Seeing these musicians come in with this different type of professionalism, coming from the fact that they were a bit more educated in music as opposed to just playing it, really showed me what you can do with your instrument when you know what you're doing with it. Those guys really inspired me- I thought I was going to be an art teacher before I met those guys."

"When I started at the casino I worked for a guy named Dean Malton, who now runs a studio for deadmau5. He taught me a lot about instruments and gear, how it all works. After a few years, I graduated onto lighting, so I set up all the big moving lights above concerts, on the ground, stuff like that. And I still do that, but now that I'm here at school I do it on weekends."

Although only in his second year at Mohawk, Tommy is no stranger to the music scene. With his band The Advancing Lowlives, they've played gigs such as Warped Tour and The Opera House, and opened for acts like CJ Ramone, and Pkew Pkew Pkew.

"I have a couple of bands," said Tommy. "There's one band that I've played in for years now, called The Advancing Lowlives. It's a bit of a punk-rock, grunge soup, which is more along the lines of the music I grew up with. In highschool, one of my buddies played guitar, and one day he invited me over to jam- which is when I found out that he was one of those guys who said he could play guitar, but he actually only knew a couple of riffs of each song. So once he finished we were just sitting around for a bit, and he said, "Alright, let me go get my brother, he plays guitar and he's better than me." So I ended up jamming with his older brother. Six years later, I get a call saying that this guy's looking for a drummer in his band."

Tommy said that a big part of getting gigs in the music industry is about networking.

Photo credit: Sarah Jessica

"I met a guy named Derek Nelson through my work, he plays guitar in Green Jelly. They're this Grammy nominated '90s band that did a BUNCH of stuff back then, they were also on the Dumb & Dumber soundtrack," said Tommy.

"Last summer, our lead guitarist in Advancing Lowlives passed away. It was extremely hard on us, we didn't know if we were going to move forwards, but we had planned to play at Warped Tour (the Toronto date) and a few other gigs," said Tommy. "So I asked Derek if he would come play with us, and he came out and did a bunch of gigs, and now is in the band with us- and later invited me into Green Jelly. Everything with this is networking, it's all about knowing someone. With Green Jelly, there's a main guy that started it all, named Bill Manspeaker. Instead of having one band that fly all over the world, Bill has multiple in every country that meet up with him to perform gigs. So I'm his hometown, Northwest America drummer. I'm just one of many drummers- they actually hold a Guinness World Record for most active members."

As well as working at the casino on weekends, Tommy teaches drum lessons at a local school.

"I teach at a school on Thursday nights- all children, I think the oldest are 11 or 12. Most of them reside in that six to eight area, and.. I realized that I'm not the best at teaching kids. All the kids want to learn with me, but I do better with students who are a little more advanced- at least at an intermediate level where they understand the concepts that I'm teaching. It's great- teaching is always great because you learn so much about yourself. I'd like to teach kids who chose themselves to pursue drumming, who heard a band or found a drummer that inspired them."

"I'm not looking to be in a band that's going to be really famous, I'm looking to play for a bunch of bands that have good gigs and play well, and I'm just a faceless guy who comes in and fills the gap."

When it comes to making his own music, Tommy is a little disinterested.

"With writing, I'm a percussionist- I add to either written songs, or songs already in the writing process. Rather than a songwriter or a melody writer, I'm someone who compliments a song," said Tommy.

Photo credit: Sarah Jessica

"My goal is to perform. Teaching is always going to be a big part of my career, as most musicians find, it's a good supplement for income because gigs aren't always there," said Tommy. "But my goal is to be a sub-drummer and a session drummer, to be everyone's "number two" essentially. What that means is that, every band has their main guy, their main drummer. I've played in lots of bands for years and years, what happens is that you start to get bored of playing the same stuff over and over. And being a call guy, you tend to get all sorts of calls from everywhere and everyone, including all styles of music. So playing can stay fresh. You're always learning new things, you're never plateauing."

Upcoming gigs:

Feb. 2nd 2019, Mel Monaco @ The Painted Lady, 218 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON.

Mar. 14th 2019, opening for Penske File @ The Foxx Lounge, 16 Dunlop St E, Barrie, ON.


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