24 Jun

Drummer Profile: Jola of Adam Ant

Photo | Greg Ramar

Photo | Michael Sanderson

by Lisa Vinciguerra Tom Tom Magazine

The background music begins and the crowd cheers as New Wave icon Adam Ant emerges from the mist and takes the stage. Best known for his theatrical style and innovative work in the 80’s that bridged punk and post-punk, Adam Ant’s resurgence is booming. A captivating front man, he is backed by an exceptionally talented and tight band that elevate his songs. Infused with pounding Burundian beats, classics such as “Kings of the Wild Frontier” and “Goody Two Shoes” draw fans, old and new, to his sold-out shows worldwide.

Jola, as part of Adam Ant’s dual-drummer team, brings it with powerful rhythms, iconic styling and a fearless yet feminine approach to playing. Jola’s driving sense of time is the heartbeat of Antmusic to a new generation. Lucky for us, we had a chance to catch up with her between tours.

Q. How did you get involved with Adam Ant?

A. Pure chance. A friend of mine, Miles, was playing guitar for Adam at a time when he was on the lookout for a drummer. Miles put my name forward and luckily for me, Adam was happy with my playing and so began my Ant adventure.

Q. How did you get started on the drums?

A. I was rubbish at every other instrument I tried to play.

Q. Who are your biggest drumming influences?

A. Ginger Baker and Mitch Mitchell. Their power, flair and range made a big impression on me. I was keen to understand rhythm and listened to a lot of jazz. A favorite is Monk’s Dream (Thelonious Monk), there are a number of skittish tracks on this album and I love Freddie Dunlop’s playful drum parts on them.

Q. Did you know many of Adam Ant’s songs before learning they were looking for a drummer?

A. No. I was familiar with a couple of earlier tracks and obviously, I had heard the hits.

“…regardless of all the technological advances made, there’ll always be space and a need for more traditional elements.”

Q. How do you approach new songs/sounds?

A. Listen repeatedly. Sometimes I’ll spot something new on the simplest arrangement after listening to it countless times.

Photo | Greg Ramar

Q. What was the most challenging song for you to learn from his catalogue?

A. Antmusic & Stand and Deliver. I was the only drummer initially and I tried to come up with parts that I hoped would compensate for the lack of two drummers. I liked them so much that I still play them today.

Q. For you, what are the best and the most challenging parts about playing with another drummer?

A. It’s quite stirring to hear the drums either in unison or playing contrasting patterns. There has to be an element of compromise, which also allows for a level of musical discretion. It’s a different challenge to playing alone and always interesting.

Q. What is your current kit made up of?

A. I use a Gretsch New Classic in Black Sparkle. 10’, 12’ rack toms, 14’ and 18’ floor toms. A vintage 1970s Gretsch Chrome over Brass snare. Tama Camco pedal: the most responsive I’ve used. Paiste 2002 cymbals. For the recent USA tour, I asked for Paiste Signature Dark Energy and was very impressed, so I may change allegiance. I also use a Rhythm Tech Hat Trick Hi-hat tambourine. I like the design; the suspended jingles respond well to stick patterns or when using the foot pedal and the hi-hat attachment it is solid, quick and easy to use.

Q. Do you play other instruments?

A. Not to any notable standard. I have played kazoo, xylophone, piano and various hand drums live and on recordings.

Q. What’s playing on your musical player?

A. How’s Your Nan by John Shuttleworth

Q. What’s the best part of touring for you? The hardest?

A. The best part of touring is the start, with all the excitement ahead of you. The hardest part is when the tour is over.

Q. People love your stage look. Please tell us about your iconic styling and its’ development.

A. That’s very kind of you to say. There are bits and pieces that I put together myself as stage wear. Then there are costumes specially made for me by two very talented seamstresses, Caroline Wildman and Naomi Gibbs. I do the simple bit and sketch a basic idea, which I then forward to either Caroline or Naomi. If they think it will work in practice, they then do the hard part and make my ideas come to life. If a detail isn’t workable, they advise on how to make it work or offer an alternative that will have a similar visual effect. It’s all done remotely and it never ceases to amaze me when I receive a package with my new costume inside, looking just as I’d drawn it. They are both incredibly talented and I couldn’t do it without them!

Q. Day off… what do you like to do?

A. During the recent US tour, my days revolved around tracking down a quality cake from the bewildering display of desserts on offer in every town we hit.

“The punk ethic was: anyone could learn 3 chords and form a band.”

Q. Could you share your thoughts on how music technology has influenced the music industry and its artists?

A. The way music technology has evolved and revolutionized music, and continues to do so, is very exciting. Downloads have affected CD/record sales but as a result, artists now perform live quite regularly. Initially, I think the new technology was seen as the preserve of enthusiasts or studio engineers who were these mystery figures with an esoteric knowledge giving only them the power to immortalize your music; then computers and music software became cheaper, less complicated, more available and so, less specialized. I’ve been able to record songs alone with full instrumentation. This would never have been possible in the past. I love this ultimate DIY aspect.

Photo | Will Crewdson

Q. How do you see bands being affected by electronics and the digital age?

A. The punk ethic was: anyone could learn 3 chords and form a band. The electronics ethic is anyone can be a band. This set up does have its limitations I suppose. Fine for recording, club or Internet but when it comes to live performances, additional musicians may need to be recruited. That’s no bad thing; it just proves that regardless of all the technological advances made, there’ll always be space and a need for more traditional elements.

Q. Advice for upcoming drummers?

A. Enjoy it.

Q. Anything else you would like to mention?

A. I’d like to mention Tom Edwards, Adam’s guitarist and right hand man, who had the hallmark of musical quality stamped all over him. Thanks for the memories Tom. (Tom Edwards passed away on January 25th 2017, whilst on tour with Adam Ant in the USA.)

Check out Jola’s website here
Check out Adam Ant’s website here

Adam Ant Tour Dates

USA Anthems Tour: Sept 6-30 2017

NZ/AUS Kings of the Wild Frontier tour: Oct 9-16 2017


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