Ulf Stricker - The Drumming Fusion


The Drumming Fusion - Ulf Stricker

One of Germany’s leading young drummers (he was born in 1977), Ulf Sticker has already shared stages with such greats as Dave Weckl, Horacio Hernandez, Thomas Lang, Gavin Harrison, and Kirk Covington among others. Endorsed by DW, Zildjian, Remo, LP, and Roland, Ulf keeps busy presenting clinics and solo performances with a mix of acoustic and electronic drums, or touring with various artists around Europe.

Like many musicians, Ulf was exposed to music at a young age, first through his parents’ records and then piano lessons. Though piano would remain his first instrument and he would many prizes as a classical player, when he joined the Youth Symphonic Orchestra of Hilden, the tympani player introduced him to the techniques of snare drum, tympani and mallets.

Gradually his interest shifted to Jazz and Rock, and eventually, when he was fifteen, he switched from percussion to drum kit.

In 1996 Ulf started drum studies with René Creemers (The Drumbassadors) and Joop van Erven at Holland’s Arnheim Institute of Arts. Since graduating in 2001, he has been a professional, teaching, playing, and touring.

Ulf Stricker’s latest solo DVD is available via his website www.ulfstricker.com.

Drum Channel: Ulf, 2010 has passed. What happened and what are you trying to work out in 2011?

Ulf Stricker: Okay, 2010 was a very busy year. I toured with Frank McComb and also with a piano player from New York, Walter Fischbacher, as well as recording about 20 albums, mostly jazz and fusion stuff. A lot of this came out by the end of the year. The next release is in February, which will be a jazz CD where three drummers are playing at the same time, so that was quite a fun project. I am also starting to record again for various artists. Actually, I will start recording with my old trio this year, and I will also do a very big tour around Europe with Walter Fischbacher, starting on 19 February and lasting until 11 April. So there is a lot of stuff coming up until May and there will be festivals and stuff – a little bit quieter from June on until July and in the fall I have another tour with Walter and some gigs with Frank McComb. I also did his last album and it was released in December.

DC: So what are your personal goals for this year?

Ulf: My personal goal is to make a living together with a girl again. It’s a big step. If you don’t take your time for a second person, you have to adjust your schedule to a partner again. But it’s a nice thing to do and I’m looking forward to spend some time with my girl. That’s my personal goal for this year. Or let’s say: to enjoy more of my free time and not feeling guilty for doing nothing.

DC: I guess there was a time when you weren’t a successful musician and you had some girlfriends. Did anything change after you became a successful musician?

Ulf: The time when you are at home gets more precious. You really feel every minute spent at home has a certain value. Actually, I felt like I was doing a favour to the person that I spent my time with. Now, I have so many things to do, it’s more like I want to spend more time with my partner... it’s not a favour for somebody. There is also a certain quality you want in your own life. It’s important to spend time each day not thinking about the colour of your newest drum kit or whatever. Just think about stuff that concerns normal life or social life. This gets more and more important, especially because as I grow older and I need some social context, as well. As a social context you have, of course, the musicians that you see every day, but there is still a difference with your private life.

DC: The NAMM show in California just ended and now the next big trade show is the Musikmesse in Frankfurt. You said that you are touring heavily, so get to this show?

Ulf: No, I won’t make it this year. It’s a little bit sad, but on the other hand, when you see what’s going on at NAMM you know about the new drums and new gear. Normally, your endorsing companies inform you about what’s coming out, so you know what you are going to get after the trade show and what’s important for you. For me, playing at these shows is always like a little nightmare. You have no time for soundcheck, no time for setting up and there is always somebody with a gun in your back: “You only have two more minutes left to play.” So it’s not about making music, it’s more about showing how fast and loud you can play, especially the drummers. So, it’s fun to play there, but it’s more like showing off or doing some show stuff. The nice part for me is always the people. It’s more about contacts and keeping the people informed about your work.

DC: Is there any gear which you are going to buy in 2011?

Ulf: Not really. I’m thinking about buying some microphone stuff for my studio. Maybe some condenser mics, big membrane microphones for more roomy acoustics. I think, concerning drums and cymbals, I have so much stuff I don’t even know where to put it! It’s more about establishing your sound abilities, so more microphones or maybe outboard equipment like compressors, equalizers, pre-amps and stuff like that. That is important for my recording abilities, which are very important for my work as well.

DC: Can you compare the LA music scene and the German music scene?

Ulf: Right now, I hear that it is not so good in the States, actually, but I think in LA there is much more studio work than in Germany. I still do a lot of studio work, but mostly when people come to my place and want me to record things for them. It’s not about big studios anymore. Concerning the music itself, I think the music in LA is more conservative than in Germany. In Germany, they are looking for crazy stuff and strange music. I think Germany is more New York-ish than LA-ish. In New York, there are more crazy people trying to invent new stuff and trying to reinvent music history while LA is more business for me. It’s more of the stuff that people want to listen to when they go to high-class restaurants or bars. The more progressive stuff happens in New York. In Germany, jazz is also more progressive, I would say. Concerning pop music, LA is, of course, very big, but I don’t know too much about the scenes so I don’t want to say anything wrong or step on people’s toes.

DC: Would you say that you like the German music scene in particular?

Ulf: I am not too much into this progressive, brain oriented music that is played in Germany. I like the soul-ish, groovy type of music. I also like a lot of old jazz, the hard bop, bebop jazz music and the styles which derive from that. Fusion is not so popular in Germany anymore, but Fusion is growing big in Eastern Europe, because there are a lot of people that mix eastern folkloric types of music with fusion jazz music. Especially in Poland, Serbia or Hungary you have a lot of gypsy musicians, who make great music. That touches my heart more than this brain-oriented, calculator music. It’s not really from the heart; it’s more like someone invented it on a piece of paper. I like the stuff that grooves and that comes from the heart way better. German jazz, for me, is a little bit too cold.

DC: You just mentioned that you are going to do some gigs in Serbia, as well. What kind of atmosphere is it to play in eastern states? Is it different than to play for example in Germany, in France or the Netherlands?

Ulf: Now you mentioned countries that vary a lot already. In the Netherlands, for instance, you get much more appreciation for jazz music than in Germany – or let’s say, much more appreciation for music in general. The people are more critical, but when you play well, the people will love you forever and attend your concerts every time you come to the Netherlands. I mean, it’s not an accident that the North Sea Festival and the Den Haag Festival are in the Netherlands and not somewhere else in Europe. Some of the most important jazz festivals in the world are in the Netherlands. There is a big appreciation for good music. And it’s the same with Eastern European states like Serbia or the former Yugoslavia or Czech Republic or Poland or whatever. They have great clubs where people really appreciate what you are doing. I was playing in Poland last year and there were people who knew all of my CDs and they knew all the parts of my drum kit. They studied every detail on my website. You don’t meet people like that too often in Germany, but in Eastern Europe you meet them every day, because the people are crazy about music and crazy about people who play the music nicely. Being a musician, you have a much higher social status in Serbia, for instance, than in Germany. Here, it’s more like you are a beggar who needs some pity. “I’m a poor musician, have mercy with me.” That is Germany. In Serbia, you can be proud to be a musician and you don’t have to explain how to make a living with that. The most popular question in Germany is: “Ah, you are a musician. Can you make a living with that?” I don’t want to hear it. You even want to hit the guy, who is asking that question, in theface. So, it’s kind of difficult sometimes to be a musician in Germany. A lot of people think it is not a serious job, because Germany in general is very serious.

(c) Stefan Fischer 2011, Fischer+Blanchard 2011
Photo courtesy Eike Korfhage