Martin Osborne interviews one of Jazz’s sweetest and most enthusiastic drummers, Marko Djordevic
Marko, you have a very distinctive playing style. Would you attribute this to your influences? Or is it a style you developed from playing with the vast amount of other musicians you’ve played with?
I certainly appreciate when someone recognizes my playing as unique. It has been a goal of mine not only to execute well, but also to say something different with my playing, and to have a signature through both content and sound. I have devoted many years to this. The result is attributable to many influences, including everything I have ever listened to, as well as the multitude of wonderful musicians I have had the pleasure of playing with. Clearly, imagination and musicality round out this creative process.
You studied under the wing of Miroslav Karlovic, and you’ve grown up studying in one of Yugoslavia’s finest music schools, and you were also named a child prodigy. Was there any pressure on you in those years to perform to a high standard or was it something you took in your stride?
Karlo’s teaching certainly left an indelible imprint. As a musician and a human being I am very much influenced by the things I learned from this master. But I was really only a ‘student child prodigy’, willing and eager to soak up everything I was taught, and then some. I was, and still am, a ways away from the musician that I hope to become. The beauty in setting a high standard for yourself is that your lifetime becomes a path of constant interest, engagement and growth. It is not always easy, but I would not trade it for the world!
I don’t think I’ve never seen you without a smile on your face. You obviously enjoy drumming, but when you were younger, did you have a goal to be a working drummer? Or did you want a different career?
I do enjoy being a performing musician, and I feel blessed to be involved in music as a bandleader and composer for my own group, a sideman in a lot of great projects, a solo performer and an educator. I think this is what they mean when they say variety is the spice of life! When I was younger I had no concept of ‘workin drummer’. I still don’t, since I use the words ‘play’ or ‘perform’ – you will never hear me say ’ I am working tonight’! I just knew I wanted to become as good possible so I could make music with many different people. I also knew I wanted to have my own group, and compose music for it. I knew I wanted to have solo appearances, where the drums are the music. And because of Karlo’s influence, I knew I wanted to teach as well.
I am doing it all these days, so how could I not be smiling all the time?
In my next life, however, I will come back as a great goalkeeper, the new Peter Schmeichel…
You seem to adopt a very varied approach to performing, reacting to the music. Is this the way you work when practicing?
This is simply something you gain from experience. I love music, and my taste is wide and varied, so the variations in my playing reflect my awareness of different musical possibilities, and, hopefully, making the right choices at the right time. I find that active listening is crucial: if you are able to concentrate and give music your undivided attention while listening, this will translate into your ability to listen well while you are performing!
You have a DVD out at the moment, which in my opinion is an excellent learning resource. What inspired you to produce a DVD?
Well, I was lucky to be approached by Firma Entertainment, whose president Alex Grbac happens to be a musician and a great enthusiast. He felt I had something to say, and to that end provided all the backing to do the dvd, for which I am extremely grateful! It may be interesting to know that the dvd was shot in about 8 hours, and I was late to my own gig as a result of the filming! It has since been picked up for worldwide distribution by Alfred Publishing.
You are not only the drummer, but the composer of the music behind the band Sveti. How did Sveti come to be?
As I mentioned earlier, it was one of the things I wanted to do – lead my own group. Music started ‘playing’ in my head, and I knew it was time to get it going by writing it down and finding the right musicians to play it. This was toward the end of my Berklee days in the early ‘90’s
How do you keep your approach to song writing fresh? And, do you write your songs around the rhythm primarily?
A tune begins in my head… If it is still around after a few days, then I go to the keyboard and begin arranging that which I am hearing. I do not begin from rhythm, although many of my songs have a strong rhythmic background. Melody is everything to me, and I thrive on finding the right bass notes and harmonic outline(s) to go with it. The drums are usually the very last thing in the process…
You are a world class clinician. What would aspiring drummers expect to see at a Marko Djordevic clinic?
In a nutshell, something to enjoy listening to, something to learn and something to be inspired by.
A mix of performance, instruction and open communication.
You have Facebook, myspace, and twitter accounts and you also regularly send out bulletin emails about how life is going with you. You take communication seriously. Would it be true to say that you live and breathe drums?
Well, I live and breathe my life, and drums and music happen to be a big part of it, for sure. Communication is the key element of human existence, and music is, among other things, a form of transmitting more or less abstract messages between the musicians and the audience. But, in order to have an audience, you have to communicate the mundane details to as many people as possible, so that there is an audience at your performance. Myspace.com/svetimarko is the site I update regularly. Please come on by for a look and a listen, and say hello! No matter how long it takes, I always check out and respond to all the messages that are sent my way. I also listen to at least 2 tracks from anyone who takes the time to ask to be added to my list of friends. I feel like it is the right thing to do! Otherwise, we are just pressing numbers to increase the meaningless count of ‘friends’. I have discovered some wonderful musicians this way! I also benefited from networking with people who found me through myspace. And most importantly, there are a few friends in my life whom I actually met on line!
What kind of drum setup do you use? And has it evolved over the years? Do you try new gadgets for drums?
My companies are Mapex, Zildjian, Vic Firth and Evans. My setup varies from gig to gig, ranging from a kick-snare, hat and ride, to a five piece with 5 or 6 cymbals. As many places in NYC have house drums, and as, typically, going on the road does not include carrying your own kit, on occasion I find myself behind ‘foreign’ and sometimes even ‘hostile’ drumsets ! Every drummer should be ready to make anything work at a moments notice, as not having your own familiar ‘comfy’ set up happens to be a common occurrence in the world of a freelance and touring drummer.
Now some very straight forward quick questions…..
What is the most played album on your iPod?
Most recently it has been Michael Brecker’s first album as a leader. My favorite record of all time is Coltrane’s Interstellar Space.
What is your proudest achievement in music?
The fact that I am more inspired and enthused than ever and feel like the journey has just began!
Who would you most like to have a one on one drum-off with?
I would like to play alongside any drummer who values musicianship over competition. Drums are a musical instrument. An obligation arises out of that fact which is often forgotten by drummers.
What other drummers do you chill out with?
The ones I am friends with.
If you’re stuck in a lift for one hour with the person of your choice, alive or dead, who would that person be?
If I was stuck in the lift for eternity, the choice would be clear: my wife Svetlana. For one hour… Well, still Svetlana, really. This is not to say there aren’t many things I would like to ask Coltrane, Peter Schmeichel, Dali, Bosch, Pavic, Zapppa, Tesla, Branimir Stulic and so many others…
You’re pretty much an artist who has the deepest respect for your fans, and they are truly dedicated to you too. Have you ever had a fan that’s freaked you out by asking you to sign something “different.” If so, where did you sign?
Nothing unique to report in this department…
What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
Drink a glass of water.
What type of car do you drive?
A Chevrolet Lumina.
When not drumming or teaching, what else do you get up to?
Really nothing out of the ordinary – sports (I did get to the semi pro level as a soccer keeper), reading, relaxing with my wife or getting together with our friends.
What would you best like to be remembered for?
If they ever institute a way to measure enthusiasm, I believe I could make a pretty good case to the good folks in charge of the Internationa System of Units that the measuring unit should be named after me. So, just like temperature is measured in ‘celsius’ a.nd pressure in pascal , one day we could have enthusiasm measured in units from 1 up to 100 djordjevic. This would be my legacy to the world! And the fact that, at my best, I peaked at a 110!!!
Do you have any words of wisdom for the members of the onlinedrummer.com community?
Whenever you are doing something out of love, enthusiasm follows, action becomes focused and productive, and you are on the right track!
Marko’s excellent DVD “Where I Come From” is available through www.alfred.com
Check out Sveti’s website too www.myspace.com/svetimarko
Marko’s website can be found at www.svetimarko.com