The latest of our Sound Off chats with friends, fans and customers of Flare Audio features drummer Craig Blundell, who took an unconventional route to a career in music by joining the armed forces.
Something of late bloomer, Craig is currently enjoying the most successful period of his career, gigging and recording with prog rock king Steven Wilson, as well as the band Frost*, and working as a session musician for an array of artists around the world.
FA: Tell us a bit about your career in music.
CB: I’ve been playing for the best part of 40 years. I was in various bands as a kid, but then I joined the Royal Marines Band Service at the age of 16 and spent the next few years marching up and down, drumming at various prestigious events.
Eventually I wanted to spread my wings and get back to being a jobbing musician. I was brought up on prog. I never played pop music - that wasn’t what I wanted to do - so I always stuck to my prog roots. Unfortunately, opportunities to play prog in the pubs and clubs of Surrey were pretty slim. I was actually working at a golf course when a man came up to me and said: “I hear you’re a drummer; I’d like you to do a session for me.” That session turned out to be demos for Celine Dion working with Mike Rutherford from Genesis.
I then worked with [Iron Maiden’s] Bruce Dickenson before getting the gig with Steven Wilson, who is the biggest prog artist in the UK today.
So would you say you’re currently at the pinnacle of your career?
Without a doubt. It has been a bit of a slow-burner over 25 years, but playing with Steven has led to new challenges, playing on lots of records with him and other artists, and featuring on the cover of magazines, such as Rhythm. I also get to travel and see the world. And a couple of years ago we did two nights in the Royal Albert Hall, which was a dream come true. It’s been great.
Have you always looked after your hearing?
Yeah, I’ve tried to. Playing in the Marines, I always wore ear plugs so perhaps I was more used to it than other drummers. But I had a perforated ear drum and my ears are often bunged up for a couple of days after playing.
I first came across Flare Audio when I spotted Peredur [ap Gwynedd], the guitarist from Pendulum, wearing a pair of ISOLATE®. I asked him what they were and he recommended them to me.
I still wear in-ears when playing with Steven because it is such a big production, every member of the band is using in-ears with separate clicks. But when I’m rehearsing by myself, or at another gig or drum clinic, I always wear my ISOLATE®. They’re great: they bring down the volume without affecting the frequencies I need to hear to be able to drum properly.
I also wear them when flying - they help with the perforated ear drum - and they are great on the tour bus, too. Sixteen people on a bus can be a bit of a nightmare, but they help you to switch off.
You can find Craig on Twitter @craigblundell.