British drummer Richard Spaven is a skilled and adaptable musician, whose love of hip-hop and drum ‘n’ bass, coupled with serious jazz chops has seen him play on a wide variety of tracks over the years. His solo work is the greatest reflection of his artistry at the kit, but his collaborations with Jordan Rakei and 4hero amongst others also show that he can bring an infectious and hard-driving live groove to many styles of production. Ahead of his headline show at Soup Kitchen this month, which sees Prato, Luckin, Bell Trio (featuring 8 Gold Rings and Garage Classical drummer Joe Luckin) in support, we run down five tracks which show the electronic side to Richard Spaven’s deep rhythm game.
Given his deep appreciation for DnB, it’s only right that we start with Spaven’s feature on 4hero’s 2007 cut, Why Don’t You Talk? Written and produced by Dego, this heavy arrangement sits somewhere between seventies fusion and nineties intelligent DnB, Spaven’s grooving break beat and awesome variations in kick and snare pattern giving the rhythm the feel of a groove that has been spliced and rearranged like the breaks sampled and cycled by DnB and hip-hop producers of the golden era. Jazz saxophonist Jason Yarde & The Angrynotes horns feature on the cut, who interestingly later played on Plan B’s smash hit album, The Defamation Of Strickland Banks.
With its rich hypnotic rhodes keyboard pattern, Warrior taps instantly into Detroit techno mood, but it’s when Richard Spaven breaks from that mode into a broken yet rigid groove, that the track really takes on its dark dancefloor edge. Spaven’s quick snare rolls subtly move the instrumental along, as well as showing his command of the kit. Later remixed by SBTRKT, Jus Wan and Rockwell respectively, Warrior’s full electronic potential was realised and Spaven’s groove was no doubt inspirational to the producers programming the drum machines around Jose’s composition.
Richard Spaven – Zeebra III ft. DJ DooWop (Spaven’s 5ive LP, 2010)
On his debut album, Spaven presented a diverse range of musical flavours, but none more impressive than Zeebra III, a beat he made on his MPC and invited DJ DooWop to rap over. Atmospheric rhodes keyboard leads into a key-hopping sample, underpinned by a simple yet effective hip-hop groove from Spaven on the drums.
Richard Spaven’s collaborations with RnB artist Jordan Rakei have produced some beautiful results. Toko is one such example: washes of electronic tone, keys and Rakei’s stacked harmonies, underpinned by Spaven’s unusual yet perfectly placed rhythm. In the final minute of the track, the scene shifts and a dark, tempo-changing hip-hop rhythms plays out, Spaven expertly flexing with the development of the music. If you want to see exactly how he does it, then this Vic Firth video is the perfect resource.
Richard Spaven’s latest solo album present an incredible mix of percussive texture, demonstrating how he has curated and tweaked his breakables to achieve such distinctive drum sounds. Control is one of the album’s more dramatic, brooding cuts, with a brittle hi-hat pattern, splashy snare and synth arpeggios all swirling beneath a funky electric guitar figure. An often cinematic writer, you could picture Spaven’s cut syncing to a tense action film montage.