Former Birmingham Music Performance student, Jay Featherstone, joined ACC as a passionate drummer with aspirations of being a touring musician.
Since leaving ACC back in 2016, Jay has worked as a drum tech for bands including chart-topping Enter Shikari, and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes.
Though Jay’s performance goals have taken a back seat, his tech role sees him travel all over the world, attending some of the biggest festivals and meeting people from all areas of the industry. To find out how he built his career, read on!
Q – Drum Technician sounds like an amazing job! Obviously you studied Music Performance at ACC Birmingham because your passion is drumming and playing drums.. Which drummers inspired you to pursue it yourself?
I actually can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to play drums. I feel like I was born with it, but I only really started being inspired by other drummers when I was 10 or 12. Moose, then drummer for Bullet For My Valentine and Ben Joliffe from Young Guns were both on a tour I went to and remember thinking they were the coolest looking guys ever.
I started playing and then became massively inspired by Travis Barker. It wasn’t until I started studying and playing his parts that I got good and took it seriously.
Q – Can you tell us about your experience as a student at Access Creative College and how it prepared you for your current role as a drum tech?
I attended ACC Birmingham at a really tough point in my life. I was really struggling with anxiety and my mental health in general. Life wasn’t so fun, so it was hard to get the full enjoyment out of my course.
I often wish I could’ve done more. The college was great and supported me through it and made sure I was still able to achieve academically. I was at college with the mindset of learning how to perform as opposed to touring as part of a crew, but anything you can learn about touring or performing in any capacity just makes life on a stage much more comfortable. I probably benefited most from actually playing songs on stage at college and just being exposed to performing.
Q – How did you initially get into your career as a Drum Tech, and what led you to work with Enter Shikari and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes?
It actually had nothing to do with music! I was playing drums solidly but working in a restaurant full time with no real industry prospects. When the first lockdown happened, my friends kept saying to get an Xbox and play online with them. I resisted until I had a crash on my bike, broke both wrists, damaged my spine, knocked myself out and got beat up pretty badly. I downloaded Warzone (Call of Duty) and for the following six months that was pretty much all me and my friends did all day.
I got pretty good and followed Frank (Carter) on Instagram who posted that he’d been playing but his scores were low. I asked if he wanted some tips and he responded saying ‘yeah sure let’s play.’
We played and it was cool. We stayed in touch and when the Download Pilot event happened the following year we hung out and have stayed in touch since. I always used to tell him I’d do anything to tour so he told his drummer (who already had a great tech) that if anyone he knows needs a drum tech, he should put me forward. I got a call a couple of weeks later from Rob (Rolfe, Enter Shikari) and the rest is history.
Q – A lot of people will want to know the ins-and-outs of being a drum tech for their own aspirations – What are some of the key responsibilities?
Everything on the drum riser is my responsibility. I tune and change all the drum heads when necessary, polish the cymbals and replace cracked ones, polish the hardware and the drums, hoover the drum rug, make sure the electronics we have are set up correctly and set the kit up to Rob’s preference.
I also stage manage for Shikari so I do a lot to look after the rest of the band. Pre-show is my busiest time, I’ll be preparing their water and drinks, putting out stage towels, laying setlists, making sure the guys have anything they need and that I know their plans for a show. Often (vocalist) Rou will take a walk into the crowd and I’ll go with him to make sure everything is okay.
Q – Can you share some of the best experiences you’ve had while on tour?
Oh man, there’s been some real dreamy moments. I often tell people this and I don’t think they actually believe me but I regularly stand side-stage during a show and cry my eyes out. It’s so overwhelming but cool to just sit and be appreciative of the position I’m in – touring with a band I’ve been a fan of since I was a child. It’s such a privilege and that reality often brings me to tears.
I’d say my highlights include being out in Japan doing Knotfest and getting to watch Slipknot, or maybe Reading & Leeds mainstage last year with my mum watching on the BBC at home.
This one time at one of the shows in London, I was able to give a drumstick, pick and setlist to a young man with learning difficulties which is something real close to my heart. I’d spotted him upstairs during the show and sprinted up as soon as the show finished to catch him before he left. His mum and brother were with him, and me and his mum chatted and cried together. I introduced him to (Enter Shikari guitarist) Rory and it was just such a moving and positive experience.
Q – What’s the biggest challenge or major mess up to have happened whilst on tour!
I’d like to say *touch wood* that not too much tends to go wrong. I’m relatively vigilant. One time I left Rob’s practice kit in a venue and had to get it delivered to the next one. There was also a time where I got distracted by something onstage and missed my queue to fire confetti which was really not ideal!
Generally though – touring is challenging. It’s so easy to look at the highlight reel and be like ‘Oh okay, yeah this is the dream’ but the dream really isn’t always that dreamy. It’s emotionally draining – hard work and long days. It impacts your energy, your body, your mental health. It’s a very taxing lifestyle and definitely isn’t for everyone. You also have to live in close proximity on a bus with 15 other people! Generally it’s ace and there’s no way the negatives outweigh the positives, but it’s worth noting that it’s not always just a breeze.
Q – Enter Shikari headline Slam Dunk Festival this weekend (congrats!) and we want to know your dream festival headliners – you can choose three!
Oh that is really tough. If we can bend reality – Queen, Slipknot from 15 years ago with all original members and maybe Linkin Park.
Now as a reality – Architects, Blink-182 and Frank Carter because without being biased, he is one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen.
Q – What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing a career in music production or live sound?
It’s a people’s game, so be a nice person. You can be the best at what you do but not very nice and you’ll never work, or, you can be bang average and barely know what you’re doing, but if you’re a nice person and willing to learn, you’ll have a full calendar.
It’s also a game of opportunities, it’s all about the right place, right time, so the key is to be everywhere, always. Hard I know, but you have to say yes to everything and then talk to everyone you can, all the time. Put yourself in front of as many people as physically possible. That’s the key to it. Shoot shots, take risks, be bold but be delightful, and you’ll succeed.
Inspired by Jay’s journey? At ACC, we offer our creative students the chance to get infront of industry, use kit that’s in real workplaces and work behind the scenes in some of the UK’s biggest creative workplaces.
It all starts with an application. So if you’re ready to join us this September, get that application submitted!