From booking his own clinic tour around the globe to building an educational community through his website, Guitar Center Drum Off Champion JP Bouvet is one of the most proactive drummers on the planet
Words: Gemma Hill Images: Tanya Ghosh
JP Bouvet stormed his way into the USA’s Guitar Center Drum Off final in 2011 and took the winner’s title armed with a serious mohawk and musicality in abundance. Since then, he has been working on the Common Thread tour with Matt Halpern and Mike Johnston, as well as booking his own DIY two-month drum clinic tour around the globe, which has expanded from the community he has created through his website.
Tell us about the Guitar Center Drum Off and what you think gave you the winning edge?
The Guitar Center thing was a big deal for me when it happened. I just prepared my butt off an unbelievable amount. I ended up dropping out of school to practise more for it. In a competition that’s so big and has so many judges involved along the way, there is a massive amount of chance involved. My mentality going into it was to just do everything I possibly could to remove all the variables so that when I got there I couldn’t have done more. When I watched my solo back after it was done, I realised I didn’t play anything fast or complicated but I thought of it more as a composition. It’s a drum solo competition so you have five minutes, which is a long, long time. The mistake a lot of people make is that it takes about ten seconds to show someone you can play some crazy chops, and then you’ve got four minutes 50 seconds to develop something more. The things that I did in the solo I was just working on before doing the competition. For a year leading up to it, not thinking about the competition, I was working on 7/8 clave, 5/16 time signature… I was doing some of those things anyway so it came out in the solo that I was genuinely excited about the stuff I was playing. It was me at the height of my ability at the time.
Had you done the competition before?
I had done it six times. I don’t think anyone has ever won it their first time.
You’ve been a part of the Common Thread tour with Matt Halpern and Mike Johnston across the USA. What was it like to tour with them?
I’m not a drummer’s drummer so I don’t know anything about who people are – I’m not in the loop. I met Mike and Matt at the Meinl Drum Festival in 2012, the year after I won the drum off. I didn’t know much about them, although I’d looked up Mike’s website and knew he was a teacher. I knew Matt was in some wicked band that I’d never listened to. When I met them, I couldn’t have picked them out of a crowd but we just clicked at the Meinl Festival and we were the three Americans so we had a lot to bond over. We each do something online that’s different; somehow it’s the perfect trifecta of everything. We have different websites that do different things, we’re seven years apart in age. We’re in different fields of drumming; Mike is the educator, Matt is the ultimate band guy and then I’m the new young guy who’s doing a bunch of stuff with smaller bands. So between the three of us, there’s something for everyone to take, I think. We do the tour because we love to hang out with each other and share what we’ve learned.
When I met them for the first tour I hardly knew them. I wasn’t too intimidated because they’re such nice guys and it was apparent from the beginning that it was going to be a cool hang. The first clinic we did was one of the best; we were trying out new stuff and it was a lot of fun. It’s always really loose and positive, and it’s an infinite thing. We’ve done the east coast, the west coast, the Midwest of the US and we’re talking about what’s next. We will definitely be going abroad at some