By the time you read this, it will probably be official that Vijay Mistry has made the transition from being the touring drummer with the Kaiser Chiefs to being a permanent member of the band. Vijay, though, is taking things one day at a time, and that includes making no assumptions about his position. Vijay explains his view of things: “the way it works in this band is everything is very laid back, so even if someone says, or if the band announce, that I am a full member now, I won’t feel as though I am until I have been of use to the band, and contributed something.
“Working on the live tours and playing to the level that the band expects, and that the fans expect, has been really hard work, but until I am playing on something we have all recorded together, that’s when I will feel like I belong in the band. I’m doing all the live stuff with them, and all the demos for new material, but I don’t want to put a label on my position, I just want to go with the flow and see what happens.”
It’s usual for replacement members of any band, at any level, to be chosen from players that the band already knows. At least as important as ability is the need to fit in with the band dynamic, which is not always that easy when joining an established set-up. For Vijay, that particular integration was smoothed by friendships that pre-date the Kaiser Chiefs by some time. “When I started at university, my brother was already there; he is a year older than me,” Vijay recalls. “My brother was on the same course as Simon [Rix], the band’s bass player. We got chatting and I told simon I was in a band, so when his band needed a drummer, I stepped in and we played in a band together for a while. then simon left to join the band that eventually became the Kaiser Chiefs, and I continued playing in various bands in Leeds. simon and I always stayed in touch, and I was really good friends with Peanut [Nick Baines, KC’s keyboard player] as well, so when Nick [Hodgson – original KC drummer] left, I got a call from simon asking if I’d like to play with the band. We share loads of mutual friends, so when it comes to friends turning up for gigs, there are no surprises because i know nearly everyone they know, and vice versa.”
That may sound as though Vijay is someone who simply takes what comes along and deals with
it on the day – but that would be an incorrect impression. Preparation is vitally important to get the job done, as Vijay confirms: “When I know something is happening, I make sure I’m prepared, and that applied to the tour we have just done. When I got the call inviting me to play on the tour I went through the band’s live set on my electronic kit. The whole set is about an hour and a half, so I ran through that three or four times a week, and I also started a regime of running to make sure I was physically fit enough to be able to do the full tour without running out of energy. When it got near to the start of the tour I started booking rehearsal rooms so I could actually practise full-tilt on my kit and get a proper feel for how the songs worked.
“I have never played another drummer’s parts before. It did mean thinking about my set-up and making some adjustments, and getting some new cymbals and playing those in so I was used to them. I found that Nick played a lot of beats on the hi-hat, and he also played a lot of cross-hands parts as well, and in my seating position, and because I hit quite hard, I kept hitting my sticks together. the other thing about Nick’s style is that he is very quick around the kit – his fills are very fast, and he used his ride cymbal as a sort of pseudo-crash cymbal. the ride I used to use was very heavy so it would give out a solid ‘ping’ when I hit it and not the nice wash sound that Nick used to get with his so the changes I made were to sit a lot lower, move my snare in further, and change my ride cymbal for something a lot lighter to get the fills to sound right. I also had to move my rack tom over to the left a little, because Nick used to use his ride cymbal almost like another drum. I thought it would be really hard to get used to this new set-up and I wouldn’t like it, but I find I’m kicking myself for not having done it sooner.”
So the call has come in, the set has been learned, the kit set-up has been analysed and re-structured, now there is the favourite bit for any player with the opportunity – the chance to go shopping for a new kit: “When it came to the Kaiser Chiefs’ tour, I knew I needed to upgrade my kit, and the first thing I was asked was what drums do you like? so my answer was the same as someone who doesn’t know anything about cars – big shiny ones. shopping for a drum kit is quite difficult, because other customers and the neighbours of the shop don’t take kindly to you thrashing away on kits for hours to get the feel of them, and seeing if you like the sound. Plus, it takes ages to set up a complete kit, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. But John Henry’s, the instrument shop in London who hire out instruments to loads of touring bands, set up one of their rooms for me, and they set up six different kits in the rough sizes that I thought I wanted, and I spent an entire day playing everything. It’s no good playing one kit one saturday, and then going back the next weekend and playing another, because you can’t remember. the way I was able to compare and contrast and try out different sizes was just perfect. In the end, I chose a DW kit, which we hired for the tour, and now my DW endorsement has been arranged I am waiting delivery on a new DW kit. I tried various different kits, but the DW just felt amazing. I loved the feel of playing them, the sound and the look of them, so they were the ones I ended up going with.”
Back to today, and Vijay is immersed in the demos he has received, and the issue of maintaining the Chiefs’ sound while adding his style to the mix – the eternal dilemma of the new band member. “When it came to learning the existing songs for the tour, I tried to keep as close to the original spirit of the sound as I could. I played the beats and the fills exactly how they were recorded. so, in my head, I am playing everything as it has always been, but the feedback I got was that I had put my own stamp on the sound of the band. I haven’t consciously put my stamp on anything, It’s just the way I play. Even though, as far as I am concerned, everything sounds the same, there are differences in timings, beats and accents that I can’t put my finger on.
“Regardless of trying to be true to the sound of the band up to this point, I am naturally going to put my stamp on it, because that’s the only way I know how to play. I am never going to think that this is the type of drumming that suits this band, it’s always going to be, this is the kind of drumming that fits this song. If we work on a brand new song that has no drums on it, then it is going to have my interpretation of what works best, with input from the rest of the band, until we get to a sound that we all like and we feel it works.”
So the future for the Kaiser Chiefs looks good in general, and for Vijay in particular. “I am looking forward to absolutely everything. My previous level of touring has been in a splitter van with five of us sharing a hotel room, but this is going to be so different. I am looking forward to playing with the guys and to touring the world playing really big shows and festivals.
The UK tour meant I got to go on a tour bus for the very first time. We were in a dressing room and I was joking around with the guys saying: ‘Look guys, a sink. A sink with a plug and taps that work and everything.’ I am sure it won’t be long before I am annoying everyone with my ridiculous enthusiasm.”
Drums: DW Collector’s series
24”x18” VLX kick drum
14”x10” VLT rack tom
16”x16” VLT floor tom 14”x5” Edge snare
21” A Custom 20th anniversary ride
19” A Custom crash
18” K Custom hybrid crash
15” Hi-Hats (Custom New Beat top, K Custom Light bottom)
Coated Ambassador (Control sound) – snare
Coated Ambassador – toms
Coated Powerstroke – kick
Sticks: Vic Firth Steve Gadd signature
Microphones: Sennheiser and Neumann
In-ear monitors: Starkey