Andries Visser has been a part of the South African drum circle for many years and has worked for a lot of artists in South Africa. He has toured locally and internationally with various artists. He has also just brought out his own Cajon called the AV BOX.
Hey, Andries. Thanks for taking the time. What’s happening these days?
I’m more in love with my music now than ever before. Playing, teaching, and doing sessions keep me positive and motivated.
How did you start playing the drums, and at what age did you start?
As a child, we lived in the Free state in Hennenman, and at the age of 9, we moved to the big JHB in 1984. It was then that I got introduced to a drum set for the first time. My family has a musical background, so I was no stranger to hearing a piano or guitar daily. However, when I listened to the sound of the mighty drum kit echoing in a church we attended, I could not help myself, and I had to see and feel if I could taste it, hehe. I met my first drum teacher Johan Stolz ( Sadly passed away the 21st Aug 2017). I had lessons with him for about 18 months and started filling in for him at church, barely reaching the pedals, but I took every chance I could get to play. It was an exciting journey and still is.
Who were your main influences when you got into playing, and who are your current influences?
Well, Johan Stolz was the first real influence until I reached the end of High school, and in grade 11 ( back then Standard 9) in 1992. I went to a concert at Rhema, and I experienced the power of music probably for the first time in my life. Watching Integrity Praise performing with some of the best musicians then and now, playing the most amazing rhythms and harmonies I’ve ever heard. After the Friday nights show, I went up on stage to meet the drummer, Carl Albrecht. I bombarded him with a line of questioning and patiently, Carl, step by step, explained tuning as I could not believe the sound and tone he got out of the drum kit.
Being prepared for gigs, teaching, and being on top of one’s game is very important.– Andries Visser
That night after the concert, I went home and tuned my drums, and the next morning got up early to wake the world. It was terrific, and I went back to the second evening concert and got some more tips. That was the first turning point in my life and my reason to pursue drums as a carrier.
I studied at Pretoria tech 1994-5, which helped me understand light music and jazz a little better, but it was only in 1996 that I met a fantastic teacher that would take my limited knowledge to the next level. Andre’ Luke, a well-known drumming Guru amongst the SA drumming world. I studied under Andre’ at the “Groove Class” for a year, practicing an average of 8 hours, five days a week for the duration of my studies, and tried to do so for two more years afterward.
During this time, I got introduced to fantastic drumming legends like Terry Lynn Carrington, Steve Smith, Dave Weckl, Steve Gadd, Chad Wackerman, and Todd Sucherman, to name a few. I studied their techniques and styles and still do.
Who was the first artist that you worked with, and how did you land the gig?
My first real artist was “Khanyisa.” I did a session in Cape Town SABC Point for an artist “Bella,” and the Khanyisa vocals came in for the backing vocal recording and got asked to tour the USA with them. Like any muso, I grabbed the opportunity, and three weeks later, I was in Nashville. Amazing!!!
You got lessons by some big names like Carl Albrecht, etc. Tell us more about those experiences?
While touring the USA and the rest of the world with Khanyisa, I met up with Carl that happened to be in the same church as we attended, and between tours, I went for lessons with him for three years.
During our tours, I had lessons with Lynn Williams ( Drummer for Phill Keggie) and Chester Thompson ( Phil Collins).
You started teaching in High School and have been teaching ever since. Talking from a teacher’s perspective, it can be quite challenging. Over the years, do you find that you have overcome these challenges?
Yes, indeed. Being a teacher in any area has many challenges. When I started teaching, I had very little to offer because of my limited experience and knowledge of the instrument. As the years went on, my repertoire increased, as did my playing and teaching experience. I always loved sharing (teaching) with other drummers what I have and what they have, and so one grows.
My biggest challenge I faced and still face is that you will always get students that are willing to start but not always willing to put the hours in, but that will forever remain the challenge. To motivate and equip students for fun or careers is not easy.
Making a career from drumming can be very tough. How do you approach the madness while being a family man?
Being prepared for gigs, teaching, and being on top of one’s game is very important. I find relationship plays a big part in the way forward as one has to stay in touch with the artists and students to strengthen the relationships and to be on time. Ish. Tough one for musos. Hehe.
I try to maintain a healthy balance between practicing, gigs, and family life, as one can quickly lose perspective in prioritizing your life. Life is what you have with you, and family is all you have. Gigs are for a short time, but life is what makes me get up in the morning. My family is everything to me, so I must maintain that balance.
Tell us about touring the USA with Khanyisa?
Touring with Kyanyisa was one of the best times in my life as well the hardest as I was very young and eager to achieve my musical goals. Being on tour taught me discipline in life and my music. We stayed in apartments, and that made it challenging to practice, so I had to adjust my practicing methods, so I spend a lot of time doing stick control on pillows.
Being on the road was tough because we would drive across the states sometimes 8-20 hours for a weekend performance and on to the next town or city, so your body seldom rests. We had a great band and did a mixture of modern pop/African influence that made up the band’s unique sound.