The Generation Axe Tour commenced earlier this year in April and the line up featured some of the world’s guitar greats, namely Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Nuno Bettencourt, Zakk Wylde and Tosin Abasi.
If you followed the tour then you may know that Matt Garstka from Animals as Leaders was the original drummer for the show. Unfortunately he developed bad hand injury problems forcing him to pull out of the tour early.
Finding a replacement drummer that was able to accompany all guitarists on the tour was difficult. The drummers that worked for Animals as Leaders didn’t fit too well on the other material and vice versa. A couple of drummers auditioned and 2 individual drummers was the eventual solution. One for Animals as Leaders and the other for the rest of the set. The pick for Animals as Leaders was JP Bouvet, who was recommended by Matt Garstka himself. Incidentally the other replacement drummer had to pull out because of personal reasons, and JP Bouvet was given the responsibility of learning the entire set list.
In the video below, you can hear a phone conversation between Matt and JP. “I know your ability and your work ethic. I’m as confident in you as I am in myself, which is kinda crazy ’cause I’m an arrogant bastard.”
JP reflects on the work load associated with the tour, pointing out that he had to learn 4 Animals as Leaders Songs in 2 days. Learning Yngwie’s music was like learning a 40 minute song because it doesn’t ever repeat. It’s a large workload primarily based on the fact that the guitarists on this tour expect their drummer to be able to play through an entire song on their own without any accompaniment. “Learning music quickly was a key factor.” There was only time for a quick practice recital for a few friends prior to leaving for the tour. After that he did some rehearsing in his hotel room and then a quick rehearsal during sound check before each show.
He reflects on his approach to learning music, stating that frequent breaks was really key. “What I’v learned over the past few years is that time away from the instrument is what actually solidifies all the learning.”
As for the skills needed to do this tour, JP says reading sheet music was definitely a massive help. Being able to write out music, read it back and play it accurately the first time is a huge life saver. “A lot of people ask me, ‘should I learn to read music?’ You don’t have to read music, but for this if I didn’t know how to read it would have taken me at least 3 times longer to learn the show.”
Another important skill on this tour was attitude. He understood that it’s not about him, but rather serving the music. His approach was to essentially be an ‘invisible chameleon’, and do exactly what each artist called for. This is perhaps the most important skill associated with getting gigs on this level.
All in all the tour was a great success, and JP ended up slotting in perfectly with all the guitarists on tour.