VOTI - voices of the industry







Tristan Banks



As music creators we’re known for wearing many hats, and Tristan Banks’ rich and varied career is no exception; working as session/recording musician for world renowned Multi Platinum Artists such as Roy Ayers, Steve Winwood, Dave Valentin, David Gilmour, Marcos Valle, Mike Lindup, Robert Miles, Beverley Knight and Robin Millar; alongside videography and audio production, streaming host, event promotion, and managing the vibey brighton venue the ‘Verdict’.


We caught up with Tristan to find out more about his performing career, his reopening the Verdict, and what great music is lined up for everyone to come and hear.



Hi Tristan! Huge congrats in the reopening of the Verdict jazz club! It’s fantastic to catch up with you, hear how things are going. Let’s first chat about your work as a professional drummer, what led you into this line of work, and what are your greatest loves in drumming and creating music with people?


Thank you, I’ve been playing drums for 35 years but really started at school, where I always had a keen interest in music studying guitar and snare drum in my local scout marching band. My father is a bass player who played with people like Mike Westbrook and Trevor Watts in London during the 60’s so this lead to my interest in Jazz which developed to my interest in Latin music in my teens. I’ve spent many an hour practising to develop the technical facility to play Jazz, Fusion, Afro Cuban and Brazilian music, but I’m really into the interaction that improvised music allows and the space that it creates for interpretation of the music.



You’re continuing to work on many different international projects with numerous artists and you also mentioned a new bubbling solo debut project. It sounds intriguing – is there anything you can share about this yet, what led you to explore this and what kind of things can we expect to hear?


Yes, I recorded a solo album last year at Wincraft studios of original compositions with a quartet composed of long time friends and cohorts Paul Booth, John Crawford and Davide Mantovani. I’ve always been interested in composition and structures of rhythm, harmony and melody. I don’t think you can be a complete musician without having a grasp on these elements. My music is a fusion of Brazilian, Cuban, Funk and Jazz. The setting is Jazz but I’m not relying on the clichés or nostalgia of that genre, it’s more about the improvisation that makes it jazz to me rather than the use of swing or bebop scales.


What are your greatest musical influences, do they span many genres? Do you consider yourself to be a genre-fluid musician, and are there any specific genres you have a greater love for and why?


If I look back to the music that influenced me, it’s definitely an eclectic mix, I grew up listening to the pop music of the time like most kids do, so for me this was The Police, Level 42, Prince, late Pink Floyd, The Stranglers and older stuff like Jimmy Hendrix, but I started to buy records by Santana, and Billy Cobham which really got me focused on the drums and percussion in the music, I was listing to Weather Report, Miles Davis, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock a lot by my late teens. But then started listening to percussionists like Mongo Santamaria, Ray Barreto, Nana Vasconcelos, Tito Puente, Airto, Zakir Hussain, Alex Acuna and Trilok Gurtu. I found their playing interesting in terms of the way they played, completely different from a Northern Hemisphere drummer or percussionist, each one very different from each other. Yet they all shared a flexibility with rhythm and time that most musicians I’d heard until then weren’t able to command.


Alongside your extremely busy schedule, you’re also doing some one-to-one teaching work. What is it about teaching that you value, plus what kind of impact has your performance experience have on your teaching work, and vice versa?


At the moment I really don’t have the time to teach, only the odd masterclass or workshop, it’s not really a focus for me anymore, I’m more into the social aspects of music rather than the academic.


It’s often said that many people working in music wear many professional hats in portfolio careers, what’s led you to work in various areas in the music industry from music production to videography, to event managing – how do you find different areas of music connect and feed into each other?


Well these days if you can’t produce some kind of video content, it’s very hard to engage with the marketing platforms, it’s the world we live in, and if you want to exist in this digital world you need to be able to understand the medium. I know musicians that have initially been resistant to social media, but like it or not, promoters look to your youtube, Instagram and facebook to see if you have a following. I personally have always been into film and cinematography so I enjoy making videos, I guess that’s a lucky coincidence or something.



What or how would you advise an up-and-coming musician, as to how they expand or stabilise their career, in what can potentially be a tough place to earn a living?


Be irreplaceable, there’s thousands of musos that can do the ”gig” but can they do you? Don’t try to be the it guy. Sounding different is much more impressive then being able to rattle off those hot licks. Actually because of social media you can hear many musicians that sound the same these days, an homogenised version of the “right” thing, but these are people that aren’t working 6-8 gigs a week out there on tour or carting gear from venue to venue, they are at home doing take after take, to make a 60 second clip to attract followers.


Just reflecting for a moment on the tough time we’ve all been through in the music industry, following the Covid restrictions, do you believe that artists and the cultural sector are receiving enough support to get back on their feet?


No, many people and venues have fallen through the holes, personally I didn’t retrain in cyber. I guess we’ve all had to find new ways to make stuff happen, which for me was getting into streaming technology.


Music venues, recording studios, concert halls have also been greatly affected, we think the ‘The Verdict’ in Brighton, was also left vacant for a while, now things are thankfully back up and running, has this been a tough thing to reinstigate, or has there been a flood of artists and audience ready to go?


The Verdict has always had a following of loyal fans and the first 4 events were sold out, as a musician it’s probably easier for me to source quality artists to perform here though a lot of the people I’m booking know the venue and have already played here, including myself and people have been waiting for the club to reopen, that said it’s the first time I’ve been in this position of booker, promoter, venue manager, host, drummer, website designer, event curator, chef. so, March/ April has been an amazing learning curve, but it already feels like the process is streamlining.



You took over as manager of ‘The Verdict’ in 2021, right in the middle of the pandemic outbreak – would you say the rebirth of the venue was like sending out the message that ‘art matters’?


Good question, for me it does. It’s my life not my job. That’s the difference from someone working in a bank or a supermarket, it’s not just a way to pay the rent.


Has this also been an opportunity to revitalise the music venue, and is there a reason you are keen on reviving this specific venue?


I just think it’s been a gem in the UK touring network for a while now, with some great accolades already established and musicians just love to play here, the audience is always very attentive here.


What was the general public’s reaction in Brighton towards the venue’s reopening – did it match your expectations?


I think it’s actually exceeded it, one gentleman told me it was a church to him as he’d met his now wife here. The general feedback has been amazing.


Do you have anything specific planned ahead in your music series at the Verdict? Are there any exciting things coming up that we could look forward to?


Yes there’s many shows coming up, Thursdays is the weekly Jazz Jam “Sticky Stuff” with my father John Banks as resident bass player, Friday’s is the established Jazz night with a wide program of artists from established to the new generation of jazz including people such as Jim Mullen, Tony Kofi, Emma Rawicz, Paul Booth, Hexagonal, Laurence Cottle, Alex Hitchcock and then Saturdays is set to be a more Latin, Funk, Soul and Fusion night with people like Yolanda Charles PH Project, The Soul Immigrants, Luna Cohen, Jo Harrop, Trypl and Louise Clare Marshall. Please check all our social channels @verdictjazz and verdictjazz.com for all upcoming events.


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