Meet Richard Spooner Drumming to his own beat

Issue: 3/2015
In late 2008, UK drummer Richard and his Swiss wife moved to Switzerland for the birth of their first child. After years struggling to find his niche in the Swiss music scene, Richard has carved out a flourishing career with Philipp Fankhauser's band — a top selling blues artist — and built a new life with his wife and two sons.

How did you get involved in the music industry?

It's all I ever wanted to do. I started playing pretty late, when I was 14, when my stepfather gave me a set of drums. I think my mom and my stepfather thought it was going to be a passing phase, saying, "Oh he'll grow out of it in two weeks."

But I stuck with it and taught myself by listening to records. Later, I got into a school band and when we left school at 16 we had a record deal. So I was working in music right from the time I left school. Aside from also teaching music, I've never really done anything else.

 

In your opinion, how does the music scene differ in Switzerland?

In the UK and in the States, it's part of our culture. It's in us from the word "go." I grew up listening to bands, listening to music, seeing music and being around music. It was always a part of growing up, contemporary music anyways. Here it doesn't seem to be the same way. It's either the folk music thing and then a very strong jazz side, but all the contemporary stuff — the rock music, the pop music — seems to be emulating everything else. It doesn't have its own identity like British music has its sound, American music has its sound, German rock music has its sound.

 

Tell me about your assimilation into Swiss culture?

Before we moved I didn't have any German, apart from "zwei Bier, bitte" (two beers please). So I thought, "What the hell am I going to do?"

I remember the first time I tried to a post a letter home, horror struck. How do I ask, "Where is the post box?" I had to phone my wife and ask her. I felt like a complete idiot and a long way from home. It was horrible. I started a little phrase book. Where's the post office? Which bus do I need to take? How do I get a train ticket? Now I've picked up a mix of half Swiss-German and half German-German just by listening.

The first few years were also difficult because I couldn't find work in the music business, it is very cliquey. Before moving to Switzerland I had earned my teaching qualification so I formed a little private English group. I also set up a little gardening business.

 

How did you finally break into the Swiss music scene?

After four years I met a Swiss drummer who had lived in London. He thought it was ridiculous that I wasn't working in music here and said he would look out for something.

About four weeks later he phoned me up and said he had found me a gig with a singer from Bern called Yvonne Moore. Whilst I was working for her I met Marco Jencarelli, the guitar player for Philipp Fankhauser, and we just hit it off.

Then on 31 July 2013 I get a call from Marco asking what I'm doing the next day and if I could fill in for a drummer on holiday. I spent the evening listening to the songs and writing out the music, and the next day we played this wonderful evening concert.

I thought that would be that. But in October I got a phone call from Philipp asking if I could fill the drummer spot permanently.

 

What advice do you have for expats looking to break into Switzerland's music scene?

Be patient. It takes a different approach. In England you can say, "Here's my CV, here's who I have worked with, here's my website." That doesn't really work here. You really have to go back to basics. Let the instrument do the talking. Be who you are and eventually it will come to you.

To find out more about Richard Spooner and Philipp Fankhauser, check out www.docspoons.com and www.philippfankhauser.com

Photos: © Philipp Fankhauser band

Author: Ashley Roque - Hello Switzerland

Ashley Roque was Editor-in-Chief of Hello Switzerland. Hailing from the US Sunshine State (Florida), Ashley launched her career as a political journalist in Washington, DC, with Inside Washington Publishers and the Roll Call Group, while also spending time in the non-profit world as ActionAid International USA’s communications manager. She lives in Canton Aargau with her Swiss husband, working as a freelance journalist.

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