North Vancouver drummer off to international competition making his own beat

Published: December 4, 2012


As a drummer, Issah Contractor won’t easily fade into the background.

“You are kind of painted into a corner,” the Vancouver-based musician said from a studio he shares with another local drummer.

“You spend all this time trying to get your craft together and you find that there’s not a whole lot of other avenues … aside from ones that help facilitate other people’s dreams.”

But Contractor has managed to break through that mold and venture his music career down a number of paths.

His latest feat is being named the Roland Canada V-Drums winner this past October. In April he’s off to Germany to represent Canada in the international competition.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of,” he said. “(And) it could probably lead on to things that you might not have available to you if you weren’t to enter into something like that.”

While the competition and title certainly come with the much-sought-after “notoriety,” it means more to Contractor, like playing alongside the renowned musicians.

“Backstage a lot of these guys are idols for drummers — it’s like the NBA for drummers. My Michael Jordan was performing there that night,” he said.

Contractor can’t seem to peg what it is that made him win — but just sitting in on a short studio session with him, it’s pretty clear.

Within a few seconds he picks an upbeat track from his electric drum kit and improvises an entire score that seems to mesh perfectly. He knows the exact moments to throw in a deafening solo or drop a heart-pounding bass drumroll.

It’s the improvisation that drives him.

“Some people have a knack for really following routine — I’ve never been that sort of guy,” he said. “I’ve always thought it would be great to sit down with your instrument and create.”

A lot of it stems from his love of fusion jazz — growing up he was inspired by musicians such as Chick Corea and Dennis Chambers.

“These guys … are entrenched in jazz and fusion jazz and all styles, but at the core of all of them they are very much improvisational,” he said.

And, of course, his talents go beyond percussion: He recently set up a gig through Erikson Canada and Warwick Bass posting instructional videos to YouTube.

But his instrumental talents aren’t enough — he still felt the need to be more expressive.

Naturally, he went about it in a unique way, deciding to create a sci-fi genre animated film narrated against a score he composed.

“I always wanted to talk about things that you can’t really through instrumental music,” he said.

“Somebody in my position — who doesn’t sing, other than putting out instrumental music, which you kind of can only reach a certain demographic — maybe it was a way to kind of tug at more people’s strings and have it be my project, not be at the mercy of a singer,” he said.

Contractor hopes to raise some money and release the film next year.

“It’s just another way within music for me to kind of maybe be in control of the canvas and hopefully build a life upon an original endeavour, which is a dream,” he said.


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