Charles started juggling at the age of 13 and has been performing for almost 20 years. He became a professional juggler right out of high school. Along with his brother, he won an IJA gold medal in the 1997 teams competition. As a competitor on ‘America’s Got Talent,’ he appeared on the show more than any other juggler. Charles is also the first juggler to be pictured in People Magazine.
So Charles, what got you interested in drumming?
I’ve been around music all my life. My parents have owned a record store for over 30 years. I’ve always liked bands and most of my best friends are in bands. So I was around it a lot, and I always wanted to try it. I was intrigued by drums. They were physical and drummers always seemed very passionate, but it also looked like a lot of fun. Plus, everyone dreams of being a rock star. So I gave it a shot and I’m glad I did.
What do you like about drumming?
It’s the artistic expression. Also, music effects you so much and is such an enjoyable part of your life, well for me anyway. To be an observer is one thing, but when you can listen to a track from a musician’s perspective you have a deeper understanding. You can think about how you’d play it or make it better. A great track can inspire you to get better. It makes music more tangible and it makes you feel special knowing that you can have this effect on others.
Do you like being in a band?
It was a different experience. When I was playing with a band and recording my own tracks, it was really cool. I never did anything other than juggling on a higher level. I really fell in love with it and thought that I could see myself doing this for a while. Of course I couldn’t give up juggling, because that was a paycheck. Making a living as a musician is really hard. It’s harder that being a professional juggler, because the odds are against you. It’s an over-saturated market, so it takes a lot more luck to succeed.
How often do you practice?
I practice a lot when I’m in a band, and I practice at home to keep my chops up. I have an electronic set so I don’t annoy my neighbors. A real kit is loud. You can hear it a couple of houses down. When I’m not in a band, or when I’m on the road juggling, I don’t practice that much. It’s hard to find a kit, and even if you do, you can’t practice if you’re disturbing people. Sometimes I’ll use a pad to practice my rudiments, but that’s about it.
Do you still perform, and do you get many gigs?
No, I’m not in a band right now. To be honest I’ve been trying to stay away from them. Most people in bands take it very seriously. To them music is all they have. They want to gig and practice all the time, but I can’t do that because I’m traveling 70% to 80% of the time for juggling. Sometimes I’ll get together with some guys just to play for fun. It’s supposed to be with no commitments, but even in those situations they usually end up wanting more from me. Now, one of my favorite things to do is to sit in with the bands around me, like the ones on cruise ships. Sometimes I play with the orchestra or a party band in one of the lounges. I usually become friends with them, and they’ll let me sit in for a few songs. That’s a lot of fun, I get to play with a live band without a commitment.
What was your most unusual gig?
It was on a cruise ship. I was getting ready to do a welcome aboard show for about 800 to 1,000 people. The opening act was a production show, then there were a couple of singers and I was the closer. I was warming up back stage when the assistant director, who knew I was a drummer, ran up to me and told me they couldn’t find the drummer for the orchestra. I told her that the production show had drums on the track, so they didn’t need me, and one of the singers was using a karaoke track so he didn’t need me. The other singer was a problem. I asked him what the track was, and he said it was ‘My Girl.’ I told him it was no problem, and that I could sit in with that. There was no time for practice or rehearsals, but everything went great. There were no problems. As soon as the curtain closed I ran over to my prop stand because I was the next act. No one realized that I had been the drummer for the previous act. Actually, it was a lot of fun.
Are there any similarities between juggling and drumming?
Absolutely. For me juggling is very rhythmic. If a pattern isn’t working I think about what’s wrong with the rhythm and timing rather than the throws. I also see similarities between the charting of juggling with Site Swaps and the charting of music with notations. There’s even a similarity between the alternating arm movements of juggling and drumming.
Which do you prefer, drumming or juggling?
Hmm, that’s kind of like, do you prefer your son or your daughter. While I don’t drum nearly as much as I juggle, I do love it. Especially if I’m playing in an original band and get to create tracks. I really like that. A cover band is cool too. You get to play the music you and everybody loves. If I had to stop one I’d definitely stop drumming. I’ve invested so much of my life into juggling and it sustains me with the income it provides. As far as enjoyment goes, it’s a toss up. If I don’t do either one for a while I miss it.
What was your best gig?
It has to be my first performance in an original band. None of us had performed live in an original band before. The two other guys had only performed live once, but they were great musicians and great friends. I was really lucky to be with them. I had the most experience in performing live, although that was as a juggler rather than a musician. So I became the leader and the coordinator. I think my confidence encouraged them, and we had a perfect set. For our first performance as a live original band to be flawless – that was pretty cool.
How about your worst?
It was in a crew bar environment. I hadn’t been playing with other musicians very much. I had mostly been playing with tracks. My friend Dave McKenna said he needed a drummer for Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb. I told him that I could definitely do that. I listened to the track and I thought I had it. It turned out to be a train wreck. It was so embarrassing. I was used to being very successful as a performer. To have everyone looking at me like I had no idea what I was doing, and to have the bass player yelling at me, it really got to me. It was very upsetting. I spent a lot more time practicing because of that. I never wanted something like that to happen again, and it hasn’t, so that’s good.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I started drumming when I was on a long contract. I got the book, ‘The Complete Drummer,’ and I just started practicing. Because of the long contract, I had plenty of time to get into the instrument. I didn’t do a whole lot with it until I joined the band with my two friends. I wasn’t very good then, I’m still not great, but they needed a drummer, and they were very patient with me. That’s when I learned the most. They were great musicians, and I wanted to keep up with them. They inspired me to practice a lot so I wouldn’t let them down. They were really impressed with how quickly I learned. So it just goes to show you how much you can do if you have the right motivation.
For more information about Charles Peachock, visit:
Videos of Charles playing the drums.