Pauli ‘The PSM’ Stanley-McKenzie

By Jason Taylor 1st August, 2012

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CITIZEN FUNK recently caught up with Gorillaz Sound System drummer Pauli ‘The PSM’ Stanley-McKenzie, to gain an insight into what really makes him tick as one of the world’s leading young drummers. Before you go ahead with the interview, here is a brief biography about this globe-trotting musician.

He got his first drum kit at the age of 13 and was instantly hooked. He decided to study at Ravensbourne College for Communication & Design, focusing on Content Creation and Multimedia Broadcasting and went on to pursue his passion and creativity for music as a session musician, where honed his craft and gained invaluable experience. Fast forward to 2009, when he was lucky enough to begin working and touring the globe with Singer/Songwriter Damon Albarn’s astounding Gorillaz Sound System.

Now in 2012, Pauli’s work schedule is busier than ever, as he continues to tour the world with the Gorillaz Sound System. He is currently working alongside Coca-Cola for its Future Flame Campaign, during the 2012 London Olympics Games. Pauli also plans to continue producing music for his solo projects as well as other artists. When time permits he even hosts a monthly radio show for Strongroom Shoreditch where gets the opportunity to interview his favorite musicians, providing an outlet for playing sessions and guest mixes.

Photography By: Steph Hartop


Who has influenced you most to become a drummer? 

Watching musicians Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix perform was a major influence on me. Seeing what they did as guitarists and front men, I wanted to emulate that on drums.

How did you get the opportunity to become a member of the Gorillaz Sound System?

I was invited to a closed audition. There were 3 drummers chosen from the whole of the UK to come and audition for the new Gorillaz project, and I was blessed to be given the opportunity to do my thing.

Describe the feeling after your first gig with them? 

In all honesty, after the first gig I was unsatisfied and disillusioned. I felt quite alone, touring with guys double my age. It was crazy, I was in a position that the other members had been working on getting to for over a decade, and here I was – a kid fresh out of uni, aged 20. It was like Damon gave me the keys to a Rolls Royce whilst all my peers at the time were in Mini Coopers.

For the benefit of those who haven’t seen you perform live, how would you describe your drumming style? 

The drums were used as one of the first forms of communication. So I see the drums as a communicative device first and foremost. It’s a great way for me to express myself in a way which I call “Seduction Percussion.” Its spiritual for me, I’m transferring the energy given to me by God to the instrument, whilst being an instrument of praise and worship.

Where is your favorite place to perform and why?

Cape Town was pretty spectacular. Its the first place I played internationally and the vibe was magnificent. It was just after I won UK Young Drummer of the Year in 2005, when I was still in school. It was the first time I came off stage and thought, maybe I could take this entertainment thing seriously.

What is the craziest thing a fan has done at a show you have performed at?

I don’t really see it as fans doing anything crazy. I see it as people showing mad love. If anything, I’m the fan going crazy when they know who I am. I get mad gassed like “where did you see that video.. how did you know that about me…” lol I’ve been given some pretty cool gifts, but thats about it.. No crazy stories here, haha!!  I see these guys as my extended family, they’re the ones that keep me sane when i’m away, looking out for me when i’m on the road. They open their homes and their hearts and make sure I am well looked after. Its nice knowing I can go to any continent in the world and call it home.

With a busy touring schedule, do you still get a chance to produce much of your own music? 

I produce most of my own music whilst travelling. I love exploring and experiencing the sights and sounds of divergent worlds. Traveling has been one of the most important processes of keeping my music production fresh and fun.

Are there any contemporary artists you find inspiring?

I find most of my inspiration from artists away from music.. Basquiat has been one of my biggest recent influences, he was actually a dope musician funnily enough, but that’s rarely spoken about. I’m also really into design, Karl Lagerfield and Phillip Stark, not just as designers in their fields but as an icons of the modern man. Maya Angelou is my heart beat, everything she writes penetrates my soul. The same with Langston Hughes, he’s my favourite writer. In terms of music, I’m in love with Janelle Monae and I think Andre 3000 is one of the greatest artists of my time. I also really like what Flying Lotus is doing at the moment. There’s also a bunch of artists that are my friends that are making major moves like: Adam Bainbridge (Kindness), Michael Kiwanuka, Labrinth and Temper Trap – also new artists like Kenzie May and Tawiah, you have to look out for them! But in all honestly I am influenced by a lot of older music – I’m mega fascinated by Sun Ra, and I really admire Thelonious Monk, he was a game changer. I’m thankful to jazz greats like Art Blakey and Elvin Jones for what the contributed to the drum set, and as I previously mentioned Hendrix and Marley are my two all time favourites. On constant repeat, Im listening to a lot 70s music like Ohio Players, Jones Girls, Chic – Thats my happy music, and there’s what some would describe as ‘art rock’ bands like, Roxy Music – Brian Eno is a don! and Pink Floyd were the first multimedia band in my opinion check out live from Pompeii, its so epic, I could go on forever. I really love the art of music.

What’s on the horizon for you for the rest of 2012?

I’ve just started working with new partners Air Entertainment Group, I’m looking forward to showcasing a new art show with them later in the year, alongside the launch of my first publication and outreach project “Londoners in London” At the moment I’m doing music consulting at Coca Cola for 2012 Olympics. Also looking forward to moving over to NYC at the end of the year to work on my solo music project “LoveJoy”

Finally, where do you see yourself in 5 years time? 

I’ve got my long term plans all written up, but I don’t want to jump to the plot to quickly. Metaphorically, I’d rather my next 5 years be like an action-adventure-thriller that keeps the audience glued to the screen. But essentially, In 5 years I will be 28,  I’d like to be healthy, happy and more self sufficient – maybe living on a farm with some great stories to tell… BOOM!!

I am The PSM.