David Cardona was born in Columbia but moved to London in 2012 to pursue his career as a musician. Now an integral part of the UK drumming scene, David is well known for two things – the sheer power of his playing, which has led to links with a number of top line heavy metal bands, and his devotion to promotion of his career through the use of social media.
Drummers Review’s Andy Hughes enjoyed a lengthy chat with David about all matters percussion and media related.
Why are you nicknamed ‘The Cardinal’ is it because of the sound of your surname?
You’d think so, but no, that’s not where the name originated. I used to work in the coffee industry, and one day, a colleague of mine said to me that I was ‘The Cardinal’, and I asked him why. I am someone who loves to help people, if I have good advice to give, I am always happy to share it, and that includes everything about my work, my drumming, life, anything and everything. My friend told me I was ‘The Cardinal’ of coffee, of drumming, and of life. I really liked that, and when I decided I wanted to be a professional drummer, I figured a name like that would help me to stand out from the crowd, so I brought it with me from my life in coffee to my life in music.
Musicians who are born here in the UK often travel abroad, often to the U.S. in pursuit of a career in music, but you actually moved here to the UK, why was that?
I met my wife in Columbia, she is half-Columbian and half-Italian, and she spent quite a time travelling between the two countries. Eventually she decided she wanted to move to Italy permanently, and of course, I was happy to go with her. I love her very much and where she goes, I go. We settled in Italy and became an Italian citizen, and then my wife relocated again to London with her job, and of course, I came too. We have settled in London, we have had our first child here, a baby boy, and we are both busy building our careers over here now in the UK.
You are known for your prolific output on social media, and I understand that you actually got into that very early on, when it was really just getting started. How did your interest arise?
I did start when social media was just getting going, especially Instagram. I wanted to reach out and connect with as many other musicians as I could, and I thought that Instagram would be a good way of getting in touch with a lot of musicians who were starting to use it. I bought a really old camera and just started to film myself playing and talking about some of the gear I used and that I liked, and then of course social media grew and grew into the massive worldwide presence it has today. I had no idea that it would take off, but my profile rose with it, and I have enjoyed one of the biggest highlights of my career so far which was playing at the UK Drum Show in Liverpool last spring, which was incredible.
Do you recommend social media now to young drummers looking to start connections within the drumming community?
I do recommend it, although of course it is far larger than it was when I started out, with many, many more players putting material out there. But yes, it is a good way to enhance your profile, but not the only way of course. It’s not the be-all and end-all, you need to make your personal connections as well, and get out there and pick up as many playing opportunities as you can.
Do you think social media has any downside for a drummer making a profile and connections?
The downside as I see it is that you can become obsessed with it. People can, and do, get drawn in. You go down the rabbit hole and you get lost. People spend all their waking hours on their phones or their computers, and that is damaging in so many areas. It means you are losing valuable practise time, and playing time with other musicians. And it can impact on your personal life as well. People lose relationships because they are so busy with their technical life, and not their real life. I spend a lot of time uploading material, but I am very strict about leaving work behind when it’s time to be away from it. When I am spending time with my wife and with my son, my phone is not with me, that is work, and I divide the two very carefully. Balance is the key, if you start, and maintain a balanced approach to your work, and your life outside your work, you will be much happier, and a better drummer, because you are happy.
How can young drummers make themselves stand out on social media platforms?
Well, as we have discussed, it is a very, very crowded marketplace now. I think that putting heart and soul into your playing will attract people to what you do. Technical skill is very important of course, but if you don’t play with emotion, then it will not reach people. My first link was me playing to a Justin Timberlake song, and it is very technical with lots of chops and interesting stuff. But it’s a song that reminds me of my wife, and when I play it, I think of her, and I thought of her when I filmed myself playing, and I think that is what created the connection between me and the people who viewed it. It was one of my very first links, and it got four-hundred-thousand views, and I put that down to the emotional link in my playing.
Your playing style is incredibly intense, fast and hard, almost brutal in the attack you bring to your drumming. Has it taken you a long time to work up to that level of intensity and proficiency in your drumming?
It’s taken a long time and a lot of really hard intense work to get my technical skills to match the intensity with which I play. I am never ever happy with my playing, I am very hard on myself, I am always looking to do better, to play better. Some people just have a natural talent for drums, they pick up a pair of sticks and from the word go, it is easy for them, and they progress and develop with ease. I am not one of those people. I have had to put in the time, the hours, days, weeks, months, years, to get to where I am now. And of course, I am always looking to move on and get better. When I started out, I used to watch videos of Tomas Pridgen from The Mars Volta, and just be amazed by his technical skill and the feel he puts into his playing. He was such an inspiration to me, and I always want to get to where he is, and I am always looking to improve every day.
What’s your advice to players who are reading about you, and want to achieve what you have achieved as a musician?
I would say, remember, talent is not enough. You have to add dedication to your talent, and that is not easy. Young players coming through now, they live in an ‘instant’ world. Everything is available at the click of a button. And that can become a habit, and an expectation, if you are not careful. Playing drums is not an ‘instant click’ you have to know that it will take time and effort and patience, and be prepared to put those into your playing. If you approach drumming as though you will be instantly good and successful, you are going to be very disappointed.
What’s your kit of choice that can stand up to the assault you put into it every time you sit down to play?
It’s a Pearl Masters Maple Reserve kit. I am a Pearl endorsee, and I really love their kits. I also love acrylic kits because I find that they respond very well to good microphone placement. I do think that almost all drum companies make good kits these days, they have to because the competition is so high for players. I would advise new players to start out with one of the less expensive Pearl kits and work your way up to a Reserve, or a similar top end set. I think if you put good heads on your drums and learn to tune them correctly, you will do fine with them.
Did you have other kits before you joined with Pearl?
I did, I was with DS in Italy, and they make wonderful drums, amazing drums, and I still have one of their kits. I have a 24” kick drum and you can lift it with two fingers, it is as light as feather because the shells are really thin, but the sound is really punchy and clear. The essential aspect for any professional drummer who is touring around the world is consistent support, and I get that from Pearl. I know that wherever I am, whatever I need, they will provide it for me, and that is a wonderful feeling of security, which makes life a lot easier on the road.
I think it’s both, a good combination of the two. The trick is, don’t over-hit, that’s how you hurt yourself. You have to learn to control that energy and aggression and channel it really carefully. Make yourself relax, don’t get worried, because that will make you speed up and over-hit, and that’s a disastrous combination. Sometimes when I can’t hear my click clearly, that makes me tense, and so I have to use some mental control to keep myself in check and not over-compensate for what I can’t hear, but hitting the drums harder. I do keep myself very fit, I am a judo black belt, and I look after myself physically, which is essential. That way, I can do an hour of really intense playing, and I’m OK, I’m not worn out, or damaged, Fitness is really good, an aspect of your playing you should work at when you start playing.
Are you an intense practiser?
Absolutely! I practice three times a week, usually on my pad. I use the Tommy Igoe Great Hands For A Lifetime DVD which is absolutely inspirational, and I do recommend that. For my feet exercises, I can do those more or less anywhere, when I am eating, or just sitting and chatting or not doing anything very much. I know that all drummers always talk about practice, but it really is that important. There are not short cuts to being a good drummer, you put the time and the effort in if you want the results and the rewards.