Chadd Ifill: Not your little drummer boy
IF YOU SEE Chadd Ifill play the drums in the band 2 Mile Hill you will understand when he says he has too much energy. As he sits on his drum throne, the 26-year-old is dynamic in his style and seems to be lost in his own world. His sticks hit each piece of equipment in his set with so much force and pressure that it is no wonder they sometimes get broken.
Chadd, a past student of Frederick Smith Secondary, started playing drums at his church at age six.
“From I was young, I always had an ear for music . . . . ,” he said. “It relaxed me and so I practised every day. My dad was who started me on drums and encouraged me to play in church.”
Chadd said seeing other drummers fuelled his interest.
“I saw drummers doing some cool moves and making some cool sounds. I used to watch gospel channels and would keep my eyes on the drummer. And I became more determined and motivated to stick to it.”
Chadd said he only had eyes for the drum, not even bothering to learn any other instrument.
He focused on soaking up as much as he could, getting lessons from his dad and former teacher Andre Forde. The rest he learnt on his own.
Chadd was first part of Strategy band, playing in the smoky environs of the Ship Inn in St Lawrence Gap. It was there he met the members of the band he now sees as his brothers and sisters from another mother.
“Back then they were NexCyx. They used to come and watch the band play. They invited me to travel with them to St Maarten for a gig . . . . That trip was a blast,” he said, adding that it was the first time he had travelled abroad.
Chadd quickly realised that he liked the band’s style of playing. They had fun and played the music they wanted to play.
“I told them if their regular drummer was unavailable I will fill in. Anytime. Just call me.”
And they took him up on that offer. But Chadd said what it did was help him expand his musical base further: “I learnt a lot from day one with them.”
He joined the band fully in 2008.
“I was very nervous my first time on a big stage. I knew eyes would be on me. I didn’t want to make a mistake. I was too shy and too frightened to even look into the crowd even though I was at the back.
“I saw the numbers and said ‘wow, this is a big crowd’. I thought how am I going to survive,” he said, laughing.
Since then 2 Mile Hill has played the United States college circuit, Caribbean festivals, local shows and have hosted their own showcases.
Chadd, while versed in playing all genres, is in love with hip hop. Weird for a drummer from the land of soca.
“It is more fun to play. I get to freestyle more which I love as I can experiment with my beats and techniques. Hip hop is more my speed as it relates to my energy too.”
And his licks are so smooth that many can’t wait for his solos.
Speaking of techniques, have you ever seen Chadd play the cajon?
To save you the time, the word means crate or box or drawer. And this is exactly what a cajon is – it’s a wooden box which is played as a drum.
Since it’s early beginnings the design of the cajon has not changed all that much.
From the most up-to-date with built-in amplification and adjustable snare and bass tones to the most humble box, the cajon is still a hollow box usually made from plywood.
It has a thin layer of plywood on one side . . . like the bottom of a drawer . . . and thicker wood to the sides and top. Usually the back of the cajon has a sound hole, and simply beating on different parts of the front surface will give different sounds.
Most cajons are a foot tall and the player sits on top.
2 Mile Hill saw it in a video and the musical director Andre decided to get one for the band and it debuted at Mahalia’s Corner.
Chadd uses it sporadically. “It depends on the type of gig 2 Mile Hill has. Some call for a full drum kit and others you can use the cajon. It is one of the easiest things to play. I thank the Lord for the person who created it,” he said, chuckling.
“It is very cool and a nice instrument to play.”
For Chadd, playing the cajon means very sore hands. He lays the blame on his intensity.
“I enjoy myself too much. And I don’t study how hard I am hitting it. It is painful sometimes, but not all the time.”
And when his hands aren’t hurting from playing the cajon, he is breaking drumsticks.
“I can say most of the times I break a pair. So I travel with at least six to seven pairs . . . . I am so into playing and getting caught up in the vibe that the sticks are the casualties. And sometimes they slip out my hand and other times they fly into the crowd.”
If he could pick one artiste to play on a stage with, Chadd’s dream collaborator is American artiste J. Cole.
“His music is something that I really like. I could sit and play all his songs without taking a break. I could see the energy and feel the excitement just mentioning it.”
After playing a gig, Chadd relaxes by having a cold drink and a conversation, about random things.
“It also cools down the buzz I am on after playing with so much hype. My brain needs to return to normal.” (NS)