Terl Bryant: Christendom's master percussionist writes A Heart To Drum

Friday 13th July 2007

Mike Rimmer quizzed possibly the world's most experienced Christian drummer TERL BRYANT about his life and new book.

Terl Bryant
Terl Bryant

Terl Bryant has more strings to his bow than an Olympics archery team. The list of stars this drummer has played with would make a small article in itself while his work in founding the Psalm Drummers has given the Church a whole new perspective on what instruments are appropriate for worship music. Now Terl has turned his hand to writing and with the publication by Survivor of A Heart To Drum Terl has even more things to keep him busy. During a recent visit to Cross Rhythms Terl spoke to broadcaster Mike Rimmer.

Mike: You've been playing drums a long time, haven't you Terl?

Terl: I've been playing drums since I was eight years old. At age 12 I knew that was what I wanted to do. By 15 I was playing bars and clubs in England, by 20 I was living in California working in bars and clubs there. I came to faith a couple of years later and have continued to be a professional musician, working in the Christian scene and in the mainstream as a job, working with artists who don't share my faith and that's given me some very interesting and challenging perspectives in the journey.

Mike: I imagine that the variety of people you've worked with would keep it interesting.

Terl: Yes, you could say that! I mean I've worked with the Northern Symphonia Orchestra, backing Lesley Garrett, and have played live working with John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin! Then a week or two later I'd be on stage playing with Matt Redman in a huge festival somewhere! And then with Ishmael playing kids' music in a funny little place with kids jumping up and down. Music is such a valuable, wonderful gift to us all. I feel really, really blessed - truly, it's the right word - to have had the variety of experience.

Mike: The gig with John Paul Jones must have been interesting because you had Nick Beggs with you, so there were two Christians alongside John Paul.

Terl: We went out as a three piece playing John's music, principally instrumental music and doing instrumental versions of some Led Zeppelin tracks. It was a really great band to be a part of, working with some of the most talented players. To be in a rhythm section with John Paul who, of course, had John Bonham as his drummer, one of the most loved drummers in the world, made me ask "how did I find myself here?" What a tremendous opportunity to bring all that I carry in my heart and mission and ministry and make music alongside people of that calibre.

Mike: What's the strangest session you've ever done?

Terl: There have been some rare ones over the years - I mentioned Ishmael. Years and years ago when I came back to England from the States, quite proud and pleased with myself, with where I had got to as a player. Then all of a sudden, due to immigration stuff, I couldn't live in the States any more so there was no work! Back in England, the only call I got was to go and play on a Glory Train kids' album down at the studio in Eastbourne. I was driving down, moaning and grumbling on the way thinking that I was too good for this, is there a God any more 'cos I've been reduced to playing children's stuff. I spent a little time in prayer on that journey and I got a real rebuke from the Holy Spirit, how he cares for children. I went and did that record - 24 tracks in a day - and it was an absolutely bizarre situation. There was Timmy Jupp on keyboards, you know, from Delirious?, when he was just 15 or something and it was extraordinary. It was really strange, the whole business. But I put myself into it. I could see that the guys loved God and really, through those relationships, that was the door that opened up for me at that time that connected me with Christian musicians, many with whom I have made lots and lots of albums with over the ensuing years. A door opened for me there and if I had gone with the wrong attitude who knows where I'd be. . . I'd never have met you!

Mike: Most people will know you from working with Iona.

Terl Bryant:  Christendom's master percussionist writes A Heart To Drum

Terl: Working with Iona as I did for six years and making five or six albums with them was just a really wonderful and extraordinary time for me. It was great highs and deep lows. If there was ever a group of people brought together who modelled in some way the disciples around Jesus - you know, a tax collector, fishermen - we were such an odd bunch together. But we loved each other and we loved making music and of course you know the band goes on from strength to strength. But my time in the band was really precious to me and it was wonderful to see all the things that happened through it. It was a time when we chose not to do the market thing and just absolutely stick to our ideals, such as making the best music that we could make. It caught people's imaginations and it was a real joy to see people's response to a beautiful kind of music that wasn't just for the business. It was for the music.

Mike: Your book A Heart To Drum is an interesting mix of anecdote and biblical teaching about drumming. How did you come to write it?

Terl: Over the years since the outset of Psalm Drummers - about 10 years - with lots and lots of study and teaching and ministry time, gathering drummers, having conversations. . . it all piled up on bits of paper so it had to become a book!

Mike: One of the shocking things for me in your book was to discover that your dad was also called Terl Bryant! I thought that Terl was a fairly unique name.

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Reader Comments

Posted by John Ford in Budapest / Woking @ 16:40 on Oct 10 2007

What a wonderful service Terl is doing all Christian drummers in sharing his immense skill and experience so that we can help others worship.

Many, many thanks, mate, please keep it up!

I met you once a few years ago and your humility, coupled with your talent have been inspirational (I love listening to the drumming on Iona, and try and combine some patterns whilst drumming for my church in Hungary). Cheers!

Posted by Matt in Belfast @ 18:51 on Jul 31 2007

Fantastic book, I have a review of it on The Christian Drummer web site : http://www.christiandrummer.co.uk

Posted by BOLAJI DELE SUNDAY in NIGERIA @ 11:34 on Jul 24 2007

Pls. I love playing drums so much but, I want you to help me inorder to know it very well so that I can be a professional like you do.

I wil be very happy if you can send me some books/ tapes on drums tutor so that I can imrpove my\self.
thank you and GOD BLESS U

Posted by Paddy Hudspith in Devon @ 18:19 on Jul 15 2007

Great to hear from Terl as always. Top man, and what a great example of how to master your craft, rise to the top of your game in the world's eyes (John Paul Jones - they don't come much bigger than him in rock music) AND stay grounded and close to the Lord. Here's to many more years of superb drumming and percussion from him!

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