Damian Mills from Lisburn is a PhD Candidate in Music for the Performance Without Barriers research team in Queen’s University Belfast and is also a bandleader for Beatndrum Samba in Belfast. 

He is this year’s Culture Night Belfast’s Drum Loop Producer for the Ogham Grove at Writer’s Square from September 17 – 19 2021. 

How did you get started in the industry? 

I joined the Belfast Carnival Band in 1993 and never stopped playing Samba and Afro Brazilian vibes. I diversified into other genres of percussion and after a trip to Brazil in 2000 I started a community music practice.

What genre/style do you create in? 

I am a percussionist who started off in Samba but also an access Music Tutor, so I create in many styles depending on the situation.

What would you be best known for? 

My public face is at the front of drumming ensembles, locally and nationally.  Among friends and family, it’s probably “He’s doing what now?!!”.

What would you consider your biggest achievement? 

Lead drummer at “Land of the Giants” at the Titanic Dock in 2012. as part of the Olympic games London cultural legacy. I trained and performed with 200 excellent drummers as part of the story of the Titanic’s maiden voyage.

What would you consider to be the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your industry? 

Diversify your skills. Keep learning and practising and new avenues of work will open up.

What has been your biggest challenge to date? 

My current work at Queen’s University assessing virtual and extended realities as potential tools for music-making for disabled musicians.

Tell us a little about your personal life, are you married, kids, hobbies etc? 

I live in a little country house with a wonderful partner and family. I do love to host a good party.

Tell us about your most recent work? 

The Art of VR Music. (artofvrmusic.com) A website for immersive 3D interaction with art and artists, created with Artist Jamie Harper from Belfast and Online Exhibition creator Paul Marshal from Bangor. it is an immersion to the Vault Artist Studio’s Theatre space (Where I used to teach rudimentary Taiko drumming many moons ago) celebrating the work and life of some of Belfast’s artists.

What would you like us to tell people about? 

Beatndrum Samba band which is always open for new people to come to learn Samba drumming. Over 120 people have come and gone in the last 15 years and the group is still meeting every Thursday in Ormeau Park at 6:30pm. All drums provided.

If you had to describe your work to someone who has never heard of you what would you say? 

I am a percussionist and music technologist who introduces people to music-making and performance.

What’s the funniest experience you’ve had in your business? 

As a rampaging Goblin Army performance group in the Electric Picnic festival. For about 7 years I put together a group of performers for the most excellent Body and Soul Festival group. Going green and ugly and set loose with a troop of acrobats and musicians was too much fun.

What would your advice be to young people hoping to pursue the same industry? 

Make sure you get paid for what you do but don’t let life become solely about the “bread and butter gigs”, express yourselves too. Oh, and be super sound in all ways.

Anything else you want to tell people about yourself or your work?

Getting back into DJing again. In an interesting way. I am a music curator for prize-winning Cafe Dyl’s of York compiling their morning, afternoon and evening playlists.

Who do you look up to and why? 

Paul Clarvis. A super sound guy who has taken percussion collaboratively, in community and professionally as far as anyone could want to take it. 

Find out more about CNB21 by going to culturenightbelfast.com.

For more information about Damian Mills, go to eldamo.com or follow him on Twitter