Interview: Adam and Mark from WaterBear

First of all, how long have you known each other, and where did you meet? ADAM: “I Met Mark at BIMM in the early days, Mark was the college Manager and I was the head of drums back in 2002, we’ve known each other now for 16 years.” WaterBear is a fantastic idea, how did it come about? Please tell me that you were all drunk one night and someone said… ”I’ve got a good idea…”! ADAM: “Sorry to disappoint but we weren’t all drunk! Along with Bruce John Dickinson, we’ve known each other for a long time, working together at BIMM, ACM, We found ourselves in a position whereby we were available to do something new together, we knew that we liked working together, we got on well and the three of us made a good team. It was the obvious thing to do. We did feel that there was a gap in the market to do something fresh and exciting, having had all the previous experience.” MARK: “The key factor for all of us was it should be about the individual and that’s something we felt had been lost at other institutions. It’s about looking after the individual and their career goals and introducing them to the industry along the way.” How hard was it to get off the ground logistically? Was it difficult to get funding? ADAM: “From my perspective not at all. We came together with a firm plan and the investment team were very supportive from the outset so it was something that went through with hardly any problem. I think that’s because we could articulate quickly and clearly how strong a proposition it was. With anything you’re trying to get investment for, a big part of it is having a strong track record and between us, we’ve feel we’ve got that one covered.” MARK: “Between us, this is college number 6 we have set up so we know exactly what we want with laser precision in terms of how it’s going to look and feel.” ADAM: “I think getting a BT phone line in was the hardest thing so far!” Who else will be involved on a day-to-day basis when WaterBear launches in September? ADAM: “We recently announced that Rasha Shaheen and Tom Stevens will be joining us in August. Rasha will be the MA Programme Manager and Tom will be the BA (Hons) equivalent. Both are highly experienced musicians and educators. Also recently announced is Frank Turner as the WaterBear Patron which is very exciting for us. We are really proud of the whole team we have put together – all biogs can be found on the website.” MARK: “We’re really excited about Rob Chapman too who will be WaterBear’s Director of Innovation and Guitar. Rob has an incredible reach on youtube and is a highly regarded guy who’s forged this incredible career. We are privileged to have him onboard in the capacity of consulting, reviewing the guitar programme, creating content, and advising so we can hone the guitar course and make it completely relevant. We’ve got lots of brilliant people. We are currently talking to and approaching other musicians so watch this space!” Is there a set goal/plan with WaterBear, “By the end of year one we should be in this position”, or is it a case of let’s see where it takes us? MARK: “For me, it’s about the students, that’s why we’re doing it, so yes, absolutely. By the end of year one when the MA students finish, it’s going to be very rewarding for all of us to be able to see those students expand their careers and do what they want to do and that’s the exact reason they are coming to us in the first place so this is one of our main goals.” ADAM: “As Mark said, the focus has always been on the individual and small class sizes. We want to make sure WaterBear can do what it promises it can do in terms of support for each and every student that comes here. We do have a plan – we just want it to be the best not in terms of 1000’s of students but in terms of quality.” MARK: “Quality and community.” With the whole minefield of student debt, in what way will a potential student receive funding? MARK: “We partnered with the University of Chichester because we wanted to make sure that the qualifications will be internationally recognised. Through this partnership it means both MA and BA students can access student loans.” ADAM: “People that invest in their future are investing in career development. We believe this investment must be practical and career focused from the outset. The whole package at WaterBear is more of an intensive career development approach.” You’ve all had years of experience in the music business, and no doubt made some mistakes along the way. It will be crucial for others to learn from these. What was the biggest mistake you made? MARK: “The biggest mistake I made, which I see a lot of musicians doing is rushing into things. It’s not sitting back and taking stock and thinking, is this the right decision. Everyone seems in a rush to get a manager, get an agent. A Lot of times when you make those decisions, they can become the wrong decisions because you haven’t sat down and thought about it. My key advice to those musician is to slow down.” ADAM: “For me, in my early music career, I was too fatalistic about things, leaving things to chance. I wound up being on the wrong end of a sacking in a band I was working with which was quite hurtful. I really thought this band was going to be the answer to my prayers but looking back I didn’t take enough control of my own destiny so to go back and give advice to my younger self I’d say go into everything with your eyes open and don’t pretend it’s all just going to happen for you and something is better than it actually is. . Be real about things. This is why we are here now. Shared experience. And we’re still out there and doing it.” MARK: “I think that’s really important too, the difference between us and other music colleges is we’re not hypothetical, we’re practical. We’re never going to say to you “imagine what it would be like to play a gig” what’s the point in doing that, it has to be practical.” Steven Van Zandt said that he felt bad for bands today, with the internet and YouTube, bands can put music out there before really learning their craft, meaning they run the risk of getting slaughtered before they have a chance to grow. Would you agree? MARK: “It comes back to what I said about bands rushing into things, it depends what the bands want to do . Something Bruce talks about a lot is The power of a song. The power of a song can cut through industry difficulties, depending on who the band is, when they launch, the reason we do our course, and work with industry mentors is to make sure students get the right advice.” ADAM: “It’s about giving people the best chance possible. Bands have always been slaughtered for what they do – there is nothing new there! I don’t agree that it is a bad thing that bands can get their music heard, It’s out of your control whether people are going to like it or not but what you can control is the quality of product and now you’ve got a fantastic vehicle to getting it heard other than having to go through a record company. As long as you’re taking control over the quality of your product then I think it’s a good thing.” Can you teach someone to keep their feet on the ground when people all around them are raising their expectation levels? MARK: “Absolutely – this is something we are very keen and big on, dealing with mindfulness. I’ve walked out on stage and played to 100 thousand people and been the same person as I am now talking to you right now as when I come off stage. It’s a case of understanding there is a persona of when you play live but there’s also a persona for interviews or whatever you may need to be but you’re still the same person underneath.” ADAM: “Ultimately it is down to the individual and their strength of character. Be real and don’t get carried away – remember that things always change.” Depression and mental health issues within musicians is sadly an issue that will never go away. Is there anything that you can do, as mentors and teachers, to help raise awareness? MARK: “Absolutely. Depression and anxiety can often go hand in hand with high creative output and can be prevalent amongst musicians. What’s changed a lot recently is that it’s now ok to say “I suffer from this” and be more open about it. We have plenty of support networks in place for our students. Depression is not a dirty word. It’s a case of identifying it and taking the appropriate steps.” ADAM: “It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Our approach to mindfulness and mental health is to make it available to everyone. It’s like a top athlete would always have a coach to get the extra 3% out of their body. We want to do that with everyone. And we will make sure that anyone that is suffering with more serious issues gets access to the help and support they need.” Does the conveyor belt of TV talent shows have anything to answer for? ADAM: “I think so as it’s changed everything so quickly. But for every person that doesn’t like it and thinks Simon Cowell is the devil incarnate, there are a lot of people making careers out of it. It’s an area of the business that works for some. That said, it’s not our cup of tea and not something WaterBear is training people to do. We are more from the school of thought of developing musicians to progress in a more conventional way working towards longevity and building those foundations. Not a quick fix 5 min flash in the pan approach. The music business has changed drastically over the last few decades, streaming etc. But the return to a more DIY approach, ie selling albums on the merch desk, can only be a good thing?” MARK: “I think so, it has changed and will continue to change. It’s still about music. Just because people aren’t buying records anymore it’s made certain parts of the industry richer. There’s more power to the artists now and we agree with that.” How vital is social media to, not only yourself, but to fledgling artists as well these days? ADAM: “It’s super-important. Its the world we live in now.” MARK: “Fans want to be part of everything you do. We’re not in the days where say Led Zeppelin could walk out and say Here’s our new record. Fans are with you now through the whole journey and everything you do has to be on social media.” ADAM: “If you aren’t on social media now, you’re conspicuous by your absence. You have to make sure you’re engaging with it, as difficult and awkward as that might be sometimes.” MARK: “Your fans must be part of your journey.” Lastly, a quick Google tells me that water bears are the only animals that can survive in space! Is that why you chose the name! MARK: “We chose the WaterBear because it’s resilient. We’re finding out more and more about it all the time and just yesterday we found out that scientists have only just discovered that they are so resilient, they have the ability to turn their bodies into glass which means they can survive for 30 years and then revive themselves. They can survive in space. They can’t drown and even if the sun goes out, they will still survive.” ADAM: “For a careers in the music industry we are all about building WaterBear-style resilience!” Cheers guys, and best of luck! WaterBear courses start in September 2018. For more information, visit the official website  Header image: From left to right: Mark Clayden, Adam Bushell & Bruce John Dickinson Rob Chapman image: Paul Harries]]>

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