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What's Your Sound — Mike Dawson

Full name: Michael Dawson
Born: West Virginia, USA
Based: New Jersey, USA
Can't leave the house without: iPhone, earphones, earplugs, drumsticks, notepad

Michael Dawson is an active New York–based drummer, educator, clinician, and managing editor for Modern Drummer Magazine, the world’s most widely read magazine exclusively for drummers. Dawson also produces and co-hosts the popular weekly podcast, The Modern Drummer Podcast With Mike and Mike, along with renowned online educator/clinician Mike Johnston.

Dawson has a bachelor’s degree in music education from West Virginia University and a master’s degree in music from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He’s a senior lecturer in music journalism at the UArts, and he operates a recording studio out of his home in New Jersey, where he tracks drums remotely for artists around the globe. Michael recently began subbing for the drumset chair in the Broadway musical The Lion King.

blacn and white photo of man drumming

Describe 'you' to our audience

I’m a lifelong musician who started with super-realistic aspirations of being a rockstar who moonlighted as a modern jazz drummer, college professor, producer, author, composer, and first-call session player. What I’ve ended up doing is working full-time as managing editor for Modern Drummer Publication while also maintaining a steady teaching/gigging/recording schedule, including subbing for the drumset chair in Lion King on Broadway, recording drums for independent artists out of my own studio, and conducting clinics and master classes at various conventions, trade shows, colleges, studios, and universities around the U.S.

Who are your biggest musical influences?

As a drummer, my biggest influences have been (in no particular order): Max Roach, Jack DeJohnette, Will Calhoun, Glenn Kotche, Matt Chamberlain, Steve Jordan, Zach Danziger, Vinnie Colaiuta, Nir Z, Shannon Forrest, Steve Gadd, Yogi Horton, Dave Grohl, Marky Ramone, Eddie Van Halen, and Chad Smith. As a producer/composer, I draw most from Brian Eno, Chopin, Radiohead, Pink Flloyd, Edgard Varese, Steve Reich, John Cage, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Stravinsky, and Susie Ibarra, just to name a few.

man standing holding drumsticks in front of drum kit


Tell us about that first moment you tried the Nuraphone.

It was somewhat surreal experience, one that gave me a full-body sensation of sitting front row at a big rock show while also presenting the super-detailed listening experience often only found within a million-dollar recording studio. Oftentimes headphones that attempt to reproduce the power and punch of a PA system sacrifice clarity and detail. Conversely, most headphones that are designed for utmost precision end up sounding a bit cold and sterile. Somehow the Nuraphone was able to serve both applications—the excitement of a live show and the accuracy of studio reference monitors—simultaneously.

Your career touches on many different aspects of music from producing to teaching, how did you carve out such a diverse career path?

I’m restless by nature, so the thought of doing just one thing for the rest of my life is unnerving. I’m a drummer/musician first, so I will always be steadfast in supporting that side of my career. Everything else I’ve done has developed out of financial necessity and creative curiosity in order to keep food on the table without sacrificing integrity as an artist.

What's your favourite track to relax to?

Anything from Brian Eno’s ambient works, Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, John Coltrane’s Ballads, anything by the Keith Jarrett Trio with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette, Warpaint’s self-titled album, or any solo piano music.

Binge watch our full What's Your Sound series here.

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