Connor Jackson, 21, is the drummer for Leeds’ new indie rock band, Common Dogs. Born in the UK and raised in Malaysia, his love for music began at an early age. Now in his second year at Leeds Beckett University, studying Sports Therapy Connor spends most of his spare time sat behind a drum kit.
I was born in Croydon in South London where I lived for two months as a baby. My Dad is from Essex and my Mum is Malaysian, after they met they stayed in the UK and had my brother and me, before moving back to Kuala Lumpur and having my little brother and sister.
Dad would take us on a lot of road trips when I was little and he’d play music from Motown to Santana. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I think these trips had a lot to do with my growing interest in music. In Year Six everyone had to take up a new skill; I chose the drums, and that’s where it all started. I never considered playing anything else, I just feel like the drums fit my personality. In Year 11 I was in a band, I don’t think we even had a name, but we covered bands like Fall Out Boy, Good Charlotte and Papa Roach.
My dad used to take me to pubs when I was a teenager to play drums with his mate’s band. When he saw me and my siblings take up instruments he decided to start playing the drums. I helped him learn a little bit. Even though he was in his 50s, I don’t think it was any harder for him to pick up than it would have been if he was 18; it’s one of those things which you have the potential to be really good at if you just put in the time. I think it takes less time to become really good at drums than it does to become really good at guitar.
Malaysia’s city centre is really built up. It’s special though because you can drive 45 minutes and you’ll be standing at the bottom of a beautiful waterfall. Most people where I come from come to the UK for uni because our universities are pretty crap, to put it bluntly. Sports Therapy appealed because it’s a middle ground between sport and biology. The reason I didn’t choose a music based course was because I don’t believe it actually improves your playing ability. I have a passion for sports, although I don’t support any particular team. I’m happy to turn on the TV and watch anything, just like I’m happy to listen to most genres of music.
I actually got into Common Dogs by having a cigarette outside halls in my first weeks at uni. I met a couple of guys there who introduced me to Jack Dean, a guitarist for the band at the time. He mentioned they needed a drummer but it wasn’t until after Christmas that we actually jammed together. We had three guitarists, a bassist and a drummer so all these guitars were clashing and it just didn’t sound right. Jack began thinking about quitting university, leaving Leeds and going solo. When he left, having one less guitar was a noticeable improvement. Jack Chandler sings our stuff, James Lee is on bass and Liam Andrews plays guitar. I’ve never tried singing but imagine it’s a lot more nerve racking because you’re so vulnerable to peoples’ judgements. The guys tell me they don’t get nervous before a gig and I believe them, I do get a bit anxious but then calm down after the first song is over and I can really get into it.
We practice in the studios above the library at university, sometimes we will practice seven days a week. Because all the other guys in the band are doing a music course, they have full access to the studios, whereas I can only use it if they’re with me since I’m doing a sports course. It annoys me because I do take my music seriously and it means it’s just harder for me to keep at the same level as the rest of the band. I’m trying to play at the same level as my bandmates and I’m not even allowed to use the same facilities at my university. I think soon I’m going to have to start renting out music studios because the uni have made it clear they don’t want non-music students, however serious, using their studios for free.
Chandler knows a lot of people in the music scene here so we get a lot of gigs through that. We have also played in St Helens and Nottingham which surprised me because I never imagined we would be playing anywhere outside of Leeds, not in our first year anyway!
Recently, I watched a documentary about Ginger Baker. It blew my mind. He is he craziest person you will ever meet, telling people to fuck off and just doing whatever the hell he wants. He made music that was so different for his time. The minute I heard Cream I began to love music in a different way. Travis Barker is another musician I love and would probably say is one of my influences. I like to listen to and play all different genres of music to mix it up and improve my own skill as a musician.
My Dad follows a band back home whose guitarist is known as the Malaysian Santana. I spent a lot of time over this summer with the band’s conga player who helped me with really intense drum lessons. He taught me a whole new depth to the drums, so I was happy when I came back in September and the guys told me I had improved immensely.
My hope is that we will build momentum and tour Europe in a few years. We all definitely want the same things for Common Dogs’ future. Right now, we’re writing songs for a new EP and they’re a massive improvement on the stuff we were doing eight months ago. It’s the next step for our band, hopefully one of many more to come.