Jean-Pierre Didier Bouvet of Lakeville, MN is definitely someone to keep an eye out for. JP, as most people call him, won the Guitar Center Drum Off in January, beating over 4,500 contestants for the number one spot. He is currently taking some time off from Berklee to ride the publicity wave of his big win, and while he may not be studying for finals this semester, JP certainly is not slacking off. Future plans include building his website, setting up clinics, and going on tour with Berklee band Helicopria.
EL: Tell us a bit about your background, how did you get started in music?
JP: My mom has always been the music director in church. She plays piano and sings very well, so music was always around. I’m not sure what sparked my fascination with drums honestly, but I used to play on pots and pans with chopsticks when I was a kid, and then it got to the point where I started to break them. I took (lessons) with the same teacher for seven years and I learned a lot from him and he’s still an inspiring person today. He was such a fantastic mentor. We worked on everything, from every genre, and I think that’s where my appreciation for everything music kind of comes from. I joined my first rock band with Mike Linden in the 6th grade, and he’s my roommate today actually. We still play in a band together called the Super Pilots that we started here at Berklee.
EL: Congratulations on winning the Guitar Center Drum Off. How did you prepare for the challenge and keep your focus throughout?
JP: Well I’m a huge advocate of preparation. Because I’ve done it like five or six years now on and off throughout my life … I didn’t think much about it … and then luckily without thinking about it too much I got through to that first round. Then … it sort of dawned on me that “there’s no reason why I can’t win this,” like I actually believed that it was possible. There was a moment where I was like “oh, I should give this my all this year ‘cause this could be it.” From that point on I was just obsessed. And pretty much every day, all day, whenever I wasn’t doing school work or practicing with the band, I was in the practice room, thinking about what I was gonna play. Everyone kind of does the same thing for the competition usually … and I wanted to bring some interesting things to the table. And a lot of the stuff I’d kind of been working on anyway, just challenging myself, so it was cool to be able to put them to use somewhere.
EL: What motivates you?
JP: The second that I believed that I could I just gave it my all. It’s (the Drum Off) often times a life-changing event for the winners. It gives you a jumpstart almost 2 years, and the publicity is huge. I mean besides being a cool experience and a fun challenge and an opportunity to sort of prove yourself among this ridiculous drumming community, it’s just … this is what I want to do for a living, and this has been an opportunity to sort of give myself a head start. That was really the main reason, because I know a lot of the guys who have won in the past, and they attribute the biggest turning point in their lives to being the Drum Off.
EL: How do you think it has changed your life so far?
JP: Well it’s really hard to tell because it’s really just beginning at this point. Some winners have gotten calls from people to go on tour, but it’s really what you make of the publicity, because as far as being … your own business as a drummer, the only ingredient is that you’re good at drums and that people know who you are. So you can work on the drums all you want but the hardest part is just getting people to know you exist. This is just a huge step in that way. If someone calls to go on tour that’s cool, but those things are very time limited: a tour ends. So that would be cool but that’s not my ultimate goal, it’s just to keep building my brand. And I basically have a year because next year they’ll have another winner and I’m basically out of the spotlight.
EL: What is your number one priority at the moment?
JP: I don’t think there’s just one single thing because I’m trying to keep several things moving at the same pace. There’s me and there’s me in Helicopria. I’m trying to push them both and use all the connections and all the publicity that I’ve been able to gather but keep them separate. And my goal for myself personally is to set up as many clinics as possible for this year and just meet as many people as possible, start to gather a real face-to-face following with people. I just really enjoy when someone says “Hey, that was inspiring.” I just put my new website up, gonna be building that up for the next year … and I started this blog … just keep in people’s eyes and ears and keep building the brand.
EL: So what are you up to now? Are you in school?
JP: I am in Boston; I just got back here yesterday, because I was in Nashville for a couple of days. I’m here for at least a year, and I did take the semester off. My return date is undetermined at this point, but Berklee is very special to me. I’ll always be connected to it but I’m not sure as to my future at the school. In time, maybe in a year or so, I’d like to move to L.A., because being there for most of January … it was really enlightening. It just has become obvious that that it the center of the universe.
EL: Where do you hope to be in five years?
JP: That I have stayed on the map, because a lot of drum off winners remain present and some sort of fall out of the public eye. I want be sort of a clinician pro, simply because I like sharing. I want people to call me for clinics and drum festivals, and then I want my website to be a happening place. I wanna keep doing the blog, I love doing the blog. I would like to by that time have worked with some big artists. And mainly just have a steady stream of exciting adventures to go on, whether it’s world tours, studio sessions, playing on video games … anything and everything. And I’m hoping that in five years Helicopria is touring the world and everyone loves us. That would be ideal.