To most people Louis J. Pinto is known as Gumby, a musician on his way to cementing his name in our entertainment industry’s music history, if he hasn’t done so already that is. When he was starting out as a wee lad dreaming about thrashing his drums amongst the best of them, he couldn’t have imagined that he was going to become a household name and considered as Pakistan’s top drummer by most, if not all.
His growing recognition and relevance is best exemplified by the fact that everyone from my grandmother to my three-year-old nephew, who upon the airing of episode one of Coke Studio season 3 tried to gain his parents’ attention by shouting: “Mama, mama look Gumby, Gumby,” knows his name. Add to that the fact that he thrashes the sofa trying to create a beat, or attempting to emulate Gumby, shows that he inspires young and old alike.
Gumby recently added another notch to his growing stature by opening up his own studio with the help of fellow musicians Omran ‘Momo’ Shafique of Mauj and Khalid Khan of Aaroh. A cozy studio located in one of the many Zamzama buildings, it is dimly lit, minimal surroundings and rather spacious. Just the way Gumby likes it. Sitting there listening to Gumby lay down drum licks for a new track he has been working on, you just get the feeling that in its short span of time this studio’s walls must have witnessed some awesome jam and recording sessions.
Getting to this stage in his career, where he wants to start producing albums and songs for artists, and create music that is unique hasn’t been easy. Gumby says that “while most people are taking breaks or out partying, I stay in and try to come up with new sounds and try to expand my musical horizon.” However he doesn’t believe he is missing out on anything. From our brief conversation before he turned back to focus on his mixers and drums, it was easy to decipher that this is what he has always wanted.
Most rock stars are often accused of being consumed by the eternal “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll” cliché. However, there are artists who are dedicated solely to their music, leaving sex and drugs behind to focus on rock n’ roll. In Pakistan Gumby is the epitome of this.
“There is so much music out there and so much room to evolve your music and learn from others. I’d rather push my musical boundaries than just be content with my achievements so far,” Gumby says of his ambitions.
While he still wants to grow as a musician and recording artist, his accomplishments to date are nothing to forget. Gumby is perhaps the most recorded musician in the country, considering he sits in on recording sessions with a wide range of bands and artists evidenced in the fact that he has been recorded on at least seven different artists’ albums over the span of this past year. Bands such as Kaavish, Jal, Mekaal Hasan Band, Ali Azmat and Zeb & Haniya are just to name a few. Add to that the tours, concerts, recordings he has had with Junoon, Noori and Norwegian band Fryd, and you can see there is no measure to a man consistently trying to progress and better his skill.
However, he feels that he still needs to give back to his country in some other way apart from creating music. Gumby had opened drumming workshops at a time to teach kids the art of channeling your emotions and frustrations through music and drums. Even though that may have gone dormant now, Gumby still lends a willing hand to someone he sees with potential, or passion. Presently Gumby, the drumming maestro, has an apprentice who he claims has a lot of talent and passion for the drums. Throughout our series of conversations, Arif, Gumby’s protégé, sits quietly observing Gumby and taking mental notes, in what might be a significant time for him learning from one of the best drummers around.
Gumby’s own career has also been marred by certain events which have lead him to where he is today. Perhaps the most talked about one is his fallout with Noori, where Gumby says that it was “immaturity on both our parts that it happened.” That is evident when you see them jamming on Coke Studio seasons 2 and 3. A lot of people have recently labeled that as a reunion, however Gumby is quick to denounce that, “it’s not a reunion, no way. I read on some forums and sites that people are calling it that whereas it is actually just us working for Rohail (Hyatt). Plus Jafri isn’t there either, if it was a reunion then it should be all four of us on a separate platform. This is Coke Studio is what it is.”
While Noori did give him the initial publicity, something he tries to shy away from, it is his skill that has gotten him this far. His public life is not very different from his private. In fact it is all about music and always has been. Socially Gumby has a few friends he mingles with, but apart from that it is all about his drums and has been since he was a child and had to make a tough choice.
A decision which changed his life was when he dropped out of school and decided to follow his dream of playing music at a very young age. Most kids’ parents would disown them if such a topic came up. However Gumby, who might have been a psychologist or sociologist should he had continued school, says that “a lot of parents don’t understand that. If their child has a dream or the will to do something then support it. It is our social structure and poor child psychology that gets in the way. You see people obliged to become bankers or lawyers or doctors, which might be fine, but what if they had a dream that was a little away from the norm and had to be suppressed?”
Continuing with his best impression of Freud, Gumby goes on, “If we go out now and walk around you will see all these little fourteen-year-old hired help taking care of kids.” His claim that the one on one child, parent connection seems to be diluted in present times is surely evidenced as it is indeed on display as soon as we step out of his LJP studios onto main Zamzama.
It is Gumby’s observational skills that have perhaps made him this analytical about his surroundings. For years of being told that either he wasn’t good enough, or being labeled as a marasi and questions about his livelihood made Gumby into a determined figure in pursuing his passion. He has come as far as to open a studio where not long before our meeting he had Ali Azmat over playing around with a track they want to lay down together. “We form a solid team in the studio, Momo (Omran) and I. I have a temper sometimes but that gets balanced out with his patience. Plus we learn a lot from each other, I’m still learning about the production process as it is slightly harder for a drummer and someone who hasn’t studied it.”
For a diminutive man, Gumby, who jokes and says “some people had recommended I become a jockey,” has a lot of determination and will to succeed. His temper and emotions have helped him thus far so that he doesn’t get taken for a ride in a cutthroat business. It also helps him channel his feelings into his drum kit so that he doesn’t seem too detached from the song or performance. Through his sticks he provides his drums with a beat and sould of its own. His zeal for new and old music is eternal, and if it stays that way then soon the name Gumby won’t only be synonymous with a green clay animation character, but with a drummer who has so far defeated all odds to rise to the top.
Gumby’s favourite things:
Favorite band: “Has to be Van Halen. I love all kinds of music, depending on my mood, but I love listening to Van Halen. I also recently got into some Ska music which is pretty fun. Then there is of course Jazz and people like John Coltrane or Miles Davis.”
Favorite food: “I love desi food man. I love stuff like haleem, biryani and stuff, you know, spicy food. I also love sushi, there’s something about the whole raw fish with sea weed and all.”
First Drum Kit: “I bought my first kit from Sialkot actually, they use to make kits there. It was a five piece kit and I remember the tong kept rotating because of the vibration from the other drums, so it was quite an experience playing it.”
Favorite producer: (Quick to answer) “Rohail Hyatt, hands down. Fun and creative music.”
Favorite gig: “There are so many actually. I love the ones at small venues like when I played at the PACC and all. Playing at the Dunkin Donuts with the Munchkins was a lot of fun. I also enjoyed the Japan concert with Junoon. But I remember one in Lahore with Ali Azmat where we were just feeling it all night and the crowd was into the music, they didn’t want to leave, that was probably one of the best.”
Favorite free time activities: “I love playing with my niece actually. She is around a year old and that’s always a lot of fun. Obviously apart from family and the occasional sitting with friends, it is all about music man!”