Colin Currie, 38, is the percussion soloist of choice for many of today’s foremost composers, and performs with the world’s leading orchestras and conductors.
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What was your earliest ambition?
It was always music. I wrote a kind of manifesto when I was eight or nine years old: I wanted to learn 11 instruments and play in three different kinds of ensemble. Though I didn’t learn double bass and trombone, as a percussionist I have become a multi-instrumentalist.
Public school or state school? University or straight into work?
Firrhill High School, my local state school in Scotland. Concurrently with high school, I studied privately at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama – the Conservatoire of Scotland, as it’s now called. That was a crucial time for me. At 17, I switched to London and went to the Royal Academy of Music.
Who is your mentor?
Very early on I became a fan of the Swedish trumpet soloist Håkan Hardenberger. He really took my breath away. He was a massive influence. I’ve got to know him, we’ve become friends and we play together.
How physically fit are you?
I’ve always been interested in fitness, I’ve been a runner since my teens. I do half marathons – that’s my favourite distance. If I’m in good shape I feel more alert.
Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?
Neither! Hard work.
Have you ever taken an IQ test?
In what place are you happiest?
I always like going back to Scotland.
How politically committed are you?
There are certain issues that motivate me highly: education, mostly.
Do you have more than one home?
Do you consider your carbon footprint?
Very much. I really try and avoid unnecessary flights – I take the train whenever I can.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
A grand piano. And a house to put it in.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
I’m an obsessive theatregoer.
What ambitions do you still have?
I’m very thrilled with how my repertoire has developed over the years, and my ambition is to bring percussion into the mainstream and bring it to a bigger audience.
What drives you on?
The music itself. My love of music and my respect for music and my sense of how this music works.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
I’ll never forget the first time I played in Carnegie Hall; it felt surreal. I don’t know if that’s my greatest achievement. I hope there’s more ahead.
What has been your greatest disappointment?
Encountering apathy. I’ve no tolerance of apathetic people.
If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?
Disbelief. I really had no idea I would be able to have this experience, meet these amazing composers – I didn’t even think I would get to meet Steve Reich, let alone have him write me a world premiere.
If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?
I’ve always been interested in languages and journalism – and also social issues, so perhaps social work.
Do you believe in assisted suicide?
I certainly do.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
I certainly don’t.
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
Ten and a half.
‘Metal Wood Skin: The Colin Currie Percussion Festival’ is at Southbank Centre, London, until December 11; 0844 847 9934; southbankcentre.co.uk/colincurrie
Photographs: Marco Borggreve; Getty; iStock
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