After hitting a glass ceiling in Australia, Mike Avenaim set his sights on LA, moving across the world to carve out a successful career as a musical director, drummer, producer, composer and mixer. The self titled ‘live music director’ explains why he celebrated his engagement by buying a vintage Ludwig drum, and how the AMS RMX16 500 series format inspires him to create.
Mike Avenaim is a man that wears many hats. The Australian musical director, drummer, producer, composer and mixer has directed multiple national and international tours, recorded on #1 charting tracks, has performed on stages all over the world and has appeared on Good Morning America, The View and Late Night with Seth Meyers.
Although studying classical percussion from a young age, as a teenager he only had eyes for the drums, leading him to win a scholarship to the Australian Institute of Music where he majored in contemporary performance and jazz. Eventually relocating to the USA in 2010 to focus on being a studio and touring musician has led him to pursue the career of his dreams.
“The classical thing for me growing up was not something I wanted,” Avenaim admits, speaking to Headliner from his home in LA. “My mother was really forceful in the sense of saying, if I was serious about becoming a musician, I needed real fundamentals. She's like, ‘you want to bash away on the drums – that's fine, but you need to be a classical musician at the core’. Growing up, I didn't appreciate it; I thought it was kind of a waste of my time. But as an older musician and somebody who's a music director and whatnot, having those fundamentals has been really beneficial to me.”
Being a multi-instrumentalist has helped Avenaim stand out as a musician: in addition to playing the drums he has also mastered percussion, the marimba, xylophone and vibraphone. Combined with his classical training, this has enabled the musician to carve out a successful career as a music director. On his move to the states, Avenaim feels he had reached his peak in terms of musical potential in Australia:
“Australia is a great place and it has an incredible music scene, but I always felt there was a glass ceiling,” he recalls. “I was in this position that I thought, ‘this is all I'm ever going to do if I stay here’. I had already come to the states a whole bunch of times to make records and just see what it was about. It felt like when I was here, what I was trying to achieve would be possible. It was this optimistic idea that it will all happen here. I always felt like everybody that ever wanted to achieve something bigger than what they could achieve, came here. LA just makes you feel like you can do it, and maybe that's all it is. I definitely don't think I would have what I have now had I stayed in Australia.”
Avenaim sees himself as a “live record producer” these days, although drumming is very much still a big part of everything he does.
“Over the course of time doing session work and touring, I had a desire to musically expand what I'm doing, so I ended up in the music direction. It has the best of both worlds: the production side of things, plus the live music side of things. When people ask what I do, I tell them that I'm a music director and then that obviously I play drums in most of the projects that I work on.”
It’s a curious thing that lots of musical directors are drummers, which Avenaim attributes to their natural instinct to lead an ensemble.
“A lot of people are usually looking to the drummer for the endings, the starts, the section cues and the hits,” he considers. “You just develop this ability to lead the project from that position.”