Since training at the Royal College of Music in the 1980s, I have always reached beyond the traditional, embracing new instruments and genres whenever the opportunities present themselves.
I have worked with many of the country’s leading orchestras, early music groups and in London’s West End, spending several years playing timpani with English Touring Opera, drums and percussion with the New Shakespeare Company at Regent’s Park, tuned and electronic percussion with contemporary classical ensemble ICEBREAKER and for the last twenty-five years, just about anything you can hit with a stick for Rambert Dance Company, composing, arranging, playing piano, harmonium, musical saw, electronics and stepping in as Musical Director for them when required. I regularly work at Shakespeare's Globe theatre, the National Theatre and as a deputy for west end shows like The Lion King.
Also active in the jazz world, I've toured and recorded with the Homemade Orchestra, the Avalon Trio, MooV and for many years with acclaimed saxophonist Tony Woods, engineering and co-producing the two most recent Tony Woods Project albums Wind Shadows and Hidden Fires at my studio in West London.
In 2014, I was approached to take over as Musical Director for the London run of the Royal Shakespeare Company productions Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. This required me to learn enough cimbalom to play about fifty short cues and a couple of long ones. Although I had the use of the RSC cimbalom (an elderly Schunda), I decided to follow a long held dream and buy one of my own. Thanks to eBay.de, I found one in Munich that a very good friend inspected, bought and shipped for me. Since then, I have become increasingly devoted to the instrument, and in 2018 I drove to the Bohak workshop in Slovakia to buy a new one. Largely self taught, I recently travelled to the Czech Republic to study with virtuoso Marcel Comendant and plan to see him more in the coming months. Since that first run with the RSC, I have recorded cimbalom parts at London's Abbey Road, Air Lyndhurst, Maida Vale and also Vada Studio in Warwickshire, and I have contributed to the BBC radio productions War and Peace and The Master and Margarita, the Chichester Festival Theatre production of Fiddler on the Roof, the Shakespeare's Globe collaboration with the British Film Institute Play On! Shakespeare in Silent Film, and four tracks for Paul McCartney's Egypt Station. 2018 also saw my first Háry János - Kodaly's orchestral suite with heavily featured cimbalom.
The cimbalom is a beast to move and takes an age to tune, but it's always worth it when you hear the first few notes. A sound designer once told me 'I thought I'd accidentally routed the mic through a really expensive reverb, then I realised it was just the sound of your instrument!'
In Rolling Stone, producer Greg Kurstin described the process of recording my cimbalom for Egypt Station at Abbey Road with Paul McCartney "Then we had a cimbalom musician come in to sweeten some of the songs, doubling some of the melodies. We doubled some of the piano. You can hear it on the intro to I Don’t Know. It was really, really cool."
VIBES + MARIMBA
I love playing all tuned percussion in all genres, and seem to do quite a lot of it - five years and three CDs with contemporary classical group Icebreaker, twenty five years and four CDs with the Tony Woods Project, CDs with the Homemade Orchestra, MooV, Issie Barratt, many film scores and theatre projects with Stephen Warbeck and countless Rambert projects. I occasionally give solo recitals combining vibes, marimba and electronics. A particular highlight for me was recording the xylophone on Duncan Lamont's iconic Mr Benn theme when a fresh episode was created in 2005... UK percussionists born in the 60s will get this!
A rough guide to my ever expanding instrument collection
Concert bass drum, snare drums, cymbals, wood blocks, tambourines, triangles, castanets… everything you’d expect to find on the concert platform
5 Pedal timpani
Vintage hand tuned timpani
5 octave marimba (C – C)
3 octave vibraphone (F – F)
2.5 octave soprano vibe (F - C)
3.5 octave xylophone (F – C)
2.5 octave glockenspiel (G – C)
2 octave crotales (C - C)
1.5 octave tubular bells (C – G)
1 octave cowbells (C – C high)
Various pitched gongs
Scrap (see below)
1.5 octave balafon (pentatonic)
Bass hammered dulcimer
Chromatic set of wine glasses
2 musical saws
Over many years I have gathered together a large collection of resonant scrap metal that has proved popular with composers. This includes lengths of scaffold tube that have been tuned to various pitches, some reminiscent of Gamelan scales.
Various whistles, waterphones, spring drums, flexatones, vibraslaps, ratchets, helix springs etc.
I have an extensive range of African, Brazilian, Cuban, Balkan and Asian instruments including 2 taikos.
2 Pearl DLX kits with a wide variety of toms and cymbals.
Yamaha ‘Club Jordan’ cocktail kit with custom built trolley for complete mobility.
Full range of Remo rototoms (6" - 18")
Full set of Tama Octobans.
I have many refugees from old kits, some vintage with natural skin heads, and several snare drums
Ddrum redshot triggers
Apple Logic + Mainstage
Soundcraft / JBL PA system
Photo: Miguel Altunaga
Rob Millett, maybe the most undervalued musician in London
Brian Blain, London Jazz News
Rob Millett's percussion bridges the idioms with great flair.
John L Walters, Guardian
Millett’s percussion alternates between the shimmeringly ethereal and the subtly propulsive.
Ian Mann, The Jazz Mann