There was a chance that Paul Roebuck might have spent this summer entertaining passengers on cruise ships.
He was on the verge of applying for auditions when an e-mail dropped into his inbox last autumn. It was a note which was to change the professional musicians’s life.
For in three weeks he will perform in the greatest show on earth in front of an audience of tens of millions.
Not only is the 27-year-old playing at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, but he’ll also do the same at the one which closes them on August 12.
‘My aim for this summer was to play drums on a cruise ship – a new thing for me,’ he says in the sound-proofed, self-built studio at the top of his home in South Road, Hayling Island.
‘Then this came up. Who would turn down the chance of performing in front of 80,000 people twice and millions watching on TV around the world?
‘It’s the biggest gig you’ll ever play. Even if you’re in Metallica you’re only going to get to play in front of 60,000 at one time.’
That e-mail came from the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford, from which Paul graduated with a first in music performance last year.
So, on July 27, he’ll find himself centre stage, along with several thousand other performers, playing percussion as part of Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony extravaganza.
Paul, along with every person taking part in the event, has had to sign a pledge not to divulge the contents of the show before it begins at 9pm that night.
‘All I can say is that I’ll be playing percussion. I won’t be behind a drum kit. There will be thousands of us and if our part of it is anything to go by, it will be awe-inspiring.
‘I was late for a rehearsal one day at the Olympic Park because my train was delayed and as I got there I could here them performing and it sounded absolutely fantastic. It’s going to be brilliant.’
The contents of the show are so secret that none of the performers has a clue how the entire three-hour event will pan out.
Paul adds: ‘At the first rehearsal we were shown a video of a mock-up of how they envisaged just our segment of the show so that if anyone did speak to the press they’d only find out a little bit about it, not the whole thing.
‘We’ve now had a few rehearsals at the Olympic Park and there have been helicopters buzzing overhead with photographers trying to get pictures.’
When he first applied to take part it was as a percussionist, but at the audition ‘they just had us dancing around’.
He was offered a place as a non-instrument-playing performer not as a percussionist. ‘Then they realised I was a percussionist and asked if I still wanted to do that or stay as a performer. ‘Of course, I said I wanted to be a percussionist because essentially it’s a pretty cool thing to put on your CV.’
Born at St Mary’s Hospital, Portsmouth, Paul has spent his entire life on Hayling. He went to Mengham infant and junior schools before progressing to The Hayling School (now Hayling College).
His mother is a special needs assistant at his old infant school and he still returns there once a week to help with the after-school club he helped found when he was 14.
Today he takes them rock climbing on a wall at The Hayling College.
He studied IT and sports at South Downs College for three years and spent another three at Chichester College working with 14 to 16-year-olds with learning and behavioural problems.
‘All the kids had gone through something traumatic in their lives. We had the ones who were the bullies and the ones who had been bullied. It was challenging work but very rewarding.’
We’re surrounded by drums and the drummer’s paraphernalia in his room, so when did this all start?
‘When I went to The Hayling School in 1996 a friend of mine had started drum lessons and I thought he was really cool so I went along too.
‘It wasn’t about me being cool, I just enjoyed it. I never wanted to be a performer, I shied away from that kind of thing. Dad had got me a kit from a car boot sale and it didn’t have all the bits so I could barely play it.
‘But for my 15th or 16th birthday I got my first proper kit and I’ve never looked back.’
At South Downs he got into bands ‘playing grungy Nirvanaesque stuff’, formed his own metal band Akakios and started playing gigs at places such as the Wedgewood Rooms at Southsea.
‘It was never going to be my career, just a hobby, but the drumming just took over my life. I was into Aerosmith, the Stereophonics, The Black Crowes, Lenny Kravitz, but I was also into other things and always looking for new music.
‘Now it’s everything from avant-garde jazz, funk and soul to pop, rock, metal and big band swing. People might think that’s strange, but if I stuck to one genre I’d get bored.’
Paul, who also teaches drumming, believes he has a book in him.
‘I’ve identified a gap in the market for a book about it. I think about the form it will take every night before I go to sleep.’
And later in the year he plans to take a percussion workshop around schools in the Portsmouth area.
But that will all have to wait until he’s made a bit of a noise at the Olympic stadium later this month.
Until then you can keep up his preparations for the big night at roebuckdrums.com.