Written by S. Bowyer



     Pieter Jacobus Potgieter AKA Cobus Potgieter, 29, is a musical prodigy with an interesting journey and career. He didn't start fame with a winning demo tape that landed in a producer's lap. His rise to success began with a church and lots of duct tape.

     Potgieter, born in Carnavon, South Africa, started playing the drums at 16, teaching himself, practicing hours alone. He started drums after attending an outreach program at the local church with friends, where a drummer taught him a basic 4/4 rock beat. The seed was planted, and his parents bought him a cheap generic drum kit to practice on. 

     "I was very inquisitive from a young age and wanted to understand everything. I never particularly excelled at sports or any other extra-curricular activity, and although I had a wonderful and happy childhood, I never really had a lot of confidence," Potgieter says. 

     "Long before YouTube and drum covers, I enjoyed playing the drums along to my favourite music. "

     At the age of 20, a friend urged him to play something when they went to church, so Cobus recorded a 46-second solo which he uploaded on YouTube. A year later, he couldn't sleep and went to the student church, moved their camera, and recorded 11 covers. Again he uploaded them to YouTube, calling them the Overhead Series.  Here is the Angel and Airwaves song, The Gift, from this series. Very simple quality, but the videos started to get noticed by YouTubers. 


Potgieter uses the original tracks, but strips the drum section out of the song, to replace it with his own interpretations.

      "I can’t remember exactly where I heard about it for the first time but I remember finding out about YouTube before most of my fellow South Africans did, mostly because broadband access in South Africa at that stage was very limited and very expensive, making it very difficult for a video-sharing website to gain traction," Potgieter says. 

      "Even though I was quite a shy and introverted guy, there was something inside me that responded to the possibility of performing for people – from the comfort of my room, in a very controlled way. "

     As Cobus's videos became more popular, he began to video-log his life, as well as show his studio setups. Later on his videos were produced in professional studios, however, in the earlier years he began in more homemade settings, where he filmed and uploaded content himself. The following video shows his ingenius use of duct tape, tables, alternate camera tripods and overhead projectors used creatively. 



     "Teaching myself production techniques has made me a much better drummer, especially in terms of sound. These days, 95% of the time if people hear you play, it is via a recording of some sort. Having some basic knowledge of recording and mixing is invaluable in today’s age of easy recording and publishing. It helps enormously in attaining your ideal drum sound," Cobus reflects.

     Potgieter has received criticism for his work. Some people said he played without emotion, or was too intellectual, rather than felt the music. However, his video of This Is War is a indirect defense, showing a very empassionated drummer perform this part of the Nexus series, filmed during 2010. 



     Cobus's choices of songs range from heavy metal, to pop such as Mmmbop, and included a 4-video tribute to Michael Jackson. His fan's most favourite pop covers is Kelly Clarkson's My Life Would Suck Without You. Oftentimes, he selects songs that aren't traditionally drum-tracked songs, such as Freestyler by Bomfunk MCs.

      “I don’t like rock elitists,” he says. “People who say, ‘Man, don’t cover *NSYNC because it’s a crap band,’ that’s not my vibe. If it’s fun to play, then it’s fun to play. It’s as easy as that.”



     "I love heavy rock music, with honest lyrics and soaring choruses. I also really like groovy and funky music, folk rock, I love some pop music, a little hip hop, I really like metal and post-hardcore. Even though everything has its time and place in moderation, I don’t really like superficial and thin music. I like thick and heavy grooves and songs, music with weight.," he says.

     During 2012, after Cobus wrote many tracks of his own, he launched the YouTube Band Project, where he was to select musicians from submitted auditions to take on roles in the band, later named Ventura Lights. Fans posted over $500,000 through Kickstarter, which paid for musicians chosen to be flown over to record together. Four were chosen from 450 to record with Cobus. They were Justin Hicks (vocals), Bear Rose(guitar), BJ Bryant (voice/guitar) and Evan Collins (Bass). Their adventure from being chosen to releasing the album was featured on Cobus's YouTube channel, followed by thousands. The album, Up Here, was recorded wtihin a month, and released successfully during 2013 on iTunes, gaining mostly 5 star ratings.



     During 2014, Potgieter announced he was returning to drum covers. after taking a year's break for putting together Ventura Lights. He released the Quadrum series on YouTube, which features 5 of his new releases.

     Cobusmethod.com also sells a collection of DVDs where Cobus teaches his drumming skills to others. The training system is said to teach by-ear drumming, as he never learnt via sheet music either. He also inspires the audience to make their own songs and write unique drum parts, as well as typical drum skills all musicians want to learn. The website boasts the DVDs will play a big part in making complete beginner to experienced drummer, and offer money back if customers are not satisfied. The Ultimate Edition pack, which ships to your door is currently sold-out, however the online edition sells for $127. 

     Since his humble beginnings, Potgieter has received sponsorship deals with DW Drums, Sabian Cymbals, Samsan Microphones, Promark Drums and Evans Drum Heads. As of May, 2014, he boasts 155 video uploads, 146,928,629 views on his videos on YouTube, and 487,400 subscribers. He is one of the top 100 subscribed to musicians on the video site.

     Potgieter has since performed besides 2Cellos, Iago Pic Freire (Spanish music producer), and Maria Aragon. He also travelled to American during 2011 to attend the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) clinics. Drum channel in the US featured his adventures and gave him US presence. In 2010 he got in contact with American producer/musician, Tyler Ward, who he later worked with on Flo Rida's Club Can't Even Handle Me Right Now

      With all this sucess in mind, it's surprising for people to find out that Cobus never took a lesson with a drum teacher. He is self-taught. He used the Internet to find every free article and video he could, as well as listening/watching drummers of famous bands and how they played. Drumlessons.com make a strong case for having a teacher for those who wish to use drums, however, they state: 

     "Here is also a very important aspect of drumming that a teacher can’t do for you – developing your own voice behind a drum set. Cobus Potgieter really worked on this aspect of his drumming, and is actually one of the most important things in making him that much unique."

      "By working on different ideas he heard on his head, or just things he though sounded cool, really helped him being able to cater to what his own head wanted to do, freeing him up to act so naturally and effortlessly when playing along to music."


     We've all heard the cliche that duct tape holds the world together, but it seems Cobus and his future prodigies are living proof of it. 

      You can check out Cobus's latest endeavours at his website, http://www.cobuspotgieter.com/


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