Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Questions For A Drummer

About four years ago, when I left my much loved part-time job in radio for a full-time job I didn't expect to be laid off three short months later and I was completely devastated. I was no longer part of the world I had poured my heart into for seven years and on top of that I had left my radio family for ...what? I realized that  radio wasn't my passion, music is. I felt like I had nothing, but deep down in my (broken) heart I knew I still had that.
I was un-employed and too stubborn to jump into some customer service or retail job, I wanted to be back on my career path dang it!  One of my dearest mentors suggested that I start a blog. 
That's when Sweet Sound Bites was born.  

Around the same time I met my friend Michael Pettett. He was the drummer in a local band named Spanish Cannons and I was trying to find my place in the wonderful world...of music: taking a stab at "managing/promoting" local bands. I was kind of a mess; I had no sense of belonging yet this tall, handsome, very talented young man not only befriended me but he believed in me. 

My blog is is small, it's tiny actually, but it is still a lot of work: researching upcoming shows, tracking down contact info, reaching out, hoping/praying/wishing for coverage approval, confirming a photo pass/photographer/a plus one, going to the show, taking notes about the show at the show, waiting for the photographer (if one was confirmed) to send photos after the show, editing photos, writing and trying to proof a review, putting the post together then posting it, sending the link to the contact(s) and finally sharing it on as many social media outlets possible.  Aside from friends who photograph shows when they can and friends like Michael nice enough to help me proof read reviews before they go live, I do it all on my own. There's no Sweet Sound Bites staff or list of contributors, it is mainly just me. All of that was easier to do when I wasn't working 40+ hours a week between two jobs like I do these days. So I've slowed things down a little bit on the show side of things. 

Michael and I at First City Fest 2014 

Michael has been a huge supporter of Sweet Sound Bites from the very beginning and I have been so proud to see him grow as musician over the years. His drive to go after what he wants without letting anything stop him is truly inspiring! He took time out of his rockstar-on-the-rise schedule to answer my questions for a drummer. 

Q: How long have you been playing the drums?
I have been playing the drums for 15 years. I started with the clarinet in the 4th grade and after a year realized that it definitely wasn't going to get me laid, so I chose another instrument and I chose an instrument that would become my life and my passion, the drums.

Q: Do you play any other instrument?

I dabble on guitar and vocals and if I have access some keyboard.
Q: Do you have (have you had) any interest to play any other instrument? (If so, what?)

All the instruments that I dabble in (guitar, keys, vocals) I want to improve upon immensely. I think it's really important as a musician or instrumentalist, to have as many tools on your belt as possible to stay busy and really employed because of your versatility. I'm getting there, it's just hard to find enough time to accomplish these goals.

Q: What drew you to drums/being a drummer?
My brother was playing guitar at the time that I chose to play drums, so I think that was a part of my decision making process. Really, just wanting to be different than him, and my friend Kyle was a drummer in Elementary School with me, and I was really inspired by what he was doing and his natural talent on the drums.

Q: Are you currently in a band(s)?
I am the drummer for Be Calm Honcho.

Be Calm Honcho
Q: What was the last tour you went on? What was the experience like? How does it compare to your first experience on tour?

My last tour was with BCH and it was phenomenal! Being on the road is unlike anything you can imagine. It has all the excitement and mystery of a road trip, with the company you love, and the promise of playing music for new audience and old fans. We mostly focused on the North West, but doing that same circuit over and over can get a little repetitive, so we attempted to book out shows in newer territories, mostly focusing on Eastern Washington and Oregon. That landscape is a force to be reckoned with. Most of what you'd expect with the NW is forest and greenery, when actually the Eastern side is mostly flatlands and desert, so we tackled it with open arms, and had a blast. Some of my tour experiences have been filled with ups and downs, but at the end of the day, they're all learning experiences and a chance to travel doing what I love. I hate knocking one tour over the other because not every band or musician can say they've been on tour and for that reason alone I'm thankful and grateful for the musical experiences I've been given! 

Q: How many bands have you been in?
I've been in about 6 or 7 bands total, and with each one I've gotten closer and closer to my niche. With BCH, this is the best I've felt on the drums performing in a long time.

Q: As a drummer, how much input do you have when it comes to writing songs?

It varies from song to song. A lot of my input (aside from the beat) can be song structure and order for the way things occur, however, BCH is made up of a powerful set of musicians who have a really clear idea of what they want in each song, so if anything, it's made my job a bit easier in that I'm only focused on writing incredible, nuanced drum grooves.

Q: Have your exits from bands been amicable and how do they ("usually") come about?
Again this varies. Most of my exits have been difficult and not necessarily amicable, however, I've managed to maintain my professional relationships and friendships with the musicians that I've worked with in the past. I think it's important for us as a whole network to not have bad blood, but rather support one another in our coming-ups as bands and musicians. We'll most likely be sharing a stage together at one point, let alone work together again.

Q: Who's your favorite drummer and why?
Jason McGerr from Death Cab for Cutie. He single handedly taught me the value in simplicity yet maintaining beauty and perfection to add to each song. His drumming still blows my mind listening to their records and watching him perform live.

Q: What drummer(s) inspire you?
This could an essay in itself, but I'll try to narrow my focus. As I mentioned before, Jason McGerr, but beyond that, Steve Gadd, Dave Garibaldi, Sheila E., Carter Beauford, John Bonham, Jack White and many others. These kinds of lists are hard because I feel like they never reflect a true collective of my inspirations, but ask me in person, and we can get deep.

Q: In your opinion who's the best drummer ever?
I'd say John Bonham, but honestly, there's too many genres and too many facets to being "The BEST Ever".

Q: If you could play drums for any band, what band would it be and why?
Death Cab for Cutie. Again, Jason is my biggest influence, so it would make the most sense, but an immediate neck and neck second, would be Jack White. I would love to work with him one day, just to know what it's like to see his process.

Q: What's the best show you've been to so far this year?
The Decemberists at The Greek Theatre in Berkeley will be really hard to beat. They always floor me with their stage presence and ability to visually stun the audience every single time!

Q: What the best show you've EVER been to? (top 5 if t's too hard to pick 1 :)) 
1. Bon Iver
2. Death Cab for Cutie 
3. The National 
4. David Bryne & St Vincent
5. Mumford & Sons 

Q:  Best album so far this year?

Yikes. Kintsugi from Death Cab, but I don't wanna sound like a broken record (pun intended), so possibly Wilder Mind, by Mumford & Sons. I was really blown away by their change in direction and impressed with their new sound.

Q: Do you have a day job?
Yes. But it's flexible and allows me to continue to pursue my music!

You can, and should, go see Michael do what he does best, besides being a great guy and a good friend that is! Be Calm Honcho will be at Brick and Mortar here in SF on August 13th before they hit the road for their next tour

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