“It’s not just making it loud; it’s making it sing.”
What’s it like for you on stage?
“It’s what I do. I’m whole when I’m playing. Whatever I do in the meantime to pay my bills doesn’t really count. The drum riser: it’s the best seat in the house. I can see everyone. I like to pick out individual faces and play for each of them for a little while. Everybody’s all real close; everything’s hot and sweaty. Lights are flashing; everybody’s moving together.”
“I’m trying to keep track of what’s going on in the song that I’m playing. I hope I’m on beat, and I’m trying to connect with the people, trying to hold down the bottom end. I try to keep the drums out of the way of the vocals. Drumming and singing is one of those independent coordination things that takes a lot of practice–for me anyway. To try to get that down and not over play—it’s all part of building a balance.”
What is a drummer’s role in a band?
“Let me clear up a few misconceptions. They say that the drummer’s role is to make sure that everyone else is in time and hitting their notes at the right spot. I would vehemently disagree. I would tell you that the drum set is a separate instrument. Okay. And yes we keep the beat, but everybody else has got to have that beat going on in their heads at the same time.”
“I play my instruments to fit the mood of the music. It’s important that what you play is musical. It’s more than just banging out 1-2-3-4.”
What’s the musical part of the drums?
“All the different voices that you can get out of any given instrument. It’s not just making it loud; it’s making it sing. The right stick. The right attack. It all gets technical…”
“Each drum should have a character, but it needs to blend. It’s the whole voice of the kit that people are going o be listening to. They’re not going to be listening to this tom, or that tom tom, or whether the snare is just right. The overall kit—that’s a production thing, but it has to happen on stage first, before you get it in the studio, or make it sound good around the house.”
“A lot of the times in my daily practice, I’ll intentionally go slowly and softly on some of the regular drum parts, and that teaches control. Then I get back up to speed while still maintaining that same level of control. I’m trying to flip the beat around—trying to find a different groove, a different texture for the songs that we do. I’m not really changing the tempo per se. The count remains the same, but I might change up where the accents go. It keeps things fresh.
“Also, I practice the songs that we do, try to keep ’em clean and eliminate extra notes. Metronome practice is really important. If you have a metronome or click track that you can set to each song’s tempo, [you’re]fine-tuning that internal clock that we all have.”
What do you love about rehearsal?
I know you love it; I’ve seen it.
“Hooking up with my mates man. They’re like my second family. Rehearsing is part of the gig. It’s something you have to do if you want to progress. Anytime I get a chance to sit down with a kit, that’s a good day. I had a set in my basement I was banging around on in my spare time. I had to sell them, so now, what I got is my rehearsal kit, my concert kit, and the studio kit. I don’t have my house kit anymore. It’s a hole, [but] band-wise, family-wise, I’m in a really good place right now. I live like a poor person, but I’m quite rich–intellectually, spiritually, and musically.”
“This week is going to be a busy week. Tomorrow is a busy night: rehearse, pack. We should be ready to hit the road Tuesday. Wednesday is tie up loose ends, and then Thursday at oh-dark-30, we hit the road in a caravan to Montana. We are the shipped-in regional talent, the headliner.”
Who do you listen to?
“I listen to guitar players. I like Jeff Beck. I like Joe Satriani. I like Steve Vai. I like people who are able to arrange music in a musical fashion and make it work; I don’t care what they play. I have my influences: Buddy Rich, John Bonham, and ten-thousand other guys that I can’t name. I consider myself an American ethnic drummer. I’m a product of my culture. I don’t deny it, and I’m kinda proud of it actually. What I play is American music, and that goes back to the slavery days, early jazz, gospel. It’s evolved to this point.”
“I choose to express myself in the rock idiom. I’m a rock drummer. This Celtic thing is new and kinda came at me out of the blue, [but] it’s great stuff. It struck a nerve. . . I really like what we’re doing here. The project is … the Angus Mohr project: it comes along nicely.”