DRUM! Staff Blogs
Do Whatever It Takes
To those on the outside, drummers can appear to be classic underachievers who just want to bang on a drum all day. We’re only ever seen onstage — smiling, thrashing, sweating, spinning sticks. Casual observers don’t realize those peak moments are just tiny fractions of the time we spend working on our art.
Whether hobbyists or professionals, drummers spend a lifetime practicing, investing in equipment and education, studying in school and with private teachers, learning new styles and material, cultivating professional networks, and traveling long distances to advance our careers and skills.
We also must survive. For weekend warriors that means holding down full-time jobs to subsidize the occasional gig. To pros, though, it often requires big sacrifices. That’s easier said than done. Few drummers actually make a comfortable living by only playing drums. Most piece together a monthly paycheck from a number of sources, commonly by teaching lessons or working in drum shops on the side. If you surveyed every professional drummer, you’d discover many who’ve had to take temporary or part-time jobs at times to stay afloat.
I certainly have. Before cashing in my chips to go into music journalism, I spent time working in retail, shipping and receiving, furniture refinishing, janitorial work, construction, dishwashing, deliveries — the list goes on. I took jobs in which I had no emotional investment, so that if I was offered a plum tour, I didn’t mind quitting on a moment’s notice, even if I burned a bridge on my way out the door.
It was like living two very different lives at once. During the day I was an unskilled laborer, nearly invisible to the rest of the world. At night, I was on stage in front of a packed venue, watching from the drum riser while the audience went wild. Every once in a while, those two worlds would intersect, and the results could be surreal.
For instance, there was a period in the mid-’80s when my band, The Naughty Sweeties, was between record deals. Our mangers feverishly negotiated with labels while my bandmates and I were in a strange limbo. We worked on new material and developed demos, but weren’t playing many gigs, since we expected to go into the studio at any moment. Our cash flow finally dwindled down to almost nothing, so we all got day jobs.
I found a job in a warehouse in North Hollywood. For eight hours a day, a Filipino guy named Saul and I sat at a workbench facing a bare brick wall as we stuffed handfuls of cotton into decorative pillowcases shaped like geese and bunnies. It was kind of humiliating.
We blasted the radio over speakers that ringed the warehouse throughout the day, and every so often a local station would play one of my band’s songs. It’s hard to describe the dissonance I felt at those moments. Most people driving down the L.A. freeways blasting their car radios would never have pictured the drummer they were hearing stuck in a sweaty warehouse stuffing pillows for minimum wage.
But I did what I had to do and, in retrospect, am glad that I was willing to take a bullet for the band. Within a couple months, the Sweeties got a decent record deal, cut a new album, and began gigging in earnest, as if nothing had happened. So don’t feel mortified if you have to do a day job once in a while. Be proud you’re willing to do whatever it takes. You’re just acting like a responsible adult, and I salute you for it.
Caught In The Act: Gil Sharone Kills With Marilyn Manson
Artist: Gil Sharone
Where: Santa Ana, California
Venue: The Observatory
Gil Sharone, DRUM! columnist and fierce stickman, is on tour with Marilyn Manson. Robert Downs, whose shots grace our covers frequently (such as the current shot of Richard Danielson with Vintage Trouble), was on hand October 20, 2015 to grab us these smoky images. Well done, RD.
Caught In The Act: Elijah Wood
Artist: Elijah Wood
Where: San Jose, CA
Venue: SAP Arena
Gear: Gretsch, TRX, Remo, Ahead, Gibraltar
Elijah Wood is leading a charmed life, playing on big stages across the globe at an age when most kids are still hoping to get into college. He started learning drums early, with the musical support of his dad Mark , who was a founding violinist in Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Elijah started playing drums early and by age 14 was performing with EYS (Electrify Your Strings), a youth group started by his father. A couple of years later he became the drummer for America's Got Talent (Season 9) at Radio City Music Hall. Not long after that he joined the AGT Live! Group at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. And, along the way he also became a member of Orkeystra, with Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater.
Earlier this year a recommendation from a friend landed him the drum chair in Shania Twain's comeback tour, playing before packed arenas across North America. We visited Elijah backstage when he played in San Jose, and checked out his cool Gretsch stage setup. He sits high in the air, surrounded by high-voltage electronic fireworks that look like they might incinerate the drummer at any second. But don't worry. He's leading a charmed life. [Ed. Note: Elijah appears in an upcoming issue of DRUM! Magazine.]
KoSA China Brings Music Education Overseas
KoSA China proved to be a successful, sixth annual musical event made specifically for drum and percussion enthusiasts. Produced in collaboration with China's 9 Beats Music Education Schools, a nation-wide effort involving 400 school locations throughout China, the event featured internationally renowned drummer and percussionist Aldo Mazza, who taught and performed in front of 600 Chinese drum enthusiasts alongside an international faculty of drum teachers.
Mazza is the Canada-based founder and artistic director of KoSA Music, with his wife Dr. Jolán Kovács. KoSA Music has a 20-year track record of producing high-level music camps, workshops and festivals worldwide.
The 2015 event kicked off by leaving the port city of Tianjin, China on a luxury cruise ship heading straight to Japan. Throughout the week, drumset classes were given on the ship to eager, school-aged participants. An important ingredient to the success of the 9-Beats School System is the very important teacher training seminars. These teachers were taught by this year’s faculty: Rick Latham (U.S), Pete Lockett (U.K), Izumi Koga (Japan), Dom Famularo (U.S), Chris Trzcinski (U.S), Nicholas McBride (Australia) Sam Debell (U.K) An Yu “Ryan” (China), Han Bingchen (China), and Canadian drummer Aldo Mazza.
Plans are already underway for next year’s event in China (August 2016) with a possibly bigger collaboration with the 9 Beats school directed by Mr. Li Hongyu.
Everything You Want To Know About Drum Videos
Invited by Iran’s leading drum school and online community center, sixteen-year old drummer Antoine Fadavi recently traveled to Tehran, Iran where he presented a workshop entitled “Everything You Want To Know About Drum Videos”. During the four-hour seminar Antoine discussed pre-production, production and post-production as well as how to post and promote drum videos, answered questions from the dozens of drummers in attendance.
“ ‘Everything You Want To Know About Drum Videos’ was one of an ongoing series of events presented by Iranian-Drummer.com,” says Iranian Drummer’s founder and president, Alireza Tabatabaei. “The goal of the workshop was to help Iranian drummers learn about making drum videos— a popular and increasingly important aspect of modern drumming— while encouraging them to share their drumming on YouTube and other social media.”
“I love to travel and, since part of my family is Persian, it was natural for me to want to visit Iran,” Antoine explains. “I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are so many good drummers in Iran. While the players and teachers there are somewhat limited in terms of access to drum equipment and drumming influences compared to other parts of the world, they have a wonderful attitude, a ton of support from the local drumming community and, of course, they have YouTube.”
One highlight of the hands-on clinic was the production of a video featuring well-known Iranian drummer Ashoor Moradian. Using the students as the crew, and shot using GoPro cameras exclusively, the video was filmed and edited as part of the class and then uploaded to the Iranian-drummer.com YouTube channel.