DRUM! Staff Blogs
An Open Letter To Cheapskates
Dear pop icon, country superstar, or rap mogul,
Just thought I’d let you know — word has begun to leak out. While the outside world gazes with vicarious envy as you spend lavish amounts on fast cars, the finest threads, and gar- ish jewelry, insiders know you’re just a cheapskate. And they’ve started to talk.
Don’t stand there (in that $1,000 Vanessa Price haircut) giving me a quizzical look (through your $383,000 Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses). You know exactly what I’m talking about. While you, your managers, and agents take home six-figure bankrolls every night, you pay your drummer as little as $200 per gig.
Your bodyguards earn more. Hell, I’ve been paid more to play in the dirtiest, smelliest, grungiest dive bars in San Francisco. Seriously. You should be ashamed. I have to ask — how do you sleep at night (in your $6.3 million Baldacchino Supreme bed), or look at yourself in your ($1,300 Bella Venetian) mirror, knowing you’ve perfected the black art of squeezing blood from human stone?
You may ask, “Why should I care? Drummers are a dime a dozen. If one of them doesn’t want the gig, another one will.” After all, your drummer doesn’t have to deal with nearly as many headaches as you do. You provide him with a perfectly good coffin-sized bunk on the tour bus and free munchies backstage with the crew, while you travel in your $45 million Gulfstream V-SP private jet and scarf down $500 entrees at the world’s finest restaurants.
No. Your drummer’s problems are far more mundane than yours are. He just needs to pay the mortgage, bills, and health insurance, buy clothes and braces for the kids, put food on the table — you know, frivolous stuff like that. With a little coupon cutting, he should be able to stretch the $600 to $800 (more like $400 to $600 after taxes) he earns per week far enough to cover all that, right?
Never mind that your drummer studied with respected teachers, practiced thousands of hours, attended music school, and probably knows more about music theory than you do. None of that can compare with your innate talent for rhyming words like “cat” and “hat” (a skill you share with Dr. Seuss, among others).
Face it, ace — the convergence between the paths taken by you and your drum- mer is as much the consequence of dumb luck as any other factor. So if you want some respect, show some respect for those people who make you sound good every night. It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.
A Note To Drummers: Not all bandleaders are as tight-fisted as this, but — without naming names — some very famous ones are. So if you’re less concerned about the size of the venues you play, and more interested in sharing an equitable slice of the pie, join a band in which you are an equal member. Better yet, start your own band — but just don’t forget where you came from.
Play Drums Because You Can
Every drummer goes through a stretch where he or she can’t play drums for some time, perhaps while on vacation or recovering from an illness. But what would you do if you just couldn’t play drums? I mean, not at all.
Never again. Just let that idea sink in for a minute.
Okay. How would it feel?
Well, I can tell you — it feels like losing one of the best friends you’ve ever had. I can say that with some confidence because earlier this year I learned I had to stop playing drums — not just for a while, but altogether — after being diagnosed with spinal stenosis.
Here’s a quick summary for anyone unfamiliar with the disability: Spinal stenosis is a chronic condition in which the spinal canal begins to constrict, pinching nerves that run through the center of your spine. In my case, two spots in the lower lumbar region are crimping up and sending some of the sharpest pain I could ever imagine into my left leg. At any given time it can strike anywhere between my hip and toes. Sometimes even the entire lower left side of my body seizes up.
I began to notice recurring pain in my left leg a couple years ago and went to my doctor, who misdiagnosed it as shin splints, and told me I just had to give it time to heal. Meanwhile, the pain got worse, particularly when I was on my feet for long periods of time or, as it progressed, during and following gigs.
Last January’s Winter NAMM Show was the final straw. I spent four days on my feet for about ten hours a day, mostly walking on concrete floors. My entire left leg was throbbing by the middle of the first day. The throbbing changed to stabbing pain and burning by the second day — and didn’t decrease for weeks after I got home. Truth is, it never went away entirely.
I knew I was in big trouble, so I finally got a second opinion from a different doctor, who ordered an MRI that confirmed what I now know (although I can’t say I’ve fully accepted) — I’m going to be living with this disability for the rest of my life.
So what have I learned from this experience? I’ve learned that while playing drums is an incredibly creative form of self-expression, it actually is so much more. I learned that the physical aspect of drumming is just as addictive as the mental exercise; the guys in my band and the fans on the dance floor were some of the best friends I ever had; every gig was my version of boys-night-out, where I could unwind after a tough week at the DRUM! office.
Drumming was my escape from life’s challenges, my constant companion, a source of pride, my identity — oh, I could go on and on. It took only a week or two for me to thoroughly miss playing drums, and I still do, terribly. But I also feel lucky about a whole bunch of things. For instance, my condition could be much more advanced than it is — at least I can still walk, albeit for short periods of time. I’m also grateful to have such vivid memories of those peak moments in life, which all happened while sitting behind the kit.
And I also now know why I’d take a $50 gig on a weeknight that would keep me out until 2:00 a.m., even when I had to be at work the next morning.
That’s what I most want to share with you here: Don’t hesitate. Go out and play drums however, whenever, and wherever possible, not for the money, but because you can.
Tommy Lee: How Does The Cruecifly Fly?
Tommy in flight (above,) and his custom E-Pro live kit (below).
All Bad Things Must Come To An End is the final tour of Motley Crue and Tommy Lee. Those who have seen the shows know Tommy is playing Tommy new Pearl E-Pro Live drum kit and rollercoaster rig—The Cruecifly.
What you may not know is how this differs from his standard rig. After all, playing upside down sixty feet in the air is not an everyday occurrence. First, the Cruecifly went through an exhausting series of tests to make sure it worked. They tried various configurations in order to understand what setup would work best. They had to take into consideration the width and length of drums in proporation to the riser, the distribution of weigh on the platform and the reaction of the drum set while upside down and traveling. Once that was right they had to make sure that Tommy could sit comfortably behind the kit and that it was still playable. Even with all that in mind, due to safety considerations, the Cruecifly has only made an appearance at some of the venues on the tour.
The tour runs through November 22, 2014, so you've still got time to see it. Go to Motley.com
Here's a fan video of the Cruecifly (above) and the view from Tommy's seat (below).
Death From Above 1979 Caught Live
Artist: Death From Above 1979
Drummer: Sebastien Grainger
Venue: Troubador, Los Angeles, California
Date: Thursday, August 14, 2014
Death From Above 1979 is a punk dance duo comprised of Jesse F. Keeler on bass and synths and Sebastien Grainger on drums and vocals. They played to a sold-out crowd at the Troubador this week and frequent DRUM! contributor Robert Downs was there.
Bill Stevenson Part 5: Outside Views
The bands Propagandhi and Hot Water Music had positive experiences tempo mapping with Stevenson. Both groups entered the recording studio at different points in the songwriting process. When Propagandhi recorded Supporting Caste at the Blasting Room, drummer Jord Samolesky recalled that “We'd done some very basic demos--mostly for reference's sake. We may have shared them with Bill before heading down--but I think most of the tempo-map construction started when we were at The Blasting Room. Bill would start up with rough mock-ups of tempo maps, then we'd play along with them, and go back and forth with him about revisions.”
Although Propagandhi had tempo-mapped Potemkin City Limits themselves up in Canada, the drummer says that the metronomic templates were much more complex on Supporting Caste. “With so many tempo changes, pauses, and little time extensions and subtractions here and there it made it very difficult to break things down on paper” he said.
Propagandhi’s Supporting Caste.
And to make things even more difficult, Samolesky said of Propagandhi that “We have a tendency to speed things up when we get into the studio, as in ‘wouldn't this sound better a bit faster?’ So it's usually a challenge for me to crank things up a bit after we'd rehearsed most of the material at a slightly slower tempo back home with the metronome.” All these tempo fluctuations and pauses meant that programming the time changes into a computer would be a very difficult and tedious task. Stevenson's expertise with the tempo program kept the tape rolling at a much faster pace. “Our final tempo maps were much more detailed than any demos that we'd done in advance,” Samolesky said, so “with Bill doing the maps, and Jason [Livermore] doing the tracking, it was a process that was smoother overall.”
Once Stevenson had created the first tempo-map for Supporting Caste, Samolesky started tracking with engineer Jason Livermore. Meanwhile Stevenson would get right back to work on the next song's map. During breaks Stevenson and Samolesky would strategize.
Getting Into Hot Water Music
When Hot Water Music entered The Blasting Room to record Exister, they were at an earlier stage in the creation process. The members of the mid-tempo punk quartet had written their new tunes by e-mailing ideas to one another across the county. Three days before they entered The Blasting Room the band got together and rehearsed the material, then demoed with Stevenson for an additional three days. “We just wrote the songs and played them how they actually felt, then demoed everything with Bill” drummer George Rebelo explained. “He basically just took the bits and pieces of the songs that felt best to him, and just tempo mapped that.” It took Stevenson one day, working by himself, to tempo map Exister.
Hot Water Music’s “The Traps” from Exister.
Rebelo found the tempo maps particularly convenient in the editing process. Once a drum track is recorded “you can still edit what you need to edit,” he says. “It's all on a grid. If a kick drum or bass note needs to be pushed or scootched a millisecond, you can still do that in the tempo map.”
Of adjusting to the method, Rebelo explained that recording with tempo maps only takes a slight amount of getting used to--especially considering that the tempo fluctuations are modeled after the bands natural tendencies. Because the tempo does “ramp up,” he explained that you just have to remember to maybe speed up a drum fill before going into a chorus, or push the tempo a little when you hit a certain verse.
When Supporting Caste and Exister were completed, both Samolesky and Rebelo said that Stevenson's tempo mapping improved the recording of their songs. Both drummers also added that they had a great time working with Stevenson and Livermore at The Blasting Room.
Pursuance In Retropect
Pursuance was released on March 13, 2014--when I spoke to Stevenson the recording had been completed for months. I asked him how he felt about the album now that he had some distance from its creation. The drummer paused for a moment. &rduoq;Ohhhh, it's always weird analyzing your own music“ he said laughing-- “it's like, if you made the music, you don't get to comment on it.”
He continued "what I really like about where I'm at with music these days is that I have zero motivation to do anything in music for the sake of succeeding. It's like its all just music for music's sake. That affords me a lot of freedom.”