Alicia Warrington: Kelly’s $@#&ing Drummer!

By Don Zulaica Originally published in DRUM! Magazine’s March 2003 Isse

A lot can happen in a year, just ask Alicia Warrington. Last March, home was her 2000 Chevy Cavalier. By October, the Saginaw, Michigan native was filling out her W-2 forms, joining Kelly Osbourne’s band as the touring drummer. Yep, that resounding thud you heard last fall was her chin hitting the floor. She wasn’t expecting this either.

“Early October I was practicing because I had an audition coming up with a different band,” she explains. “So I’m learning their songs, and I got a voice mail message from a friend of mine, ‘Hey, Kelly Osbourne is looking for a female drummer. I was just wondering if you’d be interested in meeting with her on Monday.’ And this is like Saturday night at 10:00. And I thought, ‘Kelly Osbourne? This is pretty big.’ So I ran out to the store and bought the single of ‘Papa Don’t Preach,’ went back to the rehearsal space and practiced until 3:00 in the morning. I had to work all day the next day, and I practiced for two more hours that night. And then on Monday I went to meet with the rest of the band for the audition. I was thinking, ‘There’s no way I’m going to get this.’ I had spent so much time on so many auditions, you know, you waste your time learning the songs and getting your image to go in there and play with the people — and then you don’t get it. And The Osbournes was just so huge.

“I went in there with no expectations of getting the job, wearing the clothes that I had on the day before at work — I used to be a waitress. I figured, I’m just going to play the song and go home. Kelly wasn’t there; they were videotaping the auditions. So I played the song and jammed with the band a little. Then I got a call the next day from the tour manager, ‘Hey, you did a great job yesterday. We showed the video to Kelly and her mom. They loved it, and they’d like to meet with you tonight around 6:00.’ So I went in and played some more songs, and that was it.”

Well, not exactly. It’s not like Warrington didn’t sweat it out a little. In fact, she wasn’t even sure she had the gig until …

“No one was really saying much about it, you know?” she laughs. “I was there for about four hours, and I didn’t know which way it was going to go, I didn’t know if they were still auditioning people. It was like, ‘Here’s the CD, learn this song, like right now.’ The MTV cameras are there, and I’m trying to learn the song, I was really nervous. And then at that moment the tour manager came over and said, ‘Here’s some W-2 forms. Fill these out so we can get you paid.’ So it wasn’t until that point that I realized I had the gig.”

Enough to make the head spin? Sure, but it’s not like the 22-year-old hasn’t paid some dues. The love affair with drums started at 12 with her uncle’s 16-piece behemoth kit, practicing to the hair metal of Dokken, Mötley Crüe, and the Bulletboys (“You know, all the cheesy hair-metal bands. I still listen to that music, that music makes me the happiest.”) Some thrashing to the likes of Queensryche’s Scott Rockenfield, Pantera’s Vinnie Paul, and then Faith No More’s Mike Bordin led to her first band, the death-metal of Dropping The Messiah (at 14) and then the Fugazi-post-punk of Fudgegun a couple years later.

She didn’t get to L.A. until 2001 when she received a demo from a band called the Otter Pops, who found Warrington on the Internet (http://gurlpages.com/aliciawarr/info.html) and invited her out to the west coast to survey the situation. A few weeks later she moved, and as if on queue, that situation fell through. “It turned out they just weren’t doing enough,” she rues. “I ended up having to book all the shows, I took over the whole management and booking, the whole business part. They weren’t working hard enough. I never could seem to find the right people that were going to put as much effort into the project as I was. So I quit.”

Twenty years old, in the city of angels, no gig, and no place to stay. “It was one of the worst years of my life,” she says. “I was homeless at one point, actually I was homeless just this past March [2002]. I didn’t have anything. Everything that I owned, whatever fit in my car, I just put all of that in a public storage space and slept in my car, or stayed at my friends’ houses, or got a motel for as long as I could afford it. And then I slept in a rehearsal space downtown. I would stay there by myself, it’s like a big old warehouse that a bunch of bands play in, but no one’s really there past a certain time at night. So I’d be the only one there, scared to death. Then in April I found some cool musician friends to stay with. I live with a guy from the band Pansy Division, and another roommate is [guitarist] Joe Gore, who plays for Tracy Chapman, P.J. Harvey and the Eels.”

With the Kelly Osbourne gig, Warrington certainly won’t have any problems making the rent, but what is it like working for one of the most famous families on television?

“I think they’re such a wonderful family,” she gushes. “They’re all really nice people. Sharon is the sweetest woman. Ozzy’s great, he’s been to a couple of our shows. He’s really proud of Kelly. Both Ozzy and Sharon came out to one of our shows at Irving Plaza; they were up in the balcony watching. People told me Sharon was crying. It’s so cute.”

As for the whirlwind of 2002, from living-in-a-car to arenas and television appearances, Warrington sighs with much thankfulness, “It all seemed really unreal at first. Our first television show was Mad TV. The first time we played in front of a large audience was like 11,000 people in London at an awards show, which was really crazy. But now I’m getting more used to it. I mean, I still get a little bit nervous when I go out in front of thousands of people, but that’s natural. I love it. I’m having a blast.

“And I love the music! I didn’t know what to expect from the album. After hearing ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ I thought maybe the songs would all be like that, you know? It was like, can she write songs? Are they all covers? Kelly has a great voice, and I think it really shines. I was surprised by the album, I expected it to be more pop. Like, it is poppy and radio-friendly, but it’s rocking.”

ALL GEARED UP
Drums: Ludwig
Cymbals: Zildjian
Pedals and Hardware: Ludwig
Sticks: Vic Firth American Classic Rock