Blood, Sweat And Cheers: The Art Of Playing Live

(Above) Aaron McVeigh

DRUM!: You all must use in-ear monitors as well.
McVEIGH: I have Ultimate Ears — like, the molds. I love them. They have a negative-24-decibel rating. It cuts all stage noise out, which is awesome. I don’t really need to hear anybody else and I get a cool drum mix in my ears.
TATE: I hated it the first week or two I had them, but now…
THAXTON: Have either of you had to play overseas or fly dates where you have to use wedges again? It sucks going back once you’re used to the in-ears.
McVEIGH: We did that last night and it was so hard. We’re spoiled now.

DRUM!: Do any of you use a ButtKicker on your throne to get that kick drum “thump” that the wedge usually provides?
THAXTON: I do, yeah. I love it. At first it’s like “What’s the point?” But then you get used to that feeling. Every now and then it’ll cut out and it seems like so much more went wrong than what actually did. I thought I broke my kick head once when that happened.
TATE: It’s the best thing ever. I was like, “I don’t want to spend that much money on one,” but we played with one once and everybody was like, “That’s the best you’ve played in a long time” and I’m like, “Oh it’s from this thing.” Then they were like, “Maybe the band will just buy you one.” [laughs] It makes a world of difference.

DRUM!: Do you all have drum techs?
[Thaxton and Tate nod]
McVEIGH: I don’t. Actually, I do — it’s just me. [laughs]

DRUM!: Do you still tune your own drums?
THAXTON: The less I have to deal with any of that stuff, the happier I am.
McVEIGH: Can’t wait.
TATE: I can’t tune my drums to save my life. I can hit them until I think they sound good … I respect the s--__t out of those people, though. It’s amazing.
THAXTON: Agreed. I can make drums sound good, I think, but there’s no method to it for me. To be totally honest, I don’t really even pay that close attention to my gear. Some days I’ll walk out and be like, “Oh, new heads.”
TATE: The snare drum that I have sounds so much better with new heads so every four or five shows I’ll be like, “Put on a new head.” But the toms … I don’t really hit that hard so it’s not like they’re thrashed or anything.

DRUM!: Do you get blisters or cramps or any other tour-related injuries?
THAXTON: I’ve never really been one to get blisters. But I definitely get sore. I have to get massages quite often. I’m getting very creaky in my old age.
McVEIGH: The only time I get blisters is when I go home for a couple weeks and get lazy. I try to get my back-up kit set up at home and practice a few times a week. You can’t let your calluses get “girly” — that’s how you get the blisters again. I get sore too. And the other day I actually fell going up the stairs.
TATE: Funny. I fell down the stairs the other day — twisted my knee.
McVEIGH: Yeah, I bent my finger back and it still hurts. I don’t skateboard any more. There’s certain things you can’t do when a touring band is counting on you, you know? Just the littlest thing and you could fall and break your arm.
THAXTON: Yeah, I know all about that. [Thaxton fell and broke his arm leaving a New Year’s party in 2009.]
McVEIGH: You’ve got to be aware of your surroundings — don’t do stupid s__t when you’re drunk. [Everyone looks at Thaxton.]
THAXTON: What the hell, man?! [laughs]

(Left) Erin Tate

DRUM!: Any advice for dealing with tour burnout?
TATE: Get plenty of sleep. That’s the most important thing.
McVEIGH: Yeah, I take melatonin to help me sleep while we’re moving. It’s all natural. Also, going for a walk or having a meal by yourself to clear your head. Playing “Angry Birds” …
TATE: I’m addicted to that game, man. I love it and hate it. [laughs]
McVEIGH: That’s a big deal — the whole mental-stability thing. Some people can tour and some people can’t. That’s all there is to it. I find that if I do my own thing and get away from everybody that helps me a lot.
THAXTON: Definitely.

DRUM!: How much longer do you think you can do this for?
McVEIGH: As long as it works in my life and until I’m completely fulfilled I guess. Just keep on chasing that dream, you know?
THAXTON: Yeah, if it gets to a point where it’s not fun anymore, then I guess it’ll be time to stop. In the long run I’d love to be more of a studio drummer and not be on the road all the time.
TATE: Absolutely. That’s the dream right there — sit at home, play drums, and get paid. [laughs] I like playing live better, but I can’t imagine going out and doing what we do now at 50 years old or even 40 — and that’s only eight years away! It’s just so hard on your body and every year gone by and every nine-and-a-half week tour with no days off just makes it harder and harder.

DRUM!: It accelerates you through life, though, doesn’t it?
TATE: It really does. I’d like to go and maybe wait some tables some day. That could be fun. [laughs]
McVEIGH: Work in a factory?
TATE: Be the president?
McVEIGH: Now we’re talking.

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