You have one of the great 2 and 4 snare slams in rock. What advice can you give now in this age of the Pro Tools grid to get a slamming, consistent snare sound?
I do play rimshots when playing a hard groove. I like that sound, a bright hard sound that cuts through. The snare drum has the most personality in the kit. For rock and roll, or any aggressive loud music, it’s important that it moves and breathes and it’s natural and sounds like people playing. That connects to people. If it’s electronic music, programmed perfect drumming works for that, but for what we do and what I do, I think the human element is more important than it being perfect. I want it to have the flaws and the warts and I want people to hear that it’s a human playing the drums. That can get lost with the modern technology. I am old fashioned, but I want to hear the personality in the instrument.
The only way to get that consistent 2 and 4 is practice. Record yourself. That helps you balance yourself on the drum set. John Bonham played the kit as one instrument. He was thinking about all of that, he was very in tune with making his drums sound like one instrument. We worked with Andy Johns who worked with Led Zeppelin. He said Bonham would listen to the playback, then adjust his drumming; they didn’t adjust his mikes. “When The Levee Breaks” is two microphones and it’s perfectly balanced. Practice emotion and where you’re hitting the drum. There are no shortcuts in becoming consistent to get your sound. Kids get their one beat and one fill and think they are ready for Madison Square Garden. Play as much as you can with as many people as you can. That’s the best way to get better.
What do you practice now?
I haven’t practiced much lately – I am doing gigs. When I warm up it’s to get my limbs loose. I’ll do flams and rolls around the kit, slow to fast to get things moving. Alternating singles on the left and right hands. I have a small kit backstage, and sometimes the band will run through some songs.
But now we’re off to Russia! Playing St. Petersburg and Moscow then Poland – the Eastern Block. And I want to thank the readers of DRUM! for voting the Holy China as cymbal of the year! Thank you! I’m stoked!
Drums: Custom Clear Acrylic Masters Series
24" x 16" Bass Drum
12" x 8" Mounted Tom
14" x 14" Floor Tom
16" x 16" Floor Tom
14" x 6.5" Sensitone Snare Drum (steel)
14" x 6.5" Free Floating Snare Drum
6" x 12" Rocket Tom
6" x 15" Rocket Tom
6" x 18" Rocket Tom
6" x 21" Rocket Tom
19" AA Medium Crash
21" AA Rock Ride
20" AA Rock Crash
21" Holy China
14" AA Medium Hats
10" AAX Splash
Gon Bops Cowbells
Chad Smith also uses Vater sticks, Remo heads, and Pearl hardware and pedals.