A few months ago Thomas Pridgen floored us at his “clinic,” a marathon combo of head-pitting drummage and self-help seminar. But the 26-year-old drummer’s new project, The Memorials, had us scratching our heads with its female-fronted funk-thrash – a serious departure from the prog-psyche wackiness of previous band The Mars Volta. Pridgen hollered at us from his new crib in the 510 (East Bay for life, baby – just check out his 510 signature sticks) to give us the low-down on life, music, and his mental state (spoiler: he’s juiced).
A lot of people know I can play the hell out the drums, so I wanted to do a record that really showcases the song writing. And for me, I know that when you go and play a sh__load of drums on an album you have to play double that much live. And I wanted to save that for the shows. Sometimes drummers don’t want to play a million fills.
Most black people aren’t playing this style of music – and I’ll say it straight-up – they’re not playing progressive rock. So for us to go and play this kind of music, and then do it in our own way but where we look like a lot of people on the street, people who do rap … we have a lot of benefits by looking the way we do, and playing the way we do. I totally play on that.
Since the music industry is all f__ked up, our intention is to release music like rappers: Basically every time we feel like it [laughs] instead of getting so caught up in a certain mode. I like to look at Prince as an example. That dude puts out records whenever he feels like it. And, you know, nobody knows how many he’s selling.
If you play super fast and nobody can understand what it was, it’s just fast. But if you’re fast and articulate, then that’s powerful. It’s like, if you can sit there like the cats in the marching band, they’re playing actual phrases and you can hear the exact note. A thing I’ve been doing lately, I’ll try to play crescendos but like with every eighth-note, I’ll do it on one tom, and then the next tom, and another tom. And I might do sixteenths with both of the toms. And then sometimes I’ll play like a roll hella low and then play it medium volume, then I’ll play it louder and then I’ll go back to the medium, you know, playing the dynamic range so you can build up control.
You can still have a party vibe to a song that’s technical. If you think of it as technical, I’m sure it’ll come out like, damn, that’s technical. People are like, ’That’s in seven,’ and I’m like [sarcastic] ’Great.’ I never wrote that out thinking like, Oh that’s seven; this is a part in five. I don’t think like that, I think of how it feels. If we felt technical, then we would have wrote the album at home to a click track, and I would have came and did the drums later. But I did it with [Nick, guitarist] like, ’Nah this feels cool.’ It’s almost like jamming out, but more like a controlled jam.
Dude, they don’t ever keep a drummer for long, so it’s like I don’t feel bad. Everybody says everything happens for a reason, but I think my reason was bigger than most people’s: Those dudes [Cedrix Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodrigues-Lopez] did not want me to work with anybody else. Don’t get me wrong: I am down with being a supporting person in a band, but when I first got in, we were taking group pictures, they were calling me a member, all that, but then when the money started rolling in then it was a duo. [laughs] And I was totally still down. I was still playing the shows. I just wanted it to be worked out because this business sh__ has nothing to do with the fun we are having on stage.