Jason Sutter: Rise Of An American Rocker

His time spent touring with Foreigner was an entirely different beast, sound wise.

“With Foreigner, the monitor mix was all about Mick Jones. There were no drums at all, no clicks, guitar and bass blasting, and just Mick, every note. You want to be right with him because he’s a very elastic player, so you’re going to have to ride that bull the whole night.”

Jones also favored a thud-y, vintage drum sound, so Sutter’s tuning couldn’t go any lower; with Foreigner he used coated Ambassador heads that he had to change after every show (“Because they’re thin and just asking for it”) and the snare was big and round and mushy.

With Manson, Sutter plays on those black Remo heads that are famously a little bit dead ¬¬¬– all the better to muffle a trigger you might want to place on it.

“With Manson it’s more attack than tone,” he says, “and they’re blending the trigger in anyway. But I still tune those drums up pretty high. When I say high, the bottom head is usually a third or half step or even a full step higher than the top head, and they’re both tuned pretty high.”

Closer To The Sun

When Sutter was touring with Foreigner, it was one of those gigs where they’d go out for a month and be home for a month. Pretty cushy, eh? Hold up: It seems that when Sutter was home on those breaks, he was practicing like mad, shedding his double bass and brushes and general technique, and doing drum clinics, too. So it was a very technical time for him, even though he was playing pretty simple rock tunes with Foreigner. “And then I went out with The New York Dolls and it was like, forget all that crap. It was punky, snotty, raw, and I thought, I’m just going to let that technical thing go. It’s a conscious effort to fight to get close to the sun and all that information, and then back off. I don't want to ever be too conscious and too proficient; what I get hired for is a feel.”

In other words, when you start to get too technical you veer toward Neal Peart, and when you’re able to let that go you can get back to your inner John Bonham. “But you can pull that Peart out if you need to,” he says. “And if you have that under your belt, it comes through in your playing without having to play it.”

Yeah, but in order to get to that special spot on the Peart-Bonham spectrum, you’ve got to practice, which Sutter does every day when he’s off the road. “And honestly, I feel like I’m constantly relearning how to play the drums. I never ever go in there and feel like, ’I’m killing it now.’ And when I play gigs and people are like, ’Dude, you’re killing it!’ I’m like, ’Yeah, I’m not even close.’”

You Want It, You Got It

Not to say this cool dude Jason Sutter is, like, a drumworld geek or anything, but consider this: “I remember going to college and it’s a vacation and I stayed and practiced. There’s no one around and I’m practicing and I’m like, What the hell am I doing? Am I going to be doing this in ten years? And then ten years later I’m in a practice room at eleven at night to play for three hours, and I’m going, ’Am I going to keep doing this s__t? Am I ever going to get good enough to just be done?’”

The answer, it seems, is no.

“I’m always going to be evolving. And you can tie it in with the drum corps stuff and all that. I was willing to temporarily sacrifice drum set, which was my passion, knowing it would be a means to getting me somewhere else down the road. And it did – I got a scholarship next year to go to North Texas because I could play snare drum! How? I lived, ate, and drank it. I didn’t play in any rock bands, I didn’t hang out with chicks, I went and did drum corps work every day at 8 A.M. and got my ass kicked. And it was awesome.”

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