Justin Bawinkel of Flatfoot 56

Age: 25
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Drums: Spaun Drum Company
Cymbals: Paiste
Hardware/Pedals: Spaun Drums

Since the year 2000, Flatfoot 56 has unleashed a rollicking barrage of Celtic punk and folk-tinged hardcore from the South Side of Chicago to an international audience with intense and positive party-like energy. As 2010 marks the ten-year anniversary for Flatfoot 56, the band arrives with their brand new album Black Thorn, compacting a celebrated history of eclectic and driving musical charge into 13 tracks that highlight the pride of the working class and their Chicago roots. Flatfoot 56 has already built loads of momentum for the upcoming year, including a spring tour alongside Project 86, international festival appearances and a summer run along the Vans Warped Tour.

When and how did you first get introduced to Celtic punk?
Probably in my mid teens. I got into it after we had already started Flatfoot 56. We added bagpipes, trying to be different, and then discovered the Celtic punk scene.

Were you influenced by drummers in previous Celtic punk bands?
I tried not to get influenced by any of the bands in the Celtic punk scene, because we didn't want to sound like them, if possible. I try to pull drum ideas from other genres and either just the punk or just the Celtic genre. Bands like The Pouges, Chieftains, Clash, Cocksparrer, Blitz, Stretch Arm Strong — just to name a few.

How does Celtic punk drumming differ from other drumming styles?
Well, it’s a lot like folk drumming sped up to punk speeds. It is a little more technical than straight punk but not as technical as most other styles.

Do you ever listen to traditional Irish music? If so, has it had any affect on your drumming?
Yes, I listen to quite a bit. It has a lot of great percussion. I have tried to add some military type snare rolls and some low heavy toms that they use in a lot of Irish tunes.

Have you ever been interested in learning how to play traditional Celtic percussion instruments like bodhran or bones?
Yeah, I bought a bodhran a while back and have used it in some acoustic settings. It’s a fun drum to mess with.

What is your favorite drum part on the new album? Please explain why.
I think the whole song of “We Grow Stronger.” It’s one of my favorites to play. It has a lot of variation and dynamics that keeps it interesting and fun to play.

Did you change your drum parts much throughout the recording process?
A little. Our producer Johnny Rioux had some good Ideas about fills and accents when we recorded, but for the most part we stuck with what we had before.

What was it like working with your producer and engineer?
It was the best recording experience I have ever had. I had tons of fun. It was like hanging out in the garage writing tunes with your friends, bouncing ideas off of each other trying to get the best song we could.

How prepared were you before going into the studio?
Well, we had about 15 songs about 90 percent done, and they wanted us to have about 30. I thought we were prepared though. We had 15 songs we really liked.

Did you record to a click track? How well did that work?
I did use a click. It went well. I don’t use click live, so it took me a little while to get used to it. Overall I think it gave us a super tight album.

What is the biggest challenge of playing loud, aggressive drums with inherently quiet acoustic instruments?
Well, that challenge is for the sound guy. I just bang away and try to get enough mandolin and bagpipes in my monitor to overpower the drums.

Describe the worst gig you've ever played.
Everyone has those bad shows where no one shows up, or they play awful. Ours was neither. We played great and there were like a thousand people there. They all hated us because they were all there for the headliner. I know that sounds normal but the headliner was Dog The Bounty Hunter.

What techniques have you learned by listening to or watching other drummers?
One thing for sure is a foot shuffle on a single kick. It’s kind of like heel-toe to get a faster response, but a little different. I just shuffle my foot sideways to work the bounce on the pedal.

Do you feel perfect time is mandatory in creating a groove?
I think timing is everything. You’re the drummer. Songs definitely have that one tempo that they sound the best at. Do I stick to that live? Not all the time. I get excited and speed stuff up sometimes.