Omar Phillips: Recreating The Outkast Sound
Omar Phillips gets around. As the drummer for Outkast he has lately been on tour with Big Boi and Andre 3000, currently in a career uptake with recent performances at Coachella and other big events. Omar (or “O”) has also lent his talents to tours or records with Curtis Mayfield, Bono, Mary J. Blige, Usher, and Leela James. We interviewed him by email during the recent tour.
- Artist Omar Phillips
- Band Outkast
- DW and Pacific drums and hardware
- Zildjian cymbals
- Remo heads
- Gon Bops percussion
- KickPort bass woofers
DRUM! Tell us about your kit setup with Outkast? Is this pretty much what you bring to other gigs or are there some unique instruments in the setup for this tour?
Omar It’s a little more diverse in terms of sound properties and capabilities. I wanted to be as original as possible when it came to recreating and playing the drum parts. I'm using more snares live than I normally would but loving the fact that I have so many options. The biggest job was recreating sounds for so many diverse songs. As for low end we incorporated an 18" floor tom but have it mounted like a gong drum.
DRUM! Tell us what the biggest challenges are for you on the current material?
Omar It's really not that complicated simply because of the fact that I've been touring with Big Boi as a solo artist for the last 3 years and, of course, some of these songs are covered in his show as well. That and the fact that I was at or in a lot of these sessions when the songs were recorded.
DRUM! What's the greatest thing going on with the band right now?
Omar Man it's just the energy. That feeling of helping give so many fans what they have been waiting for some time. It's a real blessing to look out and see Big and 'Dre doing their thing.
DRUM! Are the shows being recorded? Any follow-up recording plans?
Omar Some shows are being tracked, for release or study purposes I'm not sure. No studio plans at the moment. It's ALL about this tour and the fans seeing ‘Kast live.
DRUM! Is there one tune or section of the show that you get the most out of in the live show?
Omar ALLLLL of them, "The Art of Storytelling" Is my jam at the moment because of how the kick part lays in so heavy and syncopated. That and the opener “Bombs Over Baghdad” On that one I get to come out the gate with all cylinders rolling.
DRUM! Like a lot of musicians your tastes are wider than the music you play with any one artist on a tour. You've talked in the past about your love of funk, jazz, and other styles. Is there a style you haven't played that you would like to, or something you aren't doing that you'd like to learn.
Omar Definitely Brazilian music. I have some hybrid ideas in mind.
DRUM! Are the parts you're playing now ones that you created or are you also having to play older material and trying to make it sound just like the original? Do you stick to what was on the record?
Omar My general tour rule is ALWAYS stick to the original part unless otherwise directed. The songs are hits because what's already there has worked fine. That goes the same with the sounds and tuning as well. My awesome tech Cedric Crout has a great ear for matching the tunings with the records. I'm really happy with the results.
DRUM! Are you playing to a click?
Omar For this tour, yes, but with Big Boi I generally just roll off of DJ Swiff's (MD) mix and lock in. Years of session work has helped a many with that
DRUM! How hard are you hitting? Change heads often?
Omar I usually go in for the gusto and lay in hard for this gig… I mean really the choice is limited… It's Outkast.
DRUM! Studio or the Road. What's better?
Omar I always say a healthy musical diet is a mixture of both. You really cross your fingers to get 50/50.
DRUM! What's the one thing you learned in technique or business that made you a better professional musician?
Omar Say what you mean and mean what you say… That, and learn the business side of things and always be early.