Paul Niedermier of Thriving Ivory

By Andy Doerschuk Published July 27, 2009

Age: 25
Hometown: San Jose, CA
Band Name: Thriving Ivory
Previous Bands: i9nition
Drums: C&C Custom Drums
Sticks: SilverFox

The Thriving Ivory story starts in their hometown of San Francisco, when the city’s rock radio station, KITS Live 105, added the unsigned band's demo of "Angels On The Moon" (later released as the first single on the outfit's self-titled debut album). The tune leapt past far more established acts to become a Top Five listener request, and earn year-end accolades on the "Best Of" lists by the station's staff. Their debut album, released in June 2008, hit the #1 spot on Billboard's Heatseekers chart as "Angels On The Moon" peaked at #28 on the U.S. Pop 100 chart.

How would you describe the feel of the new album?
We try to incorporate a lot of dynamics while shooting for that big wall of sound. We want our album to hit you and stick with you. The lyrics are great throughout the entire album and that helps a lot of fans relate to what were going for. They lyrics aren't too literal, so when it comes to making sense of the songs, it leaves a lot of room for the listeners to draw their own conclusions.

What is your favorite drum part on the new album?
I really enjoy playing the verses of "Long Hallway With A Broken Light." It's one of our few uptempo songs where I really get to open up a bit and drive the song. The part on the album is fine, but lately I've been playing that section a little different live. I threw in some hi-hat accents that mesh nicely with a couple straight-ahead driving kick drum patterns.

Did you change your drum parts much throughout the recording process?
Yes, and at first I was very hesitant to do so -- real stubborn and not willing to listen to the part from a different perspective. That all changed quickly and I learned to play the part that fit the song best, not what I thought sounded coolest. Whether the advice came from one of the guys in the band or the producer himself, learning to listen really effected how my parts came to be.

How prepared were you before going into the studio?
We ran through about three or four weeks of preproduction in our practice space. It was grueling and I hated every second of it. The worst part was that when it came down to recording time, all that stuff went out the window. But next time, I'd pretty much do it all the same way again. Because of the prepro, I went into the studio with lots of ideas stored in the back of my mind, and most importantly, confidence.

How long did it take to track your drum parts?
The drums were recorded in two separate studios. In the first studio, I recorded nine songs in about three days. In the second studio, while working with a different producer, I was in the hot seat. I recorded three songs there and it took me about 40 minutes. Sometimes, we'd be working out a part, trying new things and the producer would come over the talk back and say, "Thanks man, we got it." He tricked me. I didn't even know that we were tracking. But I hear that that is sometimes the best way to get a take.

Describe how you laid down your tracks.
I recorded to a click and a scratch piano track. At the time it seemed easy and worked well, but now looking back, I would have loved to record last and have the opportunity to track with the entire band in my ears. Because now I hear bass and guitar parts on the album that I would have loved to play against. Doing so may have even changed up my parts a bit. Seems like the drummer always has to track first. Who made that rule anyway?

Do you wear earplugs, in-ears, or monitors with no earplugs?
I wear Shure in-ears. I have been since we started playing to a click about four years ago. I only have live piano, tracks and click in my ears so I always ask to get my monitors pumped with kick drum, snare, a little guitar and vocals. The rest I can usually get through the stage amps.

How much room do you have to improvise on stage?
As long as I keep to the click, the laws aren't too strict. It's a good feeling when I have some new fill in my mind, I bust it out at a show, nail it, and the band takes a quick peek back at me with a smile. Sometimes, in between Clayton's vocal parts, he'll comes back to me and either mouth ,"That was sick!" or "Are you serious? Honestly, what the hell was that?" Either way, it feels good to nail a fill and have it stick night after night for the whole tour.

How do you stay healthy while you're on the road?
It's tough to stay healthy. A couple months ago we took a stand against McDonald's. That's an easy path to becoming a 400-pound drummer. No one wants to see a 400-pound drummer. The stand lasted some time but eventually we were O.D.ing on Subway and McDonalds came back into the picture. It's really tough. But I will say we are excellent gas station/mini mart shoppers. I can go in there and pick out everyone's lunch for them because now it comes second nature. I will say this, Starbucks is a cornerstone for us and there is nothing like a home cooked meal. We got to go home a while back for the first time in a long time and I swear, even the toast I made tasted like heaven.

Do you warm up before going on stage?
I try to as much as possible. A lot of the time, there's too much going on beforehand. It makes a huge difference to me when I warm up beforehand. Not only to I play better, but I'm not sore and achy the morning after.

How often do you change heads?
I'm still playing around with different heads right now. I haven't found what I'm looking for. I'll generally play with one brand for a tour and then switch them up on the next.

Do you do your own tuning?
Yes and I'm still learning new techniques. I've actually found some interesting stuff on youtube. A lot of tips and techniques I'll get from bands we've toured with or producers and engineers we've worked with. Some tips have been useful and others were just so stupid. But I'd say the best advice I could give when it comes to tuning is don't be too proud to ask questions.

What techniques have you learned by listening to or watching other drummers?
I'm really into Jo Jo Mayer right now. What a bad ass. Ghostnotes all over the place. I like how he tends to drag his fills out a little longer than you'd think they would go. He'll play a fill and instead of having it end on the downbeat of the next phrase, he'll drag it out just a bit longer and have it end on the & of 1 or even on 1. It just those little things that I think makes him a classy drummer.

Do you feel perfect time is mandatory in creating a groove?
Even though I'm playing to a click, like I mentioned before, our songs rely on a heavy backbeat so I'll try and play behind the beat as much as possible. I can feel the groove much better when my snares drop in at the last possible second, and that tends to transfer to the band as well and helps us all get in the same groove.

Do you practice when you're off the road?
We haven't had the chance to be home too much lately, but when I am home, it's always nice to sit down behind one of my old beat up kits and play to some of my favorite bands from a while ago. Taking a break from playing Thriving Ivory songs all the time actually benefits the band because I'll get the chance to mess around with new fills and grooves from older records. It just helps to keep everything fresh and not beat the same stuff into the ground again and again.