Ronnie Vannucci: Emerges With The Killers
Vannucci refers back to what his ears were teaching him when he was a young kid, listening to and unconsciously analyzing his parents’ LPs. “You can be interesting, you can be great musicians with really cool lyrics, but if it’s pop or rock music, you’ve got to have a song,” he states. “I think that’s what we’re good at. Brandon has catchy lyrics, David has great melodies, and that’s what separates our band from the rest of the pack.
“It’s also all timing. That label may have a different way of doing things. They may pour all their time and attention into a hip-hop act or another act that’s doing well right now. You’ve just got to have a group of people behind you that like you and believe in you. We owe a lot to Island.”
Ronnie’s 2005 Rig
1. 24" x 14" Bass Drum
2. 14" x 5" Brass Supraphonic or 14" x 6.5" Black Beauty Snare
3. 13" x 9" Tom
4. 16” x 16” Floor Tom
Cymbals: Zildjian “Various Old And New Ks And As”
A. 15" Hi-Hats
B. 22" Sizzle Crash/Ride
C. 24" Ride
D. 20" Crash/Ride
Ronnie Vannucci also uses Pro-Mark sticks and Remo heads.
On The Drums
While everything seems Utopian, Hot Fuss naturally has its share of detractors — Vannucci, for starters. “I’m proud of our record, but as far as drumming is concerned, for me, it leaves a lot to be desired,” he says. “It was basically a demo, nothing was more than two takes. It was the skin of my teeth, you know. Of course, when it’s all mixed, they put all these sound replacements and compressors on there, it loses a lot of its finesse. It’s a mix deal — there are just so many variables, I can’t even narrow it down. If I had to pick a song on Hot Fuss to sum up the entire band, it would be ’Jenny Is A Friend Of Mine.’ It’s got everything that our band represents, with clever musical ideas, kind of dark with a pop sensibility. The bass has got just as much of a hook as the chorus, the spaces were really cleverly thought up, the keyboard line at the end of the last chorus is nice.
“When you see us live, I just think there’s a lot more energy involved. There’s a lot more passion. I think the delivery is better. I kind of like the fact that it’s not always really smooth. As long as it has passion and the connection is made and people see that, I think that’s what’s more important. If they want to hear something that’s perfect, go buy the record — although that’s not perfect.”
With almost nonstop touring being the M.O. since the release of Hot Fuss in 2004, Vannucci has an increasingly better grasp of what he likes to do as a drummer. “You have to do what’s best for a song,” he says. “If a song is going in one direction, I’m not going to cover it up with a fancy drum fill. I won’t overplay, but at the same time, I don’t think the record suffocates me. I won’t let it, because that’s not who I am. I won’t say I didn’t take chances on Hot Fuss. I’ll just say there’s a lot of things that could have been done that might have exposed me as a drummer more, but I might have withheld for the sake of the song. I think any good musician will do that.
“The constant touring has definitely made me a little more concerned with being tight and consistent. We didn’t realize how much Vegas has shaped us as musicians and as a band, but we’re a lot more showy than a lot of bands. I didn’t realize until people started calling us on that stuff, ’Wow, you’re a showy drummer — you play like Max Weinberg!’ That’s how I think people should play! You should have a certain amount of zeal. And when people put two and two together and say we’re from Vegas, looking back I guess we do have a little bit of glitz and glamour, although I wouldn’t expect us to have a white tiger onstage with us anytime soon.”
According to the drummer’s analysis, his signature sound starts with what’s between his legs. “The snare drum is probably the most important part of the drum set,” he points out. “You play it so much, it’s got to sound good, with a certain amount of responsiveness. I like brass drums — there’s such a wide range that you can do with brass. You can play really light with a brass drum or play really heavy, and they’re going to have different sounds, but either way, when brass sings, it’s a really beautiful sound. I also love wood; it just depends on the playing situation.
“I usually like to have my drums ring out like Buddy Rich’s did. I don’t like to sound like I have an entire love seat in my bass drum! But I love the way Matt Chamberlain’s kit sounds on the Fiona Apple records. It sounds like he’s got two pillows in the bass drum, but it fits the song.”
Bigger cymbals, with a wide selection of rides, also figure heavily in Vannucci’s sonic attack. “I also play with large cymbals, including a 24" ride, a 22" sizzle ride on my left, and a 20" crash/ride. I like big cymbals, especially the older cymbals. Those old rides are thin enough to crash on and make a statement but also big enough that you can dance all over them, and they sound like a ride again. You can kind of dig into it — I like to be able to dig into the cymbals, you can actually feel it and connect with it. And a lot of those big cymbals, they don’t really take over, they just give you more to work with, especially because they have so many different spots that you can learn to use for your song. I can get more out of one big-ass cymbal than three crash cymbals — that’s kind of the way I hear things.”
Now that The Killers are Official World Rulers, they’re going to have to produce a great second album to retain that title. Vannucci is confident — sort of — that they’ll be able to do just that. “So far so good,” he says of the next recording. “We’ve got probably 30 or 40 ideas out there, which is a nice feeling. I’m still nervous. I want it to be a good second album. We’ve got a lot to live up to, but I’d really be nervous if we didn’t have a lot more in the bucket.