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Troy Zeigler: Bigger Sound, Fewer Drums

By Phil Hood Published February 10, 2010

Troy Zeigler has parlayed a lifelong music education and the ability to hit hard into gigs with two highly individualistic artists. He digs the rhythmic foundation for Serj Tankian's solo efforts in his band FCC (Flying Cunts of Chaos); and has just finished US and European tours in his other gig with Juliette Lewis. We interviewed him by email earlier in the week.

Artist: Troy Zeigler

Band: Serj Tankian and the FCC, Juliette Lewis.
Drums: Tama. With Serj: Tama Bubinga in burnt copper burst., 6.5" x 10" tom, 7" x 12" tom, 13" x 15" floor tom, 15" x 18" floor tom, 17" x 24" bass drum, 5" x 12" snare, 6.5" x 13" prototype aluminumGeorge Waysnare.
With Juliette: Tama Mirage in Black Ice: 9" x 12" tom, 16" x 16" floor tom. 20" x 22" bass drum, 6.5" x 13" Titanium
Dunnett snare.
Cymbals Sabian. With Serj: 13" HHX stage hats, 20" Paragon crash, 20" HHX ozone crash, 10" HHX ozone splash stacked on a metal disc, 19" Saturation or HHXplosion crash, 24" HHX prototype ride, 19" Paragon Chinese.
With Juliette: 13.5" HHX prototype top over 13" HHXcelerator bottom, 20" legacy ozone ride (as crash), 20" HHXplosion crash, 22" HHX groove ride Sticks Vic Firth Danny Carey wood tip.
Heads Evans Power Center Reverse Dot, Onyx, Gmad, G1.
Pedals Tama Iron Cobra Power Glide.
Hardware Tama.
Other Vince DeFranco Mandala drum.

Tell us a little about your background. How did you end up in LA playing for Serj?
I was sired in suburban Connecticut and was forced into drum lessons by my musically fascist parents at the age of eight. Miraculously, I stuck with it and ended up in Boston at music school at seventeen. After completion of my curriculum there (Ed. Note: Troy got a pair of degrees from Berklee], I moved out to Los Angeles and began navigating various friendships and musical endeavors. One such friendship and endeavor was with a cracking good guitarist by the name of Buckethead. and it was through Buckethead that i was introduced to Serj.

You've been on the road with Juliette Lewis. Those seemed like wild shows.
They are indeed! I have met very few artists that rival her creative drive and passion for music. Our live show is one that feeds on the spontaneous energy of improvisation without falling into the abyss of reckless abandon. Very firm focus married with a very loose feel; it is the perfect balance for me.

What's the most exciting thing musically about the gig?
To be honest, there isn't one thing that excites me more than another. I enjoy the entire process equally. Writing and recording is very mentally and emotionally challenging and every live show leaves me feeling very drained and satisfied.

Do you find the songs evolve as you're on the road with her, or is it more just a little improvisation that makes it different from night to night?
The songs themselves stay fairly consistent as far as arrangement goes. The variance is in the energy that is brought to each song each night. Juliette is very emotionally tied to every instrument on the stage and reacts in a visceral manner to what is being played. It is because of this that I feel a very close connection to her when we are performing. There is the aesthetic of the song while we are playing, but the subtext between us is like that of two old friends having a conversation.

How did you alter your setup for the gig?
I wanted to fully embrace the "less is more" concept with this gig. As of late, i have been very inspired by the concept of creating more music on fewer drums. So, I went with a basic four piece set-up as opposed to the six piece kit that I use with Serj. Also, I wanted to use a kit that would best serve recreating the inimitable drum tracks that Dave Grohl and Thomas Pridgen laid down on Juliette's records. I think that the simplicity of my set helps with that wonderful task.

How often do you change heads on the road? Do you fuss over your gear?
It depends. With Serj, my tech changes out my snare head every show and my to heads every third or fourth show. With Juliette, I change out my snare heads every few shows and try to get as many miles out of my tom heads as possible. On the past couple of tours, the Evans Onyx heads have really gone the distance and sounded amazing.
I do fuss over my gear. I am a gear whore. In my mind, I know that I m overly focused on tone and setup. I fear that it may be incurable.

You've worked your last two bands with two big personalities. What's the key for a drummer keeping the bandleader happy and fufilling your own goals?
I think that success is derived from personal satisfaction. If you as an individual are not fulfilled by the music that you are playing, then that unhappiness will permeate through everything that you do. It is important to keep in mind that, when working for a bandleader, a big part of your job is to be amiable. having a positive outlook and always being open are thoroughly important. So, make sure that you are satisfied by the music first and things will come together nicely.

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