Zoro’s 7 Secrets To Drumming Success

4. Integrity Ain't Nothing — It's Everything

While motivational books can be infuriatingly vague, Zoro shows the depth of his industry savvy in "The Art Of Business" section, where he talks royalty rates for demos versus official recordings, various types of endorsement deals, and other small-print arcana that can trip up less seasoned cats. Bottom line: If youíre not getting paid for the stuff you spent 12 hours a day practicing, then you're wasting your time. Without resorting to bone-dry legalese and mind-numbing detail, it's the kind of useful information that not only adds to your bank account but will show a future employer you didn't just fall off the apple truck.


Zoro’s Setup

Drums DW Collector's Series (Ruby Glass FinishPly with Gold hardware)
1. 22" x 16" Bass Drum
2. 14" x 5" Snare Drum
3. 10" x 8" Tom
4. 16" x 13" Floor Tom

Cymbals Sabian
A. 14" HHX Groove Hats
B. 18" HHX Extreme Crashes
C. 21" HHX Groove Ride

Percussion LP
D. Mambo Cowbell
E. Mini-Timbales Zoro also uses DW hardware (5000 series single bass drum pedal and hi-hat stand; 9000 series snare/cymbal stands and throne); Evans drumheads, Vic Firth Zoro signature sticks, Audix Microphones, and SKB Cases

But that street goes both ways. The professional conduct you expect should be reciprocated. Z mentions a particularly nefarious practice about insecure players who deliberately hire inferior subs because theyíre scared someone better might take their job (see sidebar). "That happens all the time, guys doing that," he says. "It's absolutely 100 percent critical that you get an equal or better-than player than yourself to fill in."

You'll never hear Zoro railing at what a bitch karma is — not in The Big Gig and not when we pick his brains for a time when he simply could not believe he didnít get a call back. In the early '90s he tried out for a super-trendy pop-funk band that, for whatever reason, he didn't end up getting. "Well, I find out not long afterwards, the tour got cancelled." Fortunately, he landed a gig with boy-band New Edition instead. "I was not so happy to be there at first, even though I knew it was a good gig. But itís the one that kept me working for the next two years."

5. Means To A Golden End

We had to ask about thinking long term because even a dream gig can't last forever. When do you ask for more money versus moving on? Zoro expounds on this area with great zest in the "Compensation" part of "The Art Of Understanding" section. Today, however, the topic gets him going all over again. One thing Zoro learned was to never demand things from people. It just doesn't work.

Let's say the gig pays $7,500 a week, but you heard it paid $10,000 to other drummers. Z says to wait until much later before negotiating, "when you realize you're indispensible." If and when you do broach the subject, never give ultimatums. "When you present it to people in [a respectful] way, they're less likely to get pissed and want to fire you on the spot. Nobody likes being held over a barrel. Diplomacy is the key, because we're in an industry wrapped around celebrity. With modeling, acting, sports, music — those four specifically, I think, there's a long line of people that are ready to take your job. That's easy to forget once you're on the job because you forget how hungry you were on the outside. There are risks involved in any form of climbing up the ladder, and sometimes you lose the gamble, and sometimes you win the gamble. And, if you're going to gamble, you have to set yourself up to deal with the outcome either way."

6. Vision Quest

Everything in our conversation with Zoro comes back to writing, a solitary discipline he likens to performing a drum solo. Citing Harvard studies, he explains that 90 percent of the time, people who had the greatest amount of success at anything wrote out first what it was they wanted. He still has a piece of paper from when he was 16 where he scrawled out that he wanted to be a writer, a speaker, and a drummer ó not necessarily in that order. Although barely graduating from high school, it didn't stop him from writing books. That, Zoro says, is because vision is more powerful than anything. "Vision coupled with action," he adds after a beat. "There's a big difference between a dream and a delusion; a delusion is just wishful thinking; a dream has legs to it."

7. Location, Location, Location

One of the most salient points in The Big Gig is the importance of living in or near a major music market, i.e., New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Las Vegas, or Miami. Zoro was based in Los Angeles for the majority of his career before relocating to Nashville. The major music centers are still the same basically and so it's hard to get certain relationships developed unless you end up in those markets. In order to engage in A-level gigs with A-level producers, you have to develop those relationships in real time. How would you get to record for them if they don't know you? You've never had lunch with them or played with them? It's always going to come down to your personal skills and your ability to deal with people.

The emphasis on location may seem quaint these days, when musicians regularly swap music files over the Internet. Zoro is no Luddite, but he thinks online music technology is only a starting point. Moreover, YouTube has become saturated with musicians who feel they have to stand out with gimmicks like the treadmill video from pop band OK Go and Jessie J's impromptu performance in a New York subway station, or worse, create personas such as Tila Tequila. Zoro's masked crusader image would seem like something of a shtick, but he adopted it for complex, deeply personal reasons. "There's a great story behind it," he laughs, "but I'm saving it for my memoirs."

The way he sees it, a "spirit of excellence," where you develop your craft to its highest high level, is the only marketing tool you will ever need. "If you've got a great touch, a great tone, a great sound, a great attitude, and a great spirit when you play, people will spread your name like wildfire and then you won't have to come to people with hype because hype doesn't do anything for you."

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