Brian Frasier-Moore: Old School Vs. New School

Brian Frasier-Moore

You might not think Brian Frasier-Moore, backer of megastar pop acts such as Christina Aguilera and Madonna, would bother with old-school funk drummers. But for this sideman to the stars, groove drumming’s first generation has never been more relevant. “I find myself referring back to Clyde [Stubblefield] and Jabo [Starks] and all of those cats with the technique of Vinnie [Colaiuta], or Dave [Weckl], or even Steve [Gadd],” he says from his L.A. loft. “It’s definitely done like a 360.”

Combining old-school technique with modern style is one solution, but the game changes when you factor in modern recording technology. Funny then that Frasier-Moore finds inspiration in an iconic punk drummer: “Look at, like, Travis Barker, when he does his thing with a DJ,” he says. “It’s sort of that mentality. For me, I will take some of the sounds from the DJ and throw them on the kit. Those electronics, man, I think they just enhance everything. You can open the whole thing up to breathe in a whole different way.”

That’s cool as long as you’re just comping sequences or loops. When those sampled sounds are triggered, that’s when it can be like stepping through a minefield. “You have to deal with the sensitivity on the ghost notes. All of us drummers, we love the ghost notes, but that’s the thin line. You have to map it out. So now what I’m going to do, I’m going to transfer that energy and that feel to the rest of the kit. Maybe the hi-hat starts to speak a little more. Maybe funk up the kick a little more.”

On top of having to avoid false triggers, almost all the new-school groovers are yoked to the click, but Frasier Moore seems to love a challenge. “Playing with a click track helps you with your placement. Because now, here I am playing with a computer. The dancers, they don’t have the computer in their ear. Some of the band may have the computer in their ear. Now I have to gel and become one with this click track, along with all the samples on the track.”

On “Ain’t No Other Man,” Aguilera’s big hit from Back To Basics, the mix was further complicated by a DJ-oriented producer. “He freestyled the beat on an MPC60 and [mouthing beat] ‘Okay, now loop that.’ Now here’s the tricky part: Do you follow the click? Do you follow the beat? Do you follow the vocals? Because they’re all not aligned together. Now playing to a click track takes it to a whole other level because you learn to weave and bob in and out of the vocals. Or the vocals might be ahead on the hook, so on bar seven you might speed it up a little to catch it on bar eight so you’re good going into the hook.”

When asked if there was more spontaneity in tracks cut by Al Jackson Jr., Clyde Stubblefield, Earl Palmer, et. al., than there is today, Frasier-Moore does not mince words. “Ab-So-Lutely one-million percent [laughs]. Like ‘4 a.m.’ by Herbie Hancock? They actually cut that song at 4 a.m. That’s a classic. People are still trying to pattern their playing after that song, and this dude went in there and maybe they had a couple of drinks or whatever and at 4 a.m. these guys are right off the dome.”