Behind The Scenes With Matt Ochoa Of Dirty Heads

What's not to like about the Dirty Heads? They encompass the groovy spirit that Sublime started back in the 90's with their Hip-Hop/Reggae-esque vibe. You can hear the Dirty Heads laid back So-Cal rhythm in their self-titled fifth studio album which debuted July 15th. So it's fitting that the Dirty Heads are currently on tour supporting Sublime With Rome. Matt talked to us about how he challenges himself by playing together with fellow percussionist Jon Olazabal and finding the right spot to lay down some solid chops for Dirty Heads.

DRUM! Matt, there's a lot going on in the drums on this tune (“That’s All I Need”) and it's not easy to hear all of it.

Matt On this tune we worked with producer, Justin Grey. The original two front man of the band went in to collaborate with him on this and did most of the production and writing pretty much in one day. Justin incorporated loops that he already had and from there, after getting the basic demo of the song down, we just wanted to add a live drum element and that’s when I came in.

DRUM! What is being played on this tune?

Matt “That’s All I Need”, to me, is kind of like an anti-chorus. You think of chorus’ for songs like big and full of instruments and drums and everything. But on this particular song there is actually no drums really in the chorus. The song is very minimal for live drums, we wanted to focus on the lyrics. There are actually quite a few percussion instruments going on. Jon who is the percussion player in our band and he is doing some little tasty things on this track. For this song, chorus’ are pretty much no drum and what I wanted to do was just fill in the loops that were already there and keep it simple, basic, and a good feeling groove for the song.

DRUM! Are there sampled or sequenced drums or percussion in there with you playing?

Matt Yes, definitely. There are samples, there are loops, there’s sampled kick drums, there’s sampled claps. What I like to do when we play live is actually play over the loop and be as tight as possible with the loop but also take the sample claps and play them on a pad or anything like that. That’s what I like to do live, is play as much of the program beat live on a pad.

DRUM! What was your setup like for this recording?

Matt For this recording, well during the session of the record, I used my current touring drumset which is an Orange County drums and percussion five-piece maple kit. One rack tom the size is 12" x 8", one floor tom 16" x 16" and another floor tom 18" x 16", and I think there is only the one tom drum fill. Mostly, I'm just picking up the groove on the hat, kick, and snare.

DRUM! This is sort of reminiscent of Sublime. What's your approach to putting reggae feel with hip-hop feel when creating tracks like this for the Dirty Heads?

Matt When I was growing up starting to play drums, I was heavily influenced by Sublime. They were the closest thing I'd heard to the Dirty Heads sound. I would look at the style of Bud, how he would play and try to mimic that and kind of make it my own. So basically, just taking parts from one of my favorite bands and making it my own.

I would say that when I first got in the band reggae drumming wasn’t natural to me. It kind of seemed backwards. You have what is called the “one-drop” and the bass drum is backwards [on a different beat] than what you are used to. You’re used to hitting the kick on the one, the snare on the two. For the one-drop, you would bring the snare and the kick and hit it both on the two. I had to practice a little bit and listen to artists like Bud Gaugh from Sublime and older reggae artists like Gregory Isaacs, and Horace Andy to get that feeling of traditional reggae drumming. Once you get the one-drop down, everything feels more natural.

DRUM! What's your biggest challenge in the band?

Matt I would say the biggest challenge in the band is just finding the right part and the right spot to place my parts because we are a very sample and loop-driven band. It's easy to step all over that stuff. Especially having a percussion player too, we all have to play together and find our own spot and how we fit in with the song, not make it so crazy with different beats and different loops here and there. I’d say that the biggest challenge is definitely just finding the right spot to support the song to support the band as far as playing my part.

DRUM! We're going to give you five seconds to thank all the great drum companies you work with. Can you handle it?

Matt I’d like to thank all the sponsors and companies that support myself and the Dirty Heads; Zildjian, Vic Firth, Evans Drumheads, and Orange County Drums and Percussion.

The guys will be performing their newest single, “That’s All I Need”, which is currently in the Top 20 at Alt Radio, LIVE on The Today Show on August 3rd.