Top 20 Drumming News Stories Of 2011

It’s been a year for the history books. And as the clock winds down on 2011, we take a look back at some of the biggest drumming news stories that have rocked the music world in the past 12 months. We’ve seen plenty of drummers playing musical chairs, witnessed a few key drum company acquisitions, a pair of high-profile lawsuits, and some plain silly stuff. We’ve also watched as promising drum companies disappeared and lost some drumming legends that made a permanent mark on the percussive arts.

So here is our choice of the top drumming news stories of 2011. It was certainly a year to remember.

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D’Addario Poised To Finalize Acquisition Of Pro-Mark

They still need to cross a few Ts and dot a few Is, but the ink is all but dry on the deal for D’Addario to acquire Pro-Mark. Some folks might not have noticed, but the Long Island-based D’Addario – originally known as a guitar string manufacturer – has steadily bought properties within the drum and percussion sector for more than a decade, beginning with Evans drumheads, and followed by HQ Percussion and PureSound Percussion brands.

“We are fortunate to have the opportunity to purchase a company with such a deep history and prominent position in our industry,” states Rick Drumm, D’Addario’s President. “Much like we have done with our Evans and Rico product lines, we plan to evaluate Pro-Mark’s present capabilities in order to advance its manufacturing operations to state-of-the-art levels. Upon execution of our future agreement, D’Addario’s team of LEAN manufacturing experts will immediately begin a LEAN transformation at the company’s Houston facilities. The changeover to a LEAN culture, coupled with D’Addario’s extensive engineering, marketing, and distribution resources, will afford Pro-Mark new growth opportunities.”

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Mike Portnoy & Avenged Sevenfold Part Ways

In the latest twist of the ongoing saga of Mike Portnoy’s employment, the metal drumming phenom has announced that he will no longer work with the Orange County pop metal outfit Avenged Sevenfold.

“Yes, the rumors are true,” he wrote in his Facebook blog, “sadly my time with Avenged Sevenfold has come to an end. The band has decided to carry on into 2011 without me. I had a great time with them throughout 2010, but it was their choice to end the relationship at the end of 2010 as was always the initial plan. I had an awesome time on stage with the guys every night and have so many cool memories from the experience with them. I am proud to always be part of the A7X family and history. I also adore the A7X fans and totally appreciate the way they welcomed me aboard and were so loving and supportive during my time with the band – thank you!”

However, it seems as if Portnoy’s exit was hastier than he may suggest, since Avenged Sevenfold has had to cancel an appearance at Australia’s Soundwave Festival in February for lack of a drummer. “We’re really sorry it’s not possible for us to play this show, and apologize for any inconvenience it has caused,” frontman M. Shadows said in an official statement. “The last thing we ever want to do is disappoint our fans, and we’ll be back to make it up to the Australian fans soon.”

Following his altogether unceremonious departure from Dream Theater, the band Portnoy cofounded in 1985, this news begs the question of where the drum icon will crop up next. “As far as my future, I am excited by the endless musical possibilities that lie ahead of me,” Portnoy mused. “My love for music runs very deep and my taste is very broad and eclectic which will give me the chance to explore many different things and collaborate with many great friends and artists I admire and respect.” Of course, we will report on his plans while the ink is still drying on his next contract.

UPDATE: The members of Avenged Sevenfold have released a statement about their decision announced late last week to cut ties with Mike Portnoy, who filled in for the band’s late drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan:

“We’re not ready to add a permanent member - and we don’t know if we’ll ever be. If we do, it will be someone who’s not only a brilliant drummer but someone we’ve gotten to know well, and who the fans get to know and hopefully accept. Mike and the band agree it can’t be him. Why? Long before there was an Avenged Sevenfold there were members of this band who looked up to Mike. Jimmy learned a lot from watching Mike play. He’s also a brilliant writer and producer. But because of all that, the world would always see it as Avenged Sevenfold with Mike Portnoy.”

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Cindy Blackman & Carlos Santana Tie Knot In Maui

Jazz and rock drumming phenom Cindy Blackman and guitar legend Carlos Santana gave their wedding vows last Sunday during a ceremony in Maui. Blackman posed outdoors with her bridgesmaids before the ceremony was moved indoors due to rainy weather conditions. Santana popped the question to Blackman, who has been playing in his band, onstage during a concert at Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, Illinois last July.

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Shine Custom Drums & Percussion Closes It Doors

(Left) Shine introduced its mid-priced Select Custom Series last year

It is with a heavy heart that we report the closure of Shine Drums, an American custom drum maker based in Sacramento, California. A victim of the ongoing recession, company founder Sean Staples decided he could no longer invest any more revenue into his struggling young company following a particularly bad 2010 holiday sales season.

Shine seemed to grow in leaps and bounds in recent years, moving beyond the elaborate custom-made kits that initially put the company on the map to a new lower-priced production line. Shine also introduced its own free-floating tom mounting system, and had even begun to carry its own branded series of pedals and hardware. We were impressed by their ambitiousness – they wanted to be Pearl rather than Pork Pie – although in retrospect, it’s possible that the company tried to grow beyond its means.

Creditors are advised to contact Shine’s attorney Mark Schmorgon at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (or at 916-446-4400).

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The View Drummer Found Guilty Of Assault

Stephen Morrison, the 23-year-old drummer with the Scottish rock band The View, appeared in Dundee Sheriff Court yesterday to face assault charges. Morrison pled not guilty to charges that he and a friend, Bryan Murphy, attacked Craig Cairnie in Dundee on October 25. Murphy attests that the pair punched and kicked him on the head and body. The trial is set of February. After posting bail, Morrison performed with The View at a gig in Glasgow’s Queen Margaret Union that same evening.

UPDATE: Today Steven Morrison reversed his original plea and admitted in court that he was involved with the October 25 beating of his accuser Craig Cairnie following a raucous night of drinking at Dundee’s Fat Sam’s nightclub.

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Lars Ulrich Sued By Former Employee

Metallica’s drummer Lars Ulrich is being sued by a former personal assistant for unpaid overtime and bonuses. Steven Wiig – a 38-year-old actor and musician – filed the suit in Marin Superior Court for unspecified damages against Ulrich and Team Tours, the company that issued his paychecks.

Wiig claims to have worked between 70 and 80 hours per week at an annual rate of $45,000, and didn’t receive promised bonuses in 2006 and 2008. He quit the job in 2009. “Wiig was essentially on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week,” his law team of Alan Harris and David Zelenski wrote in the complaint.

Naturally Ulrich's lawyer, Peter Paterno, disagrees, claiming that Wiig was paid $110,000 per years before bonuses, plus free rent and a car. Paterno told the Marin Independent Journal, “Lars’ accountant is checking on 2006, but Steve got bonuses in every other year of his employment, deserved or not. Specifically, in 2008, he received an extra $18,000. So it’s not clear what’s motivating this, but it really doesn't seem to be about his compensation, does it?"

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Jazz Legend Joe Morello Dies At The Age Of 82

The drumming world lost one of its most iconic ambassadors when Joe Morello died of heart failure today at his home in northern New Jersey. He was 82.

Best known for his groundbreaking solo on Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” Morello distinguished himself with an intellectual and precise drum style that was pivotal in shaping the sound of cool “West Coast” jazz — ironic, since he was such an east coast player.

Raised in Springfield, Massachusetts, Morello moved to New York City in the early ’50s and cut his teeth with such acts as Johnnie Smith, Stan Kenton, and Marian McPartland before replacing drummer Joe Dodge in Brubeck’s quartet in 1956.

Written by the Quartet’s reed player Paul Desmond, the song “Take Five,” was a true aberration – an instrumental jazz composition in 5/4 with an extended drum solo, which nonetheless peaked at #25 of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960, an era when rock began to dominate the airwaves..

Morello’s “Take Five” solo was pivotal in the drumming lexicon. Highly melodic, it employed rhythmic themes that Morello developed throughout the performance, played with an easy feel that defied the song’s tricky 5/4 time signature.

The drummer had been born with impaired vision, which continued to worsen after his 12-year stint with Brubeck ended in 1967. Even before Morello officially went blind in 1976, he had redefined himself as one of the top drum teachers in the East Coast (DRUM! Magazine contributor Danny Gottlieb was one of his prize students).

In recent decades, Morello released a series of educational books and videos and leaves behind a legacy of legendary recordings with some of the biggest names in jazz. He also released several solo albums, including his final one, Morello Standard Time, in 1994.

Joe Morello’s funeral will take place at St. Joseph’s Church, 44 Benvenue Ave., West Orange, New Jersey.

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Mike Mangini Chosen As New Dream Theater Drummer!

Ever since we announced that Mike Portnoy had parted ways with Dream Theater last September, speculation has run wild about the drummer who would ultimately take his place.

The wait is over. After a long period of silence – while the band conducted auditions, wrote new material, and recorded a new album – Dream Theater has announced that Mike Mangini will take over the drum chair once so closely associated with Portnoy. With his superhuman chops and perfect pedigree, Mangini seems like a logical choice, but he did have to outshine six of the world’s most extreme chops monsters to score the gig: Marco Minnemann, Thomas Lang, Aquiles Priester, Derek Roddy, Virgil Donati, and Peter Wildoer.

“The day that I got the phone call to be in Dream Theater, it took my brain a minute to assemble what was going on, and when it sank in, the feeling was just of tremendous relief,” Mangini said. “It means so much to me, I almost felt like crying a couple of times [laughs]. I didn't know what to do. What it means to me to be part of not only such a legendary band, but this band, is a sense of fulfillment and purpose. I feel like a puzzle piece, and with Mike [Portnoy] in particular, I feel really honored to carry on the torch for him; I'm carrying on his spirit.'” To watch the final video installment documenting Dream Theater’s drummer auditions, in which Mangini get the all-important phone call from the band, go here.

You can look for the band’s upcoming album and extensive world tour, which kicks off on July 4 in Rome, Italy, as well as more special coverage only on DRUMmagazine.com.

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Stone Sour Drummer Suffers A Stroke

Stone Sour canceled the remainder of its U.S. spring tour after drummer Roy Mayorga, 41, suffered a “minor stroke” following the band’s May 15 show in Des Moines, Iowa.

A release issued by the band stated “He's doing great and is expected to make a 100% recovery. We apologize to all the fans and look forward to getting back out on the road with Roy in the coming months.”

The band had only a handful of show left on their itinerary after touring extensively to promote the 2010 release Audio Secrecy. The canceled gigs were in Rapid City, South Dakota; Fargo, North Dakota; Detroit, Michigan; Libertyville, Illinois; and Columbus, Ohio.

Mayorga joined Stone Sour in 2006 after long tenures with Soulfly, Nausea, and a host of other metal bands.

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Forbidden Launches A YouTube Drummer Audition Page

Forbidden

Last Thursday we reported that Mark Hernandez quit the San Francisco veteran Bay Area metal band Forbidden, prompting the band to announce that it would have to cancel its European tour. But as luck would have it, the amazing Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel, Death, Strapping Young Lad) offered his services, and will sit in with the band at this weekend’s Alcatraz Festival in Belgium, as well as the ProgPower Festival in Atlanta, Georgia on August 27.

As much as Forbidden appreciated this good news, Hoglan could offer only a Band-Aid. So Forbidden has decided to throw open the doors to all comers. “We want the right player so we've decided to set up a YouTube channel specifically for the truest contenders,” Forbidden guitarist Craig Locicero said in an official statement. “A place just for those serious enough to show the band and the world your skills playing Forbidden songs. Send a video of yourself bashing out ’Forsaken At The Gates,’ ’Infinite,’ and another Forbidden song of your choice. We will look at all of the videos objectively and decide who goes to the next level.”

Send a Dropbox, Fileblaze, or Mediablaze download link to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). By sending in your submission, you are granting your consent to having your video file uploaded onto the Forbidden Drummer 2011 YouTube channel and other social media sites for comments. Make sure to include your name and contact information in your e-mail.

So what are you waiting for? Send in your audition video ASAP. And good luck!

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Mike Pedicone Fired By My Chemical Romance

9/6/2011 UPDATE: Today, drummer Mike Pedicone issued a more detailed explanation of the events leading to his dismissal from My Chemical Romance. Here’s the text of his statement:

“To the media, my colleagues in the music industry, and, most importantly, the fans of My Chemical Romance.

“As many of you have heard by now, on Thursday evening I was let go as the touring drummer for MCR. The ensuing hours have been difficult for many reasons, but particularly because the actions that led to my dismissal have been twisted and misinterpreted via rumour mongering on the internet. With this, I’d like to put the rumours to rest.

“Almost as soon as I began touring with MCR I ran into problems with a member of the band’s crew who I’ll not name. The problems were many, big and small, but some of them were large enough that they began to greatly impact me and, by extension, my family. I’d reached my wits’ end, and I made what was certainly the poorest decision of my life. Rather than address the issues that I had with the crew member in an open and honest manner, I tried to make them look irresponsible. My intention was to make this person look incompetent. I had no intention of profiting whatsoever. Again, I cannot overstate how poor my judgment was in this situation; it was a tremendous mistake, and it’s one I’ll regret for years to come.

“I would have liked an opportunity to share my side of the story with MCR, an opportunity to express my remorse. I was never given one.

“I’d like to thank MCR’s members, crew, and supporters for giving me some of the best musical experiences of my life in the past several months. However brief our partnership, it was an honour and a dream come true to play with such a talented bunch of individuals. I wish MCR the best of luck in the future, and I’m looking forward to my next endeavour.

Thank you, Michael Pedicone.”

9/5/2011 UPDATE: After the blogosphere lit up for the past two days with reports about My Chemical Romance sacking their drummer for allegedly “stealing,” the fired drummer, Mike Pedicone, responded on Twitter. “What happened is more complicated than it sounds but I did make a mistake,” he wrote. “It was never my intention to hurt this band or all of you. It was an error in judgment based on a whole other situation that’s way deeper but this does not define me.”

THIS WAS AN UPDATE

The members of My Chemical Romance had yet another Spinal Tap “drummer” moment when their most recent sticksman, Mike Pedicone (pictured above), was fired last Thursday for allegedly stealing from the band. Details are sketchy, but the band did release the following statement on its website:

“Some s*it happened and before the blogosphere gets all crazy with false statements and ridiculous opinions we want the true story to come from us. But please listen close because this is the only time we are ever going to talk about this. The relationship between My Chemical Romance and Michael Pedicone is over. He was caught red handed stealing from the band and confessed to police after our show in Auburn, Washington.



“We are heartbroken and sick to our stomachs over this entire situation. The band has no intention of pressing charges or taking this matter any further than we have to. We just want him out of our lives. The people who play in this band are a family, and family should not take advantage of each other like he did. We are currently moving forward, and hope to have a new drummer in place for our show in Salt Lake City, Utah [tonight] (September 3). The show must go on.”



The band acted quickly, and had Jarrod Alexander (Dead Country, Death By Stereo, Suicide File) on the drum throne for the Salt Lake City show. It’s still unclear whether Alexander is a temporary or ongoing replacement for Pedicone. We will keep you updated.

Pedicone replaced former drummer Bob Byar, who quit the band in 2010 after winning the coveted Drummies! Award for Mainstream Pop Drummer in 2009. (Bryar replaced original MCR drummer Matt Pelissier in 2004).

For the history books, here’s a glimpse of one of Pedicone’s final performances with My Chemical Romance last weekend at the Reading Festival (with none other than Queen guitarist Brian May sitting in):

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Swedish Scientists Prove Drummers Are Smart!

The next time some wiseacre cracks a crass drummer joke, be sure to whip out this recent study by Frederic Ullen and Guy Madison.

The two professors from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm asked 34 right-handed men between the ages of 19 and 49 to tap a drum stick at a variety of intervals, and then gave the test subjects psychometric test of 60 questions. The results suggested that those subjects with the best sense of rhythm scored highest in the intelligence test.

“The rhythmic accuracy in brain activity that is observed when a person maintains a steady beat is also important to the problem-solving capacities measured with the intelligence tests,” Ullen concluded, effectively verifying something that drummers have known for time immemorial: We smaht!

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Dafnis Prieto Wins MacArthur Fellows Award

Cuban drummer and composer Dafnis Prieto has been named one of 22 MacArthur Fellows for 2011 by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Often unofficially named the “genius grant,” the $500,000 award will be distributed quarterly over the next five years. The 37-year-old Prieto emigrated to America in 1999, and quickly gained recognition for his creative musicianship and impressive drumming skills. He joins such former award recipients as Jason Moran, Regina Carter, John Zorn, George E. Lewis, Ken Vandermark, Ornette Coleman, Anthony Braxton, Steve Lacy, Cecil Taylor, George Russell, Ran Blake, and Max Roach.

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Atom Willard Leaves Angels & Airwaves

Atom Willard

Word is out that veteran punk/pop drummer Atom Willard has parted ways with Angels & Airwaves, the band Tom DeLonge founded in the mid-2000s when Blink-182 went on long-term hiatus. Willard has been with Angels & Airwaves since its inception, and will appear on the band’s upcoming album L )VE Part Two.

Details remain pretty sketchy, although both Willsard and the band have released requisite announcements. “It was an honor and we wish him all the best in his ongoing journey,” said the band, while Willard stated, “It’s been a great six years and I feel privileged to have worked with these musicians I call my friends. While I will miss them, it is an amicable split and I look forward to this next chapter in my life. I truly wish the guys much success in the future.”

We suspect that with a track record that includes The Offspring, Rocket From the Crypt, and The Special Goodness, Willard will have no trouble landing on his feet.

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Chris Pennie Quits Coheed And Cambria

Chris Pennie

Chris Pennie has announced that he is leaving Coheed And Cambria in order to concentrate on new projects – namely the progressive rock outfit Return To Earth and music production company Fight Mannequins, which he launched with Return To Earth guitarist Brett Aveni.

Pennie and the remaining members of Coheed cited “creative differences” as the primary reasons for the split. “I am very thankful for the times I shared the stage with the guys in Coheed and especially want to thank the amazing, supportive fans that I’ve met while on tour,” Pennie says. “There are a lot of exciting projects on the horizon in addition to Return To Earth and Fight Mannequins that I feel require 100 percent of my commitment and attention. I feel that this is the right time to make that happen.”

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Cobham, Lang & Conte Launch Online Drum Schools

Drummers now have even more options to learn directly from the pros. Napa California-based music education company ArtistWorks has announced the upcoming launch of three online drumming schools featuring three of the biggest names in the biz – Billy Cobham, Thomas Lang, and Luis Conte – who will utilize ArtistWorks’ patent-pending video technology that allows for two-way video exchange and interactive instruction. The system integrates high-resolution video, social media tools, and the Internet’s interactive capabilities to create a robust learning environment.

Each drummer will present his full method in a series of high-quality video lessons. Subscribing students work through the lessons and use simple web cams to submit videos to their teacher for critique and guidance. The teachers then review and respond to student videos on their own time. Both student video and teacher response are paired together online as a “video exchange” for the entire community to learn from.

The Thomas Lang Drum School (www.Thomaslangdrums.com) and the Billy Cobham School Of Drums (www.cobhamdrums.com) will debut December 8 and both are open to drummers at all levels of proficiency. The Luis Conte Percussion School (www.luisdrums.com) will be added in January of 2012. Student membership plans are available at $90 for three months, $150 for six months, and $240 for a 12-month subscription.

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Austin Drumming Legend Doyle Bramhall Dies

We were saddened to learn about the death of Doyle Bramhall, who passed away at home in Alpine, Texas. He was 62. The cause of death is unknown.

Born in Dallas, Bramhall became a pivotal figure in the Austin music scene, where he established himself as a drummer, singer, and songwriter.

After moving from his hometown of Dallas to Austin in 1969, he formed the band Texas Storm with Stevie Ray Vaughn. As a composer Bramhall wrote the song “Dirty Pool” and co-wrote “Life By The Drop,” both recorded by Vaughn. He also played drums on Family Style, the 1990 collaboration with Stevie Ray and his brother Jimmy Vaughn.

Bramhall took his time releasing a trio of acclaimed solo albums – the Grammy nominated Bird Nest On The Ground, Fitchburg Street, and Is It News. He’s survived by his wife Barbara Logan, daughter Georgia, and his son, respected guitarist Doyle Bramhall II.

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Nashville Percussionist Tom Roady Passes Away

Tom Roady

The DRUM! team was saddened to learn that the veteran Nashville percussionist Tom Roady passed away last night. Even though Roady had been diagnosed with terminal stage 4 metastatic cancer in October of this year, he actually died in his sleep of a heart attack on the band’s tour bus before his first performance of the Ricky Skaggs Christmas Tour. He was 62.

Born in St. Louis, Roady got his first break working at the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where he recorded with such artists as Mac Davis, Tom Jones, Candi Staton, and Paul Anka. Since then he has played with a vast roster of artists, including James Taylor, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Simon and Garfunkel, Michael McDonald, Bob Seger, Emmylou Harris, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Dixie Chicks, Kenny Chesney, Alabama, and Kenny Rogers, just to name a few.

Besides his incredible musicianship and impressive bio, we can attest to the fact that Tom Roady always had a smile on his face and never uttered a harsh word about anybody. He will be remembered.

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Tommy Lee Sued By Former Personal Assistant

It might pay for iconic metal drummers to read the labor laws before they hire personal assistants.

Following closely on the heels of Lars Ulrich settling a lawsuit filed by a former right-hand man, Tommy Lee is the next basher to be dragged into court by his former assistant, Michael Anthony Sullivan.

Claiming to have worked as “procurer, Man Friday, chauffeur, guide, bookkeeper, attendant, door-keeper, agent, butler, valet, attendant, cook, shopper, nanny, bodyguard, maid, nurse, and nursemaid,” Sullivan was employed by the Mötley Crüe sticksman between January 2005 and March 2011. He has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the drummer and his company, Mayhem Touring, which lists a cavalcade of allegations that run the gamut from improper payroll deductions, failure to pay overtime, excessive work conditions, and defamation of character.

According to the lawsuit, Lee even charged Sullivan $1,000 a month rent after insisting that he move into the drummer’s house in order to be on call 24 hours a day. If you would like to see a copy of the complaint go here.

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Veronica Bellino Gets Jeff Beck Gig Via YouTube

Here’s a Cinderella story on steroids. When the British guitar hero Jeff Beck began scouting for a new drummer, he found himself surfing through videos on YouTube, trying to find one with “something different.” Of course, this is no small feat when you consider the caliber of drummers he’s worked with in the past, such as Terry Bozzio, Vinnie Colaiuta, Narada Michael Walden, and Keith Moon, just to name an auspicious handful.

But something caught his attention when he ran across a video clip of Veronica Bellino slamming the skins. He immediately contacted the drummer – who had some previous pro experience with artists like Rob Balducci, Solis Rex, 13, and Carmine Appice’s SLAMM – and offered her gig. And – kapow! – now the young upstart is in the studio working on the legendary guitarist’s next disc.

I sure hope she thanked Al Gore for inventing the Internet!

Veronica Bellino endorses Soultone cymbals, MRP drums, Evans drumheads, and Vic Firth sticks.