“After all the years of doing it, I’m blown away by this whole thing that happens when you get together and play with people,” he says. “You go to this place; you meet these people; and you make this mysterious noise together that they call music. I love the spontaneity of it all. I call it ’dancing in your mind.’ You have a sound looping through your mind but you’re not playing it literally. The other day someone wanted me to record some percussion overdubs. I did something I’m really comfortable with, which is to show up without anything planned and to start picking things up; maybe playing one thing in one hand while the other hand is doing something else. It’s that feeling of just jumping into a lake without thinking about it first. It keeps it very fresh that way. I like the idea, too, of getting to a place and not having something and looking around and finding things; rummaging through a parking lot and finding a piece of metal that could be used as a ride instrument. Some people think of me as creative and sensitive but there’s also time to be crazy and nutty. There are so many ways to paint a picture!”
1. Simplicity will set you free: That simple magic thing that you stumble on while playing will have an infinite shelf life.
2. Space is the place: It makes the music of the drums dance.
3. Don’t be so literal: The other day on a pop song I played sixteenth-notes in a triangle with my right hand and in my left I was holding and muting the triangle – not necessarily in a pattern, just letting it come and go, and it made the groove breathe. Freddie Staehlie (one of the original drummers with Dr. John) told me the same thing about playing on a snare, where you just let the sticks hit rimshots as they may.
4. Be open to ideas: A nondrummer may have an idea for you and because it’s non-drumistic it could possibly totally open your mind!
5. Think outside the kit: Set up your drums/percussion kit according to the groove. It doesn’t have to be so standard. You will get closer to the vibe if you arrange the kit to physically fit the groove, even if it looks goofy – i.e., a floor tom where a snare usually is, congas flipped around (high drum on right, low on left; vice versa for left-handed players).
6. Write it out: Write inspiring ideas down before you record or play out, but when you finally play, still lean toward your instincts. (This varies depending on who’s running the ship.)
1 20" x 16" Gretsch bass drum
2 14" x 6" World Max Black Dawg snare drum
3 14" x 14" Gretsch Floor Tom
A 13" Paiste Signature Series Hi-Hat
B 20" Paiste Traditional Series Crash
C 20" Paiste Twenty Series Ride
D 12" Greg Keplinger Custom Gong
E Percussion Latina Peruvian Cajon
F Izzo Pandeiro w/ Danmar clamp
G Gon Bops Mariano Bongos
H Vaughncraft Tambourine w/ mount by Professional Drum Shop
I Pete Engelhart Sate
J LP toys including JamBlocks and Vibra-Slap
K Custom Hubkap-A-Phone
L Custom tiki god wood chimes
M Korg Wave Drum