Three Top L.A. Percussionists Talk Shop
Kevin Ricard’s Kit
Drums: LP Galaxy Fiberglass
1. 11 3/4” x 30” Conga
2. 12 1/2” x 30” Conga
3. 7 1/4” Bongo
4. 8 5/8” Bongo
5. 14” Chrome Timbale
6. 15” Chrome Timbale
7. 7” Percussion Table
A. 18” Evolution Crash
B. 20” Ozone Crash
C. 10” Ozone Splash
D. 12” Ozone Splash
E. KD-7 Kick Trigger
F. SP-D20 Multi-pad
G. PD-7 Trigger Pad
Kevin Ricard also uses Regal Tip sticks, LP drum stands, Gibraltar cymbal stands, and Gibraltar pedals.
Richie “Gajate” Garcia’s Setup
1. 20" Remo Surdo
2. 22" Remo Surdo
3. 11" x 30" LP Galaxy Conga
4. 11 3/4" x 30" LP Galaxy Conga
5. 12 1/2" x 30" LP Galaxy Conga
6. 7 1/4" LP Galaxy Bongo
7. 8 5/8" LP Galaxy Bongo
8. 15" LP Tito Puente Timbale
9. 14" LP Tito Puente Timbale
10. Bass pedal with large cowbell
11. Bass pedal with Cyclops tambourine
12. Percussion Table
13. Mambo, Chacha bells, and Woodblock
A. 16" HHX Crash
B. 14" HHX Crash
C. 18" El Sabor or Evolution Crash
E. Handsonic Foot Trigger
DRUM!: So do you think stylistic versatility is more prevalent in L.A. than in cities like New York, Chicago, or Nashville?
Garcia: I think in any major city you’ll find versatility. I remember hearing that you think of New York musicians as jazz musicians, concentrated in one style, more than here, where for percussionists like us the main advantage is we play so many different styles. When a producer calls you out here they call you because they know one minute they can ask you to do something Brazilian then something African then something … whatever. I found east coast musicians more specialized. Not that there’s not guys who can do it all, but it just seems that way.
Ricard: Which is why when you go to New York and you see the guys who play in a salsa band or Brazilian band, they play with such intensity and ferocity. That’s all they play, most of the time. My heart is in Brazilian, Cuban, and African music — all three of ours are — but we can’t always just do those specific things. We have to make a living.
Garcia: And that’s one of the reasons why we play all styles and get into everything because that’s how we keep ourselves working. I love Afro-Cuban and all that stuff, I mean I love it, but there’s times when a ton of months go by that I don’t play it because I’m out doing other stuff to keep living. Kids, house, mortgage, cars, insurance — that takes up a lot of money.
Jackson: There are so many people coming here from all over the world. There’s so much music, so many places you can go in L.A. to study a lot of different types of music. There are so many percussionists, so many musicians coming here and sharing their music.
DRUM!: Given the ethnic diversity in Los Angeles, there’s no shortage of percussion players these days. Has this affected the expectations of music producers and music directors?
Ricard: I think music directors and producers expect you to be able to get the job done and they call on you because of that. They know you have the experience and the knowledge of a multitude of rhythms. To come up with a rhythm that works for a particular track, that’s what they expect. [They expect] you to make them, their production, or show sound good. Like Munyungo said, people come from all over the world, so all those styles are brought into the pot. We’re thrown in different situations and we have to create.
DRUM!: You have to come up with the goods.
Garcia: Exactly, because the producers who call you already have an idea. They call you because they already know what you do, or if you’re recommended they know that you’re coming from a reliable source.
Jackson: This guy from Senegal, he plays a talking drum called a tama. I love they way he plays. To take that music and put it into something like R&B or funk, he’s not comfortable. A lot of people feel comfortable doing what they do from where they’re from. But here in the United States it’s a big circle of a lot of different cultures. To come here they have to stretch their musical experiences. It’s nice to share what they have but it has to work in different musical areas.
Ricard: This is a business we’re in. You have to bring a business sense to everything you do. You can’t think you’re just going to hang out and jam, because it doesn’t work that way. In a studio situation where you’re there for three hours, they want you out by the end of those three hours; they don’t want to pay overtime. They hire you because they know you’re going to get it done in one or two takes. Some players don’t get it. To make a living in this town they have to learn that business sense.
DRUM!: There seems to be fewer groups touring and those going out have smaller bands or even use prerecorded tracks. What affect has this had on touring and percussion in Los Angeles?
Garcia: I believe the reason these changes are happening or have happened is just the general world situation; economically, the war, what’s happening in Iraq, all that. A lot of people are actually afraid to go out. Secondly, the economic situation of the record companies in general. For percussionists, I remember hearing years ago that whenever bands needed to cut down, one of the first positions they would lose would be the percussionist.
Ricard: Then the sax player.
Jackson: The trombone player.
Garcia: I think that’s made us also become educators. I write books, I have instructional material and clinics in order to keep a balance of my income. Tours, the younger percussionists that are playing, it’s a different situation from when I was playing in bands and things like that. I know there’s some changes and a lot of it has to do with the general business of music that has made tours and that kind of stuff not happen.