Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Beauty of Life...

I had been glancing at the paper over lunch that day before the gig. Don't know why but a particular article caught my eye. It was all about a radical and contraversial figure in the New Orleans area that was going to be leading a march that evening. So said radical was a pastor of sorts...not the kind you'd want to actually follow or find out more of what he believes...more of the fire and brimstone burn in Hell kind.

Anyways, he had organized a march that see, NOLA had several festivals come through every year...Jazz Fest, Voodoo Fest, Bayou Classic...and then there was the Southern Decadence Festival held every Labor Day weekend. I remember my first time to be playing while it was going on. No one had told me what it was or that anything special was happening...I was just perplexed at the enormous abundance of assless chaps on the street that weekend.You need to understand that Decadence Fest is a gay and lesbian festival. Brings quite a different crowd with it. So this guy had organized a march against gay and lesbian folks to coincide with the festival. Brilliant...sure to win many souls for the cause.

My interest was peaked because when they plotted out the protest route in the paper, my club happened to be right in the middle of it. Sweet...this could be entertaining.

I actually forgot about it...went in to the gig...played the first and second sets without a hitch. Quite a normal night, albeit the gay factor was up a bit more than usual, but whatever.

On our second break I had decided to go out and watch the street...I did this alot on my breaks. Bourbon Street can provide you with an endless supply of cheap eyecandy and entertainment...I love to people watch, so it just fit with me. I took my normal perch outside the Famous Door, leaning on the wall by the window, watching the madness ebb and flow up and down the street. And then i heard them...whistles, yelling, laughing, cheering...

For as long as I live I'll never forget what I saw coming down the street.

A scantily clad, gay, middle aged man was high stepping down the street, you know, like a parade marshall. Here he came in all his pomp and glory...wearing nothing but some tennis shoes, tube socks, and whitey tighty Hanes underwear. He had topped this off with a parade marshalls hat, a very large parade baton, and a whistle. What a fuss he was raising...waiving his hands to the crowds, high stepping, tweeting his whistle loud and proud, twirling his baton, and every few feet he would swing into a cartwheel...He was obviously leading this parade...proudly, loudly...but what or whom was he leading?

And then I saw...

Here they came....It was the newspaper picketers...picketing posters in hand, angry snarls, nifty little sayings on their signs like "Turn or Burn" (one of the signs even had a very detailed drawing of people falling off of a cliff into a bunch of flames with cartoon devils dancing in the fire...genius! Sure to win converts every time....) was the protesting "Christians"...all led by an almost naked gay man...


I stood in awe as this haphazard parade flowed by...It couldn't have lasted more than a couple of minutes...I swear time stood still though. Very few pictures remain in my mind as vividly as this one does.

And then they were gone. The Street moves like a river...something happens, a disturbance arises, and then it flows slowly downstream...

I don't know that there's anything to learn from this...nope, I'm positive of it. There's absolutely NOTHING of value in that story.

But you know what...sometimes life is weird. Sometimes situations are messed up. Sometimes it doesn't make any sense. I think that's part of the beauty of it though...

Video of the Week...Ari Hoenig...

I give you Ari Hoenig...One of my favs. This guy is an absolute monster in all aspects...musicality, technicality, writing, improv...ok, so he looks a bit weird when he plays. I can live with it. Sometimes we get so caught up in chopsfests that we forget that the drums are a real and valid musical instrument. The way he plays the melody, plays off the's just tasty. Check out his album "The Painter" ...his treatment of "Summertime" is mindblowing.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I've got a 2 year old. Two year olds are great...everything is new, everything is an adventure, the only thing to worry about is what we're going to play. He loves the drums (calls them bang-bang), loves music, and he loves cookies...

The thing that amazes me the most is his learning process and how he works around his weak areas. He's really just now learning to put sentences together, learning to ask for things, etc. It's interesting to me that he doesn't really understand the process of asking a question. He hasn't grasped the concept that if he wants his train, all he has to say is "Daddy, train please." It's not a full question, but I would get the jist of what he wanted and get him his train. He knows all of those words, he just doesn't get the whole idea of asking for something. But he knows what he wants. So what does he do? He sits there and says,"Train train train train train train train train train train train..." Meanwhile I'm watching tv..."train train train train train train train"...I can't hear anything that's going on with the show I'm watching...all i hear is "train train train..."...and finally I get what he wants...he wants his train. So I get it for him.

This whole process could be SO much easier if he were to just ask me for the train. But he doesn't know to do that yet, so he repeats the word over and over, louder and louder, until someone notices and gets it for him.

I learn more from him than I'd like to admit at times...

This is the very essence of persistence. We could learn from it. This translates into practice, gigs, and life in general. Yes, many times there are smart ways to go about learning something new, or getting in with a new crowd, or whatever...we're humans, we have the ability to reason and think problems through and problem solve, and we should. But sometimes it comes down to sheer persistence. Who's gonna keep at it the longest.

I'm not the most talented player...I'm not the smartest person...I don't have all of the answers...but I'm persistent. It's paid off in spades in the should try it. Not everything in life can be microwaved...some things have to slow boil...

The tortoise wins everytime I read the book...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Studio in Limbo...

So I've been working my tail off to get this thing going...Lots of drywall holes to patch, old taped seams to re-tape, caulking, cleaning...and as you can see in the photos above, framing, insulating, and drywalling where the garage door is. I decided to leave the actual garage door on the outside of the house (inside looks like a finished room, outside looks like there's a garage.) The reason is simple really...I'm trying to get into this thing quickly...I don't have the cashflow this month to buildout the studio, buy all of the equipment, AND replace all of the siding on the outside of the house...I know, in a perfect world...

...So I'm building a wall on the inside to close off the room. The pictures above are the initial garage door (That's my father in law Jimmy....a great big thanks for all of his help in the framing), garage door with framing, and then one with insulation in place. We floated the drywall last night and the mudding will begin tomorrow.

This whole remodel is really only taking a couple of hundred dollars in's just requiring a BUTTLOAD of work from yours truly...but that's ok, my masterplan is almost in force.

So why am I posting about this?

Simple...there are lots of folks out there that think a studio is way out of their range, could never happen. Well, actually, it can get affordable pro quality gear and finishing a room for recording doesn't have to break the bank. Once you get in and start using it, you'll invariably find things that you need to improve on in the room, but simply getting started is somewhat low cost.

So I'm posting this to encourage you. I've been working towards this for almost two years now....frickin' cool...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas...

Percussionists keep busy this time of the year...what with all of the songs with jungle bells, carol bells, bells, little drummer boys, imitating reindeer hoofs on the rooftop...I'm getting exhausted just thinking about it. I don't want to take up much of your time, so this is just a short one to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Take some time today to realise how truly blessed you are, to focus on the positives and not the negatives....and to play some frickin' drums!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

1,000 True Fans...

Below is a post I ran across a while back. I feel like it very succinctly describes where the market is, why it's a great place to be, and how individual artists, writers, and the likes can benefit from it...Here's the original link from The Technium, or just read on below...

The long tail is famously good news for two classes of people; a few lucky aggregators, such as Amazon and Netflix, and 6 billion consumers. Of those two, I think consumers earn the greater reward from the wealth hidden in infinite niches.

But the long tail is a decidedly mixed blessing for creators. Individual artists, producers, inventors and makers are overlooked in the equation. The long tail does not raise the sales of creators much, but it does add massive competition and endless downward pressure on prices. Unless artists become a large aggregator of other artist's works, the long tail offers no path out of the quiet doldrums of minuscule sales.

Other than aim for a blockbuster hit, what can an artist do to escape the long tail?

One solution is to find
1,000 True Fans. While some artists have discovered this path without calling it that, I think it is worth trying to formalize. The gist of 1,000 True Fans can be stated simply:

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author - in other words, anyone producing works of art - needs to acquire only
1,000 True Fans to make a living.

A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the
eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.

To raise your sales out of the flatline of the long tail you need to connect with your True Fans directly. Another way to state this is, you need to convert a thousand Lesser Fans into a
thousand True Fans.

Assume conservatively that your True Fans will each spend one day's wages per year in support of what you do. That "one-day-wage" is an average, because of course your truest fans will spend a lot more than that. Let's peg that per diem each True Fan spends at $100 per year. If you have 1,000 fans that sums up to $100,000 per year, which minus some modest expenses, is a living for most folks.

One thousand is a feasible number. You could count to 1,000. If you added one fan a day, it would take only three years. True Fanship is doable. Pleasing a True Fan is pleasurable, and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that True Fans appreciate.

The key challenge is that you have to maintain direct contact with your 1,000 True Fans. They are giving you their support directly. Maybe they come to your house concerts, or they are buying your DVDs from your website, or they order your prints from Pictopia. As much as possible you retain the full amount of their support. You also benefit from the direct feedback and love.

The technologies of connection and small-time manufacturing make this circle possible. Blogs and RSS feeds trickle out news, and upcoming appearances or new works. Web sites host galleries of your past work, archives of biographical information, and catalogs of paraphernalia. Diskmakers, Blurb, rapid prototyping shops, Myspace, Facebook, and the entire digital domain all conspire to make duplication and dissemination in small quantities fast, cheap and easy. You don't need a million fans to justify producing something new. A mere one thousand is sufficient.

This small circle of diehard fans, which can provide you with a living, is surrounded by concentric circles of Lesser Fans. These folks will not purchase everything you do, and may not seek out direct contact, but they will buy much of what you produce. The processes you develop to feed your True Fans will also nurture Lesser Fans. As you acquire new True Fans, you can also add many more Lesser Fans. If you keep going, you may indeed end up with millions of fans and reach a hit. I don't know of any creator who is not interested in having a million fans.

But the point of this strategy is to say that you don't need a hit to survive. You don't need to aim for the short head of best-sellerdom to escape the long tail. There is a place in the middle, that is not very far away from the tail, where you can at least make a living. That mid-way haven is called
1,000 True Fans. It is an alternate destination for an artist to aim for.

Young artists starting out in this digitally mediated world have another path other than stardom, a path made possible by the very technology that creates the long tail. Instead of trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum hits, bestseller blockbusters, and celebrity status, they can aim for direct connection with
1,000 True Fans. It's a much saner destination to hope for. You make a living instead of a fortune. You are surrounded not by fad and fashionable infatuation, but by True Fans. And you are much more likely to actually arrive there.

A few caveats. This formula - one thousand direct True Fans -- is crafted for one person, the solo artist. What happens in a duet, or quartet, or movie crew? Obviously, you'll need more fans. But the additional fans you'll need are in direct geometric proportion to the increase of your creative group. In other words, if you increase your group size by 33%, you need add only 33% more fans. This linear growth is in contrast to the exponential growth by which many things in the digital domain inflate. I would not be surprise to find that the value of your True Fans network follows the standard network effects rule, and increases as the square of the number of Fans. As your True Fans connect with each other, they will more readily increase their average spending on your works. So while increasing the numbers of artists involved in creation increases the number of True Fans needed, the increase does not explode, but rises gently and in proportion.

A more important caution: Not every artist is cut out, or willing, to be a nurturer of fans. Many musicians just want to play music, or photographers just want to shoot, or painters paint, and they temperamentally don't want to deal with fans, especially True Fans. For these creatives, they need a mediator, a manager, a handler, an agent, a galleryist -- someone to manage their fans. Nonetheless, they can still aim for the same middle destination of ...
1,000 True Fans. They are just working in a duet.

Third distinction. Direct fans are best. The number of True Fans needed to make a living indirectly inflates fast, but not infinitely. Take blogging as an example. Because fan support for a blogger routes through advertising clicks (except in the occasional tip-jar), more fans are needed for a blogger to make a living. But while this moves the destination towards the left on the long tail curve, it is still far short of blockbuster territory. Same is true in book publishing. When you have corporations involved in taking the majority of the revenue for your work, then it takes many times more True Fans to support you. To the degree an author cultivates direct contact with his/her fans, the smaller the number needed.

Lastly, the actual number may vary depending on the media. Maybe it is 500 True Fans for a painter and 5,000 True Fans for a videomaker. The numbers must surely vary around the world. But in fact the actual number is not critical, because it cannot be determined except by attempting it. Once you are in that mode, the actual number will become evident. That will be the True Fan number that works for you. My formula may be off by an order of magnitude, but even so, its far less than a million.

I've been scouring the literature for any references to the True Fan number. co-founder Carl Steadman had theory about microcelebrities. By his count, a microcelebrity was someone famous to 1,500 people. So those fifteen hundred would rave about you. As quoted by Danny O'Brien, "One person in every town in Britain likes your dumb online comic. That's enough to keep you in beers (or T-shirt sales) all year."

Others call this
microcelebrity support micro-patronage, or distributed patronage.

In 1999 John Kelsey and Bruce Schneier published a model for this in First Monday, an online journal. They called it the
Street Performer Protocol.

Using the logic of a street performer, the author goes directly to the readers before the book is published; perhaps even before the book is written. The author bypasses the publisher and makes a public statement on the order of: "When I get $100,000 in donations, I will release the next novel in this series."

Readers can go to the author's Web site, see how much money has already been donated, and donate money to the cause of getting his novel out. Note that the author doesn't care who pays to get the next chapter out; nor does he care how many people read the book that didn't pay for it. He just cares that his $100,000 pot gets filled. When it does, he publishes the next book. In this case "publish" simply means "make available," not "bind and distribute through bookstores." The book is made available, free of charge, to everyone: those who paid for it and those who did not.

In 2004 author
Lawrence Watt-Evans used this model to publish his newest novel. He asked his True Fans to collectively pay $100 per month. When he got $100 he posted the next chapter of the novel. The entire book was published online for his True Fans, and then later in paper for all his fans. He is now writing a second novel this way. He gets by on an estimated 200 True Fans because he also publishes in the traditional manner -- with advances from a publisher supported by thousands of Lesser Fans. Other authors who use fans to directly support their work are Diane Duane, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, and Don Sakers. Game designer Greg Stolze employed a similar True Fan model to launch two pre-financed games. Fifty of his True Fans contributed seed money for his development costs.

The genius of the True Fan model is that the fans are able to move an artist away from the edges of the long tail to a degree larger than their numbers indicate. They can do this in three ways: by purchasing more per person, by spending directly so the creator keeps more per sale, and by enabling new models of support.

New models of support include micro-patronage. Another model is pre-financing the startup costs. Digital technology enables this fan support to take many shapes. Fundable is a web-based enterprise which allows anyone to raise a fixed amount of money for a project, while reassuring the backers the project will happen. Fundable withholds the money until the full amount is collected. They return the money if the minimum is not reached.

Here's an example from Fundable's site;

Amelia, a twenty-year-old classical soprano singer, pre-sold her first CD before entering a recording studio. "If I get $400 in pre-orders, I will be able to afford the rest [of the studio costs]," she told potential contributors. Fundable's all-or-nothing model ensured that none of her customers would lose money if she fell short of her goal. Amelia sold over $940 in albums.

A thousand dollars won't keep even a starving artist alive long, but with serious attention, a dedicated artist can do better with their True Fans.
Jill Sobule, a musician who has nurtured a sizable following over many years of touring and recording, is doing well relying on her True Fans. Recently she decided to go to her fans to finance the $75,000 professional recording fees she needed for her next album. She has raised close to $50,000 so far. By directly supporting her via their patronage, the fans gain intimacy with their artist. According to the Associated Press:

Contributors can choose a level of pledges ranging from the $10 "unpolished rock," which earns them a free digital download of her disc when it's made, to the $10,000 "weapons-grade plutonium level," where she promises "you get to come and sing on my CD. Don't worry if you can't sing - we can fix that on our end." For a $5,000 contribution, Sobule said she'll perform a concert in the donor's house. The lower levels are more popular, where donors can earn things like an advanced copy of the CD, a mention in the liner notes and a T-shirt identifying them as a "junior executive producer" of the CD.

The usual alternative to making a living based on True Fans is poverty. A study as recently as 1995 showed that the accepted price of being an artist was large. Sociologist Ruth Towse surveyed artists in Britian and determined that on average they earned below poverty subsistence levels.

I am suggesting there is a home for creatives in between poverty and stardom. Somewhere lower than stratospheric bestsellerdom, but higher than the obscurity of the long tail. I don't know the actual true number, but I think a dedicated artist could cultivate
1,000 True Fans, and by their direct support using new technology, make an honest living.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Video of the Year...Hands Down...

I can't tell you how much this video made my day...Words just can't express...

Friday, November 27, 2009

All competition can be beat with passion...

All competition can be beat with passion...

This goes for all walks of life. Nothing new here.

So what, all you need to do is feel passionate about drumming, music, flipping burgers, etc and you'll beat your competition?

No...that's ridiculous. The thing is....passions make us do funny things.

I'm passionate about my wife...she's great. If I had to pick between her and sliced bread as being the greatest invention in the history of the world, she'd win hands down (and I love me some sliced bread). Having a passion for her isn't enough though. I've got to show her, work at our relationship, go the extra mile...

Same goes with business, or drumming, or whatever. If you have the passion for it, you'll do whatever it takes to make it happen. You'll put in however many long hours you need to, turn over every stone you find, take crap, give crap, FAIL, succeed, FAIL some more, practice and practice and practice, shed tears and blood...

...But the passion is where it all starts. If you don't have that, none of the other matters. That's why you get such lackluster service at the DMV...I've never met anyone that was passionate about the DMV. So you get what we all get...lackluster service, long lines, etc.

Don't ever be scared of your competition. Even if they're great at what they do, your passion can always lead you in a direction that will help you find your niche in life...the niche that was made just for you...the one that only you can fill. Once you find that, you're money. And you beat your competition at your game everytime.

It's all about putting the ball back in your's all about beating them with passion.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


It's finally happened...I'm joining the infamous home studio crowd. Everyone in Nashvegas has one...just ask them...they're just as good as the big studios...just ask them...They can do everything a major studio can...just ask them...

...I have no misconceptions that my studio will rival the many $20,000 HD Pro Tool rigs that are here in town...not even gonna try. This is about what I need for my evil plan...

What are my needs?
What's the cheapest but most effective equipment I can buy that will satisfy those needs (Computers, mics, pre-amps, etc.)?
How can I utilize the room I have for maximum results?
What's the cheapest way to soundproof?

...and about a billion other questions, but that gives you an idea.

I'm simply wanting a killer setup that I can get great drum sounds out of. I'm also working on a budget, so I need to figure out how I can make my pennies scream in agony as I wring every last ounce of value out of them.

So what does this mean? Well, I've realised it means my gear won't be the newest and shiniest around (lots of it will probably be used). I probably won't have the top of the line mics that I want (I'm planning on borrowing some until I have my own...utilize favors). I'll probably not be able to finish out my studio (immediately anyways) in my dream fashion...

Again, I could go on but there's no need to. I'm simply wanting to get a good work space up and running, period. The goal is to keep my gear accumulation up front to about $3000 (computer, mics, interface, lines, software, and video...yes, video). The buildout in the room is going to be minimal. I'll be finishing out my garage (see pic above)...running A/C and heat in there, sealing it off, soundproofing, painting, etc...quite a job, but well worth.

So why do you care? I have no pretensions that you do. And I don't mind one bit if you don't read any of the posts about it...I'm just wanting to explain how you can take very minimal means and creat a great workspace. So if you're interested, keep an eye out in the near future. If you're not, go read the newspaper...fine by me either way.

Friday, November 20, 2009

If I Could Only Make Black People Dance...

People lose jobs everyday, especially in the market we're currently in. And they lose them for lots of reasons...maybe they show up late, don't perform at the desired level, take too many smoke breaks, watch porn at work, call the boss an idiot while simultaneously posting a twit pic of his head superimposed over a woman, spend too much on the company account, sleep with the boss' know, regular stuff.

I've never been fired...ever....but I came really close one time...really close. You would immediately jump to the conclusion that I had done one of the above mentioned tasks...if only it had been that simple.

You see, when you're the drummer for the house band in a dance club, one thing is have to make people DANCE...otherwise, it's a stand club, and those can be real downers...standing and consuming alcohol isn't nearly as entertaining as doing the white mans underbite while awkwardly grinding on your favorite woman...or at least your favorite at that particular club...ok, it doesn't even have to be your favorite at this point, just one that lets you accost her with your "moves"...when you've got beer goggles on, it just has to lack an Adams apple and a bulge and we're good to go...then again, it was Bourbon Street, and those last two specifications didn't matter to some...Change of criteria: if it doesn't have chairs around it it's probably fair game.

I've strayed...oh yea, back to the point of this quickly plummeting post...

In order to make someone dance a drummer must possess one thing...not killer chops, not cool hair, not the latest and greatest kit...yes, that's must possess GROOVE (See "Steve Gadd" in the dictionary)...DUM-DUM-DUMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!

One problem...go ahead, ask someone how to get groove...

"You just gotta feel it man!"


The drummer for the night band, Jeff, (we played 4-9, they were on from 9-whenever people passed out and were dragged back to their hotel rooms) came over to my house one night...he was also my teacher at the time. Yes, I had pretty much the best learning setup ever...but he came over to give me a heads up...I was fixin to lose my job.


"People ain't dancin''ve gotta get people to dance."


"Groove man, you gotta get your groove on."

"How do I find my groove?!"

"You just gotta feel it man..."


I was freaked out...I had moved to NOLA by myself, I was 19 and only knew one person there (and he was telling me I was fixing to lose my job, so I wasn't particularly fond of him at the moment), and didn't really have the gig knowledge, connections, or experience to go out and land another gig by myself. I was tweaked...I didn't know what to do.

I lay awake all night that night...thinking, turning things over in my mind, trying to find my groove...

With his help I started on a journey I'm still participating in now...the journey to groove. I began to completely emerse myself in the music we were performing...I listened to it over, and over, and over, and over, and over...I listened to the hi-hat only, then the bass drum only, then just the snare...why were they doing the things they were doing? What made people want to dance to "Brick House" everytime it came on but when I played no one danced? Why couldn't I have been born an African American, therefore being given unlimited natural groove powers that I could use at my own discretion?

I would mimick these recordings repeatedly...I would play "Funky Music" all the way through with only my hi-hat, then just the bass drum part...I had to find out why this groove was universally danceable.

At the same time I was also having to continue to play these songs live five hours a day, 5-6 days a you even know how discouraging it is to perform a job everyday with the knowledge that you're doing it wrong and having no idea how to fix it? Not to mention if I lost this gig I had NO money...I was going to starve for lack of groove...This seemed ridiculous...

Then one day I devised a evil that just might work...

"Black folks have rhythm...If I could just make them dance I'd know I was onto something..."

I would watch the black patrons we had come in...they were like rocks when I played...take the same person and come back that evening when Jeff was playing and they'd be laughing and drinking and...DANCING! I couldn't get them to move if I picked them up and shook was horrible.

Day in and day out I would single them out...I'd change something I was doing and pay attention to their reactions...were they tapping their foot? Were they nodding their head? Swaying back and forth? Throwing up while having to watch this white kid try to play the drums...

And then one day it happened...the guy started moving a bit...what was I doing?! How could I replicate it on every song?!

As I emersed myself in the style of music we were playing and watched the crowds, things began to change. I began to change. My playing began to change. The things I worked on at that time were very small in comparison to what I normally practised...but they revolutionised my playing.

I wound up never losing my job...I found a groove, my groove. The key was that I accepted the criticism and ran with it. I wanted to figure out how I could fix it. And it helped that I wouldn't be eating if I didn't fix it. That's a different kind of urgency.

So here's to the black man. Here's to their rhythm. And here's to them saving my job by helping me find my groove...

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why I Don't Want to be Called Catalina...

"I don't need cocaine to make life go by any faster" least that's what I thought walking back to my car from the gig that night.

It's no hang around the music "scene" long enough and you're gonna run into situations where the "hard stuff" is present (Forgive the excessive use of quotation marks). They don't tell you about that in college. At least that's been my experience. If you've gone through a career in music and never had to deal with it, kudos. I've been playing clubs since i was 16...and it seems to be a recurring theme.

I'll try to keep this from sounding like a PSA announcement...

I'm sure you've heard me say...I moved down to NOLA about as green as a person can be. Bourbon Street was a rough place. I guess it's fun...if you come in for a weekend trip, party hard, throw some beads and go home.

It's a completely different animal when you work in it. You're the life of the're the energy. If the clubs not full, managers are lookin' at the band. If the people aren't dancin' and partyin', managements lookin at you...etc. Even if you don't party hard every night, the energy and appearance of a good time should still be portrayed. Easy trap to fall into...drink a few too many every night...smoke a lil too much...just try it one time...need the energy...

...and before you know it, you're a fifty-five year old, cross dressing, cracked out keyboard player. You laugh...I knew one......

Anyways, back to that night I was talking about. I was in between house gigs and was doing a good bit of pickup work. I had picked up a night shift with a band at the Krazy Korner. A finer lineup of personel could be found nowhere...I had pet names for them all (none of which i called to their faces...)

Crackhead Chris: Guitars...he wasn't all there. That's what crack does to you.

Cocaine Hank: Fearless Bass player...had this nasty habit of hanging over my hi-hat and staring at me intently. Serious encroachement of the personal space...Really unnerving...Suffered from frequent nosebleeds...

Crosseyed Willy: I didn't make that one up...he was really crosseyed and that's what some folks called him. I'm not pokin fun, just stating the facts. He was a short, perverted black guy with horribly crossed eyes. To cue me he would look at the side bar (I was behind him)...It took me weeks to figure out he was trying to get my attention...

and me on drums...

Anyways, we were on the second break. I had wandered to the stock room where the band hung out to get away from the crowds. I was sippin' on some of my tonic of choice (Diet Coke at the time) when I noticed Crackhead Chris and Cocaine Hank huddled in the corner. I figured they were busy rolling a joint...they had that look about them. For some reason I hollered over at Cocaine Hank to get his attention about some inconsequential thing...

He looked up at me...he had some white stuff smeared below his nose...

"Hey Hank, you've got somethin' on your face man," I said... Wait. So that's what that looks like.

"You want some of this? It'll keep ya up during the next set."

It was my first encounter with it. I'd been around weed, X, alcohol...granted I never took part...For some reason I was always a little scared to touch any of it. I think I knew deep down I might actually like it, like the feeling it gave to just steer clear.

"Nah, I think I'm good. Maybe I'll just chug a Red Bull"

I wandered off to the bar to refill my Diet Coke.

The next set was fast...really fast. Every song was about twice the album tempo. What would you expect? I had a rhythm section that had just snorted a bunch of was flyin by for them. All I can remember is being in the middle of "Sweet Home Alabama" with Cocaine Hank hangin over my hihat screaming "It's too slow...we've gotta pick it up!" It wasn't too slow...that's the fastest i've ever played that song...but then again, I've never played that song on cocaine.

I left Hank in an empty bar that night. They had closed down and the barbacks were cleaning up from the festivities. He was pacing back and forth the length of the bar, playing store licks at lightning speed through the PA, completely coked out of his mind, talking ninety miles a minute...

The next gig I played with him he was wiping a nosebleed the whole night.

I moved back home to finish college and came back one weekend to visit. Stopped into the Famous Door to see who was on the afternoon was Hank and his band. He looked awful. He must have dropped 20-30 pounds since I'd seen him last...sunken eyes, dazed look...

All of the cliche D.A.R.E. sayings were coming to mind..."Crack is wack"...etc.

I wish I could say he was the only friend I had that was messed up in some stuff. Wish I could say that. I'm trying to think back to how many there were...I don't remember...

...we'd have to go get them out of their apartments from a weekend binge just so they'd make the gig...go look for them and find them in a parking lot somewhere, wife and kids worried and waiting at home...they'd come in with their face all busted up from a run in with one of their "buddies"...Asking bandmembers follow them home to make sure they wouldn't stop at their favorite corners...

You get the picture. It's why I left NOLA. I didn't want to wind up age 55 with a crack habit, sporting an orange dress in my free time, with a nickname like Catalina (I really wish I was makin this stuff up...)

And that's what I've always thought, the same thought I had that night walking to my goes by quick enough. I don't need anything to speed it up. I already feel like I'm missing some of it, why would I want to blank out and miss some of the best experiences?

If that's what it takes to be creative, I'm out. But it's not know that, I know that, the people that are involved in it know that...they're just caught up in a vicious cycle.

Do yourself a favor...steer clear of it...

Friday, November 6, 2009

A FAIL Story...

I was thinking about my most embarrassing moments on stage a few days ago, and remembered one I had tucked way back into the deep recesses of my mind...

I'm 19...Bourbon Street in NOLA...I had been with this band for a couple of weeks. It was a full 7 piece band (bass, guitar, vocals, drums, and 3 horns) and we played alot of top 40 schlock (EWF, James Brown, Gap Band, etc...). Great group and I was the youngest BY closest to my age was mid twenties and the oldest was 50-something...and I was green...we're talkin' neon-too-green-to-look-at was bad. But I was learning.

The biggest deal for me was knowledge of the set list. most of the songs we were playing had been hits before I was even a twinkle in the eye of my parents. Lots of catchup for me...the list was roughly 50 tunes deep and I knew maybe 5 coming into it.

Anyways, back to the memory...we played a version of "Smooth" by Carlos Santana. In the middle we went into a horn break and the rhythm section went into a Samba type feel...simple, right? I had never rehearsed it with them, they just told me about the section on the break and we were gonna go into it live...

Middle of the second verse...palms are sweaty...hearts racing...

That particular section comes barreling at me and I throw in a fill to lead into the Samba section...uh-oh...something is horribly wrong...the horns are falling out one by one...the bass player is hollering something at me...everyone's glaring at yours truly...this went on for roughly 3 hours. Ok, maybe about 5 seconds...nonetheless, it was a long time in my mind. Finally the guitarist kicked his amp and crashed into the chorus....slowly everyone stumbled back into the tune...

What happened?

I had committed the carnal latin sin...I had REVERSED THE SAMBA!!! (cue dramatic music and gasps)

Instead of was chick-boomboom-chick-boomboom...that's what they were yelling...the horns thought they were lost, the bass player was trying to get me to turn it back around, and the guitarist probably would have shot me had the opportunity presented itself.

I slithered defeatedly out the door on our break to assume my spot on the outside wall...that's where I watched all of the street craziness happen...

Bobby O (sax player...he used to run a few big bands at Disney World) came outside after a while and leaned on the wall next to me...silent...saying nothing...or was he yelling? The silence was quite loud, having trouble remembering...

I stumbled through some sort of an apology. He kindly (which wasn't his nature) said,"Don't worry about it. That happens. You wanna know what the worst part was?"

There was a worse part than the embarrassment I was feeling at this moment?!

"What?" I asked slowly...

"Raymond Weber had just walked through the door to check us out."

This was bad. This was real bad. I knew for a fact that Raymond had heard about the new kid on the street and had come to check me out...why this night? Why that song? WHY?!?!?!

Raymond was a local drumming god...played with Harry Connick Jr, Dave Matthews, lots of others...I had been planning on impressing him since I had moved down.

Impress I did...I mean, not a good impression, but I'm sure I made some sort of impression on him...

I was embarrassed for weeks...The whole time I lived in NOLA I never got the courage to strike up a conversation with Raymond because of that moment.

And what did I learn?

Work on your samba?

I probably learned what every other musician, or artist, or businessman, or entrepreneur learns...mistakes happen...sometimes in front of important people. Always have, always will. Accept it. Learn what you can from them. Drown your sorrows in twinkies and chocolate milk for a few days and make sure THAT mistake never happens again, then hold your head up high...

...and don't let past mistakes affect future relationships and progress...yea, I guess that's what I learned...

...and the Samba...I also learned my Samba inside and out the next day...

Video of the Week (or's been a while...)

This is just funny...that's all...


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Starving Artist Denial Syndrome...or the SADS...

I was thinking about this the other night for some reason...It happened a few years back when I was playing for my church...I do this often. Keeps me grounded, let's me give some of my talent back, and is part of my threefold philosophy with drumming...

There are 3 types of gigs that you should be involved with at all times...

1) Paid (The most popular by far)

2) Experience (These are sometimes paid, but oftentimes when they are it's not much...these are the learning times. That group you took on because the music was really challenging or you saw it would give you the chance to stretch out a bit in the music...yada yada yada...)

3) Unpaid/Charitable (Church, Christmas volunteer stuff, etc...)

I was playing with a bass player I had played with once before and I couldn't remember his name. After rehearsal we exchanged niceties and I got his name again...we'll call him Fluff...and asked him what he did for a living, to which he replied, "Well, I'm a bass know, lots of studio stuff, some live stuff..."

Cool, great work if you can get it, albeit rarely stable work.

So here's the problem I had...I knew for a fact that playing wasn't all Fluff did for a living. How, you might ask, did I know that?

Rewind a few weeks...I was working my cash job (go here to see what that means). I'm a personal trainer and not ashamed to say it. That brings in the majority of the cash money at my house. Music brings in some too, but as you know, I re-vamped how I'm doing things a couple of years ago...

Anyways, I was working my cash job...and Fluff was working out in the same room I was training my client in (I casually brought my gym up in conversation later just to make sure this was the same guy...). I guess he overheard us talking about my kid. He grabbed one of his business cards and popped over to tell me how I needed to get my son some of whatever it was he was trying to sell me (it was some useless commodity that no child really a life insurance plan or something like insurance for me, check. Life insurance for my 2 year old, probably not...) was obvious this guy sold a good bit of this stuff, he had cards, an office, yada yada...

So why did he tell me he played music full time? Why was he afraid to tell me he sold such and such commodity as well as played music?

Seems I run into alot of folks like this in Nashvegas...

They're in the second stage of what I like to call the Starving Artist Denial Syndrome...or the SADS (the first stage is when they are actually in fact starving from lack of work and unwilling to get a job that will allow them to eat anything besides ramen noodles)...they can't face up to the fact that they haven't positioned themselves within the musical market well enough to have a steady stream of income from it, so they go get a "real" job and convince others that they really are , in fact, working full time as a musician, this other work is just extra.

Rock on Kennedy.

They're scared too...they have no clue how they'll be able to ever get music to be a full time thing. Only thing they can come up with is maybe they'll land that dream road gig...or become "the" session player in town...or whatever...and this job will just "get them through the lean times"...all of which they have no actual control over.

So what did I say when he asked what I did?

I told him I was a personal trainer. Period.

Do I play music for pay? Sure. Do I make well at it? Some months more so than others. Do I have a game plan for increasing my capacity and pay in the musical arena? You freakin' bet I do (Watch this space...)

I gave up a long time ago trying to convince people that I played full time when in fact I didn't. What was I gaining from lying? Absolutely just made me feel like a moron for not having more gigs. The real problem was that I didn't have any sovereignty over my work...I didn't say when I played, for how much, for whom, etc...I was waiting on the calls, and that sucks and is never steady.

So 2 years ago I took on personal training.

One of the best things I've ever done. I say who I work with, when I work, when I'm off, how much I work for. And that goes for music now as well...if I don't want to take a gig because I don't like the players or it doesn't pay quite enough for me to "want" to do it, I don't. Period.

It was a huge ego hit at first...I went through some mad depression about it...all because I tied my self worth to my playing.


The sooner you get that through your skull the better.

So why did Fluff's denial bother me so much? Because I don't think he knows HOW to make the music thing work. I don't think he's figured out how to gain sovereignty over his playing and career. Have I? Not fully, but I've got a better idea than 90% of the folks out there waiting for gigs...

and how do I know that?

I'm way happier than most of them. Very content with where my career is and where it's headed. In no rush to get there because I want it to look just like the image of my career I have in my head. I love my original project I'm involved with...I love playing at the church I do (they have so many killer players there!)...I dig the session work I've been doing...the road work and live gigs I've been doing have been top notch on so many levels...etc...

So when should you face up to the fact that your career isn't what it should be and start taking steps to fix that?

I don't know...I'm still figuring things out for's different for's a huge step, but one well worth taking. You owe it to yourself ...and to the rest of the world... to reach your full potential.

It's like George Bernard Shaw said:

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

I've decided to be the unreasonable man nowadays...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Failure Is The New L.A...

Have you worked on your FAIL today?

Sure, alot of times it is the best that succeed. But you know what I find? Most of the "best" are really just the most persistent that kept at it until they were perceived by the rest of the world as the "best". Thomas Edison was the best...and he was also the most persistent...and he was one of the biggest failures ever...he failed thousands of times...and you know what he said when asked how it felt to fail at something over 10,000 times?

"I didn't fail 10,000 times, I simply discovered 10,000 ways that it wouldn't work."

So he was the best...and the most persistent...but I guess if you look at it in that light (no pun intended) he was also a FAILURE.


I think this pertains to drumming and music in the biggest way...

What else are we doing with our practice time? We find something that we are failing at (i.e. single strokes, funk grooves, stick know, the important stuff...) and then we set about fixing the FAIL.

Do you know how long it took me to play 5 over 4 smoothly? MONTHS! And what was the payoff you might ask? When I started I had no clue...I just knew I had heard something in my head, couldn't play it, and that needed to be fixed. After I established that I could in fact play 5 over 4, it was only then that I realized what it had done for me. All of a sudden my subdivisions were coming easier to me...the ones we use all of the time... My independence was going through the thinking was more precise and accurate...

I've used 5 over 4 in a playing situation maybe four times in the 5 years since I learned how to play it...but who cares. I took something that I FAILED at and turned it into something that I was good at...only after I did that could I see the applications available to me for using it. Do you think that Edison knew all of the applications for the light bulb when he made it? Absolutely not! He just thought it would be cool to have some safe light once the sun went down!

We all too often see failure as a negative, and I'm suggesting that you start to view that word in the positive category. Once you FAIL you know what needs work...


If you know of one that wasn't, please enlighten me.

You don't really have to be the just have to be the most persistent. Persistence takes alot more time...and patience...and planning...and waiting...and work...

Being the best is hard too, but give me a decent player with lots of FAIL in their past and a killer work ethic anyday over a GREAT one with a lackluster approach to life, a lethargic nature, and no FAIL.

So go ahead...why don't you go FAIL at something today? It would be alot more interesting and productive than spitting out some garbage you've been rehearsing for the past 4 be the best you have to make yourself the have to push yourself to the places you haven't been...


I've got a few new rudiments that I need to go FAIL at for a while actually...

Seth's Thought's On Your Hat...

This is Seth Godin's (he has one of the widest read marketing blogs in the world) latest blog entry...I love his stuff. When I post stuff that doesn't seem to directly pertain to drumming or music, it's because I'm wanting you to THINK. Open up your mind, explore possibilities...I don't know many musicians in Nashville that wear just one takes several to make things work...and sometimes those hats don't have anything to do with drumming (GASP, HORROR, SCREAMS!!!)...

Ms. In-between
The either-or world continues to decay, confronted by a shifting economy and the tools of the net.

It used to be easy to tell if someone was a journalist. Either you were or your weren't. So giving special privileges to journalists was easy. Parking permits, press badges, first amendment protections... no problem, you're a journalist. Everyone else? No way.

It used to be easy to tell if someone was an entrepreneur. Either you had a full-time job or you ran a business. So we could treat employees the same (health insurance, no moonlighting) and assume that the few that didn't have jobs were full-time freelancers or entrepreneurs.

It used to be easy to figure out who did the buying at an organization. The purchasing department did. So we knew who to call on.

Now, of course, it's all jumbled up. Everyone is a journalist, of course, but just a few do it for a living. Everyone is a freelancer, or, at the very least, always looking for the next gig. Everyone with a credit card can do the purchasing, they just expense it.

Society hates this. It means we need to make up new rules, FTC disclosures, legal principles, safety nets and more.

Marketers love this, because it means change and that means opportunity.

If the only reason you're only wearing one hat is because you've always only worn one hat, that's not a good reason.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bourbon Street, Bands, and Deuschbags...

When I was 19 I landed a gig with a band on Bourbon Street in New Orleans (Check out some pics of the street here)...We played 5-6 nights a week, 5 hour shifts, 3 hour and a half sets with 2 thirty minute breaks. This was THE gig that got me together as a player and put me on the level I wanted to be at...and did I mention it was on Bourbon Street? If you've never been there, and you'd like to take a break from reality, by all my guest...

I grew up a pastors son in deep South Mississippi...if you want to call it sheltered you could...oh yea, and I was home schooled most of my life also? Ok, I lived a sheltered childhood, whatever. Bourbon was about as far removed from what I'd grown up with as I could have gotten. People came there to lose their minds at the airport and then picked them up on their way back to their "normal" life. One of the club managers asked me one night after a week long break what I had been doing..."Just normal stuff...just being normal..." To which he replied "what's normal?" And I just thought "Not this buddy, not this..."

Anyways, it was a wild ride...lots of beads, boobs, alcohol, debauchery, etc...I was only 19, so I had a first class sober seat for this ride...which is the difference between me and 99% of the other folks on that street...I remember it all...

I was on the 4:30-9:30 shift one day at the BBC (Bourbon Street Blues Company)...the band was called RTL (it stood for Redneck Trucker Love...I'll delve into the story sometime about how I had to learn 64 songs in 2 and a half days for that audition...)...good group, played everything from classic rock to current rock, blues, whatever...At this time in the day we played to a mostly seated crowd that just wanted to get away from the oppressive cajun heat and humidity.

Out of the right corner of my eye I caught them coming in...we'll call them Deuschbags 1, 2, and 3 (DS for short)...all of them were pretty muscular guys, the kind you might run into at any of the identical frat parties happening across college campuses, and they were dressed accordingly...

DS1 was wearing an American flag bikini top with tight daisy duke American flag bottoms, tennis shoes, lipstick, sunglasses, and topped it off with a curly blonde wig...he was also carrying a large jar of pink liquid with bright red chunks floating inside. More on this later...

DS2 was the most conservatively dressed, or so it seemed...He had on full face makeup (think your everyday, run of the mill streetwalker)and a conservative bright red minidress with red high heels...not too bad...

DS3 was the "man" of the group...he was out caveman style...Had on a Tarzan suit, leopard print, barefoot, and was using one of the cups from a local bar that served a drink they called the "Hand Grenade" (a highly potent green concoction of liquor poured into a glass with a skinny neck about 2 feet in length...pic here) as a caveman club...

Keep in mind it was 4:30 in the afternoon...hardly late enough for these types of shenanigans...

They were a loud group, much to the chagrin of the calm folks seated at the bar...jumping around, hollering, jumping on stage, flashing the audience (apparently DS2 had forgotten that proper ladies wear underwear underneath their dresses...our female lead singer was having fun with him...thank God I was at the back of the stage and he was facing the other way. I missed his "show"...)

The next few minutes were a blur...

we kicked into AC/DC's "Back in Black"...and they kicked into overdrive...

I was looking down for some reason when I heard the crash...I looked up to see what had happened and was suddenly transported into some sort of GWAR type ordeal. Our singer was holding onto his mike for dear life, his feet slipping out from under him due to the thick coating of broken glass and slime that now covered the floor...the bass player was hollering for the doorman and pointing towards said guitarist was screaming profanities at DS1, 2, and 3 and kicking large, soft reddish chunks out into the audience while trying to keep his footing. And then the smell hit was like rotten pickles mixed with decaying flesh and feces...

...we're still playing "Back in Black"...

The loud music, the smells, the deuschbags going crazy

...It was pickled pigs parts...the jar I mean.

It was full of pickled pigs parts and pickled slush juice...and DS2 had decided to launch it onstage. We ended the song, all 3 deuschbags were kicked out, and we took a break.

So what did I learn from this?

I don't know...don't let 3 guys exotically dressed up carrying jars of pickled pigs parts into your club? Maybe I wasn't supposed to learn anything. That was actually not too suprising of an afternoon on Bourbon Street. And I played there for 3 years...I have ALOT of these stories...

So even on my worst gig, I always think "At least no one's got a jar of pig..."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Nothing to do with Drumming?

This was done by David Gillespie

This may seem like it has nothing to do with drumming...or your career...or your livelihood...or your future...

...and it's ok if you don't get took me a LONG time to get it...

...but get it you must...cause if you don't you're probably already sunk as a striving creative entity with the need and drive to monetize your abilities for personal sustenance...

Some highlights that blew my mind...

-It is now as easy to create content as it is to consume it...that is the important part of what is happening. That is what people are referring to when they say "social media".

-If both the web and media are inherentyl social, and if business must have a presence online, then business must have a social element. To not have that is to forego both logic and opportunity.

-“It makes increasingly less sense to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves-the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public-has stopped being a problem."
-Clay Shirky

...This has taken the previous model of content being scarce, media being expensive, and the attention of the audience being guaranteed- and flipped it.

"If I tell my Facebook friends about your brand, it is because I like my friends-not because I like your brand!" -Mike Arauz

The Three Musketeers rule:

All For One is the 20th century value creation. It is drive by the self-interest and excelled in the silos.
One For All is how businesses thrive today. When they create value for themselves, they create value for an eco-system.

Freemium: Now=Free combined with Now=Paid…Build an audience with FREE, use it to develop a premium product for PAID.

If you can figure out how to utilize the above information, you're looking at a beautiful, rewarding, and influential career...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Drummers of Next Big Nashville: Dan Epand of Nico Vega

A small crowd was gathered at the downtown Nashvegas club 12th and Porter...they'd already seen countless bands over the past few days and were showing some signs of exhaustion...cue Nico Vega...

Lights are low...ambient guitars start to come through...Aja walks out in a long dress and barefooted...and for the next 45 minutes they have the attention of everyone in the room. I keep trying to figure out at what point did they have me hooked...Was it the chanting intro of "Million Years"....was it when Aja jumped down from the stage and bumped my shoulder, pushing me aside as she "visited" her crowd...or maybe it was when Dan stood up screaming and proceeded to punch his cymbals...

And then I think,"Who cares?"

Who cares at what point I was hooked...point is, they had me. By far the most enjoyable show I saw at NBN. From start to finish Nico Vega showed Nashville why they deserved the accolades they've received. On a sidenote...shame on Nashville, which is notorious for their lack luster live crowds, for having such a poor turnout for their first time in town. I was equally impressed with the intensity of their show despite not having a huge audience. Nothing was left to chance...they left it all on stage.

If you don't have Nico Vega's album, you need it...go here to download the tunes. They've been on "Last Call w/ Carson Daly" and earlier this year they had a song featured in the movie "The Collector". We need more female singers like Aja in the rock world...heck, we just plain need more great bands like Nico Vega!

What's your background with the drums?

I had some great teachers growing up. NY drummer Joe Bonadio was a big insperation and really challenged me. I also studied with Keith Copeland, a great jazz drummer, who opened up a lotta doors. More than anything though, it's about putting in the time and doing the work. Also, listening to music and drummers who inspire you. I was lucky to be surrounded by some great musicians and other great drummers growing up. I learned alot from the guys I grew up with. It got competitive sometimes... In a good way

Traditional or Matched grip?

I use both. Depends on the style of music. With Nico Vega I generally use matched.

Favorite drummer?

John Bonham, Steve Gadd, Jim Keltner, Tony Williams, Ringo

Favorite band?

Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, Miles Davis, Jeff Buckley, Beatles

Do you have a consistent practice time outside of rehearsals?

I used to. Less regimented now. These days I spend most of my time just playing and touring. I used to split my practice time between drumset and reading on a practice pad. On the set, I spent a lot of time with Gary Chesters book "New Breed". Great for independance. For the hands I have about 40 snare drum books that I'd go through. I learned a lot about feel and texture from playing with James Brown and alot of jazz records.

Do you have a day job?

I have a friend who says make money when you can, not when you have to. I try to work as much as possible, but am just not home very often these days. There's a company called The Real Rock and Roll Movers in LA. The owner is a drummer and employs only musicians. Pretty rad. I'll usually give him a call when I'm home and have down time.

When you're on the road, what do you travel in?

We just bought a van. Still working on a name though. It's silver in case you have ideas.

Best part about being on tour?

Playing a show every night.

Worst part of being on tour?

Food. It's a real callenge to not eat crap all the time.

What sets your live show apart from others?

One of my favorite words in music is conviction and i've never been drawn to any artist who doesn't live or die with every note. I would say that we leave it all on the stage when we play, and hopefully the listener walks away having felt or released something as a result.

With the major labels struggling, do you feel it's more important for a band to focus on getting signed or focus on getting a significant buzz within a given group of people?

I think you should never focus on an outcome like getting signed. It really means nothing anyway these days. I know alot of other signed bands who have nothing going on. Make good music you believe in and people will react. You have no control over anything beyond that.

How much does chance play a part in the success of your band and how much of the success comes from sheer blood, sweat, and tears?

I would say we had to work for and earn everything that has come our way. There is chance maybe in the circumstances of 3 random people connecting and creating something so special... The chemistry feels so magical. But we put in the time as a band. Creating the music is the only part that has come easy.

Quote that you live by?

"he that's not busy being born is busy dying" Bob Dylan

Top photo by Zoran Orlic

And there you have it, the Drummers of Next Big Nashville...I really do hope you've enjoyed these interviews. And again, I want to say a huge "Thank You" to all of the great players and bands that took the time to share their experiences, passions, and music with us...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Drummers of Next Big Nashville: Nathaniel Shelton of The Worsties

I first saw the Worsties at the Red Gorilla Festival (happens at the same time SXSW does in Austin, TX). I was also playing Red Gorilla with Meshach Jackson and we had decided to go out that night after we played and catch some bands. We happened to walk into a small venue and lo and behold, some fellow Nashvillians were tearing the stage up...I stayed for the whole show, which says alot considering what all else was going on that evening. The energy and pace of the show was great. I immediately talked to them after the set and said we needed to set a show up with them and my band, Lovers and Liars...

Fast foward a few months and we were both on the same bill with Marcy's Playground in Clarksville, TN. Again, they had a stellar performance. And to boot, these are some of the nicest guys (and gal) that you'd ever want to meet. You can grab their new cd "Dude, Dude, Dude, Totally!" here.

How long have The Worsties been around, how long have you been with them, and how did you get the gig?

The Worsties have been a working band for about 4 years now. I joined the band around 2 years ago. I'm the first permanent drummer for the band. Before we hooked up, they used a drum machine and had more of an electronic vibe. In the process of becoming more of a rock band, they had a few hired guns and friends filling in. Then we met and we're a family now.

What's your background with the drums?

My father was a very talented and accomplished drummer. At a very young age, he showed me how to hold the sticks and turned me on to some great music... mostly soul music from the 60's, which I still love! We've talked a lot about the philosophy of drumming, and I've heard lots of great stories about his drumming career. I consider those things to be my most valuable lessons. I took proper piano lessons for several years when I was younger, but I'm a mostly self-taught drummer. Concerning the technical aspects of drumming, I've learned that through my own playing experience, studying other drummers, reading every piece of drumming literature I can get my hands on, and listening to all kinds of music.

Traditional or Matched grip?

I can play both. It really just depends on the situation, style, or feeling of the music. I think it's important for drummers to understand both grips and learn both. With the Worsties, I always play matched grip to get more power and projection. It is also useful because I do a lot of big double crashes in most of our songs and it helps me reach the cymbals.

Favorite drummer?

My favorite drummers are some of the most influential jazz drummers who ever lived... Tony Williams, Joe Morello, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, and Buddy Rich. There are so many more, but that's my "big 5". The rock drummers that influence my playing with the Worsties are Bill Stevenson, Jimmy Chamberlain, William Goldsmith, Joey Castillo, and Chris Pennie. I'm a huge fan of Brian Blade... he's my favorite drummer on the scene today.

Favorite band?

I have so many, because I love so many styles of music... but one that I never tire of is The Descendents. As a kid, they were one of the first rock bands I was ever into. So their music is nostalgic to me and always a fun listen.

Do you have a consistent practice time outside of rehearsals?

I practice every day no matter what... I can't sleep if I don't play! I usually practice jazz coordination exercises from all of the classic workbooks that my heros learned from. I am particularly fond of "Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer" by Jim Chapin... I've spent so much time with that book that I dream about it sometimes! Also, "Master Studies" by Joe Morello, and "The New Breed" by Gary Chester. When I feel like I've hit a wall, I improvise on the drumset, play along with cds, or shed rudiments on the pad. When I'm not playing, I am always listening to music and I read Modern Drummer Magazine religiously.

Do you have any other projects that you're involved with at this time?

I'm a full-time Worstie! But I love jamming and recording with my friends whenever possible.

Do you have any endorsements?

I have no endorsements, but I do have brand loyalties. With the Worsties I always play Tama drums and Tama hardware, Zildjian cymbals, Evans heads, and Vater sticks. I also have a small collection of vintage Slingerlands and Ludwigs from the 60's and 70's.

Do you have a day job?

I do have a day job. I enjoy working and I love to stay busy. But in some ways it's just a means to an end. The advantage is that it allows me to pursue music simply because it allows me to pay bills, eat, and have a place to sleep. The main disadvantage would be that it takes time away from doing what I'm truly passionate about, which is making music.

Is your band signed?

We are not signed, though we have had quite a bit of interest from labels, both major and indie. For the Worsties, the advantage of being an unsigned band is being able to do things on our own terms, develop our own style, release songs when and how we want to, play when and where we want to, etc. The disadvantage is having to do all to footwork ourselves -which isn't easy- but it's a job we all love to do. This is our baby, and it's going to take a very special parent to come along for us to consider giving it up for adoption! When the right opportunity comes along, we will take it. I see that in our future.

When you're on the road, what do you travel in?

Jairo usually takes his private jet. I prefer to drive, though. For long trips, we usually rent a big van. For closer regional shows, we take one or two of our own cars. Whatevs. As long as we all get there!

Best part about being on tour?

Making music together, partying, making new friends, seeing great bands, and playing Mad Libs in the van! Jairo, Jesse, and Anna are some of my best friends, and a lot of that is due to the time we've spent together on the road.

Worst part about being on tour?

There is no worst part! I even love the annoying parts.

What is your band doing to think outside of the box when it comes to attracting new fans?

We are fairly traditional when it comes to the way the band makes new fans. We take full advantage of all internet resources, of course (MySpace, FaceBook, iTunes, etc.). But mostly, we just try to stay productive, write new songs, and when we play live we PLAY OUR A%@$# OFF!!! Most of our fans have been made at our live shows. It may not be "outside the box", but that's how we do it. Like they say... the proof is in the pudding!

What sets your live show apart from others?

The only way I can describe it is that it is a party on the stage. We always strive to put on the most high-energy show we possibly can. It can be wild and unpredictable at times. But we have a great time performing and we want the crowd to have a great time, too. When you go to a Worsties show... it is really a SHOW. See us live and there will be dancing and debauchery... this is a given.

What's the biggest challenge you face as a band?

The most challenging thing for us now is that we all have day jobs... bummer.

With the major labels struggling, do you feel it's more important for a band to focus on getting signed or focus on getting a significant buzz within a given group of people?

To me, there's really no difference. It's all about what you do with it once you get there. Keep playing and play the best you can. As long as you give it your all and stay true to yourself, then you will be able to enjoy any successes that may come your way. If you really have what it takes, you will be noticed.

Future Plans?

My future plans are to create as much music as possible, have fun adventures, and always work toward mastering my instrument. Music is a lifelong pursuit for me. I will go wherever it takes me.

How much does chance play a part in the success of your band and how much of the success comes from sheer blood, sweat, and tears?

I often compare "making it in the music biz" to winning the lottery. I do believe a lot of it is right place, right time. However, I think you can also put yourself in the right place at the right time. We do live in Music City, after all. I believe the blood, sweat, and tears are necessary to develop a healthy perspective, but sadly not always required in the world of pop. Those who have gotten lucky without earning it usually sparkle and fade. The Worsties are hands down the hardest working band I've ever met, so we're here to stay.

If you had a fifteen year old sitting in front of you and could tell him/her anything about the music business, being in a band, or drumming, what would it be?


Quote that you live by?

"Have fun, stay young!"