presentation2Off Beat is proud to announce an online partnership with Around The Kit, a three-hour weekly Drum-Talk Radio show that features exclusive interviews with some of the biggest drummers. Visit their website and Facebook page for information on upcoming guests.

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Read Exclusive Interviews written for Drumhead, Modern Drummer and Off Beat: Troy Luccketta – Steve Goold – Daniel GlassGarrett Goodwin – Steve Smith – Dan NeedhamKelly KeagyScott PellegromBrandon Scott – Mike “Woody” Emerson – Ben BarterRich Redmond  – Sean FullerJason Hartless – Robert Sweet – Keio Stroud – Tommy Taylor – Frankie Banali – Bobby Z – Danny Seraphine – Dino Sex– David Abbruzzese – Marisa Testa – David ThibodeauRobert Perkins Sarra CardileBill Stevenson

Leave a comment

September 9, 2016 · 10:30 am

Four Year Anniversary

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that this month marks the four year anniversary of Off Beat. I must admit that I did not anticipate this blog lasting as long as it has nor growing in popularity as it has. We can now claim thousands of readers in over 30 countries. Over the last four years I’ve been fortunate enough to have interviewed some amazing drummers. I’ve also posted what I hope to have been thought-provoking pieces on all things related to drums. I’ve enjoyed myself immensely and I hope that you have too. This coming year I have big plans for the blog. I don’t want to give away any secrets but live video is one of my goals. I want to include you in the growth of Off Beat so email me at ma@pinstripepress.net with your ideas. What do you want to see here?

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Exclusive Interview: Bill Stevenson

Pop Punk Pioneer
by Michael Aubrecht

I’m a big Henry Rollins fan. I like his music, his writing and his spoken word. I’m also a fan of his band Black Flag. One day I found some of Black Flag’s live performance videos on You Tube. The drumming on them is amazing and I was immediately struck by the intensity with which the drummer played.  This inspired me to go back through the Black Flag catalog, particularly the years 1982-1985. That was a particularly good era for the band when they were their most ambitious. Bill Stevenson was the drummer during this time and his style and stamina really stood out to me. A quick search on the Internet led me to Bill’s recording studio and I was able to get in touch with him. After talking to Bill I was even more impressed as he is a really sincere guy.

“Hi-energy” isn’t even close of a term to describe the drumming of this pop punk pioneer. His unique ability to shred on the drums with acts such as The Descendents and Black Flag has made him a standout among his peers. Not just a drummer, Stevenson is also a multi-instrumentalist. Staying-power is one of Stevenson’s gifts. For several decades he has managed multiple versions of his bands while maintaining their original spirit. Dave Grohl has cited Stevenson as one of his main influences and credits his hard-hitting style as being directly influenced by Stevenson’s lead. A humble man, Stevenson is quick to share or give credit to others for the success of his various music projects. Despite being in the studio, he took time out of his schedule to do an interview with Off Beat.

MA: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I know you are currently in the studio.

BS: It’s my pleasure.

MA: Let’s start with the first question I always ask. What brought you to the drums?

BS: I think it goes all the way back when I was three or four years-old. I would get the pots and pans out on the kitchen floor and turn them upside down and hit them with the spatulas and ladles or whatever I could find. In school I was always fidgeting and tapping out little rhythms on my notebook. I guess drumming is perhaps first and foremost a way to release nervous energy. As a fidgety kid at some point the universe told me that I should do my fidgeting behind a drum set instead of during trigonometry class.

MA: Did you participate in any music programs at your school? Did you study with a teacher or were you self-taught?

BS: I’ve never had any classes or training on the drums, or guitar, or bass, or any other instruments that I play. I’ve always been the kind of person who can just pick something up. While I never excelled in sports, I can still be like “Oh we’re playing basketball? Sure I’ll play basketball.” Or “Oh you want me to play the banjo? Sure I can figure that out.” By the way, I’m a horrible banjo player but it sure is fun.

MA: You play a lot of instruments. What are all of the instruments that you do play?

BS: I don‘t practice the other instruments as much as I used to. I used to play more guitar during the week than I would drums. I would always have a guitar in my hands and I was always playing, writing songs and trying to come up with a cool guitar part. My first several songs were written on the bass. The first song on the first Descendents album was written on a bass. It’s funny how it happened. I was taking my trash can out to the curb. I was 14 or 15 at the time. The neighbor had just taken their can out and there was some instrument sticking out of the can. I went over and pulled it out of there and it was a bass and that’s what I used to write my first songs on (Myage and Bikeage). I guess at this point I would have to claim to be mainly a drummer but I’ve been through phases where I was quite good at other instruments when I put the time in.

MA: You went to Mira Costa High School. At what point did you start playing in bands?

BS: We started The Descendents when I was just 15. I had only had a drum set for maybe two months, so I got right to it. The guy that sold me my first drums showed me two things. He unpacked the drums out of his car and he showed me how to set them up. Then he showed me a rock beat like “Pat Boone – Debbie Boone”. Next he showed me a little Latin groove and then he left. My music lesson was about 90 seconds long. But then I started playing along with KISS records, the Rolling Stones and Ted Nugent (although I can’t say that I listen to him anymore because I don’t care for his life views). I also loved Aerosmith and Black Sabbath. I would turn them up real loud on the stereo and play along. I did that for about two months and then I met Frank Navetta and he was looking to put his band idea together but he didn’t have a drummer. He and I had fishing in common so that’s how we got to know one another.

MA: Tell us about that first drum set?

BS: It came from a company called Stewart. I bought it used from a friend who worked with my dad. I think I may have paid $200 for it. It was a 20” kick, 12” rack tom, 16” floor tom, now that I think about it, it may have had a 13” tom too. I have a photo of it somewhere. Shortly thereafter I got a real Slingerland drum set.

MA: Do you still have it?

BS: No I don’t. The earliest drum set I have is probably my most “known” drum set – which is the big huge one. That’s the one I did all of the early Descendents and Black Flag records with. They were also Slingerlands with concert toms. That one had a 26” kick drum, 16” rack tom, and a 20” floor tom. That kit is pretty hammered. I took that everywhere and we didn’t have cases at the time. All the rough traveling took its toll. Recently I’ve tried to tune it up but I can never get a good sound.

MA: What musical style would you say the early form of The Descendents were? Some people put you in the Punk category. Some say you were early Alternative.

BS: I think the best operative terms for our sound in the beginning would be Power Pop and maybe New-Wave. I think “Ride the Wild”, that 7 inch (this was before Milo Aukerman joined) is along those lines. Side A is very Power Pop and is very influenced by an LA-area band called The Last. That band also went to Mira Costa High School, but they were older than us. The Black Flag guys and the Pennywise guys also went there. We were all in that very small area, about a two-mile radius. The other side, Side B, is very DEVO or Oingo-Boingo influenced. Also hugely influenced by an early LA punk band called The Alleycats. At that point I feel like we were wearing some singular influences on our sleeves. The “magic sauce” for The Descendents sound is pretty simple. It’s 33% The Last, 33% Black Flag and 33% Alleycats. If you listen to those bands you can hear almost every trick that we do.

MA: You guys have developed a very distinct style using those influences as a foundation.

BS: It’s hard for me to say because I worship at the altar of these bands. I would go and watch them practice every day. I was that kind of fan. It’s hard for me to even think that I have innovated anything because I know what I was listening to at the time. I guess that’s the way of it right? With all art you look in a different direction. You look at Charlie Parker and you go “What if he went left here instead of right? Let’s try that.”

MA: What do you think was so special about that area that blossomed so many bands?

BS: The Alleycats were in Lomita. That’s where The Descendents ended up when we moved out of our parent’s house. We shared the same office building where we carpeted the walls to sound-proof them. The Last lived five blocks from me. They are all brothers. As far as Black Flag, I could throw a rock from my house and hit Greg Ginn’s house. We were all right in that area. The Pennywise guys still live out there. We’re all real close. As far as why there was such a concentration of bands? It’s cool. I’ve never asked why.

MA: Can you tell me about those first gigs that you guys had? And did you all play together with one another?

BS: For a long time our gigs consisted of whatever parties we could play. When we finally became aware that there was a scene it was pretty much one of our friend’s bands putting us on a show or some of us would end up pulling together and renting a VFW hall, an Elks lodge, or even just an empty storefront. We’d put on shows for $3.00 or $5.00 a person. We did that for a while. I think Black Flag probably gave us the most shows. They probably helped us the most. This was of course before I was in the band. I went on to join them later.

MA: Could you give us some more details about how you formed The Descendents?

BS: A lot of random happenstance, haha… Through fishing I knew Keith Morris (the original Black Flag singer). Keith’s dad owned the fishing tackle store and he worked there. I would come in when I was seven or eight years-old and buy bait or tackle and I would talk to him. We became acquaintances and then friends. At some point he started telling me about music. I’d tell him that I got the new “so and so” record and then he would turn me onto something else instead. He turned me onto The Stooges and even things like The Kinks. Bands that were pre-punk because that scene wasn’t quite happening yet. We bonded over music.

Then one day there was a party at Panic’s practice room, which was what Black Flag was called originally. Keith invited me so I rode my bike down and different people were playing. I played a little bit with Greg on guitar and Joe Nolte from The Last on bass. We played for maybe 15 minutes. That was how I introduced myself as a guy who was into this kind of music. Joe told his brother Dave that we had played together and that I lived in the area. Dave told Frank at school, who came up to me in the hallway and asked me if I wanted to jam. That was how Frank and I got together. Frank heard Tony Lombardo playing down the alley from where we practiced. He walked down there and asked him if he wanted to jam. That’s how we got together. Not long afterward, (via my “advanced placement classes”, haha, I was the dumbest one in those classes) I became friends with Milo. He would come to our practices every day. He didn’t drive so I would have to go to his house and pick him up. Frank and Tony were becoming less interested in trying to sing, and one day Frank just said “Milo, you sing!” And that was it.

MA: What a great story. You guys grew up together and things just fell into place.

BS: We found out later that the reason Milo was coming to practice was that he was hoping we would let him sing but he was too nervous or shy to ask.

MA: The other band that people are probably most familiar with you being a part of is Black Flag. Can you tell us how you came about to play with them and later produce the band?

BS: Again this speaks to the proximity. There we were, all together. ROBO, their drummer, kept getting deported. He is a Columbian citizen. Whenever he would get sent home I was right there, glad to fill in. I filled in for several years before I actually joined the band. When he’d get back in the country he’d return as the band’s drummer. Eventually the guys said that they had had enough of it because it was disruptive. At that point they went through a parade of drummers and had two drummers play one tour each. I even had to fill in between those two guys. Destiny said that I had to officially join the band so that they didn’t have to keep looking for drummers.

MA: Milo and Henry (Rollins) are very different types of front men. What were the differences for you as the drummer playing behind both of them?

BS: That’s a helluva question. I’ve never thought of it in terms of singer. I’ve always thought of it in terms of music or song. Like the whole sound of the band, not just one member. The Descendents ended up having more of a playful sound, a little more innocent, a little more naïve. Also more melodic. Black Flag was a heavier sound. I think from the drumming standpoint, at least in the beginning, they weren’t really different for me because I was taking so many queues from ROBO already. But then shortly after I joined Black Flag the music was changing. Greg was changing the band. We started moving in a lot of directions like hard rock or metal and even progressive-like. I was 19 or 20 and I was still learning how to play the drums. It was all just exciting for me. I’ve been so lucky to have played with some of these guys. I think about all the cool people I’ve played with like Henry and Milo and Tony and Frank and Karl Alvarez and Stephen Egerton I feel so fortunate and it’s really come down to me being in the right place at the right time.

MA: Why do you think The Descendents have stayed together all of these years? You have a great base of old and new fans.

BS: It’s probably because we don’t work in too much density together. We don’t get on each other’s nerves because we get breaks from each other. What breaks up most bands is two main things. 1: Pressure from the business people like the label. Pressure to sell the music which makes the band do unnatural things musically. Then the band becomes unsatisfied and unfulfilled. And 2: The touring and the concentration of time spent in close quarters in less than civilized living conditions. That’s what breaks bands up so when we’ve done that sort of thing it always preceded us taking some kind of hiatus. Nowadays we spread it out. We’ve been in this mode for the last eight years where we just record and play shows whenever we feel like it. We all have our own little home studios so we can pass demos and files around. We get together and play a few shows about once a month. It doesn’t give people the opportunity to get too sick of each other.

MA: I watched a video of a live performance of The Descendents that was amazing. You literally played for 40 minutes with no break. No chatter between songs. Just one after the other. How do you maintain that level of energy and endurance?

BS: It’s getting harder as we get older. Despite several very serious health issues in the last decade, I’m trying to do what I can to keep my health and fitness together. Even if I’m not playing drums I try to mimic that amount of aerobic activity pretty much every day. We practice that way as well. 54 songs straight thru. No resting. We don’t “bring a six-pack to practice, and hang out”. In the beginning of practice, before we start, we socialize and goof around, but during practice it is exactly like what you saw. We hammer the set list out.

MA: What also impressed me was the entire audience singing along with every song. That’s a testament to the lyrics.

BS: It’s been so cool to have had so many cool songwriters in the band over the years. Frank and Tony were both amazing songwriters in my opinion. Milo too. Then we had to redo the band two times and we ended up with Karl and Stephen (32 years now with this current lineup) who are also amazing songwriters. It also keeps the quality up because, in a fun way, we are always trying to outdo each other.

MA: Let’s talk about drums. Something that is really interesting about you is the odd positioning of the hi-hat cymbal. Yours is almost directly in front of the snare drum. Why?

BS: I like to have it high up and more forward. When I was a kid I would hop up behind ROBO’s drums when he wasn’t looking and play on them and I wanted to set my drums up just like his. I still do. There were certain things that I didn’t like but for the most part I was copying my setup from him. You say you are wondering why I have my hi-hat set up that way but I wonder why the rest of the world doesn’t. That crossed-arms “knuckle-buster’ style is not comfortable for me. How do people play like that? See, the way I do it my arms aren’t crossed over. It’s not one arm underneath the other. They’re free. To me that just seems like the way to do it… so it doesn’t seem weird. I’ve been gradually taking it further. The hi-hat is migrating more forward and to my right. That means the rack tom is also moving to my right. It’s almost centered over my kick drum. I’m trying to figure out how to even go further. I’ve been having a little trouble with my right hand and that’s where my fast eight note pattern is played. I found out I have joint arthritis in my thumb so I’m trying to use my middle finger to propel those eighth notes more than my thumb. I have no problem doing that on the ride. I’m still working things out.

MA: How did you develop that speed?

BS: The Alleycats. Their drummer John. He did it first. And then there’s the coffee…I drink tons of coffee before we play.

MA: Can you give me a rundown of your drums and your cymbals?

BS: I have a recording studio that is full of my drum sets so it’s not like “Oh here is my set.” I think it would be better if I generalized. I use a 14” rack tom, an 18” floor tom, I prefer the feel and tone of a 24” kick, but because of the aforementioned rack tom that is migrating over top of the center of the drum I’ve been using a 22” lately. As far as the snare, I use a 14” DW Nickle over Brass snare. Since I’ve been flying to shows for so many years and using rental drums I’ve become a bit numb to the equipment I use live. I bring my snare, sticks and kick pedal with me. For cymbals I use all Zildjans. 15” Quick Beat Hi-Hats, 22” Ping Ride, 19” Medium Crashes, 20” Medium Thin crashes. Sometimes I’ll use an 18” Thin or an 18” Medium Thin over on my right side to do the Crash-riding on. I like the “A Custom Projection”, the “A Customs”, and the “A’s.”  They all have their good points.

MA: Do you use a different set-up when you are recording in the studio than you do on stage?

BS: No. It’s the same exact thing, to me. In the practice room, though, I use whatever broken cymbals are lying around. I’m resourceful that way. I don’t want to unnecessarily waste a cymbal. If I’m just practicing I don’t care what it really sounds like.

MA: Do you practice regularly?

BS: Yeah I feel like I practice tons and tons when it’s “go time.” Other times I’ll take time off. Right now I haven’t played in about three weeks. Before that I had played every day for a long time. I just recorded drums for 28 new Descendent’s songs. During that time I was practicing pretty hard. Now I’m up in San Francisco producing a record for NOFX. When we are going…. we go pretty hard.

MA: How did you come about producing?

BS: When you asked me how I came about drumming and I said “fiddling around”….with producing it was the same thing. I remember when I was real young I wouldn’t just listen to music, I would analyze it. I would actually study it and try to dissect it in my head. Not mathematically but I wanted to hear inside of it. I wanted to know what each player was doing and what that felt like and try to understand the elements of a song. I remember one moment when I was pretty young and The Beatles released this album called Rarities and on it there was an outtake or alternate version of the song “Love Me Do.” I would listen to that song and I would think that something was not right. I know it was The Beatles but something stuck out to me. I decided that the low instrument was not tuned properly to fit with the other instruments. I remember that I could tell that the low instrument was tuned too high compared to the other instruments including the vocals and guitars. When I got a little older I realized that Paul McCartney’s bass on that track was extremely sharp. That version of the song had never been released, (the reason was probably not the sharp bass…but I’m sure it was a factor). So as a kid it seemed natural for me to be able to identify the different elements within a recording. As I got older I learned that I could help bands study their music and make it better.

MA: What are some of the bands that you have produced?

BS: Among the more well-known ones I guess I would say Rise Against, Good Riddance, and NOFX.

MA: You co-own your own studio. Tell us about The Blasting Room.

BS: We built the studio 25 years ago when we moved to Fort Collins. We, meaning the band, The Descendents. We initially built it just for us to use, but it quickly took on a life of its own. Bands just started calling and wanting to come up and record with us. Over the years we’ve had hundreds of bands record there. We have four studios now. It’s really cool. So much great music coming out of there.

MA: We’ll add the link to the studio’s website at the end of this interview in case people are interested in getting in touch with you about recording.

BS: Great. If they inquire about booking it will go right to me.

MA: Dave Grohl has mentioned you specifically as a major influence. How does it feel to know that you have inspired other drummers from amateurs to rock stars?

BS: That’s flattering and interesting I suppose, but I feel like music and really all art is a continuum. You influence people, and you also become influenced by people. It’s like a circle, like a cycle. I’m glad that I can give someone inspiration but I’ll never forget the ones that gave me inspiration.

MA: If you had to pick a song that personified your style what would it be?

BS: I think “Spineless and Scarlet Red” I use all of the tricks in my playbook. Maybe “Myage.” Between those two.

MA: Which song that you have written are you most proud of?

BS: Maybe “Weinerschnitzel.”

MA: Are you the recording drummer on Black Flag’s “Slip It In?”

BS: Yes.

MA: That opening beat is one of the best I’ve ever heard. How did you come up with that?

BS: The demo version before that had Chuck Biscuits on drums and he kind of insinuated that intro. I didn’t change it a lot so I have to give credit where it is due. Chuck is such a great drummer

MA: You know Dave Grohl copped that intro from the song. (“A Song for the Dead” by Queens of the Stone Age)

BS: Yeah he did. That’s a sincere form of flattery.

MA: I think you have a lot to be flattered about. Your legacy as a pioneer spans many albums and several decades. I want to thank you for taking time out of your schedule to speak with me.

BS: My pleasure. Thanks for looking me up.

Links:

The Blasting Room Studio

The Descendents live In Ljubljana June 2017

Black Flag Live 1984

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

To Clean or Not to Clean?

One of the most debated topics when it comes to the drums is whether or not to clean your cymbals. Some believe that by not cleaning them you retain a darker sound. Some swear that polishing cymbals keeps a brighter sound. Some don’t care about the appearance while others want to retain that perfect shine to keep their cymbals looking like brand new. Neither cleaning or not cleaning is “better.” Unless your cymbals have a ridiculous amount of build-up on them, I think you’d be hard pressed to notice a difference in normal use. I am interested in what you have to say on the subject. This is the first poll we are taking here at Off Beat. Let us know what your preference is below:

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Get Creative

Creative Percussion is fast becoming one of the most forward-thinking and innovative drum accessory companies in the business. With a product line that includes a variety of custom designed drum set accoutrements CP has drummers rethinking the possibilities of their sound. Kevin Feeney founded the company and combined his talents as a working drummer, custom cabinet maker, finish carpenter and designer. This mixed bag of skills has enabled Kevin to push the envelope of what is possible in the world of percussion. We were able to get our hands on a couple CP products to review and give our own opinions. They sent us the Twisted Hybrid Rods and the ELITE – Isolation Technology Bass Drum Beater.

Twisted Hybrid Rods

You may have used multi-rods before. A variety of drumstick manufactures produce their own versions, but I would venture to guess that you have never used a pair like Creative Percussion’s. What sets their Rods apart and gives them their hybrid name is the fact that there is a full-size drumstick slid down in the center of the rod. It is then surrounded by the usual twisted dowels. This allows the drummer to produce two types of sounds. By playing lighter the outer dowels produce a soft sound. When playing harder the drumstick center produces a loud sound more like that of a regular drumstick. It gives the player more options than if they were simply using a straight dowel rod or stick. The Twisted Hybrid Rod has a fully glued grip and hand-dipped lacquer finish and a 7A maple, nylon-tipped drumstick wrapped in 17 1/8″ birch dowels. In addition to being an interesting option for live and studio use, Twisted Hybrid Rods can also be used to build up your skill and control. CP also makes five other brands of twist rods.

ELITE – Isolation Technology Bass Drum Beater

There are a million bass drum beaters out there and many of them are gimmicks. CP’s Elite is not a gimmick. Billed as saving the impact on the user’s ankles and knees this beater feels comfortable whether being used fast or slow, buried or not. Simply put, the Elite beater absorbs the vibrations better than your standard beater. When a beater comes in contact with the head the impact sends a vibration down the shaft and into the pedal. It is then absorbed by the foot. Beater balls made of wood and plastic produce more vibration. The Elite has a shock-mounted rubber compound core that absorbs some of the vibrational impact and is said to reduce up to 30% of the vibration felt by standard beaters. The beaters are made with your choice of domestic cherry hardwood with a durable, semi-gloss polyurethane, maple hardwood which is torched and finished with a durable, semi-gloss polyurethane, or poplar with their black, textured “Stealth” finish.

For more information go to https://www.creativepercussion.net/.

2 Comments

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Get Wicked Chops

If you’re familiar with my past reviews and endorsements you know that I don’t fall for gimmicks. I only spend my time testing things that are truly beneficial to the user. Often these items are revolutionary. They can also be so ingenious you wished you had thought of them first. One such item is the innovative WICKED CHOPS™ PRACTICE PAD. Accuracy is a far too neglected aspect of drumming. When we are first starting out our instructors tell us to maintain an even stick height and to consistently strike in the center of the drum. Sometimes they will draw a circle or tape a silver dollar to the drumhead to use as a target.

The WICKED CHOPS™ PRACTICE PAD is a drum pad that is the same size and helps you to master accuracy, dynamics, power, speed and endurance. It does this regardless of the skill level as it forces the user to make contact with a small focused surface. Using the pad is much harder than it looks. I had a ball alternating between doubles and paradiddles at slow and medium tempos. I need more work to get to the fast ones and that’s the whole point. The WICKED CHOPS™ PRACTICE PAD takes time to master. That makes it an exceptional training tool. It screws onto the top of a standard cymbal stand for your convenience and you can take it anywhere. If you’re looking to take your practice routine to the next level get yourself a WICKED CHOPS™ PRACTICE PAD. Visit https://www.wickedchopspad.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Great YouTube Channel

I just discovered an amazing resource on the Internet that provides real-time drum notation and playback of great music from the 1960’s-today. It’s on a YouTube channel called Jack Young Drums Teacher and it has a wide variety of music from The Beatles to Nirvana. I found this channel while looking for my all-time favorite song “She Sells Sanctuary” by The Cult. I recommend this resource if you’re looking for animated notation to some of music’s most popular songs.

*The Cult have gone through more than their share of drummers:

  • Ray Mondo – drums (1983)
  • Nigel Preston – drums (1983–1985; died 1992)
  • Mark Brzezicki – drums (1985)
  • Les Warner – drums (1985-1988)
  • Eric Singer – drums (1988)
  • Mickey Curry – drums (1989, 1991)
  • Matt Sorum – drums (1989–1990, 1999–2002)
  • James Kottak – drums (1990–1991)
  • Michael Lee – drums (1991–1992; died 2008)
  • Scott Garrett – drums (1992–1995, 2002)
  • John Tempesta – drums, percussion (2006–present)

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Two Tracks

I posted about this before but I’d like to share it again as I am very proud of this collaboration. The electronic and acoustic drum tracks were really fun to do. One of the benefits of being a musician is the ability to collaborate with other musicians. Often great things come out of these creative partnerships. I have had the pleasure of collaborating with an exceptional player and producer named Attila Domos. One of the results, titled “Water and Ice,” is embedded below. Attila’s album, 407.7, and his previous album Never Enough are available for purchase and download here: http://attiladomos.com/musician.html.

Here is a track I produced for my project Question Everything (?E). It’s called “Survivorman” and was inspired by the show featuring Les Stroud. I submitted it to the show’s producers but never heard back from them. If you are interested in using it for your project email me here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

10 Research Tips for Bloggers


Today’s post is for all you fellow bloggers out there. Whether you are writing an article, a book, or even a detailed blog post there are ways you can guarantee that your effort will be worthwhile for your readers. Some of these steps are used in college writing courses and some are from my own personal playbook. They are universal and you can apply them to any genre.

1. GIVE IT TIME: When first entering into a research project always give yourself enough prep time to work and to adequately collect your materials. As writers we often live and die by deadlines, but you must allow yourself a realistic opportunity to gather sources. Also look at the back end of the project. Tentatively map out time for editing and fact-checking in your schedule. Hopefully everything will run smoothly, but prepare yourself and your publisher in case it doesn’t. It is also quite common for last minute materials to come to your attention. Often people will get wind of your project and send things that you didn’t even know existed. I always have a 1-2 month buffer clearly defined in my book contracts just in case the unexpected happens.

2. DEFINE YOUR GOALS: Write yourself a mission statement and then outline what you will need to achieve it. Once, I literally wrote the back cover copy of a book first. That gave me a “mental goal” to shoot for as I began to assemble the pieces of the puzzle. Of course at the same time you have to remain flexible and be willing to change or modify your plan of action if it will benefit the work. I co-produced a Civil War documentary and we were literally shooting 16 hour days while constantly shifting locations and schedules. We had a storyboard when we started, but as the film evolved, we had to evolve with it. One day we worked from 8:30 am to 2:30 am and over the course of that day we had to constantly adjust our plans. Be firm, but flexible.

3. PREP YOU TOO: Take some time to familiarize yourself with the libraries and archives you’ll be using. Each collection has its own system for reference materials and chances are they’ll have separate technologies to help you along. It’s a good idea to talk to the staff about where and how to start. If you’re under deadline, you don’t want to waste precious time trying to figure out where to locate materials. Make sure you know how to operate their microfilm viewers or computers. (They are not all the same). Also be sure to pack well. I travel sometimes when conducting research and I take a tablet, folders, a laptop, digital camera, pencils and pens, post-its, and you can even take a tape recorder if that works for you. These are the tools of our trade. Use them.

4. BE SPECIFIC: When you are compiling source materials (whether you are photocopying them or not) always be sure to take copious notes and write any additional info down on them that you may need later. This includes vol. numbers, titles, locations where they were found, what type of media they were presented on, any credit information etc. The last thing you want to do is spend hours and hours digging for a source and then a month later when you actually go to use it, have no recollection of where it came from. In addition, you may need to contact the archivist and/or librarian to request more information and you must refer them to a specific item. It’s not their job to redo your research. Write it all down. You’ll thank me.

5. NEVER GO SOLO: This is common sense in a lot of regards, but it cannot be stressed enough. NEVER use a single source. If you can’t find additional sources to validate a statement, delete it, or at least present it as speculation and honestly say “according to ____ …” You must establish credibility and once you lose that the rest of the piece is tainted. Research doesn’t always yield good reference. It can also lead to junk and that will result in mistakes. I know an amateur historian who wrote a short biography on a general. He wasn’t much of a researcher, but he did have a flair for writing. His book was released through a small publisher who didn’t have the time or money to fact-check and on the first page he horribly misquoted his subject. On the first page! The rest of the book was rendered meaningless by the sloppy research depicted in the beginning.

6: CHECK YOUR TECH: Today we have access to tons of cyber information, but we must always keep in mind that the facts on the Internet are only as good as the person who posted them. Therefore I always compare multiple sources whenever possible. I tell my kids that Google is not the end all. It is a great tool – but it does not provide all of the answers. Many a writer has looked like a fool after misquoting something off of Wikipedia.com. Ask any high school teacher what’s the worst thing to happen to today’s student study habits and they’ll probably say the Internet. Think about it. It’s Cliff Notes without any accountability! Please don’t misunderstand me, the Internet is a wonderful tool, but keep in mind that it will not compensate for sloppy research. In fact the Web can help to magnify poor work. I always try to cross-check digital data against printed sources.

7. ROUGH IT: Write your first draft as freely as possible, following your outline closely. Use all the information you feel is relevant and important. When you’ve finished the rough draft, check for accuracy and completeness of facts. If you think certain sections are too long or too skimpy, rework them until you feel they’re the strongest you can make them. Then, if you can, have someone who knows the subject look at it. Just as an editor’s eyes will catch things you don’t, a subject-matter-expert can identify any issues you may have with your information. If you don’t you are taking a chance and it may come back to bite you. Once it’s out there – it’s out there and there is nothing more embarrassing that having to write addendums and corrections if you don’t have to. Even the best researchers miss things during the composition process.

8. GIVE CREDIT: In the realm of historical writing, the bibliography, index, notes, and footnotes are often just as valuable to the reader as the actual narrative. Many times a reader will want to conduct their own research into a topic and they will depend on your credit and source information to point them in the right direction. Additionally you want to make sure that you give credit where it is due, not only because it’s part of the process, but because it’s the right thing to do. This is where step 4 comes into play. Also you may want to go back and reuse an archive or collection and if they know you aren’t citing things properly, they may call you on it or deny you access. A writer can burn a bridge before they know it by not following proper protocol. Remember, you are just a visitor. These collections are in the constant care of the archivists and librarians. They are allowing you into them.

9. SAVE SOME: I’m not a pack rat, but I do have a rather extensive library and source collection that I refer to on a regular basis. Simply put, if you are going to spend all this time researching a topic, why not make it worth your while and assemble it in a way that you can refer to in the future. This is where my idea about folders comes into play. After years of doing this I have a nice stash. And it really works. I’ll have a question or assignment come up and I’ll pour through a book or two and then it will come to me that I probably have something relevant in file. You can waste a tremendous amount of time digging through piles and piles of unmarked and unorganized papers. Organize yourself now, and you’ll thank yourself in the future.

10. ENJOY: Research takes a lot of time – a lot of patience – and a lot of effort. If you don’t find a way to enjoy the process, it will be like pulling teeth. Aggravation and anxiousness are by far your worst enemy and they can derail any momentum you have as a writer. Take breaks. Eat and sleep. Now anyone who knows me would call me out on that one as I have worked myself sick on a number of occasions, but I can say from experience that you must take care of yourself. I’m a Christian and I have found myself praying for serenity on occasion and whatever your higher power is (or is not), find something to give you peace in those moments when you feel like you’re getting nowhere. (And believe me, there will be times you’ve had it.) I’ve spent an entire day at a library and left with nothing useful, but in reality, it wasn’t a total failure because I had identified a dead end and was able to move on. So even if you don’t walk away with something tangible, you still have narrowed your search in the process. Remember that.

Research can be boring, and painful, and frustrating at times, but it’s also inspiring and satisfying. There is nothing more gratifying than digging through a dusty archive and uncovering something that hasn’t seen the light of day in years. Carl Sagan once wrote a piece about exploration and in it he stated that “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” And that my friends is what research is all about.

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Purdie and The Beatles?


One of the most highly contested legends in drum history is that Bernard Purdie played on The Beatles early studio tracks in place of Ringo Starr. As a session player Purdie performed on tens of thousands of tracks but he never received any clear credit for any Beatles songs. In a 1978 issue of Gig magazine. Purdie claimed that he overdubbed the drumming on 21 tracks on the first three Beatles albums. According to Purdie they paid him a lot of money (he claims 5 figures) to keep his mouth shut. After ten years he said “…f– it. I guess I can talk about it.”

Several factors in Purdie’s story leave doubt that he ever played on these tracks. According to him The Beatle’s manager Brian Epstein paid him twice his normal rate to have Purdie overdub the drum tracks, not the Beatles producer George Martin. Epstein had a reputation for being frugal and would not have paid a session drummer, no matter what his reputation, an extravagant amount of money.

According to an article on Quora, “George Martin had already arranged for session drummer Andy White to replace Ringo Starr on the U.S. single release of “Love Me Do.” If Martin had truly believed that Ringo was inadequate enough to warrant using a session drummer on a regular basis, he might have been kicked out of The Beatles permanently, which happened to the Beatles’ previous drummer Pete Best.”

One possible reason for Purdie’s claims is that he may have played on one of The Beatles rip-off groups that popped up shortly after The Beatles’ first groundbreaking appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. This included The Buggs, The Beetles, The Liverpools, and The Manchesters. He may have simply confused the counterfeit band for the real thing. Purdie’s misidentification of the song “She Loves You” as “Yeah Yeah Yeah” also seems to support this interpretation.

Another plausible theory is that Purdie did overdub the drums on recordings, but it was for tracks originally made with Pete Best, before Ringo joined the group. In 1964, the label Atco Records bought the rights to four early Beatles songs that the group recorded in Germany. The songs on this release included “Nobody’s Child,” “Ain’t She Sweet,” “Take Out Some Insurance On Me Baby,” and “Sweet Georgia Brown.”

These four Beatles songs with eight additional songs by an otherwise forgotten British “beat” group called The Swallows was released as The Beatles: Ain’t She Sweet. Since Pete Best’s drumming was weak on these four tracks, Atco overdubbed the drumming. If Purdie was the drummer on these overdubs, his claims to have played on several Beatles recordings might be true in that regard.

Purdie’s claims to have played on 21 Beatles songs just doesn’t make sense. He is a great drummer with an amazing background and it is a shame that he would feel the need to embellish his resume. Here is an excellent video that breaks down the claim and provides an intelligent argument:

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

That first gig

Your host at his second gig

Today I want to talk about a major milestone in any musician’s life, the first gig. You remember it. That nerve-racking performance that you worked so hard for, learning all of those songs while trying so hard to perfect your set-list. Selecting each song carefully while crafting the show. Practicing over and over until you honed each song into a seamless copy of the original. Remember the nervousness you felt before going on stage? Sweaty hands. Butterflies in your stomach. Maybe even shaking a little. And then it starts and you lock into that first song. Looking out at the crowd knowing that they are entertained by your efforts. And then you realize why you’re there. And why all of that work pays off. And what makes you want to play an instrument in the first place. The music surrounds you. The lights envelop you. The adrenaline pumps through your veins and for a couple hours you share all of your hard work with an audience that came to see you perform.

There’s no other feeling like it. There will be only one “first gig” and you’ll never forget it. My first gig came when I was 14. It was a party at a friend’s house and I remember banging out a set-list that had a lot of Van Halen in it. I also remember doing one of the two drum solos I ever did. The other came a few months later at our second gig at the bass player’s house. I haven’t solo’d since then. That’s probably why I’m not a fan of them. We set up in the dining room on hard wood floors and the drums were l-o-u-d. The other guys had to turn up their amps to compensate. I also remember doing a rap we used to goof on in between sets. We liked rock and rap. It was also around this time that I started dating my wife. That’s right. I’m 46 and still married to the same girl. She still puts up with drums in the house. I also remember my hands cramping up after the show. Damn that hurt, but I learned a valuable lesson to drink water while I played. I’ll never forget that night.

That first gig will be a memory you will cherish forever. It’s where you started on your journey as a musician that brought you here today. If you have yet to play your first gig, get ready and savor every moment. You’ll only have one “first.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming