Monthly Archives: November 2016

A Letter Home

envelopeIt has been quite some time since I posted on the topic of drummer boys. Below is a transcript of one of the letters of Felix Voltz, a drummer boy in the 187th New York Volunteer Regiment during the Civil War.

According to author J. Arthur Moore’s bio on Voltz: “Felix Voltz ran away from home on January 30, 1865 to enlist (to his family’s dismay). He mustered out with the company on July 1, 1865, at Arlington Heights, Virginia, and served as a drummer in the 187th Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry for five months. Felix wrote letters to his family in Elmira, New York, which described the rigors of Union Army life from February through June 1865.”

Here is Voltz’s entry in the post-war regimental roster:

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One thing in particular is the revelation that many of the drummers were responsible for furnishing their own drums as backing was directed towards more pressing wartime necessities. As the vast majority of drummer boys were young they were dependent on their parents or guardians to provide the means in which to obtain the instrument. We can assume their fears were subsided knowing that their boys were not assigned to a combat role and were serving as musicians. (Note: This letter is held in the Special Collections Department of the University Libraries at Virginia Tech):

March 3d / 65 187 Regt

Dear Parents Brths & Sisters

Now I will let you know how I got in the Drum Chor I had to go on Picket Duty the other day and when I came back I got sick for two or three days but I got over that and then I went to Tony the Orderly and ask him if they had A Drummer for our Company Says he No sir then he told me to wait A day or two and he would set about it then he to Drum Major and when he come back he told Me to go over to the Drum Major he wanted too see Me when I come over there who was Drum Major was Joe Koack and he told Me if it was possible he would get Me in and then he came over and told me to give up my Musket and come with him then he said he would try and see if he could get Drum for Me here but he said I could not draw any government Drum down here he told Me to write Home fore one and have it send here you Tony can go and do this favor for Me he said the best and cheapest place you can buy one is on the corner of Main and Tiagarer Sts a new music Store and please buy a good one and I will make it all right as soon as I get My Bounty and he Joe told Me best way and the quickest way to send it would be by Mail / they tell us we will get our Bounty the 15th of this Month then I will send home all I possible can. No More news this time I will write again as soon as possible please tell Mother not to wearry herself about Me for I am allright yet and I hope will be so for the next year and tell here I am in no danger what so ever all I have to do is to take care of Me and my Drum and learn how to Drum as soon as possible…(follow up letter)…my Drum arrived here yesterday alright in good Order and Joe Roach says that you could not send A better one for here in the Army I thank you Brth A W for doing that favor…

I remain your truly Son and Brother.
Felix Voltz

Regular visitors to this blog may recall that I have often posted before on the history of the drummer boy. As a Civil War author and historian I relish the opportunity to combine both of my interests. (See past posts on the subject: Major A.H. JohnsonHistory of Drummer BoysThe Long RollOnline Photograph CollectionDrummer BoyCivil War RudimentsWelcome new visitors103rd Ohio Preserved DrumCourage and Distinction). You can also search for keyword “Civil War” for a complete listing.

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Gospel of Steve Goold

[Originally published in Drumhead magazine] Steve Goold is a VERY busy guy. When not on tour playing drums for the immensely popular Owl City or Sarah Bareilles, he can be found teaching students as part of the music faculty at Bethel University and Northwestern College; or cutting tracks at the studio with some of the Twin Cities’ most popular producers and songwriters; or doing commercial work with corporate clients including General Mills; or performing with Grammy-nominated songwriter Joel Hanson and the Jason Harms Quintet; or serving as the drummer in local mega-church worship bands; or acting as the musical director for the children’s entertainment vocal trio Go Fish; or hosting large drum clinics such as the “Drum Set For The Kingdom”; or filming instructional videos for Risen Drums; or rehearsing in support of the 250+ gigs that he manages to pull off each year. In addition to all of that, Steve Goold is also a family man and an active blogger. After reading through such a demanding schedule (which, by the way, was paraphrased), one might think that this is a musician who has no time to practice, nor any desire to do so. However, the opposite is true in the case of Steve Goold, who is constantly working on developing his own technique while making a concerted effort to share his newfound knowledge with others. A devout Christian, Goold has also found a way to be successful in both the Christian and secular markets. This has enabled him to build a purposeful career as an entertainer and an educator, two roles that he relishes. Read entire article

Here’s Steve on Drumeo playing one of the most interesting accompanying drum parts I have seen in a long time:

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Exclusive Interview: Scott Pellegrom

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Inside the Mind of a Rythmist
by Michael Aubrecht

Scott Pellegrom is an eccentric individual by his own admission. Teacher, clinician, session player, bandleader and producer are also suitable titles to describe him. Whether it’s blazing around the kit with lightning-fast chops or backing an artist with a set of brushes or a Cajon, Pellegrom is comfortable playing in any musical situation. He is an innovator who creates a variety of sounds using a variety of sources in order to achieve the desired results. These include his voice, the drum kit, baking pans, dog toys and an assortment of foreign objects not usually associated with percussion. With a reputation as an unorthodox drummer who can produce “particular sounds” for “particular situations” Pellegrom is in demand both in the studio and on the stage. His web bio states:

“Whether he’s dubbed a ‘mad scientist’ or a ‘magician’ on drums, one thing is certain: Scott Pellegrom is an adrenalized, world-class percussionist with unmatched passion for his music and unrivaled admiration from his peers. For an admittedly “introverted, quiet, nerdy person, Scott Pellegrom transforms into a dazzling and rhythmic pretty crazy beast on the drums – a world-class percussion powerhouse.”

Pellegrom took some time away from his hectic schedule of sessions, clinics and festivals to discuss what makes him such an unconventionalist.

MA: The obvious first question is what brought you to the drums?

SP: To be honest I’m not sure if anything really “brought” me to the drums. I always tell this story that was told to me by my mother. She was a grade school teacher and her classroom was right next to the music room. When she was pregnant with me she said that any time the choir or concert band would play I would start moving and kicking around. I was literally dancing in the womb. My mom always joked that her son, I’m the youngest of five, would be either a drummer or a soccer player. After I was born, the first piece of clothing given to me by my grandma had a picture of a snare drum on it. I guess I was branded at birth. When I was just able to sit up I was banging on everything that I could get my hands on. When I learned to crawl I did the typical drummer thing by going into the kitchen and playing on pots and pans. Somehow I managed to put the pans in melodic order from low to high. My parents would slip me a spoon or a spatula and I would play all day.

As I got older my parents got me a Muppet or Sesame Street drum set and I went through a few of them. Later my brother Chris went out and bought an old drum kit off his buddy and set it up and surprised me. We started jamming together and learning songs. The first song I learned was “Jump” by Van Halen. We formed a Pellegrom Family Band that never left the basement.

MA: It sounds like it was meant to be.

SP: It’s something that I’ve always been into. I love dancing. I love singing. I love listening to music. I’ve always gravitated toward sounds. I love the sound of thunder and the wind and the waves. I guess it was the drums that came to me and told me this is what you’re doing [laughs].

MA: It also sounds like you were inspired by everything around you and you continue to cultivate that fascination today.

SP: Yes. I’m an avid fisherman. I was raised fishing. I grew up on a farm. You name it we had it, whether it was livestock or exotic animals. I was always around sounds and I was always out in nature. Even the chores I had like digging and picking had a particular rhythm. I remember as a young kid, I would go out into the woods by myself and listen to the sounds that surrounded me, like the birds chirping and the rustling of the leaves. It quickly translated into my drumming. That’s where the colors and textures and soundscapes started influencing me at a young age.

MA: At what point did you feel you were gravitating toward pursuing music?

SP: When I was very young in school, I would draw pictures of a stage with a massive drum kit and a band. That’s what I did, using my imagination. I always wanted to be a drummer. Some kids would want to be a fireman or a policeman. I wanted to be a musician. My parents always supported that. They had me take a lot of lessons including classical and jazz. I went to a lot of camps and seminars. Even when I started to get into high school, I continued to actively pursue drumming. I played in the marching and concert bands.

I met a senior in high school named Jonathan Rogers when I was a freshman. He was a guy who really had his act together. He was in a touring group that recorded. He was playing with guys who were in their twenties when he was just seventeen. John was great on the vibraphone and great at sight reading. He was so dialed in and that it really inspired me. I realized that if I wanted to make a living playing music, I needed to follow in the footsteps of this guy. At the time I wanted to study with John, but he told me that I really needed to find this guy named Derico Watson. I called him and took my first lesson and was blown away. He was that all-around guy who was teaching, recording, writing and touring. Aside from everything that I learned from him, he pushed my limits and boundaries and opened my mind up to so many possibilities. He also taught me all of the requirements of becoming a working musician including communication and social skills.

MA: Aside from a traditional music upbringing, when did you realize that you were developing an original approach and style?

SP: It was really up and down. I’m sure a lot of players can say the same thing about how they were influenced early on. I absolutely love Dave Weckl. My first VHS instructional video was “Back to Basics.” To this very day he is one of my favorite players. Every time I watch him, he blows my mind. There was a period of time when I wanted to emulate a Dave Weckl or a Dennis Chambers. I realized that I was trying to do that, and not in the appropriate manner. That was in my late teens. There was a big battle where I had to learn the “chop thing” as opposed to the “pocket thing.” What happened next was that I was always experimenting in the practice room, doing weird stuff. I was having fun but I was also self-conscious of doing what I was doing. One day I said forget it, just let it go. Do what you do, and let’s see what happens. From that moment on, I believed that I had something to say. I was developing a voice and a personality as a drummer. It was then that I really started to fall in love with drumming.

This birthed my fascination and experimentation phase where I could spend hours upon hours in a dark room with just a snare drum. That changed not only the way that I played but also the way that I thought about the possibilities of drumming. I just did a clinic yesterday at Northern Michigan University for their percussion program with Dr. James A. Strain. He was a guy that, instead of having these students sight read and do rudimental studies, said what can you get out of a snare drum? What can you get out of your drumsticks? Things that were conceptual. This made them think out of the box. That really resonated with me because it was along the lines of how I was already thinking and it reaffirmed to the students that this unusual approach was valuable and in fact something you could learn from.

As I was refining my own approach I began asking myself, what are the possibilities of a snare drum? What about a ride cymbal? What parts of a drum set can I exploit? What parts can I get rid of? I started locking myself away and experimenting. This included playing with my hands and using brushes. I would play every single crevice of a snare drum. I would visualize how much pressure I was putting on it and how the tuning would come out. Then I would move to the ride cymbal and focus strictly on that. This was followed by just the bass drum and then the hi-hat. This developed into a feeling that I only wanted to play a two piece with just the kick and snare. That is what really changed the game for me. The realization was that the rabbit hole is deeper than I ever imagined.

MA: You continue to cultivate this approach even to this day, regardless of your past experiences.

SP: Yes. Now I have gone back to my roots from the very beginning…when I used to beat on pots and pans. Today I spend a lot of time playing on everything except a drum, to see what its personality is. I’m that guy who will get preoccupied in the bathroom flushing the toilet and turning the sink on and off or listening to how the electric toothbrush sounds. I am constantly looking for sounds around me and rhythm can be found everywhere.

MA: You refer to yourself as a “rythmist.” Can you define that?

SP: A “rythmist” is a really cool concept. It means to me a drummer who paints in broad strokes. He or she is not just a snare drum player or a hand percussionist but is beyond that. I love rhythm, I love sounds and I live it. I even dream about it. I study it. It means that everything around you is music. From the city to the woods and in between, it has opened up a whole new genre and anything you have can generate sound.

MA: So you are constantly inspired and investigating the things around you to see what can be done with any particular item and at any particular time.

SP: Even right this minute. While I’m talking to you I am out walking my dog listening to the river. It’s fall and there are so many textures opening up with the dry and shriveling leaves and the sound of the breeze blowing through the trees. To me it sounds like someone using brushes on a 16” floor tom with a coated head on top of it. It’s hard for me to push that away. It’s something that I am always thinking about. It’s one of those channels that if you open it up it will speak to you. I’m really inspired by nature. When I analyze nature, I see what is possible that I could play. I can relax and let the ideas come to me.

MA: Do you walk a delicate balance between the traditional aspects of the drums and the unique and unorthodox aspects that you practice? For example, you have students, and I imagine you are presenting them with theory.

SP: Absolutely. I still use all of the basic foundations of drumming. I teach the theory and rhythms and rudiments. Rudiments are the gateway to anything you want to say or play as a drummer. I also use the conceptual things too because I realize that not everyone wants to be a professional or competitive musician, but I do feel that it is very important for the human race to create and celebrate music. I try hard to inspire people. Some people actually like playing on their face or using a pack of Tic-tac’s as a shaker simply because it’s fun to do. It opens things up and makes playing certain ways reachable, instead of having folks say, “I could never do that.” I like keeping one foot rooted in our history and culture of past drummers and leaning the other foot toward the future of what may be. That, to me, is what’s exciting about drumming. Think about it. The drums are the oldest instrument and people are still pushing it forward.

MA: You have presented a number of video lessons over on Drumeo’s website and you did a motivational speaking engagement for TED. You are also a clinician and teacher. What do you want people to receive from you?

SP: I tell people all the time that I’m not a perfect player. I’m not a perfect person. If you see me playing solo, teaching a drum clinic or doing a speaking event, I am improvising the whole time. Nothing is ever rehearsed. The reason I do that is that I want people to see someone else in the moment creating music and taking a risk. If I feel comfortable and secure about doing that, then people can witness that approach and get inspired. I hope that they in turn will go off and do the same thing. That to me is incredibly important. There are too many reasons to be insecure in today’s world and it is difficult at times to create something that is totally subjective. There is a reward and a feeling of satisfaction when you can rise above that.

MA: So your goal is to elicit a reaction from your viewers apart from the drums and influence them as a person.

SP: Yes. Hopefully.

MA: You are an in-demand session player. What kinds of challenges do you experience in the studio?

SP: There are a lot of challenges with anything musically because it is an emotional process. A lot of people struggle with wanting to be an artist and musician. You have that side which you want to cultivate, but you also have to do a task and serve a purpose. When you are in the studio, you do the job required by the producer and the artist that hired you. That is crucial, to keep in mind that it is not about you, it’s about the music. I have all of my goofy ideas, so if I am working with an artist who has an idea or is looking for a particular sound, I may suggest something that I can achieve with my own approach. I can make something acoustic sound electronic or bring a different sound out of a snare or bass drum.

MA: You use such a variety of elements including pots and pans, squeaky toys, towels, etc. You must show up at a session with quite a bag of tricks, as well as a large trunk.

SP: I definitely do that. I am using my own “database” in my head of what items can produce a specific sound, or a variety of sounds.

MA: You must also have some very open minded producers and technicians.

SP: Anytime I go into a studio I’ll investigate what’s in the kitchen or what’s in the bathroom. Even what’s in their storage. Is there a cardboard box that I can use to create an awesome bass drum sound? Sometimes the session folks will say that they have everything you need, just show up, and the gear will be difficult to work with. I’ll grab a roll of paper towels and throw it over the drums. The result can be a beautiful sound. I guess I have survival skills. It’s like being MacGyver or having a Swiss Army knife. It’s all about having backup plans to get through the session. I always come into a session and immediately ask, “What are you looking for?” Can you print out the lyrics so I can see what you are trying to get across? I love having people direct me because we are all working to do what the artist wants us to achieve.

I don’t want to be a drummer. I want to be a supporting musician. Even with my solo record that I released I intentionally strived to not make it a “drummer’s album.” I wanted it to be about the music and the people involved with creating it. That’s the same way I approach the sessions. There is nothing better than listening to music that is pure. I love listening to folk music because it grabs you with an emotional response and sticks with you. You can be an absolute killer drummer, but it all comes down to serving the song and being someone that other people like working with.

MA: What about the challenges of live performances?

SP: Well I get this a lot. The reason I went the educator-speaker route is that it allowed me, as a drummer, to be an independent artist. That little hub enabled me to be who I am and play how I play. As a drum soloist that is what led people to see what I can do. Someone may hear me on a record and say “He’s just playing a shaker” or they come and see me live and say “He’s just playing a Cajon tonight” and they are bummed out. They are like, “Why is he not on a full fusion drum kit?” I get some of those struggles where people will say they wished they had seen me open up the show. They don’t realize that it’s not my gig. It’s someone else’s and I am in a supporting role. I’m there to serve the music. That is priority number one.

A lot of the stuff I come up with, as a drum soloist, is most effective in a theater or auditorium where the acoustics are good and strong and you don’t even need to be mic’d up. I want an echo that projects great. When I am playing with my trio (or trio +1) and we are amped up playing a club or festival, I have to approach the way that I am going to play fills and solos or a groove because of what may or may not be picked up or lost in the mix. My band goes for blood every time because we would rather take risks and mess up than play it safe. It’s not fun if you’re mailing it in. Making sure that sound is absorbed by the audience is a huge factor to playing out.

MA: Tell us about the Scott Pellegrom Trio.

SP: It changes all the time. Basically I started the trio so I could have a fun and creative outlet. For a long time, aside from clinics and lessons and sessions, I was always a freelance guy working for other people. After doing some tours, I felt like it was time for me to do my own thing. Every drummer that I ever looked up to had their own band at one point. I thought let’s put a group together, get weird and play out every now and then. Before I knew it we were booked to do 100 dates a year. Even more than that at times. It also allowed me to mix and match different musicians. I knew all these great players, so I sometimes want a quintet or a sextet depending upon where we are playing. I always try to cater to the venues we are playing at. If it’s a larger place I will expand the band. If it’s a smaller place we might play as a duet with minimal instruments. It’s an ever evolving thing. I’m even using a DJ now. (*The SPT released their debut album Super Natural Bang)

MA: What kind of gear do you typically use today?

SP: I’ve been working closely with DW, PDP and LP. I love their unique drums and percussion instruments. I will use that and maybe two rides, some pots and pans. I will use rags and towels, jingles, jangles, squeaky toys and other things that I can throw on the kit. I have a lot of things that I can use to create a stack on the fly and then remove it at will. Within a song I can sometimes change the entire sound of the kit while one hand is playing the groove and the other is making adjustments. Sometimes I will show up at a gig and folks are like “Why are you missing…?” My reply is “Trust me. I’m gonna do my job.” And then I play and they say it sounded great.

MA: What are some of the weirdest accoutrements that you have used to play?

SP: I’ve used ketchup bottles, chip bags, matches, credit cards, pots, pans, car doors, anything and everything that I can get my hands on. I have a dog named Pegasus who goes with me everywhere I go. One day I was playing and he came into the room chewing on his squeaky toy. It sounded great so I grabbed it and stuck it between my hi-hat. I thought wow, that’s cool. Now I use the hi-hat to play other instruments. I can put a cowbell or an air whistle in there while getting a whole new sound. I love going to craft stores like Hobby Lobby or Goodwill and picking up things that catch my eye. I love baking sheets and cooking utensils. That approach allows me to make music at any time. It allows me to see the entire world as a musical playground.

MA: You have an interesting background and a great outlook on life. What advice do you have for drummers who are searching for their own voice?

SP: That’s a loaded question and I think there are loaded statements behind that. You get to a point in your life and career that you need to serve a purpose. You need to focus on your goals, whatever they may be. Realize that this is a job. It is serious. It’s a career choice. In order to be a musician you need to define what roles you have. Pursue your own style and agenda on the side, but know when your time belongs to someone else. You also have to take time to experiment for yourself. Seek out your own sounds. If you are inspired by other drummers, find out what they do and then run away from it. Use it as a building block in your foundation. Take their words and turn them into your own. Don’t be afraid to mess things up. Put a floor tom in place of your snare drum. That will create a whole new sound. Every one will sound different. Everything will sound different. Don’t limit yourself by trying to be someone else. That’s how you get lost.

Shed your inhibitions. Apply what inspires you to the drums.

Visit Scott at his Instagram page at: www.instagram.com/scottpellegrom.

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Exclusive Interview: Kelly Keagy

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Kelly Keagy Keeps on Motoring
by Michael Aubrecht

In 1984, guitar-based rock music was making a comeback. Music Television dominated popular culture. Artists, at the time, were judged not only by their sound, but also by their appearance. For many viewers, seeing a band on MTV often determined whether they would follow the band at all. Sometimes the song and the corresponding video were equally adored and launched the act into superstardom. One band that rode this wave of popularity was Night Ranger. With its catchy riffs and thought-provoking lyrics, Night Ranger became one of the most popular bands of the time. Much of this success was attributed to the group’s chart-topping hit “Sister Christian.” The ballad, along with the accompanying video, became an epic hit for a band that had worked its way to the top. One of the most interesting aspects of the video was the singing drummer, whose raspy voice told the story of a young girl coming of age. This ballad would go on to be #32 of VH1’s Greatest Songs of the 1980’s. Written and performed by Kelly Keagy, “Sister Christian” could have been the pinnacle of the band’s success. Instead it became a stepping stone for a group that continues to make great music more than three decades later.

Kelly Keagy is a man who wears many hats. Drummer, vocalist, songwriter, producer and ambassador are just some of the titles that can be used to describe him. With a humble perspective, Keagy acknowledges the past, revels in the present and looks forward to the future. Nowadays he travels the world, touring with his band and recording new music at his home studio in Nashville. Appreciative of the legacy that Night Ranger has provided for the fans, he is by no means resting on his laurels. Like the song says, he keeps on “motoring.” Kelly took some time out of his hectic schedule to share his wisdom and experiences.

MA: First off, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me today. This is a real thrill, as you had a great influence on my playing. Night Ranger was one of the biggest bands around when I was a budding drummer and your style has resonated with me to this very day.

KK: Thank you. That is great to hear.

MA: Let’s start off with an obvious question. What drew you to the drums?

KK: I grew up in a family that loved big band music. My father always played Harry James and artists like that. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, so he used to go down to the Palladium and see shows all the time. He used to tell me about seeing Buddy Rich. When I was old enough to really understand, I realized that those bands were the “rock and roll” acts of their time. I grew up in the late ‘50s and ‘60s. It took me a while to appreciate the impact of that style of music.

Of course the Beatles had an influence on me. I remember listening to the Beatles on the radio when they were playing the Hollywood Bowl. That broadcast really introduced me to modern music. It was also all about the drummers of that time. There was a song called “Topsy” which was a drum solo song that was a hit played on the radio. That stuck with me. When the Beatles became popular that was when I picked up a pair of drumsticks and wanted to learn how to play.

MA: Would you say that your early influence was the big band drummers or the early British invasion players?

KK: I think that the big band drummers were the first drummers that I heard that made my head spin. The sound of the band and how they played hit me. They said that Buddy Rich “played the band” and that was so true. I listened to my father’s record collection. That was before rock and roll became mainstream. When I was old enough to really understand the influence of what I was listening to, rock and roll and surf music started happening. Of course we all remember “Wipeout.” Everyone was trying to learn how to play it, even non-drummers. I started playing when I was seven years old.

MA: That’s pretty young to start an instrument. Did you participate in any music programs at your school?

KK: I did eventually. Once I got into junior high school, I was in the marching band every year. I loved it because it was people making music. The cadences were always a little bit off so there were always three or four of us guys messing around with the original version. I miss the camaraderie of the drum line.

MA: Tell us a little bit about when you got your first drum kit.

KK: My friend Matt and I discovered an abandoned drum kit in the closet of his cousin’s house. Matt was taking guitar lessons to learn early surf music and Beatles stuff from books, so I used that drum set to play with him. Matt’s family the McIntires were already in showbiz. His aunt and uncle were actors in Hollywood and his cousin Tim went on to star in the film “American Hot Wax” and write and perform music for the movie “Jeremiah Johnson.”

Matt and I formed a little band. That closet kit was the first drum set that I had. I don’t even think it had a name on it. I just remember that all it had was a snare, kick and a small cymbal arm coming out of the bass drum that I put a tin can on that I could use to tap on. Eventually my parents got me a “real” set. We went to a pawn shop and they got me a Saint George drum set. I think they made other instruments as well. That was a big deal to me.

MA: You have a very distinctive voice. When did you become a singing drummer?

KK: I was always torn, when I was a kid, between singing and drumming. I knew that I had a passion for drums and I loved playing them, but I also liked doing vocals. The first real band I was in, nobody could sing. I was trying to tip my hat. I told them to let me give it a try. There were three of us from the same neighborhood and I always sang a little better than those guys could. I ended up singing a lot of stuff and they would take one or two songs. As time went on, I occasionally joined a band that already had a drummer, so I would be the one up front singing. I went on like that through high school back and forth between drums and vocals.

MA: That process, singing and drumming, takes a certain level of syncopation and independence.

KK: Yes. You have to know when to hold back physically and when to let go. It also requires dynamics. It’s a mind game. Early on I spent more of my time working on my drumming. In my last year of high school, my music teacher called me into her office and said, “I want you to listen to this.” It was a tune that had a drum solo and she told me, “I want you to learn this because we are going to play it for the assembly.” I was horrified and convinced I couldn’t do it. She handed me a piece of paper with the music on it and I couldn’t really read music. She was going to teach me with the record and the chart. I took the record home and memorized every single lick. When the time came to do it, I played it perfectly. That was the first time I had ever done a drum solo. I was 16.

MA: Did you continue to do drum solos as you got older?

KK: I actually didn’t. Once I got in a band, my duties were to keep time and sing, whether it was lead vocal or background. My goal was to hold it down, not showboat. I don’t think I ever did another drum solo again. I did a solo with Night Ranger once. We filmed it at Irvine Meadows Auditorium during a concert in 1985 during the Seven Wishes Tour. I stopped doing them because I never thought that it was my thing. I tried to keep the foundation solid. It was always about the song and I was always involved in singing, so I wanted to keep it simple so I wouldn’t interfere. I had listened to John Bonham, but I couldn’t play like him. I was turned on by Ringo because he was able to play and sing. That was what I was attracted to.

MA: Did you always play cover tunes or did you work on original material?

KK: I played in a blues band and we were always messing around with original stuff. Somebody would come in with an idea and we would throw something together, but nothing really clicked until I joined this band. I played in another band for five years that only did covers. We played around Oakland, California and I was singing a lot in that band. That was during the disco era, so it was all R&B and funk. In that band we tried to make a record. We wrote a bunch of original songs. I still have them. I think we recorded them on a cheap four-track machine. Our manager at the time, who was booking us, got us a tape machine and we would record at his office when everyone was gone. We ran cables up the hallways and we would record live all night. That was back in ‘76 or ’77. The band was called “Rags.” We made our living playing five nights a week performing covers.

MA: Was it at this point that you decided to pursue music as a career?

KK: Yeah. I was already making a living at it and it was really the only thing that I wanted to do. There wasn’t anything else that could have taken its place ever. I could have gone on like that, gig after gig, and been perfectly happy. While I was in that band, Brad [Gillis] had seen me play at this club in Berkley. He watched me play and saw that I was doing a lot of the same things. He was just about to get in this band called “Rubicon” which was a bunch of seasoned players. Jack [Blades] and him were asked to join the band. At one point they lost their drummer and their second album was coming out. Jack hit me up and said, “Hey man we need a drummer and a guy that can sing.” So that is when I got together with Jack and Brad. This was like 1979. We did that for a year. We were in our mid-twenties.

MA: Night Ranger has quite a legacy. How long have you three been together?

KK: We have been together for over 35 years. It’s crazy. When we first got together we thought it was only going to be for a couple of years. We would tell interviewers back in the day that we wanted to get to the second record. We just wanted to sell enough records so we could afford to do another one. We didn’t have any delusions of ruling the world and we thought that any day now this will come to an end. We really took advantage of every minute.

MA: I think what sets Night Ranger apart from many of the legacy bands is that, in addition to touring, you are also making new music. This has to appeal to your loyal fans as well as the new ones. Why is that?

KK: It gets boring after a while and we are one of those creative bands that like to get together and create music. We love to jam and write together. Every couple of years there will be a new record for us and that is how it has always been. We don’t want to forget about that. Ten years go by and you try to make a record and by then there is no forward movement. No creative drive means you end up playing the same things over and over. Of course you have to play the hits, but we want to give the audience more. We try and stretch things and make it a little bit different every time. When we first started making new records it was easy to think, ‘Why spend all this time and money? Why make a record that no one wants to buy?’ These records are just as much for us as they are for them. It’s not about fame or money anymore as it’s about keeping the creative juices flowing.

MA: I have found that many fans, whether new or old, appreciate when bands slip new material into their set list. It keeps things fresh and reminds them of why they are attracted to the band in the first place.

KK: Exactly. We throw in new songs for that very same reason and we see that reaction. When we get that positive feedback, it reminds us of why we are here in the first place. Our side projects also give us an opportunity to spread our wings. The members of Night Ranger have never stopped writing new music. I’ve done a couple of solo records. They are also guitar-driven. I’m working on a new project now and I have five or six songs. It’s a little blue-eyed soul which fits well with my voice and style. It’s going to be in that 1970’s style of funky old-school stuff. I’m really excited about it because it’s a nice change for me. I’ve always been into the blues and funk. When Night Ranger started, I had to switch my way of thinking because for me it was always about R&B.

We get along so well and are respectful of each other’s musical tastes, and that is why we have been together so long. It’s like a destiny. We see each other every week and we just laugh and joke and have a great time. That is what keeps Night Ranger going strong.

MA: You guys have a great reputation as a live act. Everyone I talk to that has been to one of your shows says the same thing…your concerts kick ass. How can you perform like that night after night?

KK: We see some of the other bands around us and we want to give the fans their money’s worth. Like many other bands, we are getting older and the fans energize us. The people that buy tickets spend their hard-earned money. They need to have a great show…a release that takes them away from their regular routine. That’s why they come. They come to see us because we do a lot of spontaneous stuff on stage. We laugh. We joke. We try to make it as easy as possible to bring that audience into our world. It’s always got to be high-energy too. I don’t want to be one of those bands that stand up there cranking out tired tunes. There’s got to be something exciting from beginning to end. Whether a large or small audience, it’s gotta have the same intensity. Many times half the audience has never been to a Night Ranger show. We have to win them over, and that means that we bring 100% every night.

MA: It sounds like you guys strive to bridge that gap between the past and the present.

KK: Yes. We got that attitude opening for bands when nobody knew who we were. We always kept the idea that we were going out there to play and win over the people that don’t know us. Let’s grab them and bring them in. Every night we relive that goal. It all started with live performances. We were playing out before we made any records. We’ve played out when there’s been a long time between records. Both sides go together and feed off one another…records and concerts. We do like to take our songs off the record and make them sound a little bit different. We add things that transform better to a live situation.

MA: Speaking of songs let’s get to another obvious question. How do you feel about the continued popularity of “Sister Christian?” Why the staying power?

KK: Usually you put a ballad on your record. That one was a little bit different. We actually had enough material on the first record, so we held that song back because we already had a ballad. We saved that material because we knew we would be on tour, and once we came off the road, we would be going back into the studio. Sister Christian was one of those songs we were waiting to use. We had absolutely no idea of the impact that song would have. It might have been the message or the video. When we started to realize what the song had become, it was exploding. It was the third single off that record and the record company insisted on us using it. From day one it dominated the radio and made an impression of what Night Ranger could do. You never know. You’re writing a song and you’re in the moment. You can’t account for what’s going to have that kind of impact. Even now, having it placed in movies and commercials is kinda funny. I think Boogie Nights is what brought it back.

MA: Moving over to drums again, tell us about your set-up. It’s spread out and sits sideways on the stage to accommodate your singing parts.

KK: The kit I’m using now is a straightforward DW maple. I like the standard maple shells, nothing too fancy about them except the bigger sizes have the plies going a different way. It makes the toms sound even deeper. I actually added a kit that I had onto this kit because I liked it so much. The older kit parts were from ’92 and I added two or three new toms to it. I was so afraid of getting a brand new kit that didn’t sound the same. I stuck with what I knew. I’ve used this configuration for four or five years. I use a variation of 10-12-13-14-16, which are the sizes I’ve used my whole life. Once in a while I will put the 16 over on the left side and maybe put an 18 on the right. On the new album, I took the kit that John Good at DW gave me 20 years ago. It’s a maple too, with a tobacco lacquer finish. It had been sitting in the corner of my home studio with mics on it for 15 years. I decided that I was going to do the drums here.

Last year I went to Sound Emporium in Nashville and cut drum parts there too. Afterward I decided to use my kit at home. I also used an aluminum snare drum that sounded huge. As I started cutting tracks I realized that the sound was really great. We used it totally natural, no electronic sounds. I did use triggers to help capture some of that sound. What I realized is that small room in my home sounded better than some studios. It’s my favorite drum room now, because it sounds warm and natural. I engineered everything myself and I was literally blown away. Brad and Jack will come and stay for a few days. We pull some amplifiers in there and record demos. I would use electronic drums to develop the parts and then go back to acoustic drums to do the actual recording tracks.

MA: Now you live in Nashville. What brought you to Music City?

KK: I was living in Minnesota but I decided to go somewhere warm where my friends were living. I had a bunch of friends who moved from LA to here. Everybody loved the community. Of course music is everywhere. That’s how I settled here, and I’ve been living in Nashville for 12 years. Every style of music is here and there are some really great players. A lot of those cats who do demos are the best players and should be stars. The backup musicians who do three sessions a day are amazing. There are little houses that have been converted into studios. It’s inspirational everywhere you look. Everyone here is a budding musician, even the guy who is parking cars. I was the same way. That’s what I did when I was younger and trying to play. I worked in a sheet metal factory while I was looking for a steady gig. Even in the early ‘90s, when the band wasn’t working, I did whatever I could, and then I’d come home and play music. No matter what you do as a musician, you will always be connected to music.

MA: Is Night Ranger working on any new studio material?

KK: We are. We just finished the last of the vocals a few days ago. We’ve been jumping from studio to studio. We started a lot of the songs here at my place and then we went to Brad’s in the Bay Area, and then we went to Jack’s up in Seattle. We’ve completed all of the background music too, and it’s going on to the mixer. The album is titled “Don’t Let Up” and we are hoping to release it shortly after it is completed.

MA: Are there any other projects that you are involved in that folks might find interesting?

KK: I’ve been involved as an ambassador with the Musicians Hall of Fame here in Nashville. They chose me a few years ago to be the first guy to spread the word. It’s all about the players. It’s a really cool place located in the basement of the Municipal Auditorium, which is one of the oldest venues in town. It’s all about the musicians. Much like the Wrecking Crew, these players are the unsung heroes of the music industry, people that played on huge hits. They have a new Grammy exhibit with interactive booths that allow you to sing along with the tracks. They also have the wall from Sun Records replicated down here. All of the original gear and instruments are on display. It’s a really neat find and I recommend that every musician check it out.

MA: As a successful musician, what advice would you give to young drummers and singers who are looking to get into the music industry?

KK: I would say for them to listen to everything. Listen to all types of music and try to absorb as much of it as you can. For drummers it’s important to know the song and play for the song. Really pay attention to the vocal’s phrasing. Play around it not on top of it. Make sure that your parts fit. When it comes to writing, it’s nice to have little compliments here and there, but don’t get in the way of the vocal. The vocal and the lyric are what matters. I look at the band as a company. They have to work together.

Never forget. It’s all about being part of the song.

Links:

Visit Kelly Keagy on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/KellyKeagyMusic
Visit Night Ranger online at: www.nightranger.com
Visit the Musicians Hall of Fame at: www.musicianshalloffame.com

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“Sugarfoot”

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I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan. His incredible music and the impact that it had on the world goes without question. In order to pull off his music live, Michael required an extremely talented band. One of the mainstays of his backing group tour after tour was an amazing drummer named Jonathan “Sugarfoot” Moffett. With the universal ability to perform the most complicated music or the most infectious groove Moffett laid down a solid foundation that highlighted Jackson’s singing and dancing.

Sitting behind a massive kit Moffett performed in concert on twenty-three major tours. After joining The Jacksons Moffett took part in the Destiny Tour (1978-1979) and the Triumph Tour (1981). Upon recording drums for The Jackson’s Victory (1984) album, Moffett went on to perform in the Victory Tour (1984) alongside both The Jacksons and Michael Jackson, who was promoting his 1982 hit-record Thriller. Moffett would later reunite with Michael for his HISstory World Tour (1996-1997) and This Is It (2009-2010). Often returning to the Jackson Family Moffett also toured with Michael’s brother Jermaine and sister Janet.

According to his bio: …in the spring of 2009, on a personal request from his friend, brother in heart and inspiration, “King of Pop”, no “King of Music”, Michael Jackson called for his comeback tour, “This is It”. Unfortunately, sometimes the best-laid plans don’t compare to God’s plan. For he decided that Michaels presence was desired more in Heaven than on Earth. So now, heaven will witness, the greatest show it has in a long, long time. So through that turn of events, we are left with the greatest memories in music and entertainment history. Jonathan is left with starring in one of the greatest music film documentaries in the history of filming and theatrical releases. The motion picture film, “This is It”! This is one of Jonathan’s proudest moments, being associated with music history and the greatest entertainer that has ever lived, Michael Jackson. In 2011, Jonathan was asked along with the some of Michael’s original band members to join and perform in the Cirque du Soliel’ Michael Jackson “Immortal” World Tour, which is scheduled to run through the end of 2013 or longer.

For more on “Sugarfoot” visit his official website at: http://www.jonathan-moffett.com/home/.

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Profile: Rich Redmond

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Today I’d like to profile my friend and co-author, Rich Redmond:

Rich is a top call recording drummer/percussionist who’s versatile, dynamic, and rock solid drumming is the heartbeat behind many of today’s top talents. As Nashville’s answer to Gene Krupa, Rich has recorded as a musician (and sometimes co-producer) with an ever-growing list of the “Who’s Who” of the music industry. Perhaps best known for his work as the studio and touring drummer for Country Music superstar Jason Aldean, Rich has played on all five of the artist’s multi-platinum recordings which produced 20 #1 hits and over 10 million downloads. Rich has also been featured prominently in many of Jason Aldean’s videos and two best-selling live concert DVDs.

With nearly 20 years in the music business, Rich brings a savvy knowledge of what will work. He has performed/toured/recorded with: Jason Aldean, Ludacris, Kelly Clarkson, Bryan Adams, Bob Seger, Brooks and Dunn, Joe Perry, Jewel, Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Thomas Rhett, Florida Georgia Line, Thompson Square, Steel Magnolia, Pam Tillis, Susan Ashton, Deana Carter, 1,000 Horses, Chris Stapleton, Montgomery Gentry, Alabama, John Anderson, Trace Adkins, and many others. His diverse skillset and multifaceted style enable him to truly serve the artist and the song. Rich began playing drums at age 8 and later played in the prestigious 1:00 Lab Band at The University of North Texas. Receiving his Master’s Degree in Music Education and percussion, Rich now combines his classical training and street smarts musicianship to bring his passion filled drumming to the world.

In addition to performing on some of the world’s most coveted stages including The Hollywood Bowl, Madison Square Garden, Red Rocks, The Gorge, Wrigley Field and The Grand Old Opry, Rich has appeared on late night and early morning shows such as The Grammy Awards, The Tonight Show, Conan O’ Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Craig Ferguson, Good Morning America, Bonnie Hunt, Ellen, The CMA Awards, ACM Awards, CMT Awards, and many others.

In addition to co-authoring the instructional book/DVD program FUNdamentals of Drumming for KidsTM, (with your host) Rich is also featured regularly as a contributor and/or artist in magazines such as Modern Drummer, Drum!, Drumhead and Rhythm. He is also the founder and motivational speaker of the widely popular clinic CRASH Course for SuccessTM. A fan favorite, Rich was voted “Best Country Drummer” and “Clinician” in the 2010 Modern Drummer Readers Polls and “Best Clinician” and “Studio Drummer” in the 2011 Drum! Magazine “Drummie Awards.” He is also Modern Drummer Magazine’s “Best Country Drummer” for 2016. Rich has also appeared as a guest speaker/educator on The Drum Channel, Drumeo, Drummer’s Collective, 180 Drums, and at both the Musician’s Institute and PASIC.

Rich is also the founder of Drummer’s Weekend, a 24-hour immersive experience for drummers of all ages. Campers at Rich’s “Drummer’s Weekends” experience life changing events. Each weekend features three days of hands on training. “Drummer’s Weekends” feature clinics, master classes, roundtable discussions and powerful Q+A sessions. Students even get to play with a top call rhythm section and perform a “Closing Ceremony” Concert in front of a live audience. All proceeds from that event are donated to a local charity.

Rich is a well-rounded musician, songwriter, entrepreneur, and founding member of a production team known as New Voice Entertainment (NV), who is constantly developing new talent such as Thompson Square, whose first single “Are you Gonna Kiss Me or Not?” was a #1 single and the most played song on radio in 2011. Another NV act, Parmalee posted their first #1 hit in 2014. He is also an artist endorsee for multiple drum equipment manufacturers which include DW, Sabian, Pro-Mark, Remo, LP, Humes and Berg, Roland and many others. Rich has a Signature drumstick from Promark called The ActiveGrip 595 and helped design a bass drum beater for DW Drums called “The Black Sheep”. Both are available globally online and in stores.

For more information, visit Rich on the web at:
www.richredmond.com
www.crashcourseforsuccess.com
www.richacts.com
www.youtube.com/richredmond

Search ‘richredmond’ on FB, Twitter, Instagram
Contact info:
Booking@richredmond.com

Photo by Alex Solca

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Master of the Press Roll

untitled2Also known as the “Multiple Bounce Roll” it is created using alternating handed strokes with no specific number of bounces. It should sound even and continuous. It is also called a “buzz roll” or “press roll” (most often when referred to in the context of drum-set playing). In essence the press roll is a closed roll with added pressure on the head. Dixie band drummers from New Orleans frequently use press rolls in their repertoire. One of the most highly respected masters of the press roll was Zutty Singleton. According to his bio on Jazz Mostly: “A gifted soloist, Zutty would sometimes follow the penchant of New Orleans drummers for starting a solo playing the melodic line of the number before creating rhythmic variations. A memorable example of his skill as a drum soloist is the unaccompanied solo Drum Face.” This solo highlights the press roll and how it can be used effectively. (Note: press rolls are by no means easy. Some drummers may think they are due to the lack of specific bounce and rebound, but maintaining an even press roll between the two hands takes some practice.)

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Just an update: I have completed and submitted two exclusive interviews, one with Kelly Keagy and one with Scott Pellogram (publishing info to come). I also have additional interviews lined up that I will announce once they are firm. How great is the internet when you can reach out to people directly and communicate with them. Imagine if you could have contacted Gene Krupa or John Bonham to ask questions. Stay tuned for more information.

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