Veronica Ortuno is one of my favorite drummers right now. In addition to drumming, she also plays saxophone, bass, and guitar, and is the art director for new awesome label M’Lady Records. As I am a nerd about drums I really wanted to know her perspective and approach to the instrument. She has a style reminiscent of Ikue Mori of DNA, Palmolive of the Raincoats, and Katherina Bornefeld of the Ex. Her drum playing is rhythmic, impulsive, classic and new. In a clouded mist of dudes beating away at the drums like punching bags, seeing her play was a breath of fresh air. Veronica is going to be on tour for the next few months with her bands Finally Punk and Mutating Meltdown, go see them you will be stoked!
“Its the closest sound reminiscent to a heartbeat – can be dark, powerful, and extremely emotional.” – Veronica Ortuno
Full name: Veronica Ortuno
Hometown: Austin / Houston, Texas / Santa Ana, California
Where do you live now: Portland, Oregon
Bands you are drumming in currently: Mutating Meltdown and Finally Punk
Bands you were drumming for in the past: Cold Girls
What you do for a living: Student, Freelance Artist, Nanny, M’lady’s Records
Photo by Sherry Cardino
Tom Tom Magazine: When did you start playing the drums?
Veronica Ortuno: October of 2005.
Tom Tom Magazine: Reason that you started playing the drums?
Veronica Ortuno: I always admired female drummers. I felt like drummers were the underdogs of bands in general – often underrated, so I was drawn to that aspect of it.
Tom Tom Magazine: How long did it take til you felt like a “real” and legit drummer?
Veronica Ortuno: Last year – Summer 2008. It’s obvious I’m not a trained drummer; I just play as best I know how.
Tom Tom Magazine: What is your favorite set-up for your kit? Why?
Veronica Ortuno: When I first started playing I would set-up the minimum amount of drums out of intimidation, I’m sure. Now I play with a rack tom and gradually use the cymbals more. I take a liking to deep sounding drums. Its the closest sound reminiscent to a heartbeat – can be dark, powerful, and extremely emotional.
Tom Tom Magazine: What would your dream kit consist of?
Veronica Ortuno: I don’t have a preference momentarily, but one time I played Chad’s clear crystalite kit when Mutating Meltdown first played out; the sound was near perfect to what I dream of.
TTM: What do you do to get better at the drums / Best way to get chops?
VO: I never practice, truly. I don’t even own a standard kit! Its coming together rather…slowly (secret’s out).
TTM: What is your favorite drum warm up / what do you do to warm up before playing?
VO: This is terrible, but I can’t recall a time that I’ve warmed up. I have to say that I rely on my instinct a lot of the time.
TTM: What do you think the role of the drummer is? (In a band)
VO: I feel the drummer is the backbone of the group.
“The drumming can become very fluid or a total cluster-fuck.” – Veronica Ortuno
Photo by Erynn Patrick
TTM: Do you play any other instruments? If so … how does that effect your drumming?
VO: I play around with Bass, Saxophone, and Guitar, but I’m no virtuoso by any means. When I drum, I listen to the other instruments or sometimes don’t listen to them at all. The drumming can become very fluid or a total cluster-fuck.
TTM: What do you consider to be the most challenging thing about the drums?
VO: Its entirely a complex object. Its a constant challenge and I feel I still have a lot to learn. Someday I’d like to master playing drums in traditional grip.
TTM: What’s your favorite part about playing drums?
VO: How therapeutic it is.
TTM: Most notable show you ever played?
VO: Finally Punk Oakland show in 2006. We played an eviction party where Erin and I took mushrooms prior to our set. The entire show was a frenzy, but I remember honing a more competent drumming style that night!
TTM: Have you experienced any setbacks as a female drummer?
VO: At first yes, being female, playing atypical ‘punk’ music. As a collective experience, we didn’t have a lot of support and at times the criticism could be daunting, but in retrospect it is mostly conditioned stereotypical bullshit. It’s hard to say if it’s more or less surprising to see female drummers presently. There have been female drummers way before my time, like Honey Lantree and Moe Tucker, if not earlier — Viola Smith, a jazz musician, was drumming in the 20′s. Point is – Women have been a part of music forever, and we should have every right to it. I receive more compliments now and I can appreciate that. I’m assured and feel I work wholeheartedly at what I’m doing.
TTM: Who are your favorite drummers?
VO: Palmolive, Stephen Morris, Toby Tolman, Ikue Mori, Lislot Ha, Penny Rimbaud, KK Barrett, Ron Reyes, Adris Hoyos, Tobi Vail, Christine Hahn, Drumbo, Teresa Nervosa, Jaki Liebezeit. I’m probably forgetting a lot.
TTM: If you could change one thing about the drums what would it be?
VO: I’d make them go on a diet. Specifically for loading / unloading purposes. Jesus christ.
TTM: Do you do anything else drum related besides playing in a band? (i.e. teach drums one on one, rock camp, drum circles, etc …)
VO: I do not.
TTM: Best piece of advice you got as a drummer?
VO: I don’t think I ever got any advice.
TTM: What would you recommend to a new drummer starting off / advice for new drummers?
VO: Adhere to the proverb: “If there’s a will, there’s a way.” Its a powerful statement.
TTM: What are some of your other hobbies / interests?
VO: I enjoy Scrabble and Pinball; I like to read, watch movies, and listen to music with another person in my room; I like having penpals and meeting them in person; I’m interested in a stimulus, emotion, natural tendencies, vigor; I’m constructing writings that will never see the light of day; I like to look at a person in the eyes; And sleeping.
TTM: Who are some of your favorite lady drummers right now?
VO: Lily Maring of Grass Widow really left an impression on me; Heather Hall and Edie Sharp of White Boss; Lisa Schonberg of Explode Into Colors.
TTM: Who are some of your favorite bands right now?
VO: (no particular order) Brilliant Colors, Grass Widow, White Boss, Total Abuse, and Gun Outfit.
Interview by Adee Roberson of New Bloods