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Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

Interview with Dubai Drums Julie-ann Odell coming SOON!

In Tom Tom Magazine Blogroll, Tom Tom Magazine Featured Drummer on August 31, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Julie-ann Odell has lived in the Middle East for 32 years. She is an experienced drum circle facilitator who has used rhythm work and group drumming extensively as a tool for team building in the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf Region. She is an experienced executive coach, co-active life coach and organization relationship systems coach (a cutting edge training that develops the entire team using a revolutionary systems-based approach drawn from the best of coaching, psychology, organizational development, mediation, quantum physics, process work and general systems theory). Since starting Dubai Drums eight years ago, Julie-ann and her team have drummed with thousands of people and children at corporates, schools, universities and community events. They drum in all parts of the Middle East and have now opened Cairo Drums in Egypt.

Dubai Drums Website

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine with Julie-ann COMING SOON!

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Robot Drummer! Hail New Technology

In Tom Tom Magazine Featured Drummer on August 28, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Check this out!! Let us know what you think. xo, Tom Tom Magazine

Andrya Ambro Wants You to Talk Normal

In Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Interview, Tom Tom Magazine Blogroll, Tom Tom Magazine Featured Drummer on August 27, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Andrya Ambro zipped up her gray flight suit right before she sat down at her kit at Union Pool in Brooklyn, NY. Then she proceeded to hypnotize me and everyone else in the room. She drums hard, fast, and with technical ease. Her band mate, Sarah Register watches her drummer for subtle cues and the energy between them could be cut with a knife. Occasionally Andrya pulls us out of the trance with vocal hooks that are equally engaging. In summary, she is a total bad ass at the kit. She prefers her drums tuned “warm and dead.” Talk Normal just finished recording their debut full length at Rare Book Room with Nicolas Vernhes who will be putting out their album in October on Rare Book Room Records. Talk Normal heads out on a tour of the west coast around that time as well. i secret cog Ep was released digitally on Menlo Park Records this June. Pitchfork just reviewed a song of theirs. I caught up with Andrya at her home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn right before she left for a short tour with her band Talk Normal and US Girls that ended at SXSW in Austin, TX.

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Photo by Jee Young Sim

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Photo by Jee Young Sim

Full name: Andrya Elena Ambro
Nickname/pseudonym: Andy, Lenny, Rad Ambro, Double aa
Age: 29
Hometown: Wilmington, DE
Where you live now: Brooklyn, NY
Bands you are drumming in currently: TALK NORMAL
Bands you were drumming for in the past: death.pool, Glen Olden, Antonius Block
What you do for a living: musician/sound engineer

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“I like them warm and dead. Like cardboard boxes with lovely tone a la reggae drum sounds.” – Andrya Ambro

Tom Tom Magazine: When did you start playing the drums?

Andrya Ambro: I was 13 when I (with the help of my brother Bryan) convinced my mother to get me a drum kit and let me quit piano lessons.

Tom Tom Magazine: I noticed that you play without cymbals and your kit sounds really flat and low.  Why did you decide to play your kit in that way?

Andrya Ambro: To be honest, I never understood how people played with drums up to their ears.  It seems like such a disadvantage. Also as a woman (who barely stretches to 5’5”), we are generally smaller creatures than our male counterparts. Men can play bigger drum sets and still get on top of their instrument. It takes a smaller drum-set for a woman to get on top (please excuse all the sexual innuendo ;)).

Tom Tom Magazine: How do you tune your drums?

Andrya Ambro: I like them warm and dead. Like cardboard boxes with lovely tone a la reggae drum sounds. I use my ears.

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Photo by Jee Young Sim

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Photo by Jee Young Sim

TTM: When did you and Sarah (Register) meet and how did you form Talk Normal?

AA: I met Sarah in 1999 at NYU. She was in the Music Technology Department and I worked there. We were fast friends. It was not until 2006 that we actually played together in the minimal and discordant band Antonius Block (she on bass/guitar and myself on drums).  That band went on hiatus in late ’06. On the tails of AB, we both were driven to create a more raw music, stripped down, and basic.  Our first show as Talk Normal was September ’07.


TTM: What was the idea behind your tribal drumming and chanting?

AA: I am conflicted over the word tribal. If tribal means direct – I accept this. If tribal means danceable – I accept this, I want to make the people dance. If tribal means incapable of syncopation – I reject this. I ask you this – why is it most woman get the uncanny rap of being labeled “tribal” drummers?  i.e. Moe Tucker, Ikue Mori, Lori Barbero etc. Do stereotypes exist for a reason? I constantly ask myself – why does this bother me so very much? Perhaps woman are just more “of the earth.”
As for the chanting, can’t say any of it was a premeditated idea. If I were to rationalize TN’s collective unconscious, I suppose some might consider our music dark and intense. Something’s gotta bring you up and over.
Short answer:  Some might attribute both the tribal drum and chant style to my pursuit of African music (beats, song, and dance) in my formative years. Also, in my teens, I very much took to Mahalia Jackson and the black tradition of the rejoiceful shout.

“If tribal means danceable – I accept this, I want to make the people dance.” – Andrya Ambro

TTM: What region of the world influences your drumming style the most?

AA: Black music is a consummate source. Or rather music of what some might call the Black Atlantic is very powerful to me.  To fine tune my coordinates – Ghana and Jamaica.

TTM: What do you think the role of the drummer is (in a band)?

AA: I suppose it is the nature of the drums to be the heartbeat and drive underneath the band, usually perceived as non-melodic, and in the back. Personally I think drums can be so much more.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to be the heartbeat and the drive.  But why must this be the drummer’s only role? Why can’t others take this role? Why can’t I share the front? I want to sing. Yes, this has happened many times before i.e. Phil Collins, Karen Carpentar, Don Henley, Levon Helm etc. Yet somehow, it always looks, sometimes feels, awkward. It is my own personal assumption that these people were ‘fronting the band’ (another idea that perplexes me) and playing the drums as a secondary/subsidiary instrument, not as an accompanying/complementary instrument. With respect to all of the above mentioned and so many more, I say, I want to break this mold, for myself.  I want out of that box – audibly and visually.  I want to play the drums as an orchestration within an arrangement of sounds. I want extreme dynamics.  Texture. I love structure. I want to use drums (just like my voice!) to tell a story. Perhaps this why I don’t see myself as a ‘drummer.’  I just want to write songs and I happen to play the drums.

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Photo by Jee Young Sim

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Photo by Jee Young Sim

“As I grow, I realize these “setbacks” are more like a jewel of bondage – giving me the fire to make something new, to fight to make something my own.” – Andrya Ambro

TTM: Have you experienced any setbacks as a female drummer?

AA: Yes. I don’t want to be seen as a dancing dog; in that you’re surprised it’s even done at all. However, these setbacks seem more in my head than reality. As I grow, I realize these “setbacks” are more like a jewel of bondage – giving me the fire to make something new, to fight to make something my own. I just want to be free.

TTM: Who are your favorite drummers?

AA: Influential: Pat Samson, Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, Brendan Canty, Max Roach, Moondog, Bob Bert, Mac McNeilly, Jaki Liebezeit, Art Blakey, Budgie. Contemporaries I love: Kid Millions, Matt Marlin, Ryan Sawyer, Tim Dewitt, Deantoni Parks. Aside: I love drummers. I love to watch each as an individual and how they approach their instrument. However, in my pursuit of music with rhythm at its helm, it was not solely the drummers that I studied.  I love the rhythms and phrasing of Thelonius Monk, Ahmad Jamal, Alice Coltrane, Henry Cowell, Terry Riley, Al Johnson, Roberta Flack, Mavis Staple and the list goes on. In fact I would often try to imitate (on the drums) how these folks would sing or play their particular instrument, more than I would imitate drummers.

“Guess I just want to make stuff – be it visual, audible, or dinner.” – Andrya Ambro

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Photo by Jee Young Sim

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Photo by Jee Young Sim

TTM: What are some of your other hobbies/interests?

AA: For gainful employment, I am a sound engineer – primarily live, some recording/mixing at home. I consider this a hobby from which I conveniently make money. If I had more time to encourage hobbies, I would definitely practice my clarinet more, take hair braiding classes, teach high school history, fix my sewing machine to make my own clothes and so much more. Guess I just want to make stuff – be it visual, audible, or dinner.

TTM: Who are some of your favorite lady drummers right now?

AA: Ikue Mori (don’t think she does too much drumming these days), Susie Ibarra, Allison Busch

“I want to use drums (just like my voice!) to tell a story.” – Andrya Ambro

TTM: Who are some of your favorite bands right now?

AA: Naked on the Vague, Magik Markers, Sightings, Fabulous Diamonds, Antimagic, Kanye West, Little Claw, Pterodactyl, These Are Powers

Interview by Tom Tom Magazine Creator: Mindy Abovitz

Tom Tom Magazine Photography by: Jee Young Sim



Drummer of the Week: Alessia Mattalia

In Tom Tom Magazine Featured Drummer on August 26, 2009 at 1:46 am

This week I feature another drummer from overseas and the second one from Italy. Originally from Torino, her career begins to take flight in the early 90’s with a band called Funky Lips. She went on to do a solo project in which she released the album To The Light and played with the band B-Nario who later with the band ArX of Torino. Although, Allesia has a Pop background, her kit is elaborate and her playing has very smooth Jazz undertones. Check out the video below to see her in action.

More recently she has played for the British rock band The Spins whose website offers some tasty morsels off their Level Eleven album available through iTunes. Little can be found about what Alessia has been working on since then but you can bet she is staying busy. I contacted her early in July and hopefully we can coordinate and bring you an interview soon.

Alessia

Until then check out her myspace and her website which offers an interesting look and description of the back of one of her set-ups.

Alex Carulo

Technique Tuesday: Paradiddles.

In Tom Tom Magazine Technique on August 25, 2009 at 5:57 pm

This week I wanted to cover another common rudiment: the paradiddle. Sticking-wise, paradiddles are played Right, Left, Right, Right- then off the left (LRLL). You can play these as quarter notes, eighth notes, or even triplets, but they’re most commonly seen as sixteenth notes.

It’s important to know that when you’re playing 16th note paradiddles, it should sound like you’re playing a roll. Keep your strokes consistent.

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A good way to start building your paradiddles is to play quarter notes for a measure (4 counts) with alternating sticking (RLRL). Next play 4 counts of eighth notes, sticking RRLLRRLL. Then play an eighth note with two sixteenth notes, sticking R-RR, L-LL, and so on for 4 more counts. This builds the “diddle” part of the paradiddle. Finally, make the last measure complete paradiddles.

Now you’ve got yourself a snazzy paradiddle-builder, if I may say so myself.

Once you master the paradiddle, you can spread the notes across your toms. Paradiddles between the hihat and snare sound pretty rad, too.

Drummer of the Week: Madelin Espinosa

In Tom Tom Magazine Blogroll, Tom Tom Magazine Featured Drummer on August 19, 2009 at 1:59 am

This week I would like to feature another conguera percussionist. Her name is Madelin Espinosa and she has rhythm and style to spare. Check out the video below where she does a solo with a 4 piece set-up.


Born in Havana, Cuba she was formaly trained in the Felix Varela School of Music. Afterwards, Madelin played in various all girl percussion groups and colaborted with other groups and recordings including Raul Torres’ Fenix de Crystal. She is curently living in Madrid, Spain and has toured Finland and Sweden with singer Jari Sillanpaa and band director Carlos del Puerto.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be chatting with Madelin via email and I’m happy to announce that we will post an interview soon. For now I can tell you that she has been a pleasure to speak with and has been very generous and accommodating. She has a true, admirable passion for music and it is apparent in her performances. You will rarely see a video performance of her where she is not smiling.

More recently she is collaborating in a group called Timbako directed by her talented brother Pepe Espinosa.

Talent, style, and class, this sums her up. Check out her myspace page for more info on Madelin.

Alex Carulo

Technique Tuesday: Stage Presence (Hannah Blilie)

In Tom Tom Magazine Blogroll, Tom Tom Magazine Technique on August 18, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Hannah Blilie plays for three-piece band Gossip. I think she’s awesome, and I like her style.

I love how she’s already groovin’ in the back as soon as the song starts. While she plays the main beat, she doesn’t play on counts 1 or 3 so she has time to throw her left hand up. Which looks really cool, let’s be honest. Another thing I like is during the breakdown around 2:30. The tom hits, then a turn off to the side.

Little things really make a difference in your performance. You may think no one notices these things, but people definitely notice. So don’t be afraid to throw them into your set.

Exclusive Interview with Drummer / Jewelry Designer Pamela Love!

In Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Interview, Tom Tom Fashion, Tom Tom Magazine Blogroll, Tom Tom Magazine Feature, Tom Tom Magazine Featured Video on August 14, 2009 at 9:17 pm

When Pamela Love isn’t gracing the pages of Vogue with her jewelry line, she is rocking out in her basement in Greenpoint with her three piece all girl band Scorpio Rising.  The jewelry designer and fashion icon brings the same intensity and unique aesthetic to the kit. At out last benefit show, we had the pleasure of interviewing Pamela from everything about what inspires her drumming to her favorite kind of soup. Check out the video below after you read our exclusive interview!

Pamela Love

Pamela Love

Full name: Pamela Love
Nickname / pseudonym: Panina Sverdlovetzky
Age: 27
Where were you born: New York
Where do you live now: New York
Bands you are drumming in currently: Scorpio Rising
What you do for a living: jewelry designer
Something outstanding about you: I’m an outstanding multi-tasker

I’m really inspired by Afro-cuban polyrhythms… I am still limited. And I think my limitations inspire my style.” -Pamela Love

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Tom Tom Magazine: When did you start playing the drums?

Pamela Love: In high school but I stopped for a very long time. And every day I am still learning.

Tom Tom Magazine: What influenced your decision to become a drummer?

Pamela Love: I had damaged my vocal cords and could no longer sing. But I still had all this musical energy I needed to get out.

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Pamela at the kit

Tom Tom Magazine: Has any drummer influenced you? Who has influenced you the most?

Pamela Love: When I was a kid I was obsessed with Keith Moon.

“I am always listening for the drums even when I am not trying to.” – Pamela Love

Tom Tom Magazine: What inspires your drumming style?

Pamela Love: I’m really inspired by Afro-cuban polyrhythms… I am still limited. And I think my limitations inspire my style.

TTM: How did you form your band?

PL: My close friend Stephanie and I just started jamming together and we have gone through a lot of lineup changes until now. Currently our good friends Elizabeth and Jane are on guitar and vocals.

We Love Pamela Love

We Love Pamela Love

TTM: What band has influenced your band the most?

PL: Personally, Neil Young, The Band, Fleetwood Mac, Paul Simon, Bruce Sprinsteen have been major influences on me. All of us are influenced by totally different kinds of music. It’s hard to say who has influenced us the most.

TTM: How would you describe your band?

PL: Sort of psychedelic, garage, with an element of early 90’s grunge.

TTM: What’s the hardest part about playing drums?

PL: Singing and drumming is so challenging. Also (and I’m not kidding) I really have such a hard time getting my hi-hat clutch tight enough.

TTM: How would you describe your ideal drum set?

PL: One the puts itself together and takes itself apart.

TTM: You’re involved in a lot of different projects: jewelry design, film, painting etc…do any of them influence your drumming? Does your drumming influence your other creative endeavors?

PL: I think everything influences each-other. Last season my jewelry was heavily influenced by African, Mexican and Native American jewelry. I was also extremely interested in drumming styles and music from those cultures as well. Especially the music of Ali Farka Toure. Its interesting how a fascination with a particular culture can affect many different creative aspects of your life at the same time. I also think another common thread is that I am always doing something with my hands.

Pamela at Tom Tom Magazine / Make Music NY Show

Pamela at Tom Tom Magazine / Make Music NY Show

TTM: Who are your favorite drummers right now?

PL: Keith Moon, Steve Gadd.

TTM: What are you listening to currently?

PL: Grizzly Bear, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, Devendra Banhart, Leonard Cohen, Tk Webb and the Visions, TV on the Radio, Moon and Moon, Bat for Lashes, T.I.

TTM: Has drumming had any impact on the way you listen to music?

PL: Yes. I am always listening for the drums even when I am not trying to.

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Pamela working on her line

TTM: What is your favorite set-up for your kit? Why?

PL: The simpler the better. As long as I have a bass, and a snare and a high hat I’m happy.

TTM: How often do you practice?

PL: 3 days a week.

TTM: How do you warm up?

PL: Coffee, tea, cigarettes.

TTM: If you could change one thing about the drums what would it be?

PL: Nothing. They are perfect. Well actually sometimes I wish I could play standing up so I could dance. I’m thinking I might need some congas.

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Pamela at Coco 66 in Brooklyn

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 …)

PL: I really like playing djembe.

“Listen to as much music as possible.” – Pamela Love

TTM: Where do you shop for your drum gear?

PL: Guitar Center usually. Or Main Drag Music in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

TTM: What’s the best piece of advice you have as a drummer?

PL: Keep it simple.

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Pamela

TTM: What would you recommend to a new drummer starting off / advice for new drummers?

PL: Practice all the time. Get “the new breed” and learn everything in it. Listen to as much music as possible.

TTM: What are some of your other hobbies / interests?

PL: I like to paint, sculpt, draw and make jewelry. I also love riding my bike.


xo,

Vicki Simon, Senior Editor

Drummer of the Week: Marilyn Mazur plays with Miles Davis

In Tom Tom Magazine Blogroll, Tom Tom Magazine Featured Drummer on August 12, 2009 at 7:03 pm

If you ever get writers block, try putting on some Miles Davis. Seriously. My cousin Frank lent me the Miles Davis live in Munich 1988 DVD and almost immediately, the aura and greatness of this musical giant channels through your soul and begins to wash away any strife, stress, or tension. Conveniently, Miles toured with well renowned drummer, percussionist, bandleader and composer Marilyn Mazur.

Marilyn Mazur

Marilyn is originally from New York but was raised in Denmark. She has formal training from the Royal Danish Academy of Music but her work on her instruments is mostly self taught, a very impressive feat.

The video below is a piece called Tutu from the Munich concert. Miles is a true master at his craft and has total command on stage. Yet he has an intimate connection with his band mates, standing close to them or placing a hand on their soldier, communicating with them casually and calmly. It allows his musicians to work their craft without any intimidation upon them, allowing a truly great collaboration to punch through. Marilyn has an impressive solo part at about 6 minutes and 50 seconds in.

Read more about Marilyn at her website or if your fluent in Danish there is a documentary movie done about Marilyn by Danish film director Christian Braad Thomsen.

Alex Carulo

Technique Tuesday: Stage Presence (Meg White)

In Tom Tom Magazine Blogroll, Tom Tom Magazine Technique on August 11, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Stage presence can make or break you. You can be playing the most amazing fills or grooves, but if you have a deer-in-the-headlights look the effect gets a bit lost. If you’re going to tear it up, really tear it up! Get into it! There’s nothing more fun than watching a drummer that really grooves when they groove.

First, I’d like to examine Meg White’s presence.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=li3Sqqf3Ki0)

She doesn’t just hit the drums, she’s beating them. Notice that she doesn’t just use wrist-strokes here…No, she’s using arm for those strokes. Sometimes above her head.

Her playing isn’t too complicated, but she’s filling the stage with sound. This is an especially important role, as there are only two people in the White Stripes. The notes she plays on the floor tom & bass drive the verses, and when she brings the crash cymbals in, you can feel it. It all comes together.

Awesome Allison: An Exclusive Interview with Allison Busch of Awesome Color & Red Dawn II

In Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Interview, Tom Tom Magazine Blogroll on August 7, 2009 at 11:53 pm

Awesome Allison kills it on the kit. I have the privilege of living in Brooklyn and seeing her play whenever I want. She is a hard-hitter and a spaz. Her beats are innovative and solid. She and everyone else gets sweaty and has a great time when she sits down at the kit. Awesome Color, one of Allison’s bands, got together in Michigan where she is from. In 2008 her band toured with Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. She is a bad ass and it is not that difficult to see why. Awesome Color has 2 albums out that I know of and they are getting ready to put another one out in 2010 on Ecstatic Peace (Thurston Moore’s Label). Allison’s other band, Red Dawn II, has an album in the works as well which will also be coming out on Ecstatic Peace. Get these albums and play them on repeat. You will not be sorry.

Exclusive Tom Tom Photo by Erin Nicole Brown

Exclusive Tom Tom Photo by Erin Nicole Brown

Full name: Allison Busch
Nickname / pseudonym: Awesome Allison, Sharon Gear
Age: 28
Where were you born: Flint, Michigan
Where do you live now: Brooklyn, NY & Detroit, Michigan
Bands you are drumming in currently: Awesome Color & Red Dawn II
Bands you were drumming for in the past: same as above

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Photo by Rebecca Smeyne

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Photo by Rebecca Smeyne

“Keep the beat & keep the band smiling.” – Allison Busch


Tom Tom Magazine: When did you start playing the drums?

Allison Busch: at 16 years old

Tom Tom Magazine: Reason that you started playing the drums?

Allison Busch: Hyperactivity & incessant tapping on things

Tom Tom Magazine: How long did it take til you felt like a “real” and legit drummer?

Allison Busch: When I joined a band and we played a show

Awesome Color

Awesome Color

Tom Tom Magazine: What is your favorite set-up for your kit? Why?

Allison Busch: Low and spread out so you can hit hard & sloppy without splitting your knuckles or breaking sticks

TTM: What would your dream kit consist of?

AB: Giant crash cymbals, absolutely enormous

TTM: What do you do to get better at the drums / Best way to get chops?

AB: Play every day

TTM: What is your favorite drum warm up / what do you do to warm up before playing?

AB: Drink coffee and listen to some killer music to get your blood going

TTM: What do you think the role of the drummer is? (In a band)

AB: Keep the beat & keep the band smiling

TTM: Do you play any other instruments? If so … how does that effect your drumming?

AB: No, but any time I try another instrument, I play it real percussively.  I’ll just hit the strings on the guitar, not really strum or anything

TTM: What do you consider to be the most challenging thing about the drums?

AB: Not messing up the beat

Awesome Allison

Awesome Allison

TTM: What’s your favorite part about playing drums?

AB: Hitting both crash cymbals at the same time & playing fast rolls around the kit

TTM: Most notable show you ever played?

AB: At ATP a couple of years ago, Awesome Color got to open up for my favorite bands….Wolf Eyes, Negative Approach, and The Stooges

TTM: Have you experienced any setbacks as a female drummer?

AB: Hell no

TTM: Who are your favorite drummers?  

AB: Kid Millions, Animal

TTM: If you could change one thing about the drums what would it be?  

AB: Front of the stage (just kidding). Unbreakable cymbals

Allison

Allison

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 …)  

AB: I used to help teach drums at the Glasslands after school program

TTM: Where do you shop for your drum gear?

AB: Anywhere with used cymbals, Main Drag in Brooklyn

TTM: Best piece of advice you got as a drummer?  

AB: “You must play the drum hard and blow the big man’s mind.” —Big Youth in “Rockers”

TTM: What would you recommend to a new drummer starting off / advice for new drummers?

AB: Think about hitting the bass drum, that’s where the beat really takes off

TTM: What are some of your other hobbies / interests?

AB: Skateboarding, pinball, ice hockey, horror movies

TTM: Who are some of your favorite lady drummers right now?

AB: Andrya Ambro from Talk Normal rips

TTM: Who are some of your favorite bands right now?

AB: Knyfe Hyts!  There are some killer bands in Detroit right now… Tyvek, Bad Party, Infinity People, Gardens, & Druid Perfume…that I’ll go see live, but if I put on a record it’s usually an old Radio Birdman or Motorhead jam or some Scandinavian crusty punk.

TTM: When did you start skateboarding?

AB: When I was 14

At the kit

At the kit

TTM: What is your favorite movie?

AB:Texas Chainsaw Massacre

TTM: What kind of taco is your favorite taco?

AB: Fish tacos in California and nopalitos in the Southwest

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Photo by Erin Nicole Brown

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Photo by Erin Nicole Brown

Interview By Tom Tom Magazine Creator: Mindy Abovitz (a total awesome allison fan)

Vibrations from the West: An exclusive interview with Courtney Gray of the Splinters (Oakland/Berkeley, CA)

In Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Interview on August 6, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Saying that a band makes “feel-good” music is so corny, but it’s hard not to describe Oakland/Berkeley, CA band the Splinters without mentioning this aspect of their songs. With riot grrrl remnants and ’60s garage charm, the Splinters’ toe-tapping tunes are completely catchy, and we love it.

Perhaps most notably, the band looks like they are having a complete blast on stage with clanky percussion driving each number. Drummer Courtney Gray is a joy to watch at the kit: energetic, on-time, and completely animated. Lauren Stern rocks the crap out of a tambourine, and guitarist Caroline Partamian jams alongside Gray on the floor tom in various songs, all while lead singer/guitarist Ashley Thomas strums away up front as each member contributes to sweet vocal harmonies.

Just in time for their first release, 7-inch “Splintered Bridges” (Aug. 1 on Double Negative Records), Tom Tom Mag caught up with drummer Courtney Gray to discuss picking up drums again after years of not playing, and using those toms to “set the mood” (bow chicka bow!).

Courtney Gray playing it cool at the kit March 19, 2009 at South by Southwest in Austin, TX. Photo by Derek Evers care of tripwire.com.

Courtney Gray playing it cool at the kit March 19, 2009 at South by Southwest in Austin, TX. Photo by Derek Evers & http://www.tripwire.com.

Name: Courtney Gray

Age: 23

Hometown: Ojai, CA

Currently Lives in: San Francisco, CA

Past bands: The Skullfuckers (Misfits cover band)

Current bands: The Splinters

Day job: High School Teacher

“Physically and emotionally, I would never choose any other instrument for myself. Playing drums is just the BEST feeling.” –Courtney Gray

Courtney rocking out with tambo/singer

Courtney Gray with fellow Splinter tambo/singer Lauren Stern at South by Southwest in Austin, TX 2009. Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/frankenhoodie.

Tom Tom Magazine: How long have you been playing drums? Why did you start – and select drums instead of any other instrument?

Courtney Gray: So, the first time I started playing drums, I was about 13-years-old. My older brothers had bought a cheap drum-set and taught me how to play it, and then I got better than they did, so they decided to just stick to the guitar, and we created a pretty sick Blink 182 / Nirvana cover band, but I stopped playing like a year later, and started playing again recently when my college friends [at UC Berkeley] and I decided to start a Misfits cover band.

Tom Tom Magazine: Why did you stop?

Courtney Gray: I stopped because I was really young at the time, and it was basically a fun hobby to do with my brothers, and once I started socializing at school more, I got distracted.

TTM: After such a long gap of not playing – was it difficult to pick it up again? What were some of the challenges there?

CC: It actually wasn’t that difficult. I mainly only knew basic beats and punk beats, so just playing Misfits songs was pretty simple. It ended up being like hopping on a bicycle again, but the one challenge was stamina: My stamina was really low at first, and my forearm would get really tired really fast after only one song. So, it would be hard to play a lot of songs in a row, which was frustrating, and the creative aspects were also challenging, like coming up with fills or finding my own style, etc.

Cafe Pergs in Santa Cruz (April 2009) Photo by Chris Guerrero.

Courtney jamming at Cafe Pergs in Santa Cruz, CA (April 2009). Photo by Chris Guerrero.

TTM: So how did you teach yourself to play? Do you think that playing covers and being in cover bands originally was a good way to start?

CC: Definitely! Especially when you’re that young, and you don’t have a clue about theory and whatnot. Just listening to songs in my headphones and duplicating the beats and fills was really helpful, and when you’re at such a beginner level, you don’t even know where to begin and what options are out there, so each song you duplicate is like a mini drum lesson

TTM: And what about punk-style beats? What draws you to that?

CC: I was into really shitty punk when I was in junior high and high school. I liked the energy and fast pace of the music and was kind of a tom-boy – no pun intended – so I naturally would cover punk songs and then had that as a foundation for myself. Actually now though, I am not as drawn to punk-style beats as much. They’re starting to bore me. When we write new songs now, I’m more interested in trying to make “interesting” things happen and really explore the use of the toms rather than just slap on a punk beat.

TTM: Same here. It takes a while to really start getting creative with the toms, I think – especially the rack toms. What kind of kit do you play now?

CC: I recently got a new kit, but have to do some work on it before I can play it. It’s an old Gibson Slingerland (I think from the ’60s) – BEAUTIFUL sparkle champagne (Sorry, I have to brag about that), and it has two rack toms and one floor tom. I like toms. I was considering downsizing to just one rack tom, for the sake of convenience, but I don’t think I’ll be able to go through with it.

TTM: Explain your love for toms. What do you think they add to songs? ☺

CC: So, I also do art, like painting, drawing, etc, so sometimes I approach a song the same way I approach an art piece, and the toms are like that extra bit of texture that gives a piece more body and depth, and they can take the song in specific directions, tone-wise, and I love being able to do that. Also, sometimes our songs have like a progression of events, almost as if it’s a story, and the toms really help “set the scene” I guess you could say.

“I was into really shitty punk when I was in junior high and high school. I liked the energy and fast pace of the music and was kind of a tom-boy – no pun intended.” — Courtney Gray

The Splinters playing The Smell in Los Angeles, CA, May 23, 2009.

The Splinters playing The Smell in Los Angeles, CA, May 23, 2009.

TTM: Maybe you can give me an example of how your drum part “sets the scene” in a particular song?

CC: Okay, the song “Oranges:” The whole premise of the song is totally lesbo, even though none of us are gay, it was just a cute idea to make it a girl instead of a guy. Anyway, the song starts out by kind of introducing her, and during the intro I’m just on the toms doing a tribal-like beat. And to me, it kind of creates the vibe that she is this epic character that we’re starting to tell you about and she’s coming your way. Then there’s a part in the story about running into this girl where the narrator falls and the lyrics go, “fall fall fall, fall fall fall,” and at the point I’m doing a drum roll on just the snare that creates the effect as if someone is falling repeatedly and like tumbling away after she falls.

TTM: What is your favorite thing about being a drummer/playing the drums?

CC: Oh, it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite thing, but I would have to say first off, physically and emotionally, I would never choose any other instrument for myself. I’m a pretty emotional/intense/high-energy person, so playing the drums is just the BEST feeling. It’s a good release, and it feels more personal and intimate because of the level of intensity with which they’re played. I also tend to hit extra hard, because it’s that intense contact that feels so good, and so right.

TTM: And what is the most challenging thing about drumming?

The Splinters pose for a band picture. Photo by Lizzzz Wood.

The Splinters pose for a band picture. Photo by Lizzzz Wood.

CC: Of course, just wanting to be better or more advanced than you are – like having all of these things you want to do, but not being technically equipped to do them, and then the frustration that goes along with that. I’m also bad at doing the whole “practicing alone” thing in order to get better. It’s kind of intuitive for me, so I don’t really know the best way to go about like formally improving, you know? But I’m starting to brainstorm things that I want to start doing. Like my friend was showing me all these different types of “paradiddles,” and I’m going to just do those constantly, and then try harder ones, and harder ones, because it’s getting your muscle memory going that helps you improve, and getting your body to be comfortable with all those awkward sequences.

TTM: Who are some your favorite drummers?

CC: I’m not too keen on ALL of the drummers out there, and that’s definitely something I haven’t really gotten super obsessed about figuring out, but there are drummers that I technically admire. Like the drummer from the band Man Man [Pow Pow AKA Christopher Powell] is amazing and can do so many things at once, even down to playing a kazoo on key while doing a really complicated drum sequence. He’s just 100% rhythm when he plays, like his face makes the strangest expressions and when you watch him, he’s not just a dude sitting at a drum set, he’s a machine that’s a part of the drum-set.

TTM: And as a female drummer, have you experienced any sexism – ever get the “oh, they’re just a chick band” write-off? How do you deal with that?

CC: It always causes lots of hilarious conversations, or conflict. For example, we were talking amongst a big group of people we didn’t know at this bar, and this guy was like, “Hey, I really like your band! You’re really great! And I love how it’s all girls too, it’s so awesome.” It was a really nice comment, and we were really flattered and didn’t read into it or anything, and then this girl standing nearby got really offended and was like, “What’s that supposed to mean?! All-girl band? What does that have to do with anything… like what if they were a . . . transgender girl band?! What then?!” Essentially, we’re comfortable with being an all-girl band, and aren’t like on the defense or anything, and are really into the jokes that go along with all of it, though

“Sometimes I approach a song the same way I approach an art piece, and the toms are like that extra bit of texture that gives a piece more body and depth.” –Courtney Gray

Aw! The Splinters handmake and customize their merch.

Aw! The Splinters handmake and customize their merch.

TTM: Let’s hear all about the Splinters’ new 7-inch, “Splintered Bridges,” just released (Aug 1) on Double Negative Records in Oakland, CA. Where did you record? What was the recording process like? What were some of the challenges in tracking the drums?

CC: Well, the two songs we ended up choosing to put on it were recorded in two separate places by two different people. The song “Splintered Bridges,” was recorded at our practice studio Soundwave, and the other one, “Sorry,” was recorded in a home studio of another friend of ours. Both recording processes were amazing! The one at Soundwave was an all-day affair – the guys recording for us were grrreat. They were really open to what we wanted and were extremely patient. We recorded from like noon to 2 am that day. The other one in the home studio was just a relaxing Saturday – drank beer and limeade, ate tacos, laughed a little, recorded a little – it was a good day. We never really encountered too many problems tracking the drums. The only challenge that we came across for the drums was capturing the right essence for certain songs, because they don’t translate in recordings like they do live.

The Splinters brand new 7-inch!

The Splinters brand new 7-inch!

TTM: What’s next for the Splinters? What are your goals as a band, and how hard is it to realize “making it” with a day job/school/rent to pay, etc?

CC: Good question. We actually have a pretty set idea of how things are going to go/how we’d want them to go in the next year. One of our guitarists/singers, Caroline Partamian, was supposed to go to NYU this fall for grad school, but she ended up deferring for the band. So we actually have exactly a year to “do stuff.” One of our goals was a 7-inch, which we have officially accomplished. Yow! We’re planning on recording again in September to work towards our next goal of having a full-length album. Our tambourine player, Lauren Stern, might end up learning how to shred at the bass in the near future. Our other guitarist/singer, Ashley Thomas, might end up rapping in a few more songs, since we found out that’s her secret talent. In addition to that, we’re all creative, so we always like to dedicate time to creative Splinters-related projects, like T-shirts, artwork, videos. It’s fun to do those kinds of things yourself instead of having other people do them for you.

Right now we all have full-time day jobs (booo!), so making time for practice and other band-related stuff can be pretty challenging, especially when we play a lot of shows in one specific time period. There are weeks where my life is literally work and band, work and band, but it’s a great time and it’s worth it. The band is one of the main things that’s keeping me from going totally nuts from this new post-college “job life.”

More info on the Splinters:
http://www.myspace.com/thesplintersband

–Melanie B. Glover

Drummer of the Week: Paula Spiro

In Tom Tom Magazine Blogroll, Tom Tom Magazine Featured Drummer on August 5, 2009 at 2:52 pm

To be really good at something you need to practice, A LOT. To become a master, you eventually need to teach. Unfortunately, there has always been a shortage of resources directed for female drummers to get formal training in their craft. Paula Spiro recognized this, and started the Female Drummer Workshop in 1983. Since then, there have been dozens of students who have learned and mastered their skills under Paula’s expert tutelage.

Paula Spiro

A Native New Yorker, Paula gained her drumming chops at the tail end of the 1960’s at a percussion shop which served some of the greatest drummers and Jazz greats of the day. Getting advice from all different genres of music, she honed her skills and played in several bands. By the early 80’s she had quite a following and started the workshop at the urge of some fans.

My vision for the workshop is to provide quality instruction and support to those beginners who may not have played drums before and to the women and girls who are already drumming to propel their skills and mentor those students who express a desire to go on to a professional career in drums. This is my legacy and my life’s work.”

-Paula Spiro

If you are a beginner or an active drummer looking to kick your skills up to the next level, look up The Female Drummers Workshop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Get the formalized training that will kick your skills in the pants, and inject the credibility of 40 years of wisdom of great musicians pipped through the master advice of Paula Spiro.

Alex Carulo

READ OUR FULL INTEVIEW WITH PAULA SPIRO BY DRUMMER HEATHER WAGNER COMING TO TOM TOM MAGAZINE SOON!!!

Technique Tuesday: This Is How We Roll

In Tom Tom Magazine Technique on August 4, 2009 at 2:36 pm

We need to talk about rolls.

There are so many different types of rolls, but for now I’ll cover a buzz roll and an open roll.

Notation for a buzz roll:
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Buzz rolls are crushed diddles (to be explained momentarily). When you hear the “Drum roll, please!” before a big announcement, they’re going to be playing a buzz roll: multiple bounces per stroke, pushed into the drum head. Buzz rolls can be played at various pulses. Usually at a triplet or 16th-note pulse. That means your hands would be playing triplets or 16th notes, but you’d be buzzing the strokes.

Open rolls (also called double-stroke rolls) are two hits per stroke (called “diddles”), alternating between right and left hands. Sounds easy enough, but you have to be sure not to crush the strokes and to let the diddles breath. A clean, open roll should sound like you’re playing even 16th notes.

Notation for an open roll:
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Notation for a diddle:
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Like I said before, there are tons of other rolls: single-stroke rolls, single and double paradiddles, five- and seven-stroke rolls, variations on six-stroke rolls, etc. I’ll cover a few in future blogs, but if you want to learn more now, go here: http://www.vicfirth.com/education/rudiments.html. Vic Firth’s website has an awesome rudiment section. Enjoy!

A Legend in the Making: Drummer Frankie Rose of Crystal Stilts

In Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Interview, Tom Tom Magazine Feature on August 3, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Frankie  Rose is blazing a trail and leaving no prisoners. Every band she plays in turns to gold. She is the original drummer and part time bassist/vocalist of the wildly popular Vivian Girls. In addition to playing drums in her current band Crystal Stilts, Frankie has a single of her own coming out on Slumberland records in the Fall.  I met Frankie around 2004 when she was living on the West Coast and touring with her band at the time Shitstorm. Watching her play then in my living room at The Woodser in Brooklyn was inspirational. Watching her play drums now is jaw dropping. Her drum beats are graceful, poised, innovative, hard-hitting and hard to forget.  I caught up with Frankie in Williamsburg Brooklyn right before she took off for a 40 day European tour with Crystal Stilts.
Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine photo by Jennifer Leigh Aschoff

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine photo by Jennifer Leigh Aschoff

Full name: Frankie M Rose
Nickname/pseudonym: Frankie
Age: Thirty-something
Hometown: San Francisco
Location: New York City
Bands you are drumming in currently: Crystal Stilts
Bands you were drumming for in the past: Vivian Girls, Shitstorm (now Grass Widow)
What you do for a living: Bartendress
Something outstanding about you: I  know what I like, and I know what I don’t like.
Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine photo by Jennifer Leigh Aschoff

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine photo by Jennifer Leigh Aschoff

“I just sat down behind the kit and it was decided that I would be the drummer.” – Frankie Rose

Tom Tom Magazine: When did you start playing the drums?

Frankie Rose: About 5 years ago now, maybe.

Tom Tom Magazine: Why did you start playing the drums?

Frankie Rose: Well, in my first band no one except the guitar player really knew how to play anything so I just sat down behind the kit and it was decided that I would be the drummer. Still don’t really know how to play actually.

Tom Tom Magazine: How long did it take til you felt like a “real” and legit drummer?

Frankie Rose: That’s funny, as far as I know I still am not.
Crystal Stilts

Crystal Stilts

Tom Tom Magazine: What is your favorite set-up for your kit? Why?

Frankie Rose:
I always prefer a simple kit really, just a kick, a snare, a floor tom, one cymbal, and a high hat.
Tom Tom Magazine: What would your dream kit consist of?

Frankie Rose:
Maybe a 64 Slingerland or something.

Tom Tom Magazine: Do you remember how we met (me and you!)?

Frankie Rose: It’s a little fuzzy but i think it was when i first moved to New York and you were putting on a show at your house…But maybe just maybe Shitstorm and Taigaa played together at The Woodser.

Tom Tom Magazine: What was it like drumming for that band (Shitstorm)?

Frankie Rose: It was a beautiful thing… we mostly just laughed a lot. Those people continue to be like my family. I love them.

“…a drummer however is a key player, the drummer brings the party, so to speak.” – Frankie Rose

Crystal Stilts

Crystal Stilts

TTM: What style drumming would you say you play?

FR: Absolutely my own weird style.
TTM: Are you self taught?

FR: Indeed. Very.

TTM: What do you do to get better at the drums / Best way to get chops?

FR: Man. I almost never practice playing drums. Thats the truth. I may never get better.

TTM: What is your favorite drum warm up / what do you do to warm up before playing?

FR: I don’t!

TTM: Have you experienced any setbacks as a female drummer?

FR: Not so much.

“I love the physicality of it.” – Frankie Rose

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine photo by Jennifer Leigh Aschoff

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine photo by Jennifer Leigh Aschoff

TTM: What do you consider to be the most challenging thing about the drums?

FR: Having stamina.

TTM: What’s your favorite part about playing drums?

FR: I love the physicality of it.

TTM: What do you think the role of the drummer is in a band?

FR: This is a strange question for me because I suppose I don’t really identify as being only a drummer anymore. I often found it difficult to be a drummer in bands where I wrote songs or had a big part in the songwriting process. It can be tricky to hand over something you have written for someone else to play on the guitar…a drummer however is a key player, the drummer brings the party, so to speak.

“I  know what I like, and I know what I don’t like.” – Frankie Rose

TTM: What is your songwriting process?

FR: I write all my songs on a little electric guitar with a practice amp or an acoustic. as of late there is an organ in my house so I have been playing that a bunch… I’ll usually record a rough version, then I’ll re-record after everything is worked out.

Frankie

Frankie

TTM: Do you play any other instruments? If so, how does that effect your drumming?

FR: I think drumming has made me a much better songwriter. I think you get a sense of timing for things you wouldn’t necessarily get otherwise.

TTM: What’s your favorite part about playing drums?

FR: Its good exercise.

TTM: Who are your favorite drummers?

FR: Paloma from The Raincoats, Jaki Liebezei, and Mo Tucker

TTM: Where do you shop for your drum gear?

FR: I almost never do! But I buy drumsticks at Main Drag most of the time.

TTM: Crystal Stilts has gotten a lot of attention lately…why do you think that is, and how does that feel?

FR: Its really nice to put work into something and have other people appreciate it. What more could you ask for?

TTM: What is the most stressful thing you have overcome at a show and how did you do it?

FR: Oh man…maybe being direct support for TV on the Radio in front of 2000 people. at the time , that was the biggest crowd I had ever played to.

“…drumming has made me a much better songwriter. I think you get a sense of timing for things you wouldn’t necessarily get otherwise.” – Frankie Rose

TTM: Best piece of advice you ever got as a drummer?

FR: Someone once said to me ” why don’t you try hitting the snare and the crash at the same time?” I found that helpful.

Crystal Stilts

Crystal Stilts

TTM: Who are some of your favorite lady drummers right now?

FR: My  favorite  drummer of the moment is  from a band called Grand Ole Party from San Diego. She sings lead vocals and plays the drums. Brilliant.

TTM: Who are some of your favorite bands right now?

FR: Harlem, Dum Dum Girls, Reading Rainbow, Glass Widow, Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Sic Alps

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine photo by Jennifer Leigh Aschoff

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine photo by Jennifer Leigh Aschoff

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine photo by Jennifer Leigh Aschoff

Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine photo by Jennifer Leigh Aschoff

Frankie Rose has a single coming out on Slumberland records at the end of summer/early fall and is working on a full length record. Frankie has most recently decided to join Dum Dum girls full time and will be touring with them in October.

Interview by:
Tom Tom Magazine Creator Mindy Abovitz