Monday, April 8, 2019

Volume 73 - Fred Shook



His name is Shook, he play the drums, he plays Thrust there's a few way I could go here but I'm gonna keep it classy San Diego. All you need to know is that this kat can play and he's good guy. I was fortunate to meet him last Summer during a BOTB in which both of our bands were competing in. As I watched, I thought "man, these guys are good & we need to do some shows together...and I need to get him on TC!" So, I was grateful when he agreed. I was also glad that he and his band just released an EP...great timing. Get it? timing? I dig being corny. Don't worry there is nothing corny about Fred or his playing and it's on full display on the new John McCloy Band project "Flying When I Fall". Enough with this yammering let's chop it up with Fred Shook!

Where are you from?
I am a local guy from Southern California. I was born in Bellflower, CA and grew up in Lakewood, CA.

How long have you been playing?
I’ve been playing drums for thirty-seven years.

You come from a music loving family, safe to say that's where it all started for you?
Yes, for the most part. I am the youngest of 4 siblings so I was exposed to some great music early on. There was always music in the air when I was growing up, whether it was on the radio, my siblings playing classic rock and pop albums on the stereo, my parents singing along with big band or crooner records, having campfire sing-a-longs during family vacations, or friends in garage bands practicing down the block. When I was 7 or 8, I had a neighbor friend down the block who played the drums. We would go over to his house and listen to KISS and Aerosmith records while he played along, and I thought that was super cool. I think those experiences really stuck with me more than I realized. A couple years later, I considered learning an instrument, first thinking about piano, then guitar (perhaps since one of my sisters played guitar, my dad sang, and my mom played some piano). My sister gave me my first guitar and taught me a few chords, so I started with guitar first but wasn’t too serious about it early on. At one point while on a camping trip, I started tapping on some cheap bongos with pencils along to the radio (I even had a suspended pot lid hanging from a string for a makeshift cymbal). My dad heard me playing and thought that I had a knack for rhythm so I was encouraged to take it up. That’s really when the drum bug started. My parents were incredibly supportive of my drumming from day one. They got me private drum lessons starting when I was 12 at a local music store and rented me a 3-piece kit (a red Royce, with no hi hat or floor tom -- just a bass drum, snare drum, rack tom, and a shell-mounted cymbal). They told me if I stuck with it, showed genuine interest and practiced my lessons, they would buy me my own drum kit – which they did about 6 months later (a 5-piece blue Crown). They even let me practice inside our house (eventually, I soundproofed my bedroom), and went to all of my musical performances. I was extremely fortunate to have that kind of support and encouragement.

Buddy Rich was a big influence on you as well, what was it about that experience that had you hooked?
That is a great question. What a monster drummer he was, just larger than life. I think it was a combination of things. I had heard about Buddy from my drum teacher Ed Saicoe, who was a big Gene Krupa fan. I had also heard an album that my parents had of Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa doing their famous drum battles. When I saw Buddy perform, I had only been playing for a year or two, so I didn’t really comprehend of much of his technique. He was playing with a large stage band in Long Beach at the Terrace Theater. His incredibly speed, sheer virtuosity and showmanship was almost overwhelming. He was also doing visual things like twirling sticks and hitting the bass drum with a drumstick at one point. After the show, we went to visit the home of a coworker of my dad’s who had also seen the show that night. This coworker had a son who was also a drummer, and he let me play his son’s drum set (which was much nicer than mine) for a while that night. It was one of those magical nights from childhood that just stays with you.

Now that you are a more experienced player, what do you take from Buddy's playing?
I really liked his use of dynamics, and the way he structured a drum solo almost like a sonic story. I liked the way he would play quietly in spots, then build up the volume and intensity – and how he would even play on the rims and shells of the drums at times. Of course I was mesmerized by his amazing chops and lightning speed, but it was also the first time I saw a drummer lead a band as a featured headliner.

When you were younger did you get involved in school bands or garage bands?
Yes, I was involved in both. I started playing drums the summer before I entered junior high school, so I joined my school’s beginning band class. I was also taking private drum lessons and learning to read music at the same time. Reading music was a brand new skill I had to immediately apply in the school band – it was a real sink or swim situation. The band director quickly moved me into advanced band class, and also into a small Dixieland combo he started, so I really had to learn fast. The Dixieland combo played at school assemblies and at a local shopping mall (which was probably my first real gig outside of school performances). 

A couple years later, when I was about 14, I played in my first garage band. It was basically a heavy metal cover band that consisted of two guitarists, a singer and no bassist. We rehearsed in my living room. We jammed at a local park once, but didn’t actually play any real gigs 

Later on, in high school I was very active musically; I basically lived and breathed music for those three years. I joined and competed in the marching band (first playing bass drum then switching to snare drum), concert band, orchestra, drumline, jazz band, and performed for high school musicals. I was also in a garage band with some friends and we played at our high school and at neighborhood parties. 

In college, I was a music major for a year or so. I played in the marching band (tenor drums/multi-toms), and took lessons in orchestral percussion, basic music theory and basic piano. I was in a several cover bands also, including one for over a decade that played a huge variety of music -- jump blues, jazz standards, early 20th century pop, classic rock, even disco. I also played in a couple instrumental surf bands for a time (one got to open for Dick Dale twice and the Chantays once, so we were pretty stoked).

How would you describe your drumming style?
I would describe myself as mainly a rock drummer. I am considered a fairly hard hitter, but I definitely don’t bash like some drummers do. I tend to play with a heavy rim shot backbeat with ghost notes and some occasional rudiments mixed in. I have studied some Afro-Cuban and Brazilian rhythms on my own through books and recordings. I played some jazz in high school jazz band and cover bands, and have played some fusion, blues, funk and odd time signatures in various bands while in college and afterward. 

You've cut your teeth on a good cross section of genres. Was that the plan or just how it worked out?
I think that was just how it worked out. I got exposed to some other styles early on in school and cover bands, which helped my musical development for sure. But I have always been someone who follows my heart in terms of musical projects. I’m not the kind of drummer who intentionally learned many styles so as to improve my marketability as a drummer or anything (although I envy those drummers); I just tended to learn based on musical situations I was in or I would try to learn styles that piqued my interest. Looking back, I think I have just gravitated to people I enjoyed playing with and let that guide me.

You've been on the L.A. Music scene for a while. How do you see it now versus back in the day for original artists?
It is very different now than when I was in my first original band in the late 1980's. Back then, it was all about “paying your dues” in the clubs and getting signed to a record deal. In that era, in Southern California, bands wanting a deal worked hard playing the Sunset Strip (usually paying for the privilege), passing out flyers, promoting their shows, and getting people to the venues so they could generate a buzz. If they were really good and/or really lucky, bands could get a label showcase gig, but those were fairly rare. Of course, this was pre-internet, so that kind of promotion involved a lot of footwork, making hard copies of press kits, duplicating and labeling demos (cassette tapes usually, then later, CDs), posting flyers, etc. Bands would usually have to rent expensive studio time to make a good demo back then. 

Today, bands are not chasing record deals like they did then due to merging of the major labels, the reduction of indie labels, and all the other colossal changes in the industry in the past couple decades. Bands still play live of course, but promotion now is now done mainly online, with electronic press kits, streaming music, digital downloads, and the like. Demos and even whole albums can now be done on relatively inexpensive home recording systems. Bands still make much of their revenue through touring and merchandise, but now the focus today seems to be more on licensing/media placement in TV and movies or even video games, since FM radio airplay is no longer viable for most artists. Just like “peak TV” happening now, it sure seems we are in a period of “peak music.” Anyone can make a great sounding song or album on a laptop now, which is fantastic – but due to this democratization of music, there are now hundreds of thousands of artists out there at any given time struggling to be heard and find an audience. Some just put all their music on YouTube without ever playing a show and hope to get “discovered” like Justin Bieber. The odd part is – many do! Standing out from the crowd can be very difficult for a band.

We are also well into the age of the “hired gun,” where some of the most talented musicians out there get hired to perform with famous national acts. Although they tour and live the rock star lifestyle, they are basically at-will contractors who can be let go with zero notice. It is a very strange time in music.

You appeared on AXS TV's "World's Greatest Tribute Bands" How was that experience?
That experience was crazy. It was unlike anything I have ever done before or since. "The World's Greatest Tribute Bands" was kind of like the “Super Bowl” for tribute bands; appearing on that show became what every tribute band in Southern California and beyond aspired to during its run. 

I was in a Billy Idol tribute band at the time. We applied to be on the show 3 times I think before being selected. The show was filmed and broadcast 100% live, so there was a lot of pressure to perform those famous songs as perfectly as possible. Our band performed on the show in Season 8, Episode 6, on 4/06/16. It was filmed at the Whisky-a-Go-Go, which I had played a few times before that and since, but it looked totally transformed for the show’s filming. Besides a floating boom camera that came out over the crowd and the stage, and some other mobile cameras, there was a camera operator just off of my second floor tom filming me the entire time. That was a bit unnerving. 

We had seen previous bands on the show have all sort of technical and performance issues; on one episode, an amplifier died in the middle of a song. In another show, a keyboard somehow got knocked almost a half-step out of tune and remained that way for the entire show. This was live TV – with no taping, no editing; it was broadcast live and then whatever happened was replayed once later that night just as it happened. We were told AXS has a subscription base of 48 million people, which really made our heads spin. Our band played about 52 minutes of music, and there was a commercial break mixed in. The most challenging part was getting the timing perfect for the start of the very first song, and then the start of the song after the commercial break, in relation to the host introducing us. My band was using backing tracks, so I had to calculate the exact time from starting the track, to the click track count-off, to the actual start of the song, and it had to be just right. It was tricky, but I was able to practice it a few times in rehearsal so when we performed it live, I got it right. The other challenging part was that the stage volumes had to be very low due to requirements of the TV broadcast. Doing that show was scary as hell, but at the same time, it was pretty exhilarating.

Generation Idol - AXS TV

Alright, let's get into what you're using. What's your current set up?
drums, sticks, cymbals...etc.
For the tribute band stuff and now for the John McCloy Band, I have been using a custom set of maple drums made by a company in Pasadena called Thrust Custom Drums. I learned about them from a drummer friend named Mario Santillan, who started building them with a friend of his. Those guys are big John Bonham fans, like me, so their drums tend to be larger and their finishes have a sort of hot rod aesthetic to them (lots of matte black, pin striping, acrylics, and shiny glitter finishes). I first saw their drums at the Hollywood Vintage and Custom Drum show around 2006 or so. Thrust had set up a demo kit, and I sat on it and tried it out for a few minutes. This kit blew my mind; it had the best bass drum sound I had ever heard. The toms were equally fantastic as well; just the kind of pure, wide open, resonating tone that I love. The finish was matte black, with black rims and nickel hardware. I just fell in love with these drums. Some time later, I went down to Thrust to buy a snare drum (6.5 x 14” nickel over brass). Mario mentioned that the same demo kit I fell in love with was available. I bought it and have been playing it ever since. It has a 24 x 18” bass drum, a 13 x 10” rack tom, 16 x 16” and 18 x 16” floor toms. For such large drums, they are incredibly lightweight – which makes cartage much easier. The kit was actually reviewed in the July 2009 issue of Drum! Magazine. I also use an 8” Meinl snare/timbale as a side snare.

I have a couple of other kits, a large Ludwig Super Classic double bass kit from 1989 (in classic charcoal shadow finish, with long lugs) and a silver sparkle Gretsch Renown maple kit. I also have a Yamaha DTXPress III electronic kit that I practice on sometimes, and a handful of snare drums.

As far as cymbals, I just love the sound of Paiste. I started playing them in the late 1980's, and fully switched over to using them exclusively in the latter 1990's. I love their overall palette of sounds, their perfectly controlled overtones and harmonics, the way they record, and their incredible consistency from cymbal to cymbal. At the moment with the John McCloy Band, I am using 14” 2002 Sound Edge hi hats, an 18” Sound Formula Full Crash (or sometimes an 18” Giant Beat), a 19” Signature Fast Crash, a 20” Sound Formula Power Ride, and a 20” Sound Formula Thin China. Sometimes I will add a 17” Full Crash (Signature or Sound Formula), and an occasional Signature Splash cymbal.

I have tried so many drumsticks over the years looking for the right combination of feel, density, balance, weight, and rebound. I tend to like a slightly longer stick so I am not reaching too far to hit anything – a stick that has enough weight to give me a good snare crack without much effort but is not too heavy. I tend to favor a ball tip due to the natural bounce it has. I used to use nylon tips for years because I liked the cymbal definition, but I found they just break off too often so I went back to wood tips. I prefer Vic Firth sticks for their accurate pairing, straightness, rebound and durability. A couple years ago I discovered the perfect model for me -- the Vic Firth F1, which has a ball tip, a .580” diameter, and is 16 3/16” long, and I have been using them since. 

Early on I used Remo heads, but I’ve been using primarily Aquarian heads for the past several years.

In early 2018 you began working with and subsequently joined The John McCloy Band. How did this come about? and tell us about the music.
My friend Sammy Burke and I played together previously in the Billy Idol tribute band I mentioned. Sammy eventually left that band to pursue other opportunities, and shortly thereafter I did too. At some point, John McCloy’s Pretenders tribute band (The Contenders) needed a substitute bassist for a show. Sammy was recommended for the gig by he and John’s mutual friend, Roger Capps (a bassist who played and wrote songs with Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo. Sammy played that Contenders show and it went well. John and Sammy really hit it off, so John asked Sammy to join JMB and record their first JMB CD. Later, when the John McCloy Band were in the process of recording their second release (“I Know You Know”), their primary drummer was unable to complete the sessions. John needed drum tracks on 3 more songs to finish the album. Sammy recommended me to John, so I came in and auditioned along with a number of other drummers. I loved the music instantly, so I did my homework, learned the songs and parts, and made some basic charts. They liked my playing, so we rehearsed once together then went into the studio (the Boom Room in North Hollywood) and tracked them all live as a band in a couple hours, getting 3 or 4 complete takes of each song. I got to record on a gorgeous vintage set of Ludwigs (24” kick, 13” rack, 16” and 18” floor toms, and I believe a 14 x 5” Supraphonic snare). This was in January of 2018. Shortly after the recording, John asked me to join the band to play some shows, and I’ve been in the band since.

JMB - Fred, John & Sammy

I guess I would describe our music as a fresh take on classic rock, with an adult contemporary feel. John was influenced by artists like U2, Queen, Led Zeppelin, and songwriters like George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Jeff Lynne who do a lot of swapping of major and minor chords. The music has been described by some of our listeners as having elements of U2, The Police, The Beatles, ELO, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd

I first met you and the band last year in a BOTB and I, along with the rest of my band were definitely impressed with you guys. A really good live band with great songwriting. Is that what drew you to this band and wanting to be a part of it?
Thank you! By the way, congratulations again on Olio’s win that night. It was very well deserved. You guys are incredibly tight, your songs are hooky as hell, you all sing great, and your showmanship was off the charts. 

Yes, I think you nailed it – in short, great songwriting and being a very good live band was what attracted me to the project. I had downloaded the first John McCloy Band release (the first EP) and was listening to it on the way to seeing them live (incidentally also at Saint Rocke, where you and I met). They were playing with their prior drummer at the time, Roel Kuiper (he is a monster drummer who studied at Berklee). I instantly liked the songs upon first listen; they felt familiar in the way good music can, but it sounded like a modern take on classic rock. I also liked how John tended to place the drums in the mix – out front and prominent, as rock and roll drums should be, but without being overpowering or distracting. I also loved how John used tap-tempo digital delay effects in his songs, which gives them their own rhythmic pulse. I loved the drum parts themselves, too. 

That night I saw them live for the first time and I thought they were fantastic. I loved how organic their sound was – just guitar, bass, drums, vocals. I found it very honest and somehow familiar, with clever lyrics and great hooks. Roel is an incredibly skilled drummer, and I thought Sammy was a perfect fit for the band. I immediately loved John’s voice, his songs, the lyrics, his guitar tone, and his playing (he is a fantastic lead guitarist, in addition to playing excellent rhythm guitar). I really dug the overall genre, the harmony vocals, how Sammy and John blended vocally, and how they both interacted on stage. I also really like lead singers who also play lead guitar. I saw a chemistry between John and Sammy that I do not often see in bands. They even did a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” that night in which Sammy sang lead vocals and John played those classic David Gilmore guitar solos flawlessly.

I actually remember thinking that night how great it would be to play in a band like that, and how perfect the style was for my tastes (since I am a classic rock lover at heart). The stars somehow aligned and I later got my wish, and I can honestly say I have never been happier in a band.

You guys just dropped a new EP "Flying When I Fall" It sounds like you guys had fun recording this project?
It was definitely fun to record, although the mixing took a lot of work. Unlike the last recording, in which the 3 of us played together and recorded together live, for “Flying When I Fall,” drums were recorded at the end or near the end of the process. We recorded our parts all separately for the most part. It gave me the advantage of tailoring my parts around the vocals, and fitting them to the guitar parts. That was somewhat of a new challenge for me. Rather than having the drums create the main rhythmic feel, I was matching an existing feel and I needed to adapt my playing accordingly. It really made me focus on playing economically and being able to react to the other parts. I think that approach helped me focus on supporting the different elements of each song, setting up changes, and building intensity where I could.

I also really dig where the drums are in the mix and their overall sound. Are you happy with your drums on this EP?
Thank you. Yes, I am very happy with how the drums turned out. This is the first real recording I’ve done with the Thrust kit, and am thrilled with the tones we got. That is not always easy, since in general, each song has its own sonic characteristics, and its own set of recorded instruments and their respective frequencies, so there is always a risk of certain frequencies competing with each other, or of phase cancellation, or clipping, and the like. Plus, as you know, there are so many variables when recording live drums, from the type, angle and proximity of the microphones used, to the type and tuning of the drum heads, to the presence/absence of ambient microphones and overheads. As a result, it can be a challenge to get good drum tones sometimes; you never really know how they drums will sound in the end. Other times, a certain drum gets mic’d a certain way with a certain mic, and sometimes for a variety of reasons, the end result may be a good tone, but a tone that doesn’t really represent what the drum sounds like acoustically. The drums on this EP sound very much like they do naturally, which is what I was hoping for.

Unsung Heroes - JMB

You guys are a 3-piece but the music is not the typical 3-piece rock. So what's your approach to keep the songs and the show in the right space?
That can be challenging, and for us I think it is a work in progress. Perfecting a show is a challenge for any band, but in an original band it seems to be an even tougher challenge in my opinion. For the most part, you are trying to win over people who do not necessarily know you or your songs. So when we can, we try to mix in a cover song or two to maintain an audience’s attention. We also try to order the songs so that the set has peaks and valleys in order to keep the listeners’ interest as much as possible. It can be a challenge. Sometimes we’ll show up to a gig to discover our set is a half hour instead of 45 minutes, and we have to rewrite our set list on the spot, so getting the songs in an optimal order can be hard. John also writes some songs in alternate tunings, and some are played on a baritone guitar, so we sometimes order the songs according to what guitars John is using on each to minimize time between songs. 

As you know, all those variables can affect your vibe and your mindset, which can in turn affect your performance. Part of getting into the right headspace is learning how to put all that aside and focus on the songs, so right before we play a show, the three of us will usually have a quick group hug – a band mind-meld of sorts -- and remind each other that we are there first and foremost to have fun. If we keep that focus throughout the set, I think the songs tend to come across well and the audience can sense the passion with which we are delivering them.

Madman Across the Water - JMB

So, what's on tap for JMB in the near future?
At the moment, we are planning a CD release party for the new album, and then some more spring and summer shows to keep promoting the new music. So far, we will be playing at Lucky Strike Live (in Hollywood) on May 2, Petie’s Place (Tarzana) on May 17, Casa Escobar (Malibu) on May 19, opening for Blind Melon at the Coach House (San Juan Capistrano) on May 26, and returning to the San Diego Fair this year on July 3. We will be booking more shows around those dates so it makes up a sort of mini-local-tour like last year. All of our upcoming shows can be found at

A few weeks after I joined the band, we were fortunate enough to be involved in a documentary film about the re-opening of the famed Alley music studio in North Hollywood. You’ve probably never heard of the Alley – I hadn’t either, because it was a very well-kept secret for many years. The Alley is notable for its living history; nearly everyone who recorded or rehearsed there (most of them famous) signed their names on the brick walls inside the studio, so there is an ongoing record of its backstory. To give you an idea, these bricks have been signed by the likes of all 4 Beatles, my drumming idol John Bonham, Linda Ronstadt, Jimi Hendrix, Tom Petty, Bob Marley, Alice Cooper, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, The Eagles, and on and on. We were asked to perform at the Alley right when it reopened, when we also got to jam with some incredible players like legendary drummer Clifton “Fou Fou” Eddie (who not only played with the likes of the Chi-Lites, The Dells, Patti La Belle, Tommy Hunt, and The O’ Jays, but who appeared as a drummer/actor in both “Whiplash” and “La La Land”). Because we were the first band to perform at the Alley after it reopened, we were asked to sign the brick wall -- directly across from many of our musical idols. It was an incredible honor that still leaves me in awe. We look forward to that documentary film’s future release.

We are also looking for management representation at the moment, which is another challenge for an original independent band, and looking into recording some music videos for the new songs.

In Wonderland - JMB Live @ The Alley Studios

You guys have been getting some local radio airplay, how has this helped you guys out?
We’ve been very fortunate that Jim Nelson – one of the last true DJs who plays the music he wants to play – has been supporting us on KCSN/KSBR 88.5 FM. So far he has played a few songs from the first two albums, and he plans to play some of the new stuff soon. He has seen us play live at the Rose and was very complimentary and gracious. He recently he wrote a short review piece that we included in the CD artwork. 

Obviously we all want to be out there making our making on the music world. How does JMB see themselves in today's market place?
We see ourselves as a very viable adult contemporary radio band. As you mentioned, we are just beginning to get radio play on KCSN-FM. We are also on all the major streaming sites now. If we get added radio play with more regularity, we will see our fan base grow and the attendance to our performances increase. Also, after a period where it seemed pop music was mostly samples, synthesizers, and drum machines, guitar-based bands seem to be making a comeback lately. I am hoping we can catch the wave that appears to be forming.

Give me 5 of your drumming influences and why?
This is a tough one. Besides my first drum teacher, I learned a great deal from my school band instructors Jerome Bartkus and John Hannan, my drumline instructor Steve Graves, percussion instructor Greg Goodall, and drummer friends like James Toucey, Ed Campa and Chris Brady. There are so many famous drummers that I love but who aren’t necessarily a direct influence on my playing. If I had to narrow it down to 5 influences, they would most likely be:

· John Bonham: The man was a natural force of rhythmic brilliance. He played with both a controlled abandon and delicate subtlety, and he touched upon so many styles with Led Zeppelin. From the bombastic half-hour “Moby Dick” live drum solos (with sticks and hands), to delicate brushwork like in “The Rain Song,” to odd-time quasi-disco like “The Crunge,” to the Bernard Purdie-esque ghost-note shuffle on “Fool in the Rain,” to his genius “Mobius strip” sort of inverted-backbeat drumming on “Black Dog” – he has been a main inspiration from early on. He is one of those guys who have their own instantly recognizable sound that I have always admired.

· Steve Gadd: I just adore Gadd’s playing. Those military-honed rudimental chops, that absolutely undeniable groove, the encyclopedic rhythmic knowledge, the incredible resume and discography, that feel! He has it all. I just love his drumming. He could literally play any possible beat imaginable and you could dance to it. Even if he had only ever recorded “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” (Paul Simon) or “Aja” (Steely Dan), he would still be a legend. But those are mere footnotes in his storied career. What a recognizable sound he has too. His crazy Mozambique beats made me want to learn Latin rhythms, and I am still trying to figure out how to groove like that.

· Simon Phillips: He was the first ambidextrous drummer I was really exposed to. He has ridiculous chops, perfect meter and an incredible groove. I learned a lot from studying the transcript of his drumming on “Give Blood” (Pete Townsend). I also saw him give a drum clinic in West L.A. that was mind-blowing. Seeing his work with the Who, Toto, and all the Protocol bands, is just awe-inspiring. Quick Simon story: One time maybe 20 years ago I was in an original band who was opening for Dave Pack (of Ambrosia) in Redondo Beach. I walked in with my gear and about fainted when I saw Simon and his kit all set up on the main drum riser. He was rehearsing and gigging that night with Dave Pack and friends. To say I was intimidated would be an understatement! I got to meet him and get a picture with him that night, and he was so gracious and kind. John (McCloy) recently met him, so perhaps our paths will cross again one day.

· Gregg Bissonette: I studied his “Private Lesson” video for weeks one summer. Among many other things, he emphasized the importance of being stylistically versatile, listening, and the vital role of the rim shot backbeat in rock drumming. I have definitely taken those suggestions to heart. He is one of those drummers that can not only play any style, but play it very well. I’ve seen him play in person a couple times – first playing some mind-bending jazz fusion with Los Lobotomys at the Baked Potato, then when he toured with Spinal Tap. He plays all sorts of styles with Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band these days (he also sings very well). I saw him give a drum clinic once, where he played the most smoking songo beat I had ever seen. He has an inner clock that is just spot on too. 

· Jeff Porcaro: I also studied one of Jeff’s first drum videos years ago to learn about his approach, and to see him demonstrate the famous “Roseanna” shuffle. He has the most undeniable groove (e.g., “Lido Shuffle” with Boz Scaggs). I learned about adding a ghosted snare note immediately after a snare backbeat, like he does in Roseanna. I had never seen anyone really do that before him. Above all, he showed me the importance of groove and feel over flashy playing and chops for chops’ sake. He lived in the pocket. In fact, he was the pocket.

What was the last show you went to that made you want to go home and start shedding?
Man, that is another excellent question. I have to separate out the shows that blew my mind so much that I had to fight the urge to go home and toss my drums into a bonfire. There were lots of those.

So many shows left an impression. Seeing Abe Laboriel with Paul McCartney was really inspiring. He is such a great drummer and he sings so well. The most recent show I recall that inspired me was seeing Styx live, with Todd Sucherman on drums. He has such amazing technique; he can play traditional grip and matched grip equally well and powerfully. His approach to those timeless songs was respectful but progressive at the same time. Styx were playing with Kansas, so I also got to see Phil Ehart play for the first time as well. He was fantastic, and has a really unique style (kind of like Ringo; it looked like he leads right handed when playing beats, but leads left-handed when playing fills).

Do you have a practice schedule and if so, what do you like to work on?
I don’t really have a set schedule these days. I used to spend a lot of time woodshedding licks or techniques, but nowadays the things I practice tend to reflect whatever I am doing musically at the time. When I am in a cover or tribute band, I spend much of my time learning songs and parts. Now that I am in JMB, I tend to spend most of my practice time composing drum parts for new songs, which I really love to do. Otherwise, I’ll work on a difficult lick, maybe some sort of ostinato pattern just for the independence work, or trying to groove or improvise in different tempos. 

You are also a songwriter. Where does your inspiration come from?
When writing lyrics, most often I am inspired from the extremes of human emotion, often when something really affects me on a deep level – like grief, relationship changes, or joy. For music and song structures, usually inspiration comes from noodling on a guitar late at night and coming up with chords or changes that sound good, then refining it further. Because I am my own worst critic, I’m much better at starting songs than finishing them. 

Should more drummers get into songwriting and not just making beats?
Beatsmithing is an art form in itself. But I would encourage any drummer out there to explore songwriting if they are so interested, or even to learn the basics of a melodic instrument, like piano or guitar if possible. I wish I had learned more about melodies at a younger age since melodies are my songwriting weak point. I know some very basic music theory, and took some basic piano, but one of the things that helped me a great deal was learning about basic intervals. Besides that, it can be helpful for drummers to understand basic song structures and arrangements. I think writing songs is not only great therapy (although drumming is #1 in my book), but it also helps you put more thought into your drum parts – since it helps you see your drum parts from the perspective of how they can support the vocals, how to set up figures or changes, how to create movement and transitions, and how/when to make a song peak. 

You're an experienced guy and you have seen a lot. How do you see the state of drumming right now?
It seems like more kids are getting into drumming at younger and younger ages. They seem to be getting really good really fast, without necessarily needing individual lessons as I did. I am very happy to see more girls and women getting into drumming since it has historically been way too male-dominated.

It seems that technology has really changed the way that people learn to play drums, and the speed at which people can become quite skilled. When I started playing, kids would first get a practice pad and sticks, or if they were lucky, maybe a cheap used acoustic kit. There were only the most basic analog metronomes available then and they weren’t even loud enough to drum to. Nowadays, dedicated metronomes are digital and programmable, and metronome apps are everywhere. Hell, even practice pads have built in metronomes now. In the 70's and 80's, electronic drums were limited mostly to Synares, Syndrums, and then Simmons pads. They very expensive and very limited in their functionality. Now you can get a good sounding, complete acoustic kit or a nice electronic kit with hundreds of different sounds for a few hundred bucks. Plus, electronic drums today not only include metronomes, but some can measure your accuracy and groove, or have sequencers to record your playing, and many are infinitely customizable in terms of pitch, rebound, tone, sampling, and triggering. There are so many other tools available today for drummers. Above all, I think the incredible proliferation of video technology, YouTube, and smart phones has created an online repository of knowledge that couldn’t even be conceived of when I started playing. Any technique or song you might possibly want to learn is somewhere online.

What is the best compliment you have received after a show?
There are so many drummers out there who are so much better than I, so it is always humbling to receive any type of compliment. The compliments that I tend to appreciate most are about being solid, steady, having good meter or dynamics, good harmonies, or just being a tight band. 

There is one compliment that comes to mind from last year. John (McCloy) told me after we played a Whisky gig that a good friend told him that I was a great addition to the band, that I had great technique, and that John should find a way feature me more. That was really nice to hear. 

Do you have a crazy or interesting gig you can share with us?
There are quite a few. I’ve played some very strange venues. I once played a 4th of July gig with a cover band on a moving tug boat. (Thankfully I don’t get seasick, but I did have to weigh down my cymbal stands so they wouldn’t fall over from the movement). I’ve played at weddings, wakes, 12-step recovery celebrations, clubs, casinos, aquariums, local cable access TV shows, concerts at the beach, concerts in the park, corporate parties, large sporting events, all kinds of settings. In terms of crazy or interesting gigs, a few do come to mind . . . 

I’ve actually fallen off of a drum riser on two different occasions. Once was during a backyard party. It was only a tiny riser only about 6 inches tall. I got a bit carried away during a finale. No real harm was done other than bending the leg of my throne and bruising my pride. The other time I was on about a 5-foot tall riser and that was pretty scary. Someone had moved my throne during sound check and I didn’t see it. I went to sit on it without looking and proceeded to fall backwards off the stage. Luckily, I fell right into the arms of a friend who happened to be standing there and saw the whole thing happen. If he hadn’t been there I would have gotten seriously hurt. 

I had a few crazy gigs when I was playing the tribute band circuit. My 2nd gig with the Billy Idol tribute band was at a casino in El Paso, TX. Afterward, the band flew back to CA very early the next morning on virtually no sleep. We went straight to sound check at a club in Corona for another show that night. While hanging around backstage before sound check, I walked by a storage area that had some plexiglass baffles that the club used to control the stage volume of the amplifiers. Since they were clear plexiglass, they were not easy to see. While walking by, I did not see them in time and proceeded to cut a huge gash in my right hand on the corner of one of the baffles. This was literally right before sound check. I managed to find some bandages and electrical tape and our bassist (who worked in the medical field) wrapped my hand up. Somehow I was able to get through sound check and the gig without bleeding all over the drums. 

Probably one of my all-time favorite gigs was performing at the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve for a tribute band festival, which I got to do two consecutive years. That was a total blast; that was the first time I played for a large enough crowd to hear a legitimate “roar.” The only downside was that it was like 34 degrees so it was really cold on the outdoor stage. 

What are your words of wisdom for your fellow drummers out there?
For beginning drummers, I would recommend getting in the habit of practicing consistently with a metronome. Even when just improvising and soloing. Playing along to your favorite recordings is great too and can be more fun than playing along with just a click. 

I would advise all drummers at every level to just be aware of the long term health risks that can be associated with drumming and live music. For example, I have consistently worn some type of hearing protection whenever drumming or going to live shows. It doesn’t take long to do permanent damage to your hearing. The cilia in our ears each correspond to certain frequencies, and once they are damaged you can no longer hear that frequency. I have used nearly everything for ear protection -- inexpensive foam earplugs, gun muffs, custom molded earplugs, consumer silicon earplugs, and in-ear monitors (IEMs). Even cheap foam earplugs work very well. I would recommend to find what works for you and is comfortable, with the highest noise reduction rating possible, and use it consistently. For me, when I use IEMs, I use Dream Earz; for earplugs, I prefer a brand I discovered at NAMM called Earasers

Drumming also carries certain other physical risks associated with repetitive motion. I was 12 when I started and never gave the physical aspect of drumming a second thought, but with any type of repetitive motion, pain and injuries are bound to develop over time. There are some specific ones that drummers are prone to, like tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, elbow issues like lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) and/or medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow). Drummers are also prone to lower back problems and other health issues. I’ve gone to a fantastic chiropractor for many years and I have learned to set up my drum more ergonomically so I don’t have to reach or lean to hit anything. I have also learned how to properly stretch my arms and wrists before playing, and how/when to use support braces. That has made all the difference. I highly recommend chiropractic care for drummers.

Last Words, Links, Hashtags and Thank You’s???
Well, first I must thank you, De, for this humbling and fantastic opportunity. I truly appreciate it. Drummers are a unique breed and I think it is terrific that you have a forum to spotlight the drumming community. It is an honor and privilege to be a part of Talkin’ Chop. 

I’d like to thank my wife Ana. She is the most selfless person I’ve ever known and without her love and support I would not be able to pursue my lifelong passion the way I have. She is my biggest fan, she goes to all my shows, she gives me honest feedback, she has no problem lugging gear, and she is the first one to help me in any way she can. She is the sun in my sky.

I would also like to thank my good friend, drum tech and photographer Bud Walker. He has helped me immensely over the past several years and I truly value his friendship and support. 

The John McCloy Band also owes a huge thank you to John Strand and Annabelle Strand of the Alley Studios, who believed in our band from day one and gave us the incredible honor of being part of that studio’s storied history. We also must thank KCSN FM 88.5 DJ Jim Nelson, who has given the band considerable support and airplay on his radio show.

Finally, I also must thank my bandmates John McCloy and Sammy Burke for inviting me to make music with them in JMB. We have already done a great deal in the past year and I think the future is very bright for our band.

The John McCloy Band: VideoSpotifyApple MusiciTunesWebsiteEPK

#JohnMcCloyBand #JMB

Fred Shook:

*'s so much better when I let the other guys do the talking. Fred gave us some great stuff. I told you he's a good kat! I have been fortunate to have really kool people to interview for TC and no one has let me down yet. Class acts, every single one of them. Fred is no exception. Thx my brother for taking the time to do this interview. It is much appreciated. There are some great pieces of advice for all of us out there in the game. We all have different perspectives and this is why it's good to talk about what's going on and how we can be better.

You make sure you take a listen and purchase JMB's "Flying When I Fall" as well as their other releases. **Support Indie Artists and the drummers who supply the groove.
Don't just talk it, walk it!

And as always, if you or someone you know wants to be interviewed for Talkin' Chop..
Contact: DeHaven

++One quick note
My band OLIO started a live cast on Facebook 6 weeks ago and we're having a lot of fun with it. I am asking you to please join our group
Inside The OMG
click the link and join us every Tues. night at 7pm pst usa.

I would like to thank all of my supporters and sponsors:

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Volume 72 - Yannick Sastre

Yannick Sastre


 Still hanging out in the beautiful country of France..via the internet, lol. This time choppin' it up with a kat who is doing some pretty wild stuff, on top of teaching and keeping busy as an A&R for a cymbal company and drumstick company. An avid promoter of drummers as well. It's always a good thing when you meet players who really enjoy their drum life.
I urge you to view the video from his project Orlando Furioso at the link the below. It is a very interesting collaboration. But before we get there let's Talk Chop with  Yannick Sastre.

Where are you from?
Bordeaux, France

How long have you been playing?
I play since 1981

What made you want to play drums?
The sound!! The look of a drum kit!

What are your main genres of playing?
Rock'n Roll, Hard Rock, Funky Music and Latin

What are your touring experiences, if any?
Yes..I did tour a lot with the baroque Opera named Orlando Furioso from 1996 to 2004 (8 to 10 to 12 drummers) and also with bands like Bad to the Bone (1993-1996), Barry Lyndon(1982-1987) and Sonic Temple (2001-2005).

So, did you enjoy touring?
Yes I did as it was not really some big tours very far and, so on, it was not over tiring.. We went on all borders states here and a little bit North. But, basically it was all around South West and deeper South around Spain. It was with really great audiences...and a great bunch of friends.

Describe your current set up & gear - heads and sticks...ect? 

I'm currently using a Custom Ludwig Classic Maple kit in 26"13"16" sizes and Vintage White Marine Pearl finish. All die cast hoops and custom teflon isolated screws inside shells for maximum resonance. I have more than 50 snares including Ludwig (of course), Pork Pie, Oriollo (from Serbia here) and Sonor. I also have a 2nd kit 3ply Walnut/Poplar/Walnut at recording Studio Chagneau (owned by Philippe Vian). I mod a lot of kits for drummers here. Currently I will receive some White Coated Attack drumheads from Cardinal Percussion (Mark Tirabassi is a REAL Pro) as I find these heads are the very top ( and the closest to Ludwig Weather Master models in fact). 

So, you are the A&R for Soultone Cymbals in Europe. How did get involved with the company to begin with?

Yes I was signed to Soultone Cymbals as an Endorser 3 years ago and then,step by step, I did purpose them (Europe & USA) to work with them. 

They accepted I am. It's a wonderful company with superb sounding cymbals. They help a LOT of drummer worldwide. 

I have a lot of Soultone cymbals here. My preference goes to Vintage '64s, Old K's Protos and Extreme models. I do my best and they are absolutely awesome with me and all French Artists here. I just opened Soultone France on Instagram.

I also distributed Pork Pie thru drumshop Inforythmie (1991-2001) and Ludwig (2001-2003) for France.

You also are working with Solobeat Drumsticks. What made you choose their sticks?
Yes that's right: I also work for Solobeat Drumsticks in Indonesia . They can custom make ANYTHING you can think about in terms of drumsticks. I got my own model with signature and logo. Balance and feel are amazing.

What do you look for in a new artists joining Soultone or Solobeat? and what are your responsibilities?
As for Soultone I have to make a first selection as of all inquiries I receive. The artist has to be really professional in his approach and he/she must have some pro filmed YT videos with pro sound as well as pro audio files to send and a very good exposure on social medias. Soultone's philosophy is to help all these up and coming drummers that are totally ignored by most others well known cymbals brands. As long as they present themselves in a professional way and gig/record regularly with Pro image and sound, that's good for us (Europe and USA). This is the original Iki Levy (Soultone founder and CEO) mantra. I like that. And, very important : nothing is free at Soultone Cymbals. Of course well seasoned Pros comes also and everybody gets the same price. No difference. This really did attract me. I like drummers and to help drummers be more professionals in their musical life/career.

About Solobeat it's the same. Soultone Artist Jim Marchuck introduced me to the brand. I asked Iwa Sumanto for some modified 2B's at the neck, a custom colour and lettering for my YT name (MrYann33) and my signature. They did it right away and sent. That was absolutely perfect. Design, balance and sound was exactly what I wanted so I went on with them. All was included, including shipping to my door, in the $7.50/$8 a pair. Unbeatable ! We have 3 woods choice: Acrazz Zapota (Indonesian Hickory), Maple and Oak at same price. Design possibilities are endless. 

Jonathan Haessler made a great demo here in France for us:

Those sticks are really really great. USA guys includes many drummers: Jim Marchuck (thanks !!), Scott Baughn, Kareem Hazeleyes Williams, Lucrecia T Doyle, Carlos Velasquez, Meech Dadrumma Cross, Rick Ayala, Robbie Hajdasz, Phil Galante, Donn Miller, Jason Jones, Charles Vaught, Terry Mc Gowan, Matt Bo many...

We have also in Mexico, Brasil, UK (Cats in Space drummer Steevi Bacon for example), Norway, Russia, Spain...
As of French guys we have: Geoffrey "Jock" Molas, Stephane HK, Recording Studio Chagneau, Jonathan Haessler, Oscar Horgue, Yves André Morelli, Francis Swing, Silas Bru Gaulot, Denis Cusmano, Calice Le Fèvre, Gerald "gdrumz" Darden.....I don't remember them all as too many here too.

Lots more to come as we got inquiries every day. Solobeat makes also stunning Deluxe premium leather black or two tone sticks bags and cymbals bags as well as multi coloured guitar straps. Great designed Cajons too.

How do you describe your drumming style?
I try to be very musical + efficient and "less is more" when needed (particularly in studio with Vian). Or very wild and out of control with Orlando Furioso. Tempo and sound are very very important for me. Technical side must be mastered. Also you need to really listen to what's going around you on instead of just listening to your drums. Try to be a composer on the drumkit not just a drummer.

Tell us about Orlando Furioso Experimental Opera:
Orlando Furioso was created around 1995 by Roland Bourbon,Michel Lecoeur and I. It's an organic crazy show including 8 to 10 to 12 drummers, 4 guitars, 4 basses, horns, saxes, classical singers, dancers, pneumatic hammers, saws, fires and everything you can imagine. Every show is rehearsed for about 15 days and won't be played again. I have a video demo that I will include here. That's totally crazy.

Orlando Furioso is a wild project. How did you guys put that together?
As I was heading Inforythmie Drums (1991-2001), Roland Bourbon came one day and bought a 18"12"14" used Sonor Phonic kit. Connection was very good with him. He came back around 8 months later -in 1995- a Tuesday morning, and did tell me : "You play with us on Saturday......wild show...1 rehearsal, because of drum battles and fires+grinders, on afternoon.....that's all...Orlando Furioso...6're in..bring your drumkit around 1pm."...WHAT ???? Well....I did go (had to be replaced at drumshop) was very impressive. I knew some of the players so...that was serious level. Lasted until 2006 I guess with some really incredible and unforgettable shows. Some were with/for disabled people and others with Classical dancers...Others with complete pipes players section from Bretagne... Amazing !! Here we are now as we first talked with Roland Bourbon about bringing it back on stage in April 2018. First signed (and paid) show is next September in Talence Peixotto Festival.

What projects are you working on now? Shows, Studio?
My actual serious project, beside the Orlano Furioso Opera, is Vian at recording Studio Chagneau with Philippe Vian (owner)
We make some "ungrounded in a good way & etheral music" (as Tommy Taylor would qualify it for "Ténèbres") that can also be melancholy (for "ABécédaire") and/or very upbeat as is Feletunken. The album project is well advanced as 5 to 6 tracks are recorded. Ph.Vian is on voices/words, synths, musical saw and mix, Pascal Rauzet on guitars, Yves Legharat is on bass and I'm on drums, background voices and mix. We'll have to decide as to go for a physical recorded support -as a CD- or simply digital high quality files in FLAC or Wave Audio to be available. Then, of course, we'll play those tracks live on stage.

How has drumming impacted or changed your life?
Drumming changed my whole life for sure. It's a real passion and I LOVE drummers, drums and drumming.

You are currently teaching drums, how is that going?
Teaching was a late experience for me as of 2001 and... I do it ever since on two schools here as well as in my own studio at home on Wednesday. I love to transmit knowledge in any form. Knowledge is intended to be shared.

How is the live music scene in your hometown?

Music scene is not bad here, we have a lot of bands and places to play. Unfortunately it's been run by a few corporate shitty guys that dictate their music tastes and I don't like that. I DON'T like that way of thinking. Everybody has the right to play their own music regardless of style. If it's Pro and serious then it's good for me.

With the corporate guys running the venues, is there a way for bands to work around it and get the exposure they deserve?
Yeah, there's still some as you can go your own way and organize your gigs. Plenty of other venues to be open for us/them with City Halls Cultural programs in so many places .

Name 5 of your drumming influences? why?

Only 5 is impossible..My drumming can be defined as many influences from Ron Tutt to Ian Paice to Buddy Rich to Alex Van Halen to Christain Vander. And to more contemporary guys like Vinnie Colaiuta, Manu KatchéBill Gibson, Max Weinberg, or Gergo Borlai.. I love all these guys' playing. They're technical, musical and play with lot of fire ..

Name an inspiring concert that made you want to go home and start shedding?

I must say Manu Katché and Vinnie Colaiuta on two phenomenal gigs here.. But also when I see Buddy or Christian or Tony or any great drummer on YT, I just GO and practice immediately.

How much time do you practice?

I try to practice every day at least 1 hour. When I can I do practice 2 or 2.5 hour. I divide one hour in 4x15mns and work only on things that I know can not play well. Always one hour on the pad. Lately I've been a lot in Afro Cuban drumming. I find it very difficult but amazingly interesting.

What types of things do you work on, in those sessions?

Rudiments, bass drum, musical fills related to a song and Jazz drive on cymbal. Also lots of metronome training.

Do you record drum videos of yourself? if so, how has it helped you?
I did some but not that much as I don't have the gear for. But now that Studio Chagneau has been appointed official Soultone Studio by Jereon Vandelft' Soultone Europe, we will do a lot! I have a YT channel.

Do you have a crazy or interesting gig you can share with us?
Yes..It was with Orlando Furioso at Les Sarabande de Boucau Fest. around 2003 or 2004. We did install all gear and stage in the forest and there was the audience transported by wood wagons (so there was a lot)...The stage was hidden in forest and you can imagine when all lights came in and drums battles :0) :0)) ...It was astounding and so funny to see their reactions!!!

What are your words of wisdom for your fellow drummers out there?
Words of wisdom are: There is NO secret(s). You have to practice and work hard on your musical skills and play a lot and meet different people. EVERY day. Be positive and then, things will start to look (very) good one day or another.

Last Words, Links, Hashtags and Thank You's???

Yeah: thanks so much 200% to Soultone USA : Iki Levy, Laura and Tomer. Soultone Europe : Jeroen Vandelft. Solobeat Indonesia: Iwa Sumanto. Groove Juice as I'm also an Endorser of the Best cymbal cleaner available: Dave Stirewalt. Ludwig Europe: Guillaume F. Rochat for his help. Uli Salazar from Ludwig. Philippe Vian for the Vian project (Studio de Chagneau). Mark Tirabassi for Attack Drumheads (Cardinal Percussion). Vukan Karadzic (Oriollo Drums). Joe Perfito for the amazing quality cables (Tributaries Cables). Steevi Bacon (Cats on Space drummer. UK) Tommy Taylor (C.Cross, Eric Johnson) for all his advice and live chats.
Last but not least: I would like to point the great help from Ludwig Drums & Terry Bissette. This concerns the elaborating of a huge power kit in 28"14"18", and maybe 20" FT added, as for the Orlando Furioso Opera live on stage. These sizes (14x28" bass and 20" FTom) are not available as of Classic Maple regular production at Ludwig Factory. And the answer has been "No..sorry Yannick..That bass drum size is a Concert Bass Drum for us, it's not for drumset application and we don't produce a 20" Floor Tom as it's a Bass Drum". I was very disappointed and a friend adviced me to call Gretsch ....I did... But..... Terry did chime in and messaged me : "Okay Yannick, I saw that Orlando Furioso video... I'll work with you on this one...please let me know precise details and finish please"... Thanks so much to him for considering me. Thanks so much Ludwig Drums. Roland Bourbon and production staff were in heaven ;0)

And very important too: all French, Europe and USA drummers that trust and follow me.

#soultone #soultoneeurope #soultonefrance #solobeat #ludwig #oriollo #tributaries #mryann33 

Soultone France IG: 

Orlando Furioso will air live again in 2019. Ancien clip here: 

My YT channel with lots of snares tests and drums:

Well, there you have it. Yannick is doing some kool work in France I hope he continues in all of his endeavors. He's got a full plate but we drummers know how to multitask.
It's good to know that drummers in Europe have a good guy on their side. So, if you're looking for cymbals or sticks, contact Yannick.
Make sure everyone hooks up with Yannick on soc med. Let's keep these connections strong.
Thank You Yannick for sharing your drum life with us!

Any drummers out there that need some publicity?
Maybe your band is releasing a project or tour?
Maybe you're a teacher or a studio guy and you just want to add to your profile?
Hit me up and let's get you going with an interview.
DeHaven -

I would like to thank all of my supporters:

#TalkinChop #DrummersSupportDrummers #DrumLife