Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Volume 37 - Chad Sylva



The bright lights of the Las Vegas strip brings us our latest drummer. A city known for it's high quality live entertainment and the musicians who give it you every night.
I found such a gentleman in Chad Sylva. A hard working kat who is laying it down for various project in and out of state. I really dig promoting these guys because these are the people we see all the time when we go out for a nice evening and end up at a kool spot where there is live music playing. At some point we're gonna get some respect in this country..but i digress. Chad is a good guy who is sure break through and get some of those nice high profile gigs and ditch the day job.
But for now, he's Talkin' Chop with me and sharing with you.

Name or Stage Name:
Chad Sylva

Where are you from?
San Jose, CA

How long have you been playing?
Got my first drum set when I was 4, so 37 years…

What is or are your main genre of playing?
Rock and pop primarily, but also Progressive and Electronic percussion…try to play some of every style...

How did you get where you are now?
Lots of moving! Grew up in San Jose, moved to Nashville just before 2000, then returned to CA for 5 years, now I am in Las Vegas! Musically, it was listening to lots of music when I was young, then Jr high band learning to read music, later playing music at church really helped me learn to play in a band setting, play every other musical experience I can remember…you always learn something (even if its never do that again!…)

Have you set any short or long term goals?
Short Term, be able to play music full time, :Long term…make enough to perhaps retire someday!

Artists you would like to play for?
Sting, Peter Gabriel or Seal…Steven Wilson would be amazing to work with as well, or Jeff Buckley before he drown...

List some of your accomplishments
Played if front of 30,000 people at a show in Northern India…that was an epic rush! Working with great musicians and producers is always an accomplishment to me! Along with any auditions for groups I have ever won…one little victory at a time...

So, what's it like being a working drummer in Las Vegas?
It is in many ways similar to Nashville, it's who you know…although you have to weed through bands a bit more here than in Nashville…everyone is trying to climb the ant hill to sit at the top and not lose their place! There is a good network of drummers here who are supportive and can play! I think one of the misconceptions about Vegas is that there are lots of great gigs…when the economy went south, the breaks got put on the scene, and when it came back, the DJ’s came in with DubStep and Bottle service…made the music scene much more cut throat and dropped the wages...

Are you working mostly local or are traveling?
It is becoming mostly local , but I was just in AZ for a week long Casino gig…I was traveling more when I lived in Nashville, but in CA I would be all over the state, I still go back for gigs with friends…many of them wanted to kill me when I left the Bay Area! They would drag me back in a second if they could!

The projects you work with, are they original or covers?
Most of it is covers at this point…they pay the bills! I do like to do originals if the situation is right…I like working in the studio and arranging, but at this point, it would have to be a pretty established original act to vest a lot of time into...

I'm sure you're like most musicians, you can be really busy and then have some down time. When you get that down time, what do you do to stay ready?
Look for more work!! Lol! Its always feast of famine! I normally am constantly busy with many bands and rehearsing, but with the break in the action, I'm actually stepping away from playing and taking a break! letting my mind reset…I know lots of drummer that practice far more than I do, but i learned early on that when I would play every day for a few hours, I progressed less than playing for a day and taking a day or 2 off…let my sub-conscious mind work on things away from the kit and I would come back and play better and learn faster from taking some time off... 

What are your touring experiences, if any?
I toured in Australia, India and China internationally (would love to play in South America or Europe…they really enjoy live music!). Most the stateside touring was regional, like the south east…Touring is tough in many ways (even though it is rewarding!), you are away from family and friends, plus if you are in other bands, it holds them up or they get other players to fill in, or perhaps even replace you. Or if you are doing session work, if you are out of site, you are out of mind and it can dry up or slow down. At this point, I am reluctant to do tours unless the pay is substantially higher, not as an ego move, but because you miss out on more when you are gone at home that has costs that you may not see until later... 

Describe your current set up & gear - heads and sticks...ect.
I have a primary kit, a 6-peice Gretsch Renown Maple in Satin White. I also have a Traps kit for small venue/rehearsal work, that I also convert into an electronic kit (using Aquarian and Yamaha pads and electronics). My Cymbals are Soultone (been with for the past 6 years) in various models and sizes so I can have the right song for the gig/session. My sticks are SilverFox (been with for 8 years) - I go between 7A’a for light gigs to 5A or LR models for heavier live and studio playing. Heads are Aquarian. Pedals and Hats are Tama Iron Cobra. A Gibraltar rack rounds it out, but I still have stands for smaller gigs and needs. Also use DrumLite LED lighting system for the Gretsch kit and snares…adds a huge component to live shows! Audiences always dig the lights in the drums, and they deliver!

Do you have multiple kits and snares?
Just the Gretsch Renown and the Traps kit for now…although I would love to pick up an old Slingerland, Ludwig or Rogers vintage kit with a smaller kick drum! I had a Gretsch Catalina Jazz kit and I wish I did not sell, it sounded killer! Snares I have 6.5 Black Hawg (black beauty clone). The there snares I have are all custom built (by me) maples in various thickness, a 4x14 piccolo, a 5.5x14 with wood hoops and a 7.5x14 maple…would love to add more metal snares in the future (a Ludwig acrolite or hammered brass is next on the list!)

Which wood shells do you prefer?
I’m a maple guy primarily for the kit, but if the drums sound good, then I am into it! Since I scaled down having lots of kits, I found drums that can do what ever I need them to…Gretsch does that for my tastes…but I’m always open...

Do you have a “Dream Kit”? 
Not so much a dream kit, but more like a drum set that includes it’s own set up/cleaning crew and cartage!! Lol! I joke that I lift weights so I can move my drums and hardware bag! Although I would love to have a Tama Gong drum…they sound so cool but are so user unfriendly! Dragging another bass drum to mount upward on a kit is a little extravagant…but would still be bad ass! Then I would have to have the Octobans too, so yeah...

How would you describe your drumming style?
I would say a solid foundation with liquid dynamics and approach…more philosophical (ala Bruce Lee)…expanding when needed and contracting when necessary…like in a 3 piece band, there is more opportunity to fill spaces and be creative or busier (or just leave the space…), as opposed to a larger band and with keys, horns, multi-singers, when I will just lock down groove and play much more minimally. I think owning a studio and mixing tracks thought me to respect the frequencies…everything needs a place to sit to really be heard well, if it fights with another instrument or sound, both will get lost and truly not heard…as for my band mates, I have been described as tasty and choppy, I love to play rhythmic figures with a band, not just simply supply backbeat, to interact. But then recently a bass player described me as a "Meat and Potatoes" drummer…playing what is needed and not going overboard, so the one term I have heard a lot over the years is I play like a chameleon - blend in with the band in the context needed...

  Chad w/ Ziva "New Year's Eve" Live @ Viracocha

Why did you choose the drums?

My dad was a drummer, so drums were always around, as well as music being played, so it was organic in that way, I always played since I can remember. I played in band in school, garage bands, church bands…just was always playing…later on I learned percussion (congas and the hand drums…)

If you weren’t playing drums, what would you be doing?
Some management job in Transportation or Logistics…Thought about becoming a chef, but that is way too much work for the reward and pay, music is bad enough…lol!

How has drumming impacted or changed your life?
I have been able to travel the world playing music, meet some interesting people and create art...

Are you a full time musician?
Trying to be, but I still have a day job as an independent contractor doing delivery work a few days a week, been thinking about teaching again as well...

Do you get a chance to check out the local scene, when you're not working?
Not as much as I would like…I will go to the local musician jams and sit in sometimes, or just listen and meet local players...

Give us 5 of your drumming influences? why?
Only 5??? Lol! 

Neil Peart is at the top of the list. I first heard Rush when my dad brought home Exit…Stage Left when I was 6 and I heard the drum solo for "YYZ"…that just tripped me out that drums could make those sounds and be more than the Boom, Tap, Boom Boom, Tap drumming I had heard before. I became a big fan, plus his thoughtfulness in both drums and lyrics was intriguing to me…Bill Bruford is another one of my favorites…he was the first drummer that had a sound and style I could recognize growing up in all of this groups (Yes and King Crimson in particular…) The command and temperament he brought to his music and drumming in general are really deep…Stewart Copeland is another strong influence on me…the beat on 3 was cool, but what he did on the hats was just unreal! I remember trying to learn “Walking on the Moon” when I was younger and did not realize that he was using delay on the hats, I though he was just that bad ass so I would try to work out the pattern without the delay (I used it  with some success when I played in a Police Tribute band called Stung)…Gavin Harrison is another guy that just twisted my perception of drums from his work with Porcupine Tree…he is very precise but not mechanical, and incredibly musical…he has just the right mix of technicality for the drummers to go nuts for, and also the musicality to impress the average listener that something different is going on in his mind and approach to drums…Vinnie Colaiuta…the guy is a beast! The over the bar phrasing he played on the ride/hats he used with Sting changed my approach to odd time (which I was already comfortable with), but added another layer…his unmistakable sound as well just made me want to understand more of what he was doing...

Name an inspiring concert that made you want to go home and start shedding?
There are 2 shows with different outcomes…years ago i saw Yanni in concert (yeah…I know…), but he has one of the best backing bands in the world, and Charlie Addams is just incredible! They wheeled out a 4 piece kit and he just killed it! He is literally one of the fastest cats I have seen on drums, save Buddy Rich and Mike Mangini! After seeing that I wanted to get that fast and clean….still working on it! The other show had the opposite effect…I saw a clinic with Vinnie Colaiuta in Nashville…he was so out of this world I wanted to light my drums on fire and not play again! Lol!! He is just that amazing, it was like, OK…I’m done now...

What types of things do you work on, in your practice sessions?
At this point, most practice is more learning songs than going over drumming concepts…But I have learned to create my own charts that work for me for learning songs…but when I do get to practice drums, I work on double kick work, snare ghost notes, drags, flams, triplet rolls…etc...

Do you record drum videos of yourself? if so, how has it helped you?
I have not really recorded drum vids of myself to watch as training tools, although I most likely should. I have been thinking of putting in mirrors in my practice room to look at things like stick heights, expressions, posture, things like that, things that you can see and adjust in real time, as opposed to play then watch...

Chad - Drum Solo in India

Do you sing and play drums?
I sing harmonies for bands that need them…I have a Sennheiser wireless headset mic and a Shure wireless monitor system that I use when needed, but lately its mostly just playing drums, plus when you introduce playing to sequences and click tracks, singing really uses up the my brains CPU...

Do you prefer studio sessions or live gigs?
I like them both, although in reality, they are two different art forms and disciplines. I love live playing for the energy you get from an audience, getting them moving and dancing to what you play is awesome! I also like the spontaneity of the stage, even in the most controlled situations, you can find musicality to grab on to! If a guitarist is soloing, If I hear them start to repeat and if or figure, i will jump right in with them rhythmically. Studio is the opposite, very controlled and precise, but it has its own avenues of creativity as well. Sometimes, I get tracks with programmed drums to play with, or as a guide post to start with. I have done sessions that were the song was written, but really constructed in the studio. I like when producers have an idea of what they want, get a few passes and then say “How would you play this” or “play it aggressive and with lots of fills”…those almost always get put into the song and end up changing the direction and composition of the track. I like to work with engineers as well. You can pick up all sorts of tricks and ideas from them on getting sounds and even approaches to drums...

Do you prefer being in a band (artist) or being a sideman?
They both have pluses and minuses…Side man is pretty cool though…I do sub gigs for other drummers and its like, “Here is the set list, show up here, bring this…and play!”. Most of my bands (even though they are cover) are band/artist oriented, I will help with song/set lists, arrangements and logistics/ details of the gigs. My background aside from drums is in logistics and management, so I ask a lot of questions and as a result, have been called “Band Mom” on a few occasions! I think drummers by nature are more detail orientated… we listen and see everything, on and off stage. I think we become that way because we have so much gear to keep track of!!

Do you have a crazy or interesting gig you can share with us?
I played a Country gig years ago in Albany, Georgia. It was booked months out and the venue changed from Honky-Tonk to Hip Hop/Crunk a few months before we got there, and we were NOT informed of the change. It went from Dukes of Hazard to Boyz In The Hood! Lets just say the only thing that kept us from getting killed was playing a bad ass cover of Purple Rain….

What are your words of wisdom for your fellow drummers out there?
Do as the old railroad signs say…”Stop, Look, Listen”. Always keep your eyes and ears open to changes on stage and in the music, drummers are the engine, but sometimes we go in different directions than we would want to go, but don’t derail the train! Music may be art, but bands are a team sport! Strive for balance in drumming and in life…no matter how much you love drums, if you overdo it, other things in life will suffer and burn out sets in…most important…embrace competition(healthy) and criticism! Learn from mistakes and weigh advice from others. I despise the current movement in the drumming community of “I’m in competition with no one, I just want to be better than I was yesterday…” That is fine for beginners but if you want to take it to the next level, simply comparing yourself to yesterday is going to lead to many auditions without winning the drum chair. Size up your local competition and evaluate where you need to improve, do it friendly, not like a tool! The point is use others as a proper bench mark, not what you did yesterday...

Last Words, Links, Hashtags and Thank You’s???
"It’s a long way to the top if you wanna Rock and Roll!!” Big thanks to Soultone Cymbals, Greg@SilverFoxDrumsticks and DrumLite! They have been great support for many years! I also thank my wife Deborah for helping see that music is not just a drum solo! And all the many incredible musicians that have shaped and guided me through the years of playing!


Yo Chad, thx  for sharing your drum life with us!
Do YOU, my brother!
Keep on hustling and laying down the grooves.
There are lots of situations out there that need a good drummer. We all know this! ;)
Everybody, please make sure you connect with Chad and drop a 'Hello' on him.
We have a great drum community and I dig the way we encourage & support each other.
Let's keep it up!

So, are you out there hustling like Chad?
Maybe you have you're own band?
or you're a studio kat?
Either way, you have a story tell and career to promote.
Let Talkin' Chop help you do that.

Contact: DeHaven

#DrummersSupportDrummers  #TalkinChop  #DrumLife


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