At the start of January, I was invited by one of my sponsors, Vic Firth Company, to attend The NAMM Show as a sponsored artist under their banner. For anyone who doesn’t know, The NAMM Show is a music industry convention specifically open to industry professionals, where music product companies debut their new products for the year. It’s a somewhat star-studded event, being one of the largest music industry conventions in the world and it is held at the Anaheim Convention Center every January. A few days before, I arrived in Los Angeles and met up with my friend, mentor and teacher, Dom Famularo, at The Musicbox on Hollywood Boulevard for the Guitar Center Drum-Off Finale. To see the level of musicianship these young drummers possessed was a powerfully motivating force. Essentially, it said to me, “This is the cutting edge; The future of drumming.”
The drum is probably the oldest instrument known to man. Its ancient incarnations were large, hollowed-out trees with slits carved in to them, and struck with animal bones. Tribes did this to communicate with one another over long distances. The larger the tree, the greater the distance they could communicate. Eventually, they evolved in to the instrument’s most recent incarnation: The drum set (or as Jim Chapin called it, the “Multiple Percussion Instrument”). The drum set is one of the youngest instruments known to man. It formed in a period between the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s, and it continues to evolve today under the influence of artists and drum manufacturing technology. Being that the drum set as we know it is only a little over one-hundred years old, we are still in an infantile stage of the instrument’s development. WE ARE PIONEERS OF THE ART OF DRUMMING.
With every artist, clinic, or new approach to a technique, we advance the art form forward. Every one of us; From greatest to least. One of the greatest moments of my career thusfar has been meeting Vic Firth. He’s both intelligent and friendly, with a sense of humor that is as witty as it is endearing. What is fortunate for me, as a drummer, is that this is comparable to a pianist sitting down to dinner with Mozart or Chopin. The legends of my art form are- for the most part- still living! Vic’s advice for our individual journeys toward pioneering the art of drumming is, “If you can’t break a wall down or go through it, find a way under, over or around it… and never get angry.” Perserverence is a neccessity of survival.
Dom Famularo is known as “Drumming’s Global Ambassador” the world over. He has a potent ability to motivate and inspire. Luckily for me, he lives about a twenty-five minute drive from my house. When I asked Dom one day, while chatting in his studio, about wanting to contribute to rhythmculture, he told me about something he calls the “Three A’s”. These are: Absorb, Adopt, Adapt.
By listening to the music of the great musicians before us with an open mind, and learning the techniques and styles laid down before us, we can successfully absorb musical ideas and concepts. Many of these are imprinted in to our memory in a way that begins to come second nature to us. Secondly, we must adopt these ideas and concepts and incorporate them in to our playing. Lastly, we must adapt these ideas and concepts to our own style. We must put our own spin on the ideas laid down before us by others, which is the way music naturally evolves and progresses throughout time.
What impresses me most about people in the music industry is the scrupulous attention to detail that so many professionals display in their particular fields. Observing this sort of focus really helps me stay aware of what the industry standards are, at their best. We have so much to take from and offer one another. One of the most important pillars of growth in any situation, I think, is being able to listen to others and take cues from their knowledge. There is a near-infinite wellspring of wisdom that we pioneers may draw from and then pass on to one another. It also inspires me potently, to see people that are so passionate about what they’re doing. Aaron Accetta and Mike Caffrey are two such people. One of my bands, Testing For Echo, is working with Aaron (a multi-platinum producer who has worked with Forever The Sickest Kids, He Is We, Aaron Carter, and Rookie of the Year) on producing some songs for radio. After pre-production at his studio in Mt. Kisko, New York, we decided that we’d like to spend some time tracking with Mike Caffrey (another multi-platinum producer/engineer for Cobra Starship, Chaka Khan and Avril Lavigne) at his Monster Island Studios (Ryan Adams, Gym Class Heroes, Jeff Buckley, Katy Perry, Coheed & Cambria, George Clinton) in NYC. Over the course of the five-hour session I spent tracking, Aaron, Mike and I hit on topics of conversation ranging from electronic songwriting to the health benefits of oatmeal for breakfast, and I found myself learning something new with nearly each sentence. Most importantly, I sharpened my game by honing in on what they wanted to hear from me on the tracks. I did this by asking lots of questions and keeping an open mind, which has proven itself a solid motif for 2011, or what’s come of it so far.