—- How did you get hooked on rock & roll as a kid? Well, I wasn’t into Rock and Roll I was into Jazz (as my father wanted). I wanted a drum set and he bought me one with conditions that I learned how to play jazz for a couple of years. Then on one Christmas I was like 15 or 16 he bought me Led Zeppelin 4 and Rush’s “All the Worlds a stage”...changed me forever!
—- Who were your top few musical heroes as a kid and why? Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, John Bonham, Neil Peart, Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro, Steve Smith and Stuart Copeland. Because they all played as who they truly are and offered something in drumming to me that I needed and wanted.
—- What was the first record you ever picked up and does it make the playlist still today?Benny Goodman Live in Belgium and yes it would because of sing, sing, sing. (It could be a killer rock song today)
—- Who is your favorite drummer and what is it about their that fascinates you so? I don’t have a pure favorite drummer because they all offer something. But if I had to pick 2 I would choose Bonham and Gadd.
—- What are your three favorite rock drum tracks of all-time? Rush 2112 (The whole thing), Steely Dan, Aja and Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain”.
— It’s often said that no two drummer are alike — do you believe one drummer can duplicate another’s feel or parts perfectly without technology? No and Technology would make it worse
—- If you got the call tomorrow, what band could you sit in most comfortably with without freaking out too much? I would freak because my chops are not perfect because I have to work for a living. But once I had those screaming I could and would love to play for Seal and/or Peter Gabriel…Possibly Adelle!
—- You’re bit of a drum collector and aficionado — does the brand and year really make that much of difference once you get past materials used etc.. ? I don’t know, for me it is just the sound and feel of the kit. I have many kits from many makers. I LOVE mid-60’s Rogers and Late-60’s / Early-70’s Ludwig!
—- What part of your personality do you think comes through / translates best / helps in your role as a Financial Advisor?Creativity, Technicality and Empathy.
—- You are not sure if you are dreaming but suddenly you are thrown in to a heavenly Moby Dick drum jam with Bonzo and Mooney, a third kit awaits you. How do you approach the sudden rush to join the fray and hold your ground? I see my Craviotto “Big Drum” kit….I honor the masters and hold my ground just fine because …I am prepared and I can play.
How did you get hooked on Rock & Roll? It’s interesting to be asked that, as people seem to have pretty much forgotten about Rock & Roll, but I still describe myself as a “rock keyboardist,” in regard to music. As a synthesizer enthusiast, these days, the assumption is that I’m all about various electronic genres… and while I do enjoy a few, that’s not what I do. I think initially, I liked pop. But my brother was inclined towards heavier music, and played a lot more Rock-oriented music. I think I connected with it intuitively, but it was that exposure that made it happen.
Do you have a favorite go-to album of all-time and how have your feelings about it changed at all over the years?My favorite albums are too numerous to name, but I do have two albums that I would say are my favorite albums of all time… truly my “go-to” albums.
Out of the Blue– Electric Light Orchestra. When I first heard this album in 1978, it was everything I wanted music to be. It had a great Beatlesque vibe, but also explored a lot of different genres, production styles, instrumentation, and technology. It was where I first saw the name “Moog.” My perception of it has changed primarily in that as I have gotten older, had more education, more experience, etc., I’ve been better able to hear the instrumentation, recognize the production techniques, and understand everything “underneath the hood.” My love of it has not wavered at all.
The Beatles– The Beatles. I probably don’t need to say anything about this, but I will say that the weird combination of exquisite production and raw messy production along with the combination of amazing songcraft and unique musical exploration basically made me who I am today. I think I love it more every time I hear it.
What was your first public live performance and how did it go?If I exclude piano recitals, my first musical performance was in high school… in a band where we dressed up in punk clothes and performed Country music. I was just plunking out chords on a piano, but it was incredibly exciting, and it pretty much set everything in motion. My first “public” performance was probably this one time in a bar that I was too young to be in (but there were provisions for under-age musicians). I felt confused and out-of-place, but very excited to be playing in public. And in a bar.
What you gives you the biggest high as a musician? I have been obsessed with creating music since I was nine years old (the age I started writing music at). I have been intent on learning to express myself and create compelling music. So, I guess I’d say that… but I also enjoy performance, and have often chosen performance over writing.
How does the song writing process happen for you ? (Is there a Marc Doty riff graveyard?) Initially, it was me sort of imitating the music of my idols. Then, I went to college and got a degree in composition. During that process, writing music became essentially an opening of the floodgate in my brain, and a desire to make every idea into something interesting.
It depends largely on what the intent is… what I’m writing for. But in general, most of my music starts with either messing around on a piano, or having an intense emotion that I vent by spontaneously creating lyrics and melodies.
I do a lot of synthesizer demonstrations on YouTube, and when I’m writing the themes for these demonstrations, I often let the unique strengths of the synthesizer I’m writing with inspire me to create theme music.
And yes, if I never wrote anything new ever again for the rest of my life, I have enough ideas lying around to probably carry through the rest of my life!
What’s your philosophy on drums and getting the right drum take? The most inspirational song for me in regard to drums was “Louie Louie,” if you can believe that. Louie Louie had a drum sound that really reached me on an emotional level, and I realized early-on that it was because it is natural and expressive, and because the vibration of the drums in the room lead to the timbral aspect of the drums. That is to say that drums sound best and most expressive as a person who is experiencing them there, and experiencing them there is an aural experience of how the vibration of the drums interact with the room they are in.
Recognizing this led me to recreate the drum production of some in the past… and I found that a great way to record drums was with a single mic sensing the vibration of the room. I LOVE the sound of single-mic recorded drums. And most of my songs feature acoustic drums captured with a single mic in a room.
I’ll admit that I do often boost the bass drum, or record it separately with a different mic arrangement simply because placement of a mic in order to capture snare, toms, and cymbals often results in a baseless bass drum… but still.
I loved drum machines when I was young, but I got tired of them. Even when I do electronic stuff, I tend to sample live drums and create loops.
Will rock & roll continue to boast bands whose careers span decades or have folks attention spans shrunk too much for a new band to sustain such success? It’s hard to imagine Rock surviving what is happening in music right now. It has become a business first and foremost, and the music has been reduced to its most selling aspects. It’s no longer about expressing what you personally feel and having another person identify with it, it’s about pandering directly to musical aspects and lyrics that invoke immediate feeling in the listener. It’s not so much communication as it is manipulation at this point. I wonder what the future will hold.
Your speaking at KnobCon here in Chicago this week, what sort of stuff do you plan to get in to? Well, I have somehow generated a world-wide following in regard to my synthesizer demonstrations and education, and I look forward to any opportunity to teach people about how vast, deep, and long the history of synthesizers is. At Knobcon, I’ll be doing a presentation on a synthesizer inventor that most people haven’t heard of… which is sad, because he created many of the aspects of synthesis we attribute to others! It’s an awareness campaign. It will also be fantastic to interact with synthesizer pioneer Tom Oberheim, and my friend Michael Boddicker, who, in addition to being an amazing keyboard player and synthesist, was responsible for SO many of the session keyboard parts for musicians like Michael Jackson.
Synths almost killed rock in the 70’s with prog, tried again with new wave in 80’s and today seems to have found a new host in EDM: Is this just another occupational hazard or will it have longer legs the ‘keyboardist’ as it were? Ha ha, yeah… it’s hard to beat keyboards back, sometimes. But the fact is, there is a balance that can be had with the synthesizer and Rock… it’s just that it’s easy to go too far.
What advice would you give to a talented young artist wondering how the fuck to get from A to B and make a real go of it? Well, I spent 12 years desperately trying to get a record contract back in the 80s and 90s. I worked my ass off trying to do what was expected. I tried to write songs that would appeal to audiences and A&R people. I tried to get that stuff heard. I had a manager in L.A., and interest from labels like Geffen and Interscope… but it all failed. And I think largely, that was because I was shooting for an idea as opposed to doing what I loved.
Conversely, I started demonstrating synths on YouTube, and suddenly, my work was spread all over the world, synthesizer companies started asking me to demonstrate their products, I got hired at a historical synthesizer foundation, met all of my idols, and have tens of thousands of people hearing my music every month.
I really think the key isn’t to try to be something you want to be, but to try to show people what you are. Don’t make your art some sort of bartering for something that has nothing to do with art, delve deeper into your art and live it, and opportunities will come to you.
What was the first album you ever bought and what’s your favorite track on it today? I don’t remember the first album I bought, but I do remember one of the first albums that I remember hearing as a young kid. My dad played me the 1937/38 jazz concert at Carnegie Hall with Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and the great Gene Krupa…..He is still my hero and my favorite drummer!! My dad also played me John Phillip Souza marching records as well and told me to listen to both and I would be allright….Ha !…I listened to Joey Dee and the Starlighters along with Chubby Checker with my parents……then the Beatles came along…favorite song was “Love Me Do”…great cymbal crash in that song.
Who were you favorite drummers as a kid? Growing up , I had a lot of drummers that I listened to….never tried to copy anyone…My favorite to this day would have to be Gene Krupa.
What groove, or musical style, came most natural to you at first?I started playing to records that I heard on top 40 radio…Beach Boys, etc. until the British invasion came to America…I still enjoyed the loose feel of Gene Krupa with the Goodman band….He seemed to play the way he wanted to…no rules. I am a huge bebop fan….1960 jazz from New York.
Looking back, was there a pivotal first ‘big break’ for you as it were? Playing on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1971 was cool and my first semi rock star tour and album was with Bob Seger and I recorded the album Back in ’72 which contained the original version of ”Turn the Page “… As you know, my career then started to go forward!!
Of all the kits you have owned and played, what is your all-time favorite?Well, I have had a few…one was an old Camco kit which I wish I still had and my first Ludwig kit my Dad bought me when I was first starting out….Today, I am playing Sakae Almightymaple kit…..I left Yamaha after a 40 year relationship and endorsement with them….My favorite Yamaha kit would be my Maple Customs which are no longer available……Sakae made all Yamaha drums for 50 years.
Do you have a philosophy when it comes to recording?Recording is a personal preference, but I will say that it is different than playing live, so I would recommend to any young drummer to learn how to do both…I did, and it was beneficial in my career.
How important is your mind-set before going on stage and what do you do to get ‘ready’?Going on stage is still frightening to me…Their is always that split second thought before I go up on stage that I question if I really know what I am doing….Ha ! We are all insecure……But once the music starts, everything comes back to you and you feel comfortable ……I will walk around by myself before I go up on stage and think and say a few prayers to help me have a good show and remember the songs!!
Of all the studio material you recorded with Eric Clapton, which drum track are you most proud of today? I don’t really listen to myself after I have recorded an album….We spend enough time listening to tracks back in the studio, that by the time it is released, I don’t want to hear it anymore!!! probably “I Shot The Sheriff”, “She’s Waiting”, “Wonderful Tonight”, “Double Trouble”, “Motherless Children”….They are all pretty good I think. No real favorites.
What is the scariest moment you ever experienced on the road or playing live?Private plane with Eric going through bad weather was no fun, splitting my head open at Pine Knob with Eric, still played the show with a nurse holding a towel over my head….21 stitches after show….Military chaos with Peter Frampton in South America…..Held hostage by government for a few days…. more of this in my book!!
What 3 albums make your deserted island play list?Miles Davis…Kind of Blue, The Tractors…Christmas Album, Novabossa….Novabossa. – Jamie Oldaker.com
I don’t remember ever deciding to play drums. I was always interested and drawn to the sound of them as far back as I can remember.
Who were your heroes growing up and do you still listen to them?
Earl Palmer – though I did not know it was him at the time Mitch Mitchell, Ginger Baker, Ringo, Keith Moon, John Bonham – English Invasion guys
Tony William, Elivin Jones, Jack deJohnette –
Just to name a few – and yes I still listen to them
What was your first full kit?
My grandfather bought me a snare and bd at age 6 and every year added a drum – so I had a full set by the time I was 9 but it was a mutt of a set
Did the playing the drums come naturally to you or does one have to work hard at it to get to your level?
It came pretty naturally but when I work at it it pays huge dividends. There are periods in my career when I practice more than others and that always pays off.
What’s your kit of choice these days?
I endorse Yamahas – they are very consistent and good. I don’t use the same set up each time – especially in the studio – and enjoy changing the configuration to suit the music or just give myself a different perspective on things
What is the greatest drum track of all time?
Impossible to answer but anything by Tony Williams
I also love Mirolslav Vitous’ version of Freedom Jazz Dance – Jack de Johnette is the drummer
I was about 5 years old, went to my Uncle Frank’s house and saw a real drum kit set up. The Beatles “White Album” was on, guess I didn’t see any sticks around, so I picked up a Barbie Doll Leg and a Lincoln Log. I started hitting the drums in time with the music, after that, all I wanted to do was play drums!
What was your first full kit?
When I was 11 yrs old, my dad bought me a used mid 70’s Butcher Block Maple Ludwig Kit. I still have the kit, it’s very sentimental to me. I use it for recording sometimes. It’s in mint condition.
Which band was ‘the one” for you growing up, or were there many?
Hands down, The Beatles.
What’s it like playing now with someone like Lita Ford versus say Sinead O’Connor?
Besides hairstyle, nothing compares to… lol. Ok, seriously, they each have a completely different approach and style to their music. Sinead is a melodic pop artist, Lita Ford is the Queen of Metal, her tracks are more guitar driven. Interestingly enough, I performed with both artists during a time in their careers when they were making a come back of sorts. Sinead’s “Faith and Courage” was her first original release in three years. Lita’s latest effort “Living Like a Runaway” is a return to her rock and roll roots. Both women are very empowered by their music. They both pour their heart and soul into their songs and performances. It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with each of them.
How did your gig with Ace Frehley come about and what was your favorite part about working with him?
I flew to New York for the audition with Ace 2007 and he offered me the job immediately. Besides having the opportunity to perform and interact on a regular basis with one of my childhood hero’s, I would say singing lead vocals while playing drums for a good part of the set list was my favorite part of the gig.
Drummer jokes aside, do you have an overall philosophy that you bring to the table as a musician?
Yes, music for me is about feel, emotion and personality. Whether I am writing music on a piano or an acoustic guitar, I find that creating a melody, which moves over chord changes, while establishing a proper drum groove is the foundation for a song.
Do you have a pre-show ritual to get you in the right frame of mind for a show?
Before a show I stretch, warm up by doing rudiments on practice pad, perform vocal exercises and drink hot throat coat tea with honey.
“Moby Dick” aside, what are the three hardest Led Zep tunes to get on drums?
I would say these are the most challenging:
1. “D’yer Mak’er” because there is no consistent or repeating pattern.
2. “The Crunge” because it’s one of a few Zeppelin songs that changes from an odd meter, 9/8 to 4/4 time.
3. “Fool In The Rain” because it’s one of Bonzo’s sickest shuffle drum grooves next to Bernard Purdie and Jeff Pocaro.
What advice would you give to a younger player joining a veteran touring act?
It’s a great opportunity to work with veteran artists, you can learn a lot by LISTENING and use this experience to further your career. Have a positive attitude, perform your best at each show, be respectful of space on the tour bus and BE ON TIME.
You are given one free time-travel-ticket to any concert in history, what are your coordinates Scot?
January 26, 1969 Led Zeppelin at the Boston Tea Party in Boston, Mass. It was the last of four nights at the venue. They only had an hour and a half of music to play, but they performed four and a half hours. They played their set twice and then did music by The Who, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Epic Concert!