What’s the biggest lie told to a drummer?
Hang on a minute and I’ll help you with your gear.
Drummers always get a bum rap. Why is that? Ever seen a good band with a shitty drummer? No. Know why? BECAUSE THEY DON’T FUCKING EXIST.
Drummers rule! We hit stuff, get peoples’ butts shaking, and ultimately determine whether or not the band is going to perform well. You CANNOT have a solid band without a solid drummer, so all you 6-string wankers out there with your tapping and flooded solos can suck it… This one is for the hitters.
This time, I sat down with Polar Bear Club’s Steve Port. Always the road warrior, Steve’s hard work and drive have really paid of in making his own punk rock dreams come true. I’m sure he’ll have a good time hanging with his favorite band, Bad Religion, when PBC embark on a US tour with the long-running punk legends later this year!
G- How long have you been playing drums and when did you get started? What inspired you to start playing?
S- I’ve been playing since 10th grade, which is now 15 years. I actually picked up drums by force. I was playing guitar in a high school punk band, and our drummer was constantly bailing on shows last minute. We got sick of it and I said “I’ll just play drums, how hard can it be?”
G- How long have you been playing professionally and what was your first project?? Do you remember the moment that you really felt that drum performance was your calling?
S- I’ve been playing professionally, as actually get paid a little, for 2 years now. I got fired from my job, and wound up landing a gig drumming for a Minneapolis punk band called Off With Their Heads. I toured with them pretty much all of 2011, and during the break at the end of the year I tried out for Polar Bear Club and got that gig. I’ve been with them since February 2012. I would say the moment I knew professional drumming was my calling in 2005. I was on my first real tour with my first real band (Another Breath) in Europe and it was amazing to me that people in crazy places like Poland, Hungary, and Croatia knew our songs and cared about our band. It was such a huge moment for me seeing how big the possibilities were.
G- Let’s talk gear for a second… What is your current rig looking like? What kind of drums and cymbals are you using primarily, what configurations, and what companies are backing you up at this time?
S- Love this question as a fellow gear nerd. Currently I’m endorsing SJC drums, Sabian cymbals, Vater drumsticks, and most recently Remo Drumheads. For my SJC kit I went with a walnut satin stain finish with natural stained wood hoops on the kick drum and weathered chrome hoops and hardware on all the drums. I also went with a maple/hammered steel/maple hybrid snare. Sizes are 18×24 kick, 10×13 and 14×16 toms, and 7×14 snare. I’m using 15″ hhx groove hats, a 21″ hhx groove ride, an 18″ hhx evolution crash, a 20″ aax xplosion crash, and an 18″ hhx evolution ozone crash. I had been using clear emperor Tom heads and clear powerstroke 3 kick heads but recently switched clear powerstroke 4 heads on everything. Snare I go back and forth between coated emperor and coated controlled sound. I use power 5b sticks. I also use all dw 9000 series hardware but I don’t endorse them.
G- How often do you find yourself practicing independent from your performances? Any warm up tips or advice you can offer for our readers?
S- I just moved home to save money since I’m on the road a lot so now I have the luxury of practicing all the time. I tend to practice by playing along to songs and pushing myself to learn songs that I think are hard or fun. As far as warming up I don’t really do the whole pad thing. I just take my sticks and stretch my hands and wrists up a bunch before we go on so that I don’t get locked up or cramped.
G- What drummers inspired you to begin playing drums in the first place, and what drummers, if any, are you currently following now?
S- Well my all time favorite drummer is Josh Freese. I just love his precision and technicality, and how he makes it all seem so effortless. And as for current drummers, I’ve been really into Taylor Hawkins. That dude is Dave Grohl with finesse. Both are amazing. Also I’m about to go on a tour where the three drummers are me, Brooks Wackerman, and Atom Willard. How cool is that?!?
G- What are your approaches to live performance versus studio sessions, and how do they differ given the different types of projects you are involved with?
S- Well I suppose the main difference is that live I don’t use a click track and in the studio I can’t track without one. I almost wish I had in-ears with a click track for live shows, but that would probably just complicate things. The pbc guys are such great guys to write and track with. I’ve never been part of such creative and productive sessions where everyone is contributing and the vibe is so great.
G- How does international performance compare with your performances stateside, both in terms of how you play and the audience reaction?
S- For one, the catering and hospitality is way better abroad (and in Europe especially). It’s part of the etiquette there. Even the local bands get fed dinner there. I would say there there’s no difference in the performance but like with any band, we get better reactions in certain cities more than others. I would say our best shows are in the UK.
G- What is the craziest or most memorable show that you have played to date? Where was it and what was it like?
S- Local shows in Rochester and Syracuse are always the craziest and best shows. The most memorable show with PBC was probably my first hometown show at the Lost Horizon in October. So many friends were there and we played so well and it was just the best time. Most memorable show ever though would have to be Fluff Fest 2010 with Another Breath. We headlined the second day to 3000 people in an airfield in the middle of nowhere Czech Republic and it was pure insanity. Nonstop stage dives and so many people knew all the words. It was really amazing!
G- Lastly, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming drummers everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional drummer?
S- My advice would be do it because you love it. If you can do it professionally, that’s an added bonus. If you aren’t doing it out of love, your performance will suck and no one will care anyways.