What does a drummer use for contraception?
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.
I was introduced (by my publicist-friend extraordinaire Jerry) to Siggi Baldursson during the Iceland Airwaves event at SXSW this year, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask him for a few minutes of his time. He agreed, and this is what we came up with. Amazingly cool guy!
G- Good morning, Siggi, and thank you very much for taking the time to sit down with Live High Five today!
S- My pleasure.
G- The Iceland Airwaves event is going very well, and I know that you’re deeply a part of that, so congratulations, but we’re here to talk about drums today!
G- What I’d like to first ask is how long have you been playing drums, and when did you first get started?
S- I got started early… about 12 years old. I borrowed a kit from my uncle that had been collecting dust, because I lied to a friend of mine that I knew how to play drums… A friend of mine wanted to form a band and asked ‘How knows how to play drums,’ and my hand went up because it was something that I intuitively knew that I could do, but I had to prove that I could do it.
So, I borrowed this kit from a friend of mine and practiced to The Bee Gee’s to start with, and I remember that first beat that I really got going was “Nights On Broadway.’
Siggi proceeds to demonstrates the beat
I love that!
G- Nice groove?
S- Wonderful groove! Yep, so that’s my story. I was 12.
G- And what was the name of your first project, and when did you feel that drum performance was really your calling? Was it at that time when you were 12?
S- No. We formed a little band after that when I was about 14 with some friends of mine in Iceland, a band called Hatimas. It was an abbreviation of the name Matias. We borrowed it from a friend.
S- It’s a long story. But the first band that I really took drumming seriously in, probably about 18, was a post-punk band later to become influential in Iceland called Pheyr. P.H.E.Y.R. you can Google that, but there I really started getting into it, approaching drums with a singular idea or attitude, so to speak. That sort of escalated into the next 2 bands that I had. Pheyr, Kukol, and after that band I started working with Bjork, and after that we formed The Sugarcubes in 1986.
So, yeah. During that time, I sort of… I was studying a lot of… I never really studied traditional drumming. I listened to jazz a bit, and was influenced by people like Elvin Jones, and Max Roach maybe more, and one of my biggest influences was a guy named Budgie from a band called Siouxsie and The Banshees, the British post-punk band.
And also, I just started listening to these field recordings from Africa, and that stuff. Just literally African rhythms in the bush, really sort of quite raw stuff, and that sort of influenced me a lot as well.
G- Now, all drummers like to talk about gear, so I’d like to talk to you about yours. What is your current rig looking like? What drums and cymbals are you using primarily, what configurations and compositions, and what companies, if any, are you endorsing at the moment?
S- Hmm. I do various things now. I work with an Icelandic singer called Amiliana Torrini, and we have a deal with her with Gretsch. I used to have a deal with Premier when I was in The Sugarcubes. I certainly have a couple Premier kits… I have a really old one that I didn’t get from Premier. I bought it from a friend of mine in Iceland.
I love vintage drums. I’m a bit of a vintage drum buff. I’ve got an old Slingerland kit. A small jazz kit 18, 12, 14 that I use quite a lot.
S- And I’ve got sort of earth tone heads on it… Calf skin heads. That’s a sound that I really love, and I also work a lot with my other old Premier kit that I have. When I tour with Amiliana, I use the Gretsch kit, and I really like them. They’re very versatile and very professional, but they are also quite… different. I mean, the USA Custom is the sort of flagship of the Gretsch fleet, and that’s a great drum set, and I love that. I also like the Renown Maple one. It’s quite nice, especially for Rock and Roll.
G- Yeah. Nice loud, boomy drums. Gretsch has always been pretty good at those.
S- Yes. And also, there’s a character in the USA Custom that I just love! They’re fabulous. But, we could talk for days…
G- Of course!
S- I do these various things, and different rigs cater to what I do.
S- And like I say, anything I… We did The Sugarcubes reunion gig in 2006. We did 1 gig in Iceland, and the rig I was using there was Premier, but I was using a lot of different stuff. Towards the end, I was using Premier drums, and I was using a rather big bass drum. A lot of The Sugarcubes stuff is done with smaller bass drums, 20 inch bass drums, and 10, 12, 14 toms. I used a slew of different stuff all over the place.
S- I’ve got a bit of a snare drum collection.
S- Yeah… Common sickness.
G- My brother Chris, who introduced me to The Sugarcubes, has about 60-70 snare drums.
S- Oh my god!
G- He’s a professional drummer in LA, and that’s his vice. He doesn’t really drink, he doesn’t smoke, but he loves his snare drums!
Now, regarding practicing tips and techniques, how often do you find yourself practicing and do you have any warm up tips or advice?
S- No. I’ve never been an avid, good practicer. I’ve practiced at band rehearsals, and before band rehearsals, maybe I’ll take a half hour and work on ideas. For me, it’s more about working on ideas than actually practicing stick work and rudiments and stuff. I’ve never been into that, and I’ll admit that freely.
G- OK. Your legacy speaks for itself… You can play.
S- (laughing) Yes, but my playing has been more about finding ways to flesh out the ideas that I have. I will sort of work on a technique to be able to play something that I hear in my head, not the other way around where I work on techniques. It’s a bit like that.
G- OK. Now, as all drummers have bled, sweat and cried over their drums, do you have a particularly memorable drum related injury that you’ve sustained from playing?
S- Yes. I was doing a sort of Rock and Roll gig and opened up… I hit a cymbal really hard and knocked my knuckles on the rim of the floor tom at the same time and opened up a gash on the knuckle, and basically just bled all over the whole kit. It was pretty gruesome.
G- That’s a drummer’s version of painting.
G- To not take up too much more time because I know everything is very busy today, what I’d like to ask is there are a lot of drummers and a lot of kids that want to play drums, and they look up to you, they look up to The Sugarcubes, and they want to do what you do and be a recording/touring professional drummer, and they want to get involved.
What advice could you maybe give some of the young up and coming drummers out here that want to try to make it in music, on the road, and they want to be a professional drummer?
S- Don’t get bogged down with the details. Think about the ideas… The big picture, the music in itself. And try to come up with different ways of approaching things. I was always trying to not repeat myself. No 2 Sugarcubes songs have the same kind of beat, so that was a very important thing for me.
Be creative within your little sphere. It makes everything a bit more fun, for you and the people that your working with, and it gives the music more life.
G- Excellent! This has been an honor! Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today!
S- Thank you!