photo by Robert Fayette

photo by Robert Fayette Photography

What do Ginger Baker and black coffee have in common?
 They both suck without Cream.

Drummers always get a bum rap. Why is that? Ever seen a good band with a shitty drummer? No. Know why? BECAUSE THEY FUCKING DON’T 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 this column is for the hitters out there.

On May 8, 2013, I caught up with Senses Fail drummer Dan Trapp to talk about his history as a drummer, his lengthy career with Senses fail, and of course, his gear.  

Interview:

G- What’s going on man? How’s everything?

D- Good, man.

G- We’ve already had the pseudo-formal introduction (band interview right before this,) so we’re good.

D- Yeah man. We’re loose.

G- Rick the dog is chillin’, and Gavin has himself a little beer there, and I’m gonna take care of that as soon as I get inside, but let’s get this going, man! How long have you been playing drums and when did you get started?

D- I’ve been playing since I was about 7-8. I’m 26 years old now, so that’s about 18-19 years at this point. But not seriously at… And there you go! A gift.

(Gavin hands me a beer)

G- Aww dude! He just got me a beer!

G- A nice Labatts. We’re full service here.

G- Cheers! Alright, coolest band interview ever… I just got a beer.

Anyways… We were interrupted, and thank you.

D- So, my dad used to play drums, so my mom bought him a drum set for a birthday gift or anniversary gift or something from a friend, and I was young and there was a drum set in the basement, so I started playing it. I kinda just learned from playing along to records and stuff. “Highway Star” from Deep Purple is probably one of the first things I ever played along to. I just did a lot of that, and then eventually started playing with some friends from school. We started a cover band and then we started writing some original songs, and then midway through high school that stopped, and Senses Fail started. And here I am.

G- And you were young. You started playing professionally pretty quickly, so when did you know that playing drums was your calling? Like you wanted to do this and give it a shot?

D- Well, I knew when this cover band I referenced a minute ago, my friend Mike and I played guitar and drums… We both played guitar and drums, and he’d play on some songs, and I’d play on some songs, and we’d flip-flop back and forth.

We played at a Halloween party and the first 4 songs of the set, I played guitar and he played drums, and then we were going to switch for the remainder of it. But before we got past those 4 songs, the cops came and shut down the party, and I never got to play the drums. That was pretty much it. I was like ‘Shit… I never got to play the drums.’ I never really liked the guitar thing, and that’s when it kinda shifted and it was gung ho from there on out.

G- Interesting… You were playing guitar, and didn’t get to play drums, and that was the needle in the arm.

D- Yeah.

G- Cool. Well, drummers we are, we’re all gear junkies, so we have to talk about drums for a minute.

D- Yup.

G- Why don’t you tell us what you’re hitting on? Drums, cymbals, configurations, and any customizations?

D- Well, I’m playing a DW Collectors Series right now. Pretty standard sizes… 18, 22, 9, 12, and my floor toms I’m doing a 13, 15, 14, 16, which is kinda weird, but the stuff that DW is doing now with their shell technology and the shell construction, depending on  the direction that the wood grain runs in the drum within the shell effects the pitch of the drum. So basically, with the X shell…

G- Is that the one that you have?

D- Yeah the diagonal grain shell, my 16 in floor can pretty much get the pitch of an 18in floor tom, which is what I usually do, 16 and 18 floors. I wanted to scale back and use smaller sizes because they’re just easier to transport and less to deal with, and take up less space. So I got a 16, and it was LOW. And I wanted to add another floor, but if I went any lower than this, it was going to be another bass drum. So, I went 1 inch smaller in each direction, depth and diameter wise, and I did a 13×15, which is something I never really thought I’d do, but it’s cool. It works great!

I try to tune the toms in thirds, so that’s pretty awesome. And I have a 6/5×13 black nickel over brass snare, DW snare. And I’ve got some other stuff in the closet, in the cases, that I bust out from time to time.

G- And we’re going to talk about that now. We need to know the composition of the drums, and then we have to talk about hardware and cymbals.

D- Sure.

G- Maple? Birch? Mahogany?

D- Straight Maple. I don’t know it they’re 6 or 7 ply. 6 or 7 ply with 3 ply reinforcement hoops.

G- Nice. So they’re tanks for sure. And how about cymbals and hardware?

D- DW Hardware, also. 9000 series. 9000 pedals, pretty standard there. And Zildjian cymbals, kind of a mix of the lines with that.

Right now, I’m doing a weird hi hat combination. A 14” A brilliant Mastersound Top with a K light bottom. I have an 18” A custom EFX, an 18” K custom fast crash, 22” K medium-thin ride, 19” K dark thin crash, and an 18” Oriental China Trash.

I’ve kinda scaled back from the really big cymbals for a while. I was doing… All my crashes were actually rides, and I was doing a 20, 22, 24. Same thing. They’re just really, really loud.

G- They’re more durable, as well.

D- Yeah. There is a little bit more room for the vibrations to kinda work it’s way outward, so I don’t think you break cymbals as much. But, like I said, it’s just nice, especially with the crashes, to do thinner crashes or fast crashes because they get in and get out really quick and don’t take up too much real estate.

G- Strong attack, quick decay.

D- Yeah. You can hear them, they cut, and they’re gone. They don’t linger too much, which is good. Cymbals are one of those things that can quickly overpower the rest of the drums, let alone the rest of the mix in general, so I’m always kinda thinking about what I can do instead of this one or what can I do instead of that one. I’m always trying to mix it up…. Try as many different things as I can.

So, this is my cymbals set up today. It’s changed throughout the tour, and it’ll probably be different tomorrow, but I’ve been lucky to have the ability to have a bunch of stuff to try out. Zildjian cymbals. Great company, great people.

G- And how about for sticks? What’s your style and brand?

D- Vic Firth.  I was using the X55A for a little bit, which is just a longer  version of the 55A, whichi s between a 5A and a 5B, and then I just started using the Extreme 5B, which is just a 5B with an extra half inch length, which is nice. It has a nice forward pitch to it. I feel like the stick kinda does a little bit of the work for you, which is nice. It gives your wrists a little bit of a break from having to articulate or put so much stress on your wrists, letting your stick do some of the work for you.

G- Alright. Now, being that you’re on tour, you’re playing a lot of shows obviously, but do you have any practice tips or routines that you typically get into?

D- Nothing crazy. I mean, just basic rudiments warming up, wrist stretches, things like that. I’ve never really been too crazy with stretching or warming up or anything like that, but I’m sure that I should be doing these things. It’s not like I’m saying I don’t need to, but I don’t have any kind of regimented warm up, per se. Just tapping on stuff with rebound.

G- OK. Now, since all drummers have at some point cried and bled for our drums, what’s the worst injury you’ve sustained as a drummer? What was the nature of the injury, and how did it happen?

D- Nothing crazy, just you’re standard blisters. I mean, I’ve got this awesome wedding ring callous on the upper palm of my hand. I had some dry skin on my pinkie that split…

(Everyone on the bus busts out in laughter)

That split and then calloused over. It keeps getting caught on things and opening. A few times I’ve gotten to do the left side crash cymbal choke, and the cymbal just goes under the thumbnail and just rips off your nail.

G- Ouch.

D- I’ve done that a few times.

G- Yeah that really sucks. That sounds like a bad time.

D- Yeah it sucks real bad. And knuckles on the snare rim. Standard stuff, nothing too crazy luckily, knock on wood.

G- Not tonight. Play your set tonight.

Now you play loud, you hit hard, and you do it often… Do you wear earplugs when you play, and do you think other drummers should be doing the same thing?

D- Absolutely. I mean, hearing is one of those things where when you lose it, you don’t get it back.

G- That’s correct.

D- So, I always use earplugs. I’ve been using in-ear monitors on this tour, which is awesome because then you get a mix of having something protecting your ears from outside elements, but still being able to control what you’re hearing. It helps a great deal, especially with how acoustics change from room to room. You have a bit of consistency.

But I generally pop the top of my left in-ear out a little bit so I get a bit of ambient noise from the room. But yeah, I went and got my hearing checked about a year ago at this point, and I’m good. I’ve got good hearing still, which was a sigh of relief.

But yeah… Protecting your hearing is huge! Earplugs. Hear-O’s makes these really good triple flange, kinda white earplugs that they sell at Guitar Center. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

(I pull my pair out of my pocket and show him mine.)

Those. Yeah they’re great because they kinda just lower the overall volume. I don’t think that they sucks the highs or the lows in what you’re hearing.

G- And they have the vent there so it’s not occluding and feeling like your head is going to cave in.

D- Exactly. They’re breathable. So, those are about $15 at GC or Sam Ash or anything like that. But definitely, those are what I use if I’m not using in-ears, so I would definitely recommend those.

G- Well, you heard it from a pro, guys. If he can do it, go on tour, and save his hearing, you can do it when you’re in front of the stage. Don’t be dumb, guys… Save your ears.

Now, do you have a particularly memorable drum performance or proudest moment as a drummer that you can share with us? Studio moment? Showing up your ex-girlfriend at Warped Tour or something? I don’t know… You tell me.

D- I got to record drums for our newest record at Red Bull Studios in LA which was really cool. It’s a really nice studio. That was pretty cool, just being able to go into different studios and record is nice. Recording with different people. It kind of gives you different perspective of things, tips and tricks that you learn from people make you a better drummer.

I don’t know, just being able to have a couple of really cool endorsements and getting to work with people is really awesome. It’s humbling. I don’t know… just having people, anytime anybody tells me they like what I do, is nice.

G- When the crowds is moving, as a drummer, it’s pretty much your fault. So, if you weren’t in there, it wouldn’t be as much fun.

Now, to finish up today, what advice can you give some of the drummers out there that are thinking about taking up the instrument, or thinking about ways to enhance there playing? Any tips or suggestions for those out there who trying to make it?

D- Pace yourself. Don’t try to break your drums or cymbals. You don’t have to try and hit so hard, because it doesn’t always sounds as good.

And learn to read. I can read a little bit, but I’m not great at it and I wish that I was better. Learning to chart music is a really awesome thing to be able to do. Learn your rudiments and learn techniques. Don’t be so worried about how flat and even your crash cymbals are. Set your drums up so they’re comfortable to play. And work with what you’ve got… You can make shitty drums sound good if you have good technique, and tape!

G- Dig it. Well look, that’s was awesome! This has been a Drummer Spotlight with Dan from Senses Fail, and he’s gonna go kick some ass here in Syracuse. Again, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today!

D- Thank you!