What’s the first thing a drummer says when he moves to LA? “Would you like fries with that, sir?
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 this column is for the hitters.
Prior to his appearances in Syracuse, NY and New York City, I spoke with Stolen Babies/+44/Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Gil Sharone to get a feel for is percussive upbringings, his vast touring and recording experience, and (of course) what kind of drums he’s playing these days.
G- What’s going on, Gil, and thank you for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today. How is everything going?
Gil- Going good, man. Everything is great, and it’s nice to talk to you.
G- And you the same, man. How is the current run of dates going with Stolen Babies, man? Having a good time out there?
Gil – Yeah we’re having a great time, and I’m very happy with this tour. Everyone is great, we all have different vibes, and the turnouts have been cool. It’s just nice to be direct support.
It’s cool. Ever since Stolen Babies started touring heavily after a long hiatus, it’s nice to be on a direct support slot for this one.
G- Right on.
So, we’re drummers and I want to get right down to it, so let’s get into your history a little bit… How long have you been playing drums and when did you get started?
Gil- I’ve been playing for 23 years, if I did the math correctly. I started when I was turning 13, and that was it. The first time I hit a drum set, I knew that was it. I said this is what I want to do, this is me. And at the same time, my twin brother Rani, who is also in Stolen Babies, he picked up a guitar and just started playing it. And then he picked up a bass, and just started playing it on our 13th birthdays. I got a drum set, and Rani got a guitar and a bass, and that was it. We just locked ourselves in a room and played nonstop. That’s how we got started.
G- Dude that’s awesome! That’s probably the most unique answer that I’ve had since starting Drummer Spotlight! It’s usually school bands, or a father who played… You guys are twins who just started playing. Awesome!
Gil- Yeah. Well, I just knew that I always liked music, and before junior high I played the trumpet, so I learned theory and learned how to read and write, and that was a great foundation, but I just didn’t feel like trumpet was my thing. So, fast forward a couple years, I love music and music is in my 24 hours a day. I’ve always loved different styles and to get down on the dance floor. As soon as I hear a beat of something, not even a bar just a beat, I’m in it. And that’s how I do it in the studio as well, just jumping right in, but I guess we’ll get to that.
The point is, it was just very natural, and when I jumped on the kit, I was able to play all these different feels and styles because of how it made me feel and how it made me want to move.
Gil- Just natural.
G- Right on. So, you said you started with your brother just locked in a room… How long have you been playing professionally and what was your first project as a professional drummer??
Gil- Yeah I started playing professionally in high school. It wasn’t long, even before sophomore year. Even earlier than that, I actually got money for gigs.
In my eyes, my first professional thing was about senior year in high school, and I was in a band called Pocket Lint from Long Beach scene at the time. At the time, in Long Beach and Orange County, there was a really heavy Ska/Punk scene. So, when I was playing with Pocket Lint in Orange County, we did a lot of shows, we were on the circuit, and Travis (Barker) was drummer for The Aquabats at that time, and we were just always running into each other and just playing the same shows on that circuit.
But what else? Then after that, it just started going crazy. I was just gigging all the time. I didn’t even think I was going to go to college… I thought I was going to go to NY and pursue Jazz. I love Jazz… It’s my foundation to drumming, so I take that very seriously. I don’t just say ‘I play Jazz’ and play 8-bars of Jazz in my life; I’m a jazz-head, and that’s my foundation. So, I was planning on going to the East Coast and just jumping in, just hooking up with some musicians I knew, but things just changing and took a different path. I was getting gigs, I was in a band with my brother. At all times, we were doing something together. And after high school is when I got the gig with Fishbone, which was insane for me. I was 19 and playing with my idols. Fish is still one of my biggest influences to this day and a good friend. I mean, I just wanted to meet the band… I didn’t know I was going to get a chance to audition and get the gig! So, that was huge for me… It was like ‘I made it’ and got respect. To me, that was just my world; It was just crazy to feel that.
Then, after that, I got the gig with Dave Wakeling from The English Beat. I did that on and off for 3 years, and that was just an amazing experience. That was, like, my college time, and that was my school; Playing gigs all the time nonstop, and playing 2 hour sets and hits, tons and tons of hits every other song. And all the different feels; The reggae, the roots reggae, the two-tone ska, the 80’s pop, the rock stuff, just so many different styles in that. So, the experience was just huge for me.
Then, it just kept going. I kept getting gigs and cool opportunities.
G- I guess so, and I myself have had dreams of playing “Sunless Saturday” with Fishbone, so I think you beat me out.
Gil- Oh hell yeah! See, now I have another level of respect for you! You know “Sunless Saturday” and that is one of my favorite songs of all time! Just to rehearse that, to call that song out at the audition, was just overwhelming for me to feel that come to life with me playing it. Wow, so props to you for knowing that!
G- Oh yeah. We’ll have to sit down and have a drink at some point.
So, drummers we are, we’re all total nerds and have to talk about gear, so let’s do that. You have a new DW video, and we gotta talk about, so 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?
Gil- Oh man, we can sit here all day to talk about configurations (laughs.) For me, DW drums, DW hardware and pedals all day, Zildjian cymbals, Remo heads, Vater drumsticks, Latin Percussion, Gator cases, and shout out to Sennheiser and Neumann mics.
G- Right on. So are you doing maple for the drums? X-Bracing or anything like that?
Gil- Now that I mention the companies, I’ll mention the set ups. Right now, my current tour and studio kit is a DW Collectors kit. It’s kind of a monster, as far as inventory. I can use all the pieces as once if I need to, or I can break it up to fit a specific situation. Stolen Babies keeps it light on the road right now. I’m just using a 5-piece actually, 2 racks and a floor, and a 23” kick which I love. I love the DW Collectors 23”. It’s exactly what it says it is… It has the punch of a 22” and the boom of a 24”, and it kicks ass. I play a ton of double bass and fat grooves, and it’s killer. I love it!
Let’s see… Cymbals, I have a bunch of prototypes up right now. I have a mixtures of either what a K would be, or what an A, maybe an A Custom would be, and a couple of Constantinoples Signature. I use 14” hi hats, either Quick Beats or New Beats or Mastersounds. I have 14” A Mastersounds. I have a 22” K prototype Ride that has an amazing bell. It has great definition and it’s not dry at all. So is my 19” China.
What else? 9000 pedals, double pedals. So that pretty much that. And for sessions it pretty much varies. I just ordered my DW, which I can wait to come home to after this tour. So, that’s a jazz series kit in a very, very custom paint job that I can’t wait to see! I just saw a sample of it and I just so pumped. Anyways, the sizes are gonna be 8,10,12 racks, 14, 16, 18 floors, and then and 18” be bop bass drum, a 22” and 24” inch bass drum. And what I’m gonna do with that is, if I want to break it up and just play bebop, I’ll just take the 18” kick, the 12” rack and the 14” floor and make a 4-piece kit out of that whole set up.
I also have a project which I cant’ really talk about yet, which is the shit, just like Stolen Babies, but it’s just another project with an all start lineup and that jazz kit is definitely going to be for that group, as far as what I’ll be using for that.
G- Alright! So let’s move on to injuries. We’ve all bled, sweat, and cried for our drums… Tell us what is the worst injury you’ve sustained while playing drums? What happened?
Gil- Luckily, I’ve been able to avoid that. I really pay attention to my technique and form and where I’m at with the kit, and my approach. So, it’d have to be bloody knuckles, hitting the snare really hard and catching the knuckle… I’ve definitely bled on some snare heads. But I don’t have anything super interesting.
G- Well, it’s a good thing if you haven’t been hurt.
Gil- I’ve been pretty much unharmed.
G- Now 2 last questions for you. First, drums are loud and you play a lot of shows and a mean set of drums, but how about your ears? Do you wear earplugs when you’re performing, and do you think it’s important for people to protect their hearing while playing drums or coming to hear you play?
Gil- Yes for sure, all of the above. I think it’s very important to protect your ears, not only while playing but if you’re going to a show. I can’t even believe how loud these venues can get, you know? Yesterday during sound check, there was this band checking and he brought an acoustic guitar for this set. He just did one strum and it shook the whole house! I couldn’t believe how loud it was! Luckily, I had earplugs in, but everybody else was bumming hard!
It’s like ‘How can you just stand by the speakers and not blow your ears out’ or have ringing for the next 2 weeks? Some people can just do it, but I’m not one of those people. I have to protect my ears, so I always wear molds. I have earplugs in my pocket on the road, and onstage I use in-ear mold headphones to hear tracks and the click and stuff. So, my ears are protected that way… I don’ thave to blast myself every night.
G- Very good and I’m glad to hear that!
And to finish up today, you’ve made a huge mark in the drumming world and the music world, in general. You’ve been playing for a long time and there are no plans to stop, I’m sure. There are a lot of kids who want to pick up drumsticks and get into bands and go on the road who look up to you for inspiration.
What advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
Gil- The advice I give is do it because you love it, and work hard because you love it, and don’t expect anything to get handed to you, or that you deserve something or are owed something because you sit in a practice room for 10 hours a day.
There is so much to having a career in this business and even understanding that. Some people just see one very small dimension of the whole industry and the business and what road you want to take as a professional. Some guys want to just come to a big city and find a big gig or get lucky or something like that. The point is you can’t expect things to be handed to you. You have to work for it, and you have to respect it, and you have to pay dues.
So, if you’re heart is in the right place and you work hard, things are gonna happen.
G- Right on. I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with Live High Five today! Until the next, tour well, play hard, travel safe, and we look forward to catching a show!
Gil- Cool man. Come out for sure! You’re gonna like it!
G- Can’t wait! Have a good one, man.
Gil- Alright. Take care!