What do you do if you accidentally run over a drummer?
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 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.
Long Beach, California’s Rival Sons are in the process of recording their follow-up to 2012’s Head Down. Since I can use all the So-Cal vibes and warmth I can get while I’m stuck here in frigid Syracuse, NY, I got in touch with Michael Miley to get the low on how he got into playing, his rig, and what album he most wishes he could’ve played on in the past.
G- What’s up Michael and thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for Live High Five’s Drummer Spotlight today! Rival Sons are in the studio right now… How’s everything going and when can we expect a new release from you guys?!
M- Hey man thanks for having me! Yep, just putting finishing touches on this next album, our 5th technically. (It) feels good to be almost done: 6 long, cold weeks in Nashville. This should be hitting the shelves early June.
G- Onward to DRUMS! How long have you been playing drums and when did you get started?
M- Since I was 4. My dad was a guitarist and my parents were always playing music around the house and in the car. I was always inclined to the groove, beat, and that visceral nature.
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?
M- The moment I felt it was my calling was right after College (Uni.) I got in this punk-funk band called Shave; (It) may be the most fun thing I’ve ever done. I came out of my college mindset with those guys. We wore costumes and I raised the sticks above my head like a caveman most of the time [chuckles]. From there, I auditioned for this band called Bird up in Hollywood (I’m from Long Beach, Ca). I got the gig and we signed a deal within a few months, put out a record, but September 11th basically shelved our record. It’s good rock. Still on iTunes though.
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?
M- I’m fully endorsed by Mayer Brothers Drums, Paiste, Aquarian, DW Hardware, Wincent Drumsticks, and Cympad. I play a basic 4-piece kit; 26”, 14”, 16” with my signature snare, 2002 crashes and hats (no ride!), with my own signature sticks (basically a 5A XXL – extra long).
G- How often do you find yourself practicing independent from your performances? Any warm up tips or advice you can offer for our readers?
M- Oh ya. I NEVER used to warm up. I liked the feeling of walking up fresh. But I’d find myself getting flare-ups, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, you name it. I finally changed my technique a hair, and began a full-blown warm up ritual. When Rival Sons started having success in Europe, we began headlining and went from 30-40 minute sets to 90-110 minute sets; thus a lot more demands on my body. We’re athletes man! I burn 700-1000 calories at least every set. So warming up our muscles is key! Our livelihood depends on the health of our body and structure. I do Yoga, I work with resistance bands, and finally rock out some rudiments on my DW practice pad kit. I used to practice tons outside the gigs but then when you start touring a lot, that goes out the window. While we have a break, at my wife’s parents house out in the countryside, I have a little cottage out in the middle of nowhere with my drums set up. So, a couple of weeks before a tour starts, I do at least 4-8 hours a day. I also write and record songs with my Partner in LA for X-Ray Dog.
G- What drummers, then or now, do you hold as personal inspirations or players you often learn things from?
M- How long do you have?? I could go on and on! I’m a lifelong student of music, drumming, and songwriting. My first love is Jazz; I love Elvin, Tony, Philly Joe, Papa Jo, Buddy, and Max. I play drums because of Jeff Porcaro and the drummers of Steely Dan. It wasn’t until high school that I began playing Rock music. I, of course, was turned on to Bonham, Densmore, Moon, Mitchell, and Ringo, especially. Nowadays, I really love JJ Johnson and Keith Carlock.
G- If you could be the drummer on any recording in history, which one do you wish it could be?
M- Pink Floyd – The Wall
G- What is the worst drum-related injury you’ve sustained from playing? What happened and what was the injury?
M- I was practicing after college a lot of Latin drumming and went too far with practicing. There’s this mode of “bravado” needed to play Latin music right. In college I had a Puerto Rican roommate whom i learned a lot of Cuban folkloric, modern Cuban, etc. etc. and I began applying it to the drumset. Hours and hours of practice later, my left arm just gave out. I had tennis elbow and carpal tunnel; it was rough. I was healed by acupuncture. It was horrible because I couldn’t play or practice, and I had gigs. But it helped me to begin a lifelong journey of focusing on my body as it relates to playing.
G- How does international performance compare with your performances stateside, both in terms of how you play and the audience reaction?
M- Both are great. The Europeans “get it” sooner, but that doesn’t mean Americans don’t at all. I mean, most of the British Invasion sold millions of rock albums here- That’s why they call it an “Invasion!” American music goes back a couple centuries now. Trust me- We get it.
G- What is the craziest or most memorable show that you have played to date? Where was it and what was it like?
M- Geez. There’s so many! I’ll say the first one though. I was in college, and I was hired to play with Santana. I was in a Brazilian percussion/dance troop and we opened the show, as his band was walking out, we were throwing down an insane groove, rowelling up the crowd; sort of a rhythmic extravaganza to open his set. The opening act was Mexico vs. Brazil football at the Orange Bowl in Miami. I remember as we were playing, that THIS is where i belong: on stage in front of thousands of crazy fans. THIS is my “desk”; THIS will be my job.
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?
M- I’ll say what my teachers said. Stick with it. We develop at different rates and levels. The best guy or girl at your school might quit, or move on, or get burned out. And you’ll get better and better. Study with teachers who are playing and have careers as performers and session cats. Learn as much as you can, but forget it once on stage. The more tools in your shed, the more you have to offer.