Why did the drummer stare at the frozen juice can? Because it said, “Concentrate”.
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.
Through a mutual friend, I managed to catch a sold-out show by !!! Chk Chk Chk) at Red 7 in Austin, Texas a few weeks back, and I had a great time doing so. To beat that, I got to meet up with Paul Quattrone, the percussive backbone of this monster Dance-Pop band who makes every person in the place bounce for joy, to talk a bit about our Upstate NY roots, how he came to play for !!!, and what they’ve got up their sleeves for the rest of 2014. Thanks Joe!
G- Hey Paul! Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five and for getting us into the show tonight! How’s everything going, man?
P- It’s good to be here!
G- Right on. How long have you guys been on the road now?
P- We’re about a week into it. We started in Sacramento last week and worked our way down the West Coast. Now, were going through Texas and I’m in one of my favorite spots, Austin!
G- Dig it. Can’t really go wrong here, can you? I see you’ve got the Lone Star in hand, and that’s never a bad thing.
P- Yeah! Out of every band I’ve ever played with, every time I’m in Austin, I’ve always had a good show. It’s like one of the highlights of the tour for any band I’ve ever been in.
G- Dig it. And you guys have a couple of weeks left before you go into the studio, right?
G- How are the jams sounding and how many tracks can we look forward to on this next album?
P- They’re getting tighter and tighter. I mean, we actually have more than enough tracks for an album, so we’re kind of testing a lot of stuff out on this tour and getting them tight. The best ones will make the cuts, obviously. You’ll hear a few tonight for sure.
Now, we’re here to talk about drummers. We’re both drummers, and we hit stuff for a living. Well, one of us hits stuff for a living… How long have you been playing drums and when did you get started?
P- I started when I was 16 in Baldwinsville, NY, so that’s about 20 years ago. I taught myself, but I just took my first lesson 3 years ago.
G- Now, Baldwinsville, NY to playing in !!!… How did THAT happen?
P- Basically, I moved to Pittsburgh in 1996, and I used to play in this Garage Rock band called Modey Lemon. We put out albums and toured the world here and there, and it was kinda winding down. I knew of !!! but I never met those guys or anything.
We had a mutual friend, Eric, who actually plays in the band Tanlines, and he recommended me, and they somehow tracked my number down totally out of the blue. They were like ‘Do you want to come audition for us,’ and I looked at their tour dates and it was Bonnaroo, Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, and I was like ‘FUCK YEAH!’
So, within 3 days I went up to NY, auditioned, and…
G- The rest is history, huh?
G- So you’ve been playing for 20 years, and you’ve got this awesome gig and they wanted you by hook or crook…
G- When did you realize that drumming was something you wanted to pursue professionally?
P- Honestly, as soon as I started playing music, I started getting serious about it. I made a demo that got a lot of attention, and it got released by a label, and as soon as it was put out… I never really thought until that moment that it could be a reality. To put out an album and have people know about it and go on tour in other cities, I didn’t know who’d come and see us. Up until that moment, I didn’t know it was possible. But after that, everything kinda blossomed from there.
So, drummers are all nerds and gear heads, and we love our stuff, so tell us what you’re hitting on.
P- Oh man, tonight the kit I have is a Frankenstein. It’s the most janky… The band has had it for years, years before I joined the band, and I think it’s like a Ludwig.
I do have a 1975 Vista Light…
P- In Sunrise. The thing with this band is it doesn’t need to be a fancy kit because I’m laying back in the cut playing dance beats, so it’s really how you tune them. You’ve gotta get that dead sound, kinda tape up the snare drum and muffle them a lot. You don’t want it to be too resonant and boomy. You want it to be tight and cracking. So, that’s why I’m not so picky with these guys.
I actually kind of like how fucked up and janky it is. It’s got some stank on it!
G- And what about your dream kit?
P- I’d say the Vista Light, man. It always sounds good if I’m paying live or in the studio. As soon as I’m playing on it, it’s one of those kits that makes you a better drummer. You start playing and you play to the feel of how it sounds…
G- Tony Williams, man!
P- That’s right.
G- And speaking of Tony Williams, we all have our influences and… Let’s make this a little harder.
If you could be the drummer on any recording in history, what do you wish you could’ve been on?
P- Shit, that’s a good question. See, all my favorite records, I wouldn’t want to drum on because I like how they are and I’d probably ruin it. I’m trying to think of… I would actually say the later… Are you a Hendrix fan?
G- Who’s he? WHO doesn’t like Jimi Hendrix?!
P- Ok, well after Buddy Miles wasn’t in the band any more, Mitch Mitchell came back and I feel like Hendrix and Billy Cox were really clicking on some groove stuff, and Mitch was still playing Rock drums over the top of it. I listen to it… It doesn’t suck, but I feel like he kind of overplays a bit, and I wish I could go back in time and do it real simple. And heavy, too.
So, we’ve all bled, sweat, and cried over our drums, and sometimes it’s onstage. You play in a very energetic band, and I want to know what is the worst injury you’ve sustained while playing drums.
P- As a drummer, probably… It’s something you never realize until hours after and the adrenaline runs out. There was this one show where I didn’t have any sticks, and I had to use broken sticks and use the butt, and they were just digging into my hands and tearing my skin apart. That was rough.
And actually, back in the Fall I broke my right hand…
G- How’d that happen, man?
P- I punched a wall.
G- Ahhh. Drunk or Girl?
P- A little bit of both actually.
So, we had this tour coming up a few weeks after that, and I was like ‘Oh Fuck… How can I do it?’ I had this cast with a bandage around it and I got better by the time of the tour, and with the doctor’s permission I taped Velcro to the butt ends of the sticks so it just stuck to the bandage. I barely held it, but I managed to do the whole tour like that.
G- Talk about McGuyver Drum Skills, man!
P- That was… The first show it took some getting used to, but after that it was fine.
G- Well right on.
So one last question before we go get another beer. You’re a pro drum, touring musician from Baldwinsville, NY. I was a touring drummer from Jamesville, NY and we’re meeting here in Austin, Texas for the first time, and you’re playing a sold out show at Red 7 on a Thursday night. There are a lot of kids out there that want to go out on the road and play tours and be a pro lie yourself so, in your opinion, what advice could you give about what it takes, and what it’s taken you, to get where you’re at right now?
P- I would say it’s a combination of things. Obviously, just having the passion and drive for it is most important, and it should never feel like it’s a job. But I think having and putting your own stamp and feel on it. Instead of trying to emulate drummers, try and take different aspects of different drummers and different drumming that you like and make it channel through you. My favorite drummers are the ones that you hear playing and you know it’s them playing.
That, and if you want to go on tour, Rule #1: You can’t complain. Don’t complain. If you’re fortunate to go on tour and actually get paid for it, there’s nothing you should be complaining about at all. If you go out on a road trip and someone is being a crybaby, it brings the whole thing down. It’s the same thing when being in a van. You’ll get more gigs that way, too. If you’re trying to play in other bands, people will say ‘That guy is cool and laid back.’
G- Right on. Remember kids, the hang is important and you’re spending an hour on stage and 23 in a van or bus. Those can be some unpleasant hours, so be cool.
Paul, I just want to say thank you again very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today.
P- My pleasure, Greg.
G- Travel safe, play well, and looking forward to the show tonight!
P- Right on.