Drummer Spotlight Interview with George Schmitz from STICK TO YOUR GUNS! @georgeschmitz @stygoc @tamaofficial @zildjiancompany @vicfirth
How do you tell if the stage is level? The drummer is drooling from both sides of his mouth.
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 (with exception for The Beatles.)
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.
Today, I bring you some insight on George Schmitz, drummer for the awesome Stick To Your Guns! Check out the interview and support STYG!
G- How long have you been playing drums and when did you get started?
GS- Well my father was a musician, so there was always a kit lying around the house, but I didn’t start taking the drums seriously till I was about 10 or so.
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?
GS- I don’t know if I can say with a straight face that I’ve ever played the drums professionally (ha!). I’ve been in bands for as long as I’ve been able to play drums, and I started touring extensively when I was 18. My first band was a pop punk cover band when I was in the 7th grade. Really killed it at the 7th grade talent show playing an MXPX cover. For some insane reason, I got stuck with singing and playing (unfortunately our performance at the talent show didn’t blossom into a Phil Collins–esque career for me but that’s probably because I can’t sing worth a damn). I really did feel that performance did the trick for me though. I never felt more alive playing in front of people. I know I was 13 and naïve, but it was me and my best friends having the time of our lives for the 5 minutes we had on stage. It was then I knew that I would do anything to be able to do this for a living.
G- Are you working on any releases right now? When will you be heading back to the studio or on the road? Can you tell us about the projects you currently have in the works?
GS- I’m in the process of laying down some rough drum tracks on some newer Stick To Your Guns songs that we have. I’ll get sent a track with just click and guitar and I have a kit set up and mic’d. It sounds surprisingly great for how crude of a set up I’m working with. I wouldn’t expect us to be back in the studio until early next year, but we will be demoing out new material all year.
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?
GS- Current rig is a TAMA Starclassic B/B. I have an 18×24 kick, 10×12 rack tom, and a 14×16 floor tom. I’m really thinking about upgrading to something ignorant though, like Dave Grohl’s Nevermind kit ignorant. Maybe make my rack tom the size of my floor tom. Who knows?! I’m always looking to play with new set ups. I have a starphonic bell brass snare and it seriously cracks like a shotgun. I put one of those Evans Hybrid heads on it and I had to start wearing earplugs (not that I already should have been).
I play Zildjian Cymbals and I am so fortunate they tolerate me. I just beat the living shit out of their cymbals and they really do help me out on the road.
For sticks I use Vic Firth and for heads I use Evans.
Tama Starclassic B/B
Starphonic Bell Brass Snare
21″ Zildjian Sweet Ride
2 x 20″ A Custom Crashes
18″ Oriental China
15″ A Custom Mastersound Hi-Hats
Extreme 5B Vic Firth
G- What are your approaches to live performance versus studio sessions, and how do they differ given the different types of projects you are involved with?
GS- I wish I could say that I had an approach or strategy when it came to playing live. I’m usually too hopped up on coffee to really even think. I know every once and a while I try to tell myself to focus, but I’m usually trying to just play as fast and as loud as I can.
The studio is a totally different setting. I really try to act like I know what I’m doing when we are in the studio (and I really don’t know). I try my best to make sure that what I’m doing compliments the song. I try to push myself with any project that I’m taking on, but I also realize my limitations. I love how easy technology has made recording, but I hate how so many drummers use it as a crutch or cop out. So many drummers that I meet today aren’t putting in the work. They are letting computers make their fills fit, adjusting their tempos if they can’t play fast enough, etc. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not some recording elitist over here who only tracks analog and one-take-jake’s every track. I just feel that you should be able to ACTUALLY PLAY what you are putting on record.
G- Let’s talk about your undertakings… What artists are you currently working with, what’s going on with your current projects? How did you get in touch with your artists/groups, and who would you most like to work with in the future?
GS- I’m a one man pony over here right now (not to say that I wouldn’t love to work with more people!). Stick To Your Guns is really the only thing I have right now.
My story of how I got involved with them is really something else. It’s something straight out of Almost Famous. I met STYG in 2008. I had a van and trailer for my own band in Kansas City, MO. A friend’s band got an opportunity to open up for Every Time I Die and The Bronx in Iowa City (about 5 hours from my house). Stick To Your Guns was opening this tour. When we got to the venue, I was watching my friend’s merch and tapping on their drummer’s practice pad. I was just minding my own business when Jesse (singer of STYG) approached me and asked me if I play the drums. I told him yes, but I wasn’t playing tonight. He wanted to know if I had a demo with me playing on it and I, by chance, did. He found me later, said he listened to it, and was wondering if I could come on tour with them. Things weren’t working out with their current drummer and they needed a replacement fast. I told him I’d have to call my Mom (haha). That Monday I got extensions from all the classes I was enrolled in, learned all the songs, and then started up on the tour in Oklahoma City. My life has never been the same.
I would love to branch out and experiment with new bands and new genres. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to in the future.
G- How does international performance compare with your performances stateside, both in terms of how you play and the audience reaction?
GS- I feel I play the same regardless of where we are, but the shows definitely vary. The states have always been good to us. There are bad shows, but that’s unavoidable considering the amount of shows we play here in a year. Canada is always amazing for us. We have played some of the craziest shows of our life up there. I would say mainland Europe is on par with Canada. The UK is usually pretty good too. Australia and Japan are great as well. Surprisingly, Russia is awesome for us! I probably feel this way because I just didn’t know what to expect.
G- Are there any bands or artists that you hope to share a bill with in the future?
GS- In my wildest dreams, I somehow find a way to share the stage with Green Day and Blink-182. We are playing Groezrock with Bad Religion this coming April and I’m freaking out. I already feel so privileged because I’ve already gotten the chance to play with so many of my favorite bands.
G- What is the craziest or most memorable show that you have played to date? Where was it and what was it like?
GS- Definitely Bogota, Colombia. We played this fest called Rock Al Parque. Had to have been some tens of thousands of people there. It was pretty nerve racking. Never seen so many people in my life. With Full Force in Germany was pretty insane as well.
G- Lastly, 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?
GS- If playing music for a living is your dream, be relentless. Never stop pursuing it. Practice your ass off. There is always room for improvement, always something new to learn.
As far as actually making it, don’t feel entitled to anything. You should never be looking for a free hand out. It will be difficult, there is no two ways about it, but the struggle is just part of the deal.
Savor it, because it could end at any moment. Bands are volatile, fickle things. They could change at any moment.
Do you wear hearing protection when you perform? Why or why not? Do you think it is important for your fans to protect their ears?
GS- I just started to wear earplugs. I know that I already have extensive hearing damage so I figure it’s never too late to start. I know it will start making the difference when we start touring and I would advise any drummer or fan to start doing the same. We are in this for the music, right? So if we can’t hear it, what’s the point?