About The Torch: A monthly series, The Torch aims to help musicians of all ages and talent levels learn more about their respective instruments. Each issue features band members from around the world discussing their craft. They provide our readers with advice and insight towards their person experiences, as well as talking about the tool of their livelihood. Whether you’re an aspiring musician, beginner, fan, or expert, there’s something here for everyone. I truly believe it takes one generation to inspire another. With each issue, I hope we can motivate more and more readers to become the forces they admire.
Written & Produced by Meryl "LJ" DeWitt | Edited by Rachel Rosell | Photos credit to owners
LJ: Biggest stage nightmare you've had so far?
JD: It was recently actually, we were opening for Ice-Nine Kills at The Foundry. We've got a song called "Off the Corner" that ends with a huge breakdown. Just before the breakdown is a 3-count rest, and normally I do a stick flip for fun. Well, this was the night that I didn't catch the stick. In addition to dropping the stick, my stick bag had fallen over so I couldn't reach for a replacement and play off the mistake. It was a rough night, but overall a very fun show.
Greg: My bass pedal unlatching from the hoop and caused the kick drum to slide and throw off the sound while co headlining a show with Hawthorne Heights.
DeHaven: Nothing I would consider a "nightmare" but I have had cymbals tilt over and bass drums slide away from me. #KnockOnWood
LJ: What's your current stage set up?
JD: I currently play a Mapex Armory 6-piece set-up with Meinl cymbals. The kit is 10x7, 12x8, 14x12, 16x14, 22x18, and a 14x6.5 Exterminator snare. My cymbals are almost all Meinl, 14" Byzance hats, 21" Byzance Serpents ride, 20" Byzance crash, 18" Soundcaster Custom crash, and a stack of an 18" Classics Custom Dark crash and an 18" Byzance china. My only two non-Meinl cymbals are an 8" RadianXL splash, and an 18" Wuhan-style china. All hardware is Tama, including a Speed Cobra double pedal.
Greg: Savior Custom Drums 4 piece, all maple, wood hoops on toms and bass 14x6.5 snare, 13x9 mounted tom, 16x16 floor tom, 24x20 kick. Evans genera dry on snare, coated 360's on toms, emad on bass. Zildjan cymbals, 14" new beat hi hats, 18" Avedis Medium Thin Crash, 19" A custom Crash, 18" Oriental China, 6" Zilbel and 21" Avedis Sweet Ride. Gibraltar and DW hardware.
DeHaven: Right now, I play a Yamaha Maple Custom Absolute, Silver Sparkle. Usually in a 5-piece, one rack, two floor configuration. 22" Kick- 10" 12" 14" toms- 14"x6.5" SJC Custom snare. I play Soultone Cymbals and Silverfox Drumsticks. Yamaha Multi 12 electronics pad.
LJ: Best piece you've ever owned? / Worst piece you've ever owned?
JD: My favorite piece of gear is probably a pair of Sabian HH Dark hats that I bought off of Joey Baca of The Contortionist. I recorded all of Set Sail to March's upcoming ep with those hats, in addition to the upcoming Blindside Avenue record. I don't think I have a single worst piece of gear that I've owned as I always try to find a use out of whatever piece of gear I've got at the time, but Wuhan chinas can get pretty gnarly after they've cracked.
Greg: Other than my current set up, the best piece of gear I had was a Gretsch Catalina Club Mod kit. The worst was a Ludwig Accent Combo I had when I was young.
DeHaven: Best piece, right now it is my SJC Custom snare. It's the Tre Cool, Houndstooth, signature model. I got it used (but like new) and it just kills! Worst piece, I think it was a Wuhan china cymbal. It lasted about 2 months.
LJ: Dream pieces to own one day? (Collectors, customs, etc)
JD: My dream setup would be a Mapex Saturn V kit in Red/Blue Hybrid sparkle, in the same configuration as my Armory kit. And as far as cymbals, I'm a Meinl fanboy for life.
Greg: I would love to own anything used or owned by Buddy Rich or John Bonham.
DeHaven: DW Collectors series 6-piece kit. Black Satin and chrome. All DW Hardware. The custom snare drum I am having made right now by SJC Custom Drums.
LJ: Some drummers think I'm crazy for asking this & others find it a perfectly normal question… Do you name your pieces? If so, what are their names?
JD: I don't name my gear, though I know that some people like to. I do have a couple of rubber duck cymbal toppers that have names, I have a white one named "George" and a red one named "Shirley". Don't ask me what those names mean, because they're completely random!
Greg: I don't usually do but I used to call my current set-up "Black Betty" for the black wood stain.
DeHaven: Not crazy at all. I name all of my snare drums. Some of their names are "Nicky," "Spank," "Plats," "Dirty,"....
LJ: Who's your personal drummer hero?
JD: While Neil Peart inspired me to play, my drumming hero is Matt Halpern of Periphery. I'm a student of his, and every time I have the opportunity to study with him I leave a completely different (and significantly better) drummer. Matt is the man through and through, and I highly recommend talking with him if you get a chance!
Greg: My personal hero would be my late Uncle Buddy Mecca, who was a drummer back in the 1970's in a jazz fusion rock band called "Ralph." I had no clue he was a drummer until I started to play and he unfortunately passed before I can progress to anything other than school band material, but listening to music he recorded and seeing videos of him performing, I modeled a lot of my right hand and right foot technique from him.
DeHaven: Always a difficult question, to name just one. So this week, I will go with Michael Bland.
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Today's issue is strong proof of how different bands of the same subgenre can be. Though all these acts can classify as pop rock, they change up the classic pop mold by respectively incorporating funk, industrial, and experimental. Drummers from Los Angeles based Olio, Ohio's Set Sail to March, and Scranton's Dreamers, have all stepped up to the flames.
Meryl "LJ" DeWitt: How old were you when you first started playing? / What was your first drum set?
JD Walker: I was 14 when I first started playing. My dad took me to a Rush concert in Cleveland, and that's where it all started. Neil Peart inspired me that night, and I haven't looked back since. My first kit was handed down to me by my father, it was a Sonor Force 3003 5-piece kit. It sounded great and I still miss playing it to this day!
Greg Lynch: I first started playing at nine years old and my first kit was a five-piece Stellar Drums kit.
DeHaven: I was 5yrs old. My father bought me a drum set for Christmas. It lasted a few weeks. My next real kit was at 7yrs, similar to a CB700, Blue Sparkle.
LJ: Through trial & error in your career, are there any mistakes you would warn young drummers to be cautious of?
JD: Learn proper hand technique. That's the first thing I teach to every single one of my students, learn how to grip the stick comfortably and prevent the long-term side effects of bad grip such as carpel tunnel or arthritis. Your practice pad is your best friend!
Greg: Not to allow discouragement and hesitation to get in the way of progress or better opportunities.
DeHaven: Always be cautious of your ego. Music has a way of keeping you humble but if you already are humble have respect for the music and the musicians around you, you'll be fine.
Set Sail to March
"Leave This Behind"
LJ: What, for you, makes it worth it to keep playing? What's your favorite part about being a drummer?
JD: The feeling that music gives me is something that won't ever be replaced, I don't think. Drumming is sort of like meditation for me, where I can turn my brain off and just let the music flow. In addition to that feeling, I've met so many amazing people through music. My bandmates are some of my absolute best friends, and I wouldn't trade them for the world. I wouldn't have met them had I not started playing!
Greg: Drums are the only thing that you can hit and not regret like you would a wall or something, especially when you're pissed. But it also provides a challenging source of art and creativity that I adore and you can always better your skill and self from such. Above all, my favorite part of being a drummer is knowing that I can create and play my way out of anything that's bumming me out knowing that they're always here for me to play and pacify me when I need it the most.
DeHaven: The physicality of playing is a rush. Being on stage with my band, playing the songs we wrote and the crowd having a great time. And all of the toys that come with being a drummer. I'll never stop.
Dreamers, Like Us