Lacuna Coil’s “Our Truth”: My Musical and Drumming Anthem for 2016

 

Somewhere around 2007, I discovered a MySpace profile of a drummer with a song running on the home page. It was “Our Truth,” by Lacuna Coil. I was unfamiliar with the group or their music, but this song immediately resonated right to my core, and it remains one of my favorites.

 

 

As we enter 2016, about 90% of what I hope to accomplish nine years ago has been fulfilled. But as a successful software developer someone once told me, it’s the last 10% that’s the hardest. He was 100% correct, and I think I have finally figured out how to best make that last push.

We need to return to the origins of our intent and grab them with both hands. The title of this amazing song really begs an important question: What is “our truth?” I mean, what really drives us to make art and be drummers? If we lose sight of it and drown in the overwhelming information overload of today’s world, we are screwed.

 

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I recently returned to the freelance drum magazine world, with works in DRUMHEAD, DRUMscene, and a very cool article in DRUM! that’ll definitely have people talking about the May issue. I’ve got a huge re-publishing effort underway with the definitive Don Ellis biography (two volumes, plus a third with just photos), and if I can do what I think I can do shortly, a huge change in direction regarding getting the word out about my binary rhythm pattern theory books (The Elements of Rhythm, Vols. I & II).

But as far as my real drumming truth… I guess it’s finally time to ditch the rev limiter and just play what I love the most. For too many reasons to go into here, I’ve not ever really done that. What it comes down to is this: being bravely fearful. These are not my words, they were given to me, and they hold great power, as I am discovering more and more every day. Because the truth is, none of us truly knows where our steps will lead, and if you debate it for too long, you’ll never cross anything except a return to your doubts.

 

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NAMM 2016 is gonna be interesting, and I created a Periscope account to document some of it in real time (David Aldridge, linked through @DAldridgeDrums on Twitter). I hope you’ll check it out, and as always, thanks for reading my little blog. The interest and support over the last nine years has helped make 90% of my ambitions come to life. If stick around for the last 10%, I promise it’ll be the best part of the ride.

And thank you, Lacuna Coil, for a most awesomely inspiring anthem!

 

My Pretty Big Tama Drumkit, and Why More is More

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When I got my first drum set at 13, it was a standard four piece with one cheesy little sorta crash-ride cymbal. It was a gateway to the most amazing universe I would ever know. I had no idea how drummers were able to do the things they could do, and as my listening expanded to the heavy metal and prog drummers of the day in the 70’s, I was amazed at what guys like Carl Palmer, Ian Paice, and Bill Ward could do with their jazz chops.

Around that time, I also discovered Billy Cobham and his bombastic Fibes kit. His display of musicality and technical prowess were beyond belief, and I worked as hard as I could to figure out what he was doing. As time passed, I eventually did figure a lot of it out, and I could actually play it. At 16, this was quite a ride. I had also added pieces and parts to my small kit and expanded to a pretty big 10-piece, loving every bit of it.

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Fast forward to 2015. I have a three piece be-bop kit to keep my jazz chops in tune and refined, but when it comes time to let it all out, there’s only one way to go…

Last year, I made a decision to focus on Tama, for several reasons. Mind you, I’m not an endorsed pro, not a touring or recording guy. I write a blog and hit things. But I do have plans and ambitions, which are slowly moving forward, and to accomplish them, I decided to go with something I could find anywhere in the world and that had hardware I could do handstands on.

I picked up a cool little five piece with a 20” kick from Guitar Center, Lawndale California. Chris Chiles sold it to me, a very good guy. He told me a girl sold the kit to him but really didn’t want to get rid of it. Hard times, the reality of our day. I immediately felt soul from this little kit, gave the kick a stomp, and bought it.

Mostly, I loved the color. It made me feel a certain way, which brought out certain things in my playing. I know, that sound ridiculous, but I feel colors, literally. Like touch sensations sometimes almost.

So, I bring the little kit home, and I soon wanted more. I went over to Jammin’ Jersey’s, Northridge, California, and picked up three more Rockstar drums (two rack toms, one floor tom). I brought them home, hooked them up, and I felt my childhood coming back. I bought a 22” kick and another rack tom off of eBay, and then things really started to feel familiar.

I’ve always loved cymbals, so over the next several months, I started adding to my Zidljian A’s, including a 23” Sweet Ride, a 22” A Custom Ping ride, a 22” medium thin crash, 16” medium thin crash, and a really cool sounding pair of 15” vintage New Beat hi hats. All in all, 11 cymbals, 10 drums, and a few more Tama snares, including the massive 8×14” Big Black snare.

And when I was done, My Blue Dream was born.

Hell yeah!

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The logistics of setting up such a kit required a lot of boom cymbal stands, although a rack is probably what a reasonable person would use. I’m thinking about it. In the meantime, I have the size kit I want, could use another kick drum and some Octobans (of course), but for now, what I really have… is a percussion ensemble.

When I hear the expression, “Less is more,” I usually cringe. I know, I know, play for the music, and all the other classic phrases… but what if you are capable of unleashing in a way that far transcends what a four piece, single cheesy crash/ride can do? What if you are able to soar, blaze, let er’ rip like a big dog?

Why should drummers in any way feel like they have to apologize for going big?

As far as I’m concerned, More is More. By expanding your tonal palette, you can paint some pretty amazing pictures. On the other side of things, I most often use only the 23” Sweet Ride with my bop kit. I don’t need anything else for that music. But for what I hear in my head, feel in my heart, more lets me do more.

Now if I can just find that 22” Zildjian Pang somewhere…

3rd YouTube video, The Elements of Rhythm. Vol. II, Relative Notation and Counting Syllables

If the previous two videos got your attention about binary rhythm patterns, wait’ll you see all those patterns lined up vertically on music staves so you can read them in (for example) 4/2, 4/4, 4/8, 4/16, and 4/32 all at once…

The Elements of Rhythm, Vol, II, also dives very deeply into the idea of relative notation, where an absolute sound shape can be not only written in many different ways, but be counted in many different ways as well.

We become conditioned to seeing 16th rests and notes in 4/4 and count them 1 e + uh, but then when we see them in 4/16, our minds have to “temporally translate” (my term) the mathematics very quickly to make sense of the notation before us.

Ideally, we should be able to read any absolutely sound shape, written in any beat note value, using any counting syllables and not be married to the idea that, for example, sixteenth rests and notes will always be counted 1 e + uh…

Yeah, this is advanced, heady stuff. It’ll get your mind going from page one, I guarantee you. But, when you consider that in both volumes, you are looking at ALL of the fundamental building block rhythm patterns that all the larger ones come… believe me, that’s worth about six minutes of your time!

Enjoy.

2nd YouTube Video, The Elements of Rhythm, Vol. I, Introduction to Binary Rhythm Pattern Theory

Hey there, here’s a little something more that I’m pretty sure will turn your rhythmic world upside-down if you’ll give me about six minutes of your viewing time…

In 1982, the some lessons I took with Terry Bozzio exploded in my head and lit a fire that never went out. It led me to figuring out a systematic approach to understanding where all rhythm patterns came from mathematically. I sucked at math from day one of first grade on up through forever, so, I’d say this discovery was personally kinda huge…


Regular readers have been really cool and kind about humouring me over the past five years, so I’d like to ask them, and you new readers as well, for one small favour: turn up the volume so you can hear my voiceover, and watch this video clip. It’ll show you where everything comes from that you’ll ever play, or at least get you started on it.

There are a finite number of building block rhythm patterns that all larger combinations come from. Binary rhythm pattern theory uses 0s and 1s to prove they exist and create a model of them, which we then re-write with conventional music notation. But first, we gotta prove that a finite number exits… which I’ve done.

Other educators have explored this notion, but I’m pretty sure I can almost absolutely that no one has done it to the degree that I pursued. It was an insane obsession, but the results… are pretty damn cool. And I say that with a lot of unusual pride.


Anyway, the first video was kind of general and broad… but this one gets down to it like nothing you’ve likely ever seen before. The page excerpts from my books are fuzzy at times, just because of conversion I suppose. I’m working on it, so please bear with me. But gimme six minutes… and your head might get set on fire too. I hope so, because all I really want to do in this world any more is get the word out about binary rhythm pattern theory and how it can help expand our rhythmic minds to explore basic patterns, odd meters, polyrhythms and beyond.

And please, if you like this one, tell your friends and share it. I have never asked this, but if you get the message and what it means, you’ll see why. I hope you do, and as always, thanks for checking out my blog. I love writing this stuff!

My First YouTube Video About My Books, The Elements of Rhythm, Volumes I & II

Whew!

Okay, lemme tell ya up front: THIS was some work! And for those of you who’ve already done it, my hat is off to you. For those thinking about making a drum video of sorts, I figure it might be helpful to tell you a little about the process I experienced in hopes that can save you some time and steps.

The short version: I bought a GoPro, a backdrop system to hang fabric, some lights and stands, a very functional tripod (good lord, a must!), a complete set of mics for a 10-piece drum set, a mixer, dug out my ProTools LE8, bought another Mac laptop that could process the GoPro 4k images, and I borrowed a really nice HD video camera as a backup.

The short short version: no GoPro, no mics, minimal kit, and I only used the HD camera and one lighting stand.

What I discovered was that… the new version of iMovie was getting slammed reviews, and I couldn’t figure out how to strip original audio from the incoming iMovie 8 file and layer it with a ProTools sound track. My old laptop worked just fine, and I was able to import the footage, move it around and edit it, add some still shots and some music audio, and get it up and running on YouTube.

Seriously, I wasn’t experienced with this stuff to the degree I wanted to be, but it got done… which is all that matters.

If you’ve been following my last few posts, I’ve been sharing what I’ve been able to accomplish to move forward with getting my stuff out all over the world. We have the technology… but not all of it easy to grasp. It ain’t perfect, but I don’t care. I began the journey three decades ago with this project, so, tonight, I’m happy it got launched in one piece.

Meanwhile, I hope your individual drumming projects are moving forward, and hey, keep pounding if they aren’t done yet. You’ll sleep pretty good once they are, and then you’ll wake up and want to do more.

Enjoy, and remember: Everything You’ll Ever Play Comes From Here!

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