Hills Like Elephants: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / SoundCloud
Botanica Chango: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / SoundCloud / Bandcamp
Brian Ellis Group: Facebook / Twitter / SoundCloud
1. You’re a drummer, what band(s) do you currently play in?
Currently, I’m playing drums with Hills Like Elephants, Botanica Chango, and the Brian Ellis Group. I also do session work and pick-up gigs for a number of different musicians in town.
2. What’s the set up that you use most often?
I like to build my set to fit the sound of a specific engagement: for Hills and Chango, I love using my Premier kit with a Pearl snare; with the Brian Ellis Group, I typically use my ‘70s blue sparkle Slingerland kit. If I’m recording, then everything is an option, and I’m definitely a fan of the Frankenstein approach. As far as cymbals are concerned, I have a few Zildjians and Sabians, but my favorites are a bunch of Butterfly cymbals that my uncle, Michael Ranta, gave to me.
3. What’s the last piece of gear you acquired, and why did you want it?
Well, I’m always building something, or reworking something to fit the timbre I’m looking for, and don’t often find myself waiting in line to buy a piece of percussion. However, there are definitely items that are outside of my skill level in craftsmanship…one of those being my Premier set, which I bought last year. I knew I needed a bigger sound for certain gigs, and as much as I love my Slingerland kit, sometimes you just need the Beef, you know?
4. In terms of equipment, gear, or instruments, is there anyone you look up to or admire?
My first, and still my biggest inspiration is my uncle, Michael Ranta, who is a percussionist living in Koln, Germany. He actually lived here, in San Diego, back in the ‘60s, as a member of Harry Partch’s ensemble. Both of those two have been instrumental in my own journey through sound. I love composers and performers who are adventurous in the tonal spectrum: Hermeto Pascoal and Nana Vasconcelos from Brazil; Evelyn Glennie, a deaf percussionist who is one of my musical heroes. Glenn Kotche, Joey Baron, Brian Blade. Locally, there is Nathan Hubbard; and now formerly local, David Hurley, who lives in Detroit.
5. What do you have in the works?
I recently released my own solo album, Knockout Bell, at Verbatim Books in North Park (I’ll be releasing it online too). The album is the audio version of a story I’ve been writing for awhile, but…music comes quicker to me than fiction, so I’m not rushing that version of it. I’m almost done with the first draft, though (just a few more pages…), and plan on obsessing over it for at least a few months, haha…it’s getting close, but still needs a pretty thorough editing. I’m moving to New York in a couple days, and am very excited to get into the jazz scene there, as well as the more modern, avant-garde music that has such a strong presence on the east coast. I have about a dozen stories and film ideas that I plan on exploring, it’ll be interesting to see how location plays into that process. I’ve also been writing a series of percussion music, both structured and improv, that I will be finishing once I get to Brooklyn, and then hopefully I will find the musicians there that can help bring it to life.
Hills Like Elephants play their final show — and release their last record, “Tacet” — on Friday, August 26th at the Whistle Stop, with Botanica Chango. The show is free. Get more info here.
Many thanks to J. Smith (of NBC SoundDiego and Parker & The Numberman) for this interview.