MICHEAL ALAN HAMS / HILLS LIKE ELEPHANTS & BOTANICA CHANGO

Hills Like Elephants: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / SoundCloud

Botanica Chango: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / SoundCloudBandcamp

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.

 

BOTANICA CHANGO

Botanica Chango: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Website / Bandcamp

Members: Joshua “J.B.” Becker (percussion/vocals), Tyler J. French (guitar/keys), Carlos Vicente Jr. (vocals/guitar), Sean Davenport (keys), Michael Alan Hams (drums), Bobby Roquero (bass)

1. Tell me about your guys’ stuff.

Carlos: We are currently in the writing process, so our rigs are a bit different. We are experimenting with a lot of vintage synths, drum machines in addition our normal pedal setups. A lot of the sounds that are coming out of this pre-production are pretty indicative of the time period the gear was made. Finding sound that fits the song we write next is always a work in progress.

2. What Botanica Chango song do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style/gear?

Tyler: I/we get a lot of joy from finding new sounds, and we make a conscious effort not to get comfortable. One particular song in the new batch that we are all excited about, “Every knows,” is a pretty synth-heavy track that hopefully can make the girls in black move their hips.

3. What’s the one “holy grail” piece of equipment you’d buy if money was no object?

JB: I’d probably say we could use some Quincy Jones brain, there’s nothing holy about our grails.

4. What was the first piece of gear you bought and what are your thoughts on it now? Do you have still have it?

Carlos: My first piece of gear besides a guitar and amp that really brings back memories was a DOD RP-6. It was my first foray into effects and it definitely influenced me quite a bit. I used it for about 6 months and started buying standalone pedals. The RP-6 is long gone, but it was an eye-opener for me.

5. What is your current favorite piece of equipment and why?

Tyler: My favorite piece of gear that we are writing on right now is the Moog Opus-3. It’s like a church organ you can play at Studio 54.

6. What’s coming up for you guys?

JB: The album we are currently working on is titled Action Park and is being written to be performed by professional figure skaters as Botanica Chango On Ice in LA. Our next show is SoundDiego’s Summer Splash Party at Harrah’s on July 16th, and we’ll be unveiling lots of new material from the album for the first time. [INFO]