1. You’re primarily a drummer, right? What bands are you playing in at the moment?
I only have time to work on one project at the moment, and that’s Quali. I like playing drums in Quali because the music caters to my personal style, laggy and apathetic. When I had more time, I would play in other projects that were different from my personal style, to challenge myself to get better. Working in Quali is especially awesome for me because Isaiah (guitars, vocals) is a drummer first. When he writes a song, he has an idea of what he wants for the drum part. He allows me to be creative in my own right in the band, but if I am ever having trouble writing my own part, I can have him show me how he would play the part and pull influence from there. His drumming style is a lot different from mine but we have a similar approach to feel so it’s easy to communicate how he wants the song to feel and I can make that happen.
I’ve been fortunate to play with bunch of bands since I moved to San Diego including Primitive Noyes, Bruisecaster, Paper Forest, and I performed live with Indoor Cities, who made one of the best records I’ve heard come out of San Diego since I’ve been here, so I want to shout them out. When I can, I also make electronic music under Recycled Dolphin.
2. What does your current setup look like?
I have a ’71 Ludwig Blue/Olive badge kit with a pearl white finish. It was a gift from my amazing partner. My drum kit was stolen in the fall of last year in North Park. It was a ’76 ludwig Blue/Olive badge that had a fake wood vinyl finish. The dimensions were really unique: 24”, 18” and 14”, so if anyone sees it out there, let me know. I hope to get it back one day.
The kit that was gifted to me is exactly what I would’ve gotten myself. I feel really fortunate my partner took it upon herself to get me this amazing kit ‘cause honestly I was considering quitting. So many people went out of their way to support me when my kit was stolen. I feel blessed because as much as it sucked, I understand that the world is a tough ride for everyone and people are going through a lot of tribulations daily. Me losing my drums is not a big deal. Musicians around town were offering to float me kits, pitch in for a new one, and I was gifted new cymbals. It was really supportive. Thank you.
3. Outside of playing drums, you also program beats — what pieces of equipment do you use for your electronic stuff?
For my electronic music, my main instruments are a modded Gameboy with LSDJ tracker cartridge, a Yamaha Portasound PSS-470 digital synthesizer that I found at Amvets for $12, a Numark DXM06 DJ mixer, and various field recordings on my iPhone or a tape recorder.
I will usually start with a loop that I make either from a field recording or on the synth and build from there. I can’t really make the music that I hear in my head. I’m better at building on an atmosphere that I like and then just adding layers and layers until I have an ample amount to work with and then editing the shit out of it in Ableton with in-the-box plugins. Once I have the structure of the song how I like then I try out new melodies and rhythms track live over it. I keep going until my newer ideas don’t stick to the original. This could take months. When I feel I can’t add any more elements, I start to get into really trying to mix the song. And then…Ozone! Cause I can’t afford to pay a mastering engineer (hope to one day).
4. How does your approach towards playing drums differ, if at all, from making beats?
My approach to playing drums in a band, as opposed to making beats, is very different. In the band format, I love being supportive. My goal is to be a compliment to the song. If you’re writing songs and you have a vision of how to make them a reality in a band format and can communicate that with me, I think that I can be very helpful in making that happen, especially if I dig your style. I’m an introvert, so when I perform, I want nothing to do with front of the stage or talking to the crowd. I just want to close my eyes and try to get in the pocket with my bandmates.
When I am making beats, it’s totally different. I create atmospheres through field recordings and synths, and also program beats. Once the initial feel of the song is established, I’m off and running with the rhythms. I will program beats on beats on beats. Then, I will setup to record drums live and just make loops. I’ll set the BPM, feel, atmosphere and then just fuck the rhythms up by playing live over top of it so I have a bunch of live drums on top of the initial ideas. Then I take those and create loops in Ableton, and match and mix them to my liking.
A good example of that is in “The Yearning.” I created atmospheres over a drum break I played then built the composition of the song around that. I took samples of me playing drums, chopped them and ran them through filters. In the middle of it all there is even a short live drum solo. The song ends with an ambient blend of field recordings with me playing live drums over top of it.
Another example of a way I make beats is, if I like another artist’s feel, I will try to make a song with a similar feel in my style. I really like the Gold Panda song “You” and wanted to make a song with a similar feel. So I picked a BPM and recorded myself playing a 4-to-the-floor beat on drums in a variety of ways. Cut up my drums then built a song around that rhythmic feel. The result is “Don’t Die Alone.” I don’t know if I nailed the feel down or not because my goal wasn’t to copy another artist’s song, it was to create a similar feel, mood or pocket based off a piece I really like.
5. What new projects are you working on?
Right now, the only project I’m working on is the new Quali album. We are almost done tracking and I’m happy with the results so far. It will be the follow up to The Familiar and the Other [Listen/purchase it here]. Quali was founded by Isaiah Nery when he lived in LA. While recording the first album, he moved back to San Diego, and started to pull together people to play live with him. We’ve been really fortunate to receive a good response around California and have been able to connect with communities like OCDiy and Dirty Rabbit Records in SF. It’s been really fun to get out of town and play and I hope that we can continue to meet different creative communities with the release of the next record.