Friday, November 19, 2010


The Serfers! Green On Red!
and now...drummer for Black Dynamite Sound Orchestra!
 SLIT: How'd you get involved in Tucson's music scene?

JW: I had traveled in the local circles of the more artistic and fringy types in Tucson. We shared the music and vibes from that time. Billy Sedlmayr was a major component. He worked at a store that we would hang at. There was a constant flow of music there. Anything we wanted to hear came through there. The origins of the punk rock scene were derived in part from the "Rocky Horror" crowd. Remember the message "don't dream it be it". It was a small city then as it is now. We smoked a lot of weed and partied together. A house party I had in the summer of 79' with my good friend Luke Hiller may have been one of the nexus events at the time. We had invited everyone we knew from the divergent clicks. The Pedestrians and the Suspects played in our living room. Shortly thereafter I moved to Southern California. I lived in long Beach but worked in Dana Point. Hitchiking every day down Pacific Coast Highway. I took acid one night and decided that a performance from the Suspects at the Night Train was all the reason I needed to move back to Tucson. Hitchiked back to Tucson. After the show Rich Hopkins had a party at his folks home on the north side. Dan Stuart came up to me and said. " I heard you play guitar, we should start a band". The Serfers were born that night.

The Serfers (1979): Jack, Dan, Van, & Chris!

SLIT: How did you get interested in drumming? Did you get tired of playing bass? How many instruments do you play?

JW:  The physical challenge always amazed me. I like a good challenge.    Tired of bass? That's not possible. I have spent so much time playing that instrument I feel I have a very intimate understanding of it. That instrument translates rhythm to melody. Sublime. One note can mean so much on Bass.                                                                                      

 Over the years of selling instrument for a living I have achieved the ability to play any number of instruments. I set a goal for myself years ago to preform live on all of the instruments one would use in a typical rock setting. Guitar, bass, keyboards, drums and sing not only background vocals but lead as well. I have accomplished this.         

Jack playing bass with Green On Red
I tend to focus on the one I preform with the most at any particular time. When I go out with Green On Red I will practice bass two hours a day. Playing along with a live bootleg, scales to a metronome and studying one of my favorite bass players pieces of work. Those favorites are in no particular order John Paul Jones, Dennis Dunaway and of course Geezer Butler.

SLIT:  How long have you been drumming? How did you get started? Are you self-taught?

JW: I bought my first kit in 1994. I owned a studio at that time and I worked primarily with bands that had never recorded before. Their equipment was always an issue. I had everything else and wanted to learn the language of drumming. It was my last frontier. I worked with a label out of Mexico City and did alot of rock in Espanol at the time. Metal and hard rock usually. I was also producing David Thumm at the time. He was the drummer from the fabulous Tex and The Horseheads. David was my first drum Guru. I then would play with anybody and jammed quite a bit. For the longest time I did not study. I never really studied music at all. For the past year I have been studying intensely with David Henderson. Dave has had a long run as a drummer. Trained and schooled beyond words. Played with the Knack , Unkle and most recently with Frank Black .

Black Dynamite Sound Orchestra...featuring Jack Waterson on drums!
SLIT: Who are you drumming for now?

JW: Currently I play with the Black Dynamite Sound Orchestra. This is a band that was put together by Adrian Younge. Adrian is an old friend and customer of my store Future Music in Los Angeles. He scored and edited a film that came out last year called "Black Dynamite". I played on a few of the pieces from that sound track which is available through Wax Poetics. When Adrian wanted to put a live band together he asked me to play drums. It's is a great group. I'm twenty years older than the next oldest member. Yes, this makes me the old white guy in the group.

SLIT: Fave music with drums in it? Fave recording of you drumming?

JW: I have to admit that I listen to quite a bit of old Funk and Soul music. Less and less Rock and Roll all the time. I would have to say that along side the new record we're working on and the theme for the upcoming Adult Swim adaptation of the film is a fave.

SLIT: How many bands have you drummed for?

JW: I have played drums with many people. As far as actual live ensembles it would be three.

SLIT:  Who are your drumming influences?

JW: Currently I'm obsessing on James Gadson. Phil Rudd is always an inspiration.

SLIT: Do you have favorite sticks? Fave-drum head? Any gear you like to use that drummer's might like to know about?

JW: I use the Hal Blaine signature stick from Zildijian. It's a wood tipped 7A that is shorter than the normal stick. I have a couple of vintage Ludwig kits. Those stay at home. I play a late seventies Rogers kit live. Always use the Remo Coated Ambassador heads for toms. Evans EMAD for the kick. The most standard of sizes 22,12,13,16. I use a Tama piccolo snare with the Black Dynamite Sound Orchestra. Early seventies Zildjian cymbals are in the mix. Kick drum pedal is a seventies Slingerland "Yellow Jacket". I had mine hot rodded by a machinist I know.

SLIT: Do you do drum solos? Do you play bongos?

JW: Drum solos are a bit Fay. Bongos are way too "drum circle" for me. Having said that, everything has it's time and place
SLIT:  What's your favorite drum? Why?

JW: The snare drum. Savor the ghost notes!

SLIT: Can you twirl your drumsticks?

JW: No. But I can break one into a sharp point and sick you with it!

SLIT: What's your position on drum rolls? fills? solos?

JW: Again, that's a taste thing. Rolls and fills are essential in drumming. Solos are for High School kids, Jazz people and Metal Dudes.

SLIT: What's the latest development in your life as a drummer?

JW: One handed roll. Relaxing......

SLIT: How is playing bass similar to playing drums?

JW: Being aware of the root. Playing to the singer. Serving the song. Showing up on time with your shit together. Remembering the Golden Rule.....Partying is a reward not a requirement!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Punk Bugs by Gene Hall

I asked artist Gene Hall to translate his love of bugs and insects into art: punk bugs! Here are some of Gene's specimen's, dressed up in pink & white stripes, and ready to make some noise...

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Legendary...AL PERRY!!!!

SLIT:  How did you get interested in music? Blues? Country?

AP: When I was a kid I used to sit in my room a lot. Just listening to my cheap transistor radio. Then, I think like many others I was swept up in the Beatles and the British invasion stuff. There it went to the Beach Boys, Byrds, Kinks, Cream, all that. I got a couple Mothers of Invention lps for 99 cents at the drugstore and those really warped me, though at such a young age I really didn't know what they were about.

I grew disillusioned with rock in the 70s though. Didn't much care for the singer/songwriter stuff, or the country/rock or even glam for that matter. I'd always wondered who it was on the songwriting credits I'd always see. Like, who is this McKinley Morganfield anyway? Muddy Waters. So, I went through a friends collection one time and explored all that stuff. Of course I was knocked out by all that stuff. I still am. There is always something new to discover.

I didn't get back into rock music until punk came along. That revitalized my interest.
Country sort of came later. Though my dad played Marty Robbins, Eddie Arnold and Tex Ritter over and over while I was growing up. Some of that must have sunk in through osmosis.
Used to be, the bar bands here were either country or hard rock/metal. I don't think you can really live in Arizona without encountering country. And to really appreciate it, it helps to have some life experience. You know, have your heart broken a time or two.

SLIT:  What was your first guitar?

AP: I got a cheap acoustic from my parents after eighth grade. I had guitar lessons for a short time. Just learned basic reading skills is as far as I went. I'd learn really simple rock n roll instrumentals. Mel Bay!  I have to confess I was into Clapton and all that early on. I got a Strat too. Wish I still had that guitar.

SLIT:  Do you play any other instruments? Are you self-taught?

AP:  I play bass, but that's really not different from guitar. And sometimes I used to play drums. And soprano sax. Free Jazz!

SLIT: What do you like better: sounds or songs?

AP: Songs are always where it's at for me. I think almost anyone can obtain a sound. But if there is a good song, that will always shine through, regardless of the sound.
SLIT: How did you get involved with Tucson's band scene?

AP: As I said I was into blues and I was playing with some guys and we'd play these parties. This was when I was in college. Finally we got a gig at the good ol Night Train. Just sort of went from there.

SLIT:  What bands have you been in? Which band went the "farthest"?

AP: I was in Subterranean Blues Band, Hecklers, Gila Bend, Anglers, Fraidy Cats. Even did very short stints in the Phantom Limbs, and Naked Prey. I've managed to go to Europe 5 - 6 times on tour. I made an album with Dan Stuart that sold a few thousand copies over there, and we did six weeks which was fun. I'm not real career oriented so nothing I've ever been involved in has gone "far". More like a series of dismal failures, really.

SLIT:  What's your favorite recording that you've played on?

AP: Tough to say. I am pretty self critical. I have a few things where I thought I did some great guitar stuff.

SLIT:  What's your feeling about lead solos?

AP: I am a guitar geek, and I like lead solos. I know that is not the 'correct' answer, but if a bands got a great lead guitarist I'm usually won over.

SLIT: How did you get started in radio?

AP: When Link Wray was going to come to Tucson in the mid-nineties, I was offered to fill in at kxci. I just programmed 3 hours of Link stuff, and someone else was engineering. Turns out that someone was Mike Landwehr, the program director at the time. I asked him how does one go about getting a show, and he said, "when do you want to start?"
So I went on late late night, and moved earlier through the years.
I'm such a fanboy, I love radio. It's easy for me.

SLIT: What's the best song you've ever written? Why?

AP: It changes. Sometimes I don't like any of them. Usually it's the most recent one that I like best. Maybe it's "You Make The Rules" which I haven't recorded properly yet. It has all the elements I like in my stuff: romantic obsession, abject self-abasement, good twang.

SLIT:  What inspires you, musically?

AP: Listening to the great stuff! Always listening.

Tucson Drummers: The funky fresh...BILLY SEDYLMAYR!!

The Pedestrians! The Giant Sandworms! and more!!
photo credit: Cliff Green

Note: Although Billy Sedylmayr is getting aclaim locally for being a singer/songwriter, some people reading this blog might not be aware of his musical roots as a drummer.  So this installment of Tucson Drummers is to fill in some of Billy's backstory about his drumming days. 

SLIT: How did you first get interested in music? In being a musician?

Billy: I’ve loved music from when I was pretty little, especially percussion.  I was the head of the local chapter of the Banana Splits fan club. You sent away cereal boxes…four guys running around in bear suits.(Before you called, I just watched 10 hrs of Hana Barbara stuff.) They used a lot of rock stuff; “evolution revolution”…all I can remember was music.  I got a drumset in 5th grade, and during the summer of 5th and 6th  grade, I spent hours on that kit, and I got better on drums. I can remember always playing, and people always calling my parents and complaining. But by 6th grade, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: play drums.  For some reason, Floyd Sneed, who played a double kick drum for Three Dog Night got me into drumming.  I went to their concert in Tucson (at the TCC)

SLIT: What was your first band?
Billy: My first band was a church band. I was in a church band. By sister sent me stuff yesterday, it was a program in a church band, and I wasw the drummer. Everyone was 21, and I was the only one who was really young…I was young, and Van was in the chorus. We did “Imagine”.  Our church youth group was one part of it.  But after that, my first rock band was called “Fred and Ethel Mertz”. We played several performances at Orange Grove Middle School.

SLIT: What was your first drum set lilke?

My pops bought me my first set. It was a Ludwig orange sparkle. I loved it! I was already so into music. It meant everything to me. 

SLIT: Did you take drum lessons? Or were you self-taught?

Billy: When I was in 5th grade  I took drum lessons.  My dad found me this old cat that works at the newspaper.  He was a drummer in the military in WW2  and he told me how to read music.  He was my first drum teacher.  My next drum teacher was Fred Hayes. Van and I both took lessons drum lessons from him. Fred was more into jazz, and he was a fantastic drummer. When I was in 6th grade I took lessons together with Van.  We’d take lessons together with Fred Hayes.  First one of us would go in for 45 minutes for our lesson then the other. I really got into percussion, and I really got into using the cowbell…probably because of who I learned from.  From the orange sparkle set, I went to metallic Ludwig set, and I used two toms…one ride cymbals, two crashes and a cowbell.  I’ve always loved percussion. I never saw myself doing anything else. 

SLIT: Who are some of your drumming influences?

Billy:  Drumming influences: Jim Kellner, Miles Davis, Elvin Jones, and Brian Downey (from Thin Lizzy). In town, Fred Hayes, Bruce Halper, Marx Loeb (he was in Las Cruces) Gabriel’s little brother is a great drummer. I wanted to be Steve Marriott from Small Faces.  “Superfly” had the biggest effect on me as a drummer.  I learned each nuance of that album.  I got really into soul. I was hearing rock n’ roll, from “Wolfman Jack” on the radio.  I tried to figure out what Curtis Mayfield was doing with his guitar, and then translating it to my drums. I wasn’t your typical rock drummer, because I was so much into funk, soul, and jazz. I really loved percussion: the cowbell, congas… 

SLIT: Do you play other instruments?
Billy: I play some piano and guitar.  I think it’s great if a drummer can also play piano, because drums and piano are both percussive instruments. If you can play piano, it opens up a whole different thing for you.  Piano and drums are a lot one and the same. But a piano has notes. (As a kid, I could play Elton John’s “Madman Across The Water” on the piano; that whole period of Elton John’s music).  I started playing guitar only later. When I was in the joint, there was a chick in there, she brought me 12 string Yamaha guitar, and they drilled my DOC number into it.. but they drilled in right on the neck between the tuning keys.  I asked Rainier to make me a cassette so I could tune my guitar… I would tune up to the tape that he made me.  

SLIT: Who are some of your musical influences?
Billy:  Some of my musical influences are: Leon Russell, Elton John (Tumbleweed Connecton), James Brown (Sex Machine), Chuck Berry, the O’Jays (“Smile in your face’)…”What’s Goin’ On” is genius shit.. and then you’ve got the Philly Sound…and then you’ve got..Todd Rundren, the Ojays…I’ve got tons of cassettes… I first heard Miles Davis from Van’s dad in his truck.  Then jazz fusion happened, and that blew my mind. I also really liked  “Weather Report”.  Fred and Ethel Mertz did “Fresh Garbage” by Spirit.   (The Pedestrians did it too)

SLIT: Anything you'd like to add about The Pedestrians?

Billy: Looking back, drumming with The Pedestrians were really seminal for me.  I feel so lucky to have played with Chris, Dave, John… and opening for the Ramones: they were a big deal to me. Wow, it was like …just incredible.

SLIT: So what are you up to lately? Will you ever play drums again?

Billy:   I'm writing and playing new original material! And I've decided...If I do any recording with a band, I want to make it with my own drumming!  I just played a little bit recently.  It feels good to play drums again.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

SLIT Interview: The Awesome...Caitlin von Schmidt!!

SLIT:  When did you learn to play bass?  Do you play any other instruments?  Have you always been "musical"?

CV: I never learned how to play bass, can't you tell?  Seriously, I really wish I'd taken lessons cos I think it would've made things so much easier.  I look at people like Little Dave Roads & Jim Parks & I am so envious.  Anyway, when Chris Holiman asked me if I wanted to start a band with him (the River Roses), I couldn't play much of anything, just a few folk chords on guitar, so of course I played bass.  He had a bass with only two strings on it & I remember I played it that way for a while before we even added the other two strings.  Ah, the '80s!

I finally learned to play bar chords on guitar, and I can pound out some chords on piano (and have written a few songs that way) but that's about it.  My poor father, he gave me so many instruments (like throwing spaghetti against the wall & hoping it will stick) - guitar, banjo, mandolin - but I never really learned any of them properly.  What I did learn, growing up around so much music (my father was a musician and my mother was house mother for musicians at the Newport Folk & Jazz Festivals in the summer), was how to hear harmonies.  I think that actually helped when I was writing bass lines.

SLIT:  Where did you learn to sing? (You have a nice voice!)

CV: Same thing.  I just opened my mouth, and I was encouraged.  Did a lot of singing at my father's parties, though I may not have had the nerve to sing loud enough for anyone to hear till I was in bands.  And harmonies, I just hear them in my head.

SLIT:  How did you get started with the River Roses?  What other bands have you been in?  Have you ever toured with a band?

CV: Well, I dated Chris Holiman for a little while in the early '80s, and after we broke up, he asked if I wanted to start a band with him.  Now, as a general rule, I don't recommend that ANYONE start a band with someone with whom they've recently broken up, but I'm glad I did.  If it wasn't for Chris asking me to do the River Roses, I may not have ever been in bands.  After the River Roses had been around for a bit, I was also in an all-girl band, Ortho28, with Tina Evans (The Johnies), Linda Andes (Los Hamsters), & Nell (last name?).  Ortho28 was a blast, cos I had kind of an alter-ego for shows (I remember thinking of Vanity 6), and we all just picked favorite songs to cover, or did songs we'd written that the other bands we were in didn't want to play.

Later, after I left the River Roses & moved away to New York, I came back & had Caitlin & the Stickponies.  Having my own band let me play so many of the songs we didn't have room for in the Roses.  Julia Mueller (now LaTray) & I would sit around with guitars, our feet in a pool, learning harmonies; it was a great way to spend evenings in Tucson!  There were a lot of Stickpony line-ups but I have to say - playing with Julia, Sean Murphy, & Peter Catalanotte was nirvana, just sheer joy.  Oh, and Julia & I did a duo thing for a while, which was also a blast.

Never toured.  The Roses toured a little after I left, but the most I ever did was make it to Phoenix &, a couple of times, to SXSW.

SLIT:   How did you get started as an artist?  How would you describe your artwork?  Who are your fave artists?

CV: My father & grandfather were both artists, and my father (and mother, for that matter) was really encouraging.  We always had tons of art supplies and art was valued as a vocation.  I just always drew.  For a long time, the subject was mainly horses (very girly of me!); I could draw a killer horse for a while.

When I went to the U of A, however, it was for racetrack management and my father was thrilled!  Finally someone in the family will make money, he told people.  (He must've been referring to himself - my grandfather was actually a very successful illustrator.)  But after a couple of years, I drifted into graphic design, figuring I'd go into a moneymaking branch of art.  I wasn't up to the rigors of graphic design though; I was way too messy.  If computer graphics existed then, I might've stuck it out.  Instead, I drifted into painting, and finally got my BFA.  I went to grad school around the turn of the century, in artisanry with a concentration in metals, but my thesis show was all mixed-media, no metal in sight, and now I can't even remember how to solder.

My artwork is all over the map, I'd say, but always representational.  I haven't done much of anything for a while - it's amazing how much time a three-year-old boy eats up - but I look forward to getting back to doing something.  These days I mainly do flash websites, and the occasional odd project, like the posters for the Congress 20th, 21st, and 25th celebrations.  I'm trying to get my own website up finally (cobbler's children go without shoes, so they say) & people will be able to see some of my past work if they have such an inclination., for those of you patient enough to keep checking.

Favorite artists?  That's a brutal question, as bad as asking for your favorite records, books, or movies of all time.  Um, Eakins, Velasquez, Hopper, Joseph Cornell, Geo. Herriman, Windsor McKay, Maurice Sendak, Yoshitomo Nara, Ronald Searle, Lynda Barry, WeeGee, Diane Arbus (yes, I'm putting photographers in there - they're artists!).  Really, the list could go on & on so I'm forcing myself to stop!

SLIT:  Any fave books?  Movies?

CV: See above - brutal question!  I'm a big fan of Ray Bradbury & Phillip K. Dick.  I still love The Shining & Dead Zone.  Dickens.  But honestly, I hardly ever have time to read these days.  I'm afraid our tv-watching schedule really cuts into reading time.  God, my brain must be melting.

Movies - The Butcher Boy, Brazil, The Quiet Man, Uncle Buck, My Neighbor Totoro & Spirited many great movies.

SLIT:  Have you ever drawn comics? If you were a superhero, what would your superhero powers be?

CV: I did a couple of comics for you, for Slit, back in the day!  But never really superhero comics.  I think mine would've been more like Harvey Pekar, or maybe Love & Rockets, in terms of subject matter, I mean.  Which isn't to say I never read superhero comics; I was a big fan of Spiderman, Batman, & Swamp Thing.  If I were a superhero, my superpower would be not worrying about how I looked in my costume.  And turning stuff into marshmallow.  Mmmmm, marshmallow...

SLIT: If Toulouse Lautrec were alive today, and he asked you to model for him, would you do it?

CV: Who on earth WOULDN'T do it?

SLIT: What are some milestones in your artistic/musical/creative life?

CV: Joining my first band (the Roses); performing with my father at the Newport Folk Festival; getting to the Winnipeg Folk Fest to sing with my father & finding out I'd been put on a bunch of panels, ALONE, & having to actually do it; having Bruce McGrew for a prof at the U of A; seeing Camper Van Beethoven for the first time, at Nino's...this is a tough question!  The real milestone, the one that changed everything, was reading a paragraph item in a horse magazine about the racetrack management program at the U of A.  Without that, I never would've moved to Tucson.  Just a few lines of type.  Crazy!

SLIT:   What inspires you?

CV: People.  People in their infinite variety & weirdness inspire me.  People never cease to amaze me.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tucson Drummers: The Amazing....JOHNNY RAY!!

Iron Butterfly! Stinky Felix! 
Romeo! The Onlys! 
The Flesheaters! Hillybilly Prophet!
Johnny Ray today, drummer for Hillbilly Prophet!

SLIT:  What bands have you been in? What's the biggest/most "bigtime" band you've been in? Who do you drum for now?

JR: WOW !!!!  That a pretty big question.... Ill do my best to remember all of them and forgive me if I leave anyone out.  I guess the best way is to start is with my 1st band, That was a band from New Mexico called "Red Rock" . I come from an entertainment family ( 3 drummers, 1 bass/pedal steel) 4 boys and a VERY loud house. One band after the other and some over lapping.

I'm the youngest and when my next oldest brother went to fight  the Viet Nam war he left me not only his drums, but his BAND too. It was a pretty good band and we wanted to get out of town and move to the big city ( Tucson).  We moved to Tucson in the early 70's and did OK for a while and I guess I got some local recognition from backing up Chuck Berry to opening up for Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown.

After that somehow I ended up in the biggest band in Tucson at the time Stinky Felix  playing for thousands of fans at the Reid Park aka Randolph Park band shell, clubs all over town, opening for "Paul Butterfield blues band" at the Community center and playing our big west cost shows at the "Whiskey A-GoGo" in Hollywood opening for Sylvester and the HOT band , after that was a series of garage bands, none very memorable. I used to hang out at "Choo Choos' a lot and met up with a band called "Lip Service"/"City Kids" , I was with them for what seemed like an eternity and traveled all over the Southwest and Midwest. Some great guys in that band, I had a lot of fun with them.

Stinky Felix play Palo Verde Highschool

After that band ended I worked with a few other bands in Tucson and Denver,  Slayer (not the one your thinking),  Romeo,  Boomslang, Ray, Fortner & Stanfield band.

I was with "The Next" w/ Ace Baker & Chris Gebbia", "Prophet" and soon after that did an album with the Davis brothers"Ashbury" Endless Skies album, which has been a constant seller and on top of a lot "best" lists for the last 25 years in more than 10 countries in Europe, I played with the "BenDover band", I also played in a ton of country bands too, "David Dollar band", "Gary Alenn" and some others I cant remember...sorry!!

After that I was with The ONLYS in Tucson for a few years with Jack Martinez and Jeb Lipson, where we produced a couple of videos that played local music video shows and was a good promotional tool for the band, taking us to Los Angeles and getting a small deal with A&M records.

Johnny Ray (left) and The Onlys!
I need to throw out an honorable mention to a bunch of TERRIFIC guys, "the Wumblies" and a dear departed friend Randy Castile, I was the guy who stepped in for Randy at The Night Train when he had some personal issues to take care of in Denver, Those guys welcomed me in and gave me a BIG shot in the arm, I love them all and of course miss Randy C. every day like so many people who new him.

That leads me to your question about biggest/bigtime bands , The Wumblies, and since I moved to L.A. I have been lucky enough to work with some of my personal faves like "The Iron Butterfly", The "Blues Image" both of which had " Michael Pinera" , I was his go-to guy for years, Michael is the guy who wrote"Ride Capt. Ride" and is one of the guitar players that replaced "Eric Braun" in the Butterfly and penned " Butterfly Blue" an awesome tune he is also the 1st to use a "Talk box" in a song, NOT  Peter Framton....

I was also in a band proclaimed to be one of the 1st PUNK bands of L.A. during the 80's " the Flesheaters" , toured and played on thier last album "Ashes of Time" with the poet of that band "Chris D.",

I was with a band called "the Monets" that had a deal with "I.R.S." records for a while. Ive done some work with "the Earl Slick band" and "Ian Hunter" both with Earl Slick prior to his time with John Lennon on The "Double Fantasy" album. After that guys I took a few years off, (yes...I know!!!! ) , But I have been back in action for the last 2 years with MORE energy than I have had in years,( NO STOPPING ME NOW). for the last year and a half I have been working with former Tucsonan, Mark Smythe in his " Hillbilly Prophet" band, and now I'm working on a REUNION album and tour of Europe with my all time favorite song writing duo, Rob & Randy Davis of "Ashbury". Its gonna be AWESOME !!!

SLIT:  Can you please elaborate on your experience with Iron Butterfly? How long were you with the band? How long did it take you to learn the solo?

JR: I met Michael Pinera through a mutual friend and former Butterfly, Bob Hofman. Michael joined the band on the " Metamorphosis" album along with another awesome guitar player"Rhino", I think one of their best records.  I was with them for about 5 years and did alot of shows in and around California. The biggest was probably " Concerts for the Homeless Heros" benefits, at that time there were alot of Viet Nam vets  that JUST needed some help. So we tried to raise some money for them, the shows included members of ther Doobie Bros, Michael Macdonald, Glen Fry and other members of the Eagles, and as I mentioned Iron Butterfly, The Blues image. It was such a heart warming feeling seeing all the men in wheelchairs and crutches rocking and singing along to the songs they heard  while flying over Viet Nam and walking through the jungle to fight for the freedom we all enjoy today.

Howie.... as far as the solo goes , it was something most drummers tried to learn back then, so I knew most of it when I got the opportunity to play in the band, I guess that gave me a little edge on it, I think I had it down, or at least enough to recognize the key sections of it. Its a very solid structured solo, almost like a part of the musical piece. The song wouldn't be the same without it....

SLIT:  How did you know you wanted to be a drummer? How did you get started?

JR:  Like so many others, When I saw the Beatles play on the Ed Sullivan show, I new I wanted to play drums. And watching my brothers play inspired me too. It was my next oldest brother that got me going, he  new I was sneaking around and playing his drums when he was out, so when he went in the Army he said: "you have 8 weeks till I get back from basic training, if I think you have it, you can keep my drums" that was my 1st audition, I think I passed!!!

SLIT:  What were your first drums like?

JR: They were a Blue marine pearl " Ludwig" four piece with a " Black Beauty " snare. GOD... I loved that snare and kick myself everyday for letting it go.... all you drummers out there know what it would be worth now!!!

SLIT:  Are you self taught? How did you practice?

JR: Yes, self taught, I really never got any instruction from anyone, not even my brothers. I just developed a way of listening VERY carefully and seeing how things are played in my mind, I still use that technique today for a lot of work I do, I find that being "pre-cognitive" and reading body language helps in doing a show backing an artist with very little rehearsal . I visualize the patterns in my head and then sit down and go through it till I have it. And as far the sound goes there a wide variety of tuning things you can do to reproduce anyone's sound. In the beginning I used to play along with records to learn what I needed from the popular music at the time. My neighbors hated me, but eventually I would get a crowd built up outside my window... that was cool!!!

SLIT:  How often do you tune your drums? Do you have a special technique for tuning drums?

JR: I tune them every time I sit down, just to make sure everything is where its supposed to be. No real special tuning technique, Its just important to have the drum "in tune with its self" you cant force a drum to do what its not meant to do, each drum shell has its own pitch and that's where you need to start, tuning the lugs across from each other and making sure they match. And the bottom head a little higher or lower than the top to bring out the resonant tone you are looking for...

SLIT:  Have you ever toured with a band? If so, describe what it's like

JR: I toured with "the Flesheaters" and a lot of bar bands. I love the road, its like being on vacation and getting paid for it....

SLIT:  Would you ever wear face makeup in a band?

JR: Not if I can help it... there was a time when I worked with a Beatles tribute band and wore a wig, but I couldn't deal with that. The only other time was in Stinky Felix, we used to wear make up and glitter and stuff....what can I say, it was during the GLAM band times.... All I do now is a little eye liner sometimes, I'm getting older and it looks kinda ridicules to do that shit now.

SLIT: Do you prefer to play slow songs or fast songs?

JR: I am and always will be an "accompanist", that's my job as a drummer. So I will play whatever I am supposed to play, but I must say I prefer to play slower or medium tempo music, There is more room for feelings and dynamics. The faster you play the harder it is to maintain that, that's when you get into all this stuff to many of today's young players are doing, playing everything they know in ONE song, after that whats left???  I prefer to be a "song player", meaning.... Knowing when NOT to play is as important as playing the groove.

SLIT:  How do you hold your sticks?

JR: Matched grip...I'm most comfortable that way, but Id love to learn traditional grip someday, Hey Marks!!!! can you throw me a few tips???

SLIT:  Who are your fave drummers? Any particular drum lick that you've gotten from another drummer, which you've incorporated into your repetoire?

JR: John Bonham, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Simone Phillips, Clive Bunker. I hope that I have picked up a little from all of them in my style of playing, But I guess I have been able to use mostly foot work techniques  from the great John Bonham, Ive been told I play a lot like him...

SLIT:  What's your position on drum solos? Tommy Ramone or Stewart Copeland? Charlie Watts or Ringo Starr?

JR: I'm really not into that whole stick twirling and juggling act thing, I'm a groove man, nothing against the guys that do it, its just not my thing. I did have to do the drum solo in "Ina goda da vida" when I was with the Iron Butterfly, that was fun and challenging at the same time... but I try to avoid those thing, Its not my job to try to steal the show. I'm here to enhance the show and work as a team, not a soloist!!!

I gotta go with Stewart and Ringo....

SLIT: How do you feel about drum machines? How about syn-drums?

JR: Drum machines have earned a place in today's music, you just need to keep in mind that it is a tool and not a replacement for what a human can and ALWAYS will do !!! The same applies to syn-drums. They all have a time and a place when they can be useful to create the BEST musical experience that you can provide for the audience....

SLIT: Do you play any other instruments? Would you play a gig on a cardboard box?

JR: I don't play anything else, Ive devoted my life to playing drums and percussion. A "cardboard box" huh!!!  Ive played on some drums that sounded like that. Does that count???

SLIT: Have you ever drummed to music from other countries or cultures?

JR:  would love the opportunity to play and learn drumming techniques from other countries and cultures, Ive heard some stuff from Africa and South America that blows me away. I think it would be an awesome experience to do that, drummers from there have to learn on whatever is available and that alone gives them a different take on rhythm techniques in general.

Thanks Howard and the "Slit Blog" for including me in on the "Tucson drummers" series, Its been an honor and I hope I didn't get to wordy with my answers, its been a challenge trying to remember ALL that I have done over the last 40+ years. I'm not done yet folks. I try to live my life by the great comedian George Burns words.... " I cant die yet !!! I'm BOOKED..." so, Ill see all you Tucsonans soon, I miss ya!!!
Peace and Love,
Johnny Ray