Friday, November 5, 2010

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.

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