Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The DRUMMER SESSIONS - Steve DiMartino

- Barry Miller



I PICKED STEVIE DI, AS I KNOW HIM, FOR MY FIRST DRUMMER SESSION. WHY? BECAUSE HE IS THE EXEMPLAR, THE MODEL, THE MOLD, OF ALL DRUMMERS I KNOW. HE IS WHAT DRUMMERS NEED TO BE OR SHOULD BE, IN MY OPINION. HE IS THE MONSTER ON THE MUPPET SHOW. HE IS THE FIRE BEHIND THE BAND THAT BURNS THE GROOVE. HE IS THE DRUMMER WHO MAY CALL OUT A BASS PLAYER BECAUSE HE IS MISSING THE GROOVE; BUT HE WILL PROBABLY DO IT WITH A SMILE ON HIS FACE - ONCE.

HE IS THE DRUMMER WHO STARTED AS A KID BECAUSE HE HAD THE PASSION, THAT
INTANGIBLE TRAIT THAT SETS THE GOOD DRUMMERS AND MUSCIANS APART FROM THE REST OF US.



HE IS A PLAYER WITH GREAT NATURAL TALENT, SELF TAUGHT FOR THE MOST PART. STEVIE IS A MAN OF TWO PASSIONS; CARS AND DRUMS. ON THE DAY OF OUR INTERVIEW HE WAS WORKING ON AN AUSTIN 40. AUSTIN’S WERE ENGLISH CARS, MOST RECOGNIZABLE IN LONDON AS THE TAXI CABS. THIS ONE IN STEVIE’S GARAGE WAS A CLEAN, BRIGHT YELLOW, EXAMPLE. HE HAD PUT A TOYOTA ENGINE IN IT FOR BETTER RELIABILITY. STEVIE LIKES TO DRIVE HIS CARS, HIS TOYS. ON HIS GARAGE WALL IS A PICTURE OF HIS BONNEVILLE SPEED TRIALS MOTORCYCLE. IT LOOKS MORE LIKE A ROCKET SHIP FOR EARTH. HE HAS GONE 200 MPH ON THE SALTS OF BONNEVILLE WITH THIS ROCKET SHIP.

BUT MOST OF ALL HE IS A MAN OF ENERGY AND SPIRIT AND DEEP FEELING. WORDS THAT COME TO MIND WHEN I TALK TO STEVIE ARE TRUTH, FEARLESSNESS, GROOVE, GOOD STORIES, AND STRAIGHT AHEAD IN YOUR FACE NEW YORK CITY.

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BM: WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?

STEVIE: I WAS BORN ON LONG ISLAND, SOUTH SHORE, BABYLON, NY. I CAN’T BELIEVE I AM ALMOST 60 YEARS OLD. KNEE HURTS, ARM HURTS, STILL PLAYING, AIN’T IT GREAT THOUGH!

MY BIG INFLUENCES WERE MY WEST BABYLON HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS. TWO OF THEM PLAYED WITH LIONEL HAMPTON. ONE GUY PLAYED SAX AND BROADWAY SHOWS. THEY WOULD BRING THESE GUYS TO OUR SCHOOL! LIKE LIONEL HAMPTON, LOUIS ARMSTRONG. ONE TIME I REMEMBER SITTING ON MY FATHER’S LAP AND LOUIS ARMSTRONG CAME AND TALKED TO MY BROTHER VINNIE . HE SAID JUST KEEP PLAYING THAT HORN. THAT MADE A BIG INFLUENCE ON ME.

I HAD A HARD TIME IN HIGH SCHOOL THOUGH. OUR TEACHER WAS KIND OF MILITARY. I WANTED TO BE IN BAND, BUT IN A ROCK AND ROLL BAND. HE USED TO BEAT ME UP ALL THE TIME. (NOT REALLY, JUST AN EXPRESSION!) MY LAST YEAR IN HIGH SCHOOL I QUIT. SEE I WANTED TO PLAY DRUMS, AND WORK ON CARS. THAT’S IT! SO I QUIT. MY MOTHER SAID YOU GOT TO STAY IN SCHOOL, SO I WENT TO TRADE SCHOOL TO WORK ON CARS. YEARS LATER, I SAW MY TEACHER, MR. ED DEULIO AT THE BRASS BAND FESTIVAL HERE IN KY. HE TOLD ME I WOULD HAVE WON THE JOHN PHILLIP SOUSA AWARD IN HIGH SCHOOL, IF I WOULD HAVE STUCK WITH IT. HE SAID YOU JUST COULDN’T TAKE IT! HE WANTED ME TO BE GREAT, HE BEAT ME UP. HE NEVER GAVE ME A COMPLIMENT. ALWAYS “YOU SOUNDED PRETTY GOOD TONIGHT” OR “YOU DIDN’T COUNT THE SONG OFF RIGHT!” I DIDN’T TAKE IT THE RIGHT WAY. YOU KNOW I ENDED UP JUST PLAYING. I ENDED UP PLAYING AND RACING MY CARS IN HIGH SCHOOL.

BM: DID HE TEACH YOU RUDIMENTS?

STEVIE: YEAH I HAD A GRAY BOOK, STICK CONTROL I THINK. WAS THAT WHAT IT WAS?

BM: YES WRITTEN BY GEORGE LAWRENCE STONE.

STEVIE: YEAH THAT WAS IT. THAT’S THE BOOK YOU NEED TO GET OUT. YOU CAN BE BY YOURSELF. THAT BOOK TO ME, YOU KNOW I’M NOT REAL SMART ABOUT THE CORRECT WAY. I WOULD SEE GADD AND GARIBALDI AND HOW THEY WERE DOING IT, AND I WOULD SEE I WAS DOING IT THE HARD WAY. I WENT TO CONCERTS BUT WE WERE IN THE CHEAP SEATS, SO I COULDN’T SEE EXACTLY HOW THEY DID IT. SOMEWHERE IN THAT BOOK, I CALL IT THE BOOK OF MISTAKES, IS THE RIGHT WAY TO PLAY THE LICKS. YOU MAY HAVE PLAYED A GREAT LICK, BUT IT COMES OUT WRONG SOMETIMES. THAT BOOK IS UNBELIEVABLE! YOU CAN GET WHAT YOU WANT OUT OF THAT BOOK.

I WOULD USE IT LIKE; EVERYTHING ON THE LEFT I WOULD DO WITH MY LEFT HAND, THEN MY LEFT FOOT AND THE SAME WITH THE RIGHT SIDE. I WOULD COME UP WITH PARADIDDLES BETWEEN THE BASS AND SNARE, STUFF LIKE THAT.

BM: WHY DID YOU DECIDE ON DRUMMING?

STEVIE: MY FATHER GOT THE FIRST RCA STEREO. MY FATHER WAS INTO MUSIC. SO WHEN THE FIRST STEREO CAME OUT, THAT’S WHAT HE WANTED. SO WE GOT THE STEREO, WHERE THE SPEAKER IS ON THE RIGHT SIDE AND THE LEFT SIDE. I STILL HAVE THE DEMO RECORD!

BM: LIKE THE CAR RECORD?

STEVIE: YES! LIKE THE TRAIN GOING BY AND ALL; AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HI FI AND STEREOPHONIC. THEY PLAYED THE BAND TWICE AND EVERYTHING (SO YOU COULD HEAR THE DIFFERENCE). SO I USED TO SIT BY THAT AND JUST ROCK. MY MOTHER WOULD ALWAYS TELL ME THAT. I WOULD SIT THERE AND ROCK TO THE MUSIC. MY FATHER LISTENED TO ALL KINDS OF MUSIC, JAZZ, EVERYTHING. HE WOULD ALWAYS BUY THE ALBUMS. YOU NEVER BOUGHT THE 45’S. IT WAS A BETTER BUY FOR THE MONEY, THE ALBUMS. WE USED TO GO TO E.J. KORVETTE’S AND BUY THEM IN THE RECORD STORE PART OF THE STORE. THEY HAD A LITTLE EVERYTHING IN THAT STORE. THIS WAS BEFORE THE BEATLES AND EVERYTHING. WE USED TO JUST LISTEN TO DAD’S RECORDS. I DIDN’T HAVE ANY CHOICE IN WHAT I WANTED. I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I WANTED! HE WOULD LET ME TAKE THE RECORD COVERS AND HE BOUGHT ME A SET OF BRUSHES. I USED TO PLAY THE RECORD COVERS. I CAN SHOW YOU THE RECORD COVERS WHERE THE METAL MARKS ARE. I STILL HAVE THEM.

I DIDN’T HAVE A DRUM SET. MY BROTHER VINCE HAD A BAND. THEY PRACTICED IN THE BACK YARD. WE HAD MUSIC IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. THE NEIGHBOR IN THE BACK HAD A GRAND PIANOTHAT HE BUILT A SPECIAL PLACE FOR. HE USED TO PLAY THAT FAR OUT JAZZ STUFF. HE WAS LIKE A BEATNIK. YEAH, BUT I ALWAYS LOOKED AT THE DRUMMERS. THEY SEEMED TO BE THE FUN GUYS. THEY WOULD ALWAYS KID WITH YOU. SO THEN VINCE’S BAND WOULD PRACTICE IN THE BACK YARD, AND THE LIVING ROOM. I WOULD ALWAYS ASK HIM IF I COULD PLAY THE DRUMS. ONE DAY I CAME HOME ON MY BICYCLE FROM THE POOL. MY MOTHER HAD SAVED HER MONEY AND SHE BOUGHT THIS SET OF DRUMS FROM A GUY NAMED WALLY. WALLY WALTERS WAS HIS DISC JOCKEY NAME. YOU REMEMBER THE BUDDY RICH SET OF DRUMS? IT HAD THAT INITIAL ON THE FRONT, B.R. OK I COME HOME AND I SAY “OH THE BAND IS GOING TO PRACTICE?” I SEE THIS DRUM SET. I WALK AROUND AND I SEE SDM ON THE FRONT OF IT, LIKE BUDDY’S. I LOOK AT MY FATHER AND MOTHER AND THEY ARE GIGGLING. I HADN’T GOTTEN IT YET!

SO I SAY, “DOES THAT STAND FOR STEVE DIMARTINO?” MAN I THOUGHT I WAS GONNA DIE! ALL I GOT IN THE KIT WAS A BASS DRUM, A KITCHEN SEAT, NO THRONE, NO HI HAT, AND NO FLOOR TOM. JUST A MOUNTED TOM, SNARE, AND BASS. SO MY FATHER PUTS ON A RECORD. I STILL REMEMBER WHAT SONG IT WAS. YOU REMEMBER “CUTE”? (WE SING IT, AND THEN PLAY THE RIFF ON THE TABLE) SO THAT WAS IT! EVERYTIME ONE OF MY FATHER’S FRIENDS CAME OVER I HAD TO PLAY “CUTE” WITH THE RECORD.

SO THEN I WOULD PLAY WIPEOUT AND ALL THAT. SO WHEN WAS THAT 65? I WAS STILL IN JUNIOR HIGH. I WOULD ENTER TALENT SHOWS AROUND 12 OR 13 YEARS OLD. I STARTED LATE. VINCE DID TOO, AROUND 14. (VINCE DI MARTINO IS STEVIE’S OLDER BROTHER. HE TEACHES AT CENTRE COLLEGE IN DANVILLE, KY. HE IS ONE OF THE TOP TRUMPET PLAYERS IN THE COUNTRY). I PLAYED EVERYDAY. ONCE I GOT THAT DRUM SET THAT WAS IT. WHEN DID THE BEATLES HIT?

BM: 63?

STEVIE: WELL YOU KNOW WHAT? THAT’S WHEN IT WAS. I AND MY BROTHER ROY STARTED TOGETHER. HE HAD A HARMONY GUITAR, A FAT BODY, PLUGGED IT IN WITH A PICK UP. HE LEARNED FROM A GUY NAMED JOE D. THERE WAS JOE D, JOE Z, AND THEY ALL WORKED FOR LOCKHEED AND PLAYED ON THE WEEKENDS. JOE D, JOE D’ANGELO, WAS A GREAT GUITAR PLAYER FROM NEW YORK CITY. HE HAD BIG MUSCLES AND HE TAUGHT ROY THE BIG CHORDS, LIKE FLATTED FIFTHS, FLATTED NINTHS. HIS BAND WAS CALLED THE TAKE FIVE. THEY ALL WORE THE SAME SUITS, AND THEY PLAYED VENTURES TYPE MUSIC. THE DRUMMER WAS A COOL GUY, HAIR SLICKED BACK, WORE TIGHT PANTS, LIKE THAT BILLY JOEL SONG, JUST LIKE THOSE GUYS! I WOULD LISTEN TO THOSE GUYS AND THAT’S WHERE IT ALL STARTED FOR ME. JUST STARTED WITH THE RECORDS AND WATCHING GUYS. I DIDN’T LKE THE REGIMEN OF SCHOOL. I JUST WANTED TO DO MY OWN THING.

B.M: WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST GIG? WHAT WAS IT?

STEVIE: THE DRUMMER GOT SICK IN JOE Z’S BAND. HE HAD A TERRIBLE TEMPER. IF SOMEBODY ASKED FOR A SONG AND HE DIDN’T WANT TO PLAY IT, HE WOULD FIGHT THEM OFF. HE HAD A FENDER RHODES. ANYWAY, IT WAS A WEDDING GIG. I GOT TO PLAY POLKAS AND ALL THAT STUFF. I DID A GREAT JOB! THEY LOVED IT. I HEARD ALL THAT STUFF FROM MY FATHER’S RECORDS AND LISTENING ALL THE TIME.

MY FIRST ROCK GIG WAS AT VINNY’S HAPPY LANDING, IN BAYSHORE ON THE WATER. A BAND CALLED THE NEWSPAPER TAXI. I ENDED UP ON THE ROAD WITH THOSE GUYS BACKING ALL THE ROCK BANDS. GARY US BONDS WAS OUR MAIN GUY. IN 74 I WAS 21, SO THAT WAS AROUND 71 OR 72 RIGHT OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL.

BM: WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE GIG?

STEVIE: I THINK IT WAS THE METROPOLITAN BLUES ALL STARS. (A VERY GOOD BAND FROM LEXINGTON, KY IN THE 80’S) WE PLAYED EVERYTHING AND THAT IS WHEN I PLAYED THE BEST. THAT BAND WAS MORE ME THAN ANY BAND I EVER PLAYED IN. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT? ONCE AGAIN DRUGS RUINED IT. DRUGS RUINED EVERYTHING. SOME PEOPLE THINK THEY HAVE TO BE HIGH TO PLAY. THEN WHEN THEY QUIT, THEY STILL PLAY GREAT!

I WAS BABY SITTING. I WAS DOING EVERYTHING. BUT, A GREAT GIG. THEN I GOT TO PLAY WITH THE PHILHARMONIC, ALL THAT CHUCK MANGIONE STUFF. I PLAYED WITH A SMALL GROUP WITH VINCE.

BM: HOW DID YOU GET FROM NEW YORK TO LEXINGTON KY?

STEVIE: VINCE WAS HERE. HE WAS AT UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY, TEACHING TRUMPET. HE TOLD ME TO COME ON DOWN. DISCO WAS KILLING THE MUSIC SCENE IN NEW YORK. SO I DID!

B.M: DO YOU READ?

STEVIE: I WOULD SAY NO. I CAN MAKE IT THROUGH IT, I AM NOT A READER.

B.M: DO YOU LIKE TO READ?

STEVIE: NO. I HAVE BEEN REAL FORTUNATE. IN THE RECORDINGS I DID, THE OTHER GUYS WOULD BE PRACTICING AND I’D BE TAKING NOTES, MY OWN LITTLE NUMBERS. I WOULD MAKE IT THROUGH, BUT I DIDN’T READ. I THINK WHEN YOU GOT IT, YOU GOT IT. YOU ARE LUCKY. LIKE BUDDY RICH, WHAT’S THE STORY I RECENTLY HEARD ABOUT BUDDY RICH? HE NEVER WENT TO SCHOOL? HE NEVER READ. YOU CAN’T TELL ME HE DIDN’T KNOW MUSIC. I SEE GUYS THAT READ AND I WISH I HAD LEARNED. I WENT TO EASTMAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC ONE SUMMER AND GOT TO FOLLOW STEVE GADD AROUND. THAT WAS PRETTY FUN!

B.M: WHAT WAS YOUR WORST GIG?

STEVIE: CAN’T REMEMBER ANY SPECIFIC. THAT WOULD BE SOMEBODY JUST GIVING ME CRAP ALL NIGHT, LIKE SHUT UP AND PLAY DRUMS. WHEN I FIRST CAME HERE (LEXINGTON) I GOT TO PLAY COUNTRY. I NEVER PLAYED COUNTRY! IT WAS JUST LIKE OOM PAH; WELL I PLAYED THAT AT THE WEDDINGS BACK IN NEW YORK. I HAD A TASTE OF EVERYTHING. I WAS LUCKY. BUT A BAD GIG! THAT WOULD BE A GIG THAT I JUST WOULDN’T STAY ON. I WOULD SAY I’M NOT THE RIGHT GUY FOR THIS JOB.

B.M: WHAT SETS DRUMMERS APART FROM OTHER PEOPLE?

STEVIE: DRUMMERS HAVE TO HAVE IT. IT HAS TO BE BORN INTO YOU. IT HAS TO BE THERE IF YOU WANT THE BAND TO COOK. MOST OF THE DRUMMERS THAT HAVE BEEN MY FAVORITES HAVE BEEN LIKE YOU KNOW, THE MUPPETS, MONSTER! HE WAS LIKE THE PERFECT DRUMMER. ENERGETIC, BUT SOME ARE VERY LAYED BACK; BUT WHEN THEY HIT THE DRUM SET…!

BUT AS HYPER AS WE ARE, YOU HAVE TO A GOOD LISTENER, MUSICALLY. NO, NOT ME AND YOU, NO! I FINISH EVERYBODY’S SENTENCES! BUT MUSIC; YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO ALL THE MUSIC IN THE BAND. THE DRUMMER HAS TO CONTROL THE BAND. I AM BIG ON DYNAMICS. I KNOW WHEN A SINGER WANTS TO BRING IT DOWN. I AM LUCKY. YOU HAVE TO CONTROL THE DYNAMIC. IF YOU HAVE NO DYNAMICS, IT’S JUST THE SAME ALL NIGHT. BORING! YOU START LOW AND BY THE END OF THE NIGHT YOU BRING IT TO WHERE THE CROWD WANTS AN ENCORE.

B.M: I ALWAYS HEAR PEOPLE SAY THEY WANT TO BE DRUMMERS OR THEY WISH THEY COULD BE DRUMMERS. WHY IS THAT?

STEVIE: LOVE OF MUSIC. I MEAN PEOPLE ASK ME WHAT IT IS LIKE BEING A DRUMMER. THEY ASK ME WHAT IT IS LIKE GOING 200 MPH. I JUST DO IT. LIKE DRUMMING, WE’VE BEEN TAPPING ON OUR THIGHS ALL OUR LIVES! WE JUST DO IT. IF YOU LOVE IT, YOU JUST DO IT. WE ARE LUCKY. YOU’VE PLAYED WITH BANDS. YOU HIT THAT FILL JUST RIGHT AND THE BAND GOES WITH YOU. THAT IS WOW! WE ARE LUCKY TO FEEL THAT WHOLE THING. WE GET TO PLAY ALL THIS STUFF, SNARES, TOMS, AND CYMBALS!

PEOPLE SAY THEY ALWAYS WANTED TO BE DRUMMERS, WELL THEY AIN’T PLAYING! IF THEY WERE GOING TO BE DRUMMERS THEY ALREADY WOULD BE PLAYING! (LAUGHS) I NEVER HEARD ANYONE SAY, OH MY FATHER WANTED ME TO PLAY THE DRUMS, BUT I REALLY WANTED TO PLAY TRUMPET. YEAH RIGHT!

BM: DOES DRUMMING DEFINE YOU?

STEVIE: I’LL TELL YOU WHAT IT DOES FOR ME. I BEEN WORKING ON CARS ALL MY LIFE. I AM 59. GETTING ARM CRAMPS, BACK PAINS, STRAINED ARMS. IT’S GETTING TO ME. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT? I GET ON THE DRUMS I GOT NO PAIN. SO THAT IS HOW IMPROTANT IT MUST BE. WHEN I STOPPED PLAYING FOR A WHILE, I PRACTICED TEN HOURS A DAY, GOT WITH A BAND THAT I THOUGHT COULD REALLY MAKE IT, AND THEY TURN OUT TO BE A BUNCH OF BUMS. BUT I HAD CARS. WHEN I GET INTO A CAR AND START THE ENGINE, MAN! SO I HAD IT, THAT EXTRA THING. BUT NOW SINCE I AM NOT WORKING ON THE CARS SO MUCH, I STARTED PLAYING AGAIN. I REALIZE HOW IMPORTANT IT MAKES MY DAY GO. YOU CAN’T THINK ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE.

YOU KNOW THOSE GUYS THAT HAVE BEEN PLAYING ALL THEIR LIVES. PEOPLE SAY THEY ARE A LITTLE WEIRD. WELL IT DOESN’T MATTER TO THEM. THEY ARE INTO NOTES MAN. THAT’S WHY THEY ARE A LITTLE WEIRD. THEY ARE WITH MUSIC. ONE THING I TELL KIDS. YOU HAVE A BAD DAY; JUST GO PLAY YOUR DRUMS. GO PLAY AN INSTRUMENT. PLAY MUSIC. SCHOOLS ARE SO IMPORTANT TO SHOW THE MUSIC TO THESE KIDS. THE SCHOOLS NEED TO DO IT. SOMETIMES MOM AND DAD DON’T KNOW THE KID NEEDS TO PLAY.

B.M: LAST QUESTION. IF GOD SAYS YOU HAVE A CHOICE, 1 MILLION DOLLARS OR DRUMMING WHICH WOULD YOU CHOOSE?

STEVIE: OH YOU KNOW THAT’S A SILLY QUESTION. THAT’S A MILLION DOLLARS RIGHT THERE. (STEVIE POINTS TO THE DRUM ON THE TABLE) WE ARE LUCKY TO HAVE THEM. IT’S IN US. I WILL PLAY TILL I CAN’T DO IT ANYMORE. YOU KNOW WHEN PEOPLE GIVE ME MONEY; I SAY WOW, THANK YOU. YOU ARE PAYING ME FOR THIS STUFF? I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE MONEY ANYMORE. I JUST WANT TO PLAY.

4 comments:


  1. The paradiddle is the best thing to learn these well with because
    it naturally executes them if you accent the first note of each
    side. If you look at just the right hand: The first accent
    (first stroke) is a down stroke (start high, end low) and the
    next is the double stroke which are both taps. That stroke is
    an up stroke.

    paradiddles
    paradiddle book
    paradiddle exercises

    ReplyDelete
  2. Stevie is my cousin.. my parents divorced I lived with stevie, roy, vincent and andrea/aunt marie and uncle andy..His talent on the drums far surpasses any drummer I hear today.. I remember he introduced me to syncopation ..those days were very special..he would play for hours.. in his soul.. in his heart. music was all around.. his talent on the drums is amazing.. everyone wanted him to play for them and with them..He is a wonderful drummer and amazing and very loving giving person as well. I remember Lionel Hampton visiting as well.. thanks for the memory! I will always love him for the time he invited me to hear him play with Gary US Bond at Madison Square Garden in the early 70's..(chuck berry singing "My ding a ling" and Chubby Checker doing the twist were among the featured artists). I was so proud of him.. it was an amazing concert! He mentioned that his cousins were in the audience and I was thrilled!!

    He is a very loving cousin and a very talented drummer and his talent with cars is amazing. He is one of my idols! I miss you Stevie.. thanks for the happy memories and the wonderful gift of music you gave to me. I will always remember you and your family for the music you gave to me..I would love to hear you play again.. I'll bring the violin this time! Miss you Stevie!! Love, Cousin Karen

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  3. GOOD INTERVIEW, BARRY-----STEVIE IS A MUSICIAN'S MUSICIAN AND A DRUMMER'S DRUMMER.---ENOUGH SAID---SKEETS PENNINGTON

    ReplyDelete