In just few short years, Flavio Cirillo has gone from a pavement-pounding freelance drummer in his hometown of Vancouver, to traveling the world over. The latest drummer for Warner Canada/ Roadrunnner International Recording Artists Hail the Villain, Flavio possesses the inherent ability to make good things sound great, and to make great things sound like you never imagined they could.
Number of Years Playing Drums
All I know is I've been hitting things since I was 10 years old. I’m bad at Math!
Past and Present Bands/Affiliations
Hail The Villain, Bif Naked, Independent
What’s on your kit? Do you have a favorite cymbal?
For Hail The Villain I am currently using 15" HHX Groove Hats, 24" HHX Legacy Ride, 20" Vault Crash, 20" AAX X-Plosion Crash, and a 21"HHX X-Plosion Crash. My favorite cymbals have been my Groove Hats, but ever since SABIAN made me a 24" Legacy Ride, I've been cheating on my HATS with it!
Why do you play SABIAN?
I had been searching for a cymbal company that truly owned a full arsenal of cymbals. I needed consistency among this arsenal of cymbals in order to give me the ability to mix and match among the many models and series. This is important to me, given the wide variety of bands and artists I play with. It had always struck me that perhaps SABIAN was this company. But one day I was hanging with my good friend Daniel Adair (Nickelback) and he mentioned how happy he was to be part of the SABIAN family. He hooked me up with Terry Ryan (Canadian Artists Relations manager) at SABIAN. Terry did a great job helping me find everything I needed, and ever since SABIAN and I have lived happily ever after!
What’s the story behind buying your first drum kit?
Well, by the time I was 12 years old, I had already spent years air drumming and banging on everything that I could get my sticks on. I was also playing in the High School Jazz and Stage bands and I guess my Mom and Dad were tired of me marking up all their good furniture! It was clear to them that drumming was my passion. I came home from school one dreary Vancouver fall day, and my Dad asked me to lend him a hand loading a new sofa. This involved driving downtown during rush hour in the pissing rain to pick it up. Needless to say, I was not impressed.
When we finally made it to Granville street, I was acting like any other grumpy teen would in the same situation. But all of a sudden Dad walks into Mother’s Music with a grin on his face and tells me the couch story was just a gag and that we were actually picking up a drum kit he had ordered for me earlier that day. Needless to say, I was ELATED! I pounded the snot out of that kit and drove my family nuts for years. I still have that kit to this day.
Was there a pivotal moment in your life when you knew all you wanted to do is play drums?
There were two. The first was at 17 when playing in one of my first bands, Borrowed Equipment. We were under-age and snuck into a club to open for a Punk/Thrash band called The Muscle Bitches. They wore different colored jock straps to match their Mohawks, and they played miniature guitars and an old beat-up drum kit. I thought it was so cool – I was hooked!
The second pivotal moment came when I was just out of High School and opted not to go to college. I was definitely a little lost at that point of my life. I always knew I wanted to make a career out of playing drums, but making it happen did not seem real to me. I went to a Drum Clinic and got to listen to guys like Dave Weckl, Kenny Aronoff and Steve Ferrone play and give advice. I was extremely motivated after that experience. Their playing was so inspiring that it became very clear to me: if they could do it, so could I.
Who are your drum and percussion influences?
I would have to say, in no particular order, John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Stewart Copeland (The Police), Matt Cameron (Soundgarden), David Sandström (The Refused), Tony Hajjar (Sparta, At The Drive In), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Mike Bordin (Faith No More), Vinnie Colaiuta, Abe Cunningham, Tony Williams, Josh Freese and of course Dave Grohl in whatever band he plays in! These drummers influenced me because I loved the music. I was never a guy who liked drummers because of their drumming alone. For me, it’s always about the music!
What key pieces of advice would you give to aspiring drummers?
I would have to say just play, play, play, play and play! Make sure you get out of the practice room and learn to connect musically with other people if you want to play drums for a living. Put yourself into all the musical situations that you can. Have big ears and don’t be a drummer who simply plays drums in a band; rather, be a drummer who plays music in a band.
If you could record an album and tour with any musician, who would it be and why?
Oh man, that’s a really tough question. I really love playing with Hail The Villain and I'm looking forward to the coming onslaught of touring. I'm also really pumped for the next record we get to make together. But … I must say that every time I listen to Jeff Buckley’s album, "Grace", I wish that he were still alive and making music today. And if by any magic in the universe he would call me to play on his follow-up record, believe me, I would jump at the chance!
Tell us about your very first live performance
My first live show happened in High School when I was 13. I was performing with my High School Stage Band with kids who were all two-to-three years older than I was. I was the new kid in the rehearsal room and they all kept a close watch on me. My school had a great reputation for its bands and also had this HUGE old theatre (Massey Theatre) where all the performances were held.
It would pack up pretty good in there, and probably half the audience was from my huge Italian family! So, this being my first performance with the stage band, I was feeling the pressure and was definitely fretting the solo I had to play. I knew all eyes would be on the new kid behind the drum kit. And the fact that it was extremely uncomfortable in the wool uniforms they made us play in didn't help. In the end, it all went well, and I had a blast. I loved the rush and the feeling of performing and playing under pressure. It was something that I simply accepted, and from that point on it has become something I look forward to.
Is there a difference between playing with (the all-male band) HTV and with the force that is Bif Naked?
The gigs are very different. It was such an interesting show playing with Bif, where we almost always headlined. Our set was full of songs that the whole crowd knew and sang along with. Bif Naked fans are so loyal. She's had all kinds of hits on the radio since 1991, so we played a real diverse set. The fans knew the songs inside-out, so we had to maintain a balance between keeping things fresh while staying true to the original. And we still rocked out! With HTV, we go onstage and work very hard to leave our mark on the audiences. We have a ton of fun up there, but we want the audience to walk away from our show with their asses being kicked, and also a little surprised. Bryan is a pretty crazy front man, and he gets the crowd into the show right away, whether they like it or not. The whole band has a pretty rowdy vibe, and the stage is very much ALIVE!
It's completely different being onstage with an established artist like Bif, where each show is a fun cruise, and with HTV, a band that is wild and very hungry to prove something.
What was it like touring with fellow SABIAN endorsers and heavy hitters on the Uproar Tour? (Wengren, Portnoy, Mayorga, Vinnie Paul)
It was AWESOME! I have done some summer tours before, but nothing like UPROAR. It was such an amazing tour on so many levels, but especially great for the drummer hang. It was really cool to be able to hang and become friends with these legendary players. I pretty much grew up listening to these guys and all of a sudden we’re hanging out, making jokes and having dinner and beers together. The drummers on the tour were so unique and different – each definitely had his own thing going on. Playing alongside these guys made me bring my "A” game every day, no doubt. And then to get a pat on the back from these guys and have them dig what I do was very humbling. Another cool thing is that we all dropped records at the same time so it looks like I'll be seeing these guys on-and-off again on the road throughout the year.
Are there differences among audiences from country to country? Who parties the hardest?
Yes, definitely. Each country certainly has its own identity and its own music culture. As a performer you definitely feel it. For instance, in the UK, there is that same patriotic soccer mentality in the way they like to interact and be part of the show. In North America, it's still an amazing experience, but different. The energy is always different, and that has a major effect on us and how we play our show. As far as who parties the hardest? Hmm, well, I think that some of the Canadian crowds we've played for were pretty “on”, but being Canadian we're just too nice! I'm not sure I can pick a country, but I can definitely pick a city. I think some of the craziest and rowdiest crowds have to be in St. Louis. They’re bonkers for HTV and when we roll into town they definitely bring it!
Tell us about your experience with Hail the Villain: how and when were you approached to play with them?
It’s been nothing short of amazing so far! These guys are already my brothers – we have definite chemistry. Not just onstage, but even when we’re hanging together. Joe (HTV guitar-player) and I had other musicians come up to us on UPROAR and ask if we grew up playing together. We chuckled, but we had to confess…"this is show number 6, dude," or whatever the number was. It’s a great compliment to know that our music is translating on so many different levels. The whole band takes a lot of pride in bringing it to our live show every night and to make the each night better than the one before. I was actually approached by the guys just before the UPROAR Tour. They had just flown home from a tour in Asia and parted ways with their drummer. I got the call, flew in from Vancouver and met them in Toronto. After only two warm-up shows and one rehearsal day in Minneapolis, we jumped into the madness of the UPROAR tour. Crazy!
Was the UPROAR tour your first experience playing live with HTV?
Well, sort of. It was the first show I played with them as their drummer, but we had met on the road a few times while I was on tour with Bif. They actually opened for Bif, so I had the chance to see them live a number of times. Whenever they rolled into town, I would make sure to go see them.
What’s next for HTV?
Well, we have a few weeks off, but I fly out to meet the guys and play three, one-off fly-out shows for Halloween. After that we go into rehearsals to work on new material and put together a few different set lists. Then we ship out to play in Vietnam, which I'm very excited about. After Vietnam, we come home and start touring in the US and Canada straight through until just before Christmas. Our new single, "Runaway", drops in the next few days, so we’ll be shooting a video for it. There’s lots going on in the HTV camp. It looks like this will set the pace for us for at least the next year. Which is okay by me!
Aside from HTV, will you be working on any other projects in the near future?
I'm sure if I can find the time and it doesn't conflict with HTV, I’ll find a way! HTV keeps me pretty busy, but after being on the road for such an extended period of time, I came home for two weeks expecting to have some R&R. But when the phone rang with the offer of a week of studio work, I couldn't say no. I love my job!
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