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Who The Heck Is Joe Tomino?

Full Name: Joe Tomino

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Number of Years Playing Drums: I’m not exactly sure how many years I’ve been playing, but my father was a drummer and there was always a kit in the house, so I’ve been beating the skins for as long as I can remember. But I definitely became more serious about playing music in high school.

Past and Present Band Affiliations: Before moving to New York City I played in a band called, birth (an experimental jazz/electronic/rock trio of sax, electric bass and drums). After I moved to New York in 2000 I started a band called Dub Trio and we continue to tour and record music. From 2006–2008 Dub Trio was the backing band for Mike Patton’s Peeping Tom. Currently Dub Trio is the backing band for Matisyahu. Sometimes we open as Dub Trio and play a headlining set too – that’s a lot of work, though!

Other artists I’ve played and/or recorded with are The Fugees, Lady Gaga, Wyclef Jean, Leela James, Del Amitri, Battle of Mice, Simply Red, Ying Yang Twins, & Wayne Krantz.

What’s on your Drumkit? My touring kit changes from gig to gig. With Matisyahu I use 14” Paragon Hats, 19” AAX X-Plosion crash, 18” Stage Crash, 22” HHX Heavy Legacy Ride, 19” AAX China. I use Pearl Reference shells with 22” Kick, 12” Tom, 16” Floor Tom, 14 x 5 ¼ Snare (20 ply), and a 14” Elite Timbale.

When I’m touring with Dub Trio I don’t use a ride. I switch to 15” X-Celerator Hats, and I swap the 18” Stage Crash for a 19” Saturation Crash, and my 12” Tom for a 13” Tom. I also use the following electronics in my setup: Roland SPDS, SP 303, RE-20, Spring King and a mixer.

For studio work, my go-to cymbals are typically a 14” Paragon and 14” Groove Hats, 18” Studio Crash, 20” Studio Crash, 20” HHX Legacy Ride and 20” Memphis Ride. Each situation calls for its own colors and timbres though, so this is always changing.

What ONE cymbal could you never go without? My 14” Paragon Hats are really something special. They’re quite versatile. However, I recently got a 20” HHX Legacy Ride and I could see that becoming my new favorite. It works nice as a ride and a crash.

Why do you play SABIAN? While on tour a few years back, I was in a transitional phase and looking to expand my cymbal palate. I found myself always checking out what other drummers were playing and more often than not it was Sabian. So I started digging deeper, going into music shops while on the road to really explore Sabian cymbals, and I found everything I had ever wanted to hear. Eventually I was welcomed as an endorser in the Sabian family, and that’s exactly what it feels like – a family. They are always there to answer questions, ship me cymbals on the road, hook-up a photo shoot, you name it.

What’s the story behind your first drum kit? I sort of had a little help with that one. My father let me sell one of his old kits and use the money toward a new one. So I took the money he gave me and pooled it together with the money I had saved by doing chores and saving a year’s worth of lunch money and bought my first kit in 9th grade. That was a dream come true!

You have played professionally in many different genres – is there one genre that was more difficult to master? Any genre of music has a required skill set and vocabulary that you must learn in order to play the music convincingly. But Jazz is definitely one genre that I believe you need to immerse yourself in 100% to be able to hang with other musicians who play it well. The music relies so much on improvisation so you need to be able to communicate as though you’re speaking your native tongue. Jazz requires both technical and intellectual chops.

Metal is another demanding style, but in a much more physical sense. It relies more on patterns and demands plenty of stamina and endurance.

Was there a pivotal moment in your life when you knew all you wanted to do was play drums? That happened twice, when I heard Gene Krupa’s “Drumming Man” and Motley Crue’s “Dr. Feelgood” albums!

Who are your drumming and percussion influences? That’s a tough one to narrow down. I feel like there is something I have learned from everyone. But here is a list of some players who have really influenced me: Tony Williams, Chris Dave, Sly Dunbar, Tomas Haake, Squarepusher, Neil Peart, J Dilla, Jeff Porcaro, Elvin Jones, Al Jackson, Terry Bozzio, Dave Grohl, Jay Bellerose, Jim Black, John Bonham…the list goes on and on!

What key piece of advice would you give to aspiring drummers? Listen and watch as much music as you can. Play with as many people as you can. Learn about the music business a much as you can. Learn a chordal instrument (piano or guitar). Have a good attitude. But perhaps above all, develop your own “unique” voice on the drums.

If you could record an album and tour with any musician past or present, who would it be and why? I would have loved to work in the studio with King Tubby. He was such an innovator in terms of recording, engineering and mixing. I’ve learned a lot by listening to his recordings. Presently, I really dig what Trent Reznor has done throughout his career. It would fun to work on something with him. Or maybe a duet record with NYC saxophonist Jeremiah Cymerman. He has some great compositions and concepts.

Tell us about your very first live show: I played my first live club show when I was 12. We were a rock band that wrote all our own songs. But we did do one cover, Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick”, and it was only then that I became a bit nervous. I think we played a thirty minute set or something like that.

Do you find drastic differences among audiences from country to country? Not really. A great audience is a great audience and it doesn’t matter if they speak Russian, English or Japanese. What is different is the ability to survive and pay the bills as a musician. Not so much country to country, but continent to continent. Playing overseas is much different than playing in the US. It’s a bit more difficult to tour in the US, in terms of building your fan base: the US is huge and you could tour year round if you chose too. Also, people abroad seem to dig that fact that you’re a band from the US, New York City especially, so there’s kind of a foreign intrigue thing going on…I guess.

What type of audience gives you the most energy and creative feedback – thousands of screaming fans, or an intimate small club setting? For me, it’s the smaller club setting where the musicians are almost on top of the fans. Playing arenas or sheds are cool too, but you don’t get the same kind of visceral connection with an audience that you get in a club.

You’ve just recorded a new album with Dub Trio – now what’s next? In addition to Dub Trio’s new album, IV, we also recorded a live record, “Live at Stubbs II”, with Matisyahu. So, I think 2011 will demand much time spent in buses, airports, venues and hotels touring behind both releases. However, it’s nice to be at home with my family too. When I’m at home I always try to fit in some session work, jam sessions, and I write music too.

Do you have any projects in the works with other artists that you can tell us about? Not presently. I have a few things in mind (possibly a solo record), but I’m lucky to be busy enough as is right now.

Question from our Online Community
Shaun Struwig asks – what technique(s) do you find yourself always trying to master?
A few things actually: 1) how to effortlessly blend my electronics with my acoustics, 2) Moeller Technique, and 3) Relaxing while playing. Breathing control is everything.

Mat Fitzgerald asks – Lee “Scratch” Perry or King Tubby?
Both Scratch and Tubby were innovators in the style of dub. Each one had their own sound. Scratch was little more experimental and unorthodox in terms of timbre, composition and technique, whereas Tubby was much more scientific in his approach. Tubby was actually an amazing electrical engineer who used to build his own electronics that he used in his studio. They're both very important musical visionaries, but I choose…..Tubby. I just love they way his mixes sound and feel. Tubby's dub style was untouchable!

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