12 Q&A’s WITH THE DYNAMO DRUMMER TO THE STARS.
Mark Schulman… you know who he is, right? For twenty years he has been one of the leading independent drummers in the industry, touring the world with major chart topping bands and singers, as well as knocking out audiences with some of the most compelling clinic performances you’ll ever experience.
Mark’s resumé reads like a ‘Who's Who’ of international Rock n' Roll royalty. He’s been P!NK’s drummer for two massive world tours. He has toured or recorded with Billy Idol, Sheryl Crow, Foreigner, Stevie Nicks, Destiny’s Child, Cher, and Tina Turner among others. He played Ozzfest with Velvet Revolver. And with Simple Minds he delivered grooves to crowds of 200,000 at the Glastonbury Festival. The recipient of numerous Gold and Platinum discs, Mark has appeared on nearly every major American and European TV talk and variety show including David Letterman, The Tonight Show, American Idol, Paul O’ Grady, Wetten Das, and many more.
But there’s more to Mark Schulman than world tours and TV shows. As a clinician he’s a one-man media event, delivering thought provoking ideas via a mix of interactive video, tales ranging from humorous road stories to life-changing personal anecdotes, drumming that ranges from ‘here’s how it’s done’ grooves to forays into odd-times fusion. He’s also a real multi-talent – a professional speaker, a producer, a studio owner, an engineer, and a cellist – who is a master at communicating. As he says about his clinics, ‘Prepare for an overhaul of your attitude, deep insights into the world of touring, secrets of how to get the great gigs, and new ideas on how to communicate with other musicians. It’s all about the opportunities you can create for yourself and feeling better about your life!’
Mark’s new DVD, A Day in The Recording Studio (check out the clip to the right), takes a fun, easy-to-understand approach to detailing the complete spectrum of recording drums. Everything from designing and building a studio, the equipment to use, tuning the drums, microphone technique, digital recording as well as the use of effects is combined with his own quick system of charting songs, creating drum parts, performing, and editing. Oh, and there are some cool performances by Mark.
1. When you played the Teenage Cancer Trust concert at the London International Music Show you delivered a blistering take of Tower of Power’s ‘What is Hip?’ What was this like playing such a demanding tune with a band you have never previously played with, and while such top class drummers like Chad Smith, Geoff Dugmore, Andy Newmark and others are looking on?
Fortunately, the musical director put together a top notch band and I rehearsed with the guys beforehand, so I knew they were rockin’. As for song choice, I had always wanted to perform ‘What is Hip? as David Garibaldi has always been one of my greatest influences. A few years back I did a benefit in Phoenix for the late photographer Lissa Wales, and I told the organizer, Troy Lucetta from Tesla, that I wanted to play that tune. But he called me a few days before the event to tell me that Garibaldi would also be performing and wanted to play that song! Of course I deferred to the master, and my buddy Roger and I decided to do the drum and percussion feature Frankenstein, a 70s tune originally by The Edgar Winter Group. Everything worked out fine. Check out this performance at www.markschulman.net
Playing events with my peers is always fun because we get to hang out. Remember, drummers are the coolest people on the planet! The London event wasn’t as much a ‘chops fest’ as it was a chance to play groove music. Here is my philosophy: When we get intimidated, it is because we are thinking of ourselves! If I ever get overly nervous, I turn my attention to the audience to humble me and remind me why I am there. It is a great way to be less selfish and more of service.
2. Teenage Cancer Trust Concerts have been championed by the likes of The Who. But unlike most supporters, you personally have been touched by cancer. In London, you delivered a very eloquent and moving 5-minute account of your situation, which also reminded the audience that you also dedicate yourself to helping and inspiring others who have been afflicted.
For me, it’s about being of service… to assist where I can. That is one of my mantras. I have been through cancer myself, and my ex-wife, Kelly also fought cancer for nearly the entire time of our relationship. We were the Cancer Couple! But our strong attitudes helped us see through the battle to conquer it. Now I feel a sense of obligation to give back and to inspire others and support their healing through my own experience and the unorthodox way I speak about it! Come to one of my drum clinics to get a full dose of how I can change your attitude about disease!
3. Your gigs have been really different. From the funky jazz/fusion of Dave Koz to the melodic muscle rock of Foreigner, to touring with 80s chart toppers Simple Minds, to disco pop with Cher, to the pumped up groove you’re putting out with P!NK. Do you – like Steve Gadd and other greats – draw from a core set of techniques and simply adjust the delivery to match the music?
Absolutely! Like nearly every other musician on the planet, I worked hard over the years to technically perfect my craft. The difference between the musicians who achieve the success I have versus more of a semi-pro status is the ability and desire to really listen and be present for the other musicians. Listen to Steve Gadd’s musicality and you immediately get why he has achieved true greatness. My feeling is that I am there, again, to be of service, to support everyone not only musically but emotionally as well. When I recorded with Simple Minds, I made the best cappuccino. I always made sure that everyone had that cup of coffee and a freakin’ smile! P!NK calls me ‘Disneyland… the happiest place on earth,’ because I’m always smiling and grateful and doing my best to see everyone is taken care of.
4. You are such an inspired and exciting player… and you even have enough energy to share with educational programs, clinics and other events. What is it, in plain terms, that drives your desire and passion?
I simply love the chance to take advantage of opportunities. If I sit idle, I get bored! I do love my time off, but I like to be in the mix of action! I’d rather do that than party a lot on the road!
5. Simplicity is often the key to getting the big gigs; singers and bands want the drummer to set up grooves that make them feel comfortable. You manage to lock down the groove while pumping up the excitement. Can you describe what your mind is telling you to do as you walk onto and sit down behind the drums… the lights go up, you count four and you’re away. What’s happening in your head?
I think about creating the best foundation for P!NK as well as inspiring the audience and the people with whom I share the stage. When I start to lose focus or think about what’s for dinner after the show, I pull myself back in and look into the eyes of people in the audience to remind myself why I am there. We all share a lot of love before we go on stage, so I’m pumped because the people around me are pumped. If they aren’t, then they don’t fit the gig. You don’t get to this level or stay at this level without a strong sense of community, commitment and respect.
6. Which musicians and music – past and present – inspire you?
Paul McCartney is my ultimate musician and a gig I would love to have! My drumming influences were Ringo, Garibaldi, Bobby Colomby with Blood Sweat and Tears, Floyd Sneed with Three Dog Night, Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Ian Paice with Deep Purple, Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck, Ralph Humphrey, Steve Gadd, Jack DeJonette, Bozzio, Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Weckl, Rick Gratton and Gregg Bissonette. More recent inspirations are Julian Coryell, Pete Lockett, Muse, Freak Kitchen (from Sweden), Radiohead, Horacio ‘El Negro’ Hernandez, Josh Freese, Alecia Moore, Justin Derrico, Kat Lucas (keyboard/guitarist with P!NK)… There are so many inspiring players.
7. Energetic as you are, surely some of your inspiration comes from outside music? See above! What do you think when you hear the names of these albums?
* Led Zeppelin #1 (Led Zeppelin w/John Bonham)
What an amazing groove and drum sound! I remember being a kid and having sexual fantasies about a girl while listening to Custard Pie, a tune from Zep’s Physical Graffiti album.
* Back to Oakland (Tower of Power w/David Garibaldi)
My world flipped upside down. I became enamored with Garabaldi. I went to the Roxy in West Hollywood at 16 years old to see TOP, went into the bathroom to pee and standing next to me was DG. I felt like God himself was peeing next to me. I asked him if I could take a lesson with him and he said that he was in the phone book. I though to myself, ‘God is in the phonebook?!’
* The White Album (The Beatles w/Ringo Starr)
I saw Ringo and The Beatles on Ed Sullivan when I was three. I knew at that moment that drumming in a band was what I wanted to do. I still remember the intoxicating excitement that surged through me. Later, I used to run around the backyard when I was 7 and 8 with my friend Kurt. and pretend like we were the Beatles being chased by girls!
* Wheels of Fire (Cream w/Ginger Baker)
When I heard White Room, it sounded like thunder and the 16th note triplets sounded so fast to me at the time. It was my older brother Randy’s record so I especially thought is was cool; even the cover – that tin-foil cover with the drawings – was one of the coolest things I had ever seen
* Are You Experienced? (Jimi Hendrix Experience w/Mitch Mitchell)
I knew nothing about drugs, but I did know that this album came from a different space… it excited me and scared me at the same time. And I’d never noises like those in Third Stone from the Sun. At 9 years old, I embarked upon learning ‘Manic Depression,’ trying to cop all those brilliant fills and playing in three.
* Brother to Brother (Gino Vannelli w/Mark Craney)
I was 14 and when I first heard this record. Wow, Craney blew my mind! This was like early fusion with vocals. The drums are so present and cutting. The actual ‘Brother to Brother’ track had a real impact on my phrasing and approach to playing pop music. RIP Mark – I miss you!
* Back in Black (AC/DC w/Phil Rudd)
When I taught the Rock Course at LA Music Academy, this was the ultimate demonstration of a rock track – the feel, the attitude, the placement of the simple pattern. I became more of an AC/DC fan as an adult than when I was a kid
* Blood, Sweat and Tears (Blood, Sweat and Tears w/Bobby Colomby)
Bobby Colomby was my biggest influence after Ringo and Buddy before I was 12! This total fusion of pop and jazz was the only record I listened to for a year. To this day, I have every little nuance of the drum parts on that record memorized. I used to sit for hours and hours trying to play Bobby. I met him years later and he was one of the catalysts for me getting the Richard Marx tour. He’d heard me play with Jeff Lorber Fusion at a club, and he really liked my style. What an honor this was for me!
* A Different Drummer (Buddy Rich)
This man was touched by God. To this day, there has never been a more gifted drummer. I saw Buddy when I was 12 and then at 16. He amazes me more today, when I look at footage of him. I heard just the audio from a movie he filmed when he was 12. He was a boy playing a drum solo on candy jars in a sweet shop circa 1930. The video got destroyed, so all you can hear is the audio and I swear he had the same chops and phrasing then that would make him so famous later on. We were so blessed to have him incarnate on this planet as the master of masters!
8. What is your idea of a dream band… with you?
McCartney, Jaco, Jeff Beck… with me.
9. It’s a day off… no tour, no gig, no sessions… What do you do?
I sleep! Because when I’m not doing that I’m either touring or busy with clinics. I’m one of the hardest working guys I know… always on the go. My favorite day, albeit infrequent, is one where I snuggle up with my wife, Lisa, and we watch movies all day.
10. Touring the world doesn’t mean you get to see much more than arenas in different countries. But how exciting is touring for you… seeing new places, new faces, eating different foods… And what are some of your most memorable experiences?
I feel so fortunate to have visited so many big cities in so many different counties on most of the continents… and I’ve been paid to be there! Travel is such a luxury, but also a real honor. One of my fondest memories is kissing Lisa, who I had recently met and is now my wife, at the top of the stairs of the Sacre Coeur Hotel when in Paris while I was touring with P!NK. That was autumn 2006. With Foreigner, in 1993, we were the first rock band to play Lima, Peru, and on day off we went to the Inca ruins of Machu Pichu… 10, 000 feet up. That was sensational. We even saw a wild lama. In 2007, on my birthday, Sept 4th, we were with P!NK in Dubai. It was 115 degrees Farrenheit and we went from indoor skiing at 25 degrees to a private boat ride in bath-temperature water around the man-made Palm islands at sunset! All great memories…
11. Your new DVD, A Day in the Recording Studio, offers in-depth insight into the world of studio drumming, albeit that of the independent recording route. This is an incredibly good concept because it deals with all aspects of the process, from the actual studio on through the playing and producing. What can you say that might convince drummers (and non drummers) of the importance of the sort of information you offer with this DVD?
Nearly every studio drummer in Los Angeles records his/her own drum tracks in bedrooms, garages and home studios. The days of having an expensive studio and an engineer to record drums are virtually gone. The trend is to record drum tracks yourself. I believe you need the information in the DVD to make things happen for yourself in today’s changing music industry. A Day in the Recording Studio shows how to do it and in doing so reduces that fear of getting started. It does this with simple, entertaining and inspiring information that can get you started on recording right away, and having a great time creating top class drum tracks.
12. You’ve nabbed some great gigs. But what about those gigs that you don’t get? How do you handle the immediate situation, and how do you manage your emotions?
Well here’s a story. In 1989 I auditioned for Bad English, which was a super-group comprised of the dudes from Journey and singer John Waite of The Babys. I came highly recommended by my friend Dan Reed, and I showed up at the audition very confident, complete with my big rock ‘n’ roll lacquer-sprayed hair, skin-tight jeans, and enough attitude to conquer the world. I meet the guys and we start jamming on a groove. It feels like everything is going well until Jonathan Cain, the keyboard player, stops me about 45 seconds into the jam and tells me that I’m rushing. I position myself more deeply into the drum throne and we start to play again. He stops me again, picks up a metronome, sets it to a specific tempo, throws it to me (well it almost felt more like he was throwing it ‘at’ me) and tells me to watch the light!
Well as I walked out of the room knowing that I did not get this gig, and I was really bummed for about a half hour. Then I started to see this as an opportunity. I swore to myself that nobody would ever tell me that I was speeding up or slowing down again, unless I intended it to be that way. I enrolled in a Rhythm Course at the Faunt School in Los Angeles. And I worked with a metronome extensively for months. I began by clapping with the box at 110 BPM until I could do it for one minute and the claps would cancel out the click. Then I celebrated with a coffee. Next I moved the tempo up four points to 114 and did the same thing. Then up to118. I went up and down the tempo scale from 40 to 240 back to 40 BPM. This took a few weeks. Then I practiced getting comfortable playing grooves, fills and transitions at all these tempos. I became so obsessed with playing to a click that I started to practice playing slightly behind the beat, then ahead of it. I realized the enormous power a drummer has to manipulate the feel of the music with something as simple as time placement.
I think we can often use what seems to be a negative circumstance to actually enhance our life. Since that audition in 1989, no-one has ever told me that I am rushing or slowing down. There’s an extensive demonstration of time keeping on A Day in the Studio, including how to manipulate the perception of time and feel with your note placement relative to a metronome or recorded track.
Hey, good time is what it’s all about!
Interview/Editing: Wayne Blanchard – SABIAN Senior Marketing Manager
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