Jason Heiser of Charm City Devils shares his story, from a grade school stage playing Wipeout to sold-out crowds at Crue Fest. From hard rock to country, jumping jacks and giving away sticks, Jason has a lot to talk about!
OLD: How did you get into drumming?
Jason: My older brother was in the school band, and he taught me the flam. I thought it was really, really cool. When I got into elementary school and was finally able to take band, I chose to play the drums. I really realized the drums were what I wanted to do in 7th or 8th grade. I had a drum solo… Wipeout. The girls went crazy, and I thought it was really cool.
Another experience that made me interested in drums was when my parents took me to see my great uncle. He was in a band, and I was probably 5 or 6. I actually sat beneath hi hat and watched, and I remember thinking, ”Wow, this is really, really neat! What is he doing?”
OLD: What equipment are you currently touring with?
Jason: I’m currently endorsing Vic Firth sticks and Ludwig. I play on a 26″, 14″, and 18″.
OLD: Any tips for surviving on the road while touring?
Jason: You definltley hvae to keep your head in the game. You can have some fun, but when it’s time for business, it’s time for business. You’ve got to go out and do your thing, play the music and be a professional person. You can’t just be partying all the time.
Also, try to be very consistent. You’ve got to do the same thing every night consistently and develop a routine.
OLD: What do you do to get warmed up before a show?
Jason: I do stretching before we play. I do the stretch where you take a stick, hold it and flip it around. I do the helicopter stretch that I learned in elementary school: you grasp the two sticks in one hand and spin them back and forth twenty times each. I do a stick stroke exercise: single, single, single, double, double, double, paradiddle, paradiddle, paradiddle, double, double, double, etc… I do a lot of double stroke rolls, and I even do some jumping jacks. We play very athletic, so you’ve got to get warmed up or you could pull something.
OLD: What do you do after a show?
We usually talk to everybody that we possibly can. We have a signing thing where we’ll sign posters, merch, and we’ll sign every CD, take pictures, whatever the fans want. I enjoy that part of it because you get to meet so many different people. I mean, some people are knuckleheads or whatever, but for the most part they’re really nice people, and they’re interested in what we’re doing. It kind of jacks me up a little bit, thinking that these people are interested in what I’m doing. It’s a great feeling!
When they come up and say, “Wow, you’re a great drummer! I might be thinking to myself, Wow, I played like crap, but I never tell them that. They might ask for a stick, and I try to give them what they want. We can’t do what we do without the fans.
OLD: You play along with a click very often. Any tips on learning to play with a click?
Jason: If you play along with songs, that helps you learn to play along with a click. Many of the songs are recorded with a click, even back in the day. Also, don’t get nervous about it. Just listen to it, and make it your friend. To me, it actually becomes a part of the music. We’ll be playing, and if the click screws up, I’ll be like, “Oh my God! Where’s the click?”
OLD: You teach at the School of Rock in Baltimore. How did you get into teaching?
Jason: It’s been about a year and a half now. We got home from the Crue Fest with Motley Crue and Godsmack, and I was thinking, what am I going to do now before the next tour? I got a phone call asking me to fill in for a teacher at the School of Rock. I was like, sure what do I have to do? They had the book by Mel Bay called Realistic Rock Drum Method to work through. I went there, enjoyed it, and said, “If you ever need me again, call me.” It turned out they had an opening.
So, I started teaching just on Monday nights, and later it moved onto Wednesdays and Thursdays. Teaching is awesome, I mean.. the kids are great. I have one kid who ended up going to nationals. They played Lollapalooza. I was so happy for him. It’s really rewarding.
OLD: Do you teach from a book mainly or do you teach songs?
Jason: Most of the time I’ll use songs, and I’ll end up teaching different techniques from the songs. We’ll take a site like onlinedrummer.com and get different beats from there and work on them together.
OLD: On the road, how do juggle teaching and their studies?
Jason: There are two drum teachers, and he covers for me when I’m on the road, and I cover for him when he’s gone.
A guy from Vic Firth suggested a good idea, too. Put an ad out when you’re on the road at bigger venues. Let the drummers know you’re in town and available for lessons from town to town. He’s a smart dude.
OLD: When you’re done with tour and back at home, how do you adjust?
On a longer tour, sometimes when you get home you are like man I wish I was on tour, but sometimes when you’re on tour you’re like man I wish I was at home. You go about your daily life, and it all falls into place. Sometimes you get a little depressed like when we left the Crue Fest. It was such a big tour, and it was so much fun. I got to watch Shannon Larkin and Tommy Lee play drums every night. It was like a dream. Then, when I got home I was like, well it’s all over now. What am I going to do?
OLD: You are also involved in a country gig. Being a hard rock drummer, how did you land that?
Jason: I got a call to do a studio thing, and he sent me the demos. He said, “Listen to these. I know you can do it.” So, I listened to them and thought… wow, this is genuine real music. I ended up filling in live with them and just became the guy that they call to do the gigs.
Another cool thing lately has been email studio work. I kept in touch with Bev Hamilton, back up singer for Motley Crue, through email, and she said she had a project that she wanted me to play drums on. I had her send me the track to do them in a studio from home in Baltimore. I did a track for her recently just through email.
OLD: What’s one piece of advice you would leave to the next drumming generation?
Jason: Learn your rudiments. Learn the history of druming. Listen to as much music as you can in every style. If you want to be a drummer, a rock drummer… listen to jazz, fusion… don’t just be single-minded. You’ve got to step outside of the box and do things you normally wouldn’t do.