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Jesse Smith – Fall From Grace – Exclusive Interview

OLD: Tell us a little about yourself. Why and when did you start drumming? When did you get your first kit?

JESSE: I started playing drums when I got lessons from my Aunt Les for my 8th birthday. We had the pleasure of seeing Toto play 5 nights in a row on the island of Kauai (where I lived as a kid). I was just in awe of Jeff Porcaro. After years on a practice pad, 64 Ludwig snare and playing on my friend’s kits, I got my first kit at 18.

OLD: What do you consider as the most important drumming skill to you? (i.e. timing, improv, creating rhythms, groove, rudimental, etc)

JESSE: Playing for the song. I try not to over play and always play to the vocal.

OLD: Do you have any good warm-up techniques to share?

JESSE: I try to warm up before playing (even though it can be VERY difficult depending on the venue). I usually sit down for 15-30 mins and warm up on a pad. I either put on my I-pod or play along to the band on stage. I really don’t have a set warm up routine. I guess I just go with the flow.

OLD: Can you give us any advice for playing live? Anything we should focus on or pay attention to?

JESSE: Me personally, I always play to a click. I know how to play around it (push choruses and pull verses) NOT rush or drag, there is a difference, so it’s pretty fun for me. The click is an awesome tool to have at your disposal, believe me your band will love you for it.

OLD: Can you give us any advice as far as recording in the studio? What do we need to know?

JESSE: Again I stress CLICK!!! Any session I have done have almost always had a click track being used. In this age of recording most everything is set to “the grid”. Almost as important is to change your drum heads and to learn how to tune your drums. Producers and engineers will love you, not to mention it uses up valuable studio time that you’re paying for. One of the worst things you can do going in the studio is be unprepared. I always bring 3-5 snares also, the snare can really set the mood of a tune.

OLD: What do you consider your most memorable moment as a drummer?

JESSE: Years ago I was in a band called SAQQARA and I gave our CD to Mike Mangini (now in Dream Theater), whom I met at a Modern Drummer Festival. I wrote my number on the inside of the cover (not expecting anything) AND HE ACTUALLY CALLED!!! Mike left me a message saying he dug what I did and that I “played what was called for” in the tunes.. To this day that is probably the most memorable.. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve played numerous “memorable” gigs, BUT that was a personal wicked memory.

OLD: Do you have any other good drumming stories that you like to share?

JESSE: At the same MD Fest, I was hanging backstage looking over Steve Smiths kit (my favorite drummer) talking to his tech… just tripping out that he had just warmed up on THAT kit and there was not a mark on the heads. I told his tech “one day I WILL meet Steve”. He said, “Yup. HE’S RIGHT BEHIND YOU.”

OLD: Tell us more about THE ROMANCE YEARS. What part do you play as the drummer in the writing/recording process? How does the new album differ from FALL FROM GRACE’s past catalog?

JESSE: I’m actually new to the fold of FFG, I joined in Aug 2009. I’ve known our singer Tryg for about 15 yrs. After what went down with the old deal they had the original drummer Kenny Bates, left the band and I got a call. The rest is history as they say. The record was done before I joined, but I do my thing to the tunes live. I was given the liberty to make the tunes mine, I can’t thank the guys enough for that. The new CD is more “pop rock” and the past material was more “punk rock”, that’s about the only difference. IT ALL ROCKS!! I’m foaming at the mouth to begin working on new material.

OLD: Finally, if you could only pass along 1 piece of advice (drumming related) to the next generation, what would it be?

JESSE: Sorry to beat a dead horse BUT… Make the CLICK your friend!! Also, watch other players closely. I learn something from pretty much EVERY drummer I watch. Finally, be cool to everyone.  You never know who you are meting or talking to.  That person could get you your next gig…..

Jesse Smith’s Gear:

AQUARIAN DRUMHEADS (Thanx Chris Brady and Roy Burns)
SLUG PERCUSSION PRODUCTS (Thanx Eric “Baron” Behrenfeld)
STRAIGHTSTICKS.COM (Thanx Greg Scarselletti)




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