Eric Bongiorno – RazerNate Brown
OLD: Tell us a little about yourself. Why and when did you start drumming? When did you get your first kit? etc.
Eric: Well, I’m originally from Long Island, New York. I have always been drawn to the drums. When I was about 7 or so, a buddy of mine had one of those muppet drumsets or something like that, and I just started playing. He said “how do you know how to play like that”? I said “I dunno”! I love and am influenced by so many styles of music that it’s ridiculous to list.
There were all kinds in my family growing up that I just took a little from it all. What I really like, no matter the style, is just good songs. I was always particularly drawn to my older sibling’s music, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, T-Rex, Sly & the Family Stone, Kiss, etc. I would go downstairs to my sister’s room and put on Paranoid and just stare at the album cover while be scared to death listening to the record all by myself in the dark. (Wow, kids got issues).
Anyway, my brother had a snare drum and I’ve always been a bit of a show boater so I would beat the drum to the records. I always loved the show and the songs.
I got my first used beater kit when I was about 12 and I was then introduced by my sister to Rush. Neil Peart was a huge turning point for me. I love basic groove drumming and bashing and all, but Neil put that extra edge to it. I love Jazz, latin, fusion, and progressive music, but Neil’s style was easier for me to latch onto as it’s more rock, so by the time I was 13 I new every Rush song ever!! Early ‘80’s metal (Black Sabbath, Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica, etc.) took hold of me and it was over from there. Sorry Dad (LOL!).
OLD: What do you consider as the most important drumming skill to you? (i.e. timing, improv, creating rhythms, groove, rudimental, etc)
Eric: Groove would be first. Of course that leads to all of the other skills you mentioned. It’s important to be as good as you can in as many aspects as you can but Groove is the inner ear muscle you flex to feel the music. That leads you to sing internally, and externally, melody which improves your time/meter. You can then sing phrasing internally that helps you to improv either soloing by yourself or helps you create interesting rhythms while your writing music or playing styles that are more open like jazz or latin.
All of these things come together to allow you to be a team player where other musicians will enjoy playing/writing or whatever with you. I’m classical and jazz trained as I was in band in school and have a minor in music so I’m a nerd when it comes to rudiments. I think they’re important because they give that added extra dimension to your playing. You start to understand single and double strokes and things like that and once you’ve learned them or a few of them it helps to pull off cool licks, even groove techniques, that you may not other wise be able to figure out.
OLD: Do you have any good warm-up techniques to share?
Eric: Razer is an active rock radio band but we also have some barn burners so I need to keep my legs in shape. I just basically start out slow with a metronome playing different, and even playing the same, patterns with my feet and hands. I’ll do the basic train double kick patterns in quarter notes, to triplets, to 16th notes and go as fast as I can while keeping good form to stay in shape.
Then I’ll either play to music or put a groove in my head to break it up to make practice more musical and not just mechanical. I’ll then put a groove in my head or, if I’m able to, program a drum machine and improv a drum solo in different styles. It’s important to learn different styles so you can stretch out your playing spectrum.
It’s a lot of fun and it feels good. It’s nice to practice an hour a day but if I’m on the road, I usually do some upper and lower body stretches and warm up with the practice pad and peddles, or whatever I can beat on for about 15 minutes.
OLD: Can you give us any advice for playing live? Anything we should focus on or pay attention to?
Eric: Listening; using those ear muscles. In pop or rock or country or whatever it’s great to pay attention to the lead singer and make sure that his or her phrasing is correct so #1 he or she can breathe properly and #2 you’re not playing too fast or slow.
Of course it’s never that simple, especially these days when everyone plays really loud (I get stuck on Triple forte all the time). It’s great to play to click and backing tracks because it allows you to let go and just play (of course it depends on what type of music you play).
But I can’t stress enough that you must be able to play with people first and be able to interact and drive the band and music by listening first while being able to pay attention to dynamics, being able to count meter second, play to a click or metronome third. In more free styles of music, it’s even more difficult to make sure to watch your dynamics and meter. You have more freedoms but also more responsibility.
OLD: Can you give us any advice as far as recording in the studio? What do we need to know?
Eric: I always like to be extra prepared. It’s good for the music and wallet. Plus it makes it more fun and less like work. For example, even if you’re hired to do a live gig and the band sends you the music, listen like you did when you were a kid. You listen to it so much that you know it by heart, even before you go to your first rehearsal. #1 you have more fun because you’re not thinking so much and #2 you’ll get more work because you’re easy to work with. Time is money.
So as far as the studio goes; it can be a pretty difficult situation to be under the gun and under the microscope when in the studio, especially when you’ve got a producer who’s worth his or her salt. It’s not uncommon that a pro studio cat could be called in to play your parts even on your own record if you can’t cut the gig. So that’s why you should be as prepared as you can be.
You might have to record all by yourself and not with a full band. You just never know the circumstances. And even then, the producer, band members, even you, might have you rehashing or rewriting stuff after you’ve worked hard working on a pattern or part of a song. But that’s the beauty of the studio. Also, if you mess up, just keep going. A lot of happy accidents have happened that way and you go into the control room thinking “hey, that actually works better”.
OLD: What do you consider your most memorable moment as a drummer?
Eric: Razer’s bass player Chris Catero, and one of the guitarists Paul Sullivan, and I were in a Metal Blade band before we formed Razer by the name of Wardog. We were on tour in Europe and the label got Iron Maiden’s front man Bruce Dickinson to sing “Flight of Icarus” with us at the Heavy Order ‘Vas festival in Tubingen Germany.
OLD: Do you have any other good drumming stories that you’d like to share?
Eric: The first time I played in front of 20 thousand people at the Wacken Open Air Metal Festival near Bussum Germany was the most incredible feeling!!
OLD: With the upcoming release of your CD “Dark Devotion”, what can we expect?
Eric: Our producer Chuck Alkazian of Pearl Sound in Detroit made the record sound huge, especially the drums (as he’s not a bad slammer himself). Great radio tracks that I’m hoping will become hits. One of which, the opening track “Do you want it”, was originally written by Marty Friedman, guitarist for Megadeth and solo artist, who is also playing the solo on that track.
A new video of “Do you want it” to be completed soon. Great album tracks and as I mentioned earlier some barnburners, and then some bonus tracks that really show off our singer Chris Powers’ wide range of vocal talents from Led Zepplin and believe it or not, ‘70’s funk bank Hot Chocolate, plus more.
OLD: If you could only pass along 1 piece of advice (drumming related) to the next generation, what would it be?
Eric: I’ll do my best to make this one piece of advice. Have your brain be a sponge. Learn all you can. Make sure you have fun. Take care of yourself. Go for your dreams. A college education absolutely helps. Find a good attorney, and practice, practice, practice!
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