Greg Parrow – Exclusive OnlineDrummer.com InterviewNate Brown
What is life like on the road?
I think it’s safe to say that it’s always an adventure! I feel so privileged to visit and experience the places that we do, be it a downtown metropolis or a scenic country road. Sure, there are some days out here when you’d kill for a few minutes of privacy, or for a night where your bed didn’t bounce along with every bump in the road… but at the end of the day I’m sharing a dream with four other guys and making music for my living, and for that I’m incredibly thankful.
How does life on the road compare to what you thought it would be like before you started?
There’s definitely a routine to it all, and maybe I new that before, but I don’t think I fully grasped its extent. From waking up to sound check to driving off, we’ve fallen into a set pattern to get through the events of the day. Also, I never would have guessed we’d spend as much time at Walmarts as we do… they allow oversized vehicles and trailers to spend the night in there parking lots, so quite often we’ll start and end our drives at these shopping centers. Many of their stores are practically identical to the next, so I’ve had several occurrences of serious déjà vu!
How do you warm up for gigs?
I go through your basic diddle / flam workout on a practice pad for about ten minutes before we hit the stage. Nothing structured or written out, just some chop work to get the blood moving around a bit. If its especially cold out, I’ll spend a few minutes curling and straightening my fingers into the middle of each hand as quickly as possible… which is also a great exercise for improving your double stroke roll, I’m told.
How important do you believe showmanship is for a drummer?
I think this is an extremely important part of a touring drummer. Obviously, if you’re just working sessions then who cares what your showmanship looks like… but as performing artists we drummers really need to keep the show in mind. To be clear, I’m not just talking about stick flips or spins and all that. Sure, that kind of flash is fun to watch but I feel a lot of drummers can really overdo it in that department. Great performing drummers have a way of transferring there energy to the crowd – be it an animated cymbal crash or a sway in the shoulders as they groove the hi-hat, in many cases its the drummer’s stage show that the other musicians will feed upon and build from.
How do you come up with your drum parts?
When I’m working on a song, I’ll generally take a few passes trying different feels. I keep my eyes glued to what the bass player is doing and try to work with him in the context of the song. If I’m stuck on a section I’ll generally walk away for a day or two and once I come back I’ll let my hands do whatever they ‘feel’ like. It also helps me to immerse myself in the style we’re working on… it helps me better speak the language.
Do you play the drum parts the same each time you play the song or do you change it up here and there?
Once a song has made it on one of our albums, I tend to recreate it true to the recording. There are always exceptions though, particularly if I’ve come up with better parts since tracking. Even then I’ll try to execute a consistent show, rarely deviating from the parts I’ve set out from night to night. As far as fills go, there are a few that I feel are crucial to the song’s signature that I’ll play identically each night… but I do leave several of these spaces open for improvisation and experimentation. I feel this is how drummers can communicate with the other musicians on stage–A conveyance of emotion, energy, and creativity.
How important do you believe practicing with a metronome is?
I think in this day in age, and if you’re performing contemporary styles of music, it’s essential. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and money (and your recording engineer’s sanity) if you play well to a click. Your live game will go to a whole new level when you become the solid clock the others can depend on. It’s just that important. Even if you have no desire to play with a click in your ear, the metronome will develop your sense of time, and may help keep adrenaline surges or that lazy bass player from accidentally changing the tempo on you.
What is one thing that you have learned that you would like to pass along?
I’ve found that oatmeal and peanut butter makes an amazingly cheap meal that will last you forever! Try and keep some healthy food nearby and don’t let your self get to hungry, its way to easy to grab fast food all the time out here. Oh, and take your Vitamins.
What has been your greatest experience with Transmit Now so far?
To this day, my favorite experience was with the band sitting in a hotel room in Selma Alabama, on a DIY tour, just as we were starting out. Together we watched the very first time our music was featured on MTV, something none of us had achieved before. I can’t begin to describe our excitement as we watched our MySpace and other site views shoot off the charts… even landing the band amongst the top searches on Google that day. We literally spent days responding to everybody that sent us messages from the show and it was truly great knowing we had created something others appreciated.
Check out Transmit Now on MySpace