Mike Fuentes – Exclusive OnlineDrummer.com InterviewNate Brown
Mike Fuentes: My dad is a jazz guitar player. I grew up around music. He bought me my first drum kit at the local swap meet, and it was actually an old vintage Ludwig, but I had no idea at the time; I just thought it was a piece of crap. My dad influenced me a lot.
A buddy of mine was playing drums in a local band, and I started going to shows, and that influenced me to really want to pursue it.
OLD: When you first went out on the road, a lot of guys have a vision of what it’s going to be like on the road — it’s all party, it’s great.
Mike Fuentes: It’s not.
OLD: It’s not (laughing). Can you talk about that a little bit?
Mike Fuentes: I don’t think — even if I try to explain to someone that it’s not just a big party, they won’t get it unless they actually go on tour. And especially in a tour like the Warped Tour, festival tour, it’s probably the most intense thing of your life. You’re working your ass off every day, sweating. You’re not just in the bus drinking a beer; you’re out there meeting fans, doing interviews. Playing and tearing down the kit is a lot of work, too. If you don’t believe me, try it and then come talk to me.
OLD: What do you do to warm up before the show?
Mike Fuentes: I usually take 45 minutes to an hour before the show to get my blood flowing. I’ve been doing laps throughout the bus, like front lounge to back lounge, and then I really stretch my calves, my legs, a lot of shoulders. I’m huge on stretching. If I don’t stretch, I can tell. I’ll be on stage like, “Aah, I should have stretched”. But this tour, I’ve been spending a good 45 minutes to an hour. Then, I’ll put on a record, just anything with drums that I like; it’ll pump me up.
OLD: Do you have a practice pad back there too?
Mike Fuentes: I just play on anything: on the couches — anything. I have the sticks with the rubber tips, so those help me out, too. And, they’re a little heavier, too, so when I get to my sticks they feel like toothpicks.
OLD: When you’re up there how much emphasis do you put on showmanship?
Mike Fuentes: Well, first off, there’s nothing worse than a boring drummer. When you’re watching a drummer and he doesn’t even look like he wants to be up there, that is my pet peeve. So, I’m huge on getting into it and just having fun and head-banging or anything — any means to put on a show. Nobody wants to watch a boring drummer.
But, I see a lot of drummers starting out, and they’re really too much focused on how they look. Have a good time and put on a show, but play solid.
OLD: How often do you have to retune or re-head your drum when you’re playing on the road like this?
Mike Fuentes: I actually just switched head companies from Remo to Evans. I would say I change my Evans Genera Dry snare head out every three shows or so. I’ll leave the tom heads on for a good six or seven shows. But I like changing them out, and I tune them every day.
OLD: What skills do you think these guys/gals need if they want to do what you’re doing?
Mike Fuentes: It’s all about being persistent. Practice your ass off. You gotta have goals for yourself. I never thought I was going to get this far. Today, we played in front of, I don’t know how many people, and they’re all flipping out; you just gotta want it. You gotta have a goal.
I’m a self-taught drummer. I learned by watching other drummers. I would go to Warped Tour growing up when I was around 16, and I’d watch every stage no matter who they were. I would find something good about that drummer, and I’d take it home with me and put it in my playing.
OLD: Can you share an experience that stands out in your mind?
Mike Fuentes: Well, one of the first days of this tour, I came down with food poisoning, and my whole day was shot. Luckily, we didn’t have to play untill 7:15 that night; so I got most of it out of me. When it was time, I walked up to my drum kit, and my tech had put a bucket right next to my kit. My nickname used to be Mikey Whiskey Hands, but the bucket said “Mikey Pukey Hands.”
Mike Fuentes: And I definitely used that bucket toward the end of the show.
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