Paul Koehler – Exclusive OnlineDrummer.com InterviewNate Brown
Paul Koehler, drummer for Juno-nominated Silverstein, meets up with OnlineDrummer.com in Cleveland, Ohio before they brought down the house at the House of Blues.
When and how did you meet the members of Silverstein?
Paul: I joined the band during its inception in the Spring of 2000. We all just came together through the local scene. At the time, we knew of each other but we didn’t actually know each other. We all wanted to form a band like this, and that’s how we got together.
How did you meet up with Victory Records and eventually seal the deal?
Paul: It was our first label that signed us. We sent them a demo, they liked it and shorty after we were signed and making our first record.
The process was pretty immediate… basically once they heard it and were into it we started discussions and negotiations and were in the studio shorty after.
My Heroine – Discovering the Waterfront – Silverstein
How long have you been playing Udrum, and how did you get hooked up with them?
Paul: Probably about 7 years. They’re a local company to us but supply drums to a lot of communities. I just kind of became friends with them, and that’s how it all happened. We’ve grown together over the years.
For drummers looking to do what you do, what advice can you give them?
Paul: Practice. Also, play with musicians because I know a lot of dudes that can rip an awesome solo but can’t pay with other musicians. It’s important to jam with people especially in different genres of music. It makes you tighter and increases your independence, creativity and your ability overall. That’s really important.
What two skills do you think are most important for a working drummer?
Paul: I think it’s important to be entertaining while you’re drumming because I’ve seen some awesome drummers who look so bored out of their mind. To me, that’s never been exciting, so try to do the opposite of that. Another thing, being conscious of your tempos is very important.
How do you come up with your drum parts?
Paul: Sometimes I try to think of the opposite when something might be really obvious. I try to do something that’s not the obvious. Sometimes I might have certain rhythms, beats or ideas before the guitar parts even come together. Sometimes we’ll be playing, and I suggest that we should maybe do this time signature change and then I want to do this kind of break or they’ll be like maybe you aught to fill here or this is what I’m hearing in my head.
There’s some stuff I just come up with, but I take a lot of influence from the music I listen to. I might hear something that will spawn another idea in my head, and I’ll be like I want to try that and then work on it.
Do you memorize them exactly or only the main accents?
Paul: I have everything mapped out. I can play the song the stock way every time if I want to. It’s all in my head, but live I’ll add stuff. I know what I add live. Sometimes it’s just to over-accent certain dynamics. I’ll do those things live to make it interesting or different. It might be a song I’ve played a couple hundreds times, so we’re doing it a little bit differently.
When I’m getting ready for the studio. I won’t write out [traditional] drum tabs, but I do have a weird formula that I write out. I basically write all the song structures with certain notes on fills and changes. I have these massive formulas that I write out. That’s how I memorize and chart it all out. I basically have my own notation.
I do read traditional music, but for what I’m doing it would be a lot of effort to use it, and I don’t need to. This formula is more for the structures.
When I record, it’s all to click track, but I don’t have any other music. It’s all from memory. I get 8 clicks in, and then I just play the song. So, I have to have it all charted in my mind. I memorize what the guitars are doing and have everything all figured out. I know that part repeats 4 times there and 2 times there and then there’s an added fill…
Are you involved in the song writing process beyond laying down the beats?
Paul: I did some random lyrics early on in the band. I don’t play guitar or anything like that, but I do help in the song writing process by bouncing ideas off each other and help the flow of the song.
How much of a priority should a drummer put on showmanship?
Paul: You’ve got to pick your parts in your songs because obviously when there’s a technical part I’d rather see a drummer nail it perfectly then try to spice it up a little bit. I mean, play your parts, but sometimes you get an easy groove and you can probably make it look more exerting than it actually is. I think that’s sometimes important.
How does being a vegetarian influence your drumming, if at all? Advantages / Disadvantages
Paul: I eat pretty well, and it’s not really that hard being vegetarian on the road. Obviously I’m not going to eat salad all day; I need to eat protein. Another thing about food: I try to eat no more than 2 hours before a set time. That’s another thing that I do.
Do you have any tips for staying healthy while on the road?
Paul: A lot of vitamins, a lot of water, tea, stuff like that. It’s really important.
You’re also involved in clothing design and web design, is it difficult to pursue your other interests while being a member of Silverstein?
Paul: Basically , I put the band number one. All the other stuff falls second, so when the band is really busy, I don’t have time to do all that other stuff. I just like to keep busy with different things.
What do you like most about being on the road?
Paul: Being able to play every night. I like to play everyday. That’s awesome.
What do you like least about being on the road?
Paul: Being away from home and not being able to shower. It’s a rough life. It’s hard on you. It’s hard, but it’s rewarding at the same time. This tour is six weeks, but then we have 3 days off and we go straight to Europe. It’s pretty consistent right now. This is about our 10th time over there.
Any survival tips for being on the road?
Paul: You need to warm up. That’s really important. You don’t want to go out there cold because it’s going to hurt your muscles. You’re going to feel it, and you won’t be able to play as well. I do an hour warm-up before each set. Try to do some stretches. Eat enough within reason so you have energy and drink a lot of water.
What has been your greatest experience so far as a drummer?
Paul: There’s been a couple things. It’s always a change when releasing a record for the first time. It’s a huge milestone. To be able to tour the world… We just went to South America. For me, that was a huge accomplishment. Being able to go to some crazy places and play drums is pretty awesome. We were nominated for a Juno award in Canada, which is similar to the Grammy’s. That was a huge recognition for us. It’s a bunch of little things like that, that keeps things interesting for us.