Steve Bitte – Heart-Set Self-Destruct – Exclusive OnlineDrummer.com InterviewNate Brown
OLD: Tell us a little about yourself. Why and when did you start drumming? When did you get your first kit? etc.
Thank you for having me ! Hopefully I can give something to the readers of Online Drummer.
I am a heavy rocker at heart who plays with humble conviction. I started drumming because of my father Robert Bitte and his music licensing company Blue Shade Music. Check out his songs at cdbaby.com/bitte2. I will try to be involving myself more in Blue Shade and composing music myself when I have more time in the future.
It all started when my good friends in the neighborhood decided to start jamming together. We played mostly Nirvana songs. We loved them. On our first gig at the local bar, we had a trainwreck on stage playing “Smells like Teen Spirit”. It was embarrassing, but a good lesson to learn – to never stop a song once it starts !
I am a huge Dave Grohl fan and listen with enthusiasm to whatever he does. I absolutely love “Songs for the Deaf” by Queens of the Stone Age. Ironically, we are in Seattle when I am writing this.
I am from the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, IL, have studied at Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, CA in 2001-2002, and have been playing drumset for close to 17 years.
My first set was a Pearl Export, but now I own a 3 piece custom Drum Workshop Collectors edition with an 8×14 Edge Snare with mostly Zildjian cymbals.
I have been a drum instructor for Hix Brothers Music in Aurora, IL for the past 7 years, and I am currently a member of upcoming hard rockers Heart-Set Self-Destruct out of Chicago. We are currently on the Under the Skin of Angels Tour with Filter, Saliva, and Anew Revolution. You can stay updated on the band’s most latest happenings at heartsetselfdestruct.com
OLD: What do you consider as the most important drumming skill to you?
The most important aspects of drumming to me is keeping good time, having enough technique to get what you want out on the set, and playing for the song as to make the other guys shine. Being able to play with a click is a mandatory skill nowadays.
To me, it all depends on what the needs of your band’s music calls for and then adapting to that. Listening is the greatest skill you can have on any instrument. Listen to your favorite artists, play along to them, and start to transcribe them if you have the knowledge to. You will have more grooves and fill ideas in your arsenal and be more aware of how songs are formed and arranged, which will be good for you and your band’s songwriting.
OLD: Do you have any good warm-up techniques to share?
Yes I do! One should be working on hand/foot technique everyday which will eventually turn into your warmups. A couple common books I use are Stick Control and Accents and Rebounds by George Stone.
Don’t forget the rudiments. I remember Buddy Rich, Dennis Chambers, and John Blackwell Jr. mentioning playing the rudiments on a pillow or bed. In my experience regarding a pillow, there will be no rebound so it will build your strength/endurance and force you to eventually use your fingers instead of all wrist strokes. I compare this to a doughnut on a baseball bat or weight training. After swinging the bat or lifting a heavier weight, the normal swing or weight becomes much easier to execute. I believe Dave Grohl said he used marching corps sticks when practicing on the set for this purpose also.
OLD: Can you give us any advice for playing live? Anything we should focus on or pay attention to?
Play your heart out and live for the moment ! Keep your ears open and concentrate on what your job is – to keep the tempo.
In the beginning and intermediate stages of your career, be ready to load that equipment on and off the stage fast and be aware to not exceed your set time so as not to aggravate others ! Be professional to the staff and promoter at the venue. Promote your ass off, and the club will be be asking you to come back.
When you are on stage, a soundcheck is very important. Do your best to get a good mix of what you need in your wedge. Mine includes having a lot of kick, and a balanced mix of the rest of the band, leaning towards a higher volume for the lead vocals.
OLD: Can you give us any advice as far as recording in the studio? What do we need to know?
The studio for me is a different animal than playing live. One can get away with much more on stage. In the studio, every little nuance is going to be picked up by the microphones. It’s more mental for me and my mind has to be heavily prepared before I hit the tracks in the studio.
Sometimes songs get written on the spot in the studio, so I need to step up and be able to bring something to the table, and perform authentically even when you have 24 hours or less to track it. This is when I refer to what is known as my toolbox, arsenal, or melting pot.
Getting enough rest, exercise, and eating a healthier diet are important as well to feel your best.
OLD: What do you consider your most memorable moment as a drummer?
The most memorable moment for me as a drummer was going to the NAMM show in Anaheim, CA in 2007 – hanging with my good friend Joe Nunez from Soulfly. We were walking amongst many of my heroes growing up: Vinnie Paul, Carmine Appice, John Tempesta, Morgan Rose, Eric Singer, Scott Travis, Ricki Rocket, Jason Bittner, Mike Inez bassist from Alice in Chains, Stewart Copeland, Gene Hoglan, Al Jourgensen, Martina Axen, Cypress Hill, you name ‘em. They were there! It was a great experience for me, and I hope to be able to get back there with the drum company I work with in the future.
OLD: Do you have any other good drumming stories that you would like to share?
When I attended Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles, CA from 2001-2002, I had a chance to hang with Patrick Johannson from Yngwie Malmsteen, and he said I did a good job playing the song “Painkiller” by Judas Priest in our weekly workshop. Afterwards, we went to the Rainbow Bar to get a burger, then Patrick showed me the “secrets” to double bass drumming in my apartment ironically called the Nirvana on Orange St in Hollywood. On a side note, I am not sure if it is still there, but that apartment was fully infested with cockroaches by the end of the lease.
OLD: With the upcoming release of your CD “Of Nightmares”, what can we expect?
You can expect a great production, simple, heavy, solid rock drumming, with a modern, unique alternative sound. Hopefully one will connect with the lyrics and music and take meaning from our songs. The title “Of Nightmares” deals in some of the darker shades of our experience, subjects we believe many have gone through.
OLD: If you could only pass along 1 piece of advice (drumming related) to the next generation, what would it be?
Play with a metronome, keep yourself open to all types of music, and practice everyday with an occasional day off!
As things get busier with your band and responsibility rears its ugly head, you will have less and less time to practice. So, utilize the down time you do have to work on your craft.
Be yourself, be able to roll with the punches, and be aware of networking which includes being your normal, cool, outgoing social self.