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Interviews

Rick Drumm: Seizing the Day

By Published: May 28, 2012
AAJ: That's a great answer; thanks for that. The tunes, as you've mentioned, were all written by the two guitarists, Hamilton and Christiansen—who really play fantastically well—but did the arrangements change much in the rehearsals prior to recording?

RD: The guys flew in from different parts of the States, and we rehearsed those tunes the day before we went into the studio. We hadn't played them before. There weren't a lot of changes. Both Corey and Fred had a very solid idea of what they wanted the tunes to do. The one exception might be "Detours," and there we experimented during the rehearsal how to take it to different places. But everything else was already pretty strong and provided a lot of space for the guys to play, and that's what I wanted. I wanted an environment that would give the guys room to play and room to take risks. What I was aiming for on this album was the feeling that not everything is perfect, and that was okay with me. One of the things that I have observed in almost all recordings is that everything is just perfect. It's too filtered. To me, that's not reality. That's not life. It's okay if the tempo moves a little bit here or there or if there's a bit of an oops during a solo, because honestly, if someone comes to see a band in a club, that's what you experience. But to me it brings an energy to the music.

One of my favorite albums is trumpeter Miles Davis' Four and More (Columbia, 1966), and if you listen to the tempo on those tunes, they start in one place and they end in a very different place. That was the energy of that night.

AAJ: There seems to be quite an element of Miles on this album, particularly on "Fatty Necrosis Sings the Blues" and on "Out the Door," which has a very, well, Joe Zawinul
Joe Zawinul
Joe Zawinul
1932 - 2007
keyboard
/Miles Davis vibe reminiscent of "In a Silent Way."

RD: Yes. I said to Fred and Corey as they were writing the music that one of the vibes that I wanted to obtain was like a Weather Report, Miles Davis thing, that era of In a Silent Way (Columbia, 1969) and Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970) meets The Crusaders—that type of mix.

AAJ: There is tremendous energy on the album and a very live feeling in the playing. Are these all first or second takes?

RD: Yeah, exactly. "Not Whatever" was a first take; "Out the Door" was a first take; "Indi Funk: was a first take; "Gentle Spirit" was a first take. Four of them were first takes, and I honestly don't think we had more than two takes.

AAJ: Saxophonist Frank Catalano
Frank Catalano
Frank Catalano

sax, tenor
is someone you play with live quite regularly. He plays superbly on this album, particularly on the slow-burning blues "Not Whatever." What do you like about his playing?

RD: What I've always loved about Frank's playing is his energy and his go-for-broke style of playing. He captures a lot of the spirit of [saxophonist] John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
—which I personally love—though in perhaps a more modern context. On "Not Whatever," he channels that energy in a different way. You still feel the energy, but he's holding it back, especially on the end of the tune, which we wanted to end in a very mellow way. People that hear Frank play a lot have said to me that they've never heard him play that way in that style. He's a great talent, and he has a great range of techniques that he can tap into that he doesn't often tap into on the music he normally plays. To have him tap into some of that depth on this project was just great.

AAJ: Another really great track is "Pulled Pork Sandwich," which has a lovely James Brown
James Brown
James Brown
1933 - 2006
vocalist
-meets-The Meters groove going on. Can you talk us through this track?

RD: Corey [Christiansen] wrote "Pulled Pork," and the song is named after my wife Betsey's pulled-pork sandwiches, which Corey is a huge fan of. We wanted to have that really greasy New Orleans feel on that tune, and I think Corey pieced that together really well.

AAJ: Is Zigaboo Modeliste a drummer who has inspired you?

RD: Oh, absolutely. I love The Meters
The Meters
The Meters

band/orchestra
, and I absolutely love Ziggy's playing. I should probably send him a royalty check [laughs].

AAJ: Rick, you're President of D'Addario & Company, which is one of the biggest string and accessory manufacturers and distributors in the world. How daunting was it for you to take on such a position in what is essentially a very long- standing family business?

RD: That's a great question. For me to be able to answer that question, I've got to give you a bit of the history of how I got there. My goal is life as a youngster was to be a studio musician. My father was a professional musician, and he had a music retail store. I grew up inside that retail store, and I grew up around music my entire life. My father had a big band and taught music. I got to perform in a lot of different bands, growing up. I studied locally in Springfield with some great teachers, and then I studied with Ed Shaughnessy
Ed Shaughnessy
Ed Shaughnessy
1929 - 2013
drums
, who was the drummer for the Tonight Show in New York. So I got to go down to New York every other week for my drum lesson, and after the lesson I would walk over to NBC with Ed for the Tonight Show band rehearsal. I would sit behind the band, behind Ed, and the band at that time was [trumpeter] Snooky Young
Snooky Young
Snooky Young
1919 - 2011
trumpet
; [trumpeter] Clark Terry
Clark Terry
Clark Terry
b.1920
trumpet
was subbing a lot, and Richard Davis
Richard Davis
Richard Davis
b.1930
bass
was on bass. These were big musicians. They saw me there every other week, and they started to talk to me. I got a tremendous amount of insight from those guys.

I also learned a lot of stuff at the Tonight Show rehearsals about what went on behind the scenes and what it took to put that production together. I was just observing. You don't know that you're learning something at the time, but you're just kind of filing this stuff away. I was still pursuing my dream of playing, and I spent four years with the Air Force band.

AAJ Was that military service?

RD: Yes, it was. I was with NORAD, the North American Air Defense, but I was in the band. My time there was 1974 through the end of 1977. That's where I first met Fred Hamilton [right]. Fred and I were stationed together in Colorado Springs, and also Mike Brumbaugh, who had just come back from Vietnam. We ended up living together, and the three of us formed a fusion band, in '74, that was called Hosanna. Fred wrote most of the music in that band.

RD: Continuing with the career, I spent two years playing with Ringling Brothers circus as their drummer. My father was the musical conductor on that, having closed up the music store. Again, I was learning a lot about production, logistics and that type of stuff. I eventually moved to Los Angeles. I had a wife and a newborn and a day gig. I was trying to establish myself in L.A. With the circus, I received endorsements from REMO Drum Company, who would send me products to test. It was a great test environment because I was literally playing more than 40 hours per week. They would send me all these different drum heads. So when I moved to L.A., I approached REMO for a job. They were going through an expansion, and I started entry-level customer service. Through the course of a number of years, I ended becoming Director of Sales and Marketing globally for REMO. At this point I didn't have any formal college education, but I received a lot of on-the-job education.

I was with REMO for 13 years, and then I made a move to become Chief Executive Officer for one of our customers, MIDCO, which was the fifth-largest distributor of musical instruments and accessories. I was CEO with MIDCO for three years, and then Vic Firth approached me to become President of Firth Drumsticks, which I accepted. I worked with Firth for nine years. It was halfway through my tenure at Firth that I made the decision that I wanted to go to college and get my undergrad [degree] in business. I realized I had some holes in my knowledge that I wanted to fill in, so I went to Southern New Hampshire University and did primarily online courses and a little bit of brick and mortar.

What I found out about myself was that I really enjoyed learning and that really I'm a life-long learner. I also learned that everything I was taught I could utilize the next day on the job— something I could apply to managing a company. So, after I got my undergrad, I made the decision to pursue my MBA, which I did at Babson College. I was still in my first year managing Vic Firth and playing gigs when D'Addario approached me and asked me to move to New York and manage D'Addario.

I took a very long route to answer your original question, but by the time Jim D'Addario and the Board of Directors approached me, I already had a lot of experience managing family businesses. When I first joined REMO, it was an 8-million-dollar business, and when I left, it was a 20-million-dollar business. With MIDCO it was a 12.5 million dollar business, and three years later it was a 20-million- dollar business. With Vic Firth, it was a 10-million-dollar business, and when I left it was a 20-million-dollar business. So there was a trend. When I joined D'Addario, it was 95-million, and right now we're about a 165-million-dollar business.


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