Steve Hass: A World of Rhythms
AAJ: It must be a challenge to jell with those different types of musicians and different recordings that you’re on.
SH: I had some long talks with Vinnie Colaiuta about that. At one point in his career, he would go from playing with Chick [Corea] to playing with Sting, all in the same week. He would have breaks with Sting in the Far East and go play the Blue Note with Chick. How do you switch gears like that? At that time I was having a problem switching gears. I would change my grips of the sticks to play certain styles. I couldn’t stop doing that. But he told me he doesn’t really think about it at all, he just plays music.
At the time, I thought, ‘That’s easy for you to say.’ But eventually, you see [music] is all linked. The more you play them consistently, the more you realize how related to each other they are. You might have to change a couple things. You have to hit the snare drum a certain way to get that backbeat on rock stuff, but where the group comes from, the feel, all comes from really early black America. I love listening to the old early rock drummers who were still playing on bebop kits and had that twitchy swing in their groove.
AAJ: You use of drums and percussion together, rather than overdubbing. Address that a little bit.
SH: Basically, it comes from the Jim Keltner influence. I saw him on a Stevie Nix video and he was holding a shaker while he was holding his drum stick, playing a groove. So taped a bunch of shakers and different tambourines to drum sticks. What I also do is strap a shaker or some goat nails, stuff like that, to my high at. So when it’s pumping eighth notes on the high hat, you’re also hearing another sound. I like putting tambourines on the high hat, stuff like that, just to fatten it up a little bit. For live sometimes, with singer/songwriters, when they have sixteenth note loops in their music, and we can’t actually have a sampler with us, I’ll just use the shaker stick and it covers the ground, brings in that extra sound to fatten up the groove.
AAJ: That’s something you toyed with, experimented with?
SH: Yeah. I did see Jim playing around with it. Kenny Wallison, does the maraca in the boot. He wears these boots that go up to his ankle and I saw him put a maraca in there once, when he was with Bill Frisell. So there are other guys that do similar things, but I’ve kind of adapted it and I use it all the time now. Singers, especially, love it.
AAJ: It sounds like you have the attention of a lot of people and have a lot of work.
SH: I’m still trying to keep it rolling, always pushing forward.
AAJ: The music scene today is kind of tough. Do you see it that way, and how do you manage?
SH: Yeah. I’m making a living and having a good time so I don’t want to complain about the scene, but at the same time I have a lot of friends who are from a different generation, who were around when there were sessions constantly and gigs constantly. As a kid in the 80s I feel a little gypped, because the industry at that time was so great. By the time I became a musician, the industry was going downhill. But I have yet to experience what the older folks are talking about. This is all I know, the way it is now, and I’m managing to do OK.
From what I’ve heard from more experienced players on the New York and LA scene is that back in the day you’d be doing this and that, working constantly and making a certain amount of money every year and now it’s not like that.
AAJ: Do you want to eventually lead a band?
SH: That, I don’t know. That’s starting to happen right now and it’s only because certain people who have the CD have asked me about maybe coming to a club. It’s got me thinking maybe I can get this project together and do some live gigs. But I’m definitely more of a sideman. I enjoy going into a situation and making someone else’s music come alive, creating drum parts or interpreting their songs, regardless of style. I definitely like doing that. It’s a little less stress. Being a bandleader is heavy. I dig it, but then again I haven’t really dealt with so much so I shouldn’t say that yet.
Visit Steve Hass on the web at www.stevehass.net .