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Mark Guiliana: Emulating The Source

Ben Scholz By

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AAJ: I understand what you mean. I had a chance to study with him a couple of times when he came down to UNT. I felt like there was an arc to his lessons. There was space for improvisation within them, but there is a deliberate progression in the way he teaches.

MG: He's amazing.

AAJ: So—I'm going to assume that Jojo Mayer has been a big influence on your playing. Can you talk about some of your other influences and how they've impacted your musical style?

MG: Sure—but I'm just curious, he is an influence of mine, but I'm curious as to what makes you think that...

AAJ: The Sabian video mostly. I'm a big fan of Nerve and that kind of drum and bass acoustic break beat stuff...

MG: Yeah, Jojo's definitely been an influence. I've been lucky to have him as a friend and we've spent a lot of time together. From time to time I'll have some technical questions for him. When I'm re-evaluating my technique I'll run things by him and he always helps me out, but more so in a general more conceptual way. He and Zach Danziger were the first two guys that I saw emulating electronic music or programmed music in a live setting.

Aside from the details of the playing, the music has been about the concept, the production element, and the approach. It's an intimidating task to try to emulate some of the programmed music, and seeing these guys pulling it off live in an exciting, musical way really gave me the courage to pursue this road. I still look to them as sources of inspiration, but more importantly, their sources of inspiration. The reason they are so convincing in the way they play their music, is because they've really done their homework. They truly are historians in this field.

This field, albeit with few exceptions, does not feature a drummer performing. It's almost entirely samples and programming, so it was never my intention to cop what Jojo was playing. If I had done this, I'd already be a generation removed from the source. It's tricky because it's cool, really exciting stuff that he's playing, however it's much more about trying to interpret the original source material in my own way. If drummers do this naturally, then we all come out with our own slightly different versions of these emulations. Those guys pointed me to original source material like Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, and Photek. I really tried to immerse myself in those recordings and tried to find my own way in that music.

Was your question about the other drumming heroes I have, because I could give you that, too.

AAJ: Yeah, sure!

MG: A short list would be guys like Chad Smith and Dave Grohl. They were the reason I started playing drums as a teenager, while watching MTV. I still love that music and hold it dear to my heart. Later, I immersed myself in jazz. So, Tony Williams, Max Roach and Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, Roy Haynes—the list goes on. I really dove head first into that world. When I was in college and going to check out a lot of music in New York, I got to hear drummers like Jim Black, Jeff Ballard, Joey Baron, Dan Weiss, Dave King, and Bill Stewart. Those were the guys I was checking out all the time. It was really special to see them play and be in the front row at every gig. Each experience was like a lesson. That's a short list of drumming heroes, and, oh yeah—you're going to see Steve Gadd mixed in there as well.

AAJ: I'm not sure how long you've been with Sabian or what your relationship is with them. The reason I ask is you seem to prefer kind of a dry, trashy sound in your cymbals. I was wondering if Sabian was a conscious choice for you and if you could talk about your setup and the sound that you've developed.

MG: I've been with Sabian since about 2006 and I'm humbled by the relationship I have with them. They've been really nice to me, and I had a chance to go through the factory a couple of years ago to work on some stuff. We have plans for me to go there for another trip later this year. I've also been collaborating with Jo Jo, in order to promote his cymbals, and it's been a very productive, inspiring relationship.

I've always found the sounds I was looking for with Sabian. I do like dark sounding cymbals for sure, and the achieved the short trashy sounds with different combinations of stacks. They already have some mini hi-hat combinations in the catalog, but I've been collaborating with them on some prototype designs as well. Regarding ride cymbals, I have some thinner versions of the Artisan line that give a slightly darker tone. I play a wide variety of music, and I have WAY more cymbals than I need. However I'm always changing my set up from gig to gig. Night after night I'm trying to evaluate the best combination for that music. I found that all my cymbals do have a place in the music I play, and it's process of assessing the right combination.

Sabian has been very generous and open minded, and I feel that attitude is invaluable, especially with a cymbal company. Drums can be manipulated with head choice or muffling, but cymbals, it's whatever it is. You can manipulate a cymbal with a rivet or some tape or something, but you have far fewer options if you want to change the sound once it's been created.

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