As a child in working-class Birmingham, the only career options presented to Bill Ward were working in a factory or enlisting in the military. Against all odds, he escaped that bleak destiny and co-founded the paradigm-shifting Black Sabbath. Bill tells Joe about his journey from choir boy to unhinged rock legend; the inner workings of Black Sabbath; his road to sobriety; fatherhood; learning to love himself; and why he is at peace with the world. This is a can’t miss episode with one of the all time greats! Stay tuned next week for a bonus episode featuring Bill's answers to listener questions.
Despite a deceptively unassuming stage persona, Bryan Devendorf's cleverly deconstructed beats are central to The National's sonic identity. He tells Joe about: growing up in Cincinnati, straddling the worlds of punk rock and jam bands, parenthood, white privilege, self improvement, and the intimate relationships at the core of The National.
This week, we're hard at work on a new live episode and a special Episode 150, so here's one of our favorite episodes, featuring the legendary Billy Cobham.
Aaron Steele grew up in New York City, raised by two Panamanian immigrants who become pastors. His adventurous spirit, deep pocket, and attention to sonic detail make him one of the most exciting young artists on the scene. He tells Joe about: how Bill Withers was his "Beatles"; growing up a believer; becoming a skeptic; how bands like At The Drive In liberated him from the culture of virtuosity enveloping the gospel scene, being "nearly homeless", getting roofied after a tour, and why he is happy with the course his life has taken.
Scott McPherson's seemingly effortless musicality has made him the drummer of choice for many of his generation's greatest songwriters. He tells Joe about addiction and sobriety; working with artists ranging from Sense Field to Elliott Smith; creating his own company, Tackle Instrument; and the danger of getting what you wish for.
Minnesota native, Dave King, grew up a voracious listener of seemingly disparate forms of music. This is reflected in his playing, which illuminates the through line between improvised music and punk. Dave and Joe discuss: getting pumped for high school wrestling by listening to Albert Ayler and Ornette; the band dynamics of the Bad Plus and Happy Apple; how Dave transitioned from being a “Paul Motian ripoff” to forging his own creative voice; and Dave’s bizarre and hilarious web series, Rational Funk
Riley Breckenridge dreamed of becoming a professional athlete, but after his prospects were cut short after an injury, he turned to drums. He achieved success with Thrice, a band that features his brother Eddie and their childhood friends from Orange County. Riley discusses the benefits and drawbacks about being intensely hard on himself; struggling to find an identity when the band went on hiatus; selling suits; feeling a "loss of gravity" after losing his father; and his own approach to fatherhood.
Steven Drozd joined The Flaming Lips in 1991. His one of a kind drumming style fuses Bonhamesque bombast with a clever compositional sense reminiscent of Can’s Jaki Liebezeit; but his contributions to the band aren’t limited to drumming. Drozd plays most of the instruments on The Flaming Lips' recordings and co-writes their songs. He tells Joe about playing in his father’s band at age eleven; having his mind blown by The Jesus Lizard and The Melvins; his role in The Flaming Lips; creative confidence; and embracing joy in the wake of considerable tragedy. This is one of our favorite episodes.
Jojo Mayer visits The Trap Set and tells Joe about his childhood in Switzerland, artistic honesty, and pair discuss strategies for keeping existential dread at bay.
Fred Armisen stops by to discuss his new Netflix comedy special, "For Drummers Only". The show is being filmed at the historic Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, this Thursday 10/19. Visit thetrapset.net for tickets.
Raised in Los Angeles by a musician mother and punk rock dad, Lia Simone Braswell was playing with adults when she was still a child. She tells Joe about joining her best friend’s dad’s band, her commune-like tenure with Le Butcherettes, her fascination with linguistics, and overcoming personal tragedy.
The music of Tom Petty has been an integral part of Joe’s life for as long as he can remember, so this week we’re revisiting our amazingly inspirational conversation with Steve Ferrone of The Heartbreakers. Also, Joe talks about the massive impact Tom and the band have had on his life and pays tribute to the rock genius.
Chad Smith's unabashed hard rock style could have easily clashed with the funk-punk roots of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but instead he proved to be the catalyst that launched the band to international superstardom. His muscular, yet articulate drumming evokes a cross between P-Funk and Deep Purple and acts as the perfect anchor for the bestial rowdiness of his band mates.
Chad grew up in suburban Detroit, feeling like a square peg in a round hole. This unease led to misadventures in car theft, burglary, and even a stint in jail. Musically, he cut his teeth playing in countless Detroit clubs before moving to Los Angeles in 1988, during the Sunset Strip's heyday. He describes the immediate, explosive musical chemistry that has allowed the multi-decade success of the Chili Peppers. Chad also candidly discusses his evolution from living a “spiritually bankrupt” lifestyle to becoming a grounded, healthy family man.
A child of the MTV generation, Mark Guiliana grew up on Soundgarden, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Dr. Dre. He began playing drums relatively late in life, almost on a whim. But, his strong creative voice—inspired by a combination of post-bop heroes, glitchy experimental electronica, and the pop music of his youth—has established him as one of the most lauded and influential drummers of his generation. Mark and Joe talk about: protecting and following creative joy, the balance between intellect and intuition, the benefits of an underdog mentality, and Mark’s approach to fatherhood as a working musician. Then, Mark answers your questions about working with David Bowie on his final album, drumming for the great Matt Cameron, Fight Club, and more!
Louis Hayes arrived in New York at age 19; and over the next 60 years amassed a staggeringly great body of work. His collaborators have included: Cannonball Adderly, Oscar Peterson, John Coltrane, and many more of the giants of modern music. Louis talks to Joe about growing up in Detroit, lessons in manhood from Papa Jo Jones, the difficulties that come from being an uncompromising artist, and his new album dedicated to the great Horace Silver.
Xiu Xiu's Shayna Dunkelman uses her formal artistic training as a vehicle to explore the musical unknown. She tells Joe about being the only Indonesian Jew in Tokyo; her mom's new age music career; her background in pure math; her interest in socialism; and why female musicians--and drummers in particular--have to be extraordinarily assertive.
Over the past twenty years, Deerhoof's Greg Saunier has distinguished himself as one of the most fiercely adventurous, iconoclastic, and unique drummers of his generation. He and Joe talk about what it means to be a "good" artist; atomizing music; the cowardice behind the notion of "serving the song"; Laurie Anderson's Creation Stations; and Wittgenstein's Ladder. Then, Greg Answers YOUR questions about his life and art.
In this bonus mini-episode, Low's Mimi Parker answers listener questions! She and Joe discuss Mimi's winning bout with cancer, her favorite comedians, and the nature of personal responsibility. Make sure to subscribe to The Trap Set to hear Mimi's full episode, along with our entire back catalog--all for free!
Born in 1912, Viola Smith rose to fame during an era when female musicians were often relegated to novelty status; but over a career that spanned 50 years, she proved herself to be a visionary far ahead of her time. She talks to Joe about her childhood in Wisconsin, why becoming a traveling musician distanced her from religion, Chick Webb, Louis Belson, Buddy Rich ("not a likeable fellow"), and ignoring Frank Sinatra's advances.
In this bonus mini-episode, Stephen Perkins answers listeners' questions.
Ryan Sawyer grew up in Texas, where he joined At The Drive In just long enough to play on the band’s first album. Now a long time resident of New York, Ryan has honed a style that exists at the convergence of punk and jazz. His collaborators have included Thurston Moore, TV On The Radio, Boredoms, Zeena Parkins, Charles Gayle, and Gang Gang Dance. He talks to Joe about self doubt, relevancy, his computer programmer parents, and the fortuitous experience of seeing Sheila E. at a young age.
In this bonus mini-episode, Steve Ferrone answers questions from YOU, our listeners.
Roland, Steve Albini, and Joe discuss: Big Black, Shellac, the "Uberization" of the workforce, the Jungle of Life, and the one true God above.
For nearly 30 years, John McEntire has existed at the vanguard of a modern paradigm of musician producers. He tells Joe about the impetus to start playing, his formative years at Oberlin, Bastro, Tortoise, The Sea and Cake, and how he has adapted to sea changes in the music world.
Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, Pablo Rieppi spent much of his 1980s adolescence in the Washington DC area. He tells Joe about his journey from Neil Peart devotee to Juilliard Faculty member (not that two things are mutually exclusive). Pablo tells Joe how he benefited from the naivete of his youth, and he explains why all great instrumentalists aren’t necessarily artists.