Aaron Sterling's percussive prowess would have gotten him plenty of work during the golden age of the recording studio, but his attention to sonics and ability to self engineer make him a quintessential studio drummer for the modern paradigm. He discusses: overcoming social anxiety; working at California Pizza Kitchen; his largely unwavering musical confidence; how he built his career without compromising his values; and musical empathy.
Parker Kindred has a supernatural gift of musical intuition. His intensely imaginative, lyrical playing style imbues the music with a deep hypnotic subtlety. Joe joined Parker in his Williamsburg apartment to discuss: being “inside one’s body”; why identifying as a drummer makes him feel like a loser; working with artists such as Joan As Police Woman and Jeff Buckley; and what he would ask other versions of himself if he could travel through time.
Rob Ellis possesses the dynamic touch of a concert musician, the ferocity of a punk rocker, and the compositional sense of a New Music luminary; but it's Rob's extraordinary capacity for musical empathy that make him the perfect collaborator for iconic songwriters ranging from PJ Harvey to Marianne Faithfull. Rob tells Joe about his early memories in 1960s California; his Navy officer father, whose death at an early age cast a shadow on Rob's personal development; attending an elite public (boarding) school, wherein he was head choir boy; helping Polly Harvey become PJ Harvey; and the process of mending strained relationships with his family.
In this bonus mini-episode, Rob Ellis discusses his struggles with alcohol and the decision to become sober. Be sure to check out Rob's introspectively intense full-length episode, also available this week.
We're hard at work on new episodes, so this week, we're revisiting one of our favorite conversations with Steven Drozd of The Flaming Lips. Steven has a new podcast of his own called Sorcerer's Orphan. See you next week!
Brendan Buckley’s omnivorous musical taste, disciplined approach, and granular attention to detail make him well-suited for work with artists such as Tegan and Sara, Roberto Carlos, Volumen Cero, JJ Lin, and—for the last 20 years—Shakira.
Brendan tells Joe about: growing up in New Jersey, his tiger mom, what it takes to play a choreographed pop gig night after night, improvising with Damien Rice, how losing his sister at a young age shifted his outlook on life, and his permissive but careful style of parenting.
Bill Bruford’s instantly identifiable sound and brilliant sense of composition made him the defining drummer of the progressive rock movement; but at age 60, after four decades in the music business, Bill unceremoniously walked away.
Bill tells Joe about: being a young jazz elitist; "leveraging himself sideways" from an upper-middle class family to the seedy life of a musician; doing a lot with “a modest amount of talent”; the creative dynamics of Yes and King Crimson; how he achieved his signature snare sound; retirement; and earning a doctorate from The University of Surrey. During the course of the conversation, Joe and Bill also christen a new band, Wongford. This is a can’t-miss episode with one of the all-time greats.
Rat Scabies and his influential band, The Damned, were integral members of the fledgling UK punk community. Rat's controlled bombast earned him comparisons to Keith Moon and Mitch Mitchell. He and Joe met in Soho to discuss: Rat's post-war childhood in the outskirts of London; his father's job as an underground soft porn merchant; his theory on geography's key role in bands; the inner workings of The Damned; and his quest for The Holy Grail.
A classically trained percussionist, Fay Milton possesses an adventurous compositional sense and keen sonic sensitivity that helped Savages become one of the most exciting, critically-lauded bands of the last decade. Fay and Joe met in Soho, London, to discuss: why there is hope in the darkness; the lack of surfer dudes in Australia; Savages; Fay's new Project, 180db; and the desire to have children amidst the instability of a life in music.
Woody Woodmansey propelled the legendary Spiders from Mars to international stardom and helped the post-war generation escape the prison of banality. Woody tells Joe about growing up in Northern England; his life as a plumber and factory worker; how fate led him to discover music; writing music and touring with David Bowie; craving uncertainty; living a life of excess; and re-defining himself when the magic carpet of rockstardom was pulled out from under him.
In this Bonus Episode, The Slits bassist, Tessa Pollitt, sat down with Joe after a recent screening of "Here to Be Heard", a documentary about the band.
Nate Wood has a gift for mastery when it comes to the mechanics of music; but he also possesses a creative clarity that transcends mere virtuosity. He talks about growing up in a musical family; his theory of genetic determinism; his approach to learning instruments; and how his new project, Four, might be his salvation when the robots rise to annihilate the human race.
Ryan Pope's metronomical groove and uniquely memorable beats helped The Get Up Kids become one of the most influential rock bands to emerge from the Midwest during the 1990s. Ryan tells Joe about: his incredibly close relationship with his brother/bandmate Rob; growing up Mormon and losing his faith; re-defining himself when the band ended its initial run; and his life as a serial entrepreneur.
Formed in 1990 in New York City, Quicksand drew inspiration from the energy of their native hardcore scene. Powered by drummer Alan Cage's dexterous groove, the band's angular compositions ushered in an influential new strain of heavy music. Alan tells Joe about: growing up as a mildly mischievous kid on Long Island; the formation and creative dynamic of Quicksand; working as a labor organizer when the band broke up; his fear of becoming a father; and becoming a father!
Adam Topol's formative years were spent listening to Kiss and punk rock, but he soon discovered a lifelong passion for jazz and world music that influenced his diverse career. He tells Joe about growing up in Lake Tahoe; his self-taught entrepreneur father; why art and academia feel at odds; why he never thought that he could make a living playing music; getting sober; his connection with deep Jack Johnson; and starting his percussion company, Roots EQ.
The Arctic Monkeys started out as more of an aspiration than an actual band--its members were teenagers who had just started playing their instruments. But--after gaining some online notoriety--the band was catapulted to massive popularity, releasing a string of number one albums in their native UK. Matt Helders talks to Joe about: growing up in Sheffield; struggling with feelings of "unearned" success early in the band's career; evolving as an artist; the thrilling fear of writing his solo album; and working with the great Iggy Pop on his acclaimed Post Pop Depression album.
On this episode of The Trap Set Live, Joe sits down with Chico Mann and Geoff Mann to discuss: musical parents (Geoff’s father being the legendary Herbie Mann); early influences; the first records they purchased with their own money; their tenure with Antibalas; the genesis of their current band Here Lies Man—which combines Afrobeat-inspired rhythm with heavy psychedelic textures; and parenting.
This episode was recorded live at The Amigo Room at Ace Hotel and Swim Club in Palm Springs, CA.
Lucky Lehrer's ferocious and agile style helped Circle Jerks become standard bearers of the nascent SoCal hardcore scene. He tells Joe about growing up in LA, his love of jazz, studying at UC-Berkeley, discovering punk, and his current creative focus--improvised comedy.
Formed in Philadelphia in 1983, The Dead Milkmen created a downright hillarious sonic universe that stood in stark contrast to their hardcore punk contemporaries. But it's a genuine, heartfelt emotional core that makes the band's classic body of work stand the test of time. Drummer Dean "Clean" Sabatino charts his journey from local hero, to major label big wigs, to father and graphic designer, to part-time punk.
The incredible Dale Crover (Melvins) graced The Trap Set during our salad days (Episode 10). Today, he makes a triumphant return to update us on what he's been up for the past few years. A great chat with one of the most compelling and unique drummers out there!
Tony Hajjar's explosive, emotionally-raw style propelled At The Drive-In to mainstream success. He tells Joe about emigrating to the US from Lebanon, losing both of his parents at an early age, his tight relationship with his brother, the band dynamic of ATDI, breaking up just after breaking into the mainstream, Sparta, staying in a psychological "survival mode", creating the stability he's always craved, and creating a thriving business with his wife.
Kate Schellenbach’s formative musical experience was in the choir at the Church of St. Luke in Greenwich Village; but soon enough, she was watching Clem Burke do lines at CBGB. Kate tells Joe about drumming for an early, punk-influenced version of The Beastie Boys; achieving popular success with Luscious Jackson; singing on Broadway as a child; her second career as an Emmy-Award-winning TV producer; and raising a son.
John "J.R" Robinson has an extraordinary sense of time, a crisp tone, and a gift for developing rhythmic hooks. All of these attributes contribute to his status as one of the most in-demand session drummers of all time. Joe visited J.R. at his home to discuss: his childhood in Iowa; why his drum set was his best friend; attending Berklee College; joining Rufus and moving to LA; working with a host of iconic artists; and why marriage is a bad idea (at least until you have your life together).
Pete Moffett cut his teeth in the DC punk scene, where he developed a signature style balancing angular inventiveness with oversized bombast. He talks to Joe about why he's so hard on himself; transitioning from an ELO-heavy diet to punk rock; the ramifications of being a recovering alcoholic; coming out and meeting his partner of 25 years; and drum teching for high profile artists.
Dave Elitch has the rare ability to deconstruct the craft of drumming on a granular level. This gift has led to a diversity gigs ranging from The Mars Volta to Justin Timberlake. Dave's primary passion, though, is for teaching. At age 34, he's taught a who's-who of professional drummers, some of whom are twice Dave's age and icons in their own right. Dave tells Joe about how he fell in love with drumming; his teaching style; his love of visual art; and the parallels between therapy and drum instruction.