Archive for September, 2013

24 Hours in the Life of a Working Drummer

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

 The drummer in question is George Sandler, a percussionist and vocalist extraordinaire based in the Metro Atlanta area. He would make Keifer Sutherland appear lazy!

Sunday August 18th

3:00am-Arrived home (Roswell, GA) after a gig in Suwanee GA (approx. 27 miles one way) with The Insatiable Stallion Brothers (NOT my idea of a name….).  We started playing at 10pm and finished at 1am.

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Breakdown and load out took about an hour.  I used a drum set/percussion set up that involved a lot of different instruments since I was playing BOTH drum set & percussion.  Exhibit A & B for your viewing pleasure.

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8:00amSound check at Cumming First United Methodist Church.  I was up by 6:30am to facilitate being on time for my 8am call time at the church.  Great thing about this particular gig is that all I needed to bring was sticks, a bass drum pedal and a throne.  An electronic kit was provided (not a great kit but usable) so along with my bits that I brought I made it work.  Rehearsal went from 8:15am until 9:30am.

Had some serious “I can’t hear what I am playing” issues since the soundman there seems to dislike drums and contemporary music in general.  In these situations I tell myself, “Relax, it will be over soon.”  The service started at 9:51am (?) and was over by 11.  I picked up my check, grabbed my stuff and was on the road home by 11:35.

So, I have a little down time before my next load in at 6pm.  Oddly enough, I attempted to grab a nap.  I was only semi-successful because the phone RANG off the hook.  Good stuff, but I could have used a nap.

6:00pm-Load in at Johnny’s Hideaway in Buckhead (about 25 miles one way).  Once again I am gigging with The Insatiable Stallion Brothers.  Gig starts PROMPTLY at 9:30 so after setup & sound check I have time to eat and relax a bit.  I used basically the same setup as the night before.  No surprises here.

 12:15am-Our portion of the evening is over.  We play 3 sets and the dance floor is packed most of the evening.  I proceed to start breaking down my rig when a very nice woman who has been at the bar since I arrived at 6 approaches me.  By now she is VERY inebriated and wants to chat.  I do talk to her for a brief moment…. she is CONSIDERABLY older than me and since I have had NOTHING but water to drink, I am having a difficult time understanding her.  I did hear something about “wanna go to the beach with me tomorrow?”  To which I politely smile and pretend that I didn’t hear that part.  She saunters back to her chair and proceeds to stare me down while I am packing up.

And speaking of packing and loading, I go out to my van to retrieve my cases and SURPRISE, its MONSOONING.  Not just raining, but COPIOUS amounts of rain, lightning and wind going on.  The valet says, “Oh, this will pass in 20 minutes.”  I go back inside with my cases & my cart, finish packing up and walk outside to find that it hasn’t stopped but is raining EVEN harder than before.  Fantastic.  Loading out in the rain with only a very small awning to protect you is my FAVORITE thing.  My kingdom for a roadie….

2:45am-I arrive home and fortunately the rain has stopped.  I then pull my car into the garage to unload most of my gear and then RELOAD a different kit for my recording session tomorrow at Johnson Brothers Recording Studios in Covington.  I sort out all of the gear, finish loading and head inside for some rest.  Glamorous life, wouldn’t you say?  I have always stated that I will PLAY for free…. it’s the loading, unloading, transporting and driving that I charge for.

6:15am-Up and going, I have a goal of leaving my house by 7am, which I achieve.  However, someone decides that one of the roads that lead out to the main thoroughfare has been used by someone who thought it would be a great idea to go 70 mph, which resulted in a wreck that completely blocks off that route.  I then turn around after waiting for 15 minutes of going nowhere to take an alternate route.  This is also a colossal failure.  Fortunately my call time isn’t until 10:30am.  Good thing I allowed myself extra time…. traffic is terrible on this day!

10:25am-I arrive at Johnson Brothers Recording, unload my drums, get set up quickly and promptly knock out a Southern Gospel song for a client.  We started recording at 11:30, I did one take of this song and was done by 11:40.  This is what I am expected to do…. work quickly and be good on the FIRST pass if at all possible. Exhibit C for your viewing pleasure….


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11:50am-Our client for the day, Gannon Adams arrives with his writing partner James Colt.  Along with James is Gannon’s dad, Ricky, who is always fun to have around when we are working.  On tap are 5 songs today, one of which is a rap/RnB version of a song we have previously recorded in a previous session.  The norm for most songs of this genre is to NOT have real drums but to have a drum machine or sequencer provide the groove.  So, for the next hour I am not playing but programming.  I will be honest, I am not the biggest fan of rap but I do get calls to do a LOT of programming for this type of music.  So it pays to be familiar with ALL styles and know what it takes to make a song in this genre happen.

12:45pm-We move on to the other songs that are in the “new country” genre.  Normally we have more songs to complete in a given day but we are doing fewer songs so we can really get creative with the material.  Creativity does take time and we take additional time to add percussion, loops, additional guitar parts and so on.  Not that we would not do this on other projects but when you have 10 songs to complete instead of 5 you have to move things along a bit more.  We complete two more songs and then head out to grab some lunch.

3:15pm-We return after lunch and dive right back in to the songs.  During the session I will change out pieces of my kit, especially snare drums and cymbals, to suit the vibe and mood of the song.  I usually bring at LEAST 6 different snares to any given session as well as additional cymbals to have a LOT of colors to choose from.  On this day I brought 12 different snares as well as 4 ride cymbals, 3 sets of hi-hats, various crashes and other special effect cymbals.  Not to MENTION a large bag of small percussion instruments (shakers, tambourines, etc.) And yes, this means that I have to carry all of this with me.  Hence the reason for the minivan.

5:45pm-We are working on the last song, which is a bit of a throwback for Gannon.  It is more traditional country that pleases his father immensely.  My session partners John Johnson (keyboards & engineering) & Daniel Addison (bass, electric & acoustic guitars as well as mandolin) is always great to be around and we really do make beautiful music together.  We work together a lot and the finished product always speaks for itself.  And after all the songs we played today, this one is my favorite because of the sheer different vibe from the other songs.

6:45pm-My part of the session is done.  I begin to pack up all of my gear, load it in the van (I beat the impending rain, thank goodness) and head home to Roswell (50 miles one way).  I usually tune my radio to sports talk, news or OFF after a day like today.  This evening is no exception and I ride home in silence.  VERY therapeutic for me…I love music and feel blessed to do it for a living, however there are times when I need a break from it.  In my opinion taking a break from music helps me avoid getting burned out.

7:54pm-Home at last!  I pull into the garage and unload all of my gear and put everything into its proper storage area.  The next day is a day off for me so I have scheduled a massage at 1:30pm.  But not before I wake up at 8am, program and complete two tracks for clients in Mobile AL and New York.  All the while answering calls, emails and such.  My work is NEVER done!