Artist Spotlight: 17 Questions with John Humphrey (Seether)
1. What is your typical schedule on the road (or in the studio) like?
Well, I usually pull myself outta' my bunk around 11am. Head to the dressing room, turn on my computer, check and answer emails (including answering this Q & A)... shower, etc.. If we are headlining the show, we'll sometimes soundcheck later in the afternoon. Of course, the soundcheck depends on how hungover everyone is and if we want to drag our lazy butts to the stage. Then, 30 minutes prior to performance, I'll get into my "stinky" show clothes (ie: black T-shirt and jeans) hit the practice kit, put in my in-ear monitors and jam some classic VH or Crue thru my ears via my Ipod. Then we hit the stage, bash it out...return to bus, say hello to friends, guests and fans. Change out of "stinky" show clothes and eat a bite. Hop back into bunk around 1-2 am. Rinse and Repeat!
2. What are some of the things you love about your job?
I love to play my drums. I love the music I perform with my band... It's as simple, as that. I have the best job in the world and I try not to take it for granted.
3. What are some of the drawbacks?
I think being away from my family. I have a wife and 2 boys, back home. I have missed birthdays. anniversary's, etc.. doing what I do. But, they are extremely supportive and understand, this is what daddy does.
4. What made you want to play drums, and how did you get started?
When I was 12 years old, I saw Kiss in concert. They were in make-up. They had the whole show...fire, blood, fireworks, explosions. And the drummer was playing this MASSIVE drum kit that seemed to wrap him four times. It made a huge impression on me. I knew I wanted to play music and be in a band. My mom, of course, enrolled me in piano lessons but, I wanted to rock. After a year of pleading with my dad... I finally received my first drum kit. About 6 months later, I started jamming with a couple of friends who played bass and guitar. We didn't have a singer and I'm sure we sounded like crap. But, the first time we all tried to play the same song... it was like the heavens opened up!! I was hooked.
5. Whom did you study with and how did that affect you?
I played in marching, concert and jazz band, while in high school. I performed drums in local college musicals and was even offered a scholarship to the Berkley School of Music. I didn't take it (I Know... I'm an idiot. Why? Because I thought the rock band I was with, at the time, were going to become BIG TIME...Of course, THAT band didn't!)
6. What was your most difficult -or challenging- gig, and how did you handle that?
Well, I don't know about eccentric specifically..but, when working in a band and in this business, you deal with many personalities. And I tell young musicians wanting advice, to PUT THE EGO AWAY. When you are in band, on the level I'm with... you deal with band members, producers, management, etc. And an EGO that thinks he/she is always right will not fly in a band situation. Keep an open mind and a willingness to learn.
7. How did you get your current gig?
Well, during the 90's I was with a band, signed to MCA records, called "The Nixons". We had minor success and a crash course in the "workings of the music business". Anyway, our sound engineer (and my good friend) eventually became the engineer for Seether. Seether had relocated to the US from South Africa. Unfortunately (or fortunately), their drummer did not. They held auditions in October 2003. It was in Dallas, Texas and while they were on tour w/ another drummer. I had learned their first album "Disclaimer", inside and out. I had done my homework and was prepared. I was the last of 4 or 5 guys to try out. Shaun (singer) started calling out songs and we went thru 3 or 4 when he finally looked up and smiled. They offered me the position, right there in the audition. I said "YES!" of course, and joined the band on the road about 3 weeks later. My first show was in a small club in Riverside, CA. My second was in front of 22,000 people in Mexico City opening for Evanescense. Talk about stressed:)
8. Are there certain shows that stick out in your mind above others?
There have been a lot of great ones. The show that sticks out in my mind, was performing with Metallica in South Africa. Nothing more exciting than playing your heart out on stage while looking over to the side and seeing James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich jamming to your songs... Pretty surreal. My old band, The Nixons opened for Kiss on their 1996 reunion tour... That was a dream come true for me.
9. What was the strangest thing that has happened (or that you have seen,) during a tour?
Well, there have been a lot of strange things, I won't be able to write about here... But, one thats kind of funny.. was watching a guy, in our audience, who was crowd surfing while sitting in his wheelchair. That was a trip!! I hope he was ok :)
10. What do you do to maintain your versatility as a drummer?
I have a pretty diverse taste in music. I love classic rock, old motown, blues, metal, some country and rockabilly...just to name a few. As I get older, I love going to back to discover artist that pioneered certain musical styles. I'm in a rock band but, I love many styles of music. I play in a cover band, whenever I'm home. Literally, I have performed on Jay Leno's Tonight Show and the very next night, performed in a club with a cover band in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
11. What's your current set-up, and what are you digging about it?
I have just joined the Ludwig family. They are a legendary drum manufacturer. Its an honor to be a part of this storied company. I have a Classic Maple kit (Glass glitter sparkle finish) and it sounds amazing live. 10x13 tom, 14x14 floor tom (left side,) 16x16 floor tom, 16x18 floor tom, 16x24 bass drum, 6.5x14 Black Beauty snare drum...Need I say more? :)
12. How important to you are the drums you play and how do you feel it affects your playing?
I think its very important that you believe in the drums and the product you are using. When you sit behind a set of Ludwigs, and you feel that its sounding good...not for only you but, the band, your sound man and the audience. It can't help but build your confidence.
13. What drew you to Ludwig?
It was a full circle experience for me. My very first kit was a 1966 Mahogany Ludwig kit. It came complete with calf skin heads.(Wish I still had that kit) When I was approached by Ludwig... It didn't take me long to respond. I took a Ludwig rental kit, on a tour we were doing overseas. Me, my tech and our sound engineer were all freaking out. It was sounding amazing!! When we returned to the states... I, officially, became a member of the Ludwig Family. Thanks Kevin :)
14. Can you describe how you tweak your drums to get your personal sound?
I like to tune the heads to the natural tone of the drum..then, I'll turn the lugs to tune just a bit lower. I like the feel of low and slightly, detuned toms. I like a little ring in my snare (sound man complains all the time:) and a warm punchy bass drum. It doesn't take a lot of work to tune a Ludwig kit. Of course, a killer drum tech doesn't hurt either..wink,wink.
15. Are there any upcoming projects that you are particularly excited about?
Seether just did a song and a very cool video for "Dragon Age" the animated movie. And I recently had the honor of recording drums to an unfinished KISS/Eric Carr demo called "Eyes of Love". Through the magic of modern studio technology, I was able to perform with Eric Carr, posthumously, on a song he wrote and recorded in 1989. (Eric Carr was Kiss' second drummer and died of cancer in 1991). I was asked, by Eric's family, to participate in the project. The "Unfinished Business" CD was released in November 2011. It was another dream come true :)
16. Who are you major drumming influences?
I have several... Eric Carr, Alex Van Halen, Steve Smith, Ronnie Tutt (Elvis Presley), Tommy Lee, Keith Moon, Liberty Devito (Billy Joel), John Bonham, Deen Castronovo.
17. What are your four favorite albums (drumming or otherwise)?
This is tough... It depends on which day you catch me. So today, I'll say...
Dave Grohl: Anything he is on...ok, ok...
"Queens of the Stone Age - Songs For The Deaf".
Alex Van Halen: "Van Halen - 1984"
Eric Singer: "Kiss - Unplugged"
Ronnie Tutt: "Elvis Presley - Aloha Via Satellite"
Get More Info at: http://seether.com
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