Author: Parillo, Michael
Date published: September 1, 2012
In my June editorial, "Shake It Up," I wrote about how refreshing it is to take on a side project. I can now report that the horn band I mentioned ended up breaking up after one show- we'll call it an "indefinite hiatus" - but playing with the group was still a fun experience that had me flexing some new musical muscles. And right around that same time I began playing in a new trio with some old friends, and I was really wondering how I'd be able to make the schedules work when adding my main band, my full-time job, and my gig moonlighting as my wife's personal chef. Problem solved!
Anyway, in June I opened up the floor to you, the readers of Modern Drummer, to share your own side-project experiences, and as expected you had some great responses. Here are a few.
After playing in two alternative rock bands for the previous ten years, I joined an original/cover country band. It was something I had wanted to get into for some time, as I have always appreciated the songwriting and musicianship in country music. After learning the new and challenging material, I noticed that my playing in my alternative rock bands began to get tighter and more solid. My timing was also substantially better. When I started learning the country songs, I had no choice but to tighten it up. The band and the dancing audience depended on me to be tighter than ever, and it was a great experience. It only benefits you and your bands to stretch into other avenues if you have the time, energy, and motivation to do so.
Spicing up my playing from time to time is as simple as heading out to one of the weekly open-mic nights in town. There's something exhilarating about sitting in with complete strangers and playing a couple songs that aren't on your regular set list. Between playing a different instrument, battling the hi-hat that keeps slipping away, and staying in the pocket while watching and listening for solo cues and the shout chorus, those ten minutes of nerve-racking pressure mean everything and nothing when one of the waiters comes over and says you sounded great.
-Scott W. Gray
I'm currently playing in a (mostly) classic rock cover/originals band, and it's great. I'm an old-school metalhead - forty-two years young - and I always wanted to feed that urge as well. So now I'm involved in a side project of playing heavy metal/punky music with kid-friendly lyrics. (I know - interesting concept.) I also recently got involved in a second side project that is very much indie stylings.This one is completely away from my musical knowledge base, but oh, the challenge and fun! The time factor alone can be very daunting, but I think it's not bad to see what more you can handle when the time arises.
- Dirk Ayala
I've been in a party/dance band in the San Francisco Bay Area, called Struttin, for twenty-five years. Over the last few years the band has slowed down, and I've been seeking out new musical growth. Most of my new situations involve playing in church. Sometimes I'll be asked to sit in on Sunday morning when there's a no-show from another drummer. This situation has put me on stage with a count-off, without ever hearing the song (or sometimes the whole set). The only thing I ask is if there are any time signatures that could be tricky. There generally aren't, but I ask. It's fantastic to find the song while it's playing - a scary but beautiful thing. Over the years I have developed with my main jamming buddies and bandmates a reactive style of playing. You might tie it in with the jazz concept of having a loose form with certain landmarks that keep it cohesive. Any little nuance can lead everyone in a new direction that is musical and fulfilling.
- Michael Colon
Warm regards to everyone who wrote in. Here's hoping we all get to keep juggling gigs and shaking up our musical lives. As Scott Gray implies in his note, you don't even need a primary band in order to achieve this - all you need is a local open-mic night with a house kit in need of wrangling.