Chris Dave’s ‘Drumhedz Mixtape’ is dropping tomorrow and we’ve got an early listen to “Cosmic Slop” off the record. A cover of a rare Dilla beat (only 40 seconds), the track is a favorite of Dave’s as well as Pino Palladino, which prompted them to work it out live. Check out the track as well as some words with Chris!
When did you first conceive the idea for the Drumhedz Mixtape?
Maybe like four or five years ago we started performing in Europe a lot in the off times when we were touring. Then it really took off from there and we started getting a following. Especially after this past year — we sold out of a lot of the places we went to and a lot of them were bigger venues. It was really big for having no product and no anything. So I always wanted to have some sort of music just to give back to those that supported us. At least the first thing we could give them is some music for supporting us. For those that have been supporting us, it’s a thank you, and for those who are not hip, then it’s like a brief excerpt of going to a show.
Who worked with you on the mixtape?
I produced it and then I had a lot of my friends as guest musicians on different tracks. The bulk of it was Pino Palladino on bass, Isaiah Sharkey on guitar, Tim Stewart on guitar, Kebbi on sax, and then features with Mos and Stokely Williams from Mint Condition, Derrick Hodge. It’s kind of like all of the musicians I’ve been hanging with in the last eight years. We all play different kinds of music for different artists so we all always wanted to come together to do a fun project that was musician oriented.
How did “Cosmic Slop” come together?
We were on tour in Europe and I was playing this old Dilla tape that had that song. What made me like the song and hate the song was that it is really short. It is like half a verse and then the song cuts off — maybe 40 seconds or something. So me and Pino would just play that song over and over anytime before shows or anything. I always just wanted to play it live and I have never heard really anybody play it live. So it was just a fun one to play.
Was the mixtape recorded in one sitting or is it a collection of recordings?
Yeah it’s from everywhere man. Like say when me and Pino were in Amsterdam for a week, we did this cat Alain Clark’s album. So he had a studio near his house and he’s like “Man, whenever you all want to use it, go for it.” So we happened to have three or four shows there with D’Angelo, and so every night we would just go to his studio and record. When we were in New York rehearsing for the D’Angelo tour and the Mary J. tour, we would go before and after to knock out some ideas. Any kind of way we could get it done really.
You work with a lot of amazing artists. What do you see separating a really serious musician from someone who can take it even further?
It’s just really showing what discipline sounds like. You can listen as what’s being played on the record and then you can also listen as what’s not being played on the record. That’s part of the discipline. We could all solo because we’ve all been in the jazz world. This is more like a solemn approach — more something that everyone can enjoy. For people who don’t listen to jazz, we still want them to like live music. That attitude applies for all of the genres we play on the record.
As far as your development as a musician, how has your own sound developed over the years?
I guess it developed through life, experiences, practicing, shedding, transcribing, and all of the fun and challenging parts of trying to be a better musician everyday.
Tell me about the Four-Way-Coordination that you use.
Four-Way Coordination has been around for a long time. It’s a technique and a mental concept for getting all four of your ligaments to act separate and as a unit at the same time. With that, you can play drums and the percussion parts at the same time. You figure out ways of doing it so that you can sound like a complete sample of something. You are able to add more sounds to your style as opposed to being limited to just four sounds.
How long did it take you to develop that skill?
Oh that’s years. That’s nothing overnight. Anyone that messes with it — the first couple of days you just want to burn the book and pick another instrument [laughs]. Then once you slowly start cracking it open, you start seeing this is something you really have to practice. You can’t just do it by looking.
How often do you normally practice?
That’s something that I try to do everyday or every other day. Especially if we’re on tour, you can get there early and practice and stuff like that. Then when you’re home you can practice however much your schedule allows.
You’ve developed an extremely solid brand and image for yourself. How did you develop your brand and where do you see it going?
It’s just trying to find a little lane and a way for your voice to be heard within people that will support you. The brand has just been working hard. When we get off tour with someone we’re constantly just right back in Europe with our band. Or else we’re always playing for another artist with our band. We’re branding that live music thing. We’re disciplined musicians; you can see the difference in it.
Do you have any advice for musicians coming up and trying to develop their own sound?
Yeah, first just concentrate on making the music feel really good. Let that be the first thing they say about you. Once you get in that lane you’ll understand the whole business side of being a drummer as well.
What goes into the business side of being a drummer?
Making the artist feel really comfortable onstage because you’re on the drum set. Also making the management feel safe because you’re on the drum set — meaning, “I know I will have a terrific show because I’m more than confident with the band I have or the drummer I have. This will be great.” The least thing they’re worrying about is you messing up the show by soloing just because you feel like it or something that an inexperienced guy would do.
As far as gear goes, you use a number of unconventional setups and drums. Can you tell me about the personalities and sounds of some of your favorites?
Oh man! I thought I had some favorites, but I really don’t. But I like snare drums. I have a snare drum fetish, so now I like to only use snares on sets. I like the sounds and timbre. I like to tune them all different. I’ve got a weird little system I developed over the years where I can make certain snares sound like a floor tom and then a snare and then a floor tom. It’s like two sounds per drum. So to me it’s like having twice as many drums with half as much of the setup.
The artists just trust me. They know I’m not going to disrespect what they’re doing. I’m going to try and play their music; I’m not trying to always be seen in their show, you know?
Interview by Eric Sandler (@ericsandler)