Also special thanks to Alex Alford for contributing a few great 'drummer-related' questions, and many thanks to my official interview transcriber Jim Laakso, a Yale graduate with long hair, who says, "What's with all the Sims mentions in this interview? David Wm. Sims, Rick Sims, The SIMS Foundation - is this a conspiracy!?"
He didn't really ask if it was a conspiracy; I was just trying to coax all you X-Files fans into reading the interview.
Hey! Mark Prindle.
Oh! Hey, Mark.
Hey, how are you doin'?
I'm good. How's it going, man?
Good! Are you available now? Or are you heading out?
No, actually I just walked in the door from the gym.
Yeah. How you doing?
I'm good. So you're doing the old gym thing?
Yeah. I have to go and kind of exercise and stuff like that. Good stuff.
I've got Tae Kwon Do.
Well, I try. I'm not very good. But I do try, which I feel is important.
Hey, trying is good, man.
Yeah. So you just moved?
Yeah, I'm in Los Angeles. Are you in New York?
How's it there?
It's getting better, actually. It had been really, really hot and humid for a while and it's finally calming down.
Now, had you moved from another city, or just in L.A. from somewhere to somewhere?
Yeah, I moved from Austin.
You moved from Austin to L.A.?!
Wow! How come?
Well, that's a good question, actually. There's more than one reason. I love Austin. I have a lot of friends there, a lot of history. I was born and raised there and stuff. But it's really hard to try to make a living there. You can play music and stuff all day long, but you aren't really making any money at it. I have some friends out here that kind of suggested that I come out here and give it a shot, so I did. My wife and I came out here and we're giving it a try.
How long have you been there?
It's been about six weeks now.
Wow. What do you think so far?
What do I think so far? A lot of things, actually. It's a lot different than Austin. I've lived out here before and I know that it's tough. I'm not ready to stop playing yet, but I also know that some of the greatest musicians in the world live out here. And to be able to kind of walk in and expect to get work was maybe not very realistic on my part. But I'm not going to give up; I'm going to just keep trying. I know I can't compete with a lot of people out here, so maybe there's somebody around who wants a hack like me or something, you know, a mediocre guy.
How are you mediocre?!
We're gonna give it a try, that's all. Right now I don't have anything going on.
What do you have over other drummers? I mean you do have strengths that made you an underground favorite for a long time. Is it because of your power, or something in your technique...? I mean, I'm not a drummer, so I don't...
You know what Mark, I can't answer that. It's impossible for me to. Probably the way that I look at myself and the way that other people look at me I'm sure are two completely different things.
How do you look at yourself as a drummer?
Well, not to be too self-effacing, but very average. Just a guy who plays the drums and tries to do a good job at it. Not real good, to tell you the truth.
Why do you feel that way?
Well, I guess because the kinds of musicians and drummers that I admire and stuff -- I could never do that kind of stuff. I don't want to say "never," but you know, people that have talents and techniques and things like that that I just never really had the discipline to try to get to. I always wanted to be the best drummer in the world, but I didn't have the discipline to get that.
Who are some of the best in the world, in your opinion?
Who are some of your favorites, yeah.
God, I don't know. There's a bunch, man. There are so many. You know, every single drummer in the world has some kind of an influence on me, whether it's "I don't want to play like that" or "That's great, I wish I could play like that someday." I've got just way too many. I love music and I can't categorize it into "this is good" or "this is bad" or whatever. Shit like that.
But, you know, I play the guitar and I view myself how you view yourself, I suppose. I'm average, but I do at least have my own... Even though I can't play like the greats, I have my own unique style, and I think people would say that you have that. I mean, you can tell it's you drumming. You've got a really powerful, hard-hitting style that's pretty recognizable on the works that I've heard that you've been on.
Yeah, I definitely play the way that I play. I didn't know you were a musician.
Well, I just record crap on my own. I tried to get a band together, and I didn't even have the discipline to do that. So I just bought a four-track and said, "Forget other people, I'll just do this myself."
Hey, that's good though. I guess it kind of depends on what you want to get out of music. If you just want to be happy, then yeah that's great. If you want to try to make a living at it, you've fucked up a lot of things. So I think that that's good that you play and record yourself.
Yeah, I've been kind of slow about it lately.
Yeah? Creative juices kind of flow at their own rate.
It's more like no free time!
That's the other thing about... If you choose not to do it for a living but you want to do it as a hobby, you've got a job.
But I guess even if you try to... I mean, you've got to bring in money somehow. Whether you're... Yeah. So I was sorry to hear about Tim Kerr.
Oh, you mean Biscuit?
Wait! Who am I talking about?
I don't know what you're talking about, Mark.
Yeah, I meant Randy "Biscuit" Turner. Why had I written down 'Tim Kerr'?! Oh well. Forget what I wrote down. Had you kept up with him at all?
I had talked to him. The Dicks played a reunion show in Austin and I got to visit with him for a little bit and it was really nice. I didn't see him as often as I'd like to have. We used to live together, so it was really nice to be able to visit with him earlier this year. But yeah, yeah, it was really... not good. He was a very close friend who meant an awful lot to me, and I had many memories of him growing up and him sort of being a surrogate father for me. And it's really, really a shame. I know so many people that really miss him. Yeah, it's really a shame.
How did it happen?
Well, he had Hep C and he could not afford health insurance, like so many musicians.
He just couldn't afford it. So he was sick and he wouldn't go to the doctor because he was scared he was going to - you know, most musicians live kind of hand to mouth and paycheck to paycheck. And one morning he just got up and his liver just failed. It's not a pretty way to go. I know it's very painful. So I hope it wasn't too bad for him. I know he's OK now. Yeah.
Are you staying healthy? I know you said you go to the gym.
Yeah. Yeah, I'm probably in the best health I've ever been in in my life, thank God.
How'd you manage that?
How'd you manage that? Did you cut out stuff, or start working out more, or what? Start eating better?
I changed things in my life. A lot of things, actually. I made some changes - big changes. So yeah, it's good. I've gotta take care of myself. I'm starting to get a little long in the tooth, so I've gotta take care of myself.
Do you keep up with people from Scratch Acid, Ministry, Didjits, just all those different bands that you played with? Do you still talk to some of those people, or is it all just a job to a job to a job?
I try to. Some of the situations that I was in ended better than others. Me and David Yow just went to go and see Mike Watt play. I just live right around the corner from David.
Oh, I didn't even know he lived in L.A.
Yeah. We hadn't seen each other really in the past - God, I probably saw him about three or four times in the past 15 years. And we get to go out and get chili dogs and stuff together since I've been here, and we've just been catching up. I love that guy, always have loved him, and it's really good to be able to hang out and visit with him again.
Why don't you form another band with him?
I think Dave's finished with music. He's got a really good job and does this incredible artwork for advertising companies.
Oh! Oh, that's pretty cool.
Yeah, it's really good for him and I'm happy for him and he seems to be happy with it. I think he's kind of done with the music thing. But Scratch Acid is going to do a reunion show.
That whole reunion thing is kind of gross to me, but it's a special cause.
What is it? What cause?
Touch and Go is having their 25th anniversary, and Corey asked us if we would play for that. And I would do anything for Corey, so we all talked about it and decided yes, we would try to do that for him. We'll probably just do one or two shows.
Who was the guitarist in that band? Did he go on to another band?
Oh, Brett? Yeah, he stayed in Austin and he's got a couple of little projects and stuff that he plays with. So he's doing good, he seems to be happy. I know he's looking forward to the Scratch Acid reunion.
Now, after Austin you moved to where? Chicago?
Yeah, I've kind of moved around a little bit. But when Scratch Acid broke up, yeah, I went to Chicago and did Rapeman with Steve.
You moved up at the same time, then? Did you move up together, you and David Wm. Sims?
No, I moved up to start that band with Steve, and ended up going back to Austin and asking David Sims if he wanted to play bass. And then eventually him and David Yow both moved up to Chicago and started their own band after I sort of fucked that all up.
How did you fuck that all up?
Um, just as bands -- ego. And basically.... Just ego. It got in the way of a bunch of shit. And just wanting my way. I wasn't the best guy to be around back in those days. I took everything very seriously, and my playing seriously. And yeah, I fucking fucked up. So I wasn't very nice to Steve and David back then, and wasn't really very nice to anybody back then. So yeah, that kind of imploded and I kinda have to take a little bit of the blame for that. Not all of it, but -
What precipitated the change to become a... At what point did you say, "I'm taking this too seriously"? Was it making you really... It seems like it would make you feel bad all the time, for one thing.
Yeah, it does. Yeah. It does make you feel bad. I had to come to this realization that I'm taking myself way too seriously, I'm taking music way too seriously. I love it, but come on man, it's just -- you know, I'm playing a musical instrument. I'm not out teaching the underprivileged how to read. I made such a huge big deal out of it, being some kind of perfectionist and all this. It's not a fun way to live because you're never satisfied. You spread that around over all these people that care and love you, and that's no way to treat anybody. You can't live up to your own expectations, so nobody else can either, so you're always fucking miserable all the time. It's just not a fun way to live. I had to change myself. I still take my craft seriously. I still try to do the best that I can, but I'm not going to sit around and kick my own ass if I miss a beat or a change or somebody else hits the wrong chord. It's just like, "Hey, we're human. Let's just have fun with this now." It's about having fun and doing the best that you can and laughing if you make mistakes. Which is a lot different than it used to be for me.
Was that a gradual thing, or was there a moment in time where you were like, "What is happening? I'm miserable. I need to change something." Because that's a pretty big change in life and self-perception. A pretty important change.
Well, it is a change for me. But you know, I can't say that I -- other people would have to tell you, "Hey, Rey's changed." All I can tell you is that I try. I try to have a different viewpoint on life and things like that. Other people have to be the witness to that, "Yes, Rey's changed. He's much funner to be around" and stuff like that. I can't say that.
Oh. And it's just been a gradual thing?
No.. It was a very enlightening moment for me. An awakening, you might say.
What was it?
A lot of personal things. I was making some really bad choices in my life and getting sick of it. You know, I made some bad choices with drugs and shit like that, and just the people I was hanging out with it. I was just like, "Hey man, I've got to change."
Yeah. Without trying to get all deep and shit, yeah, I enjoy life a lot more now. I just enjoy playing a lot more. I can still get a little down on myself or whatever, just like anybody can, but it's a lot better.
Are you nervous at all about being in a new city and trying to get work going for yourself? Are you just... Well, at least you have your wife there with you, I guess. I mean, it's gotta be pretty daunting.
Yeah. It is. It's a little overwhelming. Yeah. But like I said, I'm not ready to stop playing. I love playing the drums and I love music, and I don't want to stop. But I also want to be able to do it with people that are maybe willing to work at it a little bit and have some vision. Trying to maybe not be just kind of a watered-down, derivative type of music. I like originality and stuff. I don't know. That was the hard thing about being in Austin. There are some good bands out there and good people, but the work ethic there is a little... I don't know if you've ever been to Austin.
I've only visited once.
But the work ethic can be a little...
Yeah. It can. And I'm just used to working and stuff, and... I don't know.
Which of the bands that you've played with would you say were the most disciplined at trying to practice the most, or trying to get their own sound?
Probably...oh, God, I don't... It would have to be Scratch Acid, because we were all beginners. We were all learning our instruments and learning how to play and stuff, so we practiced all the time to try to get better. That band probably worked harder than any band, I think, that I was in, at least that I can remember. Because, I mean, you get a little bit older and you don't have to maybe go in and practice for five hours every day because you've got a little bit of skill developed. Scratch Acid at least, in the four or five years that we were together, we wrote three records. You know? It took us nearly two years to record our first record because we were constantly trying to work at it and get better. It was just ridiculous, man.
They're good records though - very good records. Are those at least among the ones that you're proudest of that you played on? What would you say...like, if someone has never heard your drumming and you want to give them an example of how...
(weepy voice) Don't laugh at me!
That's funny that you say that, because being out here and trying to get some work, everybody wants a sample of what I sound like. Nobody's ever heard of me out here, so people that I talk to go, "Well, give me a sample of your work." And I just fucking agonize over trying to get some type of representation of how I play out of the few recordings that I've been on. Oh, and I think I just fucked it up. I put some stuff together and I called David Yow and I said, "Hey, I don't know what to do," and I'd put some stuff on there and sent it out and he asked me what I'd put on there, and he just goes, "You fucking idiot!"
"You put that on but you didn't put THAT on?" You know. So I'm not a very good judge of what I think I've done good at or bad at or whatever. So I couldn't tell you.
What was he saying, do you remember?
For one thing, I didn't put any Rapeman stuff on the demo.
Because you didn't want to put the word "Rapeman" on the demo?
That had a little bit to do with it, yeah. And just listening back to it I was just like, "Wow, man, these recordings just aren't really as good as I kind of want them to be or would think somebody else would want to hear," so I left all that shit off. So my playing, at least in my viewpoint, has gotten so much better in the past few years that I just kind of tended to put more stuff that I've done recently.
You mean like Ministry, or even that far back?
No, not Ministry. That was a job.
No, just people that have asked me to play in the past few years, some demos. I had a little jazz band a few years ago that I really, really enjoyed playing in.
Oh, what was the name of that band?
Yeah, we did a record that's probably one of the records that I am the most proud of, and I enjoyed being in this band so much. We had a horn section. We pressed up a bunch of CDs, but it never did come out or anything, which is a shame.
Oh, it never came out?
No. Never. The guy that put up the money for it, after the recording and the pressing, they didn't want to put any money into trying to -- they just bailed out of it at the very last minute.
Huh. Are you trying to shop it around on any labels, or do you not own it?
Yeah, I own it, the band owns it, but I don't know anything about trying to... You know, I gave it to a few friends. I gave it to Corey at Touch and Go and he wasn't really interested. You know, it's jazz. Or sort of a punk-rock version of jazz is maybe how I should say it or something. Old punk rockers trying to play jazz.
Did you try Mike Patton's label, Ipecac? They put out a lot of jazzy-type weird stuff. Also, I think they're out there, aren't they? Los Angeles?
Yeah, yeah, they are, actually. I don't know a lot of those guys really, and I'm not a very good sort of promoter or self-promoter. That stuff is old - that's not today.
Oh. Was that the last band you played with that you were really into?
Yeah, I liked that band. I had a lot of fun with them. But I ended up starting a couple of other bands after that, and I really enjoyed playing with them, but that kind of imploded too. Then I played with this little band that played this kind of country, blues -- I'll just call it American music. I played with them, but that was their band and I was just sort of a hired drummer. But I enjoyed playing with them. They were good people.
What was the last record that came out that you played on?
It was probably the last Ministry record, Houses of the Mole, which is the worst title in the world.
Yeah, that's a bad title.
Yeah. It's a bad record, I think.
I can see why you would think that. I enjoy it because it's kind of just stripped-down and fast and basic, but I can see other people not liking it.
Yeah. That was a tough record to do, That whole thing was just a bad scene for me. Yeah, I think that was probably the last record.
Did anything happen with Marz?
I don't know. I don't know what happened to that guy. He wanted to go off and be like Insane Clown Posse and fired everybody, and I haven't talked to him since then.
So what was Al Jourgensen like to work with? Was he as unpleasant as people have made him out to be?
Mark, I'm not going to talk shit about people.
So I can't really say anything about him.
What were the good things about working with Al Jourgensen?
Let's move along. What about Rick Sims?
You know, I don't really know Rick that well. I loved the Didjits; they were great, those guys. I knew them back when they were kind of starting. They were crazy knuckleheads and the band was great. They just asked me to come - something had happened with the drummer and they just asked me to come in and play on that little EP. I never really saw him after that, so... Rick went off to be a rock star or something like that, I think.
And you worked with Jello Biafra a couple of times, right?
No, I didn't. Al of Ministry had that little side band, that little Lard thing, and Jello would come in. But I don't think that guy would even know who I was if I was in the same room with him.
Yeah, I would just come in and play all the rhythm tracks and they would come in and do whatever they do.
Oh, so you are on the records but you never actually -
Yeah, I'm on the records.
It's all very riveting.
All of it. The whole thing.
Meeting all these celebrities? These big shots? It's riveting?
No, just the stories of the things that I've done. It's just riveting. Fascinating.
So how's the weather in New York?
You're not being very pleasant to yourself!
Uh... yeah. I love me.
(Another depressingly long pause)
So how do you... Do you... How do you approach writing drum parts to songs written by, like... Do they tell you what to do, or do they let you... Like Helios Creed. How did you go about writing those drum parts? Did you guys write the songs together?
Well, I guess that every situation, or every person that you play with, is certainly a little different. You have to work with the way that they write songs too. But in that particular situation, it started out as jamming and stuff like that. Helios isn't the most disciplined songwriter in the world. He just likes to kind of get up and jam, see what happens. "Here's the part and here's the change." Helios was easy to play with because he writes very kind of riffy kind of stuff as opposed to writing a song. So that's always really easy to play to. You just sit down and play; it's just much more like flailing away. That works. It's like sitting down with your guitar.
Yeah. Does it annoy you that drummers so rarely get co-credit for writing the songs? I mean, you're obviously doing a pretty important - I mean, the song is more than just the melody.
Yeah. Yeah, it bugs me. But what are you going to do? I mean, I respect bands that write a song. Unless somebody comes in and has written a whole song -- you know, here's the whole chord progression, here's the whole rhythm, here's the vocal line, just play the drums to this -- that's a different story. But when you're coming in, you're sitting down, and you're like, "OK, let's write something," and everybody's working and throwing in ideas and stuff like that, yeah, that should be... You know, well that's what fucking - That was the deal with that last Ministry record. I sat down there with...AL...hashing out ideas, working on stuff, blah blah blah, "This works, let's try this, we'll do this, here's this one part, here's this," then the fucking guy didn't even give me credit on the record. You better believe I was pissed about that. And I tracked all the drum parts. Anyway, I don't want to get into that crap.
And then he said when I interviewed him that he was responsible for like 99 percent of Ministry's music, something like that.
Let me tell you something here. I'm not going to mention names, but there was a person, there was a person that was in the band Ministry that is the biggest fucking liar and is so full of shit. You don't have to print that stuff, but I'll say one thing about Al. This is not derogatory. He knows how to hire good people to play on his records. He's very good at that. He can see somebody play stuff and he can pick it out and go, "Yeah, I want to use that and I want to use that." But is he responsible for writing that shit? Fuck no. He's good at putting it all together, but... Ministry weren't the very best at compensating the musicians who were working on those records. That's all I've got to say about that.
What was the best situation, as far as that goes? When you were brought into a band that already existed. I guess there weren't that many examples.
Tad was fun at first... They were all fun at first, because it's all fresh and new. But then you start getting in, and then the ego thing gets in and you start getting nit-picky about people's personalities and the way that they play. So every situation is fun at first. But if you can just kind of have fun with it, it can continue to be fun. But I got to play with quite a few different people. I definitely have my favorites.
Who would those be? If you could play with certain people again. You said Helios Creed was pretty fun, right?
It was fun at first, but...
But not disciplined enough?
You know, I can't... H kind of fucked me over on some stuff.
But I also know that his girlfriend has a little bit to do with that. But yeah, it was fun playing music with him, but when it got down to other stuff -- the business kind of shit -- he let his girlfriend kind of come in. Helios is the nicest guy in the world. The guy wouldn't hurt a fly. And I love Chrome. And it was fun playing with them. But I don't even know if I can say -- He let somebody influence him to maybe not treat people as well as he should have. I think that the way that he would have wanted to treat people, he was being influenced and going in the opposite direction. I won't mention her name, but anyway.
Are they still together?
I don't know. I've heard stories that his health isn't good. But I don't really know.
When I interviewed him, he'd been kicked out of Hawaii or something for threatening the police after a fight with his wife.
Yeah. He's a funny guy, man. I had some crazy times with that dude. They weren't fun when it was happening, but in hindsight I think about him and just laugh because he was such a knucklehead then.
What, getting you in dangerous situations and stuff?
Yeah, just like... You know, we went off to play a little tour and me and the bass player were going through El Paso and we were driving in the van and he was in this bus, in this big school bus, and he just left us. Took all the money and drove off to Phoenix and left us stranded in El Paso.
I don't know. Either he forgot that we were following him, or he had some other motive, he had a different agenda. I don't know what the fuck it was. But we had no money, we had no nothing. I think the bass player had some little portable radio. We couldn't even make a phone call. He had all the money. It was fucked up, man. I've gone through all kinds of crazy shit with that guy. He wanted to tour in a school bus, and we were leaving Austin because he had moved there, and I'm driving in this and I'm like, "H, I don't know if this bus is gonna make it on the tour." He's like, "Oh, it's fine." We're driving this bus, and right when we get to like "Leaving Austin City Limits," the transmission falls out. It's just one story after another with that guy.
What other crazy tour happenings have happened? With any band.
I don't know. God, there's so many, man.
Have you ever had any injuries from drumming all the time?
Injuries? No, I don't think so.
Not even carpal tunnel syndrome or anything like that?
Not really. I try to take care of myself. Besides like getting sick on tour or something like that. You've got to take care of yourself, Mark. You've got to stay healthy.
That's why I started taking the Tae Kwan Do, see.
Actually, my wife kind of made me. We had a big fight and I was trying to be nice and she asked if I would join this martial arts class with her, so I did to be nice. Now I've been doing it for two and a half years.
Oh, that's good, man.
Yeah. I've always been kind of a skinny guy...well, I'm not skinny anymore... basically a guy with no real muscle tone at all. So it's good to be learning these fatal blows. If someone tries to beat me up, at least I know what to do now.
Yeah. Well, in New York, yeah, because they'd have a knife or a gun and -
Ah, it just makes you feel better and gets those old endorphins going and all that. Helps you feel better the rest of the day.
Do you just go on the machines, or do you play sports and stuff?
Yeah, I try to. You know, as a drummer you've gotta kind of take care of the cardiovascular, so I try to. I do light weights and high repetitions. I swim.
When I was doing a web search for your name and trying to figure out what other questions to ask, I saw the letter to the editor you'd written about the SIMS Foundation.
It still comes up. Good old Google.
Oh, you Googled me. Oh, God.
Yeah! You've gotta do your homework!
Yeah. So I wasn't going to ask about drugs, but I did see on one site where someone said, "Rey Washam, is he still on the horse?" or something like that. And I thought, "Oh, I hope he's not still on the horse! If he's still on the horse -"
No, I'm not. And I haven't been for a long time.
Really? How long?
About four years. That's long for me.
Well, yeah, I imagine that's long for anyone who has an addiction.
Yeah. Yeah. It's long.
It doesn't seem like -
One of the many bad habits I picked up from being in Ministry. I'm not blaming them or anything.
Really? That started when you were in Ministry?
It started near the end of my tenure with Ministry.
Oh. All right, so the SIMS Foundation now. Now, see, speaking as a person who has obsessive compulsive disorder...
Yeah. Not super, but I had it pretty bad until I started getting on medication and doing a couple types of therapies. What did you go to the SIMS Foundation for?
I went there to get off drugs.
They had a lot of help, a lot of people. Some of them still work for SIMS and some of them don't.
What was the issue there? They were going to let a doctor go? Or somebody was complaining because they didn't get service quickly enough or something?
Oh. Well, it's kind of a long story. There was a guy there that was a very dear friend of mine that helped me immensely that kind of ran SIMS things. He would go out on emergency calls and all this stuff and help people. And he was trying to do a lot of it by himself and people got upset that there weren't --Basically, there was probably more work than he could handle. So people got upset about that. They wanted to come in and try to change the policy of how it worked and he didn't like that and they subsequently let him go. People were complaining about him, and I just had to go and put in my two cents because the guy had done nothing but help me. And how great and how caring and how giving he was, and I just had to express myself about that because people were complaining about what he did. And I was like, "This guy did nothing but help me." He sat with me while I was sick and held my hand and all this kind of shit, you know? He helped me a lot. And they let him go. Anyway, that's that story.
Oh, that sucks.
That was good of you to take the time to do that, because usually only people who want to bitch and moan are the ones making all the noise. It's just rare you hear the other side. Everyone just sits back and lets it happen. Did he end up in another place like that? Do you know?
Yeah, think he's still trying to get health care for musicians, and he's trying to get his own thing going. He's a good guy, man. Really. He just sacrifices himself and his time to go out and help people that can't help themselves. Guys like him are my heroes.
Yeah. Okay, so at this point, what would be your dream job? To be a session musician? Or a musician in a big band or a new band that's starting? Or a jazz musician?
I would like to be able to pay my bills being a drummer. But sometimes that's not a realistic goal, especially in this city with the competition. But yeah, just to play with a bunch of a guys in a fucking cooking band. I love jazz and I love the swing and the old... I love horn sections. Have you ever heard of a guy named Neal Hefti?
What's the last name?
Anyway, Neal Hefti was a composer. He wrote the Batman theme and he wrote a bunch of stuff for Count Basie. Anyway, he's a really cool as shit composer and he wrote for horns - wrote such great horn lines and great horn punches. Being in a band like that is just so much fun. Nobody wants to listen to that, but it sure is a lot of fun playing it! That would be great, if you could make money doing stuff like that. But in L.A., it's all about 20 year-old rock kids and stuff.
Could you do that kind of thing in Chicago? Is that still a big... Or... I guess Chicago is blues.
Yeah, Chicago is blues. Which is cool. I lived out here and a friend of mine asked me to come and play with this band - have you ever heard of this band called Phantom Planet?
I think so. It sounds really familiar, but I don't know why.
Yeah. They never really got as big as I think they wanted to. Anyway, they were these young kids right out of high school, and this guy asked me to come play drums for them. You know that actor Jason Schwartzman?
Jason Schwartzman used to play drums for this band called Phantom Planet, and Jason had some health issues and needed to take a break from the band and I was asked to come and fill in with these guys. Yeah, and that kind of epitomizes what was going on and what is still kind of going on. These guys right out of high school, 19, 20 years old, the record label's telling them that they're the greatest fucking band in the world, sinking tons and tons of money into them, and they didn't suck or anything, but they were young. They hadn't lived life. They had nothing to write about. You know what I mean? And it's really, really difficult for me, it was fucking miserable. Because I just couldn't relate to these kids at all. They thought they were rock stars, but in my eyes they were fucking corndoggers, man.
Yeah. I'm looking them up on AllMusic now, and I recognize the cover of their second album, that's why I've heard of them. Yeah, they say, "They have a knack for feel-good tunes with melodies that bounce into your head and stay there"!
"Take the punk out of Weezer"... I didn't realize there was punk in Weezer, quite frankly. When did that happen? Well, whatever. OK. So were you on one of those records or no?
No, they just asked me to...
I was hired to go on tour with them, but the tour never materialized and we did stuff like play in Best Buy over by the appliance section amongst the refrigerators and washer and dryers. And bookstores. We never actually played a show. Maybe one at the Viper Room. That was a very painful experience for me, and probably painful for them playing with me as well. But the guy that hired me to do that was somebody that I really respected and admired and he gave me a good break and was really cool to me. It's funny, because I've looked for some work out here, and in the process of doing that people are very concerned about how old you are and how you look. They don't want anybody over... Definitely not in your thirties. If you're in your forties, you can fucking forget it. They don't want any old guys. Then you have to look cool. And you have to have the clothes. It's very superficial and very image-conscious out here. But on the other hand, they want you to be very experienced, professional and all of that. But they want you to be 23. And I'm like... I don't to want to work with people that you have to go through all the mistakes with them again, you have to watch them make mistakes so they'll learn. I want to play with people that have already made mistakes. I know to not do this, I know this works and this doesn't, you know what I mean? It's experience. There's some great energy out there with young people, and I know that there's some 20 year-old kid sitting in his garage making fucking music that would just blow me away right now. The chances of me being able to hear that aren't good, but I've given up on the kids with music and stuff. I mean, L.A. brings out the fucking worst in MTV and radio right now. It brings out the worst in what people are considering creative, original art.
I don't know... I mean, I guess they do. They do consider that what they're doing is original, which is so strange when you hear it on the radio. Because it's the same old chord sequences, it's the same old crap you've been hearing, jeez, since the Brady Bunch was using it or something. You know? This stuff that's being passed around as punk on the major labels, for example. It's this really happy, bouncy, bubblegum kind of thing that you've heard a million times. I mean, you have to figure the record company people don't care whether it's actually good or not. For them it's just, "OK, this will sell, we can make this sell." But the musicians themselves who play it must actually like what they're playing. Which just baffles me, some of it's so bad.
Yeah. Somebody pointed me out to some website called MySpace. All these bands are on there and you can download their music or upload their music or whatever on this website and you can kind of go through and listen to these people's music. And I am just fucking floored at -- maybe it's me, maybe I'm old and jaded, but a lot of it really sounds the same. I'm like, I'm gonna keep looking for something that's hot. And it's always like, they're posting on their ad or something that they're original and doing something new and different, and I'm listening to it and it's just like, uh, you know, it sounds like Duran Duran `86 or something. Or I'm listening to it and I'm going, "Yeah, that's some old Sham 69 from the second record" or whatever, whatever it is. My feeling is I don't think the kids today, I don't think they have any music history, man.
Yeah. My brother actually said something to me once that made sense. We were talking about all the bands from the `60s, I don't know if you like them or not, but bands like Yes or Pink Floyd, bands that when they grew up they weren't listening to rock music. They were listening to the different musics that were around back then. You know, the classical, the jazz, this and that. And all the kids today grow up on shitty rock music. That's all they know. The music that they grew up with, that meant a lot to them, was what? Everclear?
Yeah. I think it's so important to have some musical history, to be aware of a lot of things that happened before your time. I don't see a lot of that, let me tell you. I'll run into some guys and be like, "Oh, God, yeah, that reminds me of Minutemen," and they're like, "Who?" And I'm like, "You've never heard of the Minutemen?" Or some of the bands that you wouldn't be playing this shit if it weren't for these guys. That's one of the things that I respect about some of the rap musicians, the rap artists. They've got musical history. Those guys got more fucking musical history, know more about old rock and blues and shit like that than the kids trying to play that stuff these days. It just freaks me out, man.
Yeah. Is it because they're going through it looking for beats or samples or what? Because it's true. I mean, these guys are sampling like Gentle Giant and stuff.
Yeah. Yeah. You listen to... Snoop Dogg is sampling off of Pink Floyd or something, some shit like that. Or whatever it is. It's crazy, man.
Yeah. So what can you do in L.A.? I mean, you're obviously not going to... I mean, it's the Hollywood, image bullshit capitol of the world, but could you be like a studio musician there?
I don't know. I don't know. That's for somebody else to decide.
What kinds of jobs are you going out for? Or who are you sending your tapes to?
Oh, there were a couple of producers. Kind of small producers. I'll do just about anything right now. I just want to play, because I just sit around and practice by myself and that gets kind of old. But yeah, I've sent some stuff out to some producers. And I get some ad, some jingle kind of stuff here every once in a while or whatever. I mean, I would like to play with a band that has some chemistry and stuff like that. I would rather do that than the studio stuff. And I know not everybody is looking for a 22 year-old drummer with tattoos and shit like that.
But in L.A. a lot of them are, I'd imagine.
Yeah. That's all right. I'm not giving up yet.
Yeah. If only you'd been there in `85 you could have been in Motley Crue.
Uh huh. That would've been great.
How old were you when you started playing?
Very, very young. I got my first drum set when I was like seven years old. I wanted to play drums from as far back as I can ever remember. I remember being a little boy and the Monkees would come on TV and I would get out the wooden spoons and beat on the furniture while the Monkees' show was on.
Why the drums? The rhythm attracted you more than the guitar playing? Or it just looked like more fun?
Yeah. I think. I mean, when music came on that I liked, it just made me want to move. I probably should have been a dancer or something. But yeah, I would just run around and dance all over the room and get stuff and beat on shit while those songs were playing. Drums were the natural thing.
Have you added new... 'tricks'... to your... 'arsenal'... over the past five years or so?
I mean, 20 years ago, would you have been playing in a jazz band the way that you were five years ago?
No. I want to keep learning. I think that's the thing. Any good musician wants to keep learning and to keep expanding on what they know and their appreciation of music. I would have never thought that I would've wanted to play jazz. I liked listening to jazz fusion, you know, Jeff Beck and all that stuff. I was like, "Ah, this is incredible." Terry Bozzio was a whole thing. But yeah, traditional jazz and bebop and swing, I never really wanted to do that, you know what I mean? I listen to music now that I would've never listened to back then.
And the way you've learned new stuff --Do you hear what somebody's doing on the record and go, "Oh that's a neat trick, let me try that," or do you buy books on drumming, or do you go to see live shows and see what someone's doing, or do you just experiment on your own kit?
I'd probably have to say all of those, yeah.
Do you play every day? How often do you get a chance to play?
Yeah, I try to play every day. Whether it's just sticking exercises or going to the rehearsal room for the kit. I try to keep getting better and learning more. I don't want to be all stagnant and think that I've got it all figured out and shit like that. There are some fucking great players out there, man, and I admire them so much, and they inspire me to work and keep getting better. So if you think you've got it figured out and you don't need to learn any more, you just really shut yourself down.
Yeah. At that point it seems like you'd start to get bored with what you're doing pretty quickly.
Yeah, boredom is a good thing. I think boredom is a thing that makes us want to better ourselves, reach out and re-inspire ourselves. It can be good.
So what's on your agenda today? What are you doing today?
Well my wife is out of town, so... (laughs) Uh...
Just callin' in a bunch of whores! Yeah!
Yeah. I went out with Dave Yow and a friend to go and see Mike Watt, and I told them my wife was out of town, and he's like, "All right! Hookers and blow!"
Ha! Is she working out there?
Yeah, she's working. She's done a little bit of work. She's actually in Chicago with a friend of mine and a friend of hers to get a record label started. So I've got the house to myself.
Oh! Does she work for a record label? What does she do?
No, but she ran a a rehearsal studio in Chicago, so that's where I met her. She's not a musician, but she managed a recording studio in Chicago for a long time. I think that's how she fell in love with me. We had some kind of music relationship thing.
How long ago?
We've been together five years now. I'm very blessed to be with her. Very much. She's helped to keep me in line and keep me together.
Yeah. I know what that's like.
Yeah. Behind every good man is a better woman.
What've you got going for today?
Well, about an hour ago, I interviewed one of the guys from the Residents' "Cryptic Corporation."
I couldn't hear a word that he was saying, so I might have to make up the whole thing.
(laughs) He would probably like that.
It's pretty cryptic! And I'm going to go downtown tonight to a record store and I'm going to meet my wife when she gets off work and eat some fish.
Fish. Fish is good.
Yeah. Supposedly it's healthy in some way. But I don't eat it too much.
So wait, did you even say what you were doing today?
I have to not only look for a little bit of drumming work, but I have to actually try to find some way to get some income too. So I'll probably look around a little bit for some work, both drumming and non-drumming, then do a little practicing and just try to stay busy.
What kind of non-drumming work have you done for money in the past?
I don't have very many job skills, unfortunately. I've spent my whole life trying to be a drummer. Any kind of work that I get is usually pretty menial. I'm looking around trying to expand those horizons too, because I know I'm not going to be able to play the drums for the rest of my life. There's going to be some point where I'm like, "This hurts." Ha!
I don't know, not necessarily. Don't jazz drummers play into their seventies?
Just stop playin' that LOUD music!
OK. Thank you so much for spending 75 minutes on the phone.
Oh, God, it's been that long? I'm sorry.
I don't care!
I ramble sometimes.
No, you didn't ramble; I just kept asking questions.
Well, maybe I'll get to actually meet you someday.
Yeah. You live in Los Angeles? I was thinking about visiting Los Angeles, because I have another friend who lives out there. I guess you wouldn't come to New York for anything. Or would you?
Yeah, I've got some friends in New York. Dave Sims lives in New York. I've got some pals there, and therefore I have a reason to go there.
Oh, OK. Well if you do, email me.
Yeah, I will. We can go out and eat fish.
Hey! And get some hookers and blow.
All right, well, take it easy. And keep me posted, especially if you get a good job.
I will. Hey, it's good to talk to you and sort of meet you via the phone.
Yeah, I'm gonna listen to that Helios Creed album again now.
Where you're mixed 200 times louder than Helios is. It sounds good, though. Just can't hear the guitar. All right. I'll talk to you later.
All right man, take care. Bye bye.
Also: Scratch Acid reunion? Hm.
Mark, you do good work!
It was gracious of Rey to listen to you talk about your musical endeavors as much as he did.
Click here to return to a whole nation of bands Rey Washam was in