Brad Hargreaves Interview by Travis Marc – 2015.
The best part about having the UK Drummer platform, is that every now and then I get to talk to some real musical heroes of mine. One such hero happens to be the amazing Brad Hargreaves of Third Eye Blind. I’ve been listening to his drumming (and his band) for as long as I can remember, and just always loved the way he approached his drumming in their ‘alternative/rock type genre of music. Third Eye Blind have a new record out called ‘Dopamine which they are currently on tour supporting, so when I heard that they’re coming back to the UK,I had to jump at the chance to talk to the groove master. Here’s what Brad had to say…
Hi Brad, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview for UK Drummer. Let’s start at the very beginning, can you tell us how you originally got into drumming and what initially made you want to play the instrument?
My dad played drums when he was younger and gave my brother some sticks and a practice pad. My brother just threw them in the closet but I dug them out. Then, when I was ten years old a friend at school got an electric guitar and just said to me, “you’re my drummer”. I literally built a kit out of boxes with the practice pad as the snare, and it started from there. I have recordings of that homemade kit with me playing Jimi Hendrix covers, ha.
How did you meet/get involved with Stephan Jenkins and the rest of the Third Eye Blind guys?
While at UC Berkeley, a friend in a music class suggested that I go audition for a band that was looking for a drummer. I was playing in a bunch of bands at the time and really liked the challenge of finding different ways to compliment whichever musical situation I found myself in. Stephan gave me a demo tape and we realised he only lived about 200 yards from me., which was a strange coincidence. I went to jam with them and we actually worked up a song off the first record called ‘Narcolepsy’ during that first rehearsal.
Third Eye Blind just released an amazing new album called Dopamine. Can you tell us a bit about the recording process? Did you use any interesting drum gear or recording techniques you used during the recording?
Thanks! The process meandered a bit for quite a while. We even tried a few tracks in London a few years ago, but the music just wasn’t there yet. At the beginning of 2014 it really began to come into focus and we actually worked pretty fast after that. I always use a bunch of vintage gear on recordings. I have some, and then we rent some in addition. We like having a lot of options for drum sounds, particularly snares. On ‘Get Me Out of Here’, we used this really deep rental snare that had a bunch of paper taped to the head from some previous session. It sounded perfect as soon as we put it on the stand.
Talking of drum gear, I love how you play such a minimal set up. Would you talk us through your gear and set up?
I have been playing a 4 piece vintage Ludwig that we built a custom riser for. The cymbal and hi-hat stands mount underneath the riser so there are no tripods stands on the deck and the mic cables are routed through the cymbals stands so there are not mic stands on the deck of the riser either. It’s very clean looking. I play mostly Zildjian ‘A Customs’ and use a Zildjian Avedis ‘Sweet Ride’. I also use Promark 2B natural drumsticks.
You’re on the road touring the new album as we speak, how’s it all going?
It’s great… We played a big summer tour outside in amphitheaters which is wonderful, but I realised how much I really like playing indoors. Drum sounds have so much to do with the room your in and I actually kind of think of it as ‘playing the room” as much as playing the drums. Playing in a nice theatre is where I feel like I can be the most musical on the drums.
What advise could you give us on how to stay healthy while on the road?
Wash your hands and exercise. I started running about 5 or 6 years ago and have never been sick since. Not once. I am convinced sweating is one of the best ways to maintain your health.
What about longevity in general. You’ve been a member of 3EB for twenty years now. In that time, many other members have come and gone. Leaving yourself and Stephan as the original core members. What do you think has been the key to staying friends in a band for so long is, and what advice could you give up and comers about trying to keep relationships healthy within a band environment?
I would say 80% of it is just sharing a similar world view in terms of how you conduct your affairs within the band and the level of professionalism you expect from yourself and others. We want the same things for Third Eye Blind. The other 20% is just having empathy for others, and wanting them to succeed because we are in this together. I am a team guy. I try to be the guy that looks at what needs to be done and does it.
Away from 3EB, you also perform as ‘Just Brad’, doing DJ sets accompanied by drumming – is that correct? What made you decide to do this, and how did you come up with the idea?
I was experimenting with drumming and DJing at the same time. I did 20 or 30 shows as ‘Just Brad’ but have not had the time to do it lately. The genesis of that actually goes back to the empathy thing. I was in the back of a van with a band called ‘Year Long Disaster’ that I played in for 5 or 6 years and was fretting over being double booked for the 20th time with a Third Eye Blind gig. I was so tired of letting the YLD guys down and getting sub drummers for the great shows they were getting so I vowed to myself that i would start a solo project where I didn’t have to let anybody down if I got another gig That’s kind of where (and how) it started.
Who or what would you say inspires you as a drummer/musician?
I get inspiration from lots of places. Other music, people, sounds, other musicians or even a Jackson Pollack painting.
What about practice? Do you still ever just sit down and practice away from the band? If so, what do you try work on?
Of course. I love to practice. I work on a lot of stuff with my feet. I feel like having a great bass drum foot is the key making a band sound good. It’s the key foundational element of most music.
The music industry has obviously changed a lot in the last 20 years. What are some of the main differences you see now, compared to say 3EB’s early success while on the road, or just in general?
Well, music is free now. That’s the root of the difference. At the same time, promotion is largely free now as well with social networking. So it’s a bit of a trade off, but one that actually works really well for Third Eye Blind.
Have you still got any musical ambitions or dreams?
I tend to be forward looking. This is the best we have ever played and we are writing some of my favorite music in our entire career I just want to keep it going. This right now, is what we worked so hard for.
What do you feel has been the greatest piece of advice anyone has ever given you in regards to your career?
I have been told by different people to just unapolegetically be yourself in your artistry. And I have always felt the same way. Never compromise and try to fit in. Be you.
Any last thoughts or words of advice?
We are so excited to play Manchester and London coming up. We can’t wait to get over there.
Catch Third Eye Blind on Tour next month at the following venues.
Thu, 5 Nov Manchester Academy 2, Manchester, GB
Fri, 6 Nov O2 Forum Kentish Town, London, GB
For more info on Brad or Third Eye Blind please visit www.thirdeyeblind.com
(Please note that UK Drummer do not own any of the photos in this interview and they remain the property of the photographers who took them).