Jason Sutter Interview follow up – by Travis Marc -2011.
Last year we introduced some of you to one of our favourite ‘new rock’ drummers, ‘Jason Sutter’, who at the time was on the road with classic rockers ‘Foreigner’. More recently Jason has been performing with legendary band ‘The New York Dolls as well as conducting clinics all over the place – we had the opportunity to catch up with Jason on ‘The New York Dolls recent UK tour with Alice Cooper and were able to find out just how life has changed since we last spoke, here’s what Jason had to say…
Hi Jason, good to chat with you again – last time we spoke you were playing with Foreigner and now you’re on the road with legendary rockers the ‘New York Dolls’ tell us how that all came about?
I was at home with some time off after finishing a tour of India with Foreigner in March when I received a call from a friend of mine named ‘Brian Delaney’ asking if id be interested in taking over for him with the New York Dolls. (I had only been home since the Sunday and he called me on the Tuesday) Of course I said yes right away a they are one of my all time favourite bands and would by far be the coolest band I’ve had the opportunity to play with, and I’ve been able to play with some pretty cool bands! It wasn’t a done deal though and when I spoke to their manager I made it clear that I would cover my flight and put myself up in New York for rehearsals so that they wouldn’t pass me up purely because I was based in LA! Also, I made sure they knew that I was a native New Yorker just in case. I did everything on my end to ensure that I would get the gig, that way if it didn’t happen I could know I pulled out all the stops.
It took about a month and a half before I found out that I got the job and i called their management once a week during that time. Luckily they dug the footage on my website and Earl Slick (guitarist) was a massive fan of Chris Cornell and remembered seeing the band and digging it, so I think that helped to seal the deal. I got the gig with 3 weeks to spare before heading out for 3 months in June with ‘Motley Crue’ and ‘Poison’. The band is amazing and still more rock n roll than any band I have ever known. It’s a bit like being in a gang.
After our first week of rehearsals they pulled me aside and said welcome to the dolls…once a doll always a doll. It was pretty amazing. On top of getting to play with David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain I got to play with crack session/ touring icons Earl Slick on guitar (David Bowie, Mick Jagger, John Lennon) and Kenny Aaronson on bass (Bob Dylan, Billy Idol, Derringer) which was amazing, basically every time I get on stage and every story told makes me feel like I’m in some kind of rock school. We had an amazing Summer tour and just had a great run opening for Alice Cooper in the UK for a fall/Halloween tour. Every day has been like Halloween so it’s safe to say it was the longest Halloween I’ve ever had!
You mentioned that you guys did a few shows with rocks ‘bad boys’ ‘Motley Crue’ did you and Tommy Lee get to hang out or get up to any type of mischief?
That’s funny… I get asked that a lot. I hung with Tommy for a second at an after party for the Hollywood Bowl show early in the tour and it was all dudes drinking water listening to the lamest club music possible. I had heard stories of the year before where he would have a giant tent after each show with topless girls and Jager machines going all night, this tour was anything but that. I came to find out that Tommy is a year sober and in a serious relationship. So basically playing with remote control cars before the show was as crazy as it got. Oh well. I did have a couple of wild nights on Rikki Rockett’s bus from poison so we managed to rock out after all…
How has your set up changed now that you’re with the New York Dolls?
I’m basically using the exact same setup as i was with ‘Foreigner’ (Ludwig and Paiste 2002’s) only the drums are a set I designed with Ludwig this year with 3 ply legacy shells, mach lugs and blue olive badges. I’m really proud of how beautiful they look and sound! I basically wanted a supped up early 70s ” hot rod” set in the spirit of Cozy Powell, Simon Kirke, Ian Paice and John Bonham. I switched to a 14×10 rack tom and used a 2002 22″ ride to wash out with in the punkier sections. I didn’t have time to have Ludwig make me a pink set like Jerry Nolan’s original set but I would have done it in a heartbeat as that drumset was so revolutionary for it’s time!
We spoke a fair bit about practice in your last interview. Are you still managing to keep on top of things now that you’re on the road with the ‘NYD’s?
I practice whenever I am home as I have a studio a block from my house and can go in anytime of the day. On the road I will hang with my tech while he is setting up gear and just chop out on a pad working up new rudimental stickings and basically just conditioning my hands. I’ve been getting asked to do a bunch of clinics lately so there’s a whole new reason to revisit technique and keep me in the practice room. It’s a catch 22 because I’m on the road so much, so I need to take the practice when i can get it.
Talking about clinics – you recently did one for the Hollywood Drum Show – what’s your general approach to clinics? Do you have a set idea about what you’re going to do before hand or do you pretty much play it by ear?
I never planned on seeking out drum clinics but always told myself if I was asked to do them that I would and now I’ve done a ton of them since our last interview. My goal was to demonstrate my experience with drum corps and rudimental drumming as well as the opposite end of the spectrum with my jazz brush playing. The point is to deconstruct myself as a rock drummer and show how those varied percussive applications I studied helped me become who I am as a player and try to encourage drummers to look outside their comfort zones and grow. If you search my name rudimental” or “brushes” on ‘Youtube’ you can get an idea – I generally have a set format for clinics and change it up depending on where I’m performing. I did a clinic with my North Texas classmates Jim Riley (Rascal Flatts) and Keith Carlock (Steely Dan) last fall in Dallas and we all got up together at the end which was a riot. The Hollywood vintage show is such an institution in LA that Ive attended since I’ve lived there so to get to be a part of it this year was a thrill. My day included clinics with Dave Elitch and Thomas Lang who are both homies of mine so it was like a big party. It was stressful because all the hot drummers and all the drum industry are in attendance but it went great. It’s always fun to have people react that they had no idea I could do this or that. I just did a clinic for Musicians Institute alumni and it was basically turned into an interactive seminar on my experience in the music business so I love that in the end it is a view into who I am a a musician and hopefully the imparting or exchange of experience and knowledge. I liken it being like a stand up comedian and I think it gets better with each clinic. I know I learn something new about myself each time!
Who are you listening to since we last spoke?
I’ve been going big on the vinyl lately. Checking out a ton of early Jeff Beck, Bowie and The Doors! I’ve just picked up the Stones DVD ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ and it’s super inspiring… I’ve been checking out a lot of DVDs of early 70’s stuff like ‘Deep Purple’ live in Munich with Cozy Powell – there really isn’t anything lately that inspires me as much as that era of music. Long live rock!
Any last thoughts or words of advice?
I had a year that I would never have believed I could have had you told me I would 5 years ago. To get to play with ‘Foreigner’ and ‘The New York Dolls’ in the same year – Amazing. I am truly indebted to the drum gods. It just goes to show that anything can happen and preparation and inspiration is the key. Keep playing and putting positive energy out there cause it’s only a matter of time. Just be careful for what you wish for because it just may happen cheers for now – Sutter.
For more information on Jason Sutter please visit – www.jasonsutter.com
Pictures by Jodi Cunningham.