Nathan Walker interview – by Travis Marc – 2013.
Lit drummer, Nathan Walker was recently in town and agreed to do an exclusive interview with us at UK Drummer. We were a excited as you could imagine so quickly set off to ask him the following questions. Enjoy…
Hi Nathan, thanks for taking to the time to do this quick interview with us. Let’s start with a pretty standard question, can you tell us a bit about how your interest in drumming began and what lead you to eventually picking up on the instrument?
Hey Travis, thanks for having me! Crazy how this one question can bring back so many old memories. I remember doing the typical set your pillows on your bed like a couple cymbals and snare. my sticks in this case were small souvenir baseball bats, banging away to some old Aerosmtih albums. but I do remember that when I was about 10 or 11 I really wanted to play guitar. That idea got squashed when my older brother said “no, you’re going to play the drums and I’m going to play guitar,” (at least that’s how i remember it). Quickly after that I started building a drum kit, thanks to my parents help, of course. Snare and a hi hat to begin with, then an auction bought Slingerland kit, pieced it together nicely, then I really started diggin the whole
thing and sound of the kit. My interest grew quickly, at an early age I was watching Buddy Rich vhs tapes and trying to understand exactly what the hell he was doing. It was inspiring and intriguing to me, that one day I could actually play like that, 20 years later, I still can’t, (ha ha).One day at a time, but that’s what has kept the passion and interest in me for
so long, watching incredible drummers and pushing yourself to do what they’re doing. drums are such an amazing instrument, there’s no end to learning and growing as a drummer.
What about drum education/tuition. Did you have any and what was your experience in this regard?
I ended up taking lessons right after high school, which was the best thing ever for me as a drummer. I did however play in just about every music class you can think of in school. I was always around musicians and constantly learning and getting ideas from people, right out of high school I was playing in some bands and wanted to be as creative as possible with the drum parts that I was writing. I knew there was way more to drums than what I picked up through school and wanted to be able to bring more to the table as a drummer playing in the bands I was playing with, so I knew that I needed to expand my knowledge and physical capabilities on the kit. I met Mike Johnston in Sacramento, where i grew up, at the time he was teaching at a local music store. (this was probably about 12-13 years ago). First lesson I remember him asking, “do you know how to play a double stroke roll, and of course I said “of course!” so I played it for him with my pinky’s sticking straight out as quiet as can be, the way I learned
from my amazing high school drummer friends. From that moment on we got straight into technique and it was all over from there. Learning proper technique and control completely changed drumming for me and started to make real sense, suddenly being able to understand how Buddy Rich was doing singles, and doubles, and any other rudiment for that matter at that
speed started to all come together for me. I studied with Mike for a year and a half or so and eventually moved away, but I still keep up almost on a daily basis with his lessons, as well as so many other drummers, I’m constantly learning. it’s become a never ending battle to get better!
Let’s talk about Lit for a bit, you officially joined the band in 2009. Did you find it a hard gig to come into after the tragedy surrounding the late Allen Shellenberger?
I found it extremely difficult. It was a situation I would have never found myself to be in and I didn’t expect to join a band under those circumstances. I had been friends with the Lit guys, and knew them for years before anything happened with Allen. Right when I first met Allen, he was a huge help to me, I was a young drummer trying to meet everyone and get gigs and he took great care of me. If there was anything I needed, or some words of wisdom, he was there for me and during the time that he was diagnosed, myself, Adrian Young and Rich Redmond had all been filling in on drums. For me I had a lot of mixed emotions because I had been so close to allen and I felt like maybe I was stepping on his toes, but had realised that they’re all my friends and were in need of some help to get through any upcoming shows. It was a great feeling to be able to step up and fill in, but at the same time it was difficult mentally. I just wanted to make the band (and especially Allen) know that i was giving it my all.
What’s been the best part about being in the band and how would you say the experience has added to, or even potentially changed your drumming?
The best part for me is traveling around the world with my closest friends, playing shows and meeting all the die hard lit fans out there. They’re very dedicated people and it’s been great meeting all of them over the years becoming friends with them as well. Being with Lit, I’ve changed my approach a bit, I used to be in a bunch of punk bands growing up playing fast sporadic fills. I had to slow the pace down quite a bit and also I didnt want to change the drum parts that Allen had written, so I try keep them as close to the recordings as possible, it
was fun to change styles a bit and learn different fills and try to understand why he was playing them that way. I’ll still go and practice the set as often as I can, or go through the songs on my own to make sure some of the fills are spot on. So yeah, it’s changed my drumming a bit, learning to play back a bit and learning certain fills that were out of my comfort zone.
What was it like working with Butch Walker on the new Lit record and can you briefly describe Butch’s work ethic when it comes to laying down the drum parts ? (Did you do separate takes or were they live, were there lots of overdubs etc)?
Working with Butch was great, and he has a rad last name, he’s very easy going and knows exactly what he’s looking for in a drum part. He’s one of the nicest and coolest dudes I’ve met through the years. He’s a hard worker and motivates you to go in, sit on the kit ,and play your ass off. Plus he’s someone I think we all look up to.
Recording drums was pretty easy and pretty much the way I’ve always gone about recording. I do a few takes of each song, first take being a warm up to the song, second you’re feeling pretty good about it, and by the third, you pretty much have it. If need be, we’ll do some passes of fills that can be comp’d in, but for the most part we just did a few takes per song. Any other recordings I’ve done have been pretty similar as to how we took the approach with the new album.
I understand that you were a drum tech for quite a while – who did you tech for and what (if any) secrets did you learn about drum tuning or set ups while in your tech position?
I did drum tech for a bit, in fact my first gig on the road was when I was 18 working for a band called “Die Trying” and my first tours with them were with Seether, Hoobastank, Andrew WK and Finger Eleven. It was a crazy experience getting thrown onto major tours like that at a fairly young age so I learned a lot very quickly. The etiquette of touring and having respect for other people on the road is an education in its own. I also tech’d for Zebrahead and Sublime in Rome. Tuning for me is always about personal preference and depends on how the drummer wants their drums to sound.
Let’s chat about what inspires or influences you?
I’m constantly watching drum videos on Youtube. It’s probably one of the greatest drum website ever and it’s not even a drum website. There are so many drummers posting videos, its great and I’ve come across a lot of videos that have been very inspiring. If there happens to be a drummer that I’m into at the time I’ll start searching live concerts or solos by that drummer.
It’s pretty normal stuff for any musician to do I guess, but the fact that you can watch this stuff at any second and be completely inspired within minutes is amazing. It makes me want to shut off the computer and hop on my kit immediately. Since the descendents have been playing again, I’ve been looking up a lot of their live videos, I’m a huge Bill Stevenson fan and have been since I started playing drums. I also dig Derek Grant from Alkaline Trio, Ilan Rubin is amazing to watch and very inspiring. I search quite a bit for Tony Royster Jr and the list goes on and on.
It’s not all drum videos though, and of course actually playing the kit and playing live I get a huge rush out of. Watching people line up for the show, crowd the front of the stage, sing the songs, it’s an amazing feeling when you’re up on stage. being on tour with whatever band we
may be out with, watching other drummers every night and trying to play a little harder, you feed off of each other and it’s a great feeling.
Are you currently practicing anything specific and if so what is it?
I’m always working on my feet. I’m a left handed drummer and my right foot is the dominant foot, but i play kick with my left foot. I’m all messed up ha ha, but I’m constantly working on my left foot. I never really played double kick, but it’s something I’m starting to get into. I’m trying to work out basic rudiments with my feet and build leg strength in my left leg and foot, it’s probably something that I’ll work on forever.
As far as my hands go… Speed is always key for me, not that I’m trying to play fast, but it keeps my wrists, fingers and forearms in shape. So doing variations of rudiments or coming up with 4 to 5 different patterns to consecutively work on, (each for about 2 measures before switching, starting around 180bpm and working up from there, is good for me). Last but not least, coordination, bringing the foot back in, making sure all my limbs are available to do whatever they need to do at any point is another one that myself and every drummer will be probably be working, on forever.
Lit’s live show is pretty fast paced, do you have any kind of warm up
routines before you get out on stage?
The situation often determines my warm up routine. If I’m waiting around with nothing to do I’ll start warming up very early, which sometimes for me might do more harm than good. I like to do some basic stretches and work out on the practice pad for about 10 min tops, just to get loose enough so that I’m not cramping up. Ive found that if I warm up too early for to long that my arms will get weak a lot faster than doing a quick basic warm up. I sometimes start to over think things a bit too.
If we’re off doing something else and only get close to the stage about 15 min before we hit
the stage, I feel that, that’s more than enough time to get my work out on. I’ll typically go through singles, doubles, paradiddles and flam accents consecutively without stopping. Stopping can break to progress of coordination, so even if it’s just with your hands, being able to change speeds and hand patterns without stopping is a big thing for me. It makes
things flow better, especially if I’m going to play a show.
What would you say has been the most important piece of advice you’ve ever been given as a drummer/musician and who gave you this advice?
I’ve gotten a lot of great advise from friends and musicians over the years but the advice I got from my parents while growing up as a kid and as a drummer was to just work hard and be myself. Without something like that in my head, I wouldn’t know how to grow as a drummer. Learn to create your own style, of course and put the work it. If I didn’t have direction and goals who knows where I would be. Everything has fallen into place because of the hard work I have
put in and by being who I am.
Any last thoughts or words of advice?
Have respect and be able to laugh at yourself. Try make sure that you have that, whether you’re playing in a band in your living room, or on the road playing live shows. You must have and show respect. Try to understand that you’re surrounded by different personalities and find the good in all of it. Be able to take jokes and don’t think too hard, it should all be fun, if its not, you’re doing something wrong. If you can learn to respect everyone around you, (and this goes for life in general), you’ll be alright…