Phil Maturano Interview

Phil Maturano Interview – by Travis Marc – 2010.

Phil Maturano is without a shadow of a doubt one of the greatest drummers, you might ever get to see. He is aassionate individual who has managed to stay extremely grounded, despite all of his accomplishments. Here’s what Phil had to say during a recent interview with…

You began drumming at quite an early age, can you briefly describe what initially attracted you to the drums and music as a whole?

Well my parents were musicians. Music caught my attention very early on. There was something magical about it. Something that really pulled me in. I cannot really describe it from the perspective of being a kid back then. The initial memories are of emotional submersion in whatever happened to be playing. Like hypnotized. My mother said I would play records over and over and over. It could have had something to do with the emotional response music gave me. Sanctuary from something. Consolation, escape …as corny as it sounds…. Whatever it was, the feeling of being transported was intense. Drums in particular were fascinating initially because of the way things worked. The sticks, the hi hat stand, the smell of the wood, the way everything looked set up. Besides that, I cannot put a purely physical reason on it. It was somehow…magical. The power and subtlety that seemed to come from the drums also really struck me. The sounds…

Like many other great drummers, you studied and graduated from “PIT”, tell us a little bit about your “PIT” experience. Also, just how important do you feel tuition is when trying to learn your craft as an up and coming drummer?

Tuition is the greatest gift you can give yourself as a musician. PIT was kind of like a “PIT stop” on the journey. What really helped me was the people involved at that time, 20 years ago, they truly cared about music and my development. Much more then the place itself.

You are an active drum educator. Having done tuition at PIT and privately and also offering online drum lessons etc. As a drum teacher, what do you feel is the most valuable asses you can try and pass on to your drum students?

That eventually everything you learn is that so you can find your own voice on the instrument. And that through that journey you can become a better, deeper, more feeling, compassionate, understanding human being. Connected with everything that is involved in the human experience. The drum lessons will never end for any of us! Nor will the other things. The journey, the courage to overcome the many many challenges, the music, the connection. That’s the most valuable thing.

Tell us a bit about your educational books, Working the Inner Clock for the Drumset, and Latin Soloing for the Drumset. What was the process like while putting these books together, and what exactly do you hope the books will offer the drummers who use them?

Wow…well. Those are big questions. In brief, both of those books developed out of necessity. When i started teaching in LA, i remembered all the things that gave me trouble as a student. So in the hopes of helping cats out I would write out exercises that helped me overcome certain issues. One of them was being disconnected from the music i was sight reading. Because of having to count or just the process in general of learning how to read. This involves interpreting a piece of music from a piece of paper with signs on it (Notation) through the eyes, ears and imagination of the composer and instantly reflecting it back on your instrument through the use of these signs. It takes a minute to get used to that and sometimes the process can cause you to be “once removed” from the piece. As opposed to having something memorized. Where things come out of you organically and not robotically (hopefully). When things are played by memory there are processes that take place in the body and mind that perhaps not everyone is aware of. The job of “Working the Inner clock” – The book is designed to create awareness of time and effects of subdivisions on the music. It allows the opportunity to develop phrasing vocabulary and bridge the gap between reading the figures, spontaneity and creativity. The concept of developing the ability to feel time and phrases was an essential missing piece in the puzzle in many books about reading out there. Everyone seems to love it. And its now part of curriculum in many drum schools and universities around the world.

“Latin Soloing for the Drumset” also came from a need. There were lots of books about Afro Cuban or Brazilian drumming patterns out there. But NONE of them showed how to get the proper feel and vocabulary of the genres. In fact…its one of the most interesting and elusive things about playing those styles. Anyone can show you patterns, but almost no one can tackle the main barrier faced as a Westernized player in learning African descent music. The barrier had to be breached using ways we are used to learning with and can deal with it in an efficient way. Back when i was learning i would ask people …”how do I do a fill in Afro Cuban style as opposed to Brazilian style? Or even get the right feels?” The answer was always “Get a Cuban girlfriend” or “Go live in Brazil for a year”, “Eat lots of rice and beans”- Of course non of that could help me in an efficient way. So slowly but surely, with the help of the “right” teachers, ethnomusicologists and many devoted players who were very generous with me, the RTS system was developed and worked out . It took 10 years to put that book together. It was slow, tedious, super expensive but truly fulfilling work.
philmaturano2You are a contributing educator for UK based drum magazine, “Drummer”. How exactly did you get involved with the magazine, and what does it mean to you knowing that your educational articles are being widely read throughout the world?

I met Ian the editor of Drummer at the time at a drum festival was playing at. He liked my clinic and asked me if I could write for the magazine. I have written for many magazines over the last 15 years. What i feel about it? It’s bitter sweet. To be honest…I have discovered that we have a lot of work to do as musicians. We need to keep letting young players know about all of the great music out there. We have to reach out to them with high quality music, and not what the petty and corrupt industry forces them into. There is SO much great beautiful music out there, more then ever! And in the west it has to be sought out with effort! Mass media is poisoned with superficiality and I get questions from readers sometimes that are kind of baffling to me. Because of the lack of exposure to the music, many cats are simply completely disconnected to the drumming of other cultures. Magazines have to resort to “Double bass drum lick from hell” by “Awesome dude” for the 500th time. Just to move copies. So even though it is an honor to have people read your workshop, after years and years of doing it, it makes you feel like you are reaching into an ever widening void. And of course it make me even more determined and happy to write and reach out.

I understand that you are extremely active on the session scene. What advice could you give other drummers, who are wanting to break into the session scene on how to do so and, further more, what advice could you offer for them to stay there, once involved?

Well, everything has changed. The best way now is to invest in yourself. Learn about recording. Learn Logic or Protools, invest in the best home studio you can get your hands on and do it all yourself. Its really the only way now.

Let’s talk briefly about the Phil Maturano Trio. What are you guys currently up to?

We are about to record the 3rd CD next month for a very small jazz label. Going on tour of Argentina, and then Italy. My players for this one are Phil Palombi on bass, he won a Grammy last year for his work with the “Village Vanguard Big band ” in NY . And Mathew Fries on Piano. A monster player who won the Great American jazz piano competition. I love Jazz and combining world music with Jazz, so that will be the vibe on the CD.
philmaturano3Tell us about your practice routine, within, and away from your trio. Also, do you have any specific warm up exercises that you do before performing, such as stretches or rudiments?

My practice routine varies. Its basically determined by what gigs are coming up. Sometimes its nothing but learning material from different artists. Around here in NY that is no easy task. You have a huge pool of incredibly talented players all pushing to put there music out there. Just brilliant stuff and very challenging. So learning new material is a constant challenge.

Then there is the practice of the technical aspect of drumming. For which i use a Practice system we developed back in school. Its really a highly effective and detailed log for practicing that combines elements from the business management world and …well..dianetics. (Dont let that scare you. I don’t follow that stuff, just some principles of it were taught at MI during that time and its pretty universal knowledge if you break it down) Its very detailed but once you learn the system your efficiency and concentration are enormously improved. Not to mention results are dramatically improved in a shorter time. Learning to practice is almost an art form in itself. I learned from great players and everyone that was involved in super serious practice routines that the only way to get results is by having a very detailed system.

To warm up, I have a special routine I do that combines systems of upstrokes and rebound strokes. maybe i will post it on my webpage if some of your readers are interested.

What would you say has been your high and low lights as a drummer/musician since you started ? If you could do anything about your musical career over, what would you do?

High light…everytime I am playing with great musicians and great people.

Low light haha…the financial struggle when I was starting out was sometimes a huge drag.

If i could do it over again I would have gone to North Texas State University. And moved to NY MUCH sooner.

What would you say has been the best bit of drumming advice you have ever received?

Live to play. Drums are life.

I’m a firm believer in the fact that as a drummer/musician, if you want work, you need to go out there and get it. What advice could you give other drummer/musicians about getting “out there” and marketing themselves?

Use the Internet for all it’s worth but remember that showing up in person to gigs and shaking hands, sitting in when you can and handing out cards is still the most effective way of getting hooked up. Almost all of my gigs have come through personal contacts. Knowing other musicians very well and having them recommend me.

I wouldn’t hurt to read a few books about marketing. One that Changed a lot of things for me Is called “Competing for clients” which was aimed at the personal services sector. Doctors, lawyers etc.

Let’s talk a bit about the gear that you use, why have you chosen to use the products that you do, and if any, what other products would you like to add to your set ups? (Whether it be for studio or live)

Right now I’m in transition with my gear. As my ear changes so does the gear I use. I have different set ups for the different types of music I play. For example for straight ahead, especially in NY, you absolutely need to have a sound that is expected in the city. People are looking for your cymbals especially to have a certain sound. And if they don’t like it they will tell you to your face. The ride cymbal is an essential piece of gear and some cats are willing to pay serious cash for a great sounding one. I have heard of someone paying 1700.00 for a ride. So that should give you an idea of how important it is. In the city you simply will not get gigs if your gear is not sounding right.
philmaturano4Any Last words?

Music is a gift. No one is ever the master of everything. There is no such thing as “I play all styles”. There are way too many of them to master. It would take 20 lifetimes. The drums and music will always humble you. There can never be ego when one approaches the drums. Not because it tears you down as a person, but because it makes you realize the beauty and vastness of Music. At the same time, drumming can lift you to a happiness and peace that is rarely found in this world. We have a saying in NY. “No one is the king in NY”. Meaning there are simply to many great players in every nook and cranny to have a regard for yourself that is too high. With Music the rest of your life is learning, exploring, stretching your physical, mental and creative boundaries. You will need courage, discipline and most of all, love.

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