Spencer Smith Interview – by Travis Marc – 2010.
If you’re into up tempo grooves, and solid hook type fills, Spencer Smith from Panic! at the Disco is your man. He has an addictive groove that forces you to dance, and a personality to match. Spencer was kind enough to give me some insight into his playing, while sharing a quick drink before Panic! at the Disco’s Coke Zero Fest performance. Here’s what he had to say…
If you have one, what would you say your practice routine looks like, in regards to different drumming exercises and patterns?
Truthfully it changes on a nightly basis. I do a lot of different drum exercises and rudiments with my drum tech Basil, he’s a really good drummer, so it helps having him around, because it’s almost like having a permanent drum teacher with me on tour. The warm ups are basically a mix of different exercises from different books like the Syncopation and Rudiments for the Marching drummer etc. I’ll do various sticking patterns over and over until I’m good to go. The last tour was great, because I managed to set up a little practice kit in my dressing room. Being able to practice and warm up all day was excellent.
Who or what are your influences?
Zack Hill is phenomenal. Ryan from the Dressen Dolls is another one to watch. Musically, I love the Beatles, The Rolling Stones etc. The drumming just fits the songs, which is cool because it proves that you don’t have to play all these mad drum fills, and always be extremely technical for the drumming to work.
What is the most important piece of drumming advice you have ever received?
Slow Down, and in general try and learn all the patterns that you’re trying to learn at slower tempos. If you take it easy, relax and actually try and gain the right feel, for a specific pattern, you’ll more than likely get it right. Other than that, just never ever stop trying to learn. I know that it sounds like a college statement, but if you never stop learning, you can only get better. Alternatively, if none of that works, learn to play jazz, ha, ha…
What is the writing process within Panic! at the Disco! like?
It’s different, sometimes we’ll start songs with just the lyrics, and try and put the music around the tone that we believe the lyrics portray, then other times we’ll start musically, by jamming together. We also try and pick up on an idea that one of us has started and just take it from there. With each album there has been at least three to four songs that have started with just one instrument, like the drums or the guitar. The best way for us to write is to just make things different each time. It works for us, so that’s what we do.
Besides Panic at the Disco, do you have any other side projects, if so please tell us about them?
Not yet specifically. I mean I’ve played on a few other peoples songs. But nothing serious enough to call a side project just yet. We’re really good friends with this band called “Black Gold” from California, I played on one of their songs. Also Brandon (from PATD) and I started working on a few songs during the last tour, which are quite different and not exactly what you’d expect to hear from Panic! at the Disco. I’m not to sure where we’re going to take it, but we’ll see.
Where do you see yourself in five years time, on both a personal and professional level?
Ummm, I’m not to sure, I’m trying to figure out where I’ll be in the next three months. I mean as far as drumming goes, I’ve realised that I’ve really been slacking off in terms of practice, and so, as of late, I’ve been pretty hard on myself with trying to shift gears in terms of that. So I really hope that I’ll be a much better drummer. I guess that, that’s really an on going thing though. Besides that, I really hope that I’m still able to do music for a living.
Tell us about the gear you use, and why you choose to endorse the gear that you do?
SJC Drums were the first company that ever approached me. It happened while we were recording our first album, and I remember speaking to the guy on the phone, and just getting this feeling that I could really speak to them anytime of the day about what I needed, and I still get that vibe from them every time. So basically, from the very beginning, they have just been extremely supportive. I’m also a Meinl Cymbal endorser, which turned out to be quite a similar situation. Some of the bigger Cymbal companies aren’t quite as personal, and Meinl have a really great Artist relations department. Plus, they make some of the best percussion in the world, so it’s nice to know that if I need something like that, they’re really only a phone call away. Pro-Mark are set to release my signature drumsticks soon, so that’s great too. In general I’m just really into my gear. I’m constantly online looking around for new stuff. Things are always changing, so I like to stay on top of that sort of thing. One day I would love to build a really big drum kit for my home, and never have to move it because of tours etc. We’ll see what happens.
What advice could you give our readers on staying positive within such a cut throat industry such as the music industry?
Well, honestly, as much as people moan about how the industry has changed over the years because of downloads and the Internet. If truth be told, it’s really a good thing, because people aren’t forced to buy what the Labels are putting out anymore, they can go straight onto the Internet and browse until they find something that they like. So bands really need to be unique and original now days, or else people aren’t going to pay that much attention. Also, you really just need to have as much fun as you can while you’re doing this, because if you’re not having any fun, what difference does it make in regards to how much success comes from it?