Todd ‘Vinny’ Vinciguerra Interview by Travis Marc. 2015.
I first discovered Todd ‘Vinny’ Vinciguerra in 2013 while paging through a copy of Modern Drum Magazine, for which he had written some double bass building working outs that I thought were completely unique. I decided to do some research and was happy to discover that Todd was quite an in demand player as well as an established drum author. I decided to make contact to see if he’d do an interview with us, and he said yes, here’s what he had to say.
You started drumming at the early age of 5, can you remember what it was that attracted you to the instrument?
Yeah, I started drumming at the age of 5 or so. What first drew me to the drums was seeing my uncle Bob play in my grandmother’s basement. I would see him practice with his band playing songs by artists like Alice Cooper, Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Uriah Heap and I thought it was great. He would let me take the sticks and bang away.
What about your early influences, can you remember who they were?
My uncles were my earliest influences growing up. Bob is still drumming today and my uncle Ger was a great bass player. Ger would take me to my first drum lessons as a 7/8 year old kid. From there it was Peter Criss from Kiss, Derek Longmuir of the Bay City Rollers who had a Saturday morning TV show when I was growing up and I loved his Ludwig Vistalite drum sets. I think he had a different colour kit every week.
Who or what would you say influences you now?
As I grew up I really got into artists like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and AC/DC, so I would say all their drummers were huge influences on me. I also really love Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. I listened to lots of different styles of music so I love the Meters/Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Professor Longhair etc. Zigaboo Modiliste has a great groove! Miles Davis – Kind of Blue is on my ‘must listen to monthly’ list. I am also digging Stanton Moore and Galactic, Trombone Shorty and the Rival Sons, they are all must see live bands.
I discovered who you were when one of your articles in the Modern Drummer magazine caught my attention. From there I did a bit of research and noticed that you have actually written quite a few educational drum books. Can you tell us a bit about what actually goes into writing such books and roughly how long each book takes you?
I started writing exercises and different patterns when I began teaching. So instead of writing out the same exercises in my student’s notebooks, I would give them handouts that eventually turned into books. When I started the writing process for a publisher, I tried to fit more of what they were looking for out of a book and truthfully am not totally happy with the end results.
Part of me would like to combine some of the ideas from two of the books I’ve written into one more concise product. I do like the double bass book that came out a little over a year ago but I have so many more advanced patterns that belong in it that I may revise that one as well.
When I start writing, I get tunnel vision and have to get all my ideas out at once. So I am writing for about 12-16 hour days when doing it. When I was writing for Modern Drummer Magazine I was sending the editor groups of 20 different exercise ideas a few times a day. It was pretty crazy how much I was writing.
Let’s talk about drum education for a while. Can you tell us about your experience with tutors (whether they were private or through Musicians Institute)?
As I mentioned earlier, I began private lessons when I was 7 or 8 years old. I played in all of the concert, marching and jazz bands throughout school and took more private lessons with many different teachers in my local area, learning different styles, and habits along the way. When I went to Musician’s Institute in Hollywood I started to get into really learning how to read drum notation and experimenting with mixed time signatures, snare patterns, odd meters and different styles of music. At times I would start writing out patterns then figure out what they sounded like. It was a great experience all around, and I met a great bunch of musicians that I am still friends with today.
It’s also where I first met my VHF band mate Joel Hoekstra, who is now in Whitesnake and Trans Siberian Orchestra.
You’ve been teaching since the mid 1980’s. What would you say are some of the things that you try and pass onto your own students?
While I am not currently teaching, I have since the mid 80’s yes. I try to teach my students the importance of being able to read music, rudiments and how to appreciate and play different styles of music. At times, when dealing with more stubborn students, I would show the similarities between a thrash drum beat and a polka beat. Funny thing, one of my cousins, Mike, who is also a drummer, left playing in rock bands to be in a polka band, and he is having a blast!
I understand that you recently performed at the renowned OX and Loon event, what songs did you play, and what was your highlight from the performance?
Thanks for asking about the Ox and Loon show. That was an overall fantastic event. Brian Tichy put this event together along with the Bonzo Bash and Randy Rhoads tribute events. He is a great guy and I was very happy that he invited me to play this show. For me the highlight of the event was being able to not only pay tribute to one of the greatest drummers in rock music, but to also jam and hang out with such great musicians. I had the opportunity to play the song Substitute, with my VHF band mate the ‘fretless monster’ Tony Franklin on bass, Gilby Clarke of Guns N Roses on guitar, Michael Devin of Whitesnake singing and Joe Retta of Heaven and Earth/The Sweet/Dio’s Disciples on backing vocals. There are many pictures and video on my Facebook page that you can check out.
The end of the night was epic. During the song Won’t Get Fooled Again, each drummer took their turn at a drum solo over the keyboard loop. As each drummer finished, they came to the front and sides of the stage to play on a floor tom while the next drummer got up and did their solo. This culminated into Dave Lombardo’s ending solo and destroying of the drum set, toms, gong….you name it. It was really quite an experience.
On that note – if you had to try and choose, who would you say has been more influential on your drumming career. Moonie or Bonham?
Wow… how to choose between Bonham and Moon……I have to say that I have my appreciation of the groove from Bonham and my style from Moon.
Besides the writing and the recent Ox and Loon event what else are you currently up to playing wise?
First off, is my band, VHF that I put together with the afore mentioned Joel Hoekstra and Tony Franklin. We have a debut CD called Very High Frequency. It is predominantly instrumental music in a psychedelic rock the genre. The interesting concept from this band is that I wrote and arranged the drum parts first. Then sent the drum tracks to Tony. He had free reign to come up with the chord progressions, rhythms and overall vibe. Once the rhythm tracks were compiled and we had a rough mix, I sent them off to Joel who also had free reign to create whatever he wanted over the rhythm tracks. It’s a pretty fun project. We have a video for the song “Whispers of the Soul” and are storyboarding the video for the song “Backside of your Eyes”. Joel has already shot his footage; Tony and I are scheduling our time as we speak.
Currently, I am also putting the finishing touches on my home studio, where I will be able to offer drum tracks to those looking for me to play on their songs, shoot instructional videos and keep working on more original bands. I have a few bands in the works right now and am looking into several options.
What do you feel has been the most important piece of advice you have ever received in regards to your music career?
Never give up, believe in yourself and always be prepared. Oh yeah, don’t forget where you came from, and leave your ego at home.
If you could potentially change one thing about the current music industry, what would it be and why?
I could change one thing in the music industry, it would be to get the apathy towards new rock music by the record labels and radio. There are great musicians around writing and performing great music but not many labels are willing to put in the budgets like they had in the past. Along those same lines, radio should ease up with their corporate formatted radio shows. I remember growing up when a DJ was excited about a particular song or a band, they would play it. Now for that type of freedom, you have to search out internet radio and podcasts.
Lastly – if you could share/part with one piece of wisdom that you feel would really help other drummers/musicians (whether it’s on a mental or practical level) what would it be?
I tell all my students to not only stay away from drugs and alcohol, but to also be cool and humble. You can be the greatest musician in the world, but if your ego precedes your playing, not many people will want to work with you. Lastly, never give up. I had a hand surgery about 10 years ago where all of my doctors said I would never drum again. They were right for about 5 years but you got to keep pushing!
For more information on Todd ‘Vinny’ Vinciguerra please visit www.anotherstateofmind.com