Thomas Pridgen of The Memorials fame Interview!
Thomas Pridgen: a familiar name in the music industry, but more importantly a tactful drummer who represents the young people all over the entire globe. What comes to mind is prolific prodigious… shit even Herculean feats whether it was behind the kit for Eric Gales Band, The Mars Volta Group, or of course his latest band of true musical family, The Memorials. In case you’ve never looked up his past, this guy has been droppin’ jaws since the mid eighties when he started playing. Winning a national Drum-Off at age 9 and then receiving his first Zildjian endorsement a year later is also duly noted. His new band, The Memorials launched a year ago, and he plans for their first album to drop on January 18th, 2011. Until then we can look for Thomas Pridgen’s latest feats/beats on the new record with Curren$y the spitta, and the new Foxy Shazam record. TP also did a record with Jordan Ferriera called ‘Elixir on Mute.’ He also just cut a record with a guy by the name of Jon Reshard. Look for all this new music and embrace this new year with much much more to come. -Pouya G. – SCV
What’s up Thomas? How are things in the home studio now that the year is ending?
Things are good we’re constantly recording and filming I feel like a creative ball of fire..lol
I’m loving the people who are around me…they really are showing their talents…which makes this process easier.
Before we delve into your new project The Memorials, we wanted to ask what your thoughts on the state of current drummers. Do you feel drumming as a whole is expanding and elevating, or at a plateau?
Yeh I feel that people are waking up and wanting more from drummers. For the longest time drummers were told to play in the pocket…now I’m hearing a lot more drum fills in all styles of rock music even popular music….I’m not a big fan of popular music but I like the drumming.
Growing up what were the first drum heavy records that really blew you away and wanted to make you achieve that level of technical and creative ability?
Spectrum – Billy Cobham. I had Lenny White CD’s and Chick Corea all the Tony Williams CD’s and a ton of Mahivishnu orchestra I didn’t grasp all of what was goin’ on but I kept listening and buying more of their stuff. I also listened to a lot of P funk, I love those guys.
Max Roach, Buddy Rich and a group of other drummers from that period of jazz released a series of battle drum albums, do you feel this type of release could be done again in today’s modern age of drummers?
Yeh but most modern day drummers dont have the originality those guys had so it’s not as creative…I’d totally love to do another duet with someone who is creative more than on a mission to battle it out…like it’s a UFC match.
Right now, LA’s beat scene is really expanding outward and you are one of the few drummers who can play the type of beats these guys create through their own means. What is your take on the current state of electronic music in California and who is your favorite DJ from the Los Angeles area? I don’t live in LA
I live up north of course I cannot not mention Qbert and all the scratch pickles they totally are xgame DJ’s but I also love the newer
more beat influenced cats like flying lotus…all the ableton guys are making some really sick shit…
Do you ever see your yourself collaborating with any of these electronic artists?
Yeh I’d love to work with Aaron Funk or Squarepusher even maybe Aphex Twin I’m really open to who I work with
I’m really into the art more than the logistics.
You joined Mars Volta in late 06, and shortly after tracked on your first Mars Volta record, The Bedlam In Goliath. How did you gain from that experience? Would you say your studio frustrations ended up translating well into the live settings?
I learned a lot from the time I spent with them..some things bad most good. I guess knowing how Omar gets everything done is the greatest thing to know…he’s a genius. But I also learned that I could teach them stuff which I guess added to the music and energy of the band. Cedric can also be cool and he has things that most people do I learn a lot from watching those guys…
Traveling in such a big band with an extensive production team, what were some of the most vital things you took from touring with Mars Volta?
Someone can tell you how and when and what but I guess the most vital thing I took was the experiences.
From music to business to ideas…I got an experience that a lot of people won’t ever get even if they’re the “new drummer.”
Having seeing you extensively live with Mars Volta I always heard a very vital and important connection between your drumming and the guitar solos, as if you were communicating back and forth to each other. How much of this was intentional and what are some of the most interconnected feelings you have recieved while being on stage with any musician?
I enjoy playing with Omar and he likes me to communicate during his solos…he likes the layers so I just did my best to listen, it can be seriously hard when so much is goin’ on.
We know that your recording sessions with Omar were always done in a crazy “ass backwards” way? Did you gain any little tricks from the three years you spent with Omar as far as recording techniques/drum trackings?
I won’t tell…..lol naw but it’s really not anything that you might be thinking dude is just really good at creating stuff out of nothing.
He’s great at making you believe he knows what he’s doing when he doesn’t all the time….organized chaos…
Of all the amazing countries and cities you visited with that band, where do you want to go back first when you tour with your new music?
Well I wanna do every country and city…I love traveling. I love my friends all over the world that I don’t see as much…and I’m really excited to show people my new band I’m really proud of the music and energy we play with.
The new Memorials record really shows some of your most creative drumming, how much of your past did you utilize for this record and what types of new things did you bring to this record that you had never done before?
Well this record was made from a songwriter’s point of view how many drummer/songwriters you know???
The creative drumming is there because I had little 10 year old stealing my licks and I wanna make ‘em proud…but I haven’t gotten credited for writing songs so I had to let people know…..the industry’s writers claim that if it’s not the melody it isn’t writing is just bullshit.
Any time a song is written off a drum part…that’s writing [credit]….I’m trying to change how contracts are written just like Led Zeppelin man…
Were any parts of the Memorials album improv on the drum tracking?
The whole album is improv controlled improv……I honestly recorded he drums super fast.
We had 7 days to write and record 13 songs…I was acting like it was the count down to the end..
The Memorials record shows so many styles and modes fused together. do you see the memorials branding its identity to the sound found on the debut album or will the sound evolve to include even more styles and areas of music you have studied over your career?
I don’t wanna brand. Any style I like, we can play… all over the map..I love that you don’t really know what’s next. It adds to the mystic feelin’ I feel like that’s missing in a lot of today’s music.
Memorials is fronted by singer Viveca Hawkins, how would you describe her approach to vocals and how much energy and presence does she bring to the band?
She’s funny she likes to make complete sense… she really shows a lot of pride in her lyrics and vocals. Now energy-wise I honestly think I picked the perfect person to front this band ’cause she’s as energetic as myself most times…
she totally comes in and does, Her. She makes this band a different band than some usual prog rock band or rock band or soul band
she allows us to show people our various styles because she is always searching for what she is…weird but true…
I tell her to be Viv everyday, all day.
Your debut record finds guitarist Nick Brewer adding multi layered hard driving rhythms with really tasteful solos and a very traditional sense along with the experimental sides, how much of the record did he write and how was it like working with him in the studio?
Nick is amazing if he wanted he wanted he could write all the music and the lyrics.
Him and I wrote all the music.. it was very fast we work really quick together. He comes in with crazy ass riffs then allows me to tweak ‘em and put weird drum grooves and breakdowns to ‘em without any weird attitude or pride ..he even lets me sing riffs to him he picks shit up really really fast.
When tracking this record, did you utilize many studios and extend it over a long time frame or was it centralized to certain dates and a specific studio and hammered out in quick time?
No we started this band the day we started recording we did the whole record at the Zoo in Oakland last December…we did the key boards and vocals at my house.
Now to move back a little bit in time, we were wondering what was the first drum kit you ever owned and what is the most favorite kit you have ever owned?
The first kit I ever had was a Remo Jr. Pro…I had it for a while then I moved up to a Pearl Export. I think my favorite kit is my Jazz Series DW’s. They fucking sound so good…I didn’t let cedric hop on those lol
You did drum clinics at a very young age, started receiving sponsorships very young, studied under prestigious musicians and Universities and began a very adventurous career in different settings, most people don’t acknowledge the amount of practice it took to get to that point. How much everyday would you practice growing up and what kind of things did you have to give up in your pursuit to become better?
I gave up skateboarding that sucked but i was a better drummer than a skater…I also gave up people lol. I’d practice all day with tons of breaks to eat watch tv. I did a lot of ‘practice pad’ practice also.
Whats your favorite drum instructional videos?
Yogi Horton’s video that isn’t really made anymore and I had hella bootleg tapes of Virgil Donati, Dennis Chambers with Brecker Brothers and a couple Japanese drum tapes.
Max Roach really paved the way for compositions in drumming and was responsible with Charles Mingus as setting up one of the first artist founded and ran record labels; what most refer to as diy culture. How has his drumming and social standard setting affected your life and what are some of the records that really blow you away that he is on?
I dunno that’s too deep…lol
Thanks for your time Thomas:
Look out for a brand new album by The Memorials on January 18, 2011.
Erik Otis and Pouya G. Asadi- SCV