SCV interviews KUDU and The Mars Volta drummer Deantoni Parks
SCV links up with artist and musician, Deantoni Parks
The Mars Volta @ UIC Pavilion
July 16, 2011
Photos and interview by Pouya G. Asadi
Deantoni Parks is a Brooklyn, NY based drummer, director, song-writer and producer; as well as being the latest addition to The Mars Volta. From historical groundbreaking shows in the early 2000′s with his electronic group KUDU to projects with John Cale, Me’shell Ndegeocello and Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group, Deantoni has been active in almost every creative way possible. Colorful, precise and tasteful: his drumming is a world of sound within itself. With a brief stint with The Mars Volta in 2006, Deantoni toured with the band for a very short time of a month or so. His time with the band was short lived due to other commitments and now he is rolling with the group full time. With work completed at Stanford Jazz Workshop, The Drummer’s Collective NYC and Berklee College of Music since the late 90′s, Deantoni has led a life of constant artistic growth and expansion since he first started playing percussion at the age of 2.
The Mars Volta agreed to take part in an opening stint for Soundgarden to usher in the new arrival of their latest drummer, Deantoni Parks. With shows in Australia and China scheduled, the group will see a new full length album release next year. SCV co-owner Pouya G. Asadi was on site for the Mars Volta’s opening set of Soundgarden in Chicago at UIC Pavilion July 16, 2011. He took stills with his Canon 600D and interviewed Deantoni shortly backstage after the Volta’s set. Deantoni Parks is easily one of our favorite drummers in contemporary music and it is an honor to present this interview at Sound Colour Vibration. -Erik Otis
Check out our entire photo set for The Mars Volta in Chicago July of 2011 at our official FB page HERE
What consisted of your typical schedule for rehearsals before you guys started this year’s touring?
Deantoni Parks: Nothin’ too out of the ordinary, 3-4 hours a day with the group. The rehearsals are just as hoppin’ as the live show man, there is no difference when we all play together regardless of the stage or the space we’re in. I’m 33 now, so it’s almost like I got to surround myself with the people that are on the same thought process as me. People like Omar understand where I’m coming from because everything we do is for the same cause.
What type of drum sound are you bringing to the new Mars Volta record and what kit or kits did you record on?
Deantoni Parks: As far as sound goes, I’m trying to bring something as simple as possible. These dudes have been around for a long time now and they’ve heard everything. So I’m tryin’ to switch it up and simplify things in a real nice manner. As for the kits, honestly, whatever was there in the studio. I’d like to think of myself as a chameleon when I’m playing with all these different artists. Give me anything and I’ll adapt to it. That’s why I’m so comfortable playing with dudes like Omar, because like he says, in the end it’s all part of the same vision. I like surrounding myself with people that have the same mentality towards art as I do, because we keep surprising each other with our abilities every single day. Like I said, it’s nice to be around people that are on the same thought process as me when it comes to creating art and at the same time marrying it with spirituality. Because at the end of the day if it’s not speaking to me on a spiritual level then it’s not really of much use to me.
How have the shows been so far with the band?
Deantoni Parks: They’ve been fun, in a sense, I get all my aggression out on the kit at these shows. I live in America, you know, so you’ve always got to have a way to take your anger out in healthy circumstances. Like the other night in Moscow when they announced the Casey Anthony verdict I just remember thinking to myself, ‘Damn I feel so bad for that little 2 year old girl.’ And I beat the hell out of my drums that night just thinking and aiming those thoughts towards my hands and sticks.
We feel like you are really changing the sound of drums with the merging of the acoustic and electronic worlds. Which drummers before you and now do you see yourself following in their foot steps?
Deantoni Parks: Of course the favorites such as Elvin Jones and the like. But honestly let me tell you a story. When I was growing up back in Georgia I would always be chillin’ and out of nowhere I’d hear this woodpecker go off on a random tree or pole. It would be everyday. Those rhythms from that bird truly inspired me to play how I do to this day. So wherever you are woodpecker, thank you! [laughs]
We heard you are recording for Cedric on his first solo record. What type of sound would you call the material you worked on?
Deantoni Parks: Man that dude Cedric, he is so informed on so many levels when it comes to music; so when he approached me to play for the record, I knew it would be truly wild material that I’d have to deliver. And that’s exactly what that record is, I brought everything to it, hip hop vibes, anything, you name it. I will also be releasing my solo album later this year that I’m very excited about.
You play drums on 5 tracks from the new Laïka Fatien album Nebula. The drumming is so colorful and tasteful and falls into a heavy jazz foundation. What does this type of playing demand from you?
Deantoni Parks: I was on this album because Meshell Ndegeocello was producing it, and she had me play on 4 or 5 tracks. It was a really relaxing environment, they were confident in me and I went in there and did my thing. You know this whole drumming thing, I got to eat, so even though I’ve been doing it since I was 2 years old I still got my other mediums. I have recently done some work with Gray Basquiat’s Industrial Art Noise Band, it’s a group featuring myself and Vincent Gallo. I have also made a short film that I worked alongside my art director Jakob Dwight called “Nirvana’s Forever”. It’s a 35 minute film/concert and something that I’m really proud of and I really think you and other people will dig it.
Damn, so you were behind/handling the camera for this film as well?
Deantoni Parks: No no, I’m a director but I don’t like to think of myself as that controlling. You see I live a very serendipitous life. And this is what I believe in, expressing myself through all mediums of art. In fact I would love to come back here to Chicago and screen that film. My vision is to have it screen in a planetarium, something that people aren’t too used to, and would make them all come out and enjoy the experience. I don’t want to premiere this in NYC, or LA. I wanna bring this film straight to Chi Town man, I love it here.
Deantoni Parks: Fuck yea!
What type of kit did you use for Nebula?
Deantoni Parks: Honestly, again, whatever was there in the studio. Since Meshell Ndegeocello was producing this album, I really knew what the expectations were in this scenario. I’ve worked with her in the past on several of her albums and tours. You see with Meshell, she is an artist and musician that never wants to repeat herself. She is constantly searching for something new and something she hasn’t heard before. So I always keep that in mind when I work with her on the various projects that we collaborate on.
With your ability to play in the most quiet settings along with the most loud, what setting do you feel most comfortable in?
Deantoni Parks: Anything. I mean it, usually I’m playing on rented equipment so as long as the basic elements are there in front of me I am comfortable to work on any setting on any level. You see the biggest competition I have is within myself. It’s me versus me versus me, everyday. When I wake up in the morning, it’s always what can I do different today. What connections will I form today whether it’s with objects, people or even elements of a spiritual manner. Like I said before, I truly believe that if my actions aren’t provoking spirituality then they are not complete. I’d like to think the people that I make art with will agree on that as well. Even with my other project Dark Angels, we thought to ourselves what is a “remix?” What is the true definition of a remix? I don’t think a true remix is mash-up or whatever the latest fad is, I think it’s a true redefining of a song. From one dude’s perspective to another. That’s why Nicci (Kasper) and I have been forming this new sideproject and working on our definition of remixes.
I’ve heard the Dark Angels remix albums on Bandcamp that shit is sick, what’s up with KUDU?
Deantoni Parks: There’s always been my group KUDU that I play with. That’s the shit right there you know, that’s like MY Mars Volta. We’ve been playing for years and I’m actually really glad we haven’t blown up yet. All in due time, as they say, I have a lot of focus and energy that’s always been with KUDU.
Do you still plan on going back to teach in the classroom in the future?
Deantoni Parks: You know I keep up with all those people and institutions. I communicate frequently with all the cats from Stanford and you know, Berklee. In the past, I gave all my students my number and my email and told them to hit me up whenever. It was a really close relationship that we all had together. I truly believe in not only being a mentor, but having a mentor. Because there is really nothing stronger than being in the middle of that spectrum, it gets really heavy at that point.
Deantoni Parks: Now actually I’ve got a question for you Pouya, why did you single me out of all the Mars Volta dudes and want to do an interview?
Well dude, to be honest, when we saw you back in 2006 playing with them at Vegoose, we thought to ourselves “who is this dude? where did he come from? Goddamn!” I was so hyped when you came back on-board last year with Omar’s other tours and it was really just a dream come true to see you back in the Volta. Every single time I see you perform live it’s been different material played. Even back in April when you all were supposed to perform the Volta songs but ended up doing a Vato Negro set. The crowd and I were completely blown away. I mean honestly even just tonight in the VIP section, when you all walked off stage, this tall older dude turned around and said “who the hell was that on the drums?” Turned out he was an executive over at Shure microphones, so you see what I mean? You get people’s attention with everything you do behind the kit. So it’s a real trip to see that you are an artist first, and drummer second. Thanks for your time, D.
Check out this video of The Mars Volta performing a song from their new album scheduled to release with Warner Brothers next year. The song is called Trinkets Pale of Moon and was captured live @ The Circus, Helsinki, Finland on July 3, 2011. This footage is unprofessional but is of the highest quality for the state it is.