Jacob Slichter Podcast Follow-Up

This is great. On his Facebook page, Jacob answers questions and engages in discussion about his dumbdrummer interview…

  • Miriam Eusebio This was great Jacob, thanks for posting. I really appreciate what you say about being an artist and how changing the music industry actually needs a change of society.
  • Danny Contreras Jr “We need something that looks more like a democracy than an oligarchy.” Right on! Fantastic podcast Eric and Jake!
  • Erik Ostrom Listening to this now, and enjoying it, and also wanting to explore something. Pretty early on, you talk about the importance of “putting on a costume” and playing the part of a rock star when you play a rock show. You also talk about “being yourself, musically” on stage. Do you feel like there’s a tension between those two?
  • Jacob Slichter A good insight, Erik. Perhaps putting on the costume is what gives me space to be my musical self.
  • Erik Ostrom Or at least the rock star part of your musical self, in sort of the same way that your book’s narrator is not exactly you but an aspect of you.
  • Jacob Slichter Yes, exactly. I think one uses that persona to create the necessary operating room.
  • Erik Ostrom Even “regular guy” is a persona, though. I’m not sure I know what a non-performance performance looks like. Well. Boring, probably.Just finished listening. I appreciated your comments about getting over the feeling of being a failure. I am thinking about how much that has to do with external measures of success vs internal awareness of accomplishment – having a hit record vs just finishing a record, say.

  • Jacob Slichter Yes. One way this works: external measures of success are often what saturate one’s mind by way of conversations. When friends ask, “How’s your music going?” a musician intuits what those friends hope to hear. As well-meaning as those friends are, it’s hard for them to accept “Well, I find it rewarding and meaningful.” They are rooting for their musician friend to make money, become popular, etc. And the musician, in turn, feels like anything short of that is, in some form, a failure.
  • Danny Contreras Jr I was thinking of this the other day Jake. One of my dad’s cousins is a working musician. We were golfing with him the other day and I remember being quite happy and proud for him – not for any musical achievements – but in that he is able to make a living doing what he clearly loves and is very good at.
  • Jacob Slichter Danny, yes. Anyone who is able to actually earn a living (or a significant portion thereof) from music has accomplished something huge.
  • Lee Flier True, but unfortunately a lot of the opportunities to make a living at music are not very rewarding musically. Some are downright soul crushing. For me at least, doing that for awhile convinced me that the greater success was doing music I could be proud of with talented people I love.
  • Lee Flier Also, I don’t know if this means I am just warped, but I feel a lot more like myself onstage than most other circumstances. I feel like I’m putting on a costume the rest of the time.
  • Lee Flier But now I will stop chatting with you interesting people and actually check out the interview.
  • Erik Ostrom In the interview this comes up in the context of poetry: How many people make a living just from poems? (You need at most one hand’s worth of fingers.) But some poets make a living teaching poetry.There are more musicians who make a living making music they care about, and teaching is also an option. There’s also playing music you don’t care about. I always imagine wedding bands are like this, if there are still wedding bands: you’re playing the songs that wedding crowds want to dance to, and there’s not a lot of room for personal expression. But you’re playing, and you’re getting paid!

    I was trying to think of an equivalent for poets: Hallmark cards?

  • Lee Flier Well yeah, that’s just it. To me, at some point I don’t think it’s really a badge of honor to say “I’m playing, and I’m getting paid.” My “day job” nowadays makes me unhappy at times, but not as unhappy as playing or recording music I don’t like. Music is too close to my soul. I likened it to working all day as a prostitute and then going home and trying to enjoy sex with your husband. It poisoned the whole thing for me, to have to spend so much time and energy serving something I didn’t believe in. Not knocking anyone else who does it. More power to anybody who wants to and can. Just saying that a lot of people assume it’s a given that you want to make a living at music if you can, but I know it’s made a lot of people miserable who might be a lot happier if they disconnected the creative process from paying the bills.
  • Jacob Slichter Lee, I agree. It’s not a badge of honor, per se, but perhaps you can relate to the experience of being caught up in the greater illogic of society, which is what I was getting at when I said I felt like a failure. By no means do I endorse that viewpoint, and I hope that’s clear in the interview.
  • Lee Flier Absolutely! I’m just driving it home for other people who might still be mired in the same process.
  • Jacob Slichter Yes, and there are all kinds of analogs to the non-art world, for instance lawyers who work for the indigent. They generally don’t live in the same neighborhoods as their better-paid “successful” (<–blech) peers.
  • Jacob Slichter (Blech being a comment on narrowly defined “success”)
  • Lee Flier For sure! I’d also add that the problem is likely worse for men, who are raised to measure their worth by their jobs and how much they can earn.
  • Lee Flier Loving the interview so far btw… having a set of principles that you try to drum by… ohhhh yes.
  • Jacob Slichter
    Women certainly face the challenge of getting equal pay and respect, especially when they take roles traditionally occupied by men (drumming, engineering, etc.)
  • Lee Flier Yes, there is that. I was actually doing quite well when I quit doing the “music professional” thing, and had prospects to do a lot better if I’d stuck with it. But literally at that point I didn’t care if I was getting paid $5 an hour (which I wasSee More
  • Eric Fawcett All, loving this discussion!
  • Jacob Slichter Eric, thank you for making it all possible! (and when do I interview you?)
  • Eric Fawcett Jacob Slichter, truly, honest conversations like this that get at the heart of why and what we create (and why and what we choose not to) are the reason I created dumbdrummer. Love it. As for interviewing me, perhaps it would be healthy for the blog if the dumbdrummer himself got scrutinized. I’ll submit to your questions anytime!
  • Lee Flier Something else I feel needs to be said here: I’m always really saddened by drummers having an inferiority complex. It seems to be rampant, people feeling they can’t get any respect unless they get out from behind the kit and become Songwriter Guy or Producer Guy or Frontperson. A lot of GREAT drummers seem to feel this way – maybe even moreso the ones who actually recognize that drumming is about serving the song moreso than how fast you can play a roll.
    Here is the thing: I’m a guitar player and sometimes songwriter (and a fellow musician who is all about serving the song) who is unabashedly in love with drums. I am completely aware that nothing I can do will amount to shit if I don’t have a great drummer. It’s the wave everyone else is surfing, the engine that makes the train go. And in fact, a good deal of what led me to become an audio engineer is because I was tired of seeing drummers given short shrift by engineers, and tired of trying to communicate to engineers that not only does the drummer need to be great for a song to work, but the drums have to sound great too. Luckily most of my favorite guitar players – like Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, Jimmy Page, all those Beatles guys – they understood this. The drummers in all of those bands are wildly different from each other but they were all perfect for their respective bands and greatly coveted by them before joining them.
    Please don’t stop doing what you’re doing, y’all. In spite of drum machines, crappy engineers who put tape all over your drums and trigger samples and line everything up to a grid and suck the soul out of your beloved instrument, and ego driven front people who pretend they aren’t completely dependent on you being awesome. People who know what they’re talking about and are being honest, know what’s up.

  • Jacob Slichter
    FYI, for me, the intelligent use of drum machines and samples is a form of drumming. There’s a reason Tribe Called Quest is great—they’ve got ears.
    I think drummers have inferiority complexes for many reasons. One that comes to mind is the fact that the best drumming is often deceptively simple on the surface. Too few people have heard of James Gadson or Earl Young. I’d take them any day over the chopmeisters. For me, the real chops of any musicians are measured by her/his ability to listen.
  • Lee Flier Absolutely. And I agree about drum machines and samples if drummers *want* to use them – I’m referring to producers and engineers who tend to use these things because “you have to nowadays” or because they want more control over the drummer’s sound, rather than because they’re appropriate.
  • Lee Flier And that kinda sums up for me what a lot of the music biz is really like – a battle to maintain artistic control.
  • Jacob Slichter Amen, Lee! I recently saw “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” a great documentary about some of the best background singers of earlier eras. (Some of them, indeed, sang uncredited leads on hit songs.)In one part of the movie, a producer says, “You see, the

    se guys didn’t need auto-tune. They sang on key.”And I thought to myself, “Really? They sound off here and there, and that’s great! In fact, if they sang today, many producers would unconsciously run their vocals through something like autotune because they have learned their trade in the era of sterilization.”

  • Erik Ostrom BTW, Jake, I almost tagged you this morning when I linked to a podcast featuring Jim Eno of Spoon, where he talked about “drumming the song” and also about playing real drums on the song in question, and then looking around for the right combination of samples to replace them with. Then I figured, no, just because you’re a drummer who has talked about drumming doesn’t mean you want to be notified any time another drummer talks about drumming. But now this seems apropos:


    “Inside Out” [download this episode on iTunes] Spoon was formed in 1993 by singer Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno. They’ve released eight albums, including their most recent record, They Want My S…
  • Lee Flier Yeah, in fact I think it’s a bigger tragedy when Autotune is used on great singers than when it’s used to prop up mediocre talent.And absolutely it’s the “unconscious” aspects of production that are so maddening, and have only gotten worse the more

    technology advances. I remember walking into a session I was playing on and producing, around 1983, and it was at a big L.A. studio which shall go nameless. The engineer was in the process of getting drum sounds when I arrived and he’d “automatically” put up a pair of room mics, applied mountains of digital reverb and compressed the crap out of it. Only thing he hadn’t added was the gate on the reverb. I immediately said “Yeaahhhh… get that outta here.” And he still left them up – just turned down the faders until the inevitable time when I’d request “that sound”…Fast forward to around 2000, I go into a big Atlanta studio for a session and the second engineer is “automatically” editing the drum tracks and lining everything up to a grid. I think you could have heard me scream all the way down the hall – should have recorded it.

  • Erik Ostrom (I hit the threshold of, “Well, certainly *someone* in this conversation wants to hear it.”)
  • Erik Ostrom There’s also a bit where he talks about how he loved the 5/4 intro in the original piano demo, but it got dropped when they made the record – reminded me of what you were saying to Eric about the discipline of the major-label 3:30 pop song.
  • Jacob Slichter Erik, thanks for the link (and the hysterical reproduction of your thought process before sharing the link).
    Lee, in my limited experience as a producer, one of the tricks I’ve learned is this: when someone is singing out of tune, ask them to focus on the groove. I swear it works nearly every time.
  • Jacob Slichter A great read for any producer (and really any teacher or anyone interested in sharing their insights): The Inner Game of Tennis. It IS about tennis, but the connections to other realms are instantly apparent.
  • Jacob Slichter I mention it because the idea of getting a singer to focus on groove instead of pitch seems very much in line with the author’s experience of teaching tennis.
  • Lee Flier Wow, that’s an interesting parallel, but I could see it. And I’ve done the same thing with asking singers to focus on the groove. I have these harebrained theories about rhythm being the direct link between the physical and the spiritual… I think becoming more aware of rhythm makes you able to tap into wellsprings you didn’t know you had. It definitely grounds you.
  • Erik Ostrom This is baffling to me, but I’m going to try it on myself.
  • Jacob Slichter I totally believe that, Lee. That’s why singers long for a good drummer. It’s really hard to channel the proper emotion if the groove is obstructive.
  • Lee Flier Oh yeah, it’s impossible really.
  • Peter Joseph McDade IV I love coming home and finding some of my favorite people talking about music and drums and life and such.
  • Jacob Slichter ^Where’s that big house I dreamed of, with the recording studio overlooking the meadow, and the high-speed rail lines stopping a short, quiet drive from the front door?
  • Lee Flier Well… I gots a not so big, but perfectly adequately sized house, with a recording studio overlooking a big backyard and mini forest, and the MARTA station a short, relatively quiet drive away… and a damn nice drum kit! Come on down and play it sometime.
  • Peter Joseph McDade IV Five minutes in and it’s my favorite podcast ever.
  • Jacob Slichter Peter! You are too kind.
    Lee, that is basically a certainty.
  • Peter Joseph McDade IV Your principles of drumming should be set in permanent bronze plaques.
  • Mike Gamble Jacob, after reading your book and listening to the interview, this dumb drummer hopes that some day we shoot the bull over a coffee or a cocktail.
  • Eric Fawcett Lee, Erik, Peter, Jacob Slichter, would it be ok with you if I posted this conversation on the dumbdrummer.com blog?
  • Lee Flier Except for the invite to play in my basement. That’s not open to just anybody.
  • Peter Joseph McDade IV Yes, please. But I request extra time to make some smarter sounding comments.
  • Lee Flier What, and ruin the dumb drummer stereotype?
  • Peter Joseph McDade IV I’m in stereo? Well, that’s good. Right?
  • Erik Ostrom OK with me, Eric.
  • Eric Fawcett Lee, will edit and will remove invite. Thanks, too, Peter and Erik. May just post excerpts. We’ll see.
  • Peter Joseph McDade IV And, now that I’m over halfway through the podcast (interrupted several times by young children, as the day winds down…), it’s still my favorite podcast.And I knew there was a reason our band had such fun touring with Jake’s. Except for the songs, and the number of members, it was sort of like the same band.

  • David Van Taylor “When I say that I’m ok, well they look at me kind of strange
    Surely you’re not happy boy, you no longer play the game …”
  • David Van Taylor FWIW Jake I had a strong averse reaction to 20 Ft From … for reasons I suspect you’d find quite apropos. We must discuss this at our next Tea Lounge opportunity.
  • Jacob Slichter David, eager to hear.


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