When in London last month, we here at Roadrunner UK sat down and spoke to NICKELBACK stix-man Daniel Adair about his drumming career and kit. In this, the 3rd part of the interview, we find out about the set-up that Daniel uses on stage when playing those huge arena shows.
If you missed part 1 and 2, click on the links below:
And here, if the third and final part:
RRUK: So run us through your set up as it is now
DA: OK. I know all of the stats I’m a geek that way! Snare is a 14×6 Edge series; side snare’s a 12×5 Edge series. I have a 10×8 VLT Tom, 12×9 VLT Tom. 16×14 X shell floor Tom with legs. 22×18 X series kick drum. I’ve got the DW hardware too- the rack, 5000 series double pedal. I like the 9 but the 9’s a little too smooth for me. I like the chain action of the 5000, you really feel it. The 9000’s really fast but then when you get light, you put your foot down and you can’t really feel that resistance, it’s little too smooth for me. And Sabian cymbals I’ve got 14”groove Hats, I’ve got an 18” AA Explosion Crash. On the right I’ve got 18” HH Explosion Crash, you can find this on my website too, I have a little spread. 10” Evolution Splash, 18” O-zone HH Crash. 19” Paragon Chinese, a set of 13” AAX Stage Hats I believe. And a 21” HHX Groove Ride. All brilliant OK!
RRUK: If there was anyone’s kit you’d want to sit behind and have a go on whose would it be?
DA: Hmm… just for fun I’d say Neil Peart. You know just because he’s got so many drums. I was always curious as to what his heights are like. I always watch YouTube and look ‘how far is his…?’ “How’s he doing this?” Drummers are always checking out for stuff like that. “How hard does he stomp the ground? And how far is his Ride from his Tom?” How does he not get caught up in that section?” So, that’s why I’m curious about where his heights are all at.
RRUK: And what top tips would you give drummers out there who are learning at the moment?
DA: Take lessons. From a qualified teacher, there’s a lot of bad teachers, who teach terrible technique. Be very weary when you’re studying technique online. If you just look up drum technique and listen to the first guy, there’s a lot of terrible, terrible lessons. About holding the stick high and pinching it. If anyone says grip or pinch a stick, they’re totally wrong because the stick should lie in your hand. It should lie on the fulcrum just like a teeter-totter. Soon as you pinch, that means you’re holding the stick, and as soon as you hit you’re absorbing shock into your hand. As soon as you do that you’re going to have tendonitis, carpal tunnel. It’s all about it sitting on a fulcrum, being nice and loose. So look for those people who talk like that and none of this pinching business. So yeah, good technique.
Practice to a click, always practice to a metronome. Learn to do anything with a click going, drum fills, like just sleep with a click going because you’ll be required to, in the studio, in professional bands and if you’re not ready you can lose your gig that way. If you have pitch, sing. I’ve gotten a lot of gigs over other drummers. I gotten some gigs in cover band days where the drummers better than me, more experienced but they gave me the gig because I could sing. And singers want to have back ups or with cover bands if you can sing lead on a couple of songs while they get a break; they love it, so sing. And last but not least is don’t be an asshole.
RRUK: Ha! That’s always sound advice for anyone.
DA: It is. There’s these guys I’ve seen, up and coming drummers, you know. I won’t name any names, but some guys in my town, they’re just so good but they don’t get these gigs because they have these attitudes. They already have a ‘rockstar’ attitude because, yeah, they’re awesome but then they don’t get gigs because they’re intolerable or I’ve seen guys get a gig and get fired because no one can live on a bus with them. So if you got a beef and you got resentments and stuff, that’s fine but just don’t; you know just keep it inside…
RRUK: Deal with it?
DA: …or yeah deal with it, yeah because it will come out. It will, even if you’re not saying anything it will come out in actions and you’ll blurt out things. So just try and deal with it, if you have issues. You know whatever, with yourself or communicate with people, but yeah very important.
RRUK: How do you put your solo together? Because there are so many different elements in it, how do you pick what elements go into your solo?
DA: Because I’ve been doing solo’s now about ten years so I know what things will really work for the crowd. Sometimes they’re not the most complicated things, but the real show-y kind of stuff. Or sounds really fast ‘ooga-da-boogada’ [DA air drums] all the time. They love that so when I construct each solo I go ok I got to have that one, I go do my ‘paint the house’ fill and there’s all these certain ones I go to. So I keep the ones that work from experience and I try to never go over five minutes, maybe about four, like song length because people, especially nowadays, attention span. Like I’m even the same, I go to a concert and I see a ten minute drum solo, I don’t care who it is, how good they are, I get bored. Because you know at first you’re like ‘yeah that’s awesome’, and then ‘yeah’ and (sigh) ok. Your desensitised right?
So, four minutes is just long enough I think and then stop. And it leaves them wanting more hopefully, or they have had their fill and that’s perfect. So I always try and do that. I like to have something planned because with this kind of show the light guys are involved, pyro guys are involved for a shot. I’d hate go on and improvise something and fall flat on your face because sometimes improvising works, sometimes it doesn’t and I’m not that risky to go out there. So I try and have a section that grooves a bit, get people going like that, have the showy element to it, try and do a breakdown and then try and build it up at the end and go out wit the big fill, so I do kind of structure it like a song, sort of, not like a conventional song. But song structure, not too long and keep the things that work.
RRUK: And final question. Where do you learn your tricks and how many sticks do you drop/get through in an evening?
DA: How many sticks do I drop? I don’t drop a lot of sticks actually. I might do a stick drop, jeez, once every five shows, which is nice, knock on wood!
RRUK: You’ll drop one tonight now!
DA: Don’t say that, because dude in the solos the fucking worst! Like I don’t mind dropping my stick during the show but during the solo… [laughs]
RRUK: Has that happened?
DA: Oh yeah. That sucks. Because your on a platform in the sky on the JumboTron you can’t really hide it. But then if I drop a stick I go right to my feet and go double kick and I threw the other one, like I meant to do it, like yeeeah! Half the people will know what’s going on there, so at least I tricked half of them. But yeah not too many stick drops.
As for where do I learn my tricks, just over the years, I guess, watching other drummers. I’ll see a little thing and go that’s cool, and I steal it, and make it my own, you know. I got that up-stroke hi-hat thing from a guy named Rick Gratton, in Toronto. He’d just do it really small, he’d just do a little wrist flick and hit the under side. And I thought that’s cool, why don’t I just do it with my full arm so everyone can see it and then do something with my right hand doing something else and then it became one of my, like ‘oh my god how did you make that up?’, and I’m like it’s really him.
I guess that’s what doing music really is, it’s an evolution, it’s a modification on things. So yeah I’ll get a little bit of inspiration of something, take it, throw it in my old playing and then during practice it’ll kind of modify into something else, mostly for new tricks. So I got to have a new solo for the US run coming up. This’ll be the last run for this solo and then April. So as soon as I get home I have to brain storm, and that’s kind of, it’s a little nerve racking sometimes if I’m not ready before rehearsals. Because you know, you don’t know if it’s going to work and then the other guys are like, “I preferred the old solo better”. It’s like “Yeah, you’re used to it right?” You could air-drum it because you’ve heard it so many times. Now they like this one of course, but they didn’t before.
RRUK: How often do you practice when you’re at home? How long do you practice for?
DA: Erm…when I first get home I take a couple of days off and then I try to do four days a week, for a couple hours a day. And then two weeks before the tour I’m doing like six days a week, maybe four hours a day. The drums are very athletic so you got to keep all the twitch muscles because if I don’t, I get out there, you run out of energy and then you go crunch and you seize up, and then your squeezing sticks and then your dead. So you got to stay conditioned.