Today sees a new series here at Roadrunner UK– GEAR NERD! In this series, we will be chatting to our artists about the instruments they play, why they got into playing that instrument and their set-ups and instruments of choice.
We kick this off with the first of a 3 part sit down with Daniel Adair, drummer with rock giants NICKELBACK, not only an amazing drummer, but an all round awesome guy. Was a great chat! Enjoy!
RRUK: How old were you when you started to play the drums?
DA: 13 years old.
RRUK: What or who inspired you to play drums?
DA: It’s kind of a weird beginning- my Dad was a drummer. He was in cover bands and we lived Toronto back when he would tour Michigan, Ohio and stuff like that. He was playing CCR (Creedence Clearwater Revival) and stuff like that when it was brand new. He played it to the troops going to Vietnam the next day. He’s got some stories from when everyone was doing pills, amphetamines and stuff. I think he was kind of a crazy guy out there.
Then he had a bunch of kids, got a normal job and put the drums in the closet. We moved to Vancouver, I was really bored one day and I saw his kit in the closet. It was a sparkly green 1967 Ludwig kit. I didn’t know anything! I just kind of pulled it out, figured out how to set it up and banged around. It was kind of fun.
That week I think I saw Much Music [Canada’s #1 destination for music videos, live performances and interviews- ed.] and I saw a drummer live and thought “Oh, that’s how that works!”. Then I tried it again and thought I had a knack for it.
The real inspiration came when my sister had this Rush – Hemispheres tape and Neil Peart, he was a drum God to everybody, and I heard this. Then I could finally identify what sounds were doing what. I guess right off the bat I could hear exactly what was happening but then I heard what he was doing and I was like “Holy fuck! Those are high hats?!”. He was doing all these fast high hat patterns and I couldn’t believe you could actually do that with that little kit. Before that I had heard just regular playing and I was done!
At the time, I was in grade 7- you hit puberty, you’re trying to be cool and whatever. I was hanging out with this ‘cool’ guy in school. I slept over his house one night and he put on his brother’s ‘Masters Of Puppets’ record – fuuuuuuuuuuuck! (laughs) So all in the same week I heard this superfast high hat action with Neil Peart and then I heard that thick…Master Of Puppets- I mean you know the album. Especially when it came out in ’86, oh my god, I was blown away. I would sit up in my room and air drum. I would know what I was hearing and I knew where the drums where. I would learn these albums by air drumming them, then my parents would go to work and I would set up the drum kit again. I didn’t really tell them I was doing it. My Dad kind of knew, he was like “You been playing that kit again?” And I was like “Yeah”. He didn’t think much of it. He thought it was a ‘phase’. So I was learning all these albums up in my room air drumming, it’s amazing how you can do that with drums, and then I would sit down and play it. So that’s kind of the long, convoluted story of how I got started. (laughs)
RRUK: So you were mainly self taught? Did you have any lessons?
DA: I was mainly self-taught, at 17 or 18 I took some lessons because my whole new epiphany was when I heard Dave Weckl, the fusion cat (highly acclaimed Jazz fusion drummer). Then there was a whole new elite of drummer Gods out there like Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Weckl, Dennis Chambers that aren’t really in the rock world. I signed out this CD at the library, it was ‘fusion-ey’-keyboard heavy, kind of cheesy fusion stuff but the drumming was “Oh my god! That’s Neil Peart times twenty! How can he do that?!”.
Then I realised I hit a brick wall with my technique because I was just bashing. So studied with a teacher and he taught me rudiments, I started learning some latin, I started learning how to read [music] and it progressed from there.
RRUK: Can you remember the set up of the first drum kit you had?
DA: Yup, the very first one was just had a 14×5 Ludwig 402 snare, a 13×9 rack, a 16×16 floor and a 22×16 kick drum and then hat, scratch, ride. And then my sister, she helped me out so much, she came in to some money when she was 18 or 19 and she bought me my first drum kit. It was my friend Paul’s used drum kit. It was this bastard red kit, it had 8, 10 12, 13, 14, 16 inch tops, it was like a Neil Peart drum kit. It had the kick with the double bass pedal, bunch of symbols – they were black but I painted them red. They were all mismatched and sounded pretty crappy but it didn’t matter. It was my drum set! And I could finally play to a Rush song! That was thanks to my sister, she believed in me enough and she bought that kit. She spent like $800 or $900 which was a lot of money at that time and it was huge for her so her investment paid off!
RRUK: What styles would you say have inspired you the most over your career, if you were to pick a handful?
DA: The most would be split down the middle, and it’s a weird mix, and it would be between metal and jazz fusion. It’s really weird because I love aggressive music, for instance I love Meshugga, I love all the bands on Roadrunner, love that and stuff like Porcupine Tree and I love the jazz fusion stuff. Like everyone I like a lot of different things. I like the aggression of hard rock and metal and I love the finesse of the jazz fusion stuff. So I guess in Nickelback I can bring out that aggression and then when I’m home I do more prog stuff with my other bands. For instance Martone is instrumental, a lot of shred, a lot of odd time signitures. So yeah fusion, prog, metal – kind of all over the place! People like me as a rock drummer because I learnt when I first got the three doors down gig that you can’t get out in front of a crowd and think about technique and just play perfectly. People wanna see you hitting hard, so I had to learn how to hit and not hit myself. That comes from my metal roots to bash!
RRUK: So who would you say that you aspire to now?
DA: I still always find myself ‘youtubing’ Dennis Chambers. He plays with Santana right now but he’s a big session guy, he’s a jazz fusion legend. He played with P-Funk, Parliament Funkadelic, all the funk back in the days in Baltimore. I think when he was nine James Brown wanted him to tour with him but his mom wouldn’t let him, that’s his story. He heard him in this club and James Brown was like “You gotta come out with me” and his mom was like “No way!”. If you ever YouTube this guy, just go Dennis Chambers solo, unbelievable. Him and all those upper echelon cats like Vinnie Colaiuta who is Frank Zappa’s drummer. He’ll play with Faith Hill and then he’ll play with Jeff Beck and everybody. These are the ‘drummer’s drummers’, I still look up to those guys because they just seem to have attained this impossible level of playing.
Check back tomorrow for part 2, when Daniel talks us through his drumming career.