drummers drummers••music music••feminism feminism
DISPLAY SUMMER 2017
NO. 30 NEPOTISM
$10 | € 10 | £ 10
CONTRIBUTORS FOUNDER | PUBLISHER
Mindy Seegal Abovitz (email@example.com)
Liz Tracy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Marisa Kurk (email@example.com)
Rebecca DeRosa (firstname.lastname@example.org )
JJ Jones (email@example.com)
GOOD DOG Colin
GOOD DOG Harriet
GOOD DOG Rico
GOOD DOG Pitz Potz
PRINT WRITERS Radhika Babu George, Shaina Joy Machlus, Liz Tracy, Pippa Kelmenson, Lisa Schonberg, Bethany Lumsdaine, Jessie Grubb, Lola Wilson, Rebecca DeRosa, Nicholas Zurko, Candace Hansen, Carolina Enriquez Swan, Zoë Brecher
PHOTOGRAPHERS Zev Starr-Tambor, Pascal Parker, Krishna
Ganesh, Eva Carasol, Kiki Vassilakis, Keka Marzagao, Brad Heck, Jolene Siana
ILLUSTRATORS Lola Wilson TECH WRITERS JJ Jones, Lindsay Artkop, Mickey Vershbow, Vanessa Domonique, Lien Do, Kristen Gleeson-Prata, Bianca Russelburg, Morgan Doctor, René Ormae-Jarmer, Rosana Caban, Anika Nilles
MUSIC & MEDIA REVIEWS Caryn Havlik, Stephen Otto Perry,
Matthew D'Abate, Dani Mari, Liah Alonso, Annalise Domenighini, Lynn Casper, Robin Eisgrau, Mindy Abovitz
GEAR REVIEWS JJ Jones COPY EDITOR Bernadette Malavarca WEB TOM TOM SHOP MANAGER Susan Taylor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
WEB CODERS Revival Agency
Miro Justad, Aiko Masubuchi, Shaina Joy Machlus, John Carlow, Sophie Zambrano, Christine Pallon
GET IT Barnes & Nobles (U.S. & Canada), Ace Hotels, MoMA PS1, and hundreds of other drum and music shops globally. Distributed by Ingram Periodicals, PDG, Anas International and Urbandistronyc around the world. Find out where at tomtommag.com
CONTACT US 302 Bedford Ave. PMB #85 Brooklyn, NY 11249 email@example.com
WEB MANAGER Lindsey Anderson
TOM TOM TV Mayra Cortez
DISTRIBUTION NYC Segrid Barr BARCELONA Shaina Joy Machlus EUROPE Max Markowsky PORTLAND Shanna Doolittle, Haley Flannery LOS ANGELES Adrian Tenney
@tomtommag TO SUBSCRIBE: shop.tomtommag.com TO ADVERTISE: firstname.lastname@example.org
ON THE COVER: (1) Emily Estefan by Zev Starr-Tambor, in collaboration with Aelfie. Makeup by Emily Keough. (2) Marisa Kurk by Zev StarrTambor, in collaboration with Aelfie.
MARKETING & PARTNERSHIPS
Vuk Levkovic (email@example.com)
BRAIN TRUST Rony Abovitz, Lisa Schonberg, Bex Wade
Ima, Rony, Shani, hen do best mates, Chris J Monk (soon to be hubby), Col Col, Rosana Caban, Ross Asdourian, Gidi, Chris Bouza, Angela Tornello, Aelfie, La Moutique, all the old school Tom Tom folks.
CORRECTIONS FROM ISSUE 29
We are so sorry that we misspelled Vuk's last name in Issue 29. Please accept our apology. The correct spelling is: Vuk Levkovic.
THE MISSION Tom Tom Magazine ® is the only magazine in the world dedicated to female and gender nonconforming drummers. We are a quarterly print magazine, website, social media community, IRL community, events, drum academy, custom gear shop and more. Tom Tom seeks to raise awareness about female percussionists from all over the world in hopes to inspire women and girls of all ages to drum. We intend to strengthen and build the fragmented community of female musicians globally and provide the music industry and the media with role models to create an equal opportunity landscape for any musician. We cover drummers of all ages, races, styles, skill levels, abilities, sexualities, creeds, class, sizes and notoriety. Tom Tom Magazine is more than just a magazine; it’s a movement.
Photo by Lauren Kallen
This issue is one that I have been dreaming about putting together for years. When I started the magazine, people used to regularly ask me if I was afraid that we would run out of content. I had a gut feeling seven years ago that we would never run out of content. And we havenâ€™t yet. There will always be past, existing, and future females on the drums for us to cover in these fine pages.
What came about was a massive network of drummers covering drummers, and thus, as a byproduct, an incredible group of drummers in the background, busy creating the powerful organization known as Tom Tom today. However, many of these drummers, contributors, and staff members never made an appearance in the foreground of the magazine, talented musicians though they are. Hence, we created the Nepotism Issue. It is dedicated to all the drummers who humbly put their own egos aside to elevate their peers and create this amazing community in stride with my original vision. I cannot thank you modest, hardworking sweethearts enough. We have grown a family out of this magazine, and now is your time to shine. In addition to highlighting a lot of the unsung heroes of the Tom Tom family, we got to speak to Gloria Estefanâ€™s daughter, Emily Estefan, about living up to their musical family name. We also got an inside peek into a family percussion business, one of our longest-running advertisers and supporters, Tycoon Percussion. In love, drums, and family,
Mindy Seegal Abovitz (soon to be Monk!)
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
The reason I had such a strong conviction back then was because many of my friends were badass drummers who happened to identify as female. And as I started the magazine, hundreds of new drummers I had yet to meet flooded my inbox. It wasnâ€™t long until I was overwhelmed by the amount of drummers we could cover in our magazine. To solve the unforeseen problem of featuring as many percussionists per issue as possible, I came up with the idea of having female drummers not only as the subjects of Tom Tom but also behind the scenes putting the whole thing together. What resulted was a staff of writers, illustrators, designers, photographers, coders, etc., who also happened to be female beatmakers.
THE BEAT + THE PULSE
TOM TOM FAMILY TREE
TOM TOM FAMILY DRUMMERS
LIKE FATHER LIKE DAUGHTER
DRUM ROLL, PLEASE
ON HER FEET
WE ARE FAMILY
THE WAR IS ON!
THE ONE THING
SHOW US YOUR KITS
Breaking barriers with rhythms Presenting our deep and winding roots We spotlight the stars of Tom Tom's past and present staff Rosana Cabรกn crushes it in Psychic Twin Sean Desiree expands the power of music Tom Tom's Lola and her father Allan Wilson talk candidly and humorously about music An oral history of Tom Tom Magazine
Musician Emily Estefan isn't just her mother's daughter Tycoon Percussion is a family run business with a big conscience Lydia Lunch is still battling man's stupidity and greed with song Tech writers share how they've improved their skills Get to know Vanessa Domonique's gear set-up
Rebecca DeRosa by Zev Starr-Tambor, in collaboration with Aelfie
I just watched your [Reb Bull Mavens] video, and it made me so proud to be one of the women who is loud, constantly putting herself out in front of large audiences and challenging standards and norms. And it reminds me how important and exciting it is and how privileged I am to be able to teach other women to drum! I’d say in my 10 years of teaching, I’ve probably had more female students than males, and I’m proud to be a force that puts women on drums in front of audiences in so many different ways. Keep up the good work! —Heather T
Hi Mindy and all! I just received a hard copy of Tom Tom from April and I absolutely love reading through all the articles. What an inspiring thing you have going and having the physical magazine on my kitchen table feels so right! I love the look and feel. I could go on. . . With a big heart, Anita K
Hi Tom Tom, I am a freelance percussionist in New York, recent master's graduate from Texas, and working woman trying to make a difference with my art. I recently found your magazine and posts and fell immediately in love with the message you all are putting out, and the fun of seeing my own friends being interviewed by you because of the power of women and percussion combined. —Shelby B
I'm really proud of this article "Digital Gender", and I want to continue breaking through with you all as a team covering these stories, especially involving ladies and nonbinary individuals who are drummers/musicians. Tom Tom Magazine is the amazing kind of work that needs to be accomplished—to show what needs to be seen.
I started playing really late after wanting to play since childhood (I was steered towards the flute instead), and Tom Tom was a significant element in building my confidence. —Tamsin
This is a special group of humans, for sure. Cheers!
Your winter 2016 editorial is fire. Great work. —Tom H
Hey Tom Tom mag!!! I'm the editor in chief of a magazine focused on my hometown (Lancaster, PA) artists called The Townie. I happened to be in Brooklyn a few weeks ago and grabbed a copy of Tom Tom mag at Brooklyn Brew and honestly thought I found my soulmate!!! The style, the voice, the fierce loyalty to your community; everything about what you do resonated with me. —Sophie R
CONTACT US 302 Bedford Ave PMB #85 Brooklyn, NY 11249 firstname.lastname@example.org @tomtommag
CRITTER & GUITARIÂ® critterandguitari.com
Musical Instruments & Video Synthesizers
Photo by Pascal Parker
FROM: London, UK AGE: 26 FAVORITE VENUE TO PLAY: Moth Club in Hackney
GEAR: Ableton Live, Tanglewood guitar, Fender Champ amp, Boss analog reverb pedal, Vox Phantom electric guitar, Gretsch Catalina drum kit, Sontronics Aria Valve Condenser Microphone. I borrow everything else. ONE PIECE OF GEAR YOU WISH YOU HAD: I want a really big fancy sound card.
Tom Tom: How did you get your start in music? Lilith Ai: I always made up songs since day one. I was one of those strange nippers who don’t say a word then starts spouting full sentences at three. My brothers tell me I would make up songs and sing them over and over. From their perspective—I imagine it was pretty annoying.
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What is the thing you are most excited about musically at the moment?
What are your thoughts on nepotism in the music industry?
I’m just excited working out new techniques of recording live drums and then manipulating their sounds. I’m looking forward to putting new tunes out later this year.
I guess it is awesome if it's working in your favor, but for everyone else, it sucks.
What one piece of advice would you give a girl starting out right now?
What have you overcome to have the career in music you have right now?
I would say, don’t be discouraged. Enjoy the process, and don't sweat the small stuff.
I definitely started at the bottom. I’ve spent a long time hustling. I still am in a ton of ways. I have a long way to go. Thinking about it, though, the real thing I had to overcome was learning 8
my self-worth and beauty. It’s a struggle on a planet where most societies view black women as worthless.
A PARADOXICAL SOCIETY
GIRLS IN KERALA MIGHT BE DISCOURAGED FROM PLAYING PERCUSSION, BECAUSE IT’S CONSIDERED “MANLY”
by Radhika Babu George Photo by Krishna Ganesh
Kerala, India, native Radhika Babu George began learning the tabla at a mere five years old. At 13, she moved on to the drum kit and currently plays a variety of percussive instruments, from the chenda to the cajon. She received the Talent Deserving Better Recognition and World Percussion awards from Hit Like a Girl 2017. She plays in Vertigo, Colour Chaos, and That Band Trio. Last year, my band did a show in a café in Cochin, a major city in Kerala. A reporter from a local newspaper interviewed us. More than our music and our journey as independent artists, what excited the reporter most was that I, the drummer, was female. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying the attention, but the reason for her attention made me quite uncomfortable. The reporter’s biggest worry was whether or not I felt manly while playing! When my friend mentioned to his father that I had started learning mridangam, he patted my back and said, “Ahhh, you’re just like a boy!” I was a little taken aback, but then I started to notice that this was one of the reasons why girls aren’t encouraged, or, at times, even given the option to take up percussion. It’s a result of the perception that drumming is a masculine activity. The state of Kerala was one of the two exclusively matriarchal societies in India. This is relevant in understanding this situation in Kerala society today. We seem to be moving two steps backwards in thought as we move one step forward in time. A girl playing percussion still invites many more comments than a man would, both positive and negative.
There is a concept of “feminine” that is strongly built into Kerala society and is inevitably passed on to children at a tender age. Parents are afraid that playing percussion will inculcate “manly” behavior in their daughters, make them rough, outspoken, and loud. As if playing an instrument would give a woman these qualities. People aren’t accustomed to seeing women play percussion, so they falsely assume that this is an attempt—to put it in the words of an audience member at one of my shows—“to make it in a man’s world.” What is most important when you are a female musician in India is the support and appreciation of your parents. As a conservative society, late night travels, sometimes with boys, are causes for worry. “How can you let your daughter stay out so late?” “How can you let her travel alone with boys?” These are questions that parents whose daughters play encounter. In fact, I’ve had people ask me, “Your parents don’t mind you staying out so late?” Parents who aren’t afraid of such questions then face the task of wondering how we women can make a living out of this. This is not a secure job in the conventional sense and chances of making it big are very slim.
The independent music scene, however, is slightly different. People are quite excited and happy to see a girl playing percussion and happily surprised if she is skilled. The number of female percussionists in the local scene, however, are few. Perhaps this is because the current generation didn’t have percussion as a popular option to learn at a younger age. I’ve had musician friends ask me why I chose to play the tabla and drums but not in a way one asks a girl why she took up singing. More like: “It’s so odd that you chose percussion; how did that come about?” Heartbeats is a program that two of my musician friends and I started in Chennai to change the way society perceives female drummers. As a musician and a woman, I feel a responsibility to bring up and encourage more girls within my hometown and elsewhere. We perform live music and conduct musical activities in various orphanages, destitute homes, and a school for special kids. We are hoping to branch out to touch upon various issues that surround the stigma of women in percussion by conducting small workshops, not just for little girls but also for their parents. India is a large country with very different states. Some are more conservative and some are less. But there is a wave of change coming. Today, most kids have access to many musical options very early on in their lives, and younger parents are quite open-minded. I’m quite sure that the number of women percussionists in the independent music scene in India will drastically increase in the coming years. ISSUE 3 0: NEPOTI S M
FOUNDER MINDY ABOVITZ
WRITERS REBECCA DEROSA CANDACE HANSEN
SHAINA JOY MACHLUS
GUEST EDITORS NICHOLAS ZURKO (BEATMAKERS, #9) JANE BOXAL ALLEN (ORCHESTRAL, #12) CARYN HAVLIK (METAL, #13)
WEB MANAGERS KATY ANN GONZALEZ JOANNA GUITIERREZ
CANDICE RALPH JESSICA MOON (JR) RYAN STEC MARISA KURK NATALIE BAKER (JR) CHARLOTTE BREWIN (JR)
ERIN NICOLE BROWN
LORENA PEREZ-BASTISTA KATE HENDERSON ATTIA TAYLOR LINNEA LAMON
OPERATIONS ROSANA CABÁN
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CODERS HARLO HOLMES JEN CARLSON JONNY CAZZOLA
ELISABETH WILSON ALLAN WILSON BERNADETTE MALAVARCA
JEE YOUNG SIM
JAMES DOUGLAS MITCHELL
MAYRA LUCIA CORTEZ
OFFICES ATLAS CAFE
TENT IN CHELSEA
ABOVE PUBLIC ASSEMBLY
CAPRICIOUS DANBRO STUDIOS
DISTRO SEGRID BARR MAX MARKOWSKY SHANNA DOOLITTLE ADRIAN TENNEY
INTERNS VICKI SIMON LYDIA HINES GABBY SMITH MAGGIE RIVERS CAMILA DANGER CATI BESTARD PIPPA KELMENSON
PRINTERS LINCO PRINTING PUBLIMAX PASSAT PRESS (EUROPE)
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS AN ATTEMPT AT A COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF INTEGRAL TOM TOM STAFFERS. THIS LIST IS LOOSELY CHRONOLOGICAL AND BY NO MEANS INCLUDES EVERYONE WHO HAS WORKED ON AND HELPED CREATE THE TOM TOM COMMUNITY.
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Marisa Kurk by Zev Starr-Tambor, in collaboration with Aelfie
MARISA KURK D ES IG NER 2014-CUR R E N T
Marisa Kurk grew up in Santa Cruz, California, routinely begging her parents to let her play the drums. In elementary school, there was no percussion in the school band, so she settled on the saxophone. She went from saxophone to guitar to bass. When she was in third grade, she tried to start a Tom Petty cover band in her garage. She played bucket drums. Kurk didn't end up playing drums with another band until her late twenties and has never turned back. After wrapping up in San Francisco at the Academy of Art University, she moved to New York City. She then started as the Tom Tom design intern and soon became the head designer. She splits her time plotting world domination with Mindy and cross-country trips at Union Garage, a motorcycle shop in Brooklyn where she also works. She loves her dog Harriet, enjoys camping, trivia nights, barbecues, and soccer.
From: Santa Cruz, CA Lives in: Brooklyn, NY Past bands: The Wild Ones, Bummer City Current bands: Ghost Bitch Favorite piece of gear: My Slingerland snare Other expensive hobbies besides drums: Motorcycles Favorite song to cover: "What a Way to Die" by The Pleasure Seekers Favorite song to air drum to: "Muzzle" by Smashing Pumpkins (no judging) Stupidest thing someone has said about your playing: “You hit too hard.” Favorite furred animal: My pup Harriet Favorite ice cream: Häagen-Dazs coffee
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REV I EWS ED I T OR 2010-CUR R E N T
Rebecca DeRosa grew up in the farmlands of Ash, North Carolina, which she defines as “not-even-a-town.” While in school, she played clarinet, tenor sax, and tuba. And as she grew, so did her instrument. After taking some time off between high school and college, she ran for the mountains, more specifically, the University of North Carolina at Asheville. There, she studied journalism and wrote for the Mountain Xpress. As soon as the diploma hit her hand, DeRosa moved to Brooklyn where she resided for 12 years.
From: Ash, NC
DeRosa has been playing the drums for about eight years and worked for Tom Tom for seven. Each summer, she volunteers at Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls. “It’s one of my favorite things in life,” she says. Two years ago, the drummer traveled to India to study yoga and became certified to teach it. She recently moved with her husband and black kitty to a tiny town in upstate New York where she now teaches yoga, is learning how to garden, and made friends with the ribbon snake who hangs out around her moon flower. “That’s not a metaphor for anything,” she notes.
Favorite song to cover: "Violet" by Hole and "Don't Bring Me Down" by ELO
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Lives in: Callicoon, NY Past bands: The Seymours, Crazy Pills, Love Snake, Fisty, Teenage Whores, Fuzz Chaser Current bands: Fisty and Teenage Whores (Hole cover band) Favorite piece of gear: Sabian AAX Omni Ride Favorite song to air drum to: Honestly? "Foxey Lady" by Jimi Hendrix
Favorite yoga pose: Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) Stupidest thing someone has said about your playing: That I need to smile more. Favorite furred animal: My cat Franz! Favorite ice cream: Talenti black raspberry chocolate chip Something you'd love to see: the Northern Lights
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Rebecca DeRosa by Zev Starr-Tambor, in collaboration with Aelfie
TOM TOM There are so many ways to say thank you, with a look, with words, with a gift. The editors at Tom Tom decided that the best way to thank the people who built this magazine from the ground up was by spotlighting them in this issue, themed Nepotism. We spoke with just some of the many folks who, over the years, have come together to make the publication a huge success. Here are the ways in which the writers, illustrators, and distributors feel Tom Tom helped build their confidence and careers and the ways that they stacked the building blocks to craft the mammoth magazine we publish today. Photos courtesy of drummers
ADRIAN TENNEY by Liz Tracy
Adrian Tenney is spreading the good word of Tom Tom quite literally around Los Angeles. As one of the magazine’s distributors, she drives around town dropping off stacks at music stores, bookstores, record stores, and Planned Parenthood waiting rooms. “Anywhere I can think of where someone might be able to pick it up and learn about drumming and feminism and hopefully be inspired, or empowered by it,” she explains. Tenney has also been involved in the magazine in other ways. Like taking part in a few Tom Tom performances, like at Pitzer College and at a show in Brooklyn with her band Badlands. When she first started working with the magazine, she was focused more on touring, but now, she says, “I'm focusing more on growing in all sorts of other ways that don't directly involve drumming so much. But,” she adds, “it feels so valuable to still be able to have that connection 16
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to the touring musician/zine distributing person in me.” She’s currently working as a full-time gardener, which takes up a ton of time and energy. Tom Tom distribution gives her an excuse to stay connected with music. “I love reading about such a huge range of amazing femme-drummers! I love when the articles and interviews are translated into the artist's language. I find it so inspiring and informative. It has shown me that there's no template to follow to be a successful drummer. I can be all the other weird things I am and love and still be a drummer.” These outings in promotion of the magazine have offered her the opportunity to educate people on the importance of its mission. When a store in Pasadena geared toward classical music at first rejected the magazine based on the cover—the Banned issue featuring indigenous Peruvian women carrying drums up a moun-
tain—“I took the opportunity to explain to her,” Tenney says, “that the issue was about different femme-identifying drummers who have had to really fight to keep playing: risking violence, being disowned by their families, being prohibited by their teachers and institutions, and yet still find ways to keep playing! The employee said, ‘Well, we don't have very many female drum students here,’ which pretty much opened it up for me to summarize part of Tom Tom's mission that if femme-identifying young people never see examples of drummers who look like them, they're less likely to ever try it!” She laughs, thinking about how Tom Tom is probably blowing people’s minds at this “snobby classical music store.” Tenney has been organizing in her community, one of the rare Republican majority districts in L.A. County, since the last presidential election. “I was always political-minded, but I admit, since November, I've stepped up my game,” Tenney says. “I’m learning how to use all the skills I've developed over the years of setting up DIY punk shows and making zines and setting up tours to focus on resisting and helping my community and vulnerable groups that are being targeted by the Trump administration,” she says. “I want to make sure people know that we are all in this together. We all have different skills and abilities, and I believe we can and must use whatever we have to work together to lift each other up and make this bigotry, that was always here, but now is becoming even more emboldened, unacceptable.”
JJ JONES by Shaina Joy Machlus JJ Jones is a strong, steady beat in the rhythm that is Tom Tom. “I am the current Tech and Gear Review editor,” she says. “In our case, ‘tech’ means both technique and technical.” Jones both contributes her own writing and edits pieces written by others on various topics, “like kick drum technique or how to make a cheap drum set sound good,” she explains. And that’s just scratching the surface of the brilliance Jones adds to the team. Jones started drumming at age 14 and has not stopped killing it since. Her life rotates around the firm belief in music’s ability to transform. “I’ve had such life-changing experiences, both with my private and ladies rock camp students. The transformation I witness in these women— being empowered purely through the act of doing something they didn’t think they could do—is incredible,” Jones explains. “I’m hooked on it. It’s way deeper than just learning a beat or playing a song. Learning drums informs all parts of their lives, how they value themselves, how they make time for their creative expression, their own self-care.” This passion is infused in every rock camp (18 in four years!), each class she teaches, and all of her Tom Tom collaborations. Maybe you caught her most recent Tom Tom project at NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) this past January, where she scoured the scene finding women drummers and creating tiny videos of them happily showing off their favorite stick tricks. Tom Tom gives Jones access to fellow drummers, all types of mouth-watering drum gear, teaching materials, and industry contacts, but most significantly, the magazine offers her a home and safe-space. “It helped me take myself more seriously as a drummer and writer/editor, and to feel like, ‘I belong here’ in the drum-
LEARNING DRUMS INFORMS ALL PARTS OF THEIR LIVES, HOW THEY VALUE THEMSELVES, HOW THEY MAKE TIME FOR THEIR CREATIVE EXPRESSION, THEIR OWN SELF-CARE. ming world.” She returns the favor by inviting every single woman drummer she meets into this world, helping Tom Tom build a community around mutual love and respect for music. Her list of musical accomplishments is aweinspiring. “I played full-time with an internationally touring folk-pop band (Girlyman) from 2010–2013. The band broke up, so since then, I made an award-winning children’s album, co-wrote a song with Margaret Cho that was featured in her Showtime special, started teaching privately and at rock camps, and completed Berklee’s certificate program in drum performance,” Jones says, rattling off her credentials. “I’ve continued to teach and coach at rock camps all over the country and play with various artists, and I founded a business: Skype-DrumLessons.com.”
Jones continues to use her talent to create space for more women to be heard. “I am starting a business called EmpowerDrumming.com, which is basically life coaching through drum lessons, and is aimed specifically at women who are coming to drumming as adults,” she says. "In my own experience, I wasn't as good of a drummer as I wanted to be, only because I'd never been taught. I’d never had someone say, ‘You can do this, too.’ So when I did take lessons, when I learned I am capable of anything with the right tools and enough time—wow, talk about empowerment! It completely changed how I saw and valued myself. So, I’m now on a mission to spread the gospel of empowerment through learning drums!”
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VANESSA DOMONIQUE by Shaina Joy Machlus
You know those bombastic drum-technique exercises you find inside the glossy pages of Tom Tom? Bet you weren’t aware that they come all the way from London Town, straight from the sticks of one of the most sought after drummers in the Old World, Vanessa Domonique. Domonique has boldly made her impact on the music scene as a freelance musician, touring with the likes of Soom T, K Koke and Nicola Roberts. Get this human behind a drum set, and it is impossible not to be struck by her infectious groove, immaculate technique, and propensity to play literally anything. “Funk is my main squeeze,” she says, “but I play a lot of hip-hop, pop, and R&B.” As if that were not enough, a multitalented instrumentalist, she plays keys, bass, and sax, as well. Domonique also composes music for films and video games. Her work for Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Collector’s Set is featured on video game site Capcom.com. Domonique’s favorite Tom Tom memory was being introduced to Mindy Abovitz, the magazine’s editor and creator. “I finally got to meet Mindy and spill my life’s dream to her, and she’s been
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TO HAVE A MAGAZINE OF PEOPLE WHO DO WHAT WE DO, FEEL HOW WE FEEL, AND LOOK HOW WE LOOK IN AN INDUSTRY THAT IS DOMINATED BY MEN IS INSPIRING AND ENCOURAGING. fully supportive the whole time. I had a tad to drink, too, so it’s great that I didn’t blow it,” she laughs. What started as a tipsy toast between Abovitz and Domonique has formed into a longtime collaboration full of mutual respect and adoration. “I was ‘in between’ gigs when I first started [at Tom Tom],” she relates, “It gave me something productive to do and was helping me as much as it was helping the readers.” The importance of both her contributions and the magazine itself go much further than notes on a page. “We humans are very visual creatures. And to have a magazine of people who do what we do, feel how
we feel, and look how we look in an industry that is dominated by men is inspiring and encouraging. The fact that it’s on a professional level gives hope to us that it can be done and we can penetrate the industry.” Currently recovering from a car accident, Vanessa is proud to be playing drums through her rehabilitation and looking forward to be being 100 percent back on beat in a few month’s time. Her perseverance, in both her career and personal life, has graced the pages and lives of the entire Tom Tom family. See Vanessa's kit set-up on page 66
Besides managing the technical side of the website and being an expert coder, Carlson has musical chops to boot. She is a drummer, singersongwriter, and guitar player, currently playing guitar in the folk band Tijuana Duster. Her former musical flings include Angry Amputees, Compton SF, the City, and Bordertown Saints. For Carlson, her love of music and coding have everything in common. “They’re technical and create the backbone for something beautiful,” she says. Through her collaborations, she has been dedicated to creating community, awareness, and connections across the entirety of the World Wide Web and everywhere in between.
by Shaina Joy Machlus
When Carlson first began collaborating with Tom Tom, her tech company was a small shop of two people. It has grown into a new business with over 15 employees. This is no small feat in an industry where women have to fight for representation and equal treatment (not unlike the struggle within the male-dominated music community). About this journey, she says endearingly that she has enjoyed “every moment with an amazing publication and people.”
“How many drummers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” The answer: “One, and six others to tell you how Neil Peart would do it better.” The wit behind this joke comes from the unapologetically nerdy, badass musician and tech developer for tomtommag.com, Jen Carlson. The Tom Tom webpage delivers music, feminism, and inspiration to hundreds of thousands of people a day, thanks in great part to the tech brilliance of this drummer.
by Shaina Joy Machlus
Drummers have a thing for multitasking. No surprise there. “I am a serious multitasker,” Alison Mazer explains, “I was trained as a chef right after college. My mentor trained me to constantly think ahead to what task will come next, even as I focus on the work that is in front of me.”
A lifetime New Yorker, Alison’s words have been gracing the pages of Tom Tom since the very beginning in 2009. “I see parts of myself in every issue, in every story. Tom Tom validates who I am, who I want to become. It honors my dearest friends and shows the world that women drummers are drummers,” says Mazer.
What is in front of Mazer right now is a bright performance at the Guggenheim with FogoAzul, an all-female drumline that plays Brazilian music. Mazer not only currently plays repinique in FogoAzul, she has lots of experience behind the kit, having gigged for rock bands such as the Rewd Onez, Crinoline, Still Electric, and Cinnamon Girl (an all-female Neil Young cover band).
It is hard to see her as anything but a luminous rock-star drummer, but her ability to stand confident as a musician was a process, one in which Tom Tom was an essential element. “When Mindy founded Tom Tom, I didn’t call myself a drummer,” she explains. “I wanted to, but felt inadequate. Now, all of these years and issues later, I do think of myself as a drummer and appreciate the way that Tom Tom helped me to change the way that I see myself.”
FOR CARLSON, HER LOVE OF MUSIC AND CODING HAVE EVERYTHING IN COMMON. “THEY’RE TECHNICAL AND CREATE THE BACKBONE FOR SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL,” SHE SAYS.
And it turns out, the magazine owes quite a bit of its own growth to Mazer, as well. She supported the magazine in every way possible since day one. “I ‘friended’ every drummer I could find online—all over the world—to help spread the word about Tom Tom. I bought advertising space in the magazine to promote my then booking company, Alisong, focused on female-drummer–lead bands.” With luck and love, Tom Tom readers continue to share in the romance between Mazer, percussion, and her dedication to turning it all into a vivid narrative.
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by Liz Tracy
“Tom Tom was an important outlet for me to realize that, yes, there was this awesome community out there, and people like me existed in the world,” says drummer Bianca Russelburg. “Tom Tom was my first lifeline in that way.” The musician penned the technique column in the early days of the magazine; they started writing it before entering college.
In college, they studied audio production, with a senior thesis, Reflections on Motown, that gained the attention of NPR’s World Café. A song off of the project was also featured on Tegan and Sara's So Jealous X, the 10-year anniversary release of the So Jealous album. They currently work in audio production and are “really into” synthesized percussion. Russelburg coaches and instructs at Girls Rock! camps in Indianapolis and Chicago.
Taylor is currently in the planning stages of launching her own magazine with women living in Philadelphia and New York that “will intersect art and updated health information primarily for lower income women, women of color, and women over 40,” she explains. Her work on user experience research for Planned Parenthood will help her in this endeavor.
by Liz Tracy
Brooklyn-based musician and writer Attia Taylor’s favorite thing to do, hands down, is play music. But, given her gift as a scribe, she also finds herself writing about the experiences of marginalized women from around the world. She works to tell the stories of the voiceless, giving their narratives new life and a new audience in her capable hands. She started reviewing albums and interviewing musicians for Tom Tom in 2011, her senior year of college at Temple University. She says she was “excited to dive into writing about women in music.” 20
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They are most proud of the recording project for LGBT artists and musicians, Resonate, that they founded. “Tom Tom was my first dive into a political, badass group of humans,” they say. “This amazing community helped shape me, and now I love doing projects that help people or highlight folks who aren’t typically highlighted. Tom Tom showed me that if you’re not seeing what you want in the world, you can build it, shift it, fix it. Make it happen yourself. You have that power!” at the Philadelphia Girls Rock Philly camp. She also volunteered at the Girls Rock! Camp in New York for 10 years. “I’m proud to be a positive example for the people around me and a role model to young girls,” she notes.
“Well, high school was when I started, which still blows my mind to think about,” they say, “I'm forever thankful that Mindy [Abovitz, founder and editor] included me to write for the blog and magazine.” Then based in Indiana, Russelburg worked remotely, since the Tom Tom offices are based in Brooklyn. “I didn't get to meet everyone until later. A few years ago Mindy and Rosana came to Chicago [where Russelburg currently lives] for a bookstore event. It felt so good to meet them in person and see how much this community had grown. That meant so much to me.”
TOM TOM SHOWED ME THAT IF YOU’RE NOT SEEING WHAT YOU WANT IN THE WORLD, YOU CAN BUILD IT, SHIFT IT, FIX IT. MAKE IT HAPPEN YOURSELF. YOU HAVE THAT POWER!
She was already working with a friend on a blog focused on female musicians around the world, LadyBangBeat.com. A move to New York from Philadelphia made her unable to continue with that project. She currently plays with her best friend in psych-pop outfit, Strange Parts. “I love being an example for young girls who are just getting their start on instruments or making electronic music,” she says. “I get to create space for them just by existing in spaces that we don’t often show up in.” Taylor herself got started on drums
Though she also reviews music for the Brooklyn music blog, The Le Sigh, her work with Tom Tom remains a significant aspect of her writing. “I’ve been interviewing women from all over the world since college and that was definitely one of my favorites,” she says of an article on Kenyan drummer Marcy Kimanzi that she penned for this magazine. “She grew up in a police camp and got her start drumming in church. It’s always special to work with young women of color on the other side of the world,” she says. “Her drive to learn and understand drums throughout her entire life and how her environment shaped her playing was quite beautiful and inspiring. I hope that I was able to properly capture the raw passion she has to keep music alive in her life.” Taylor most definitely achieved that goal in her article and continues to showcase the passions and talents of women you might not otherwise hear of, putting a spotlight on them through her apt storytelling.
PIPPA KELMENSON by Liz Tracy
Pippa Kelmenson is at a point in her life and academic career where she is taking a hard and long intellectual look at drumming. The Manhattanborn musician is working on her senior thesis installation and performance at Bard College, wrapping up her Bachelor of Arts this year. “Studying electronic music has allowed me to explore its disparate origins, forms, and as a result, its various styles of percussion,” she shares of her studies. “Much of my electronic work is inspired by the correlation between the machinery of the human body and rhythm.” She deals with her own attention and hearing impairment in this body of work (see page 35 for a synopsis).
The drummer for experimental rock band Beauty, Kelmenson has performed in bands Teen Wife, Cruger Island, for Sean Henry of Double Double Whammy Records, with the Bard electronic music department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and in Tom Tom’s Oral History of Female Drummers. Of that performance, she notes, “Being among such talented women in an experience as incredible as the Oral History was profoundly rewarding. I had never felt so musically powerful, while also challenged and supported. Preparing for the event and the performance itself both seriously helped my confidence as a drummer.” An experienced musician and current Tom Tom intern, Kelmenson has also lent her smarts to the Silent Barn, Fat Cat Records, Northside Music Festival, and Trollbäck + Company. Reflecting on the time she started working with Tom Tom, she says, “I was entering my senior
year of college at Bard and was balancing freaking out about where my life would be in a year with work and school.” But much has changed since then. She has a performance installation at Mana, is playing with a new band, and is wrapping up her thesis. She’s most proud, not just of the thesis itself but of what she’s learned in the process of crafting it. “I’ve tried new things on the drums, used new ideas in my compositions, and performed in an entirely different way than I’m used to.” Kelmenson finally feels ready to take on the real world with all of this new experience in tow: “With my sound art installation and concert, I have successfully combined the three things I love in my thesis— rhythm, electronics, and the human body.” So, big loud world, get ready, ’cause here she comes.
JEN MARCHAIN by Shaina Joy Machlus
Jen Marchain is a writer, drummer, and tambourine player hailing from Los Angeles, California. She been a contributor to Tom Tom since 2011, seeking out her favorite lady drummers and filling the magazine’s pages with her powerful words. “I got to interview Stephanie Bailey (from the Black Angels) who is a drummer I admire in skill and precision. She’s also a rad human being,” she says, recalling one of the more memorable interviews she did for this publication. Jen sees her commitment to Tom Tom as more of a commitment to the greater idea of equality in music. “I think the importance of Tom Tom magazine has been to shed a spotlight on not just female drummers but female artists and musicians while breaking down barriers.” Plus, every once in awhile she scores a new friend or two. “Tom Tom has given me amazing opportunities to meet great musicians and leverage friendships.”
Tom Tom came into Jen’s life during a time of her own creative transition, “I think back in 2011, I was a little naïve about balancing the pursuit of being a writer and having a day job and maintaining relationships. Now, I feel grounded in a way where I focus on the things that are truly important and pay attention to balance.” Since then, Jen has been courageously pursuing a life of words, music, and storytelling. “The best thing about being a writer is that it allows a certain freedom of expression and the ability to tell a story,” she notes. But she also takes time to give back and contribute to the creative community in other ways. She’s a board member at and company dancer with Leigh Purtill Ballet Company and is working on an original ballet called Sweet Sorrow: A Zombie Ballet.
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SHAINA JOY MACHLUS by Liz Tracy Photo by Eva Carasol
The well-trodden path doesn’t interest Shaina Joy Machlus very much. She started life, as she puts it, “a cone-headed Jewish gal” in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Instead of going to medical school after graduating college, like she originally had planned, she ran away to New Zealand for a year of picking seasonal produce. Machlus ended up a hairdresser with a huge conscience in North Carolina. “I immediately found a strong connection between self-esteem, community building, and cutting hair,” she recalls. Machlus launched a project that offered free cuts to people who were homeless. A fortuitous grant gave her the opportunity to open a barbershop with her clients. The shop is still open for business, “sustainable and beautiful,” she calls it. Along with four others and the help of Khmer women, she repeated the project, opening two salons, in Cambodia. On a whim, she moved to Spain. She didn’t even know the language, but she had saved up money from cutting hair to live there. Next, Machlus got her teaching certificate in Barcelona, Catalunya, where she now works as an English professor at Elisava design school. She is incredibly proud of learning Spanish and Catalan. “It has taught me so much about my own language and the power of languages and exchange in general,” she says. Along with illustrator Petra Eriksson, Machlus has spent the past year creating a guide to consent in Spanish. “There is almost zero literature on sexual consent in Spanish, so we took it upon ourselves to create something fun, informative, and easy to distribute." They hope to create broad access to the edition, offering it online as a downloadable PDF. During this process, she decided to start her own publishing company, Ricarda Press, so that she can self-release this zine, and, she adds, “be even more motivated to continue to publish other queer and/or women writers.”
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THE NEED FOR MORE VISIBILITY OF WOMEN IN MUSIC AND WOMEN WRITING ABOUT MUSIC IS SO INTENSE. AND BEING ABLE TO BE A SMALL PART OF A PLATFORM THATIS BUILT TO UPLIFT IN EXACTLY THAT WAY NEVER STOPS FEELING LIKE A DREAM COME TRUE. Machlus also has a Spanish-language podcast, Somos Venus Podcast, in which she and five close friends discuss “music, politics, everyday life, wellness from a queer-lady perspective.” And even with all of that, she’s facing her fear of singing in public by taking singing lessons and even reads a book a week. Machlus has been an invaluable member of the Tom Tom team, covering every aspect of its production, from making videos for Tom Tom TV to writing thoughtful, well-researched think-pieces. “Everything about Tom Tom magazine is such a team effort and a labor of pure love. Working in a nonhierarchical group of women about drums, music, feminism . . . I mean come on,” she says, with her infectious enthusiasm. “The need for more visibility of women in music and women writing about music is so intense. And being able to be a small part of a platform that is built to uplift in exactly that way never stops feeling like a dream come true. “It might sound like I am being dramatic, but for me Tom Tom marked a very clear 180 [in her life],” Machlus reflects. She met founder and
editor Mindy Abovitz when her band was playing a Tom Tom showcase. “The experience wound up completely changing my life,” she says. “I had casually mentioned my passion for writing and [Abovitz] encouraged me to submit some of my writings to the magazine, which blew me away. I had already been a fan of the magazine and thinking about being a part of it was unimaginable. I worked and submitted and resubmitted, and my first teeny, tiny little piece was published about a year later. Now, writing on average one to two full features an issue, I have also made contacts that have allowed me to publish all over the place. The nurturing and motivating environment of Tom Tom really helped me gain confidence and hope that it was possible for me to be a professional writer. No joke. Total game changer.” Machlus has also shared her talents as a scribe with other outlets, including Broadly, Got a Girl Crush, La DIrecta, and Shookdown Underzine.
I first met Californian drummer Candace Hansen while she was volunteering for Rock and Roll Camp for Girls (RNRC4G) in Portland. This woman is dedicated to and passionate about everything she pursues, from music writing to drumming. She is also fully entrenched in her studies at University of California, Los Angeles, where she is pursuing a doctorate in musicology. She’s currently playing with a couple of acts: YAAWN and Alice Bag & the Sissy Bears. Hansen first heard about Tom Tom while interviewing to volunteer at RNRC4G. The former camp director told her, “You know, I have a friend who just started this feminist drum magazine. You should really check it out! I feel like you’d be into it.” Hansen worked at the Guitar Center in Fountain Valley, California, at the time and made sure there were copies of the publication available all over the company’s annual Drum Off competition. “I was sick of only seeing men and boys at Drum Off and really wanted to get Tom Tom for the event, which also pushed me to beg women to sign up for the competition (the only two in the entire seven years I worked there!),” she says. “I somehow got ahold of Mindy [Abovitz, founder and editor], and she called me like the next day. I remember sitting on the patio of my community college cafeteria telling her my drumming and work life story.” Abovitz asked Hansen if she would consider writing for the magazine, she recalls, “knowing damn well I had never written anything in my life!” But it was a stroke of good luck, because, Hansen says, “I can literally trace so much of the success in my life in the last few years to that phone call and Mindy believing in me and pushing me and welcoming me into the Tom Tom community, taking a total chance on some freak
CANDACE HANSEN by Lisa Schonberg
on the other side of the country asking for free necessary now.” Candace continually expands stuff.” her skills to help achieve her goals. In her graduHansen now also writes for weekly newspapers ate studies, she is focusing on, she says, “how and other publications in Southern California. queerness and gender are represented in punk “My absolute favorite thing about being a music and hardcore, [and] tying those representations writer is knowing that [I’m] making immedi- trans-historically to other moments. Imagine a ate change in the way that women and queer big queer, punk time machine collecting queer people are represented,” she explains, “I priori- punk ancestors across centuries, using sound to tize writing about women, nonbinary, trans, and guide us to their location.” Just another example queer musicians, and pitch stories that I wished of the creative intelligence of this determined I would have seen growing up, or that I know are California dreamer.
An early diet of punk, jazz, and ska whet Sacramento, California, native Lien Do’s appetite for a life of consuming and producing music. She studied the subject at University of California, Davis, where she focused on ethnomusicology/ percussion performance and graphic design. It was then that she worked at the school’s freeform radio station, KDVS 90.3 FM, and started writing technique pages for Tom Tom.
LIEN DO by Liz Tracy
“I just enjoyed being able to combine design with drumming,” she says of her work with the magazine. “I never thought a community like this could exist when I was younger!” Tom Tom, she says, “definitely was one of my first exposures to contributing to a community that wasn’t tied to academics and was within my passion for music. It was very nerve-wracking at the time, but it was great to have experienced that!” As a drummer, she has played with Cat Problems, World Problems, Backward Beast, and Genuis, and currently is teamed up with Fragile Friends and Kat Morgan. She also has an
upcoming solo project, ETHAL. Do works in San Francisco as an engineer and designer, and does community organizing at Different Fur Studios, a recording studio in the famed Mission District where she produces and writes for Text Me Records and is one third of the music organization LMSFN. As if that weren’t enough, she has a film audio company, LIEMA, as well. “Now, I can happily say I am pursuing a career in music, which was very hard for me to imagine as a young, queer Vietnamese female. I mean it shouldn’t matter what my labeled identity is, but the reality is that it does matter to the rest of the world, which is why communities like Tom Tom exist. I am so privileged to say that I can play music, write music, watch music, listen to music, while supporting myself!” Do is especially proud of being part of a community that, she says, “has a large percentage of queers, poc, and female or gender nonconforming bands.”
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by Pippa Kelmenson
Over the past eight years, Mickey Vershbow has taught hundreds of students at various schools around the Northeast, and that was before opening her own lesson studio in Brooklyn, New York. While highly experienced with students of all types, Mickey specializes in teaching women and gender nonconforming students who seek a supportive, safe, and noncompetitive environment. Mickey got her start as a teacher after studying drum-set performance at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, and Music Therapy at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. She began teaching private lessons as a way to explore the therapeutic potential of music in a way that was based on her own experience of personal growth through musical discipline.
LINDSAY ARTKOP by Pippa Kelmenson
For Lindsay Artkop, it was love at first sight. At six years old, she spotted a shiny drum set on display at a local music store. Her dad saw her interest, and she was fortunate enough to come home that day with a snare drum and a pair of red sticks. Shortly thereafter, she started lessons and played in every band possible throughout elementary and middle school. At 15, she enrolled in the Educational Center for the Arts, a magnet school for the performing arts in New Haven, Connecticut. She studied with funk innovator Bernard Purdie during that time and performed and recorded with artists throughout the New England area, especially with her own funk group Lindsay Artkop and Friends. Artkop graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston last year with a bachelor’s in Professional Music. In May 2015, she won first place in Hit Like a Girl, an international competition for female drummers. Now living in Los Angeles, Artkop works as a live and session drummer. “Being an independent drummer also allows me to focus on my own projects, like composing and producing original music, producing videos and teaching,” Artkop says. Over the years, she picked up guitar, bass, composing, and audio recording. “Being a multi-instrumentalist has helped me develop a great empathy and understanding of music,” Artkop shares. “When I play in a group setting, 24
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I can hear and feel what's happening with each instrument. Knowledge is power. I'd suggest all drummers learn how to play a tonal instrument to enhance their musicianship.” Most recently, she was featured in the 2015 Percussive Art Society's International Convention, New York University's 2016 Annual Day of Percussion, and a solo clinic, The Collective, also in New York City. She teaches Skype drum lessons and is currently building her own online drum education resource. She has worked with Tom Tom as the drum tech writer for the past year. “Writing for Tom Tom has helped me keep up with the trends and news in the drumming industry firsthand. It’s also enlightened me to female drummers I wouldn't have known or heard about.” Artkop has appeared on DrumChannel, was featured in DRUM! magazine, and created video collaborations with notable drummers such as Kiran Gandhi and Shariq Tucker. “Some of the best moments in my life happen just because I play the drums,” Artkop assures. “Being a professional musician is certainly not easy, but it can bring amazing experiences. Enriching and uplifting others through music, traveling to new places, meeting amazing people, and in general never knowing what the day is going to bring, is all because I’m a drummer. I can’t begin to imagine the ways in which my life would be different if I never picked up the sticks.”
She moved to Brooklyn in 2012, where she began working with Tom Tom. “When I first met Mindy [Abovitz, founder and editor], I was hoping to get a job writing or editing for the magazine,” remembers Vershbow who had just moved to New York. Though she worked as tech section editor for a period, Abovitz had something else in mind for Vershbow. “To my complete surprise, she instead pitched the idea of opening a drum school entirely run by women called Tom Tom Academy. It was a project she’d been wanting to get off the ground, and I came from a background in teaching, so it was a perfect fit.”
But Tom Tom offered her more than that. “I've connected with artists [through the magazine] that I now perform and record with regularly, crafted the vision for my own teaching practice, and learned skills that have become essential to my success as a professional musician. Not to mention, I met my partner Katrina, who I now live with, while performing with a group of Tom Tom drummers!” She performs regularly with Kat Cunning, Mirah, Dams of the West (Chris Tomson of Vampire Weekend), and Miles Francis, along with a sideproject with Leah Wellbaum (Slothrust) called ANMLPLNET. They are releasing their debut EP on Ba Da Bing Records this fall.
RENÉ ORMAE-JARMER by Lisa Schonberg René Ormae-Jarmer, or Ren, is one of the most well-rounded percussionists I’ve met in Portland, Oregon. The Here Comes Everybody drummer makes a living teaching drums, writing music, and directing a high school drumline. She lives and breathes drumming and was eager to contribute to Tom Tom so that she can help drummers improve and mature their playing and craft. Her experience with the magazine built new connections for her, such as when she received a random message from a colleague in London. “We formed a friendship and have stayed connected,” Ormae-Jarmer says, “I’ve given them
feedback on their drum book, and I hope to visit there and maybe even do some clinics. I loved getting the emails, and always read them with an English accent!” she laughs. Having someone with decades of teaching and music-performance experience on staff is a boon for Tom Tom. René not only contributes as a writer but has introduced many new readers to the magazine. “As one of the few credentialed female percussion instructors in Oregon, I use Tom Tom to appeal to all my students, both male and female,” she shares. “I can show them that there is a larger community of like-minded drummers who want to share info to become
better. It’s another voice for females to hear that is validating. Also, the magazine itself is beautiful in hard copy form.” She hopes to see more drumline-related content in the magazine in the future. “Rudimental drumming is the foundation of all playing and can only strengthen drum-set playing and technique,” Ormae-Jarmer informs of her priorities. “Drummers are forced to manipulate hand techniques related to stick heights, grip, metronome work, diddles, long patterns, and a host of control that can sometimes be lost when we ignore this elemental groundwork of drumming.”
RYAN STEC by Lisa Schonberg
knew some people who worked for the mag and told me all about it. I remember thinking how awesome it would be to be able to contribute to the design,” Stec recalls. Stec comes from Greensboro, North Carolina, a long way from his current New York City home. He plays both guitar and drums and even performed with Hole tribute band, Orifice. Stec helps people build brands and reach their goals through strategic design. Before Tom Tom, he mostly worked corporate jobs and enjoyed them, but hadn’t been able to work from a more personal place. “Working for Tom Tom allowed me the chance to be creative in a way that matched my personal design aesthetic, while also feeling like I was contributing to a message that was empowering and important to female musicians,” he says.
Art director Ryan Stec describes his approach to design: “Let’s create something fun and exciting but also be super purposeful about it!” That message is most definitely aligned with the Tom Tom vibe. That’s probably why Stec quickly went from design intern to head designer after only a Stec was the person behind the magazine’s curfew issues working with the magazine. “My ex rent brand. “Tom Tom has such strong values in
terms of what its message is, but defining how we want to be perceived visually in order to match those values was a design challenge,” he explains. He created a sort of design template and made sure each issue’s theme guided its look. “Defining a visual direction that matched the stories for that each theme was always the most fun part,” he says. Readers contributing their original photography and artwork adds another layer to the aesthetic, Stec explains. Reminiscing on those days between 2012–14, Stec notes, “I loved working in the office when it was over off of Metropolitan Ave. Putting a magazine together is hard work, but I had the most fun working with Mindy [Abovitz, founder and editor].” But for Stec, the fun part was in the creating. “I think my favorite issue was the Kids Who Drum issue. I was literally sitting at the table drawing with crayons for that feature design. So fun.”
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ROSANA CABÁN GOT HER START AT TOM TOM, BUT IS TAKING ON THE ELECTRONIC MUSIC WORLD AS HALF OF PSYCHIC TWIN. by Bethany Lumsdaine and Jessie Grubb of Shut Up and Listen Photos by Zev Starr-Tambor in collaboration with Aelfie Makeup by Emily Keough
After 20 years of on-and-off involvement with music, drummer Rosana Cabán, 31, is currently committed to her role as one half of the Brooklyn-based, dreamy, electro-pop duo Psychic Twin. Her "twin" is singer, songwriter, and group founder Erin Fein. The two have been touring for four months, playing a whopping 88 shows. Night after night of driving, loading in, setting up, soundchecking, performing, loading out, and being away from loved ones is brutal. But Cabán finds motivation in sharing Psychic Twin's music.
“I don’t know why anyone would do this if they didn’t love it,” she wondered aloud backstage at the band’s recent Bloomington, Indiana, show. Cabán began her musical endeavors when she chose music as an elective in middle school. Although she has played other instruments for various projects, drums stuck with her the longest. Through high school, she played with an indoor drumline after being attracted to the competitive aspects of this type of percussive ensemble. “Competition inspires me,” Cabán said, “and wanting to be taken seriously in what I do.”
a degree in music. She received a bachelor’s in music from Berklee College in Boston, Massachusetts. After a brief time working with the recording studio Circle House in Miami, Cabán moved to New York in search of a music scene with fresh opportunities.
Cabán was born in Puerto Rico, but grew up in South Florida. Her father was a musician, so she had support when she decided to pursue
An internship with Tom Tom magazine turned into a job, and Cabán was feeling good about her choice to move back to the Big Apple. It was
She found herself bored after several years of corporate jobs in the City and ended up moving back home to Florida. But Cabán was only there for six months before returning to Brooklyn. She was hoping to find a career where she could actually use her musical skills and knowledge.
then that she met her bandmate Fein. Her first big project for the magazine was the 2014 Roto Hotel event at the Ace Hotel. The performance featured 19 female drummers, including herself, playing throughout the lobby simultaneously for 44 minutes. She worked as the “operations wizard,” which she described as “doing everything from meeting with marketing reps at the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show to producing and performing in events.” When she started working with Fein, the singer had already written music for the outfit. But Cabán says she was able to add a new dimension to Psychic Twin’s production process and live shows. The name Psychic Twin also existed before Cabán joined the band. Fein saw the ISSUE 3 0: NEPOTI S M
“COMPETITION INSPIRES ME,” CABÁN SAID, “AND WANTING TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY IN WHAT I DO.”
name as a representation of the connection one has with an inner self while playing music. However, Cabán’s addition added a new meaning. Psychic Twin is now a description of the connection between the two individuals. While performing, Cabán and Fein stand across from each other, as if they are each other’s reflections. Since Fein wanted them both center stage, Cabán suggested standing while drumming in order to add symmetry. With Fein’s mind open to experimentation, they tried it and never looked back. Cabán taught herself to use the ProTools digital audio workstation and has done much of the recording and mixing for the band. She wants to make sure their music sounds clean and professional. “I’m trying to do that without taking away the beautiful warmth of analog sound,” she said. “So, not too digital. I’m trying to marry the two.”
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Cabán’s experiences working with various recording studios inspired her to start recording on her own. She also was able to learn the importance of getting a second opinion and collaborating with others to improve projects. In joining Psychic Twin, Cabán began playing primarily with electronic and analog equipment. She currently uses a Roland SPD-SX sampling pad in combination with vintage Simmons drum triggers, ProTools, and Vic Firth drumsticks. “I thought I might miss acoustic drums,” Cabán said, “but I love how easy it is to set up and control the variables that you deal with in live sound.” Over the years, Cabán created her own collection of sounds and samples, in addition to using the Native Instruments Maschine library. Throughout their time working together, Cabán and Fein have also gathered drum samples from vintage synthesizers.
Before Psychic Twin, Cabán mostly used computer synths, but with Fein’s influence, she began tinkering with analog and outboard gear. “I like the imperfection of analog equipment,” Cabán notes. But really, throughout her years drumming and doing production, Cabán has learned that she is inspired primarily by the human experience. Psychic Twin’s work is never complete. Even after following back-to-back tours with STRFKR/ Generationals, Cabrán and Fein will be getting back to the process of planning, writing, and recording Psychic Twin’s second album. These “twins” will be drawing from their human experiences to craft songs in which their fans will certainly see reflections of themselves. See Cabán's transcription of Psychic Twin's song "Stop in Time" on page 64
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ROLLING SOLO BELL’S ROAR’S SEAN DESIREE USES THEIR TALENT TO SUPPORT QUEER AND TRANS ARTISTS OF COLOR. by Bethany Lumsdaine and Jessie Grubb of Shut Up and Listen Photos by Kiki Vassilakis 30
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upstate, making solo music since 2015. The project name, Bell’s Roar, is a reference to feminist writer bell hooks whose work addresses intersectionality and solidarity. “The roar represents the fight to not be silent and to use my creative voice to stop ongoing domination,” Desiree explains. Although Bell’s Roar’s purpose is influenced by an intellectual, the music is inspired by all genres and emotions. The music is soul-inspired, electronic pop, with Desiree leading the charge on all levels. In addition to drums, Desiree also plays guitar and bass, which they learned while attending high school at School of the Future in Manhattan. Having this prior knowledge gave them the ability and comfort to start performing as a solo artist. When beginning a song, sometimes inspiration comes to them from simple experimentation
tric guitar, a laptop, and an interface. They say that while the performances are sonically similar to the recordings, the visuals of a live show bring the music to life. They hope to develop a more involved live show with their upcoming album. Desiree is currently finishing a completely selfproduced debut solo album. One reason they maintain full creative control is because they were disappointed by losing their voice when working with others. They seek recognition as the sole creator of their work. “I want to hear what my music sounds like without having anyone else’s hands in it,” they say. “It's a way to see through to a vision and to know who I am as a songwriter.” Desiree also wanted to avoid being produced by a white man. They said they didn’t need someone else’s validation to know if their music is good or not.
THE “ROAR” REPRESENTS THE FIGHT TO NOT BE SILENT AND TO USE MY CREATIVE VOICE TO STOP ONGOING DOMINATION.
Sean Desiree overcame their early stage fright by performing songs by No Doubt and Dido during high school. At 33, they are currently performing and writing music as Bell’s Roar, producing their own album, and working to support queer and trans artists of color. “Being a queer, gender nonconforming person of color, I cannot isolate forms of oppression,” Desiree says. These aspects of their identity play an important role in their creative process. Desiree was raised in the Bronx, New York, but moved to Albany to join the band Broadcast Live. Although it’s no longer active, Desiree remained
with an instrument, but other times it’s completely spontaneous. “Generally, an idea for a melody comes as I'm going about my day,” they say. “I record it onto my iTunes Voice Notes and later work it out at home.” Penning lyrics comes last.
With Tom Tom, Desiree has organized and performed in live drumming events. These include the Roto Hotel at the Ace Hotel in New York and First Beat at Pérez Art Museum Miami, which both involved numerous drummers playing beats simultaneously.
In order to become fully independent, Desiree realized that they needed to teach themselves how to record and produce. “I picked Logic as my software and watched YouTube videos and experimented with the functions,” they say. But the learning process is ongoing when it comes to production. When recording at home, Desiree plays a Fender guitar, Elektron synth, and drums through a Focusrite interface. They usually borrow bass guitars and mics from friends. “It’s a slow investment to get everything I need, and I’m still not there yet,” they say. “I’m fortunate to have friends to help me out.”
Desiree also works as a furniture maker, creating geometric pieces from upcycled wood. They work under the name South End Pallet Works. They are also organizing the concert series Art Funds Art Tour, which uses music to support queer and trans artists of color. The goal of this tour is to raise $500 at each show to donate to a local artist. You can find out more about the tour at artfundsarttour.com.
Live performances by Bell’s Roar are a bit more stripped down, with Desiree just using an elec-
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LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER TOM TOM ILLUSTRATOR LOLA WILSON INTERVIEWS HER FATHER, SECRET DRUM BAND’S ALLAN WILSON. Interview and Illustrations by Lola Wilson
Allan Wilson grew up in Sacramento, California, where he helped found the seminal dance punk band !!! (Chk Chk Chk) in the late ’90s. His daughter Lola was born in 2001. In 2005, they moved north to Portland, Oregon. Lola, who often illustrates for Tom Tom, is a high school junior who loves to draw, paint, sing, and eat salad. Allan currently plays with Secret Drum Band, which is putting out its first LP this summer. They live in a big communal house in Portland with Lola’s mom, three other people, and three cats.
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Lola: Hi, Dad! So what made you wanna become a drummer? Allan Wilson: Well, I’ve played music in school since I was a kid—jazz bands, concert bands, pep bands—and then in high school, I played in the marching band. At first, I was marching with a huge bari sax, but then I had an opportunity to play in the drum corps, which I thought would be even cooler. So I switched to playing bass drum. It was a good introduction, because there wasn’t much technique involved in playing that drum apart from doing some mallet rolls now and then. Around the same time (the early ’90s), I had started playing saxophone in a ska band. But I wanted to play set; it seemed like so much fun. So, I bought my own drumset from an ad in the classifieds. I think it was like $250 with all the stands and cymbals. I think it even came with a bunch of sticks! I set it up at your great-grandpa’s house, in a spare bedroom. A couple times a week, I would drive over there and play, try to learn my favorite beats. I was 16 or 17, listening to a lot of punk and Goth, so I’d try songs by the Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, Joy Division, Subhumans, Dead Kennedys, stuff like that. My favorite drummer was Budgie (of the Banshees), and so I’d try to learn lots of his beats. He’s actually still one of my favorites. Was Opa (great-grandfather) into you playing drums at his house? It was really sweet that he let me, and he probably liked that I had a reason to come over to visit every week. I think it was his way of adapting to what I wanted to do at that age, in order to be able to spend time with me. Aww. That is sweet. But yeah, that’s how I started drumming on my own, on the set. There were a couple times when I tried to join bands as the drummer, but I wasn’t quite good enough yet. When I was 20, my friend Nic asked me to form a band with him and a bunch of friends, and that became the band that I toured and recorded with for almost 20 years (!!!, Chk Chk Chk). Initially, I was recruited to play sax, but as time went on and our sound evolved, I started playing percussion, too. Later on, I started playing set. And I’m still playing drums in 2017! Okay, Dad, calm down. You mentioned Budgie from the Banshees, but who are some other of your favorite drummers? Any women in there? I love the drummer in Yo La Tengo (Georgia Hubley). She also tends to write my favorite songs of theirs. And speaking of the early ’90s, I was big fan of Heather Dunn’s drumming in Tiger Trap. She played so ferociously, she looked like she was always on the verge of falling off her
drum stool. Also, in the last few years. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to play and record, and even tour, with three amazing women in Secret Drum Band: Lisa Schonberg, Heather Treadway (both ex-Explode Into Colors), and Sara Lund (ex-Unwound). Nice. So . . . how do you feel about feminism? (Laughs.) It’s pretty cool. Pretty cool idea. Okay, specifically, how do you think you’ve changed your stance on it? Like, do you feel like you were different as a younger person when it comes to how you feel about equal opportunities for all genders? Sure, definitely. So in the early ’90s, around the time of the advent of riot grrrl, there were a lot of preconceptions in the punk scene (and in society generally) about what was appropriate be-
havior for women and girls. How society considered and treated women and girls started to be questioned in a really direct, in-your-face way. The discussion was changing a lot. Those felt like radical times, and I could feel the righteous anger of many of the women around me. Sometimes it was really hard. You’d say the wrong thing, and get chewed out. People would be really angry at you. I guess it’s not so different now, actually! It was kind of like growing pains; we, as a scene, were trying to figure out how to make adjustments to our thinking, to understand what the ideas and goals of feminism via riot grrrl were, what the “new acceptable” was. Of course, those ideas and goals and expectations have continued to evolve since then, but that was the first big push in that direction during my lifetime. I think that thoughtful men have really had to face their gender privilege, examine how it manifests, and to check it everywhere.
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I THINK THAT THOUGHTFUL MEN HAVE REALLY HAD TO FACE THEIR GENDER PRIVILEGE, EXAMINE HOW IT MANIFESTS, AND TO CHECK IT EVERYWHERE.
I wasn’t around at that time, of course, but it seems that while there had been women drummers before, it was much more of a rarity than it is now. Not saying that riot grrrl was like a “women drumming” movement, but obviously that was part of it, letting women be more assertive or aggressive in music and playing a wider variety of instruments. That’s true, and yeah, women did make up a lot of earlier punk bands that predated riot grrrl. In a way, you could say that riot grrrl was like the second wave of a musical feminist movement that had included the Slits, the Raincoats, the Runaways, Siouxsie, X-Ray Spex, Pretenders, and many others. It seems a lot more common now to see women behind the drumset than when I was a teen. Although I’m not sure that the Portland scene really represents what’s happening in the country at large. Portland’s a weird cultural bubble. Personally, living in that bubble, drumming seems like a pretty female-dominated art form. The majority of drummers I can think of are women. And most of the young bands I see, the drummers are women. Wow, really? I’m surprised! 34
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When I think of drummers I know, I think of Lisa Schonberg, Heather Treadway, Elizabeth Venable (Sad Horse and Fronjentress). You’re really one of the only guy drummers I can think of in town. That’s really interesting. I think that in Portland there’s a higher ratio of female to male drummers than in other places in the country. Lola: You still think most drummers are men in Portland? Definitely. But it makes sense that you’re seeing so many female drummers. I think that our community especially has been influenced by Tom Tom and Rock & Roll Camp for Girls. You went to Rock & Roll Camp! I did. (Laughs.) Remember when we played in the Monkees cover band last year (at the annual Sacramento Halloween Show)? That was great. We played a good show. Wish we could have done it this year, too. You sang all the songs and played keys, but you also played drums on one song, right?
Yeah, in “Randy Scouse Git,” that really crazy song. I love performing! I wish I had more opportunities to do it. How was it to play with me in a band? It was so fun and really nice to work on a musical project with you and your mom. I loved learning the songs together. It takes a lot of preparation to get ready to perform, but it’s such rewarding work. Do you ever wish we had formed a little family band? There were times that I was into that idea. A few years ago, I sent you a video on Facebook of a dad and his two small kids covering a Depeche Mode song, super cute video, and your response was something like, “Cool, but we’re not gonna do anything like this.” I remember that. (Laughs.) I didn’t press the issue after that.
WO M A N A N D
PIPPA KELMENSON USED HER ATTENTION AND HEARING IMPAIRMENTS TO MAKE ART THAT INVESTIGATES THE BODY AS AN INSTRUMENT by Pippa Kelmenson Photo by Keka Marzagao
When I was in college, someone surprisingly asked me if my attention and hearing impairments had ever benefitted me in any way. Insulted, I angrily replied, “Obviously not—they’re called deficits for a reason.” Although I refused to see it at the time, I later realized that my interests in electronic compositions and rhythmic patterns relied on the transformation of phrases I heard as a result of my own wavering concentration. Rather than tune out the challenges of being a drummer and an electronic musician with attention deficit disorder and a hearing impairment, I decided to confront them head on and focus on how I could use my adversity for the benefit of my work. It is this dichotomy between hearing as passive reception and listening as active concentration that informs my music. My sound art and electronic music explore the physical phenomena of sound and human auditory perception. I am mesmerized by psychoacoustics and find myself constantly questioning whether concentration is enough to distinguish the origin of each sonic element. To emphasize the necessity of focus drumming requires, my work strives to accentuate not only the ear as
a musical instrument, but also the innate correlation between the machinery of the human body and rhythm.
sounds and their polyrhythms, but it also evokes an internal bodily response that the listener is forced to confront.
I am beyond fascinated with the body. When I read Maryanne Amacher’s Psychoacoustic Phenomena in Musical Composition, I felt like a nerdy version of Lindsay Lohan’s character in Freaky Friday when she realizes her similarity to her on-screen mom Jamie Lee Curtis after they switch bodies.
In the past, I have created analog electronics that transmit the waves of the brain and heart into rhythm. I used these when performing live. For the first part of my senior thesis in the electronic music department at Bard College, I built a larger-than-life ear canal that emits ear-related tones in a sound installation. I recently executed the second part of my senior thesis as a performance including all original compositions that further investigate the internal perception of sound, by surveying auditory and rhythmic illusions.
Amacher writes, “That my ‘ears were emitting sounds’ as well as receiving them . . . was incredible to me, a totally unique amazing experience at the time!” This transformed my idea of the ear as a submissive receiver into a vital, active instrument. It responds to sound information as well as actively amplifying its own. I often use the acoustic impression of low frequency binaural beats and high-pitched, dynamic tones from the ear canal to evoke a particularization of rhythm. The sonic intervals of sweeping, intricately overlapping sound patterns are heard and felt in a rhythmic resonance throughout the body. Not only does this bring attention to the
By utilizing sound as both a form of art and as a medium, these immersive installations and performances benefit from sonic distraction to investigate the body as an instrument and listening device. One thing each of my works includes is the trope of attention and hearing, both lost and retrieved, as if the listener must reassemble a strayed train of thought. ISSUE 3 0: NEPOTI S M
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AN ORAL HISTORY OF TOM TOM MAGAZINE
Mindy Abovitz by Brad Heck
By Rebecca DeRosa
"WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT TO READ A MAGAZINE ABOUT
“PRINT MEDIA IS DYING, YOU KNOW.”
“AREN’T YOU GOING TO RUN OUT OF CONTENT? I MEAN, THERE ARE ONLY LIKE TWO FEMALE DRUMMERS I CAN NAME OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD.”
In 2009, with not so encouraging comments like these, Tom Tom magazine’s founder and editor, Mindy Abovitz, set out to do what seemed impossible: create a publication about and for female-identified and nonbinary drummers. She turned what started out as a simple blog into a major endeavor, including a website, a print magazine, drumming events, social activism, and a drumming academy, resulting in a genuine platform for underrepresented musicians. Up until that point, drum and mainstream music media barely covered female drummers—and you almost never saw women in drum-related advertising until Tom Tom appeared. There was a need for content about ignored and forgotten drummers. This issue of the print magazine is themed “Nepotism”; this theme offers the publication an opportunity to flaunt the talents and skills of its fine contributors and to tell the Tom Tom story. We interviewed many of the key players who made Tom Tom what it is today. Here is an oral history of the magazine; the contributors tell its story in their own words. ISSUE 3 0: NEPOTI S M
In Nov. 2009, Mindy started a blog after she searched Google for “female drummer,” “woman drummer,” and “girl drummer,” with frustrating results. She was working as an audio engineer at East Village Radio at the time.
2010 Tom Tom threw some parties at Death by Audio to raise money to buy a url and start a real website: tomtommag.com.
Mindy designs Tom Tom’s first logo. As Mindy worked on her vision for the website, her mind turned to branding. She wanted a logo and look for the magazine that was unique and eye-catching.
1 MINDY ABOVITZ, editor in chief and founder: I have always been some form of a feminist and as a teenager defined myself as a riot grrrl. By the time I was dreaming up Tom Tom, I had assumed the music scene would have progressed. But instead, I found that it had gotten worse than when I was first discovering music. And as a 29-year-old, I knew that it was up to me to make the changes I wanted to see in the industry, that if I didn’t participate in actively making a change, nothing might happen, which was a terrifying prospect. At the time, I was friends with and knew of so many incredible female musicians that got no play in the media at all. And all I was really interested in doing in 2009 was changing the Google search results for some key word pairings like “girl drummer” and “female drummer.” Back then, when you typed those words into Google, you retrieved misogynist results like, “Can Women Play the Drums?” and “Are There any Good Female Drummers?” ALISON MAZER, first copy editor and old school Tom Tom staffer: I was volunteering at Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls with Mindy, and I clearly remember the moment when she told me her plan to start a magazine about female drummers. She also shared her mission to change the online meaning of “female drummer” and “women drummer.” I was awestruck, immensely inspired. At that moment, Mindy became my hero—actually she was already a drumming hero of mine. LISA SCHONBERG, Tom Tom’s Northwest correspondent: I first heard about Tom Tom from Adee Roberson (Tropic Green, New Bloods). It must have been in late 2009. At the time, Tom Tom was only a website, and Adee had been involved, I think as a writer. I looked it up online immediately. I had been waiting for this magazine to exist since I was nine! I found out that Tom Tom had been founded by none other than my friend, Mindy. I knew Mindy from playing shows in her warehouse space, the Woodser, in Brooklyn with my band, Kickball. We’d connected at those shows and had had amazing conversations, and so I wrote her right away and told her I wanted to be involved.
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CANDICE RALPH, first head designer: Mindy tasked me with creating a logo that she needed to print on a banner, like next week, for Tom Tom, to promote what was going to be basically a one-sheet, show-paper type of printed piece that would spotlight the female bands/performers around New York. Fresh out of school and hungry for design work, I turned around a bunch of options in one night. Mindy selected one that has been used ever since, up until the recent redesign! It became so much more than a show paper. In a highly competitive male industry, female musicians, specifically drummers/beat makers, were thrilled to finally have a place, a publication specific to them, for them, from them. Mindy had so much great content from Issue 1, we never even had to create the show paper. From that point on, I designed the first handful of magazines—I don't know how many off the top of my head!—and a website. A big task for being fresh out of school.
2010: Mindy filed for Tom Tom Magazine trademark with lawyer, Natalie Sulimani.
2010: Tom Tom GPS tried to sue Tom Tom over usage of the name.
November 2010, Tom Tom Issue #1 release party took place at Bruar Falls on Grand Street in Brooklyn, New York (across the street from the magazine’s office).
2011: Guitar Center personally asked to carry Tom Tom in all Guitar Centers, which turned into the magazine’s first distribution deal, the widest spread of the magazine yet, and led to Tom Tom signing a deal with Hal Leonard.
3 RIESHA FAYSON, winner of the 2014 Hit Like a Girl Contest: I had been following the contest from the beginning, but I didn’t think I was good enough to be considered with such talented drummers. One day, when we were playing around at church, the keyboard player started a groove, and I just joined in. My cousin, Justin, recorded a video with his iPhone. I didn’t even want to post it on YouTube, but he sent it into the contest without telling me. When they called to inform me I won, I was in complete disbelief. I still am. My advice to all musicians—especially female musicians—is dream big. Don’t limit yourself, and don’t let anyone else limit you, either. SKUTA HELGASON, director, Artbook at MoMA PS1: I didn’t think it was a crazy idea at all. It definitely was something I thought would be fantastic. I mean, this is the kind of thing they encourage here [at PS1]. The whole building was activated, so to speak—alive.
BEX WADE, head photographer 2010–today: I first heard about Tom Tom when I arrived in New York City for a vacation in July 2010. Friends told me about the magazine as we marched in the Dyke March, and sure enough, there under the arch in Washington Square Park, was Mindy, banging on some buckets, surrounded by magazines and being her magical self. I knew instantly it was something I wanted to be part of. After that perfect meeting, Mindy requested to see my work, liked it, and then asked me to photograph fellow Brit, Metronomy's Anna Prior. That shoot, at the Atlantic Records office, signaled the beginning of a professional and personal love affair with photographing female drummers. Over the past seven years, I’ve pretty much lost count of how many drummers I’ve photographed for the magazine, but along the way, I have shot numerous cover images, endless inside content, and plenty of live shows both in New York City and in the U.K. Personal highlights have been photographing ex-Beyonce drummer Nikki Glaspie in the closet of a friend’s apartment for Issue 10, “Glamour,” and almost being run over to shoot marching band Batala for the cover of Issue 11.
MARK SINCLAIR, writer at Creative Review magazine: While the tired attitudes of many music-making magazines are symptomatic of wider societal issues that have for decades made female players—drummers especially—feel like they don’t belong, it’s also the attitudes of the wider industry, from venues to guitar and drum shops, that need to evolve.
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2011: Mindy met Dave Levine (TRX cymbals) and Phil Hood (DRUM! Magazine) and began Hit Like a Girl Contest with them, the first contest for female drummers in the world (hitlikeagirlcontest.com/history).
Tom Tom signed a new distribution deal with Ingram Periodicals and began to appear nationally in Barnes & Noble as a result. The magazine gained Canadian distribution.
2013 January 2013: Tom Tom broke into the art world with the First Oral History of Female Drummers at MoMA PS1.
5 Staffers look back on some more memorable moments of working with Tom Tom: RYAN STEC: I remember this one time we received artwork for an ad that was supposed to go into the issue we were currently designing. It was from a drum company, and it was a picture of this dude standing behind a drum kit. Running a mag for female drummers and all, Mindy was trying to be super inclusive, even though I could tell something was bugging her. I asked her, and she goes, “This guy is standing behind this kit, and it just looks like one giant dick.” I never thought a drum kit could be shaped like a dick, but sure enough she was right. They had two bass drums at the bottom, and then stacked the other drums on top of those. I sat there and listened to Mindy try to tell the company on the phone why we needed a different photo for the ad and how we refused to use what they had sent over. It was amazing and hilarious. ROSANA CABAN, operations manager: Mindy and I have had some ridiculous business trips. A favorite of mine was staying in a “mermaid hotel” Airbnb, because we couldn’t help ourselves, and the price was right. When we got there, we realized it was a converted hippie commune from the ’70s, which sounds nice and fun, but we had no cell phone reception, and it was in disrepair and looked more like the set of a horror movie. The bathroom was in the middle of our hotel room, so we had to take turns using it for privacy while the other person stood outside. After 15 minutes, I overheard Mindy yelling my name from the parking lot. When I got there, she frantically asked me if I had the car keys while the Airbnb host talked at us about her NSFW personal life from her balcony. Mindy told her we’d be right back, leaned over to me, and said, “Get in the car; we’re leaving!” LISA SCHONBERG: Memories that come to mind right away: our epic release party for Issue #1 at Holocene in Portland in January 2010, where female members of a local marching band, the Last Regiment of Syncopated Drummers, showed up uninvited and played right outside the venue! They were very much welcomed, and we invited them inside to continue performing. There was the time that Mindy and I were sitting outside a cafe in L.A. with the recent issue on the table, and Solange Knowles walked up and said “Oh rad, that's my sister's drummer on your cover!” 42
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ALISON MAZER: Early on, Tom Tom published an outrageous experience that I had in an elevator. I was on my way to a gig, makeup on, carrying stick bag and cymbal bag. I get on the elevator and a couple stares at me, then scans the elevator looking confused. They ask where the drummer is and who the drummer is? I said, “Me!” They assumed that I was the girlfriend. Typical. Tom Tom continues to make an impact on musicians and music fans around the world. The drum and music industry and mainstream media have failed female-identified drummers and artists for so long. Tom Tom and other feminist outlets are working to change that. BEX WADE: I think female musicians are much more prevalent in the media these days, but there is still a long way to go. Tom Tom has undoubtedly put female drummers on a platform to be known about and celebrated, and I’m always pleasantly surprised how many men have heard of and love Tom Tom, too. I think the magazine faces a challenge, like all print magazines do, but more so from the perspective of coming from a drumming world, which is still unfortunately dominated by the male gaze. There are now fewer images of scantily dressed, over sexualized female drummers to be found with a quick image search, and in that way, Mindy has reached one of her original aims. STEPH BARKER, tech editor 2010–2013: I absolutely think the way female-identified people are portrayed in media and music has changed in the last decade. St. Vincent has made a tremendous mark with her new Ernie Ball guitar specifically designed for women. I also see many more women playing out in bands, on all instruments, but drums and guitar especially. I definitely feel like Tom Tom has played a role in that, along with She Shreds. Whether or not more women have begun to play or previous players have less fear in getting out there, it is all a good thing! ROSANA CABAN: There has been some change, mostly I think in the shifting of the understanding of what a feminist is and in the representation of different body types, ages, and skin tones. That being said, there’s still not a lot variation or representation of women in a positive healthy way. I still hear women say they aren't feminist, and it’s mind boggling, so I know there’s still a lot work left to be done. To say you aren’t a feminist is to say you don’t believe in gender equality. Tom Tom being a magazine about drummers, music, and feminism is so important for this very reason.
2017 and beyond: Tom Tom achieves four million reads on Issuu platform.
2015: Tom Tom appeared in Upper Class cabins on Virgin Atlantic.
2017 2016: Tom Tom was on the cover of London’s premiere design magazine Creative Review.
Besides bringing about a shift in the way female drummers are perceived, many of the people who have worked with Tom Tom say they continue to be deeply affected and inspired by the work the magazine has done. AIKO MASUBUCHI, writer and Japanese translator: I find so much inspiration from my peers and female-identifying friends who are killing it and expressing themselves with their heads held high. I really want to see more nonwhite folks in the rock scene though, and as a Japanese person, I want to see fewer Japanese bands catering to Orientalism in the grossest ways. I work in the film industry in Japan and New York and play in bands in the rock scene in Brooklyn, and I truly feel like I experience misogyny and whiteness celebrated every single day. I want to see more diverse show bookers, venue owners, film programmers, theater owners, film writers, music reviewers. It’s one thing to need more diverse people on bills, onstage, and on our screens, but a whole other problem I see is the lack of diversity in the people who make these decisions and give new insight and provide lenses into these worlds. LISA SCHONBERG: Tom Tom is the answer to what my flabbergasted and frustrated nine-year-old self knew was missing. The absence of women in drum and music-related media was so obvious to me even at that age (in 1986), and it made me angry, because I knew that women drummed, and I knew that people thought drumming was “for boys.” But the only face of a woman I saw in any of the magazines or catalogs was Sheila E., our token woman. BEX WADE: Back in the day, there was zero money, but 100 percent passion and hope and the love and ownership of something so awesome laid the foundations for what the magazine is today. Belief is a powerful force, and through this magazine's message, many new, young, or old drummers have been endlessly inspired. It feels like a total privilege to be part of something that educates and inspires so many. It’s rare that a conversation about my work or career doesn't end up celebrating the force that is Tom Tom, so I end up being motivated by the magazine endlessly and always.
What’s next for Tom Tom Magazine? MINDY ABOVITZ: Tom Tom is an ever-growing beast of a company. We will go wherever girls and women need us to go. In the coming years, we will continue to reach our tentacles out to people who haven’t heard from us and simultaneously nurture those who already follow our work.
PHOTOS: (1) Venus X and G Lee at one of Tom Tom's first parties at The Woods in Brooklyn. (2) Mindy and Jessica Moon working at one of Tom Tom's first offices on Grand St., Love Brigade. (3) Tom Tom took over the NYC subway with an army of drummers. (4) One of Tom Tom's first press photos. Shot by our longest running staff photographer Bex Wade. (5) We have had a long-standing relationship with The Ace Hotel. This is a marquee from one of our first collaborations with them. (6) Fay Milton of Savages hand-transcribing "She Will" in the Tom Tom office at DanBro Studios.
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GLORIA AND EMILIOâ€™S DAUGHTER EMILY ESTEFAN IS A TRUE TALENT WITH A DEVELOPING SUCCESS STORY IN HER OWN RIGHT. by Nicholas Zurko Photography by Zev Starr-Tambor, in collaboration with Aelfie Makeup by Emily Keough
At the age of 22, Emily Estefan, daughter of pop music superstars Emilio and Gloria, already knows that she has seen and experienced things of which others can only dream. Her young life has been spent traveling the world, surrounded by music. That’s probably why Estefan possesses a certain kind of wisdom that’s gained through experience and not just books. During our interview, I forgot that I was speaking to someone a decade my junior, so insightful and deep was her understanding of both drumming and music history. Did you know that there were five sub-rhythms of Cumbia? Because I did not, until Estefan educated me. By the end of the conversation, I found myself almost just spewing out the name of every great drummer I could think of, hoping to stump her. I finally did with Neu!’s Klaus Dinger and Can’s Jaki Liebezeit.
Having spent most of our time discussing the humility she’s learned playing with adult musicians as a teenager, and her favorite Meters album—the vocal-focused Rejuvenation—I was admittedly thrown for a loop when her publicist came on the phone to remind us we had five minutes left. It was in that moment that I realized I was in fact talking to the daughter of Emilio and Gloria, two platinum record–selling musicians who helped introduce Cuban and Latin rhythms and music into the American mainstream in the 1980s. Anyone born around that time will likely have a fond memory of watching a music video of Estefan’s parents with Gloria singing atop a Miami rooftop and Emilio playing the role of affable bandleader. Up until then, as far as I was aware, I was simply chatting with a fellow musician/music nerd. I was reminded of the professionalism that Estefan clearly learned over the years, as we quickly ran through the questions I had originally planned on asking. She answered with thoughtful and offthe-cuff replies. This wasn’t someone who’s been rehearsing to be famous all her life, but rather a natural-born musician who is extremely aware of how fortunate she is, given her lineage, to have an opportunity to realize her dream. Nonetheless, it’d be impossible to tell Estefan’s story without acknowledging the central role her parents continue to play in her life and now her career. And frankly, the timing couldn't be better. Now is certainly a ripe moment for Emily to introduce herself to the world, with a little help from her parents, of course. The musical On Your Feet! is introducing generations new and old to the songs of the Estefans. The younger Estefan even wrote the music to one of the tunes in the Broadway smash, “If I Never Got to Tell You,” to pair up with her mother’s lyrics. She joined the famed matriarch onstage at the Hollywood Bowl, and her mother sat in with Emily for her interview with Entertainment Tonight to promote her first single, “F#ck to Be.” The aspiring musician and singer is clearly proud of her roots. Nonetheless, the song off her debut album Take Whatever You Want feels like an appropriate first statement from Emily to her new audience. The video shows her trying on a number of different identities and ultimately choosing to be true to herself. Authenticity and hard work are two huge motivators in Estefan’s life. She doesn’t just have to contend with the entrenched sexism of the recording industry, she also has to deal with claims of nepotism or being born with a silver spoon in her mouth whenever she succeeds. While some children of famous parents might choose to keep their family mum, it’s obvious that Estefan loves being around her parents and is comfortable enough in her 46
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own talent to talk about them openly. When I comment on her remarkable self-confidence and level of maturity, she responds by saying, “When you're a kid growing up in that environment, you learn to be comfortable with yourself.” That she’s always going to deal with a certain degree of skepticism about her success. There will be those critics who will be suspicious of the reasons she gained the spotlight, and she won’t live up to some people’s expectations of her. “I have skepticism towards myself!” she laughs.”It happens a lot; I am my own worst critic, so it's hard to say, but I try to just do my best and enjoy and let people say what they want to say. I am always myself, and that's all I can rely on when people start making comparisons.” Estefan though, is not just some Grammy Award winners’ kid; she is a woman who commands an 11-piece ensemble from behind the kit. Gloria and Emilio, Emily’s famed parents, were both born in Havana, Cuba. Gloria’s father enlisted in the Vietnam War and later participated in the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. Emilio, on the other hand, was all about the music. He moved to Miami in the 1960s. In 1975, he founded the group the Miami Latin Boys. When he met Gloria the following year, the two fell heads over heels in love. It was in 1977 that the Miami Latin Boys became the Miami Sound Machine. Over the next 15 years, the group would serve as global ambassadors for the city. Its profile was elevated by being featured in Scarface and Miami Vice. Meanwhile, Gloria and Emilio had a son named Nayib in 1980. That decade, the singer and her producer husband experienced unprecedented success, and by 1989, the Miami Sound Machine was no more. Gloria had stolen the spotlight. This rise to the top was undercut by a near-fatal accident in 1990 that left her supposedly unable to bear any more children. It’s not surprising then that this proud mother would refer to Emily, who was born in 1994, as her “little miracle.” Speaking to Entertainment Tonight, Estefan said, “From the moment she was born, she was pretty much a miracle baby. They told me I would never have another baby after that accident, and here I am. We wanted her very much, and she was beyond anything we could have ever hoped for.” Speaking about her favorite memories of her parents, Emily Estefan stays grounded in the present. “Every moment is a journey, but it's not because they are superstars; it's because they are incredible human beings, and I have had a very blessed, exciting life full of love and adventures.”
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And while Estefan doesn’t mention the accident during our interview, she is someone who doesn’t seem to take anything for granted. She was raised surrounded by instruments and professional players. But when considering how she ended up on the pop star path herself, she says, “There was no real plan.” When thinking about what helped shape her as a musician, she remarks, “Since I was a little girl, I had the privilege of being around a big horn section.” And with her now serving as a bandleader, it’s clear that, plan or no plan, Emily Estefan is finally taking on the role that she’s been preparing for her whole life. While she clearly has a certain advantage over other aspiring professional musicians, she exudes the work ethic of a pro twice her age with humility to boot. When asked to share a piece of advice that she’s learned in her 22 years on this planet, she replies that “Most importantly, never stop learning. Never stop looking for knowledge with an open mind. For advice, I would say, do it because you love it, and then do it hard.” Estefan seems to be following her own advice. She decided to pursue music in high school. She gained experience not just by playing with her mom on the road but by attending the famed Berklee School of Music, in Boston, Massachusetts. It took majoring in performance before she realized that spending seven hours a day in a practice room wasn’t for her. “I really commend people who make that choice; it's a really brave choice,” she notes. She has a true sense of where she stands in the history of music. When asked to name her favorite drummers, Estefan lists off a who’s-who of contemporary and classic session and professional musicians. This includes the one-and-only Sheila E., former Prince drummer John Blackwell, jazz fusion legend Dennis Chambers, John Mayer’s drummer Steve Jordan, and Steely Dan drummer Keith Carlock. Of course, it should come as little surprise that someone who grew up within the industry would know the key players so well. What does come as a surprise is the unadulterated passion with which she speaks about getting to play with certain other musicians, or the joy of bringing her music to a much wider audience, especially in realizing the full breadth of her experience. Estefan has jammed with old pros like the Groove Dogs in high school—a band she says her mom characterized as “ZZ Top with a teenaged girl” behind the kit—or meeting the many different legends her father brought into his studio, including inventor of the mamba and legendary Cuban band leader Cachao. And it’s here where one really starts to appreciate how much Estefan has truly taken advantage of her situation. “I grew up hearing a lot of different rhythms, but didn’t know what they were.” With her Berklee education under her belt, Estefan isn’t just able to list off the different types of cumbia rhythms, but she can also really get at the essence of what it means to be a drummer and musician. As she sees it, “Music is really about being selfless. It’s about how you’re translating [the music] as a unit.” For while the drummer is “the constant” who has the power to “alter anything,” Emily is also eager to explore the other facets of music-making. She caught the music producer’s ear from her father while exploring her mother’s legacy as a performer. She’s doing all the above her own way with her own band that she assembled. And while her music might be song-based, that doesn’t mean she’s lost her love of jamming. “When people come to my concert, I have no idea what is going to happen. The piano solo might be extended 16 bars. I don't know what will happen!” Not knowing what will happen and letting life take its course seems to be something that comes naturally to Estefan, just like her strong voice and uncanny sense of rhythm. But like anyone else, just because she was born with successful musician parents, that does not define her. It simply gave her the raw ingredients she baked into something truly special. See the Take Whatever You Want album review on page 69 48
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SINCE I WAS A LITTLE GIRL , I HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF BEING AROUND A BIG HORN SECTION. ISSUE 3 0: NEPOTI S M
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TYCOON PERCUSSION’S IVY YU TALKS ABOUT THE CORE VALUES HER FAMILY’S COMPANY IS DEDICATED TO UPHOLDING
by Candace Hansen Photos courtesy of Tycoon Percussion
The general manager at Tycoon Percussion, which manufactures hand percussion instruments, Ivy Yu, is a bit embarrassed to admit she doesn’t play the drums. Yu grew to love the guitar and cello, inspired by her father’s passion for instruments. “However, I can play a mean tumbao on the congas,” she jokes. But Yu, a Virgo who loves traveling, photography, and sports, learned more than a passion for music from her parents Stephen and Jade, cofounders of the company. She inherited passion for the business and craft of percussive instruments, centered around the values her parents cherish most: integrity and family. Full disclosure: Tycoon is one Tom Tom’s advertisers, a family owned and run business that we felt tied in perfectly with our Nepotism theme (in the best way possible!). Ivy’s family started Tycoon Percussion back in 1983, when her brother was only a toddler and before she was born. Her parents took a leap of faith, launching the company after Yu’s father decided to give up his finance career in Hong Kong to pursue his lifelong dream of creating a musical instrument company. They moved from Hong Kong to Bangkok, Thailand, to start up Tycoon. They began making guitars, shifting to percussion after recognizing the global demand. Stephen recognized the powerful potential of being a drum manufacturer and designer in Thailand, a place rich with renewable drum-making resources and skilled workers. He followed his vision, making Tycoon an independent producer and innovator. “We spent so much time in Tycoon during our childhood,” Yu remembers. “When my folks were really building it up, it just [felt] like it was our second home.” In many ways, she and the company have evolved together. Yu spent many afternoons as a child and teenager admiring her family’s work on the production floor, at home, and in the office. She grew up in the midst of conversations about how to expand the business. She always knew that she wanted to officially be a part of the Tycoon. When she was a kid, she took a crack at making drums, which didn’t work out as well as she had hoped. “One of our master carvers showed me how she handcrafted our drums and let me have a go,” Yu reflects. “I’m pretty sure that drum went straight into our B-stock pile.”
Still, Yu worked every booth at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) that she could while attending college. “Spending so much time in our factory during my younger years, I couldn’t wait to one day be able to add my footprint to our family business that I saw develop from the ground up,” says Yu. As Tycoon was expanding its presence in the U.S. market in 2010, she decided to officially jump onboard and moved to California to spearhead Tycoon’s U.S. sales, marketing, and artist relations departments. Recently, Yu relocated to Shanghai where she is working on growing the brand in China’s quickly developing market. “We are a tight-knit unit. We all have the same shared vision for Tycoon, and we all work day and night to meet our goals and push our brand forward,” Yu says of the family owned and run company. “Just as importantly, we always make it a priority to just spend time together as a family as well, which means no work talk at the dinner table!” There are upsides and downsides to working with family for Yu, especially since her entire immediate family plays a huge role in Tycoon. “We all possess very different skill sets and bring different things to the table, so, needless to say, there are times where we disagree on certain things. But ultimately, we all have the same goal and values in mind and trust each others’ expertise and vision.” Ultimately, everyone has the same goal and values in mind and trusts each of their expertise and visions. “One of the founding principles of Tycoon is family,” states Yu, “and that extends far beyond our immediate family to all our employees, artists, and customers.” About 20 percent of Tycoon’s employees have been with them ISSUE 3 0: NEPOTI S M
for over 20 years, including some who have been with the company since the very first day Tycoon’s doors opened. Valuing employees involves caring about the labor they perform and the ideas and suggestions they have. “We believe in encouraging every single employee at Tycoon to voice their opinions, whether it’s about new products or company policies. After all, they are the hard work behind every product that gets put out to the world, and we want them to know and really feel that their work matters and their opinions are being heard.” Tycoon values diversity and equality, as well. The Tycoon team consists of about 45 percent women in various roles, from administrative to production jobs like roping and hand-carving. “The two master carvers who are responsible for our signature hand-crafted finishes are both women,” says Yu, noting that these two master carvers have mentored and trained many drum builders of all genders throughout the years. “Being in a male dominated industry, we try to push the envelope in creating a culture of women leadership and empowerment within our company,” says Yu. Her whole family has always advocated for expanded roles and voices for women in the company. Likewise, her mother has been a huge source of inspiration. “My mother has always pushed women to not be afraid to make our own footprints in this industry, no matter how different it may be to others.” They believe that in any industry diversity and uniqueness should always be celebrated, because that’s what moves an industry forward. Tycoon is also committed to green manufacturing. “It was always something that was really important to my parents, to not only create a brand that made high quality products, but making sure we did it the right way,” 52
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says Yu. “Being from a tropical country like Thailand, nature is a big part of our daily lives, and over the years we have seen the damage done to so many of our national forests, and globally, as well. We always knew we had to do whatever we could to play our part in global environmental responsibility. This was something that was passed on to us and will continue to be passed on to future Tycoon members.” All of the Siam oak Tycoon uses for its drums is sourced from renewable rubber plantation farms in Thailand. The imported wood they use for their cajons come from forests where tree populations are carefully monitored and maintained to combat deforestation. All of the sawdust waste created each day is saved and taken to processing mills at the end of each day where it is turned into fuel for local textile factories. They even make instruments out of the leftover wood and donate them to local kids from the community who can’t afford to buy drums.
ONE OF THE FOUNDING PRINCIPLES OF TYCOON IS FAMILY. . . AND THAT EXTENDS FAR BEYOND OUR IMMEDIATE FAMILY TO ALL OUR EMPLOYEES, ARTISTS,AND CUSTOMERS.
The measures the company takes to be environmentally conscious are ongoing throughout the entire production process, even if it means sacrificing more time per product or paying higher costs per unit. “We have seen a high demand for fiberglass djembes in the market for years,” says Yu, noting that Tycoon has avoided production because hot fiberglass injection processes create harmful emissions. This year, however, Tycoon found a way to completely eliminate harmful emissions by approaching it from a 100 percent handmade process. “We hand-brush each layer of the fiberglass resins into a room-temperature mold. This results in zero harmful emissions. However, this takes roughly 50 times longer to create a djembe shell than the injection process, but it is not something we are willing to sacrifice even for one product.” The drum industry itself often feels like family to Yu. “Maybe I’m a bit biased, since this industry is my little extended family,” she jokes in regard to her many experiences working with other vendors in the industry. “Music is such a great form of creativity and self-expression. I think drummers from each culture and background really aren’t afraid to express their individualism through this art, and [that] diversity is celebrated.” Yu even sees this family vibe emanating at trade shows like NAMM and other drum and percussion events. “The jam culture within percussion brings people together, and there’s so much joy and vibrancy in it. [It] is so addictive,
because you constantly see strangers from all walks of life come together, and just for a few minutes, they can, as one single unit, create magic!” For Yu, the most important aspect of being a family-run business is integrity—in both culture and principles. For Tycoon, their main principles are quality, innovation, family, and environmental and social responsibility. “Being part of a continuously evolving industry, we strive to consistently set the bar in every facet of our business, but that must always go hand in hand with being conscious of playing our part in an evolving world and society,” Yu notes. “I hope that Tycoon’s legacy will be our unwavering dedication to all the values that make us us. “We want to be a brand that continuously produces the most innovative and highest quality products for our customers out there, but we also want to always be that brand that does things a little differently, a company that people can relate and connect to. No matter how our company blooms and takes shape in the future, we want people to always be able to pick up a Tycoon instrument and be proud of everything that it represents.”
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LYDIA LUNCH CONTINUES TO BATTLE “MAN’S STUPIDITY AND GREED” WITH HER BAND RETROVIRUS AND A BETH B. DOCUMENTARY by Carolina Enriquez Swan Photography by Jolene Siana
There is a small closet in Lydia Lunch’s top-floor Park Slope apartment that, with its hanging light, reminds the spoken-word pioneer of Stephen King’s Carrie. She laments that there is unfortunately no creepy crucifix to complete the scene. Despite the closet, her wooden carved bat, and little skulls on a shelf, the artist’s home, which she shares with musical cohort and roommate Weasel Walter, is open, beautiful, and comfortable.
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Best known for her work in the ’70s No Wave scene and for her noise rock with acts like Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and current project Retrovirus, Lydia Lunch is truly a Jane of all trades. Her strong words and raw sexual prowess remain iconic and groundbreaking. Lunch is currently the focus of a new documentary film, Beth B.’s Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over. The two women have been collaborating for almost 38 years. B. has featured Lunch many times in her independent art film endeavors. When B. suggested working on this documentary, a retrospective of past achievements, Lunch finally became interested in a project she had rejected in the past. For the film, Lunch will focus on curating the right musicians to interview to help tell her story. She brought many artists to her medium. She got actor Vincent Gallo to perform spoken word—the only time in his life—and showed musician Nick Cave the format. Lunch considers herself a “cattle prodder” for corralling various artists into projects. “To me,” she says, “that’s what is important in my life. Not just ‘look what I’ve done.’ Forget it! One documentary isn’t going to cover it (laughs). But [the work of] the people that have been important to me that are also in multidisciplines. Not just musicians, of course. Thurston Moore will be in it. Donita Sparks will have to be in it. I want to mainly talk about both my stubborn resistance, complete independent artist, constantly political, and constantly musical schizophrenia, and the people that have come into my life. So it’s not just about me.” The title of the film, The War Is Never Over, has been close to Lunch’s heart for many years. She feels strongly that the slogan “has been my fucking battle cry since, I don’t know, Ronald Reagan. It just seems like it’s my mantra. You know I started talking about the war, which I think there is only one war. It’s like a virus that goes around the fucking world. Based on man’s stupidity and greed.” Donald Trump’s presidency set the stage for this project, making it significantly relevant. Timing is necessary for the documentary to make total sense. Lunch feels passionate that this is not the time to lie down in the face of the current, conservative administration but instead to put up a fight in true Lydia Lunch fashion. Lunch, though, does not consider herself a feminist. “I consider myself a lot worse than that. It’s just too generic a term. It just doesn’t mean anything. They are too many breeds and brands of it. I mean, I consider myself a vocal champion of individual rights, freedom of fucking liberty. I don’t put myself in any category.” Lunch prefers the term “feminazi” to feminist. She doesn’t hate men, she explains; her distaste is specifically for the “men in power.” To raise funds for the documentary, there was a spoken word and music event at the Slipper Room in the Lower East Side of Manhattan starring Lunch herself, along with writer and fashion designer Zoe Hansen and musical guest Birdthrower. All proceeds from the show, like a recent Kickstarter campaign, went to fund the documentary. The evening opened with Hansen reading from Lunch’s novel Paradoxia: A Predator’s Diary. The passage explicitly describes a sexual evening involving a fake breast versus real breast contest. In between sets, items auctioned off included a highly desirable flag with the alluring faces of Nick Cave and Lydia Lunch. When Lunch finally took the stage, censorship be damned, she blew the place away. Director Beth B. was also in attendance assisting with the auction. The evening raised over $5,000. And even with all her projects, Lunch still managed to produce Philadelphia noise rock, punk band Pissed Jeans’ fifth album, Why Love Now. Frontman Matt Korvette approached Lunch to produce the album. She says they harken “back to a sound like Jesus Lizard and Butthole Surfers. Hard, raunchy rock that is fat free. That is excellent for me. Love that kinda rock.” Their lyricism also intrigued Lunch. She was drawn to Pissed Jeans’ older
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songs, specifically, “It’s Your Knees.” “Because it’s twisted in the reverse to what women do to themselves,” she says, “‘I’m too fat,’ ‘My ankles are too fat.’ It’s a song about a guy finding a chick on the Internet, and she’s perfect except for her knees. They’re not as perfect as he is, so he can’t see her. Men are not like that for the most part. Men take the whole package. It’s women who pick on themselves more. Women are far more critical [of themselves].” She continues, “For women that have sex with men, the bar is low. [With] men, there’s a lot of fault there. Women, we try hard. We basically look pretty good. We are looking good, gals! Obviously, I have my own beauty standard. I will never lose ten pounds, thank you very much. I will always be voluptuous. I think it’s my duty to represent.” When she isn’t producing albums and working on the documentary, Lunch is usually at the art gallery and nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the arts, Howl Happening, in the East Village. All of Lunch’s archives are owned by the gallery, and the owners of the space are looking to expand into a museum. You can catch her there belting out her empowering growls at full volume. When it comes to performing, Lunch
I CONSIDER MYSELF, A VOCAL CHAMPION OF INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS, FREEDOM OF F---ING LIBERTY, I DON’T PUT MYSELF IN ANY CATEGORY.
enjoys these smaller venues. She will most likely be returning to the Slipper Room, as well. According to her, “I like an intimate performance space. I like to be able to look into people’s eyes.” And even with all of Lunch’s projects in the works, she still makes time for her band Retrovirus. She assembled the group after doing an introduction for a DIY T-shirt book, Ripped: T-shirts from the Underground by Cesar Padilla. She was asked to do a performance when the book was released. Since her other band, Big Sexy Noise, was unable to make it over from the UK in time, she assembled Retrovirus. She knew who to call first: Bob Bert of Sonic Youth and Pussy Galore. Lunch says, “Bob has been there since the beginning. So, I called him, and then I called Algis Kizys (Swans) before Tim Dahl (Child Abuse) and Weasel Walter (the Flying Luttenbachers, Cellular Chaos) volunteered for it. I had a list of 15 guitar players, but I knew none were appropriate.” Retrovirus allows her music to be heard by a new fan base alongside longtime fans.
It’s there that Retrovirus will play Amphetamine Reptile Records’ Bash 17 on July 22. Iconic ’90s rock band the Melvins will be starting off the show per tradition followed by Mudhoney, Cherubs, Whores, and Blind Shake. Retrovirus will wrap up the tour in its hometown at a July 28 show at Brooklyn Bazaar. Most of the time, Lunch has worked with European labels. Her music and spoken word have gained popularity there, and she herself lived in Barcelona for many years. Lunch returned to the States and specifically to New York, because she felt New York needed her. And the truth is New York does need her. New York needs the artists to return and continue the fire that it’s historically famous for. The documentary is only the beginning of many new projects for Lunch. It’s not certain she’s here to stay, but for now, the artist continues to inspire other women to do what they are passionate about and to learn to love themselves.
This year, the band will expand from its usual summer tours in Europe and scattered New York shows to hit the Northeast and Midwest, including Boston, Rochester, Toronto, Chicago, Detroit, and ending in Minneapolis. ISSUE 3 0: NEPOTI S M
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TECH WRITERS SHARE WHAT HAS IMPROVED THEIR PLAYING THE MOST Compiled and edited by JJ Jones | Photos courtesy of the artists
LINDSAY ARTKOP The one thing that has improved my playing the most is organizing my practice routine in a unique way. As drummers it's so tempting for us to sit down with the intent of practicing, and then get distracted and end up jamming on songs we already know. This is fun, but the problem is we can't grow and get better if all we do is repeat what we've already learned. It can also leave someone wondering why they are "practicing" a lot, but not improving. The truth is that if you're not struggling, you're certainly not growing. Practicing is the time to work out and improve what you're least good at. If you're passing by a practice room of a great player, it will often sound bad, because they're working on what needs improvement. I had the great fortune of studying with Bob Gullotti when I was at Berklee College of Music. He introduced me to his practice technique in our very first lesson, and I continue to use it today. It enables students to focus and be very efficient in the practice room. Write down exactly what materials you're going to practice, know exactly how long you're going to practice, and divide up your time equally for each subject. For example, if a student is practicing for 2 hours everyday, and they have 6 subjects, they'll practice each for 20 minutes. Set a timer at the given interval, and begin. Once the timer is up, you must move on to the next task, no matter where you were the process. This way, no time is wasted during practice and your focus is improved because you know you only have a certain amount of time for each exercise. The one addition I add to this practice method is scheduling time of the at the very end of my session just for jamming. This way, I've gotten all my work completed, but still save time to have fun. It's a reward for hard work, and I don't lose sight of why I play music in the first place. It's also more enjoyable to jam after you're totally warmed up and have your chops feeling great!
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MICKEY VERSHBOW There's one skill that's been nearly impossible for me to refine without years of practice in the real world: playing for the song. There are countless examples of drummers who seemed to know exactly what to play (and what not to play) on a track, but when faced with the decision myself, I often felt completely stumped by the myriad of choices in front of me. I've found over the years that this skillâ€”having an ear for what a song "needs" and being able to adapt to what a band wants to hearâ€”has been crucial to my growth and my career as a drummer, and has consistently improved with each new opportunity.
LIEN DO Of all the things that have helped me on the drums, it’s the basic math of drumming that comes immediately to mind. It’s comforting to know that no matter the complexity of what you are trying to play, there is a basic mathematical approach to it. I think this allows the craft to be accessible to everyone. For instance, if you want to know how to play a 5 over 4 over 3 polyrhythm, you can find the common denominator of all the numbers and map it out. If you imagine the line is the equivalent of a measure, and you are trying to play the 5 with your hands, the 4 with one foot, and the 3 with the other, this is what it would look like:
Common Denominator of 5, 4, 3 = 60 60 ÷ 5 = 12 60 ÷ 4 = 15 60 ÷ 3 = 20
As an example, below is an excerpt from a solo percussion piece called “Crash” by Terry Longshore that involves playing two Chinese cymbals against each other with the hands, and two hi-hats, one for each foot. In this notation, Longshore maps out what it would look like to roughly line up the above polyrhythm of 5 over 4 over 3. The cymbal line represents the two cymbals opening and closing together with the hands. Below that is the first hi-hat played by the dominant foot, and below that is the other foot playing the other hi-hat.
KRISTEN GLEESON-PRATA When I first started taking drum lessons, my teacher gave me a shopping list containing three items: a drumset, drumsticks, and isolation headphones. It turned out that with the addition of some good records, with those three items I had all I needed to improve my playing an incredible amount. I now believe that isolation headphones are an absolute necessity for every drummer of any age and skill level. Before their invention, you’d have to blast your sound system or headphones to be able to hear the music over your own playing. But isolation headphones (I use Vic Firth’s and love them) allow you to listen to music at a safe and normal volume while also protecting your ears from the natural loudness of your drums. It’s a win-win! One of the fondest memories I have of my drumming journey is of the endless hours I spent in middle school learning every one of my favorite songs note-for-note using my yellow Walkman and isolation headphones. The number of grooves, fills, licks, and tricks you can learn from studying songs in that kind of detail is absolutely endless.
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JJ JONES I was self-taught until just a couple of years ago when I completed Berklee College of Music’s drum performance certificate program. More than any of the specific skills I learned in my classes, the thing that had the most impact on my playing was the consistent act of recording myself to upload video assignments for my instructors every week. To get a performance right, I might do twenty or more takes of a song depending on the difficulty of the material. That kind of immediate feedback on one’s playing can be intense and humbling. It required me to constantly practice “non-judgmental observation” (a technique named in The Inner Game of Tennis by T. Gallwey—an indispensable book if you’re learning any physical skill), which means observing yourself with no value judgement of good or bad, and no activating of old personal beliefs like, “I can’t do this” and “I shouldn’t even try to do this.” For me, recording myself week after week meant putting aside my old storylines of not being good enough so that I could observe my performance, decide what it was I wanted to change, then play and record the assignment however many times it took to get it right. My timing and overall playing improved tenfold just from this simple, and intensely honest, act.
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Don't be afraid to step back when needed. If you're starting to feel burned out, or have been studying someone else's technique for a while, it's okay to take a break. I've burned myself out from pushing too hard, when taking a short break from drumming would've helped fuel my creative energy. Plus, you may discover a new drumming practice that you wouldn't have otherwise (I recently got into synth percussion and am OBSESSED). Space can be a magical thing, but it can feel nerve-wracking too. Here are some affirmations: You are not a bad musician for taking a break! You'll be able to pick up right where you left off! Everyone needs a break sometimes! This is not a reflection of your skill or dedication to your craft!
VANESSA DOMONIQUE One of the best ways I’ve improved my playing is by revisiting the classics such as Stick Control by George L. Stone, and Syncopation for the Modern Drummer by Ted Reed. Instead of simply playing what is written, I’ll come up with ways to “complicate” the exercise, which opens me up to a whole new world of freedom and creativity. Below is the first bar of exercise 1, found on pg. 38 of Syncopation. Instead of playing it as written, I’ll play the exercise as accents within triplets. Then to take it one step further I’ll add diddles within those triplets, and then apply the whole thing as a groove on the kit. Applying this sort of method to any hand exercise will greatly increase your drum vocabulary.
Editor’s note: Vanessa is using Ted Reed’s notation for exercise 1 which doesn’t use a beam to connect consecutive 8th notes!
MORGAN DOCTOR The one thing that has influenced my playing the most has been studying jazz. Learning how to dig into a heavy swing feel from tempos ranging from 40 to 220 bpm made the greatest impact on my playing in all genres of music. I remember on one of many long tours opening for the Cult, John Tempesta was watching me soundcheck. I would often rip into a swing beat/solo and he once told me how amazed he was at how heavy my swing was and how he couldn’t pull that off. I think learning how to play jazz swing really translated into making my groove much heavier and my pocket deeper. And learning jazz 3 beat and 5 beat figures (playing 3/4 and 4/4, or 5/4 and 4/4, simultaneously with different limbs) gave me more tools for phrasing over bar lines, even in a rock setting. You can definitely benefit as a rock player to learn some jazz techniques.
RENÉ ORMAE- JARMER The Grid helps you perfect your technique, stick heights, hand-to-hand timing, subdivisions, and dynamics. It is sometimes defined as shifting an embellishment, for example, an accent, flam or diddle, across different partials (subdivisions) of a rhythm. The standard 16th Note Grid rocked my world and forever changed how I teach, play, and think, not only about executing my strokes, but drumming in general. As a drum teacher, when students are ready, it’s one of the most fundamental concepts I introduce.
·Accents are downstrokes with 9-12” stick heights, all other notes are taps with 3” stick heights. ·The motion of your sticks, and thus the sound, should be the same for every accent stroke and every tap stroke, and the same, hand-to-hand. ·USE A METRONOME. Understanding how to shift accents around while maintaining a pulse is crucial. ·If you don’t do marching percussion and are playing this on a drumkit, mark the quarter notes by alternating your feet on the hi-hat and bass drum. Small firm “steps” will help you realize where the pulse is in relation to your strokes. ·BREAK IT DOWN AND TAKE IT SLOW. I break down measure by measure, then try the 4’s (four accents on each hand), then the 2’s, then the 1’s. Practice just the transition measures, too. Learn each section individually, then string them all together.
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ROSANA CABÁN 64
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ANIKA NILLES ISSUE 3 0: NEPOTI S M
SHOW US YOUR KITS
VANESSA DOMONIQUE'S SET UP by Zoë Brecher Photo courtesy of the artist
Vanessa Domonique FROM: London, UK BANDS: Currently working on my own material and freelancing/teaching.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST KIT? Yamaha Stage Custom
WHERE DID YOU BUY YOUR CURRENT KIT? Gumtree!!! lol—Thanks Luke.
HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU GOT IT? 21
DO YOU HAVE A DREAM KIT OR CYMBAL? I’m still after the Tama Starclassic Bubinga in a custom finish! Cymbal-wise, just a couple more to add to my collection and then I’d be complete!
WHY DID YOU START DRUMMING? The drum life was forced on me from when I was about 6 years old. My two older uncles both played so when they looked after me it was football, video games and Dennis Chambers!! I gained genuine interest for it at around 13 years old. HOW MANY DRUM SETS HAVE YOU HAD? I’ve had three—The Yamaha, My Tama Superstar Hyperdrive and I recently got a little Roland TD4 for those electronic gigs.
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IF YOU WERE STRANDED ON A ISLAND AND COULD ONLY KEEP OF YOUR KIT WHAT WOULD YOU beloved snare, Bonzo! And my 21” Ride, Big Bertha.
DESERTED ONE PART SAVE? My Beast of a
ARE THERE ANY UNIQUE THINGS ABOUT YOUR SETUP? On the last tour I was on I would sometimes have my SPDSX positioned as a rack tom and a floating mesh head clamped to my hi-hat stand. For the last leg - I had my kick drum positioned far to the right (out of reach) and played it with a double pedal. Aesthetically it looked great.
Tama Superstar Hyperdrive (Grey Hulk lol)
1 Zildjian 21” K Custom Organic Ride
A 22x20 kick
2 Zildjian 18” A Custom Medium Crash
B 16x16 floor
3 Zildjian 17” A Custom Medium Crash
C 12x7 tom
4 Zildjian 14” A Custom MasterSound Hats
D 10x7 tom
5 Zildjian 9” Oriental Splash Trash
E Tama Starphonic 13x7 snare (Bonzo)
6 8” Splash
F Tama SLP 5x5 snare (Xtina)
7 Zildjian 6” A Custom Splash
Yes, I name my drums lol.
HEADS Kick: Evans EMAD Clear Toms Evans 360 EC2 Snare: Evans 360 EC Reverse Dot
STICKS Vic Firth 7a, 5a and Vinnie Colaiuta Signature sticks
HARDWARE Tama Hardware Tama Speed Cobra
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SARATTMA Inner Spaces Self-released March 2017
WOOING Daydream Time Machine Self-released May 2017
The instrumental duo Sarattma is Brooklyn guitarist/bassist Matt Hollenberg, and Berlin drummer Sara Neidorf. Their once-a-year conjunction is a heavy romp through lots of musical territory; the down-tuned crush of doom metal, the odd time signatures of jazz or prog, and the spacey-weird bliss of psychedelic music. No gratuitous double-kick runs of boring thunder here from Neidorf, rather, there’s a creative breaking up of the sevens, nines, and plain old 4/4 sections, effortlessly flowing into and out of triple/duple meter, and above all, supporting the tasty riffs—so many riffs!—for headbanging along or floating away.
On their forthcoming debut EP, Daydream Time Machine, Wooing offers up well-crafted tunes that transition seamlessly from precious, intimate-feeling passages to soaring, and rather aggressive choruses and instrumental sections. The latest project from indie-pop wonderkid Rachel Trachtenburg, this explosive power trio features Trachtenburg’s guitar and vocals, accompanied by JR Thomas on guitar and Rosie Slater on drums. Thomas and Slater are key performers, bringing screeching psych-influenced fuzz guitars and rock-solid rhythm to pair with Trachtenburg's inspired songwriting.
Listen to this: when you yearn for a deathmatch between King Crimson, Mastodon, Don Cab, and Pink Floyd, but with swords and flamethrowers. —Caryn Havlik
The sonic palette expressed on Daydream Time Machine is notably more expansive than Trachtenburg's past projects, Supercute! and The Prettiots. Wooing is still heavy on charm though; these infectious tracks are likely to get caught in your head. Hopefully, this promising EP is a sign of more to come from this talented group. Listen to this: sprawled out on a beanbag chair, surrounded by lava lamps and trippy blacklight posters. —Stephen Otto Perry
STARBENDERS Heavy Petting Institution Records May 2016
HEATHER THOMAS People in Places Self-released June 2017
Atlanta, Georgia has birthed one of the most unique bands from the high mountain of alt-glam rock and roll, the StarBenders. Their newest album, Heavy Petting, manifests early, with the appropriately moody opening track “Blood.” Once Katie Herron's sturdy drums drive in the beat, they are off and running. Kimi Shelter's raucous voice nestles into Stevie Nicks territory, particularly on introspective tracks like “Time Stops.” As the band careens through their varied musical universe, one thing is for certain, their erotic androgynous vibe just begs for a live show in a town near you.
Heather Thomas (drummer for singer-songwriter Mary Lambert and psychedelic rock band General Mojos) releases her debut album this June. It begins with “Leanna,” a song that transports you to a country town filled with cowgirl hats and boots full of dirt. The minimal instrumentation of ukulele and strings leaves room to showcase Heather's soulful voice in “Carolina.” She takes you on her journey to feel "free as a Montana sky" in travels to the third track aptly titled, “Montana Sky.”
Listen to this: while summer is in the air, the perfect cocktail of languid afternoons and even more intoxicating nights. —Matthew D’Abate
The title track “People in Places” is an anthem to live the way you choose with lyrics “I’m not sorry, I’m just who I am, and who I am is all I wanna be.” The album has sounds similar to Kacey Musgraves, Colbie Caillat, and Ingrid Michaelson with an attitude strong enough to pop into the radio of a 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible in Thelma & Louise. Listen to this: on your drive cross country to rediscover yourself. —Dani Mari
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EMILY ESTEFAN Take Whatever You Want Alien Shrimp Records/ Red Distribution February 2017
STONEFIELD As Above So Below Rebel Union Recordings/Mushroom April 2017
It takes just a few sweet guitar strums and the sound of Emily Estefan’s soulful and expressive voice to transport me to another time and place. It’s a sweet place where jazz meets new soul and funky bass lines weave into a story told by a brilliant young artist, wise beyond her years. A delicious listen from start to finish, Estefan wrote, produced and played every instrument but the horns on her debut album, Take Whatever You Want. Emily Estefan, as in daughter of Latin pop emperors Gloria and Emilio Estefan, must have “the brilliant gene” encoded into her DNA but is clearly a force of nature all her own. Listen to this: while sipping a martini in sexy underwear or at a jazz club or speakeasy somewhere with someone you want to get lost in. It’ll make you feel good.
It’s hard to describe Stonefield, because there’s really not a way to describe what this band is doing and still sound like you were born in a pulpy, sci-fi novel. The way the four Australian sisters blend stoner metal, doom metal, psychedelic 70s rock, and a sublime Los Angeles pop-punk vibe means every song on their latest release is such an indulgent experience, you might close your eyes for a moment only to convince yourself you’re on a foreign planet. Whether they’re opening for Fleetwood Mac or touring with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Amy, Hannah, Sarah, and Holly Findlay’s music fits in almost anywhere. Listen to this: when you’re feeling a little more like an alien from a distant world than someone who lives on planet earth. —Annalise Domenighini
MUSIC TEAMGEIST Mivart Storkower Environmental Studies/Ancre Music March 2017 TEAMGEIST is a music collective featuring a rotating cast of musicians from all over the world who come together to record an improvised album. Mivart Storkower is the collective’s second freeform instrumental release recorded over the span of five days in Berlin and Bristol. Each track has a soul of its own and are collaborations with TEAMGEIST creator, Maximillan Markowsky, who appears on all of the album’s 10 tracks. Portishead bass player, Jim Barr, makes several appearances as well as French electronic violinist Agathe Max, Guy Metcalfe, Christos Kollias, and Paul Pollinger. Track seven “Marzahn” features Kiran Gandhi and is one of two tracks that includes anything that bears the closest resemblance to vocals as hypnotic, warped echos throughout the song, bearing resemblance to the vocal cadence of Portland-based trio Explode Into Colors. Readers may be familiar with Gandhi’s own electronic project, Madame Gandhi, as well as drumming for M.I.A, her work as an activist (she ran the London Marathon while menstruating sans tampon to raise awareness for women’s health) and a long time supporter of Tom Tom Magazine. Listen to this: for moments of introspection, relaxation, and creative processing. —Lynn Casper
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REVIEWS DARE TO BE DIFFERENT Directed by Ellen Goldfarb Jomyra Productions, 2017 Dare To be Different is filmmaker Ellen Goldfarb’s wonderful documentary about WLIR, the pioneering, beloved Long Island-based radio station that played a vital role in the music of the 1980s. The film chronicles WLIR’s entire history—from its humble beginnings as an overlooked spot left of the dial to its heyday in the early-to-mid 1980’s. WLIR was the first station on the East Coast to play artists such as U2, Madonna, New Order, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, and myriad others. WLIR was shut down in 1987 due to a legal tussle and a draconian FCC. If you were a listener, this was the day the music died. Dare To Be Different revives the station’s spirit. WLIR’s staff and music luminaries contribute delightful interviews: Debbie Harry talks about the role of women in new wave music, Billy Idol is strangely animated yet charmingly articulate, talking about the music WLIR championed. Annabella Lwin of Bow Wow Wow reveals that she kept getting colds in the ’80s because of her Mohawk, and Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes explains how entranced the band was with the vending machine snacks at the Long Island Holiday Inn.
At one point, Simple Minds’ shimmering “New Gold Dream” plays over grainy footage of a car en route to Long Island. If you enjoy ’80s music Dare To Be Different will make you wish you were in that car on a summer day in 1983 with WLIR blasting loud and clear on its radio. —Robin Eisgrau
Dare to Be Different documents WLIR fans’ love. Long Island clubs were the station’s main advertisers and their DJs played the same music that the station played. Interviews with WLIR fans who went to these clubs every night are a testament to how devoted their listeners were—and still are.
THE DRUM THING by Deirdre O'Callaghan Prestel, 2016
When I first met Deirdre O'Callaghan in 2013, I instantly admired her and could sense her passion for photography and her love for the drummer. She reached out to me to pick my brain and connect her with female drummers as she embarked on her ambitious drummer photo book project. She has since published one of my favorite drummer photography books with Prestel Publishing. The completed book arrived to our NYC offices a couple of months ago and was well worth the wait. It is a heavy thing with over 250 pages of 200 perfectly lit photos of over 100 drummers in their studio spaces and amongst their personal things. The project, which was five years in the making, includes interviews with some of the world’s best known drummers like Dave Grohl and Jack White alongside familiar Tom Tom names like Kiran Gandhi from Madame Gandhi and Julie Edwards from the L.A. duo Deap Vally. “I love watching drummers perform, it’s like a dance,” said Deirdre, “just the dedication and the physicality of it.” And we are grateful for that Deirdre. —Mindy Abovitz
(Below, clockwise from top left) Julie Edwards, Kiran Gandhi, Bobbye Hall
INSIDE PEDAL CAJON by JJ Jones
I’ve had a losing track record with cajon pedals. My first had so much latency between the pedal and the beater that I sent it back. The next had good response, but the cable that connected the pedal with the beater frayed down to two strands after only one show. Enter LP’s new 2-Sided Cajon with DW Cajon Pedal, or “Inside Pedal Cajon”. Not only is the entire beater mechanism on the inside which means the front of the cajon is completely open for your hands, the beater itself strikes a side of the cajon instead of the front—a “special bass soundboard” as it’s called by LP. Best of all, the pedal is a DW 5000! The exact model I’ve had on my drumset for years. LP sent us this cajon and pedal to to check out. I was initially pleased with the cajon’s nice tone, rounded corners for comfort, solid build, and deep bass sound from the beater against the soundboard side. And the round soft-foam beater head had a nice mellow sound, but still plenty of attack.
Best of all, the DW 5000 pedal had a response almost equal to a regular bass drum pedal. I was able to do fast 16th note doubles, and even skip and heel-toe technique, which would be almost impossible on a typical cajon pedal. Not surprisingly given it’s a DW, the pedal itself is excellently machined, and the quality and durability is in its own league. The only downside of having the pedal on the inside is that adjusting and swapping out the beater is difficult since it requires reaching your hand(s) through the sound hole of the cajon and primarily working blind. But, given the durability and quality of the machined DW parts, I had no trouble loosening and tightening the beater even without being able to see it, and had little worry that multiple adjustments would eventually strip or wear anything down. I used the Inside Pedal Cajon to play some showcases at a folk music conference held in a hotel where I was going room to room through hallway crowds to get to the next performance. With two turns of the attached drum key, I was able to detach the pedal from the cable, wind it up inside, slide the pedal into the included zippered bag and be off and running in minutes. Setup was equally as easy. The sound and feel of the cajon for these acoustic gigs was awesome—like I was playing an actual kick drum. And I received lots of admiring remarks on it from both audience members and other musicians. In short, LP claims this is the best cajon pedal out there, and from my experience, I have to agree (and in fact, I tried a few others at this year’s NAMM show, and while they had a good response, the precisionmade quality just wasn’t there). The combination of the tone and feel of the LP cajon, quality and durability of the DW 5000 pedal, and the fact that the beater is on the inside leaving the front completely open for the hands, make playing the Inside Pedal Cajon a top-notch cajon experience.
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CAJON BRU-LLETS AND CAJON BASS BEATER by JJ Jones
Vic Firth says they’re, “Not just a brush... Not just a mallet!” The new Bru-llet marries the elements of both a brush and mallet, and with a length, bristle width, and size and density of the foam mallet head, designed specifically for the cajon. It took me a minute to figure out the best way to hold them, and get used to how stiff the bristles are. But as I kept playing, I started to appreciate that the foam mallet head gets a loud bass tone, thus saving the heel of your right hand from the constant hitting of bass notes. And the stiffness of the brush bristles actually became one of my favorite elements since it meant not only could I get a “stirring-the-soup” kind of sound like with a typical wire brush, but because there’s a lot of rebound, I could do things I couldn’t normally do with wire brushes like rolls. The other thing I enjoyed immensely about the Bru-llets was hitting the top edge of the cajon with the wooden shaft of the stick. I could get such a satisfying crack (I put gaffers tape on the cajon edge to preserve it from denting!) that I could not otherwise get with just my hands. I liked Vic Firth’s new Bass Beater as well. I’d already been using LP/DW’s Inside Pedal Cajon, which has a bigger and softer foam beater head for bass tone. Vic Firth’s Bass Beater is smaller, with slightly less give, so the sound is a little louder and brighter, with more attack. Both have a nice warm musical quality, and offer the player multiple sound and dynamic options depending on the musical situation. All in all, the Bru-llets and the Bass Beater are a fun and cool pairing to add to the arsenal of a cajon player, and are great additions to the growing body of cajon accessories!
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azriel and the blackwolf
debut single â€œsoviet strangeloveâ€? coming 2017
drummers drummers••music music••feminism feminism
DISPLAY SUMMER 2017
NO. 30 NEPOTISM
$10 | € 10 | £ 10
Published on Jun 15, 2017
In the "Nepotism" issue of Tom Tom, we spotlighted the amazing achievements of our longest standing and hardest working staff members. We ex...