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D I S P L AY S U M M E R 2 0 1 8

Syd Tha Kyd


CONTRIBUTORS FOUNDER | PUBLISHER

Mindy Abovitz Monk (info@tomtommag.com)

MANAGING EDITOR

Liz Tracy (editorial@tomtommag.com)

CREATIVE DIRECTOR

Marisa Kurk (art@tomtommag.com)

REVIEWS EDITOR

Rebecca DeRosa (hi@tomtommag.com)

TECH + GEAR EDITOR

JJ Jones (tech@tomtommag.com)

WEB MANAGER

Lindsey Anderson (hi@tomtommag.com)

DARA HIRSCH Podcast Mixer

ELLIE LIGHTFOOT Podcast Producer

MIKE KUTCHMAN of Look to Listen Studio Podcast Engineer

BETTINA WARSHAW Podcast Intern

OFFICE

Jasmine Bourgeois (office@tomtommag.com)

SHOP MANAGER

Susan Taylor (shop@tomtommag.com)

MARKETING + PARTNERSHIPS

Shelly Simon (partner@tomtommag.com)

PRINT WRITERS Jasmine Bourgeois, Shaina Joy Machlus,

SassyBlack, Geoff Shelton, Kat Jetson, Zoë Brecher, Liz Tracy

PHOTOGRAPHERS David Barron, Alan Lear, Shelly

Simon, Karston "Skinny" Tannis, June Canedo, Kalindy Williams, Kim Reed, Jono Ganz, TechMe0ut, Neil Aline, Jonathan Chu

ILLUSTRATORS Agnes Ricart, Liz Pavlovic, Camila Rosa TECH WRITERS Lindsay Artkop, Morgan Doctor,

GET IT

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GEAR REVIEWS JJ Jones COPY EDITOR Bernadette Malavarca WEB WEB CODERS

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Liz Pavlovic

DISTRIBUTION

ON THE COVER: Syd Tha Kyd by Alan Lear

NYC Urbandistronyc BARCELONA Shaina Joy Machlus EUROPE Max Markowsky PDX Shanna Doolittle, Haley Flannery, Amira Almquist LOS ANGELES Adrian Tenney

THE MISSION

BRAIN TRUST

Rony Abovitz, Lisa Schonberg, Kiran Gandhi, Chloe Saavedra, Itta Abovitz

THANKIES

Ima, Rony, Shani, Chris J Monk, Col Col, La Moutique, Falky, Harriet, Roland, Fred Armisen, Bedrock L.A.,

Tom Tom Magazine ® is the only magazine in the world dedicated to female and gender non-conforming 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 Mike Kutchman at Look to Listen Studios

Letter from the Editor

What does DIY, the theme of this issue, mean to me? Virtually everything. All that I do within this magazine has been and will likely always be a version of DIY, or the way I like to think of it, DIO (do-it-ourselves—this magazine is worked on by a lot of us). No one was going to hand female musicians legitimacy. We were going to have to take it. I learned that after being a musician and touring and setting up my own shows for years and really never getting the recognition I believe we deserved. I also spent a lot of time being fans of other girl musicians and felt consistently disappointed at the way they were celebrated (or not celebrated, for that matter). So Tom Tom, and every one of its tentacles, we did ourselves. With no road map, no precedence, no foundation to stand on. Those of you that do the same, that start your own merch company to support your music career (see Penelope Gazin and Witchsy on p. 26), that start your own venue to book you and your friends' bands (Guide to DIY Venues on p. 18), that make your own pedals (Pedal Head on p. 22) and that program and produce your own music to showcase your lyrics (feature story Syd Tha Kyd of the Internet, p. 38), you are the reason we keep doing this. Thank you for that. Oh, and if you haven’t heard, Tom Tom’s newest venture is our podcast, The Beat + The Pulse. It features me as your host, speaking to the people who have inspired me to DIY it best. Including guests Shantell Martin, Janet Weiss, and Fred Armisen, to name a few. Listen to it wherever you hear your podcasts or log on to: thebeatandthepulse.com. And if you want to know how to make your own podcast yourself, Shaina Joy Machlus clues you in with “DIY Podcast: How to terrify and empower with a podcast in only 12-steps” on p. 20.

Enjoy, and if you don’t see what you want in the world, then DIY.

Mindy Abovitz Monk Creator/Publisher


8 9 TO KNOW

Check out these albums, books, and organizations helping women in music.

14 DAPPER DRUMMER

Style and grace, Linda-Philomène

Tsoungui's fashion at the kit

20 THE ESSENTIAL DIY PODCAST GUIDE How to terrify and empower with a podcast in only 12 steps

22 PEDAL-HEAD

DIY Pedal-Maker Aisha Loe talks about selling green and making her own pedals

26 WANT TO START YOUR OWN DIY BUSINESS?

Witchsy’s Penelope Gazin explains how

32 SPANISH SPLASH

Melenas photo essay and playlist from the band

44 NEVER GONNA HANG IT UP An in depth conversation with

The Coathangers’ Stephanie Luke

58 TECHNIQUE Get a grip


10 THE BEAT + THE PULSE Bands to look out for

16 SARAH, THE !LLSTRUMENTALIST on how to make a DIY YouTube channel

18 MUST-VISIT DIY VENUES IN THE U.S. Follow this guide and never get lost.

24 WORKING WOMEN

This DJ collective is amplifying the sounds

of all women

28 EVERY TIME I SING, I CRY How this drummer found her singing voice

38 SINCERELY SYD

How DIY bedroom producer Syd Tha Kyd became the voice of a generation

50 LIKE FATHER LIKE DAUGHTER Madison McFerrin is a one-woman

music-making master

66 REVIEWS

What we think

The Coathangers by David Barron


Internal Input What DIY means to our staff.

When we aren’t all recognized equally and aren’t provided with the same resources, we have to be resourceful and find ways to do it ourselves and with the communities around us. That’s how I think of DIY. The term is broader than the acronym, and when I think of DIY communities, I think of people like me who are freaks getting together to make cool shit happen.

DIY, to me, means carrying out an idea you might have, even,though social norms might tell you that you aren’t qualified or do not have the proper resources to do so. DIY means finding the way to do it with the resources you have, and affirming the value of the knowledge and skills you are offering up to the universe. —Lisa Schonberg

—Chloe Saavedra

DIY is engaging with a previously unknown, undiscovered part of yourself and/or your community. It is searching through the wisdom of others and oneself to learn and expand, to build a skill set, to take, even when it has previously been denied. It feels like working outside of a system that is so limiting for so many. —Shaina Joy Machlus

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The term DIY used to give me anxiety, because I would think of DIY venues and how hard it has been to get a decent sound as an electronic musician in some of those environments. Now, DIY means the freedom to do whatever you want without the normal restrictions venues have. —Rosana Cabán

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It's a survival tactic of selfreliance. Being able to create your own product, service, or thing by having the confidence and craziness to "do it yourself." Asking questions along the way, looking for guidance in times of sheer darkness, and laughing when you completely screw up, are the mere risks and rewards that happen. —Shelly Simon

In my life being DIY is not a choice. It's about having the determination to see through to an idea without having the resources or finances to have someone else do it for you. —Sean Desiree


The Organelle.™ Make your mood music.


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9 to Know This column highlights important stories, music, and more in the global female and nonbinary music communities. by Geoff Shelton

EMPOWERING SOUNDS: Here are some highly recommended albums. 1. Christina Vantzou, No. 4 (Kranky) Composer and filmmaker Christina Vantzou’s latest release features a mix of orchestral instrumentation and choral music with varying degrees of processing that inspired me to look up the historical roots of the word “ambient.” The Latin prefix “ambi-,” means “both” or “around,” and the suffix “-ent” is related to the present participle of a verb, like “-ing.” Understanding this, it becomes clear how her music seems to exist simultaneously within and around its listener, while the electrorganic textures create a sense of time perhaps reflective of its Borgesian influences. Upon upon each listen to the full album, one can travel down several different paths and yet remain still.

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2. Meshell Ndegeocello, Ventriloquism (Naïve) Perhaps it’s unnecessary to recommend checking out the latest release from this virtuosic powerhouse of an artist, but in the off chance that some readers are not aware (no judgment), let’s just fix that directly. Meshell Ndegeocello’s latest is a collection of covers of some of the most well-known pop, soul, and R&B jams from the ’80s and ’90s. It is a feat that very few artists could ever have the gall to attempt and speaks volumes as to the level of respect this artist

commands. Whether you know the originals or not makes no difference in your ability to appreciate this album. Her interpretations of these pieces are reflective of her jazz artistry—taking a standard and exploring its inner musical depths, finding hidden landscapes behind the pop facades. Get out your hiking gear and explore. Proceeds of album sales go to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union.

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3. Callie Ryan, Health (Outside Insight) Described as “a tender meditation on loss and the resulting desire for comfort” by the artist or her PR folks, Callie Ryan’s Health is an intimate experience that lures you in with raw vocals, warm synths, and sparse samples over off-kilter beats reminiscent of a system breaking down—or perhaps just starting up. It was created after her father’s cancer scare and a terrible car accident that broke her collarbone: Callie offers her hand to hold as she recovers and subsequently falls in love. This record is extraordinary in its ability to find balance between universal emotions and familiar song structures, while creating an altogether unique and almost extraterrestrial new pop landscape.

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THE PULSE

EMPOWERING KNOWLEDGE:

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These historically important books shine light on a wide array of topics within feminist music history, musicology, and gender studies. These are evergreen issues that we continue to negotiate and discuss today. 5

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4. Music and Women: The Story of Women in Their Relation to Music, by Sophie Drinker Frustrated at the lack of quality compositions for her women’s choir and the dearth of works composed by women, Sophie Drinker spent 20 years researching and uncovering stories and information that she published in this revolutionary book from 1948. Surveying women’s musical production around the globe, from prehistory to the early 20th century, Drinker creates a fascinating argument against the patriarchal construction of musical history, showcasing the inherent musical capacity of all humans and the power and necessity of the feminine creative voice. 5. Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality, by Susan McClary A paradigm-shifting book, Feminine Endings was published in 1991 to harsh criticisms in both musicology and feminist circles alike. Now, 27 years later,

it is considered a classic text with its deconstructions of the gendered aspects of music theory, music metaphors, and sexuality in musical narratives. It offers fresh perspectives (at the time) on the work of female musicians, including Laurie Anderson, Diamanda Galas, and Madonna. 6. Music and Gender, edited by Pirkko Moisala and Beverley Diamond This collection of essays published in 2000 is a clear descendent of the other two books listed here. Topics range from the fluidity of gender in new socio-musical contexts, the gendered power dynamics inherent within new musical technologies, and the relationships between musical performance and gender identity across different countries and communities around the globe.

EMPOWERING YOUTH: These organizations are making efforts to ensure that the future of music production is gender balanced. They represent just a few of a new crop of programs popping up across the globe with independent musicians, producers, and DJs who are taking it upon themselves to create safe spaces for female and nonbinary young people to learn the essentials of beat-making, producing, and mixing. 7. Beats by Girlz (beatsbygirlz.com) Minnesota/L.A./Boston/NYC/Chicago

8. Girls Make Beats (girlsmakebeats.org) Miami/L.A. Founded in 2012 by recording engineer Tiffany Miranda, Girls Make Beats provides classes to girls from ages eight to 17 in everything from Ableton to Serato to Pro Tools. Through corporate sponsorships (including recent support from Spotify), GMB has been able to provide scholar-

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9. Producer Girls (producergirls.com) UK Launched in 2016, London-based producer DJ E.M.M.A. created this independent school with fellow DJs and producers Ikonika, Nightwave, Dexplicit, and P Jam. PG offers free one-day workshops on and off throughout the year, aimed primarily at women over the age of 18, in various locations around the UK, including Manchester, Brighton, and Glasgow. Offering their students free software from FL Studio and Ableton, they provide a basic introduction to beat-making and music production to get their students off the ground and running.

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Beats by Girlz was created in 2011 by producer/songwriter (and current associate professor at the Berklee College of Music) Erin Barra-Jean. It is, according to BBG, “designed to empower young women in music technology by providing them with guidance, access, tools, and role-support to develop their interest in music production, composition, and engineering.” The program offers free curriculums and support for communities to develop their own local chapters.

ships for some of its courses. Check out their SoundCloud page (soundcloud.com/ girlsmakebeatsorg) to hear some of the hot tracks their students produced in class.

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THE BEAT

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Compiled by Jasmine Bourgeois

L'Rain

Photo by June Canedo Brooklyn native Taja Cheek goes by the name of L’Rain when making experimental and refreshingly intimate music. She inhabits a sonic landscape that’s unlike any other, blending an electronic ambience with a jazz-like clamor, and joining this with lyrical poeticism. Cheek has openly discussed that her mother became ill while she was making her recent eponymous album, and how deeply her mother’s subsequent death affected her. Everything about her work drips with vulnerability and gives a nuanced glimpse into how she balances personal grieving with artistic expression. Tom Tom spoke with Cheek about her process.

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Tom Tom: Could you tell me about your music-making process? Your work blends so many different sounds and styles. Is it a lot of experimenting, or do you sit down with something intentional in mind? A mix of both? L’Rain: It's a mix of both. A few years ago, I went through a period where I would try to force myself to come up with different musical ideas every day, uploading them to a public SoundCloud account. I still keep them there and refer to them. I mix and match parts of those demos to create new songs, but sometimes I come up with material in my sleep and groggily wake up and record them in their entirety.

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How would you describe your sound to someone who's never heard you before? L'Rain is still a fairly new project, so it's more helpful for me to learn about what listeners hear than it is for me to find extra-musical ways of communicating my concepts and ideas. I guess I'm more interested in a Barthes’ Death of the Author approach to genre. I would hope that people would find

elements of gospel, ’90s R&B, and different genres of “experimental music”—for lack of a better term—in my music, but I generally try to remain as illegible as possible. There is power in remaining indiscernible. I like to exist in a liminal space. You’ve talked openly about your mother becoming ill while working on the album and how grief manifests in different ways throughout it. How do you incorporate vulnerability into your music? Your everyday life? Vulnerability is something I think about a lot. To be honest, I find it increasingly difficult to figure out the boundaries of my personal and private life. Even more so when my art is so tied to my lived experience. I haven’t figured it out. I assume it will be a process, not a fixed state, at which I’ll ever arrive. There is a part of me that feels equal parts guilty and thankful for being able to share a glimpse of my grieving process with strangers. I love building opportunities into my life for me to think about my mom. It's overwhelming, but it also brings me so much joy.

That dichotomy is something I’m super interested in, grief and joy, emotional uncertainty. Anyone who has dealt with adversity in their life understands this as a normal part of life. It is a survival mechanism for those of us that live in societies that systematically exclude and abuse us. We learn to find joy when it's almost certain that there is none. We're light scavengers. All of this said, my record documents many tumultuous elements of my life, and I’m only prepared to talk about some of them. What atmospheres do you try to foster at your shows and through your music more broadly? Right now, I mostly play in bars and clubs, but I'm disinterested in the vibe that these venues nurture. I like the idea of turning these spaces upside down, making them quiet, vulnerable, and reflective instead of loud and irreverent. Or maybe I'm illuminating the ways in which these two modes of being are more related than separate. It’s an interesting production dilemma for me to think through ways of disorienting a bar space with limited time, resources, and money. Instead of production pyrotechnics, I have to search within myself for small sincere gestures. It’s a valuable exercise in exploring the limits of performance, if nothing else. How do you create a lot with a little?


THE PULSE

The Shakes At only 20 years old, Nicole Bandoquillo has drummed almost all of her life. Starting out at age four, she spent the last 16 years developing her craft, winning Drummer of the Year at Orange County School of the Arts, playing at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, the Yost, and Segerstrom Center of the Arts, and, most recently, in the Shakes. Nicole identifies as a gay Filipino-American woman and strongly believes that her identities have made her a more dynamic drummer. “Being a gay woman of color has definitely affected the way I carry myself, and it's definitely affected the way I perceive drumming,” she says. “Being Asian, a lot of people usually think I play piano or a wind instrument, and I've gotten, ‘I don't believe you play drums! You’re Asian. How does that work?’” Also, she contends with stereotypes

Photo courtesy of artist about her sexuality, music, and gender. “I definitely fall into the stereotype that because I'm gay, of course I play a ‘man-ish’ instrument. Even a handful of people at the schools I attended would say to me, ‘You play drums? That's a boy's instrument.’ That comment has always hurt me, because it’s blatantly misogynistic.” She tries not to wallow in the negativity. “Instead of comparing ourselves, we need to uplift one another and foster a community

that allows those who are marginalized to shine and be heard,” she says. “I think us female drummers, women of color, and marginalized identities need to be lifting each other up, supporting one another as much as we can, letting those who are left in the dark be heard, and be as open-minded as we possibly can as musicians, artists, and humans.”

Mod Con

Photo by Kalindy Williams

Mod Con is a three-piece indie powerhouse based out of Melbourne, Australia. Erica Dunn (guitar, vox), Sara Retallick (bass, vox), and Raquel Solier (drums) originally played together under the moniker Palm Springs. All three musicians are very busy and have solo and other collaborative projects in the works.

“I guess lately I’ve been preoccupied with the ‘double-edged sword’ aspect of modernity,” reports Dunn. “Being more connected than ever, yet seemingly also more disparate and divided. More technology and information being available but also more commandeered, privatized, and misused. The songs are all searching for humanity, scrutinising it. . . The final song often gets mistaken for a love song, [but] is actually about making a deal with the devil to sort it all out. It’s a bit twisted, but I’m just trying to make sense of it all, like any other writer.” You can read the full interview and see more online at tomtommag.com.

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The band’s debut album, Modern Convenience, was released through Poison City Records on April 6, 2018, and is already making a splash in the indie music world. Brimming with style, it’s a high-energy rock and roll dream. “This was a new project for the three of us, so musically we were able to go anywhere,” says Dunn. “We really pushed each other with our writing styles, time signatures, harmonies—it was a fun, cool challenge.”

Inspired by the ills of society, Modern Convenience questions the ways of the modern world.


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THE PULSE

Photo by Kim Reed

Tikyra Jackson

THE BEAT

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Southern Avenue's Tikyra Jackson is a 23 year old drummer from Memphis, Tennessee.

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"I grew up watching my mom play organ alongside my dad on guitar in church. That’s when I fell in love with music. It wasn’t until 2013 that Tierinii [my sister] and I started playing various shows together, and shortly after, we helped form [our band] Southern Avenue. "I’d say the biggest difference between performing in church [where I started playing] and performing around the world would be everything—from the variety of stages and festival scenery to the touching stories of people who have been moved by our music. Growing up in an environment where the music was solely driven by the power of the room, I approached our music with a a sense of vulnerability. In return, what you hear on the record is the most organic form of Memphis."


THE PULSE

Eco-Touring Tips With Happy Accidents’ Phoebe Cross

by Jasmine Bourgeois

Photo by Jono Ganz

Phoebe Cross is the drummer, and now vocalist, for indie-punk trio Happy Accidents. The band released its first album in 2016 and has already made a splash. Its music has been covered by a number of publications and received a slot at the BBC Introducing London stage at Reading and Leeds Festivals 2016. Happy Accidents’ newest album, Everything But the Here and Now, dropped mid-February via Alcopop! Records. Cross split lead vocals on this album, expanding her musical range and exploring new directions with the band. In addition to being a badass drummer and singer, Phoebe is an amazing teacher, helping females of all ages learn to play drums at London’s School of Frock. Being an environmentally conscious person who plays music all over the world, Cross wants to lessen the ecological footprint that comes with touring. She offered Tom Tom some tips on how to keep touring eco-friendly.

“Driving around in a van makes me feel a little guilty, but at least it's always full of people and gear and worth it to share our music and have fun gigs!” reports Cross. The following are items you should bring to make your tour environmentally responsible.

2. Eco-towels. These are great, because they're absorbent but also fast drying, so no more damp towels hanging around in the van grossing me out! One particular brand, ECOdept, is a small company, which designs environmentally sustainable products.

3. Menstrual cup. Although they might not be for everyone, I really am an advocate for them, because I can just forget about it for most of the day,

and it saves a lot of waste not using disposable pads and tampons. It’s ideal for longer journeys, too. I hope my picks are useful to anyone who goes on tour, and also just in general! Other advice as a drummer specifically—especially if you’re a singer too—is to get some molded or just reusable earplugs, rather than use foam disposable ones. I used to use a pack of foam ones every time, when I first started going to shows/playing gigs, but having some proper fitted ones has been great!

You can read the full interview with Phoebe online at tomtomag.com.

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1. Bring a reusable steel water bottle. We used to take a pack of disposable mineral water bottles with us, but I really love having one of these with me on tour. It's so useful on the road, at the gig, and at night. They keep water hot, too, which is great if you have teabags with you. We all have a different color one; it's pretty cute. Obviously at gigs there are always plastic cups and bottles of water around,

and I can't exactly demand that the promoter doesn't provide it, especially for other bands, but it's nice to try and do your bit with cutting down on waste at least.


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Dapper Drummer Age: 25 Current Home: Mannheim, Germany Hometown: A tiny town in Bavaria Handle: @philo.tsoungui

Illustration by Agnes Ricart

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Linda-Philomène Tsoungui has an effortless sense of style. She grooves with ease and beams with the type of swagger that can’t be taught.

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She started out playing only classical percussion, and, four years later, pursued a bachelor’s degree at the University of Music and Performing Arts Munich. Feeling uncomfortable in that narrow-minded and male-dominated environment, she changed her style and started working with a drum kit. Now, she plays with amazing German and international artists, such as Khalil

Fong, Lxandra, Mine, Debrah Scarlett, and is sponsored by DW, Paiste, Remo, Vic Firth, Mister Muff, and FLAM.

Who’s your fashion icon? Katherine Moennig, since the first day I saw her on TV around 10 years ago. How about hair inspiration? Halle Berry.

Tom Tom: Which bands are you in? LindaPhilomène Tsoungui: I currently play with mine, Fatoni, Lxandra, and Madanii.

Do you have a favorite outfit? I feel very comfortable in all black, and with colorful socks. I’m a huge sock enthusiast.

What’s your kit setup? I play a DW kit, with a 22” bass drum, 16” floor tom, and two 14” snares. Besides my 15” Paiste Masters hi-hat, I play two beautiful Paiste Masters ride cymbals, 20” and 21”. I love to add percussion and trigger sounds to expand the kit.

What’s your favorite venue to play? Any venue with good vegan catering and a couch to lay on before the show.

See Philomène's tech piece on p. 62 and her gear set-up on p. 64


My Rusty Rods Won't Turn Five easy steps to cleaning your tuning pegs Brought to you by D'Addario

Having trouble with ageing rusty rods on your snare? Tom drum? These are surefire DIY steps to get them back into sleek working condition! STEP 1: Loosen and remove your rods. STEP 2: Submerge them in vinegar and allow them to soak overnight. STEP 3: Polish the rods with steel wool. STEP 4: Coat them in a lubricant. (Vaseline, for example). STEP 5: You’re done! Tune up and go! Show us your pix! Tag us in your process of solving this peg problem @tomtommag and @evansdrumheads on Instagram and Twitter! For more tips, tricks, and hacks checkout D’Addario Singles on YouTube!


29-year-old Sarah, The !llstrumentalist, gives advice on making your own YouTube channel. Edited by Liz Tracy Photo by TechMe0ut The first instrument that I remember picking up was my grandmother’s upright piano. I always had fun playing little tunes on the piano with my cousins and trying to impress my uncle. I started making beats on my lunch breaks at work, and a lot of people would approach me, asking me what I was doing. So, I made a YouTube channel (youtube.com/Sarah2ill). The best part about having a YouTube channel is the community of supporters and being able to inspire and influence others. I’ve been able to build relationships with brands and start my own brand, No Quantize (noquantize.com). I love sharing other producers’ beats at the end of all of my videos to help support the beat-making culture. Occasionally, I have a disrespectful comment, but for the most part, everyone is family. My advice for instrumentalists thinking about starting a YouTube channel? It’s called “YouTube,” so do you! Don’t try to be like anyone else, or another channel. Make content for you, and if other people happen to enjoy it, it’s an added bonus! Be consistent, and don’t worry about the views or subscribers—they shall come! On March 25, my birthday, I released my first major project, called Conversations. It’s a 20-song beat tape, out on all major platforms. I also launched a beatmaker lifestyle brand. I plan on releasing a series of clothing that focuses on beat machines and beat-making culture. I plan on doing live shows, creating more music throughout the year, and consistently documenting my journey on my YouTube channel.

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If I could make a percussion machine, it would be the baby of the Maschine MK3 and Roland SP-404SX. It would be a beat machine that looked like the Maschine but didn’t need a computer; you can sample directly into it and have cool live performance effects and features. It would have 500GB of storage. It would also have a two-week battery life and take 20 minutes to charge up. It would also be dope to have four big drumming pads to hit on!

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PRESENTING . . .

Here are some of the best DIY music venues in the U.S.

by Liz Tracy with reporting by Jasmine Bourgeois DIY music venues are like Petri dishes but for beautifully blooming works of art. In these cultural incubators, artists are allowed to experiment with sounds, sights, and feelings, and take music and art in totally new directions guided by their unique visions. But because DIY means that there’s no big man footing the bills and no marketing firm “curating” each show for the masses, these venues are often closed before they can foster a supportive community, or they shut in the face of one. Long-revered DIY venues, such as Brooklyn’s Silent Barn and Shea Stadium, or Denver’s Glob and Rhinoceropolis, have recently been shuttered. Sure, there are bars that offer space for weirdo shows—Brooklyn’s Secret Project Robot, Allston’s Great Scott, and Little Haiti’s Churchill’s Pub, for example—but DIY venues aren’t bars and generally are open to all ages. That means these venues can introduce original work to a new generation of young creative minds and foster their confidence to make their own strange sounds and creations. Tom Tom rounded up a list of venues around the United States that could be considered DIY. They’re not traditional places your normie friends, beer funnel in hand, would catch a band. They encourage creativity and community, allow artists to produce progressive sets, and explore the emotional boundaries of performance. Support ’em if you can.

3 THE MUDLARK THEATRE IN NEW ORLEANS 1200 PORT ST. NEW ORLEANS, LA FACEBOOK.COM/MUDLARKPUBLICTHEATER The Mudlark Theatre in New Orleans is primarily a space for puppet shows, thanks to the vision of the venue’s proprietor, Pandora Gastelum. But the black box performance space offers experimental performers a location in which to explore just about anything. You can catch shows there such as the Bible Belt Abortion Storytelling Tour and femme rage collective ASUKUBUS.

4 FOXFIRE RANCH 1 JAM IN THE VAN 18

11601 W. PICO BLVD. LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA JAMINTHEVAN.COM

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There’s not much more “DIY” than a live music venue in a vehicle. Jam in the Van is a Los Angeles–based solar-powered recording studio, and YouTube channel. It’s like the Tiny Desk series but on wheels. Jake Cotler, Dave Bell, and Louis Peek started it up in 2011 as a backyard project, and now they’ve filmed more than 1,000 bands. It’s rolling DIY sound into the future.

2 THE SEVENTH CIRCLE MUSIC COLLECTIVE 2935 W 7TH AVE. DENVER, COLORADO 7THCIRCLEMUSICCOLLECTIVE.ORG After the 2016 Ghostship fire in Oakland, a couple of well-loved DIY venues in Denver were shuttered for not being up to code, but the all-ages underground venue the Seventh Circle Collective passed inspection and remains a safe place for experimental musicians and artists.

1465 OLD OXFORD RD. WATERFORD, MISSISSIPPI FOXFIRERANCH.COM What better place to DIY than on a ranch? The 80-acre Mississippi Foxfire Ranch offers concerts, retreats, and private events, and includes a 5,000 square-foot openair pavilion and multiple stages. The place is kid friendly and driving distance from Memphis, Tennessee, and Oxford, Mississippi. It’s owned by Bill Hollowell, who grew up there as a kid but left for 40 years. He then returned to his childhood dream home and made it into a dream venue.


9 TRANS-PECOS 915 WYCKOFF AVE. RIDGEWOOD, NEW YORK THETRANSPECOS.COM Trans-Pecos is one of the best known DIY venues in the world. Famed longtime New York City show booker Todd P is the man behind this “community resource center” for music lovers of all ages. It is located in the former Silent Barn space, and shows are curated by a crew of knowing tastemakers.

10 FLYWHEEL ARTS COLLECTIVE 43 MAIN ST. EASTHAMPTON, MASSACHUSETTS FLYWHEELARTS.ORG

5 TRINOSOPHES 1464 GRATIOT AVE. DETROIT, MICHIGAN TRINOSOPHES.COM The folks behind artist-run Trinosophes are dedicated to preserving Detroit’s history in every way and providing space for its present art, music, and food scenes. They’ve offered their stage to acts like Sun Ra Arkestra and Mission of Burma. It’s also an art gallery and locally sourced vegan-friendly cafe. Located in an old spice processing warehouse in Detroit's Eastern Market, Trinosophes has a library set to preserve texts that represent the Michigan city’s history. It’s also home to DittoDitto publishing and distribution and one of Peoples Records’ two locations. It’s one DIY spot that does it themselves and does everything.

4003 INDIANA AVE. NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE FACEBOOK.COM/DRKMTTRNASHVILLE Nashville may be the country music capital of the world, but with the mainstream comes an underbelly. Drkmttr Collective is an all-ages, volunteer-run DIY venue boasting house parties run by the people who attend. It’s DIY and BYOB.

531 N 12TH ST. PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA PHILAMOCA.ORG Formerly a showroom for mausoleums, the space occupied by the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA) was purchased in the mid-aughts by producer and DJ Diplo as headquarters for his Mad Decent label. Since 2010, it has been an underground multipurpose art space focused on film, performance, and keeping things interesting, and is currently curated by Eric Bresler.

8 NATIONAL SAWDUST 80 N 6TH ST. BROOKLYN, NEW YORK NATIONALSAWDUST.ORG Music is an art form, and that art form has a home at Brooklyn’s artist-led nonprofit National Sawdust. You can find newbies playing alongside established musicians at this unique venue. Its mission is to let composers and musicians flourish in a supportive space with resources available to ensure their success.

11 BOSTON HASSLE VARIOUS VENUES BOSTONHASSLE.COM Boston Hassle is less a venue than it is a grassroots organization that activates spaces with art. With its zine-like flyers for shows, art events, film events, and flea markets, it embodies the DIY aesthetic to a T. Located in Boston, a city known less for innovation than for tradition, it offers an alternative to creatives who want to break free from the stodgy Old World mold.

12 APOHADION THEATER 107 HANOVER ST. PORTLAND, MAINE THEAPOHADIONTHEATER.COM Though Portland, Maine’s all-ages Apohadion Theater (formerly Fort Awesome screen printing company) is located in a nondescript building outside of downtown, it’s filled with an exciting mix of live music, theater, and film. Its look is DIY to the max, with flyers, murals, and vintage furniture. The theater is run by donations and fueled by the love of music.

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6 DRKMTTR COLLECTIVE

7 PHILAMOCA: PHILADELPHIA MAUSOLEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART

Easthampton nonprofit Flywheel began as the Valley Arts and Music Alliance, an organization through which artists worked to help each other produce free, all-ages shows. Once housed in a long-vacant cabinet store, Flywheel is open to everyone with an open mind down with having a good time. A change of location brought Flywheel to the Easthampton Old Town Hall, but its spirit remains DIY as ever.


How to terrify and empower with a podcast in only 12 steps. by Shaina Joy Machlus Photo illustrations by Liz Pavlovic Like so many projects of great worth, the Somos Venus podcast commenced with alcohol and a group of women who adore each other. Someone was telling a particularly obscene story, which resulted in another mentioning how incredible it would be to share our laughter with other people. Ignoring the fact that we had no previous podcasting experience, we slowly but surely formed the Somos Venus Podcast. The group of women behind it are Eva Carasol, Andrea Valverde, Laura Fernández Giménez, Montse Casas, Laura Pons Negre, Olga Permanyer Martínez, and me, Shaina Machlus. Twenty-four episodes later, and we proudly describe ourselves as a powerful lil’ Spanishlanguage podcast about navigating the world as intersectional feminists and other things that terrify rich, old, straight, white men. Having started from zero, we learned quite a bit along the way. I’m here to share tips and tricks for anyone who might find themselves similarly motivated to take a dive into the wide and wonderful pool of podcasts.

HAVE A TOPIC YOU FEEL PASSIONATE ABOUT AND ARE INTERESTED IN CONTINUALLY EXPLORING. Make a mind map that starts with a giant bubble as the main topic, two to five smaller bubbles that expand and support the main idea, with lots of branches coming out about possible ways to explore these sub-bubbles. The idea is to have a central focus but with plenty of room to expand. If your mind map looks a bit empty, perhaps it’s wise to reconsider or broaden the topic.

START THINKING ABOUT FORMAT AND FLOW.

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Listening to many other podcasts and writing down hypes and gripes can be helpful. Does this podcast have sections? Guest stars? Multiple hosts? What is the best order of information and/or sections? How long should the podcast be? What’s the format? Do you want your podcast to be scripted or more conversational?

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MAKE A LAYOUT OF THE FIRST 10 EPISODES. Excel is key here. If you’re a multiple-person podcast, like us, create a document so each person knows their sections. We rotate sections every podcast, so organization is very important. Knowing topics well in advance is really helpful and actually allows for more flexibility when there needs to be a change.


IF YOU’RE MAKING A PODCAST WITH MULTIPLE PEOPLE, TALK ABOUT A PLAN FOR NOT INTERRUPTING EACH OTHER. IT’S HARDER THAN YOU MIGHT THINK.

START WRITING A LOOSE SCRIPT FOR THE FIRST PODCAST. Reading directly from a script on air can sound mechanical, so make a detailed outline instead. Practice the podcast, a lot. Record yourself on your phone, listen, and reflect on how it sounds. It’s also really good to start getting used to the sound of your own voice, which is really weird at first. Take notes!

We use a hand raising system, so we can know who is next to speak. We have also found it very helpful to appoint a moderator for each podcast. Their responsibility is to designate whose turn it is to speak.

DECIDE WHICH SERVER TO USE FOR HOSTING YOUR PODCAST. Unless you’re going to go through a third party site like PodBean or PodOmatic (which are easy ways to start podcasts for those who don’t want total control over their content), you need a place that will store all of your podcasts. Somos Venus uses iVoox, a popular, free service in Europe. Other popular options include Archive.org and SoundCloud. Lots of podcasts post theirs on several different sites. Once you have a hosting site, you will have something called an RSS feed, which is important. If you can’t find your RSS feed, do a quick google search for “how to find RSS feed on hosting site.” Your RSS feed is an active link. It is how people listen to your podcast and how you can upload your podcast to sites like iTunes.

START CONSIDERING THE EQUIPMENT NEEDED FOR RECORDING. Maybe you have access to a recording studio, but probably not. The only essential things are a computer or phone and a microphone. USB mics plug right into your computer and audio quality is good. No particular software is needed; just make sure any audio files are saved as mp3s. From there, you could mess around with audio editing software, but you don’t have to. Test microphones and recording equipment before actually recording the show.

DESIGN A LOGO AND THE GENERAL LOOK OF THE PODCAST. In our very visually oriented culture, the look of a podcast can be the determining factor of its success. That being said, investing in a professional designer to create the look can be worth the money. There is also canva.com, a very useful design website with thousands of templates and design tools for people who know nothing about design. And coolors.co, which is a color palette generator.

HOW ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE SURE PEOPLE HEAR YOUR PODCAST? Come up with a mini-marketing plan. Create a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and webpage with the same name and look so people can find you easily. Think about the specific communities of people you want to access, then do small, paid social media campaigns directed at your potential audience. Collaborations are also great ways to get people interested. Invite guests on your show that people want to hear! Once you have a few episodes of which you’re proud, send out an eblast to friends and family to let them know what you’re doing. Send a press release to magazines, blogs, or trendsetter types who might be interested. Also, support other organizations and podcasts that you think are inspirational.

UPLOAD YOUR PODCAST AND REMAIN CONSISTENT.

I personally recommend doing everything in one shot. Mistakes make a podcast sound more human and more interesting. So, if you mess up, just keep going!

For your audience, knowing when to expect the next podcast is extremely important. Whether it’s once every two months or once every two days, stick to deadlines. In the case of multiperson podcasts, it is kind of like being in a band in that the level of enthusiasm and commitment waxes and wanes. Make sure to have a system in place to keep each other in check.

KEEP CREATING! It takes time to build a following, so don’t get discouraged. Never shy away from asking for feedback from friends and family. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change the format or style. Most podcasts have evolved over time as people learn what their listeners want to hear.

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GO FOR IT!


P E D A LHEAD

DIY Pedal-Maker Aisha Loe talks about how cooking is like mixing music, selling cannabis, and making her own pedals.

by Jasmine Bourgeois Photo courtesy of artist Aisha Loe is a 44-year-old, California-based musician who grew up in a blue-collar family living in Santa Cruz, Karachi, Pakistan, and River Edge, New Jersey. Loe works as a solo artist, was one half of all-girl electronic darkwave band, Addicted 2 Fiction, and also produces custom guitar pedals called LOE Pedals. Though primarily a bass player, she also plays guitar, saxophone, and has been working with Ableton since the first version. She also does sound effects for film and TV. Some of her work can be heard in the Fast & Furious franchise.


Loe sees a connection between building pedals and taking a DIY ethic to electronic music-making. For her, building your own effects and learning how to program is all about empowerment and freedom. “Back in the nineties, when I started doing virtual MIDI programming, I experienced the same lack of female peers on the Ableton forums. Now many, many women are rocking Ableton,” she says. “I love to see that. I’m hoping that more women will get into building effects in the near future.” She also wants to one day launch a class for girls to build their own equipment, so that they can “understand what makes the sounds we like to hear,” she explains. “I myself have only scratched the surface of what is possible when you have the ability to make any sound you want, without the aid of computers.” We spoke with Loe further about boutique pedals, selling pot, collaborating with yourself, and the importance of practice spaces. Tom Tom: Could you tell me about what boutique pedals are and the process of building them? Aisha Loe: When I hear the term boutique pedals, to me it just means they are expensive! This is part of why I decided to just start building my own. I haven’t really had the interest to design circuits so far. I just love to build them and come up with useful combinations for my recordings. It was also a way to be able to access pedals from ages past that are long out-of-production. I am and have always been absolutely obsessed with analog circuits. The Electro-Harmonix De-

luxe Memory Man is still my favorite pedal of all time. I was lucky enough to spend a day with Howard "Mick" Davis (the creator of this circuit) several years ago, and that really got me thinking about starting to build my own effects. Now, I build just about every circuit I can find, just to learn and hear more sounds. Could you expand on how you see the connection between building effects and the work you do with that fundamental, basic collaboration aspect of making music? Building effects for me is very personally motivated. Since I am a solo artist these days, it’s really about making the sounds I need in order to collaborate with myself! I live in an area where I am finding it very, very hard to find collaborators with open minds. It’s very tech here in the Bay Area nowadays. In fact, I started diving deeply into this pedalbuilding thing after moving here, because I was frankly bored of making music by myself and wanted a new challenge. I have a good job up here, so I was able to afford parts and tools for my workbench. It’s here in my studio apartment that I share with my wife, who is also an artist (she designs the art for my pedals). I am trying to move back to Los Angeles, eventually, where I have an amazing group of talented friends who inspire me to collaborate. I am also grateful to have had this time away from it to really get the hang of this building stuff. I have built over 200 pedals, now I just need a space to set them all up and get inspired!

a bike messenger for a cannabis delivery service when I was living in New York City, for years. I made a great living, and got to know the city in this beautiful, intimate way that I am truly grateful for. I had flexibility for gigs —I was in three bands at the time—money for my several rents, and I had freedom. Now that I am living in California, this is no longer an option for me as it is legal here and therefore not as profitable. So, I went back to working in food. Cooking is a lot like mixing music. There’s a balance there that to me directly correlates. I absolutely love cooking for a living and can’t

COOKING IS A LOT LIKE MIXING MUSIC. THERE’S A BALANCE THERE THAT TO ME DIRECTLY CORRELATES.

I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on being a working class musician. I started working when I was 14. I worked at a Domino’s Pizza and saved up for my first real guitar. My mom had to put a roof over our heads and feed us on one income, so I never let her buy me any gear besides my very first guitar. Me, my brothers, and my other musician friends would all work at food places, so we could eat for free and not have to spend money on food. We shared everything with each other. It was pretty awesome to grow up in a house where all the siblings played, and played together.

As I touched on before, I think it’s important to include something about access to studios. Places to play music out loud are rapidly disappearing from our landscape, or are becoming so expensive that we can no longer afford to play. The places that are left are in terrible neighborhoods, where women and men could be easily attacked if they are on foot, as many musicians are in the cities. I would love to see some of these tech “philanthropists” who are music lovers put their money into creating affordable rehearsal facilities, especially for low-income female/ queer/different folks who are the most at risk for being attacked at night. Especially walking or public trans-ing home with their gear. I can’t tell you how many times I hear my musician friends saying that they don’t rehearse. Shows are their rehearsals. How are we supposed to produce quality music if we can’t rehearse? To me, it shows. I have yet to see a local band that really stands out to me. I can easily tell when a band is under-rehearsed, and that’s a shame, because some of them actually have really good material, but no place to go suss it out properly.

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Me and my brother started selling weed to kids at school when I was 16. That really helped us afford amps, guitars, drums, pedals, and whatnot. In fact, if it wasn't for cannabis, I might not have been able to access any of the things I have done in my life. I worked as

imagine my life without it. However, it ain’t easy money. We work twice as hard for a lot less in the food industry. It’s really a shame that the people who make our food get paid so little. Farmers make even less. They have the hardest job in the world, in my opinion.


Working Women is a DJ collective with women who amplify other women.

by Jasmine Bourgeois Photo by Neil Aline

Working Women is four-piece collaboration by New York DJs Nina BC, Ashlyn Behrndt, Kristin Malossi, and Tanya Lyon. Self-described as “a project rooted in elaboration, uncertainty, and persistence,” the four perform as a collective, making sets that build on each other and grow in conjunction. The harmony between the four is mesmerizing. Their performances balance acknowledging each of their individual artistry and the power of group performance. You never know where one of their shows will go. Nina BC says of their support of each other, “Sometimes it looks like the person mixing in a track has three back up dancers, because we always stay in the booth together for our whole set.”

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At its core, this is a project about women amplifying other women. The four women spoke with us about how the emotional labor of womanhood and the ways they elevate each other through collaboration.

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Tom Tom: How would you introduce each other? Ashlyn Behrndt: Kristin is the most dedicated DJ I know. Kristin Malossi: Nina is the calming presence in the group. Nina BC: Tanya is a passionate educator and stylish selector.

Tanya Lyon: A co-founder of Wut Magazine, Ashlyn is a social media enchantress and low-key genius producer. She keeps us honest. How did this project get started? Ashlyn Behrndt: We met to play records and hang out before really getting to know one another. I think we all felt the need to share experiences we’ve had surrounding the in-

dustry. I think the premise was that we all understood we had a lot to learn from one another and that also we could embrace and protect one another from the difficult social realities and pressures that usually lead into straying away from the point. That’s proven to be quite difficult, but we try.


other brings in a tune. I think the collective performance style—both visually and sonically—stimulates the club and helps overturn the compulsory patriarchal idea of the remote DJ as sole commander of the ship. We also have way more stamina, because we perform as a collective. Fingers crossed for more six-plus hour sets this year! Behind the scenes, being a DJ collective is really hard but really wonderful. Since we’re a group of four very alive and feeling people, we are in constant conversation. Our discourse pushes us to think deeply about what we’re doing, what we want, and what we deserve. What's been the best experience for you all since starting Working Women?

Tanya Lyon: So much! We always perform one for one. Some of the most meaningful feedback we get is from crowds who say our track-to-track mixing rotation contributes to their engagement, keeps them hyped to

see what the next person will put on. For us, when we mix, that surprise element is very much at play. It keeps us listening and makes us get creative when the set goes in directions we didn’t anticipate. I think collaborating so closely with one another has been transformative for us each as selectors. I also love how having four DJs allows three of us to always be dancers in the booh while the

Kristin Malossi: Sharing many surreal experiences with best friends. Making something bigger than myself. Learning how to be a better listener and collaborator!

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Is there anything different performing as a collective than when you perform as individual artists?

Nina BC: Doing our weekly residency with guests at Black Flamingo last July, ending with Panorama Festival, where we opened the dance-music stage each day—I can best describe that experience as ecstatic. Playing at our friend Nikki's festival, Shaker Mountain, in the Adirondacks in an open marquee at sunset with nature all around. That felt incredibly free.


Red Jumpsuit band pic by Jonathan Chu, Drumming pic courtesy of the artist, art wall pic by "some guy who was trying to hit on me never got his name" —Penelope Gazin


Musician Penelope Gazin offers advice on starting a DIY business.

by Zoë Brecher Best friends and business partners Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer met when their bands were sharing the stage at a show. Gazin is a drummer and artist, and Dwyer plays guitar and bass. Their company Witchsy provides online space for artists of all kinds to put their items up for sale directly to the public. The energy of its setup, and the art itself, is very DIY. They created a lot buzz when the two brought in another part-owner named Keith Mann. The twist? He doesn’t exist. In a recent Fast Company interview, the two said that customers and suppliers respond more quickly and respectfully to messages from Mr. Mann, because he’s a man. Tom Tom’s Zoë Brecher asked Gazin about the history of Witchsy and for advice on starting a DIY business.

Tom Tom: Can you tell us about how you started making art? How did you develop your personal artistic style? I started making art as a kid. My style developed from me just assuming no one would care or like my art, so I just drew the way that I personally found the most fun. What were the bands called that you were in? I’ve played shows with so many people, and I hit it off with them, but I never keep in touch. How did you two do it? Was there like an instant connection or something like that?

How did Witchsy get going? Kate had just been dumped, and quit her

Where did you live before Brooklyn? I was in Los Angeles and just felt like moving for a change, because I could, to get away from an ex. What do you wish you knew before you started? Actually, nothing! I wouldn’t have changed our experience. We had no mentors, no money, no experience. We just had each other and ourselves, and we figured it all out on our own. Can you tell us about making up a fake man, Keith Mann, as a partner to found the site? The name is pretty funny. We made up Keith Mann, because we were so lonely.

Mostly working with ding dongs, but that’s okay. It taught us how to be expert dingdong handlers, and no, there is no ding dong too big for us to handle. LOL. “Ding dongs.” I love it. Can you give an example? Someone we were working with started acting like our abusive boyfriend and actually deleted our entire website at one point, and then tried to sue us. And what have been some of the most rewarding aspects, or positive things, that have come out of it? Growing closer with my best friend, Kate. Learning how to overcome challenges and prove to ourselves how resilient and crafty we are. What advice do you have for musicians trying to start up a DIY company like yours? Do it for the process, not for the end result. If you don’t enjoy putting in the work, your end result will reflect that. Also, assume there will be setbacks and failures, and don’t let them affect you too much. We started the company with high hopes for it, but we also went in telling ourselves that if it failed, it was still going to be a worthwhile experience. Do you think there are traits about you and your personality that made you feel more confident about going for it? I am smart, and I figure things out on my own quickly, and I have good taste. Also, I am not afraid to fail.

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My band at the time was called Sadwich, and hers was called Crooked Tooth. I still drum. Now my band is called Slut Island, and hers is Family Pet. We still sub for each other, if I need a bassist or guitarist, or if she needs a drummer, and we’ve both played on each other’s recordings. Kate jokes that she bullied me into being her friend, which is a little true, and it’s one of many things I love about her. She is so open and not afraid to tell someone she wants to be their friend, but then isn't offended if they say no.

job. I was living in Brooklyn on an eightmonth whim and was feeling very lonely and frustrated with Etsy [where Gazin was selling her art] jerking me around. We had no idea what an undertaking it would be, and by the time we realized how complicated a process it was, we were in too deep, and there was no going back.

What are the hardships or negative things that you’ve come across in the process?


Every Time I Sing, I Cry This is how one drummer found her singing voice.

by Shaina Joy Machlus Illustration by Camila Rosa The first time I actually sang, I cried. It was only a few nervous tears, enough to dampen my shirt cuff but not enough to demand the attention of my teacher. Perhaps due to my anxiety, my inaugural class was completed outside of my own body. I watched myself leave my shoes at the heavy door, put on bright pink house slippers, shuffle through the hall and the sparse living room into the sun-soaked balcony enclosed in glass. I saw myself sit down in the wobbly, plastic folding chair, look out onto the gardens and balconies of the other neighbors—my audience. I watched myself hear the tap of a finger on the plastic electronic keyboard; what sounded like Morse code: SOS.

Tap, tap, tap. It was my call to begin, to repeat. When I didn’t respond, she repeated the same note. I watched myself open my mouth and push out silent air. I remember the thought: “Does anyone ever really know where to begin?” Of course they do. There was the sensation that everyone else never actually starts at the beginning, that they were all experts from the very start. At 26, I found out that it was not too late for this bird to find its song. All I had to do was spread my wings and land halfway around the world from my New Jersey home. There, in Barcelona, swept up in the struggle for Catalan independence, I found my singing voice.

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Most people have no memory of their first attempt to sing. It was something that happened in toddlerhood, in passing. Their odd notes casually floated away with laughter, claps, a chorus of people joining in. That is not to say my childhood was not filled with music. Still, I had the strong feeling I had never personally experienced this milestone. I carried only one true memory of singing. I was driving an old Volvo station wagon through a particularly lush part of New York State. I rolled down the passenger window beside my then lover, opened my mouth wide as could go, filled my lungs with summer air, and tried to let song escape me. The sound I made was so far from my intended

aria, I kept quiet ever since. Unless alcohol persuaded me otherwise. There was the time I sang “Single Ladies” and the karaoke bar pretended to be closing in order to keep me from singing again. Or when my microphone was taken away mid-“Say My Name.” The December before I turned 30, something shifted. While at a very ordinary concert, I decided I couldn’t spend the rest of my ordinary life not knowing what it felt like to sing. To live a life afraid of your own voice is no way to live. I chose the very first instructor I called. Probably because I did not know any other singing instructors. Also because her name was Romi and I loved the way she spoke in a thick Argentinian accent about her nontraditional singing method of accessing your inner child: “gritando como una niña.” Classes were 30 minutes twice a week. I always arrived promptly, ready to take my shoes off and begin.

where my tears came from—although the two seemed to function in parallel. It was a strange, but not altogether disagreeable feeling to pry myself both open and closed simultaneously. On the morning of October 2, 2017, I pressed the number four apartment button and rode the beautiful but creaky elevator up to Romi’s place. I took my seat beside her and her keyboard. Unlike our first class, I felt glued inside my heavy body.

It took me two whole sessions to make any noise at all. Our classes were always the

I had spent the previous day on the streets of Barcelona, from 4 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. There was a referendum to determine whether the northwest region of Spain, Catalunya, would succeed and become its own independent country. The Spanish government in Madrid deemed this election unconstitutional. But back in Catalunya, my home for the last five years, no one could have imagined the violence that was unleashed by the government against its peacefully gathered citizens waiting to vote. National

same; Romi would progressively tap a higher and higher note on the keyboard in quick threes: tap, tap, tap. I would repeat the note as best as I could, yelling in short bursts a sound that was halfway between an “ah!” and an “oh!” To my surprise, creating these noises slowly opened up a space inside of me. A space that was the opposite of

police were deployed and told to stop the voting by any means necessary. Over 1,000 people were hospitalized because of police beatings. A rubber bullet took one person’s eye, another had her fingers broken one by one and was sexually assaulted, blood stained the halls of the elementary schools that had been used as voting stations.


State endorsed violence is nothing new. But it was new to me. I was shocked, which made me realize how privileged I was to have never experienced anything like it. I had no idea how to deal with what happened, how to measure its impact. Time was wildly inefficient, since the hours dragged by in an untrustworthy, deepsea manner. We hung on to each second, waiting to see who would be thrown into prison next, trudging through protests that lasted for days. The photos in the news seemed from another time or place, somewhere violently fascist and not at all the sunny, bread and tomato scented Barcelona I knew. There was an enduring silence throughout that day. People seemed to be holding their collective breath, awaiting the moment when the armored trucks full of police arrived. They locked arms in front of the school doors, patiently expecting to fall under the police’s undiscriminating batons. I had no idea at the time, but I had been waiting to break the silence of those days ever since. When friends ask me about my singing lessons, most find it rather amusing that after more than a year, a single word has never passed in song between my two lips. And I get that they do not get it. How could anyone know just how far back this silence stretched? In my elementary school, I was the only student who was not invited to be part of the choir. My music teacher generously let me tryout three times but I was still relinquished to the silent task of moving the stage curtains back and forth. Singing, something that formerly left me feeling deserted, had now become an unexpected oasis. I briefly dreamed of making a Pretty Woman-esque, Beyoncé themed comeback to those non-believing karaoke crowds (“You work on commission, don’t you? Big mistake. BIG mistake.” to the tune of any song off of the B'Day album). But it did not take me long to recognize that this fantasy had nothing to do with

actual singing. I never sang because I did not actually know what singing was. The day after the referendum was sunny, I remember exactly what the sky looked like from the window of Romi’s balcony. The clouds hung lightly in cotton ball form

loon being inflated, I suddenly had infinite space. I did not judge the noises that came from my mouth because I knew they were part of something much larger, they told a story that was impossible to tell otherwise. I heard perfect notes, formed exactly as they were meant to be, and I felt grateful to finally understand the expansiveness of song. We live between the notes of everyday life, some are beautiful like the popping of potatoes and onions being fried to make tortilla, others intensely painful like rubber bullets whizzing by into a crowd of people, and many are barely audible unless listened to very carefully like the moment the wind shifts to carry salty sea air from the mediterranean. I hear them all as song now. And I sing in response. On April 26, 2018, five white men, including a police officer, who brutally gang-raped an 18 year-year-old teenage girl in Pamplona, Spain, were sentenced. The men took videos and photos of themselves penetrating the woman orally, vaginally, and anally, then stole her phone and left her half naked on the stairs. The court used the videos and photos to determine that lying still with one’s eyes closed and remaining silent constitutes as consent. None of the men were charged with rape, instead the Spanish court system convicted them of minor crimes that barely warrant jail time. Although I did not have one scheduled, I asked if I could come by for an impromptu singing class. From the folding chair, I watched an older woman hang her laundry, a cat balance across a fence, marvelled at the spectacular garden that was always empty. Romi tapped on a key, I screamed the note, letting it exit from the top of my head and make an arc downwards, landing right in front of where my two watery eyes meet, so I could watch it bloom.

TO LIVE A LIFE AFRAID OF YOUR OWN VOICE IS NO WAY TO LIVE.

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against a very neon-blue sky. Seagulls, farther from the sea than I had ever before seen, looked gigantic flying next to the bevy of ubiquitous pigeons. That was the day I cried. My tears were massive, heavy enough to form a cavern within my chest. Romi did not pause for a moment except to pass me tissues. Something miraculous happened in that little room. The more I cried, the louder my voice became, the deeper the space inside me opened up. I was like a bal-


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Photo story by Shelly Simon at SXSW 2018 Words by Jasmine Bourgeois Melenas is a band from Pamplona, a small town in Northern Spain. The group includes Oihana Herrera, María del Amor Zubiaur, Leire Zabala, and Laura Torre. It describes its sound as “reverbcore-fuzz- pop: pop melodies with a lot of reverb and a big, fuzzy presence.” Melanas’ debut album dropped in November 2017, but it’s already garnered a lot of attention. The band is playing festivals around Spain including Madrid Popfest, FIB Benicassim, and Bilbao BBK Live, and also played South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, just this spring. The band put together their favorite songs and made a playlist for us.

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Once a DIY bedroom producer, Syd Tha Kyd is now one of the most influential musicians of her generation. by SassyBlack Photos by Alan Lear


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Sydney Bennett—also known as Syd Tha Kyd—is cool, calm, confident, contemplative, and qualified. Her work as an engineer, producer, singer, songwriter, and co-creator of groovy soul band the Internet (alongside Matt Martians, Patrick Paige II, Christopher Smith, and Steve Lacy) has made her a prominent voice of her generation. Her success is a testament to a strong familial support system and her dedication to personal growth as an artist. She has gone from bedroom producer to global icon and created a timeless sound and community—all the while staying in control of her life and her music. At 26, she is fully grounded but not without trepidation.

Bennett’s creative identity and outlook make her appear fearless, but it has actually taken comfort and confidence to get to her level of artistry. “I’m not fearless,” she clarifies. “I struggle with a lot of different fears, mostly career-related and health-related, but what keeps me going is hope. Hope and passion. I’m very passionate about music. So, as scared as I may get that maybe nobody cares about this song, or maybe this album won’t do as well as the last one, I know [the Internet] still made a fire album, and we still have to put it out, so we can make another one.” Bennett’s remarks are not to brag or boast but to state fact. The Internet has released some excellent records, even landing the band a Grammy nomination in 2016 for Ego Death. “That hope and that passion, I guess, overshadows all the fears and the doubt. I think that’s the difference between those of us who continue to pursue music and those of us who stop playing.” With all of this success, it’s inevitable that people would begin to approach her with their hands out, asking for favors, advice, or opinions on their latest releases. Fans intensify, demands intensify. Combine that with our current political climate, and it can be difficult just functioning day-to-day. Artists like Bennett shine as an example and bright light to many during this time. So, as her admirers look to her for inspiration and hope, I wonder where she turns for support when she needs it.

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“My team grows and changes a little bit every year. Most of the people I work with now, I’ve been working with for a long time,” she explains. “I keep a lot of old friends around me, and that kind of helps. Every so often, I make a new friend who understands me. Whether it be a DJ, or another artist, it’s nice to include them in my support system, because they can relate to what I’m going through, and I can go to them for advice, or ideas on something. And family, too. So my support system is my family, a few old friends, a few new friends, and then it’ll cycle in and out.” All the members of the Internet actually live at home with their families, and it seems none of them are in a rush to move out. Bennett says that living at home “plays a big role in keeping me grounded and sane.” There is a common mind-set in the United States that between the ages of 18 and 21, you’re supposed to move out of your parents’ home into your own place. Her Jamaican father doesn’t ascribe to that custom. “He tells me that in Jamaica, when the daughter gets married, they build onto the house. Like ‘okay, y’all

can move in over here,’ and that is how his house is back home. Like all the extended family, low-key, lives in one compound, you know? My dad really likes having us live at home. He encourages us to buy property, because he used to do some real estate business, but he is very happy to have us at that house. So is my mom.” Her brother also still lives at home, and, she says they all have enough room to thrive. “It’s not like we’re living on top of each other. We all have plenty of space to be alone. We have plenty of space to gather and spend time together. I even have space for a whole studio.” For those who don’t know, Syd began engineering projects in her early teens and went on to record the vastly popular hip-hop collective Odd Future, of which she was a member. Since then, she has been busy establishing her own music career and collaborating with other artists. As a solo artist, she has released two EPs, her first album Fin, and completed her first solo tour. She has also appeared on songs with Bilal, Common, Tyler, the Creator, Kaytranada, and others. You can also catch Bennett in the Drake video “Nice for What,” alongside Issa Rae, Tracee Ellis Ross, Tiffany Haddish, and other powerful women. Although Bennett began as an engineer and producer, she continues to build on her talents as a singer and songwriter. With all of this on her plate, she assures me she never gets bored. “Lately I have no excuse to be bored. For real,” she explains. “Aside from the album, I’ve been practicing guitar more. I’ve been making a bunch of beats for my next album. I’ve been still doing features here and there for the homies. Practicing piano when I’m not practicing guitar. Editing something I did a while ago, or sometimes I just spend a day in front of the mirror trying on clothes. I enjoy reading ’cause it gets me outside of my life and puts me in someone else’s life for a little while, and then sometimes I come across a line that looks cool and would be a cool song title or something. It’s great, because everything I’m doing is productive and fulfilling. Sometimes I feel like I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none, but at least I’m not bored.” The Internet is a supergroup of sorts. Each member possesses many talents and skills, so many, in fact, that each member has released their own solo project over the past year. However, unlike other bands that suffer from tensions that can be created by solo careers, side projects only make the Internet’s members stronger.


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THAT HOPE AND THAT PASSION, I GUESS, OVERSHADOWS ALL THE FEARS AND THE DOUBT. I THINK THAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THOSE OF US WHO CONTINUE TO PURSUE MUSIC AND THOSE OF US WHO STOP PLAYING.


As Bennett gears up for the group’s next album, she explains that there are no guest producers on this album, that it is 100 percent the Internet. This reflects the importance of camaraderie in the Black community, something Bennett values highly. “You know we have to stick together, because everything is just a stepping stone, and we’ve got to be stepping stones for each other,” Bennett explains, “for us, especially, having dropped solo projects and everybody speculating on what it meant. For our next album, a big theme behind it is people coming together. Like-minded individuals coming together to form like a hive mind and take our expertise in each specific area, and put it together. Like, ‘We’ve all dropped solo albums, so imagine what we can do together. Here it is.’ It’s a metaphor for what’s going on today. We’ve got a lot of powerful people on our side, and they’re all trying to push their own agenda, and I understand that. I’m just curious to see what it will look like when everyone really comes together

I’M DIY BECAUSE I RECORD MYSELF, AND YOU CAN’T STOP ME FROM CREATING AN ALBUM.

for the greater good, and everybody takes a role, and we delegate who needs to use their expertise for what and stuff like that. Like it can happen. Anything can happen.” The music industry, like most industries, was not designed with consideration to the mental and physical health of those involved. These matters are seen as something that artists must manage on their own to ensure some sort of success. In various interviews, Bennett has explained the ups and downs of growing up in the spotlight. She has discussed her bouts with depression and anxiety, but also her triumphs working through these experiences. The moments of vulnerability she so honestly shares are worth cherishing for fans. The ability to not only acknowledge her personal headspace but then to share it in a public fashion is a powerful statement. It gives us insight into the artist’s motives and feelings and shows us their humanity. It dispels common conceptions of musicians as heroes and shifts our relationships to them. They are also humans. As a strong public figure in the DIY community, Bennett, perhaps unknowingly, created a space for young producers to thrive in. Her work producing at home opened up doors for them to showcase their skills with an understanding that it could lead to success. Where to start, though? Bennett explains she was confident in her skills compared to those of other engineers and was able to establish herself at an early age. I wondered how she determines her value as a producer moniteraly.

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“I just wanted to be competitive. I knew a lot of studios were charging $25 an hour, or whatever, $20 an hour, ’cause, mind you, I was in high school. I’m like, well, I’m new; these dudes don’t know me, but I know I can give them a better mix when they leave. So I set very competitive rates, and then once I started getting more business, I raised the rates little by little, or I charged more to newer clients,” she breaks it down. Though she no longer engineers for anyone else. “It’s something that I really enjoy doing, and now I really enjoy doing it for myself. So I don’t have to engineer for anybody else. But yeah, who knows. Maybe one day I’ll get back in the mix.” As far as tips, this is what she has to offer to those who are just starting out as sound engineers. “I would say you would have to be very competitive, because there are so many studios out there now. Train your ear. Mix a bunch of songs. Listen back to your mixes, give them depth, make sure they’re not too thin, make sure they’re not too thick. I always like to think about mixing from an artistic, or a creative, standpoint: like, ‘What can I do to this to make it really embody what the song is about. Do I give the guitar some more

attitude? Do I make it more edgy? Do I make it cleaner? What kind of song is this? What do I see? Do I see tuxedos, or do I see bootcut jeans? Do I see boots?’ Ya know? And then I try to put that into my EQing and compression and stuff like that. And then arranging goes a long way,” she says. And as far as her favorite plugins? “I really like the OneKnob Series. They sell it on the Waves website, but it’s a series of plugins, and it’s just one knob. It’s nice, because there’s not a lot of knobs you have to twist to get the right sound. ‘You want this to thump? You want the kick to be fatter? Imma throw this OneKnob on it real quick. It’ll do the job.’ I really the CLA Vocals series, as well, specifically CLA effects, because there is a telephone effect on there that’s really good. There are real easy to use, and that’s why I like them.” Some think that to do-it-yourself, you must do every little bit yourself, but that’s not necessarily the case. You can have teams and support. In fact, it’s very important that you do, otherwise you will burn out before you release your first project or halfway through your first tour. Bennett is a prime example of that mindset. She and the Internet are signed to a major label with their own unique deal, but the musical decisions are all their own.


Even with her level of success, she still has her hands in many projects others would have assigned to someone else. “The first three Internet albums came out under Odd Future Records (a Sony label), but this one is our deal, our budget; this is what we have to give back. It’s a beautiful situation, and for them to have given us the same beautiful terms that we had through the Odd Future deal,

they’ve given us a lot of reassurance that they really care about what we’re doing, and they really want to keep us on the team, and that’s nice. At the core, we are still very DIY. We find our own photographers. I edit the website myself. Matt draws all the drawings and makes the merch. I engineer everything and co-mix. And we make all the music, too. On this album, too. That’s another thing with this is that we didn’t have any outside producers. So it’s truly us and DIY. We did it ourselves.” It’s this kind of commitment and eye for detail that keeps Bennett and her bandmates in control of their projects. Not only do I listen to Bennett, but so do my niece and nephews, my brothers, and my parents. I see one of my nephews—inspired by her music—truly pursuing his love for music. He researches and studies production and engineering. Similar to her at that age, he is slowly but surely setting up his bedroom studio, and there are more people in the world that are inspired to do the same. Her words and intent speak volumes. Bennett’s sincerity does not go unseen or unfelt.

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“I’m DIY, because I record myself, and you can’t stop me from creating an album. I don’t need your studio time; I don’t need your studio. That’s always been a thing for us. We have a budget, and we use it when we wanna have some fun with it, but can’t nobody stop us or keep us from making something, and that’s where our DIY comes in. We have our team outside the label and then our team at the label. And in the past, we’ve always kept the label at an arm’s length. Just out of fear, I guess, that they’d taint what we were doing, or add any type of level of insincerity to it, and I think we’re at a point now where we’ve established a foundation of authenticity within ourselves and to our followers. So, I think now, we’re in a good position. We’re really trying to work more with the label for this next album, because, you know, one, we have a new deal with them now that’s our deal and not through OF (Odd Future), which feels a little more empowering,” Bennett says about her DIY mentality and reality.


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Never Gonna Hang It Up by Kat Jetson Photos by David Barron

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The Coathangers’ Stephanie Luke gets real about the band’s early days, matching outfits, switching instruments onstage, and stealing a drum kit.


The Coathangers are always in forward motion. The band includes singer and guitarist Julia Kugel, bassist Meredith Franco, and drummer and vocalist Stephanie Luke. Together, the three are relentless in their push and reach. In the dozen years since its inception, the trio has risen from unpredictable Atlanta party punks to nuanced and infectious, globetrotting sonic hurricanes. The band’s voice is fierce and melodic. They are the ultimate go-go girl gang—which bodes well for a group that records and tours the world with great consistency. It’s hard not to fall in love with a band that has a song where one of the main instruments is a squeaky dog toy!

All of that time together, and you might think there’d be some interband tension, but there’s none of that here. No pitting women against other women. The band is a full democracy with a broad spectrum of ideas about their sound and vision—whether that includes having friends involved in video-making (it’s more fun that way!) or what to wear onstage (it’s always rad and matching!). And while the Coathangers are good screaming fun, there’s infinitely more here than meets the eye—or ear. A live album documenting two nights of shows recorded in late 2017 is slated for a spring release, and an LP of new material is also in the works. In the meantime, we sat down with she’s-mostly-thedrummer-but-also-plays-guitar-bass-and-apparently-violin-too Atlanta native and resident Stephanie Luke, who shared her view from behind the kit. Tom Tom: You did something a while ago for Tom Tom, but it’s time to kick it up a notch and revisit. Stephanie Luke: Hell, yeah. I’m a big fan of Tom Tom. Everything they do is so positive towards women and for everyone, and it’s just very nice. The intro to nearly everything that’s written about the Coathangers mentions that you started as kind of a joke or party band. At this point, it’s slightly disrespectful. It’s as if people assume you don’t practice or take this seriously.

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Yeah, it’s one of those things that we wish would kind of die, but it’s also no big deal, because it’s a part of who we are. And we did start out as kind of messing around and seeing if we could do it. We saw friends’ bands that were punk bands and stuff, and we were like, “We can do that!” Or we could at least attempt to do that. So, ya know, it’s not a huge insult, but it’s one of those things where it’s like ”Okay, let’s move on.” Was there a tipping point for you where you were like, “Okay, let’s really do this”? I used to live in Hollywood. When I was younger, I went to Musician’s Institute for music business, and I started tour managing for bands. I was trying to get my feet wet and figure it out, because at the time, that’s what I thought I wanted to do. Tour managing is one of the hardest jobs anyone will ever have.

It’s also the most thankless. Totally thankless, and you’re constantly dealing with artists and different personalities and trying to keep everything together. I’d always wanted to play drums. I always wanted to be in a band. Music was my life, but I was kind of pussyfooting around. Trying to play drums and trying to start a band was very intimidating, and at that point—2002-2004—there wasn’t a lot. There were so few females, you know? And if there were any, they were doing merch, or tour managing, or driving. There weren’t a lot of females actually playing. And I got tired of Hollywood. It defeated me. L.A. won. [laughs] I’m from Atlanta. I’m too sensitive, and I couldn’t deal with all the personalities [in L.A.], so I moved back [to Atlanta], and was like, “Do you guys wanna do this?” Julia is an amazing guitar player. She played classical guitar and piano. We just started fucking around and playing at her place. Then she moved in with me, and then we got Meredith and Candice involved. One thing led to another. We got a practice space with some friends. Then we got a house show. Then we got our first real show. Our friend Mark who helps runs Die Slaughterhaus Records asked us if we wanted to put out a 7”, and we were like, “You’re joking right? Like, you have to be joking.” And, he wasn’t. We just kept growing from there. It was very gradual, which I think is really good. And your sound has definitely evolved. Can we talk about your stage names? Every great punk band has members with those clever nicknames. [Julia is Crook Kid Coathanger, Meredith is Minnie Coathanger, and Stephanie Luke is Rusty Coathanger.] Back when we started, it was like, maybe I don’t want everyone to know my real name, and now [with the Internet] things have changed, so they’re gonna know anyways. But also, who we are onstage isn’t necessarily who we are offstage, you know? People think we’re totally nuts, but then we get offstage, and we’re like, “Is it time to go to bed yet?” [laughs] We’ve been doing this for a while, so we’re tired. We just want to go home. Can we talk about the matching Coathangers band shirts that you wear onstage? We all have such different personal style, and the matching shirts were what we could agree on. I’m amazed when I see people on-


stage wearing a leather jacket. Like, Guitar Wolf—they’re wearing leather pants, and they can do it. But I am not! And it’s sort of like marketing. It’s brilliant, actually, because it stands out, too.

What is the strangest thing you’ve seen out in the audience from behind the drums? It’s kind of fun to watch. I once saw this girl punch a guy right in the nose. I’ve seen altercations where I’ve stopped playing. I get up, and I’m like, “You! Somebody get this motherfucker out of here right now.” There’s no way, because I’m seeing men be inappropriate to women. I don’t even have to know what they’re talking about. You can tell when something is happening that’s not right.

Yeah, but it’s not all bad. Just being able to see Julia and Meredith bop around is really fun. I try not to look too much into the audience, because then I get distracted and nervous. It’s also fun to see people crowd-surfing and just having a good time and smiling. But then it also sucks when you see someone on their phone, or with their arms crossed. Just leave. Go to the bar. What’s the strangest place you’ve heard one of your songs? I know that we were somewhere in Europe or Japan. I want to say it was at this bar or something, and we were like, “What is this? Oh, shit! That’s us, dude!” We couldn’t believe they’d have it all the way out there. So, I guess that would be it. It’s amazing that for a moment you didn’t recognize your own song. Oh, that happens a lot. Even in Atlanta. We have certain bars that we go to, and they have jukeboxes, and they’re very kind to put us in there. But sometimes, they’re old songs that we just kind of forgot about. And it’s like, “What is this? Oh, shit, it ain’t that bad!” And I know that a couple of [Roller Derbies] used our stuff, and girls rock! Do you have a favorite lyric of your own? I’m really a fan of most of the lyrics in “Down Down.” Julia wrote the lyrics to that. “You’ve got those vertigo words, telling me what I de-

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Yeah, and it’s comfortable! We’ve tried to like up our game as far as, like, what to wear onstage, but it can be kind of difficult to figure out something that’s comfortable to play in every night. Now we’ve got these jumpsuits that a friend made for us, and those are actually pretty comfortable. And as far as I’m concerned, I don’t want women or girls to think that you have to look pretty onstage to have fun and be in a band. I have nothing against other women who dress up. That’s amazing! I’ve seen girls play drums in heels, and I’m like, “Fuck yeah, that’s amazing!” Good for you. You can look good, but you don’t have to necessarily look girly or all done up to be in a fun, semi-successful band. Don’t want to be too image-based, you know?

So then it’s gotta be weird, right?


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serve, and it’s making me feel down, down, down.” There are some old ones, too. There’s one in this old song, “She took her face off once again, she thought it’d make such a pretty little friend.” And it was referencing, you know, not necessarily peeling your face off, but taking off your makeup at the end of the day and not really liking what you see anymore.

TOM TOM MAGA ZI NE

Good ’n creepy. A lot of our lyrics can be really dark. But it’s very cathartic being in a band, and you can get out what is bothering you. It’s harder to write when you’re happy. I think we’ve all gotten to a point in our lives where we’re all, for the most part, pretty happy. It’s not how it used to be. We’re not as tumultuous as we used to be in our twenties. For the next album, we’ve been talking about writing about other people’s stories. We’re so tired of talking about ourselves.

Live, you all switch instruments for a couple songs. Is that because Meredith and Julia are like, “Well, fuck! I want to play the drums, too!” Sometimes I have this idea, but I can’t play drums and sing on it, or Julia has a drum beat that she wants to play. It’s also to remind each other how hard the other one’s working, that no one gets to the point where someone thinks they’re doing more. That’s what I saw when I was managing bands—someone was always mad at somebody else, because they thought they weren’t pulling their weight. Every instrument is hard in a different way. I mean trying to learn guitar is the hardest fucking thing I have ever tried to learn, but it’s fun to switch and show other females who maybe want to play [that] you can play anything, if you practice it long enough.


“WHO WE ARE ONSTAGE ISN’T NECESSARILY WHO WE ARE OFFSTAGE, YOU KNOW? PEOPLE THINK WE’RE TOTALLY NUTS, BUT THEN WE GET OFFSTAGE, AND WE’RE LIKE, ‘IS IT TIME TO GO TO BED YET?’”

I did do, but at least I tried it. Otherwise, there are too many whatifs. Everyone forgets that every good musician started shittily, unless they were a prodigy. I didn’t start playing drums until I was 25. So, fuck it, ya know? Just go for it. I took a couple lessons at a local music shop. I played saxophone and violin when I was younger, so I had a sense of music. So did you buy your first kit then? Funny story. When I was in college, my friend’s boyfriend’s roommate stole my BMX bike. I had saved up and spent a lot of money on it. I wasn’t a very good biker, but it was an expensive bike. Someone stole it, and I found out it was one of the dudes from that house because I found it in a closet when I was at a party at their house. And I was like, “Son of a bitch!” Next day, I decided that I was taking their drum kit. They were in a punk band and had this shitty set. I was like, I dare them to say anything, because my bike is worth more than their drum set, but I want their drum set more than I want the bike back. My friend was like, “Fair enough,” and she helped me load the drums into my car. Better than straight up buying a kit, because that’s just tons of money. Well, my sister bought me a set for Christmas, and that’s the one I used for the first seven years. It was this tiny Gretsch Catalina kit, and I looked like Mario Kart behind it [laughs], because it’s, like, an 18” kick drum. But it was the cheapest one, and it was the one she could afford. I had that forever, and I ended up giving that kit to this little girl who has been coming to our shows since she was, I want to say, like six. And her dad would bring her to these punk show, and now she plays drums. I did keep the snare, though, because that’s kind of personal. Every time someone doesn’t think they can play drums, I just say “Meg White.” You don’t have to be John Bonham, you know. It’s just about keeping the beat and having a good time. You don’t need to know be the queen of paradiddles.

But I think that’s kind of your band though, too, right? It’s like doing art. Just go for it. And if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. But, if you don’t try, then you’ll never know. Even worse is regretting what you don’t do. There are plenty of things I regret that

I don’t know. That sounds familiar. Mary Stuart Masterson is in it. She’s a drummer and wore these fully fringed, leather drum gloves, and she carried around her drumsticks everywhere. Oh, my God. I’ve heard about this movie, but I haven’t seen it. I’m gonna start doing that, but I have to get the gloves. [laughs] Next time I see you, I hope you’re carrying sticks in your back pocket and wearing red, fringed, fingerless leather drum gloves. I kind of expect it now. I think I gotta just go for it. No day like today.

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Yeah, yeah. I’m not good at a lot of that stuff, either. Every time we write new stuff, I’m always trying to push myself to get out of this 4/4 box I’m in.

It’s like your little wooby. Have you ever seen that John Hughes movie from the ’80s, Some Kind of Wonderful?


Like Father Like Daughter 50 TOM TOM MAGA ZI NE

Madison McFerrin is a one-woman act that brings the warmth and sound of many. by SassyBlack Photos by Karston “Skinny” Tannis


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A music producer oversees the recording process, specifically in the studio, but this vague definition doesn’t do someone like 26-year-old singer, composer, and producer Madison McFerrin justice. She has crafted her own unique vocal looping and layering approach, making her a one-woman band. With the voices, seemingly, of many, McFerrin is an excellent example of what musical vision can accomplish by taking creativity, skill, and production tools to make something original and magical. If you’re wondering why her name sounds familiar, it’s because her father is the world renowned musician also known for making his voice into a distinct instrument—“Don’t Worry Be Happy” singer Bobby McFerrin. Her brother, Taylor McFerrin, is a producer, keyboardist, and beatboxer signed to Flying Lotus’s label Brainfeeder. Needless to say, she comes from a very talented family. She spoke with Tom Tom about her sonic history, as well as what it’s like for her to explore music while growing up immersed in it.

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Tom Tom: How long have you been doing music? I imagine you’ve been doing it awhile, given your background.

What about using your voice solely as an instrument? How’d your get into that?

Madison McFerrin: I have been doing music my whole life, no question about that. I can’t even put a date to it. I think it’s hard not to

The whole acapella aspect happened totally by accident. The music I was writing on the piano, I intended to eventually have it played

get into it when you’re surrounded by it all the time, you know? Particularly considering my main example of how to make a living was through music. So it was kind of like, “Oh, that seems like the right choice.” I started writing solo music for this particular phase that I’m in in January 2016, and I had my first solo show in September of 2016.

by a band, but for whatever reasons, I didn’t see myself performing with a band in these beginning stages of my solo career. I saw it as my own thing, and I really wanted to explore that so that’s where the loop pedal acapella stuff came from.

Your voice feels like a musical hug, creating an atmosphere that takes place when you perform. Do you like being solo, or would you like to have a band one day?

TOM TOM MAGA ZI NE

I like “musical hug.” I enjoy that [laughs]. I definitely see myself doing solo music for a while. Part of what feels really right about being a solo musician at the moment is that I’ve always wanted to be a solo artist. I feel that it is always what I’ve envisioned myself to be. I was in a band in college, and that felt right in the moment, but at the same time, there’s always been this little voice in the back of my head that’s like, “Well, I think the solo thing is probably what you still wanna do,” and when I started writing with the intent of being a solo artist, the way that things clicked, there was no other way to look at it but that this is what I am supposed to do.

How did you come to create music through voice looping and layering? You mention that a lot of it is in your head, so I’m wondering how you figured this process out for yourself. The first time I saw someone using a loop pedal for vocals was this professor during orientation at Berkelee College. My initial reaction was like, “Oh, damn! He’s biting my dad but needs a machine to do it.” [Laughs.] So I wasn’t particularly drawn to it at that point in time. I also saw a video of this woman Julia Easterlin [a.k.a. Hite] doing a vocal loop that was pretty dope. After college, I asked for a loop pedal as a Christmas present. I was just freed by it. I got a Boss RC-30, Dual Track Looper. I had asked my dad’s sound man what a good loop pedal was, and he recommended that one. I was more intrigued by it, not by having the intention of doing vocal loops, but by the thought of being able to compose music live and only need myself in the moment.


How is it to have so many musical resources? How has that impacted your artistry?

I have two different styles. I write on the piano and then transfer the piano parts to my voice. Usually what happens is that I figure out

I’m incredibly grateful to have the resources that I do, and, honestly, it has taken me awhile to really appreciate them. It’s easy to take them

some chords on the piano that I like, and I just record it in the loop pedal, then I can go around, and I can sing on top of it. That way is easier to compose. The other way I write is straight looping my voice, without the piano as a reference. This way is more challenging but way more satisfying. When I’m at home and writing, I have the ability to record a single line and just keep rolling. I figure out whatever the next thing is going to be, versus live, where I have to [record the vocal lines] back to back to back. The tough part is that after I make a loop that I like, after however long it takes to figure out the exact chords that I want, I have to listen back really intensely and figure out each line that I sang. More often than not, I’m not recording while I’m making [the song], which I’m sure could be an easier way of doing it. Instead, I’m listening back and going through and [figuring out each line]. It's not always the easiest, in terms of intervals, for me to do the first line that I did and then the second line and then the third line. It doesn’t always go in order from top to bottom, just because of what the last note is going to be in relation to the first note of the next line, because it’s some crazy interval, which doesn’t make sense. So, I have to figure out each line and then be like, “Okay, what’s the best order to sing this in?” That one’s harder to do, but in the end makes me feel more accomplished.

for granted when that’s all you know. I didn’t really understand the level of Bobby McFerrin until I got to college. I understood that he was very talented and very well known in certain circles, but I didn’t realize he was the premier vocalist in the world. I was so blown away. You know people often ask me what’s it like being Bobby McFerrin’s daughter, and I’m like, “I don’t know; he’s my dad.” I grew up, and he was singing all the time to the radio, and it was really annoying, because I just want to hear the song, but he’d do all his scatting behind it. Growing up with somebody who is an icon in his own right and what that comes with: When I was growing up, he was conducting the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and I take for granted that I went to orchestra concerts more times that I could possibly count, you know? Or you know, the amount of shows of his that I’ve been to, or the people I’ve met and been surrounded by, but as I’ve gotten older, I definitely tried to not only be more grateful for that but also have more awareness of it. I need to not be so insular and just ask for help from these incredible people. I’m still learning how to do that, but it’s hard to not think that it’s informed everything about my musicianship.

53 I S S UE 34 : DI Y

Since looping your voice takes a lot of concentration, how do you go about creating each song?


PART OF WHAT FEELS REALLY RIGHT ABOUT BEING A SOLO MUSICIAN AT THE MOMENT IS THAT I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A SOLO ARTIST. I FEEL THAT IT IS ALWAYS WHAT I’VE ENVISIONED MYSELF TO BE.

Who are three artists who are currently influencing you and keeping you motivated?

54

I’ve been listening to the new N.E.R.D. album all week, and Pharrell has always been a huge production inspiration to me. I feel like a lot of the things he does are so simple, but so full, and I try to do that with my loops. He is someone I’d definitely love to work with. I’ve been a fan for awhile, and the messages on this latest record are so necessary for this time.

TOM TOM MAGA ZI NE

Erykah Badu is always on my radar. Her melodies and lyrics are just insane. I would definitely just like to talk to her, or just sit in a room and watch her for hours. Like be my mentor, please. I can put on her album any time and find new meetings that I didn’t even think of before. Every day is a journey of figuring out what it means to be myself as an artist, and she is so fearless, or seemingly fearless, and that is something that I really admire. A newer artist I love is L’Rain. She’s a friend of mine, Taja Cheek [also featured in this issue], and she has the largest discography of music in her mind of anyone that I’ve ever met. Like she knows every song that was ever made in

the history of everything. Every time I see her perform, I immediately want to go home and practice, and having that in somebody who is a peer as well as somebody who I admire as a musician is really awesome. Who are you planning to collaborate with? What is on the horizon for you? Hopefully, my brother’s going to produce the EP of work I created when I first started writing my solo stuff. We already have one track, and I love it. Sibling psychicness is really real, because he produces the music that I wish I could produce. He is my favorite producer, and that is totally biased. I had a couple of other producers that I was going to have work on it, but then after my brother and I did the one song together, I was like, “You know what? This is what I want the whole thing to sound like.” He’s working on his own stuff, and I’d rather be patient and wait for him to have the project that I hear in my mind.


Pyramids™ Stereo Flanging Device Pyramids is a Stereo Flanging Device with five presets, eight flanger modes, tap tempo, tap subdivision, a multifunction Modify control, positive and negative Feedback, and a variable Mix control, which is something you don’t see on a flanger every day. www.earthquakerdevices.com

more info visit teenage.engineering

tweak, transfer, play. meet PO-32 tonic.


Eric Hernandez of Bruno Mars

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WWW.PACIFICDRUMS.COM

©2018 Drum Workshop, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TECHNIQUE

BUILDING BLOCKS OF

by Lindsay Artkop and JJ Jones 1

x ã 44 .. œ H/K

4 ã4 ã 44ã

+

2

+

x

œx

x

3

+

4

+

x x x œx .. œ œ If you’ve heard the term “linear drumming” and wondered what the fuss is about,

linear simply means that no two notes strike at the same time, i.e., no two limbs play simultaneously. As a musical concept, linear can be thought of as melodic (one note H/S H H/K H/K H/S H at a time), rather than harmonic (multiple notes simultaneously, like a chord).

H

1

+

2

+

3

+

4

+

1 1x .. œ x .. œ

x++ xx

22 œx x œœ

x++ xx

x+ + xx

H

H/S

H

H/K

+ x+ œx œœ

4 4 œx x œœ

H/K

x3 3 œx œœ

H/K

H/S

H

K H/K

R H

L H/S

R H

K H/K

K H/K

L H/S

H

3

+

4

+

+

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1

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1 ã .. œ ã .. œ

x+ x

K

R

K

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2

+

x+ x

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3

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œ œ

L

R

K

K

L

R

K

K

.. .. ..

R

x+ x

L

R

L

R

.. ..

The first groove isn’t linear, because two notes fall together: the bass drum and hi-hat on beats 1, 3, and the AND of 3, as well as the snare and hi-hat on beats 2 and 4.

The second groove is linear, because there's only one instrument (limb) per given note.

Linear drumming is often used in gospel, latin, and funk styles by modern drummers like Anika Nilles, Chris Coleman, Benny Greb, and Matt Gartska. By incorporating linear phrases and fills into their music, these drummers have helped popularize linear drumming as a technique (as has the fact that it can vastly improve a drummer’s overall coordination, limb independence and timing). On the opposite page are three sets of linear patterns: 8th note triplets, 16th notes, and sextuplets (16th note triplets), each a quarter note long, and each involving the snare and kick drum (e.g., KRLR, played as 16th notes). These patterns can be thought of as linear Lindsay'sbecause, Lessons 2016. All Rights Reserved. they can be put together in virtually infinite combuilding©blocks once mastered, binations. In the same way vocabulary words in a language are strung together to form sentences, linear phrases are combined within musical measures to make grooves and fills (like the sextuplet fill below). This can eventually lead to full freedom of expression on the drums, all by using basic linear vocabulary “words” like those on the opposite page. The linear patterns we’ve provided are just a few of the countless sticking variations that can be used. The concepts are the same: master a small number of building blocks and apply©them in Lessons a multitude of ways. Internalize the kick and snare sticking patterns through Lindsay's 2016. All Rights Reserved. repetition (it’s critical to start slow and work up to faster tempos), and aim for precisely © Lindsay's All Rights Reserved.combine phrases, re-orchestrate on other surfaces spaced notes.Lessons Then,2016. add musicality: like toms, hi-hat, and bell of the ride, add accents and dynamics, and try permutations like removing notes. The possibilities are endless, so have fun!

58 TOM TOM MAGA ZI NE

ã 44 .. œ œ œ R

L

R

6

x

œ œ œ

LK

K

R

x L

6

œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ ..

R

6

L K

K

R

L

R

6

LK

K

R

L

R

LK

K

A sextuplet fill using the linear sticking pattern of RLRLKK, orchestrating certain notes to include the floor tom and hi hat.


1 .. œ BEATã 4 1 . ã 41 . Kœ ã 4 .. Kœ ã 41 .. Kœ 1 ãã 4..1 œ... Kœ . ãã 4.. Kœ Kœ ã .. KKœ K K ã .. KKœ ã ... Kœ ã . Kœ K ã .. œ ã .. Kœ ã .. KKœ K ã .. KKœ ã .... œKœ ãã . . KKœ ã .. RœKKK ã .. LRœ L ã .. RLœ ã ... Rœœ ãã .. . LRœ ã .. LKRLœ ã .. Kœ ã .. Kœ ã ..... œKœ ãã . œ ã .. RœKK ã .. Rœ ã .. Rœ ã ... Rœœ ã .

œ3 œ3 R œ3 R œ 3 R3 œ3 œ3 Rœ œK3 R K œ3 R K K K œ3 K3 Kœ K œ K

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R R

3

œ L œL œ Lœ œœ R L œL L R œL R L œ Rœ L L

R L R L

K K K

œ œ R R

œ œ

œ œ R œL R œL R L œ Rœ œ L œRLR œLL R L R œL R œ Lœ R œL œRRL K œ K K œ K œœ œKœ œLK L œL œ Lœ

œ œ

L L

R R

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L L

K K

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6 6

6 6

6 6

œ ..8th .. œ Note œ3Triplets: .. .. œ 8th R Note KTriplets: L R 8TH NOTE TRIPLETS: œ œ .. .. Rœ . . 3K3 . . L R œ3 œ .. .. .. ..œRœ .... .... Rœœ 3 Kœ Lœ œ œ . . œ .. ... œ. .. .. .. .. œ 3œ œL K .. .. RœL RR KKœ3KK .. .. KKœœRR KL œ œ R K K K K K .. .. RœL . . 3 . . KKœ K K œ œ L K3 K K .. .. 16th œR Notes: . . . . Kœ Kœ .. .. Lœ .. .. KKœœ K K œ œ 16th Notes: R K K K 3

R

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L K K 16th Notes: R K K L K œ .. .. œ K 16th Notes: œ 16TH ..NOTES: .. œ R 16th Notes: .. .. RœL œL16th Notes: R R

œ œ œ œ K œL R K œ L K R K œL œRL .. .. RœL K œ R L L K .. .. Rœ œL œR Kœ .. .. Lœ œœ Rœ Lœœ K œL R R K .. .. œLR œ œ R L K L R œKR K RL RL LK œL .. .. œL œK R œK R R L K L L R . . œ œ œ . . K R R L œ K L L R œ œ œ . . .. .. Rœ Kœ Rœ Lœ R .. . .. . œL œKœ œL œL K R R œKK œLR .. .. œLR R L œ RK LL RL K R .. .. œ œ œ œ R L R K .. .. Rœ œ œL R K œ .. .. Rœ œR œL .... .... œœ œKœ œœ œœ R L R œKœ . . . . Linear Building Blocks œR œL Building œ K K K RK R Linear .. .. Blocks œ œ œ œ K K K R œ ..SEXTUPLETS: .. Kœ 16THK Note NOTESextuplets: K R œ 16th 16thœ Note ©Sextuplets: .. .. œ Kœ Kœ Rœ © . . Kœ . . œ œ œ © K K K R

œ œ œK œ

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K K

L L

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L L

L L

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œ œ œL R L R œL R œ Lœ œ R œRLL RR œL R œL R L œ Rœ L œR œLRL K œ K K œ K œ œKœ œLK L œL œ 6 Lœ 6

6 6

6 6

.. .. .. .. .. .... .. .. .. ..

œ œ K œ K K œ K œ œKKœ K œK K K K œ K Kœ K œ K

3

R L R L

œ œ R œL R œL R L œ Rœ L œR œKLRL K œ K K K œ K œKKœœ œKKK œLK L œL œ Lœ œ L œL K œ K K œ Kœ œ K

K K K

œ œ

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R R

L L

L L

œ œ

œ œ

K K

R R

L L

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œ œ

L L

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K

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.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . ..... .. .. .. .. ..

. ... .. .. .. ..

59 I S S UE 34 : DI Y

K K

R R

Linear Blocks 8thBuilding œNote œTriplets: œBlocks œ œLinear .. .. Building .. .. œ NERD IT 8th Note Triplets: œBlocks œ œLinear .. .. œBuilding .. .. œ œ


TECHNIQUE

TRANSCRIPTION by Kristen Gleeson-Prata

To me, “Supernatural” from BØRNS’ newest album Blue Madonna is reminiscent of a Chick Corea fusion record from the 1970s. Having delved into fusion in my private lessons in college (with the late great Kim Plainfield) but unfortunately not having played much of it since, I was excited to hear the song for the first time and to have the opportunity to revisit the genre. It somehow fits perfectly into BØRNS’ indie-pop record with a traditional pop-song form, but in place of a bridge, it has a joint theremin/drum solo, where I get the chance to dust off that fusion chops toolbox. The intro, verse, and chorus beats are each made up of linear grooves; the chorus is my favorite, due to the deep half-time feel that comes through over the very busy part (as you can see in the third transcription below). In creating the chorus groove for the record, the producer chopped up an old breakbeat drum sample and handed it over to his friend Mike Byrne (former Smashing Pumpkins’ drummer) to reinterpret, which I then reinterpreted for BØRNS’ live show. What I love about linear drumming is its unexpected difficulty and challenge. At first one might think linear drumming would be easier, because only one note is played at any one time, but it’s that very nature that makes it harder to get it to groove. Nothing some good practice can’t fix!

INTRO

¿ 4 / 4 ™™ œ K

œ

R

L

¿ 4 / 4 ™™ œ

¿

¿ œ K

R

œ

¿

œ

œ

L

K

¿

¿

¿ œ

R

L

K

œ

œ œ

L

L

R

œ œ L

L

¿ œ K

R

œ

™™

L

VERSE

K

R

R

œ œ K

L

R

R

K

¿ R

œ œ œ L

L

K

¿ R

œ

™™

L

CHORUS

¿ œ œ ¿ œ œ œ ¿ œ ¿ œ œ ¿ œ œ ¿ œ œ ‰œ œ ¿j œ ¿ œ œ œ 4 ™ œ / 4 ™œ œ œ œ œ œ

60

3

L R L

L R L R L R L R L

L

R L

L R L

L R L R L R L R L

TOM TOM MAGA ZI NE

¿ œ œ¿ œœœ¿ œ¿ œ œ ¿ œ œœœœœœœ œ œ œ / œ œ œ œ œ R L

L

R

5

‰ ¿j ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ / œœ œœœ œœœ œ œœœ œœœ œœœœœœœ œœœ

7

¿ œ œ ¿ œ œ œ ¿ œ ¿ œ œ ¿ œ œ œ œ œ œ ≈œ ¿ ¿ ≈œ ≈œ ¿ ¿ ≈œ ™ œ / œ œ œ œ œœ œœ ™ R L R R L R R L L R R L


GET

A

GRIP

by Morgan Doctor

The creative potential of linear fills is endless. They can be used in all genres of music, from metal to jazz, and have the wonderful effect of sounding complicated but actually being very simple to play. Once you learn the sticking pattern, you can apply it all over the kit in virtually infinite combinations of drums and cymbals.

The key to mastering a linear fill is to first play it slow, very slow. Learn the sticking pattern on just the snare and kick before you move it around the kit. You want your body to internalize the pattern and mechanics before you start orchestrating with different sounds. Try learning the fill below as 16th notes at 50 bpm, then work your way up in tempo. Start with both hands on the snare. (K = kick, R = right hand, L = left hand)

Sticking pattern: R L R L K K R L R L K R L K R L 16th notes:

1e&a 2e &a3e & a4e &a

VARIATION 1 When you can play the fill consistently for one minute on the snare and kick, try your first orchestration by playing your right hand on the floor tom (while still keeping your left hand playing the snare). Once that feels comfortable, incorporate dynamics by playing ghost notes with the left hand and hitting hard with the right hand.

VARIATION 2 When you’ve got Variation 1 down, try orchestrating the first two right-hand strokes on the snare, then the rest of the right-hand strokes on combinations of toms, cymbals, or hi-hat. The left hand still plays soft ghost notes on the snare. Really focus on making the right hand loud and the left hand quiet.

VARIATION 3 Move both hands together or separately around the kit, exploring options for different sounds and dynamics. (Playing the left hand on the hi-hat always adds a fun texture by incorporating a different timbre to contrast with the drum sounds.)

Experiment with making your own linear fill sticking patterns, and follow the steps above to apply it to the kit!

I S S UE 34 : DI Y

Practice this fill by alternating one measure of a groove, then one measure of the fill.

61


TECHNIQUE

by Linda-Philomène Tsoungui Coordination (also called "independence," when it refers to coordination on the drumset) is one of the few things that unites all drummers, despite the styles and genres they play in. For me personally it has become the key to my own voice on the drums, my own style, and that feeling of being 100% comfortable behind the kit. Coordination has become a huge part of my practice routine and it does not fail to amaze me every time I go deep with it. When I visualize coordination, I see something that flows, something that is not disturbed in its motion or behavior. When we adapt that image to our body, we can think of our limbs and muscles not being disturbed by one another. And that kind of flow actually starts the moment we sit down at the kit, since a correct sitting position plays a huge role in coordination. For example: if my sit bones are not in the position they’re supposed to be, if my jeans are too tight to let my muscles relax, if my chair is too high or too low, it causes tension in the lower back, which leads to an endless chain of tensed muscles that should be relaxed (unless they’re being used). Tension is a coordination killer. If my muscles are tensed, they eat up energy, and it’s a lot harder to control them. So, the next time you sit down at the kit, take a moment to close your eyes and feel where your centers of tension are right then. I bet you can find some. Try to figure out what’s causing the tension, and, little by little, let this kind of awareness get you closer to your personal way of sitting that makes you the most relaxed. Below are coordination exercises I always start my practice with. The basis is an ordinary RLRR LRLL paradiddle (once you’ve mastered that, you can just as easily use any other paradiddle variation). The most important thing is to start really slow—let your body and your muscles learn to let everything flow and not tense up.

EXERCISE 1 Play a 16th note paradiddle between the right and left hands on the hi-hat and snare, and play moving accents on the bass drum (the bass drum plays a 16th note that moves through the four possible positions in one quarter note): r

l

r

r

l

r

l

l

4¿ ¿¿œ¿œœ¿œ¿¿œ¿œœ ¿œ¿¿œ¿œœ¿œ¿¿œ¿œœ /4œœ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ 3

Dr.

62

/

¿œ¿ ¿œ¿œœ¿œ¿¿ œ¿œœ ¿œ¿¿œ¿œœ¿œ¿¿œ¿ œœ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ

EXERCISE 2

TOM TOM MAGA ZI NE

Do the same thing with 2 moving strokes on the bass drum. r

l

r

r

l

r

l

l

4 ¿œ¿¿œ¿œœ¿œ¿¿œ¿œœ ¿œ¿¿œ¿œœ¿œ¿¿œ¿œœ /4œœ œœ œœ œœ œœ œœ œœ œœ 3

¿ œ¿ ¿œ¿œœ¿ œ¿ ¿œ¿œœ ¿œ¿ ¿œ¿ œœ¿œ¿ ¿œ¿ œœ / œœ œœ œœ œœ œ œœ œœ œœ œ


GET

CHOPS EXERCISE 3 Play paradiddles between the hands, but play random rhythms on the bass drum, for example exercises from Gary Chester’s New Breed.

¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ 4¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ / 4 œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œœ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œœ œ r

l

r

r

l

r

l

l

EXERCISE 4 Play all the exercises from above, but with the right hand on the ride cymbal. Bring in the fourth limb (true 4-way independence!) by using your left foot to play the hi-hat on the 8th note offbeats. Next, play a splashed hi-hat on the 8th note offbeats.

EXERCISE 5 Play the paradiddle between the right hand and right foot. k

4 /4œ

r

k

k

¿

r

k

¿ œœ

r

r

¿¿ œ

¿ œ

¿ œœ

¿¿ œ

¿ œ

¿ œœ

¿¿ œ

¿ œ

¿ œœ

¿¿ œ

EXERCISE 6 Keeping the paraddle going between the right hand and right foot, play exercises 1-4 with the left hand on the snare drum (instead of the right foot on the bass drum).

EXERCISE 7 Bring in your fourth limb (left foot) by playing all the exercises in (6) first with a closed, then a splashed hi-hat, on the 8th note offbeats.

EXERCISE 8 Finally, for the remaining limb combination: play a paradiddle between the left hand and right foot, and play everything that the bass drum played in exercises 1–4 and the snare drum played in exercise 6, with the right hand on a hi-hat or ride cymbal. (The below transcription is an example of playing random rhythms with the right hand.)

k

l

k

k

l

k

l

l

¿ ¿ ¿¿ ¿¿¿ ¿ ¿ ¿¿¿ ¿ 4 ¿ /4œœœœœœœœœœœœœœœœ œœœœœœœœœœœœœœœœ

baby steps toward progress, but, those tiny steps are so worth it. Ultimately, coordination work is an extremely rewarding experience with benefits you’ll notice in all of your playing. Check out Tom Tom’s Instagram to see video demos of some of these exercises, and check out Linda-Philomène's Dapper Drummer feature on p. 13.

I S S UE 34 : DI Y

Practicing these kind of independence exercises will always give you the feeling of taking

63


SHOW

US

YOUR

SETUP

by Zoë Brecher Photo courtesy of artist

Linda-Philomène Tsoungui FROM: Munich, Germany

64

What was your first kit?

Where did you buy your current kit?

An old vintage Sonor Swinger from the ’60s.

I am happy to be endorsed by DW, so I got it from my distributor in Europe, the great guys from GEWA.

How old were you when you got it?

TOM TOM MAGA ZI NE

23, haha. Why did you start drumming? Because my mom told me to—no joke. How many drum sets have you had? Only two.

Do you have a dream kit or cymbal? I really want to have a custom finish for my DW kit someday, maybe frosted black. If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only keep one part of your kit, what would you save? Snare!

Are there any unique things about your setup? I always add tiny, tiny percussions on everything. So much that it almost all falls down. I want to make the drums sound compressed even when the mic has not done anything to the sound yet. My goal is it to create that unique, old skool rap sound that has not gone through any procession on the computer or outboard compression yet. I also have a lot of metal stuff from the scrapyard, such as old braking clogs and many other metal things that sound nice.


KITS

DRUMS

CYMBALS

HARDWARE

DW Performance Series:

Paiste:

DW

1. 14“ x 5.5“ snare

A. 21“ Paiste Masters Dark Extra Dry Ride

STICKS

3. 22“ bass

B. 20“ Paiste Masters Dark Crash Ride

Vic Firth AJ1 for the snare and AJ 4 and 5 for the hi hat

4. 16“ floor

C. 19“ Paiste Masters Dark Crash

2. 14“ x 8“ snare

D. 15“ Paiste Masters Thin Hi Hat E. 16“ Paiste PSTX Swiss Hats

HEADS

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Remo Black Suede I S S UE 34 : DI Y


OSHUN bittersweet vol. 1 Fader Label April 2018

MATT AND KIM Almost Everyday Fader Label May 2018 There’s nothing more epic than opening an album to the stadium echo of applauding fans. That’s exactly how the electronic duo Matt and Kim’s sixth studio album release. ALMOST EVERYDAY, begins—a yearning crowd demanding its intoxicant. The drug of choice: flagrant energy, body moving grooves, and the unique life-affirming stagecraft of its members. Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino formed their band in Brooklyn back in the heady days of the early aughts (a much more charming time than our current state of political horror). This doesn’t feel like dance music anymore. Matt and Kim bring a message of a much-needed conquering hero—albeit a sweaty, shirtless one in tight black jeans (Matt and Kim are known for stripping down to the least amount of clothes possible during their live performances)—standing against the rising tide of ugly populism with ultra-catchy anthems. On the second track titled “Forever,” Johnson sings in his sugar-syrup tenor: “together/ we’ll bring our A Team/ there’s no second string”—drawing his listeners in with relatable stories of impoverished youth and overcoming obstacles. They preach a method mix of “fuck it” anarchy and sly verbal wit—each song a mash-up sample of hip-hop beats and Johnson’s lyrics. Schifino’s enthusiasm is a vital ally—her primal style keeps the heart rates up (Kim never failing to pounce atop her bass drum like a feline high on catnip). The duo evokes a bond of adrenaline with their fans during their live shows—and this energy comes through even on wax. Salvador Dali was quoted on his way out of a crowded art gallery by saying: “I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.” I feel that Matt and Kim, continuing their dance revolution, could say the same (and their fans feel the effect).

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Listen to this: when you really want to understand the urban dictionary definition of “steadyrocking.” —Matthew D’Abate

OSHUN is made up of NYU graduates, Thandi and Niambi, best friends who met at orientation. Their new album bittersweet vol. 1 is the first project they’ve done postgraduation. They got their name from the West African deity of freshwater and femininity, Oshun, and this deity sets the tone for their entire musical presence. OSHUN raps and sings about “slanging crystals from my locks” and keeping their “yoniverse popping with a weekly steam.” Any group that can make yoni steams sound BAF gets my vote. bittersweet vol. 1 makes me wonder; have we been waiting since the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill for a female hip hop album that could stand its own against the usually maledominated category? And without internalizing sexism in the process? Somewhere along the way, the divine feminine became synonymous with wood flutes and chanting, while dope beats and window rattling bass was left to the boys. OSHUN spits lyrics about chakra attunement, manifestation, and astral projection as hard as Danny Brown raps about Wonder Bread, and it’s nothing short of magnificent. What could happen to the hip hop industry, specifically women in the industry, if one was considered hard based on how bright their chakras were shining? OSHUN represents a generational shift, an acceptance of femininity that didn’t exist when I was growing up. “Protect your sweetness/ your light is not a weakness” is just one of many spiritually powered, feminine embracing beautiful lyrics on this album. OSHUN offered the best summary of themselves when they said, “Ultimately we don’t work for anybody. We are saving the world, and we are being dope at it at the same time.” Listen to this: after you’ve been visited by beings not of this world, or after your roommate’s CardiB album stops playing. —Jessica Lynn Perez


MUSIC + MAGS CHOKED UP S/T Get Better Records April 2018 Choked Up is the newest project of noted Latinx punk illustrator, educator, and author Cristy C. Road. They bill themselves as “a pop-punk telenovela about reclaiming your heart after trauma and learning to breathe after fascism,” and in that vein deliver four superbly crunchy tracks with full-on ferocity complete with a dash of slinky pop-punk sweetness. This release stands strongly on its own as a much-needed breath of fresh air in the political climate of 2018 and the punk scene of today but could find easy company alongside classics of the Lookout! Records/East Bay heyday it draws influence from. A shining beacon in a sea of white dude bros, Choked Up are the queer POC punx here to be your punk rock superheroes. Take heed and listen up! Listen to this: when you’re pining after that cute punk rock zinester at the show and dreaming about fighting back against the cops. —Kate Hoos

ANMLPLNET Fall Asleep Ba Da Bing April 2018

Listen to this: vibing out on a sunny afternoon gazing at the clouds. —Kate Hoos

For their sophomore album Night Leaf, New York–based BOYTOY recorded in Topanga Canyon. There is certain spaciousness to the recording that doesn’t bring New York to mind, but rather the dry heat of the West. Maybe the winter was too long in New York City, and I now associate anything pleasant with elsewhere. In any case, the layered, fuzzy guitars play back and forth with each other, while singers Saara Untracht-Oakner and Glenn Michael Van Dyke’s vocals are front and center, confident yet laid back. Chase Noelle’s drumming style is extremely engaging, adding necessary depth, drawing the listener into the sprawling songs and keeping the toes tapping along. The bass work of Lena Simon shores up the bottom end and keeps the music from sailing out into the open sky. Standout tracks here are “It’s Alright,” “Pretty One,” “Juarez,” and “Want” (“I wanna feel what it’s like to feel you feeling me,”) along with “NY Rip Off,” where they finally reveal their roots. Listen to this: as you wander through the greenhouse at your local nursery, searching for the perfect succulents. —Chantal Wright

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Fall Asleep is the debut release by improvisational duo ANMLPLNET fronted by Leah Wellbaum of Slothrust fame with Mickey Vershbow on drums. While the songs contained within all do stand on their own—with an experimental, otherworldly quality—they feel as though they ought to be pieced together to be experienced as a whole rather than individual tracks. Starting with “I Was Fucked By A Cloud” which ranges from lilting sadness to chaos and back again over a six minute journey, the track and the entire record incorporate healthy doses of dreamy echo and unhurried tempos to add to the ethereal atmosphere. As the album closes with the hazy instrumental “What I Saw In The Field That Day” it is as if the entire collection is melting away, finished for now, but waiting to emerge again.

BOYTOY Night Leaf Burger Records April 2018


REVIEWS HERE TO BE HEARD: THE STORY OF THE SLITS Directed by William E. Badgley Headgear Films, 2018 In 1976, there were no all-girl punk bands—then the Slits arrived on the scene. They were ahead of their time and yet have been at risk of being completely “erased from history,” states NYU professor and historian Vivien Goldman. It all started when Paloma Romero, aka Palmolive, got kicked out of the band, the Flowers of Romance, by Sid Vicious after they bumped heads over his racist remarks. Shortly after, Palmolive formed the Slits with the goal of having an all-female punk band. The Slits—Ari Up (vocals), Palmolive (drums), Viv Albertine (guitar), and Tessa Pollitt (bass)—together were a feminist force to be reckoned with and had the vulgar band name to match. Their lyrics fought against conformity, and their attire disobeyed society’s standards. Albertine said the band struck fear in people. “They couldn’t tell if we were male or female or even human,” and “men didn’t know if they wanted to fuck us or kill us.” Three weeks after forming, the Slits joined the “White Riot” tour with the Clash and the Buzzcocks. The tour put a lot of pressure on the band. Behind the scenes drama was caught on film by Don Letts (former manager). Palmolive ended up leaving and formed the Raincoats. The Slits became co-ed when Budgie (Siouxsie & the Banshees) joined them on drums. They released their first album, Cut, on Island Records in 1979. The iconic photo on the cover showed Ari Up, Albertine, and Pollitt posing with mud-covered breasts. Needless to say, it shocked the public. The importance of a documentary capturing their essence is undeniable. The documentary was one of the last wishes of singer Ari Up per Jennifer Shagawat (former Slits manager and friend who drums in Shellshag). With footage by Shagawat, the audience gets to know Ari Up more intimately. The film feels incomplete without having interviews with Ari Up before she passed, and it would have been interesting to hear from more musicians who were influenced by the Slits—especially since the Slits could easily be considered the godmothers of the '90s riot grrrl movement. There was also no interview with Ari Up’s mother, Nora Forster, the German music promoter who married Johnny Rotten and had a great influence on Ari Up, her bandmates, and punks in the scene. Regardless of all of this, the documentary reminds the masses that this band changed the music world and tore down walls for female musicians. The Slits can’t be forgotten from history when they made history! —Carolina Enriquez Swan

WOMANLY MAGAZINE Editor-in-Chief Attia Taylor Launched last year by former Tom Tom contributor Attia Taylor, Womanly Magazine is a platform that strives to lift up women and nonbinary people of color with an emphasis on health. As Taylor explains in the letter from the editor, the magazine was not created solely as a response to our (inadequate) healthcare system, but as a way to help people thrive and survive. “The time has come for women’s magazines to focus less on weight loss and dieting fads, and more on inclusion, health education, and prevention,” Taylor writes.

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Issue 2, which came out in April, focuses on heart health. Although heart disease is the number one killer of women, doctors often misdiagnose women or don’t listen to women when we complain (sound familiar?). People of color and all marginalized people experience additional strains on the heart by dealing with racism and injustice. To illustrate this point, Erica Garner graces the cover. Garner, daughter of Eric Garner who was brutally killed by police in Staten Island, passed away after suffering a heart attack at the age of 27. As Kandace Fuller writes in Womanly, “her death was the culmination of the trauma from losing her father, stress from entrenching herself in the fight against racial oppression, and the maternal mortality crisis disproportionately killing Black women.” She cites research showing that women experience psychological stress at higher rates than men, which affects overall health. —Rebecca DeRosa


FILM BATERISTAS: VOZES DO RITMO (DRUMMERS: VOICES OF RHYTHM) Bya de Paula Self-released, 2018 This short documentary features the reports from female drummers and their reality in the music world. The video shows how they ended up falling in love with drums and deciding to learn how to play the instrument. “I believe percussion is something that gets in our blood,” comments one of the members of the group As Batucas. The problem starts when they find barriers to practice and to play in bands due the masculinization of drums, which prevents them from feeling free to do what they love, and causes them to always have to prove what they are capable of. They state that usually when they are part of a band, people automatically assume they are the singer. Compliments come full of prejudice such as, “I didn’t think you could play so well,” and “You play like a man.” According to Professor Gilmar Goulart, this preconception has its origin in the fifth century, when Catholicism became the dominant religion in Europe. It banned all the percussion instruments from religious ceremonies, and women were forbidden from playing. This stigma was spread around the world alongside the Catholic doctrine through European colonization across the world. Nowadays, women playing drums is often an act of resistance against the cultural construction that drums are a masculine instrument, and it is part of the confrontation against the dominant sexist culture. Projects such as Garotas do Punk fanzine, established in the '90s, and Hi-Hat Girls magazine were conceived with the sole aim of giving women a voice and space in the music and percussion world as a response to the lack of territory that most media give to the female players. The insertion of the female workforce in all fields that were prevalently male is really important to extinguish sexism and prejudice from our society, showing that we are equal and we have the same capacity of learning and executing tasks. Drums go beyond the stage—they become an icon of the feminist revolution.

Este curto documentário encontrado no Youtube traz relatos de meninas bateristas e a realidade delas no mundo da música. O vídeo começa mostrando como que elas acabaram se apaixonando pela bateria e por isso resolveram aprender a tocar o instrumento. “Acho que percursão é uma coisa que entra no sangue da gente” comenta uma das participantes do grupo As Batucas. O problema começa quando elas encontram barreiras para praticar e tocar em bandas devido a masculinização da bateria, o que as impede de se sentirem livres para fazer o que gostam, tendo sempre que provar que são capazes. Elas relatam que geralmente quando dizem que fazem parte de uma banda, automaticamente já acham que elas são as cantora e elogios vêm carregados de preconceito como “Não achei que você tocasse tão bem,” e “Você toca igual macho.” Conforme o Prof. Gilmar Goulart, esse preconceito tem origem no século 5, quando a igreja Católica se tornou a religião dominante da Europa e baniu os instrumentos de percussão das cerimônias religiosas e mulheres foram proibidas de tocar. Esse estigma se espalhou pelo mundo junto à doutrina católica por meio da colonização européia.

A inserção de mão de obra feminina nos mais variados campos, que antes eram prevalentemente masculinos, é muito importante para que o preconceito e o sexismo sejam extinguidos de nossa sociedade, mostrando que somos todos iguais e que temos a mesma capacidade de aprender e realizar tarefas. A bateria vai além dos palcos, ela se transformou em um símbolo da revolução feminista. —Helen Bornancin

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Hoje em dia, mulher tocar bateria se transformou em um ato de resistência contra essa construção cultural que bateria é um instrumento masculino e faz parte da luta contra a cultura dominantemente machista. Projetos como a fanzine Garotas do Punk, criada nos anos 90, e a revista Hi-Hat Girls foram criados com o propósito de dar espaço e voz às mulheres no mundo da música e da bateria, pois ainda é muito secundário o espaço que as mídias mais influentes dão às bateristas.

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REVIEWS NAMM EDITION

THE YAMAHA EAD10:

NOTHING SHORT OF A REVOLUTION by JJ Jones Yamaha’s newly released EAD10 acoustic electronic drum module was a smash hit at this year’s NAMM show. A winner of their “Gotta Stock It” award, the EAD10 has spawned countless video reviews that rave about its features, giving it legendary status only months after its release. There are so many features, it's almost hard to get your head around them all. I’ll simplify by telling you how you can use the EAD10 yourself, and why I think it’s nothing short of a revolution in drumming.

BACKSTORY Yamaha told me that by asking their team, “What are drummers trying to do these days?”, they identified some of the main challenges facing modern players: creating unique sounds with acoustic drums, mic’ing drums fast, playing along with songs and hearing both music and drums through headphones, and quickly making and sharing drum covers for social media. Amazingly, Yamaha was able to create a solution to all of these issues with one product that retails at $499: the EAD10.

in the massively gated sounds of the “It’s 1985” preset and had a blast replicating Phil Collins’ famous drum fill from “In the Air Tonight”. As you can guess, sounding like your favorite songs and drummers is not only fun; it’s inspiring. Take your creativity even further and record your own WAV samples, like claps or vocal phrases, and assign them to one of the 11 possible triggers in the EAD10 (in addition to the jack for the kick trigger, there are jacks for a snare trigger and two multizone trigger pads, plus a foot switch, all sold separately). Sit down at your kit, and get lost! By giving you a whole new palette of sounds, and even making a mediocre drum kit sound awesome, you’re gonna want to play your drums more—and that is always a good thing. Isn't this already possible with an electronic kit, you ask? Well... yes and no. With the EAD10 you are enhancing real drum sounds, not just replicating them through triggers and rubber pads. It’s the best of both worlds: the feel of your own acoustic drums, combined with an entire world of sonic possibilities.

AS A PRACTICE TOOL WHAT IS IT? The EAD10 consists of a main controller module (similar to the “brain” of electronic drumset), and a "sensor unit”: a small metal cube containing a bass drum trigger and a pair of condenser mics that attaches to the top of your bass drum hoop directly above the kick pedal.

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Falling in the “it’s so simple, it’s brilliant” category: the EAD10 makes it possible to mic your entire acoustic drumset with one unit, and instantly transform it into a powerful, digital/electric hybrid with sampled sounds and studio-quality digital effects. Even if you’re not interested in using electronic sounds, think of the EAD10 as adding overheads, room sound and compression to your current acoustic drum kit without having to set up mics, stands and cables running to a multi-channel preamp and mixing through a DAW. It’s like listening back to a recorded, or even mastered, version of your drums through headphones, but in real time.

Hearing Yourself If you wear isolation headphones and play along to songs when you practice, then you know it can be hard to hear your drums (especially the kick drum), and this makes it difficult to tell if you’re really syncing up with the track. With the EAD10, your drums come through your headphones along with the song (because they’re mic’d and triggered), and you can adjust the volume to find the perfect level (mix) of your kit with the music.. I’ve been practicing with the EAD10 since I received it for this review and my timing and bass drum precision has gotten better over just a few days, mainly because I can hear myself now (especially the attack of my kick drum). Imagine the impact it’ll have on my playing as time goes on. Recording With The “Rec’n’Share” App

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HYBRIDIZING YOUR ACOUSTIC KIT: NEW AVENUES OF CREATIVITY

We all know one of the best ways to improve your musicianship is to record yourself playing, but there are limited options for recording yourself playing along with a song. There’s the time-consuming route of setting up mics, stands, cables, and preamps, then importing the song into a DAW, or, the easier-but-lower-quality method of using an app like Garageband with your phone’s built-in mic (or an external iOS mic).

In the first 10 minutes of messing around with the 50 preset “Scenes” included in the EAD10, I came up with a trip hop groove I’d have never created had I not been inspired by the kick drum sound of the “Low Rider” preset I dialed in. Next I played a super-chill jazz beat that I ended up recording, all because the “Calf Heads” scene made my drums sound like a vintage bebop kit from the 1940s. Finally, I dialed

But now, with the combination of the EAD10 and Yamaha’s Rec’n’Share app, high-quality recordings of you playing along to songs stored on your iPhone, iPad, or a USB stick are just a few clicks away. You can slow down the original tempo of the song without changing the pitch, use the AB repeat function to loop playback of specific sections, add an incredibly accurate click for ease in synching up to the


GEAR

track, mix your drums with the song in the app itself, and even share that performance directly from your phone. Awesome, right? (The EAD10 isn’t a substitution for professional quality studio recording, but you can use it to enhance your studio recordings by adding a track of the EAD10 in place of a room mic.)

DRUM VIDEOS

The Rec’n’Share app eliminates most of these steps by taking video with the built-in camera in your iPhone or iPad and combining it with the high-quality audio from the EAD10. Just enable the camera in the

YOU NEED THIS THING I think the EAD10 is an indispensable tool for learning and practicing, recording drum videos, and just plain old creativity and fun. There are certainly other devices on the market that perform some of the same individual functions—but the snag, of course, is having to buy each separately. The magic of the EAD10 (and it's companion Rec'n'Share app) is having a universe of features in one powerful package that’s fast and easy to use. (There are tons more functions and uses of the EAD10 I don’t have space to cover here—live gigs, studio use, and low-volume practicing—but they are in my online review, so check that out at tomtommag.com)

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Making videos, like drum covers to put up on YouTube or Instagram, typically means even more logistical steps: employ one of the recording processes I mentioned above for audio, take video with your phone (or a camera like a GoPro), import the video and audio into video editing software, sync the audio and video track, and so on and so on.

app, hit the Record button, play, review, mix, and upload to YouTube— all from one app on your phone. No joke, it’s that easy. I’d say that’s pretty revolutionary.


REVIEWS

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NAMM EDITION

CYMPADS:

OPTIMIZE YOUR CYMBAL SOUND by JJ Jones Cympads are cymbal washers made of premium cellular foam meant to be used in place of normal felt washers. While they aren't "new gear," I have long wanted to try them out, so I met up with founder Reto Hirschi at the Cympad booth at NAMM. He gave me a Moderator Super Set (50, 60, 70, 80 and 90mm washers), an Optimizer Starter Pack (three 40mm washers, an extra thick washer for the ride cymbal, and a three-piece set of hi-hat washers), and a set of 40mm Chromatic SEs (Special Edition), in camouflage.

OPTIMIZERS Cympad's Optimizer line is flexible and soft with a shock absorbing effect; the principle being that they isolate the cymbal from the hardware stand and allow it to “breathe” (sustain longer). Rich Redmond describes his cymbals on Cympads as “floating on a cushion of air” due to the air pockets in the cellular foam. While the online buyer reviews of the Optimizers are generally positive, there’s also an overall vibe of “I think these sound different from felts, but I’m not sure.” It’s true, the difference between the Optimizers and normal felts is fairly subtle, and if you’re bashing your cymbals in a loud rock club, you’ll likely not be able to hear it. But if you listen to side-by-side recordings, you can tell the difference; the Optimizers don’t allow for as many harsh overtones as the felts, and the cymbal has a purer tone and more “natural” sound.

CHROMATICS Made from high-density, cellular “memory” foam, Cympad Chromatics come in a wide selection of colors. This allows you to color coordinate your cymbals with your drum kit. From side-by-side recordings I made, I discovered the Chromatics sounded the same as felts if placed under the cymbal—which makes sense, as these Special Edition washers feel harder and denser than the Optimizers. After playing around with various combinations of the two types, the best sound I got was from placing one Optimizer underneath the cymbal and a Chromatic on top. (This also makes the

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cool color of the Chromatic fully visible!)

MODERATORS Cympad Moderators are made from softer, less dense foam than that of the Optimizers, and are specifically for use in “reducing cymbal volume and unwanted overtones, controlling sustain and increasing articulation.” In my comparison recordings, the Moderators demonstrated a much more obvious sonic difference from regular cymbal felts than the Optimizers did. Cympad has backed off a bit from claiming that the Moderators actually reduce volume, by now emphasizing these washers more as “tone modifiers,” or as Rich Redmond says, a “sonic alteration tool.” For this review, I took both video and sound recordings, which proved to be valuable comparison tools, since I could A/B each size next to another and to a regular felt. Sure enough, as you increase in size, the sound becomes more modified. It’s not so much a decrease in overall volume (although, there is a slight decrease by a few decibels) but rather there is shorter sustain, quicker decay, fewer harsh and high-pitched overtones, and certainly in the larger sizes, when I played the bell of the ride, production of a full-on muted sound, as if you’d applied a moon gel to it. I’m always interested in making cymbals quieter, since I play with a very light touch, and often with acoustic, unamplified musicians. It’s hard to get a “soft” sound on a cymbal with a stick. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the Moderators on the ride cymbal, given they affect the sound of the bell pretty drastically, on the crash, I appreciated the dampening effect and found the 70mm Moderator to be the optimum size. (Anything larger and I started to get strange buzzing overtones after about 20 seconds of sustain. This could be an artifact of the particular size crash I was using—a 17” medium UFIP Class Series. Perhaps the same buzzing would not be present on a cymbal having a different size bell.)

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Overall, I like the Cympads and plan to continue using both the Optimizers and Chromatics on my kit. As many reviewers have mentioned, the place to hear a real difference between Cympads and normal felts would be in a studio, as nice mics and noise isolation would make the improvement that much more obvious, but now that I’ve done my own side-by-side audio tests and heard the difference, I’m glad to have them. I’m also looking forward to using the sound control of the Moderators on my next acoustic gig, where cymbal volume is so often an issue.

See tomtommag.com for demo and comparison videos of the Cympads!


REVIEWS

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NAMM EDITION

PROMARK:

ACTIVEGRIP AND FIREGRAIN DRUMSTICKS by JJ Jones One of my favorite parts of the NAMM show this year was meeting up with the awesome peeps from D’Addario and Promark who showed me some of their new gear, including the justreleased FireGrain drumsticks, as well as their ActiveGrip sticks introduced in 2016. I took home a FireGrain Classic 5A pair, as well as a pair of black ActiveGrip 5A Rebounds, to try out. FireGrains are literally “flame hardened” hickory sticks—an ancient Japanese heat-tempering process of slowly heating wood with a flame to remove moisture and make the stick more durable. ActiveGrip hickory sticks have a black grip coating that adjusts to your body’s temperature and gets more tacky as your hands heat up and sweat. My usual drumsticks are Vic Firth SD4 Combos, which are a small maple stick known for being lightweight and fast. The weight distribution and the flexibility of the SD4s are perfect for my smaller hands and lighter touch. That said, maple is the least durable stick material, so the harder I dig in and play, the more the sticks shred and splinter.

FIREGRAINS I found the FireGrains to have a dense and heavy feel compared to untempered hickory sticks (more like oak), and certainly compared to my maple SD4s. While the FireGrains are great for harder playing, I know their heaviness would start to fatigue my arms after a long set, especially because their higher density meant more stick vibration transferred to my wrists (caveat: many players feel the FireGrains have less vibration). The FireGrain Classic 5As I was given also have a shorter taper, and a forward, front-loaded feel. It’s likely that a pair of the Rebound 5As would have suited me better, having a more rear-weighted feel. Promark’s claims of increased durability with the FireGrains are totally right-on. I was fully bashing my cymbals and hi-hat for a solid half-hour to see how the sticks would hold up, and while there were a lot of dents that went through the glaze and exposed raw wood underneath, the tips stayed intact, and there were virtually no splinters (unlike my SD4s!).

ACTIVEGRIPS I did the same hard-bashing test with the ActiveGrips and surprisingly found their durability to be almost better than the FireGrains, due to their coating, which prevented the dents from being as deep. There was less exposed wood and splinters, and their tips stayed intact. I additionally liked the feel of the ActiveGrip Rebounds better; they have a medium taper, and a more rear-weighted, less dense feel than the FireGrains. The coating on the ActiveGrips is awesome, too. I’ve been doing a lot of pad and hand-speed work for the last year and have started using drum wax to prevent stick slippage. With the ActiveGrips coating, I didn’t need the wax when my hands started to heat up.

In sum, if you are a hard hitter and use a common stick size (7A, 7B, 5A, 5B, or 2B), you like a dense feel and want greater durability—all in a very unique and cool-looking stick—by all means, try the FireGrains. They may be just what you’re looking for. If your drumsticks have a tendency to slip, and you want a tackier grip, and you love black sticks with a lot of durability (and use a common size like I specified above), definitely check out the ActiveGrips, and make sure to try both the Forward and Rebound versions to see which weighted feel you prefer. Check out Tom Tom’s Instagram account for pics and stories of us at the NAMM show!


ACTIVEGRIP. NOW AVAILABLE IN STEALTH MODE.

Introducing ActiveGrip Clear, a drumstick that looks like every other, but with an extraordinary feature. With Promark’s heat-activated technology, ActiveGrip Clear works under the radar, getting tackier the more you heat up. So no matter the mounting pressure, you always know you can handle it.


When Mona Tavakoli hits the stage with multi-Grammy award winning singersongwriter Jason Mraz, she requires an instrument that will capture her musical personality and unique rhythmic approach. Introducing the LP MT Box. Crafted at the new California Cajon shop, this Spanish-style cajon includes a specialized, graduated port design and North American pine body with Baltic birch soundboard, offering a versatile tonal spectrum. It’s dynamic, just like Mona.

#WeAreRhythm

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Profile for Tom Tom Magazine

Tom Tom Magazine Issue 34: DIY