|Godhead, has been making metal waves ever since they were the first and only band signed to musician Marilyn Manson's short-lived vanity label, Posthuman Records. On March 24, 2008, the band revealed that that Ty Smith of Bullets and Octane would be replacing Glendon Crain as drummer. Having just released At the Edge of the World, Smith has been busy in the studio and on the stage. From his work with various acts, Smith has quickly earned a reputation as a stick man with an artistic vengeance to rock with precision , energy and an uncompromising attention to the detail of the beat. I had the chance to pick Tyís brain and stick bag and find out what makes this drummer tick. Meet Ty Smith of Godhead.|
KIM: First things first, letís pretend this is a first date and itís that point where you explain who you are... tell us about your work with Godhead? Give us a brief overview of why you started playing drums? And then how you ended up becoming the performer you are today?
|You have to constantly educate yourself in all styles to create your own.|
Ty: I think my girlfriend would be upset that I'm dating again so don't tell anyone. Okay? :)
I'll try to make this as brief as possible... It's a very long story so feel free to edit out what you don't feel is applicable....
I started playing drums at the age of 3 after constantly watching videos of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Led Zeppelin that my parents had laying around. I can vaguely remember thinking to myself that the drummers have the best job because they have the most equipment to beat on like a mad man. I set up pots and pans up on the kitchen floor and went to town denting them up with wooden spoons. My mother still has them tucked away in a box in the attic of their house. She loved that I took such an interest in music but wasn't too keen on me ruining her cooking ware, so that Christmas they bought me a children's starter drum kit fitted with paper heads. I never really understood why they were fitted with paper heads and needless to say they were ruined in no time. My parents bought me a better kit soon thereafter, though.
Years later I joined the elementary school orchestra and learned the basic rudiments on snare drum, timpani, bass drum, sight reading and working within a band. I continued on with the public schoolís music courses in orchestra, marching band, school play pit work, jazz band and basically any course that involved me playing drums. My freshman year I tried out for the community college orchestra and surprisingly enough I was accepted without having to pay the entrance fees required. I'm not sure how I pulled that off, considering I was only barely in high school, but I believe the conductor saw me as a pet project and let it slide. I remember when I got my first drum kit years before any of that happened. I believe it was around 4th grade. I cried when I pulled it out of the boxes. It was one of the happiest days of my life. I'll never forget it. My parents probably won't either with the price tag that was attached. Haha! (Love you, mom 'n' dad.) Years later I joined a few local bands, mostly just playing drums, but in a couple of bands I was actually playing guitar or singing. One band ended up on a bill with The Vandals who offered me my first professional touring gig playing on Warped Tour in front of thousands of people at the ripe old age of 18. And so it began...
Part two: 2007. Godhead! I had met Mike Miller through my girlfriend Linda Lou (Singer for the band Cockpit) at The Dragonfly in Hollywood in late 2007. Mike had heard that I had done some session work here and there and had played and filled in for a handful of reputable bands. When their drummer left they were in quite a spot with a new record to record in a couple of weeks and no drummer to lay down the tracks, so Mike approached me to do the session. I was very excited to play in a genre of music that I hadn't had the chance to play before. They were also a band that I admired for their talent and impeccable song writing skills, so I agreed to do the session on the spot. He brought a demo of the album by a couple of days later and I immediately went to work memorizing the material. It's kind of a blur because it all happened very quickly, but I think I went into the studio about a week later to start recording. I assume they liked what they heard, because about halfway through the session they asked me to join the band. I was already playing in two bands at the time but I couldn't pass it up. I was very flattered.
KIM: Godhead has been described as industrial metal...tell us about the sound for those not familiar and how you as a drummer keep the beat in this 'genre'.
Ty: In my opinion, Godhead covers so many genres that there is no perfect way to label us. If I had to do so I would say that we're a rock band with a mish mash of different styles added to spice it up. Take a listen for yourself and form your own opinion. It's all across the board. With it being as such I draw from many different styles and influences to find what I feel is right for the song. Thankfully, I've had the opportunity to learn and play many different styles, from orchestral pieces to punk rock, so it's more about how a song feels to me. Method also has a major role in helping me interpret the songs correctly with his programming. I definitely owe him a lot of respect in the development of the drumming on "Edge of the World".
KIM: Godhead, like many bands has had a few changes in lineup--but the skin man role, eg the drummer spot has had a bit of a revolving door, does this make your job harder coming in after several different styles and temperaments?
Ty: Not at all. This is a pretty kick-backed gig compared to some of the other bands I've been in. The drummers that were in Godhead may have changed, but the style has remained the same as far as I can see. I've always been a bit of a chameleon though. The only thing that's different with Godhead, as opposed to the other bands I've played with, is that I have a wider range of push and pull time manipulation because of some of the slower tempos. It's actually a lot of fun because with more space between beats I can better create the desired emotion that the song requires when before it was play hard and fast and play drum fills all over the place. Now I can create a feeling of intensity by playing ahead of the beat or I can play slightly behind the beat to make a song feel relaxed.
KIM: As a performer what are your thoughts on using a drum computer? And does it require a different discipline?
Ty: I think it's great! It's like playing with another musician only you don't have to pay them. Haha! Truthfully, there really isn't a lot of programming as far as drums go. It's just effects that can't be achieved with four limbs, keyboards and computerized mayhem that Method and his mad scientist insanity programmed on a computer. It's truly impressive how it all blends together. I'll listen to it soloed and it sounds like senseless noise, but when it's blended with the rest of the music it all makes sense and fills the song out. It's takes a true musical genius to come up with that stuff. With the programming I have to play to a click live, which is very different for me, but it's similar to playing in the studio. It actually makes my job easier because I can think more about dynamics and the parts rather than keeping time.
KIM: You must get asked about your thoughts about drum theory, playing tips and equipment? If so, how do you approach these types of questions? Or better yet, mind telling our readers the answers?
Ty: That's a hefty question, so I'll answer it in two parts, starting with equipment. I'm lucky enough to have the support of some great companies. I approached the companies that were my favorites first and surprisingly enough, they all agreed to sponsor me. I'm very, very appreciative for all the help and work they've done to make my love and passion come alive either in the studio or on the stage. I couldn't do it without them. Paiste cymbals provides me with a medium heavy 19' and 20' crash from their reflector series. They just released them this year and they've outdone themselves. They're very responsive so they're great for dynamics. They sound like glass shattering and then shimmer out like crystals falling to the ground. I absolutely love them. I also use their signature series 14' hi hats and a 22' full ride. The ride in particular is unrivaled in its ping with washy undertones. The hats crunch when played hard and sizzle when played lightly. I couldn't see myself using another brand of cymbals. It defines my sound and is perfect in every style I've ever played. Very versatile.
I have an endorsement with Mapex drums. Possibly the most underrated drum company in the world because they're sometimes hard to find in the smaller drum shops. I can easily turn my nose up to other drum companies because they just murder the competition. I use a 12', 14' and 16' tom set up from their orion series. These drums sound huge for their size, so I usually stick to the fusion sized (shorter) depths because it gives me more control in the decay. Even though a lot of drummers like to start their sizes down from a 13' I don't need to with Mapex. They sound a good inch or so larger in diameter to my ears, depending on how you tune them. I also use a 22' kick for the same reason. It's punchy and boomy as hell. I usually stick with either a brass or maple 6.5'X14' snare drum, but I have a couple 5.5'X14's and one 5.5'X12' that I like to throw in the mix from time to time if the particular piece of music calls for it.
I use Promarks 5b wood tips. They have a nice balance to them and are durable for when I need to dig in a bit. I prefer the unfinished sticks for those nights when I'm sweating like a hooker in church.
Finally, Evans drumheads sets me up with my drum heads. They're always consistent and never pull out of the hoops. I prefer the two ply coated (G2's) for my toms with single ply clear (G1's) on the resonate side. Snare I usually use a coated ST batter but for recording sometimes I'll use a G2 if I need a little more resonance. For my bass drum I love the clear EC2's for my batter side and the ebony EQ3's for the resonate side. They provide me with the boom and attack that I need for the low end side of my kit. What's great about Evans, too, is that the coating doesn't come off like other brands tend to do. It greatly affects the control and sound of the drum when that happens. Not only that but it looks like crap. Haha!
Drum theory? I could go on and on about drum theory as it pertains to each style of music. You'll have to buy my book after I finish writing it. Or, uhhh, when I actually feel that I should write it. Hahahaha! Sorry folks. Ask me in person after the shows and I'll try to tell you what you want to know. I'm always happy to talk to fans.
KIM: If you were going to give one piece of advice to drummers (and musicians in general) looking to start up a band, with aspirations of the spotlight what would it be?
Ty: Practice, practice, practice... And then practice some more. You have to constantly educate yourself in all styles to create your own. Where I think any drummer should START is by setting up a click and play a basic kick on 1 snare on 2 kick on 3 snare on 4 ac/dc type drumbeat with proper technique and make it feel good. Not just locking in with the click like a robot but make it feel good. Playing with soul and feeling is the key. Close your eyes and feel the music with your heart. Do it until you don't even notice the click anymore. Another thing that you need to concentrate on even before you jump on the drum kit is the basic snare drum rudiments. Play it on a pad, snare, table top. What ever. I know pad work and rudiments are boring, but it's very important that you educate yourself in this manner. You can have the best musicians in the world in your band but if the drummer is lacking the whole band suffers. Everyone has heard the statement that a band is only as good as their drummer, and it's true.
KIM: What do you think is the number one mistake drummers fall prey to?
Ty: Well, not educating themselves. I answered this for the last question.
KIM: Fame and fortune may seem to be the primary motivators for some...What factors have kept you motivated for all of these years, and actively developing your craft as a performer?
Ty: Okay. I love this question. It's totally weighted. Do I want fame and fortune and all that comes with it? HELL YES! Do I still do it even though I don't really feel that I have those things or may never have them? HELL YES! I love to play music. I love to create. I love the feeling I get when people cheer me and my band mates on onstage. Music is a huge part of who I am. If I don't play drums at least every other day I will go out of my mind. Sometimes I can't sleep at night because I have drum lines going through my head or a catchy chorus I heard somewhere playing over and over in my head. Music is my sustenance. Without it I would die.
KIM: What goals do you still have with your career, and what type of artistic legacy do you hope to preserve as an artist?
Ty: I just hope to be able to continue making music and make a living doing what I love. As far as a legacy goes, I've done a lot in my career to be more than happy about. The new Godhead record is amazing and I consider it to be the pinnacle of my achievements thus far. I'm sure the next one will be even better.
KIM: What current projects do you have in development? Tell us about your work with the Vandals and Bullets and Octane?
Ty: I'm working with a band called The Knives for a few gigs until they find a permanent drummer. They're old friends of mine and were in a spot so I was happy to do it. Nick Oliveri of Mondo Generator and ex-Queens of the Stone Age bass player is also playing with them, so it's an honor to play with such a pro who can accentuate the existing talents of the rest of the band. He's a saint.
The Vandals were the ones who kick-started my career when I was 18. I've filled in for them around 4 or 5 times since then. They're just a really fun band to play with and they're all great guys and musicians. I'm always flattered when they ask me to help out, because I'm filling in for one of my biggest influences, Josh Freese. I don't think I need to explain much about him. He's basically the reigning king of drums.
I played with Bullets and Octane for quite a while. I've known those guys since I was 16. We played in a couple of local bands together in Saint Louis. They moved out here about a year after I did to take their chances with the music biz and we eventually met up to play together somewhere along the way. We made a few records together, one of which was released on RCA. It was mishandled so it didn't quite hit as much as we expected it to. It was a shame. I really feel that that band has what it takes to do something huge if given the chance. We had some really amazing moments and I'm very thankful to have those fond memories.
KIM: Do you have any upcoming tours/releases/DVDs that you'd like to plug?
Ty: Yeah! There's this amazing band called Godhead that just released a record called "Edge of the World". It's available on itunes on a computer near you. Hahaha!