We featured this hot young drummer in our December ’02 issue, but we’ve got more Cyrus Bolooki to share with you. We pinned down Cyrus for part 2 of our story while he was still out on tour with his fellow bandmates in New Found Glory – lead vocalist Jordan Pundik, guitarists Steve Klein and Chad Gilbert, and bassist Ian Grushka. So, let’s continue?.
by Billy Amendola
MD: How’s the tour going?
Cyrus: Really, really good. I couldn’t ask for a better tour right now. It’s a lot of fun and something that we’ve been looking forward to doing for a long time. This is our fourth year in a row doing some part of the Warped Tour, but now we’re doing the whole thing. We’re also on this tour with a lot of the bands that we grew up watching and hopefully meeting – bands like NOFX, MXPX, Mighty-Mighty Bosstones, Bad Religion – a lot of the bands that came out of the early ’90s. Those are the bands that really influenced us. When we did get to meet them, we’d ask what it took for them to get popular, and they kept telling us, “Go on tour.” So that’s kind of how we made our band run. And it started to work. And on top of that, the show has been amazing the kids have been great.
MD: What’s your practice routine like on the road?
Cyrus: First off, one thing that is probably the best practice, and that can’t be substituted for, is the fact that we’ve been playing so many shows. Being on tour nine, ten months out of the year, I’m playing drums every single day. You can’t beat that. Soundchecks also make you better, and I’m huge on warming up. Especially on this tour, we never know when we’re playing. It’s a different scenario every day. We find out around 10:30 in the morning what time we play that day. So usually an hour or two before show time, I’ll walk out to where my drums are set up – right behind the stages – or I have a practice pad out there and I just start banging away. I try to warm up each hand individually just by moving it, stretching it a little bit. I’ll start doing some rudiments, some rolls. A lot of times I’ll play along to the bands that are on stage.
MD: You have a practice kit or just a pad?
Cyrus: Just a pad. I want a practice kit but we don’t have the space right now. But my feeling is that, as long as my hands and arms are pretty loose, then I feel pretty comfortable. That’s when I know I’m going to have a really good show.
MD: What was in your parents’ record collection when you were growing up?
Cyrus: I heard a little bit of everything. My mom listened to Led Zeppelin, The Doors, and Grand Funk Railroad – all that stuff coming out of the late ’60s, early ’70s. My dad is into classical music. I don’t know if that affected me, but I do think that classical music made me aware of dynamics in music. Right now I’m just super into music. I’m really getting into producing and recording. Anything that has to do with music I really pay attention to. But I don’t think my parents’ record collection influenced me too much. When I started playing drums it was along to the music that I liked at the time, and that’s what taught me.
MD: What was some of that music?
Cyrus: One band that really made me want to be in a band and start playing was Silverchair. I liked their music at the time, and they were my age, and I watched them get popular. So that made me go, “Okay, if they can do it, I can do it.” As far as drumming, what I learned from their drummer was little double strokes on the bass drum. I never knew that somebody could do that with one foot.
MD: Do you use a single or double pedal?
Cyrus: Single pedal.
MD: How did the recording of the new record, Sticks & Stones, differ from the one before?
Cyrus: On the previous album, our producer, Neal Avron, felt that less is more for drums. So there were a lot of times when he was a little afraid that some fill that I was going to do would interfere with what was going on in the music. So a lot of the drumming was kind of more laid back than what I wanted to do. On this new record, I came into it with way more confidence. Neal also had more confidence in me. There are maybe two parts on the record where Neal asked me if I could change a fill into something less complicated. But everywhere else it was like, “Hey, go with it.” Before we went in to record I was like, “Neal will make me change this. He won’t let me play this.” But he let me play it and it sounded awesome.
MD: You have a floor tom to the left of your hi-hat. Does this make it easier for you to roll so fast?
Cyrus: The reason I started doing that was about a year ago we went on tour with the band Fenix TX, and their drummer, Damon, set up with a tom and a China on his left side. I always thought it was a really cool setup but I never thought that I’d be able to use it because it involves a lot of your left hand. Being right-handed, you never work enough on your opposite hand. So I set it up like that, and I realized how easy it makes certain things and how much fun it is, because basically the kit is now split down the middle. Anything you can do on your right side, you can start doing on your left side, like accents on the China. I can play more open-handed, which allows me to be a little more animated. And I get to play older songs with this configuration, which makes them feel new, so I don’t get bored playing the same songs every night. I recorded every song on the new album with the tom on my left side, and it really helped. Plus we were able to pan the toms exactly how they sit. If I wanted it to be really heavy and really accent a hit or something, I’d hit both floor toms, and in your headphones it appears on both sides.
MD: You started playing guitar before the drums. Did you play guitar at all on the record?
Cyrus: It’s funny that you asked that. When I was growing up, I always thought maybe I was going to be in Guitar World. I never thought I would be in Modern Drummer.
I don’t really play guitar on the record. But Ian, our bass player, really wanted to play drums on the record. So for the beginning of the song “The Story So Far,” which starts with just one snare drum hit every two beats, I said, “Ian, this is your chance to shine.” So he walked to the drums and went “bop, bop, bop,” and using Pro Tools we put him in the mix. Then he let me do the first riff of the song on his bass guitar. So I went “do, do, do, doom,” and that was it. So technically I did play guitar on the record.
MD: Are you involved in the songwriting process?
Cyrus: Everyone is as a group. It’s kind of cool. I think the fact that I did play guitar earlier kind of helped out. What’s really important in our music is that it’s very rhythmic and very heavy. And my drumming kind of follows the guitars. So if the guitars are heavy and doing a certain rhythm in a part, I’ll pretty much be doing the same rhythm with my kick and snare. A lot of times after just listening to the songs once or watching our guitarists play them, I’ll know how to play our songs on guitar, and that kind of helps me write. We all jam out on ideas. If anyone has a new idea, that’s where we’ll try it out. That’s kind of how we write our songs, doing instrumental jams first – before the lyrics are put on. And that really helps us make sure the songs are very rhythmic, heavy, and tight.
There are certain songs where I’ve been able to write little guitar things, or where I’ve written a guitar part and given it to Chad or Steve or somebody else in the band and they’ve taken that and written the rest of the song around it. So it’s cool, because it’s not like I can go up to the band and say, “Hey, I’ve got this new drum beat,” because in punk music a lot of the drums are, I don’t want to say recycled, but there’s fast, faster, and really, really fast.”
For more on Cyrus, see his feature in Modern Drummer’s December 2002 issue.