It is my privilege to be invited to contribute here at moderndrummer.com, as I’ve looked forward to each new issue of the magazine for over twenty years! A little update: This past summer was pretty cool. May through August found me once again on the road with Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger of the Doors. We toured the Eastern part of the U.S., then headed over to Europe and the U.K., and then did some shows in Canada and Southern California. Some of the shows in the U.K. were performed live along with the superb fifty-piece Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and it was a fantastic experience to have all those world-class musicians surrounding us on stage. Brent Havens, the conductor that worked with us, is great to work with, and I was really able to get on the same wavelength as him on stage. To me, the most challenging aspect of playing this music live with all of the acoustic instruments is to not overpower the violins, oboes, etc., but still drive the band at a lower volume. That’s something I’ve worked on a lot—pushing a band energy-wise even at lower dynamics. That can be very challenging!
Between tours with Robby and Ray I went into the studio with the L.A.-based band Firebug, who I’ve worked with for over ten years now. We worked with ultra-cool producer Chris Goss, who has his own great band, Masters of Reality, and produces lots of artists including the Cult. Firebug also did a weeklong tour of England, which ended with a great show at the Sonosphere Festival with Iron Maiden headlining. We flew overseas to start that tour four days after I had just got home from touring Europe with Manzarek/Krieger. Not a bad summer!
I got to shift gears a little bit when I subbed for my pal Frank Reina on a Chuck Negron (Three Dog Night) show in New York. I didn’t realize just how many hits Three Dog Night had. This gig took some focus, as there was no rehearsal, and I had never played this music before and didn’t know the guys in the band other than the guitar player. I got a live video of one of the shows that I used to learn the live arrangements and get the feel for the show, which is pretty involved. What I did was write out my own detailed charts of every song Chuck does. Just like Ray Manzarek likes to do, Chuck will stray from the set list and just call whatever song he’s feeling, so I had to learn every song just in case. I had all the charts ready to go in a binder, which I organized so that I could flip quickly to the next song he called. Fortunately, I know the guitar player on the gig, and he went over some of the arrangements with me the day of the show to make sure my charts were right. Chuck himself doesn’t like to soundcheck, so the first notes I actually played with him were on stage in front of thousands of people! Besides reading the charts, the other thing I had to really focus on was catching Chuck’s cues on stage, as many of the sections in his tunes are “open till cue.” The show went really great, and Chuck and the band were happy. So I was happy!
I’ve recently started working as a counselor at Rock And Roll Fantasy Camp. Great concept and great people! Some of the other counselors I’ve played alongside include Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad) Kip Winger, Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy, Whitesnake), Rami Jaffe (Foo Fighters, Wallflowers), Mark Hudson (producer/songwriter), and fellow drummer Sandy Gennaro. It’s been a blast! At the recent camp in Philadelphia, MD magazine’s Billy Amendola was there at as a guest speaker along with the super-burning’ drummer Gerald Heyward! I got to double drum with Gerald for a little while and witness his beyond human super-fast bass drum foot.
I just launched my new website, and one of the things I’ve started offering through it is “real” live drum tracks custom created for artists. Sending files over the Internet is becoming a common way to work as a session musician. It’s much more budget friendly, and you don’t have to be in the same city as who you’re working with.
Winding up the year, I played a couple shows with Robby Krieger in L.A and then went to Peru for a week and played three shows with some musicians and friends there. I love Peru! Amazing people. The morning after I got back from South America I went to Joshua Tree in the desert outside of L.A. for three days to work with Chris Gross, cutting four more tracks with Firebug. Along with the engineer, Ed, we got the greatest drum sounds I could dream of for these tunes. Keep your ears open for Firebug; it’s kind of a mixture of funky Zeppelin/Sabbath meets a newer band like the Dead Weather, but with ultra soulful, bluesy female vocals.
On my website is a link to my Facebook page. Let’s be buddies! Thanks for reading!
For more on Ty Dennis, go to www.tydennis.net.