Tim Walsh of the Stepkids
Hey, MD fans, I’m Tim Walsh of the Stepkids, and I’m excited to be on here and hope to add to the wealth of knowledge that is MD’s awesome thirty-five-year history.
My dad is a bass player, so I started off too playing bass and singing. I was in a grunge band with neighborhood friends called Honey, the Kids are on Fire. We played Nirvana, Green Day, 311, NOFX, Blind Melon, Sonic Youth, Bush, Soundgarden, Weezer, etc., mostly for sweet-16 parties and talent shows. I played saxophone in school band but eventually made my way to drums, studying with one of Alan Dawson’s former students, the jazz vibraphonist/drummer/arranger Wayne Gasiorek.
Unashamed in admittance, my favorite drummer growing up was Carter Beauford, a fusion-jazz guy who reinvented pop drumming in the ’90s and sang great backup vocals while blowing bubbles. Oh yeah, and I was really into Buddy Rich.
I then went to Western Connecticut State University and studied jazz with Jeff Siegel and “every other instrument that makes sound by hitting it” with the great David Smith. Musically I was a little stubborn, but eventually stumbled onto some of the innovators of jazz. Advertisement
There were the old-timers: Ben Riley, Tony, Billy, Elvin, Ali, Max, Roy, Jack, Al Foster, Blackwell, Thigpen, Motian, Altschul, Moffett, Tate, Billy Hart, Art Blakey, Art Taylor, Buddy, Gene, Louie, Mel, Big Sid, Greer, Butch Ballard, Shadow Wilson, Jo Jones, Philly Joe, Baby Dodds, etc.
The new cats: Hoenig, Carlock, Blade, Danziger, Dafnis, Karriem Riggins, Jorge Rossy, Ballard, Stewart, Matt Wilson, Ali Jackson, Jim Black, Clayton, Covington, Tain, Deitch, Billy Martin, Sanchez, Terri Lyne, Hamilton, Duduka, etc.
And the “in-betweeners”: Harvey Mason, Emory, Carlos Vega, Lenny White, Vinnie, Alias, Houghton, Louis Nash, Gadd, Erskine, Cindy, Smitty, Mike Clark, Narada, Ndugu, Cobham, Dennis, Idris, Airto, Omar, Weckl, Gottlieb, Wertico, etc. Advertisement
I was also heavy into the pianist Bill Evans, specifically his trio with LaFaro and Motian (RIP).
At the time, my college friend and former roommate, Trevor Somerville (who is now on tour with “the Voice,” Javier Colon) had turned the whole drum department at WCSU on to some of the great gospel players like Mike Clemens, Doobie Powell, Chris Coleman, Aaron Spears, and Andrew Ward. I remember the day he brought a live Kim Burrell record with Doobie on kit—our jaws were on the floor!
After college I built a small recording studio in Bridgeport, CT, and consequentially began checking out some popular recorded drummers/programmers from all eras—Mick Fleetwood, Hal Blaine, Levon, Nick Mason, Keith Moon, Clyde, Jabo, Al Jackson Jr., Papa Zita, Pistol, Roger Taylor, Steve Ferrone, Stan Lynch, Frantz, James Gadson, Porcaro, Guerin, Keltner, Purdie, Anton, Chris Parker, Manu, Steve Jordan, Rick & Jerry Marotta, Phil Selway, Matt Chamberlain, Jimmy Chamberlin, Matt Cameron, Greg Saunier, Jim Gordon, Jimmy Bralower, Ian Wallace, Mickey Curry, Ginger Baker, Alan White, Bruford, Bonham, Charlie Watts, Q-Tip, John Robinson, Ollie Brown, Maurice White, Ralph Johnson, Jerome Brailey, Tiki Fulwood, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, etc.
Now, there’s a lot of great people mentioned here, and a bigger number that aren’t, but what I really love is that a majority of all successful drummers also work as singers, producers, engineers, teachers, writers, DJs, songwriters, arrangers, or multi-instrumentalists throughout their career. And then there’s people like Mel Tormé, Grady Tate, Johnny Otis (RIP), Rundgren, Stevie, James Brown, Buddy Miles, Lenny White, Gary Wilson, Steve Arrington, Grohl, Henley, Collins, Eno, Prince, Sheila E, Doobie, Reznor, Beck, James Pants, and tUnE-yArDs among MANY others who succeeded as recording/performing artists while playing or programming drums in their respective field. Karen Carpenter was definitely one of my favorites, having incredible agility on the drums while singing with one of the sweetest voices of all time. It is not the easiest to sing lead from the kit, yet she did it with such grace and style. Advertisement
One artist I must mention as well to the MD community is the CT native Jim Oblon, who recorded and is currently touring with Paul Simon. After years of touring professionally as a young jazz drummer, inspired by the blues, Jim became a masterful singer and guitarist. He started writing and producing his own music, including for the band Thin Veil, as well as recording cuts with other artists like Edie Brickell. I was lucky enough to play with Jim in his blues band as well as his original group; his pocket is undeniable and his feel is legendary.
Anyway, I am very lucky that my bandmates, Jeff and Dan, are the kind of artists who never stop looking for new sources of inspiration. Right now we are finishing our second full-length album on StonesThrow Records, and we’ll be touring over the spring, opening up for Mayer Hawthorne. Hopefully I will put up another blog entry in the future and write about studio drumming including recording onto tape, muting techniques, tuning, overtones, dynamics, rooms, baffles, comb filtering, compression, gating, mic techniques, and more!
For more on Tim Walsh and the Stepkids, go to thestepkidsband.com.