J.R. Kurtz of CSS

drummer J.R. Kurtz of CSS

Gearing up for a trip to Russia, the familiar routines are almost always consistent and universal—last-minute visa mayhem, practice, visit family and my girlfriend, and basically try to maintain some sort of peace of mind. We’ve never been to Russia before, so this journey is extra special. It’s going to last about two days (in Russia), and we will have maybe three travel days. This is just how one-off shows usually work.

I started touring with the Brazilian indie-pop/dance rockers CSS (Cansei de Ser Sexy) at the beginning of 2011. I did six tours last year that spanned the U.S., Japan, Australia, South America, and Europe. I imagine this band could literally play anywhere they wanted. Perhaps being from Brazil makes them even more interesting to other countries, and that certain spark of culture will always attract attention. All I really ever wanted to do with my musical career was play Japan and experience the Japanese culture. When I finally had the opportunity to go with CSS, the trip proved to exceed my expectations. I was able to experience one of the most well preserved cultures and respectful societies one could encounter. The band has some of the most loyal fans that I’ve ever seen in Japan, usually bringing gifts and mega-smiles. I truly love that place.

When asked to join CSS for their tours, I had been working on many other projects—some folk, experimental prog, and electronic music mostly. I’m actually into playing more progressive and technical styles of music, so CSS was a little more scaled down for me. I wouldn’t go as far as to say their music is simple—just more straightforward. It’s actually challenging to change what you’re used to doing to accommodate to another style of music. You have to learn to keep your cool and play what fits the songs. Some tracks can allow me to let loose a little, but maintaining the feel for the song is key. Playing with them has not only made my internal metronome more precise, but it’s required me to become more savvy with Ableton Live, a program used for triggering samples and click tracks live. You have to be spot on with Ableton, like triggering a sample on the offbeat right after a snare hit. I’m never afraid to try fresh ideas, and combining electronics and drums will always open new doors. Advertisement

I’m very fortunate to endorse C&C drums. The sizes I play include a 14×24 bass drum, 9×13 and 16×16 toms, and a 7×14 snare drum. Bill and Jake Cardwell, the owners of C&C, truly know the ways of vintage drums. For cymbals, I play Sabian: 22″ Signature ride, 14″ AA Fusion hi-hats, and a 19″ AA Medium crash. I also use Pro-Mark 5B drumsticks.


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