Robi Gonzalez of A Place To Bury Strangers
Hello drum world! Robi Gonzalez here, drummer of A Place To Bury Strangers. This is my first time doing this, so bear with me. I was born in Venezuela and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, which remains my favorite place on earth, hands down. Growing up in Alaska, winter sports were huge and my early years and teens were spent on the professional circuit (skiing, then snowboarding), where I earned sponsorships and seriously considered doing this for the rest of my life. Halfway through my freshman year of college at Western Washington in Bellingham, Washington, I started taking drum lessons. I was getting burnt out on snowboarding (the pressure from sponsors and peers to shoot video parts and compete, etc.). I really got sick of getting hurt and didn’t want to injure myself to where I couldn’t play drums.
My uncle taught me how to play drums when I was seven years old. However, I didn’t grow up playing that often. It was just a hobby and another creative outlet I had aside from snowboarding. It wasn’t until I was nineteen years old when I took my first drum lessons with Bruce Hamilton. This took place at a small music shop in Bellingham, Washington.
Fast-forward six months, and I was attending the Percussion Institute of Technology at Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, California. It was there where I got to hone in on technique and really develop some chops. Along with the curriculum, I had private lessons with Fred Dinkins in school as well as outside of school. He was sort of my mentor you could say. Every now and then Marvin “Smitty” Smith would stop by and sit in on these lessons. I learned a lot from Fred and Smitty and still live by their techniques and approach to drumming. Fred is all about technique and not having any wasted energy. He would also mention that without technique it could be hard to execute what the mind hears and comes up with. I learned that there’s no right or wrong technique, they’re all just there to make things easier and make the use of your energy more efficient. This has become very handy playing drums for APTBS! His approach to technique reminds me of Jojo Mayer. Smitty taught me more about feel. He would say “Get yourself inside the music. You are the core of it all.” He also said that every time he gets on stage he plans to “murder those drums!” Whether playing loud or quiet, or any dynamic, just play like you mean it and put all your heart into every beat of the song.
Today I play in “the loudest band in New York,” as some say. A Place To Bury Strangers is the most physically demanding band I’ve ever been a part of, and I love it. I put every ounce of energy into every minute of it. The demands of playing these songs are so intense that it makes me feel like an athlete going at full sprint for an entire show (an hour to an hour and a half). It often makes me want to vomit and pass out at times, but the show must go on. You won’t find me on any releases just yet, but we are going to be writing and recording new material very soon. I’m really excited as we all get a long very well musically. If I could describe what the new stuff will be like, I’d say screeching/ear piercing/cats fighting/lightning and thunder guitars, earth shaking/heart murmuring bass that gets under your skin, pounding drums that shatter everything in sight, quiet at times, but most of all, per usual, loud, loud, loud, and louder.
Big thanks to Modern Drummer for this opportunity. I hope to check in with you guys again soon and hopefully I didn’t bore you all with this. I’m Robi Gonzalez, and I’m a drummer.
For more on Robi Gonzalez and A Place To Bury Strangers go to www.aplacetoburystrangers.com, www.twitter.com/APTBS, and www.facebook.com/aplacetoburystrangers. Photo by Emily Berger.