On the Beat With Luke Williams of Dead Letter Circus: Tips for Touring Drummers
Hi there guys, Luke Williams here from the Australian progressive rock band Dead Letter Circus. I’d like to speak with you about what sort of things I find helpful when it comes to playing drums in an internationally touring band like DLC.
We’ve done four tours in the US with bands like Animals as Leaders, Intronaut, Fair to Midland, Periphery, Born of Osiris, and Twelve Foot Ninja. We are currently on our fifth tour with P.O.D. and 10 Years.
Touring can be brutal, particularly in the USA, where you can have super long drives between shows. Luckily, this time we have a bus, so sleep is not an issue, but my first couple of days I was dealing with adjusting to the new time zone and knocked out a twenty-hour sleep! (My new personal best.) That reset me and I was able to get to the task of playing pretty well by the first show. Sleep is usually the most precious commodity on tour, but we’ve dodged a bullet this time and I can concentrate on other things to fix—like my health.
As a drummer, it is of paramount importance to provide the best show you can night after night on tour. I take a combination of multi vitamins, Spirulina, 5-HTP, and Onnit’s 180-recovery formula. All these make up for my (sometimes) bad diet on the road. Let’s face it, sometimes we get lazy and just smash burgers and fries because it’s convenient. These supplements put back what a terrible diet can take out.
I’ve become a big fan of stretching (not quite yoga) on the road to keep my middle back from seizing up, maintain my calm focus, and really center myself. I combine this quite regularly with deep breathing exercises to quiet the mind and oxygenate the body and brain so it can work at optimal levels during the show. I can’t stress enough the importance of breath work. We all breathe, obviously, otherwise we would die, but many people breathe incorrectly. Allowing yourself fifteen minutes each day to sit in silence and focus on deep inhales through the nose and exhales through the mouth will really improve your performance and overall well being while on the road.
Now that we’ve got health and wellbeing out of the way, I’d like to talk a little bit about working with new people on the road. On the tour that we’re on at the moment, DLC is dealing with a new front of house sound guy. He operates a little differently than our Australian FOH guy, so for the first couple of shows I’ve been in the process of tweaking my drum tuning to help him do his job out front. He likes the drums tuned very low and attacky. Now, I’m usually a guy that leans towards higher tunings, so it’s been a great lesson for me in tuning low. I’ve had to resort to O-rings on the toms again to help me achieve that low tuning without having the toms “fart out” on me due to the really loose batter heads.
You have to be flexible with stuff like that when dealing with a new crew on tour. I find it can help to get to know the crew that you’re dealing with straight away so you can talk about the setups for each show. I find that crew guys, and band members for that matter, have a system they like to adhere to on most shows. Knowing what time you can load in, where to set up, and what time your sound check starts is vital to not stepping on any toes and keeping everyone happy.
As a support act on this tour, we all try to approach the headline acts with massive respect and try to make things as smooth as possible for them and their crew. It is a big team effort on the road, and we do our best to be as little hassle to the guys above us as possible.
I hope there’s some information in here that you can use to help you make it through those long, sometimes grueling tours at home or internationally. Remember to respect your health, the other guys on tour with you, and your performance. This should make for a super smooth, hassle free tour so you can focus on rocking the show every night!
Thanks for reading. Our album Aesthesis is available now at http://smarturl.it/DLC-Aesthesis.
For tour dates and more info on Dead Letter Circus, visit deadlettercircus.com and facebook.com/deadlettercircus.