On The Beat with Ron Totman of the Parallel: Talks Influences, Writing Process, and Gear
Firstly, a huge thanks to Modern Drummer for featuring me here “On The Beat.” This magazine has been a leviathan source of inspiration and musical growth to me for as long as I can remember, and it’s incredibly humbling to be speaking here to you all.
My name is Ron Totman, and I drum/sing for a band called the Parallel, based out of Toronto, Canada. We recently released a music video for our latest single “Monochrome” and completed our first full-length studio album, which is due for release through InVogue Records at the end of the summer. The Parallel has performed at UK Techfest in England, alongside names like the Contortionist, Plini, Betraying the Martyrs and Monuments, and has toured Canada extensively.
When I am not touring or recording with the Parallel, I am a music educator and clinician in Utah, where I currently reside, giving musical instruction at the University of Utah, as well as with multiple high school music programs in the valley area.
I was mainly self-taught up until the end of high school, when I pursued a collegiate education in music, receiving my bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah. The passionate and in-depth exposure to classical percussion training and repertoire, bestowed upon me through my professors and instructors, has played a sizable influence in both my writing and performance styles. Inspiration for me comes in ways I can never expect—I can be blown away by a nasty backbeat from Weckl or Garibaldi one day, and then see an explosive, rudimental brainteaser from Matt Gartska or Mark Giuliani the next. Joseph Arrington (A Lot Like Birds, Sianvar, Royal Coda) has been a prominent and constant source of inspiration for me through his approach to technique, application, and his mantras.
There are so many talented percussionists in the industry, and it’s humbling to watch and learn from their unique approaches and styles. I like to think of myself as a sponge—I want to keep soaking up as much information as possible, and there are so many inspirational artists who make me push my own abilities to the limits and drive me to practice harder every day.
With the Parallel, I constantly strive to implement and fuse a combination of structured and melodic musical phrasings, rudimental applications, and fun, fast-paced wrist-burners into the mix. This keeps the pieces alive and moving along with an energetic and complementary, yet organic feel to what the guitars, bass, and vocals bring to the table. The writing process is always my favorite part of music—the world is your oyster, and the compositional freedoms you have when looking over a phrase or melody are endless, and you can truly let your ideas flow organically. It’s a self-critiquing growth process, which is so cool. After hearing everything come together, I always find myself seeing ideas in my playing that I wasn’t previously aware of, and it encourages an internal learning situation where I can analyze and review my playing critically, and heighten my musical ear and approach for the next time around.
In an industry where the bar keeps getting pushed higher and higher every day, both musically and technically, I’m an avid believer that it is vital to stay true to yourself and your style. Implementation, study, and practice are crucial to growing as a musician, but your personality, leadership and passion, both on stage and in casual settings, are what truly sculpts the musician. Being the best individual you can be transcribes directly to your musical and professional approaches in any channel of your life. I live for music, drumming, performing, and traveling, and I’m incredibly excited to see what the future holds with the Parallel, as well as with my personal growth as a musician!
And now that I’ve bored you to death and talked your ear off, here’s my go-to gear list. I use a DW Collector’s series kit with an 18×22 kick, 12″ and 16″ toms, and a 7×13 Pork Pie Brass Patina snare. I use Remo P77s for my snare batter with Clear Ambassadors on the resonant, and Remo Emperors for the toms, with Clear Ambassadors on the bottom. My cymbals are 14″ Zildjian A Custom hi-hats, 16″ and 18″ Zildjian A Custom Thin crashes, a 20″ Zildjian A Custom ride (or a K ride, depending on the situation), 10″ Zildjian A Custom splash, 18″ Zildjian A Custom China, and a stacker consisting of a 16″ A Custom Thin crash with a miscellaneous 14″ cymbal stacked on top. I use Vic Firth 5B sticks for live performances, and Vic Firth MS5s when teaching marching percussion. Thanks again to Modern Drummer and thank you so much for reading!
Check out “Monochrome” play-through premier drum video here:
For more on the band, visit www.facebook.com/TheParallel.