Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, Billy Idol, Foreigner, Ozzy Osbourne and more) recently recorded a play along and lesson video for Modern Drummer as a tribute to the great Alex Van Halen and the Modern Drummer Legends Vol 2 featuring AVH. Modern Drummer caught up with Brian for a brief Q & A:
MD: Such an awesome performance on this play-along and a great way to pay homage to the legendary Alex Van Halen! In your early drumming years, what was the song or the encounter that opened your eyes to his drumming?
BT: Thanks! I had heard VH on the radio but didn’t know it was them. I was young and had yet to have anyone turn me on to them until 7th-8th grade. I heard Women and Children First at someone’s house from beginning to end and was blown away. Fair Warning was already out and I soon got all the LP’s! As far as a song that stood out; it was probably Everybody Wants Some with the killer tribal Intro. But also the simple yet insanely powerful and effective Eruption intro, the cowbell/ Hihat intro to Dance The Night Away, the insane tempo and fury of Loss Of Control, the hyper funkiness and blistering fills in Outta Love Again, and much more!
MD: What do you think impressed you the most about his playing at the time?
BT: It was more about everything Alex did with equal focus and some reckless abandon! But I loved knowing that he was going to give you an awesome groove with creative parts and some surprise fills throughout! And of course, he has an super-identifiable sound. His sound developed as the LP’s went on and out of that came this unbelievably distinct snare tone (the original “brown sound” as Eddie called it) that really came to life on Fair Warning!
MD: When we spoke earlier this week, you mentioned how AVH was in your top 3 and such a huge influence on your drumming. Outside of playing along to Van Halen, what characteristics of Alex’s playing style tend to show up in your own style?
BT: For me it’s always been Bonham, Peart and Alex! I’m forever trying to get a snare tone that is wholly influenced from Bonham and Alex’s! But there are just many great “Alex-isms” that when can be fit into a song, always makes my day. From his snare tone, to his semi-sloshy hihats, his super high pitched first rack tom, his use of Rototoms, octobans, cowbells, inventive double kick, and his creative patterns and fills, Alex always gives us drummers fun, challenging and catchy playing in every song! And let’s not forget his creativity in his drum kit designs and set ups! From connecting two bass drums together to make one extremely long one, additional bass drums on the side of the main two connected via rubber tubes, and so many more visually stimulating elements, Alex made sure his kits stood out from everyone else’s! His black + white striped “Fair Warning” kit is my favorite kit ever!
MD: Thank you for putting in the effort to honor AVH with this play-along and accompanying lesson video for Modern Drummer. Was it challenging to play through at first or was it like riding a bike?
BT: Yes it was challenging on a couple levels. First I listened to the isolated drum track where you can hear some stuff more clearly that flies by a bit in the full band mix. I tried to learn it more for note. I didn’t nail it 100% but most of it’s there. Then, when I played along I had to remember when to push or lay back as they didn’t record to a click. His track is so solid and even that you take for granted how difficult it is to keep the double kicks shuffling evenly from top to bottom as he weaves in and out, playing fills where the kicks stop for a bit. But he always comes back in keeping the time and groove super solid with an effortless swing!
MD: You’ve had interactions with Eddy and Alex Van Halen over the years. What was most memorable about those experiences?
BT: I got to play with Eddie for two nights in 2006 in his backyard as part of the house band for a party he had. We rehearsed there the night before. It was just too surreal to actually be playing VH songs with Eddie himself! And he brought me and my bud, keyboard badass / equally huge VH fan, Derek Sherinian up to 5150 studios and showed us around! Omg, it’s still a trip to think about it! Eddie’s sense of rhythm was like no one I’ve played with! RIP Eddie!
BT: I only met Alex once back in 1995 when I was playing with Slash’s Snakepit. We did some European festivals with them and opened up a couple arena shows for them in the states. In Europe I had my Diver Down tour book in my suitcase, and when we met I asked if the next time we play together, would he sign it. He was totally cool and said yes but I never pursued it and we didn’t meet again.
But whatever, I’m a huge fan and the main thing is all the sheer drumming enjoyment and influence he has given me and countless others for over 40 years! I’m still always listening to Alex’s playing and how great his drums sound and to ever get the chance to pick his brain on the history of his tuning and recording would be amazing, as I think there are tons of drummers out there that want to know a lot more about how Alex Van Halen achieved a signature sound that only sounds like him!
Check out Brian’s play-along video for “I’m the One”:
Here is Brian’s description of the project:
“Alex Van Halen rules! Always been in my top 3 favorite drummers! Always creative and always exciting and you always know it’s him!
Modern Drummer asked me to put a video lesson together. Alex is on the cover of their most recent Legends issue, so I figured I’d give it up to him and go back to the first time we heard his awesome double bass drum shuffling!
This is from Van Halen I, recorded back in ‘77!
Such a great barn-burning track with so much groove, power and creativity on top of the relentless double kicks!
A huge thanks to Alex for all the decades of kick ass charismatic drumming, and thanks to Billy Amendola and all at Modern Drummer, Ludwig, Paiste, Remo, Canopus Snare Wire, and LAR sticks for their great products! And hats off to Leedy, as I’m using by 5×14 snare drum I’ve had since I was 9 that has a real distinctive tone to it.”
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