Paul Wertico

When you go on stage, it’s like a big conversation. Music is about what you have to say on that particular day.” So says Paul Wertico, drummer for Pat Metheny (and Chicago’s Ear Wax Control), who it seems would be happy to communicate exclusively through playing music. Not that he isn’t verbal—quite the contrary. It’s just that music is his passion, and when he’s behind the drums, he definitely speaks from the heart. The music has always been foremost in his life. “If I had to choose between a $100 gig or a $15 gig that was more musical, I’d always take the $15 gig, without fail. I think a lot of musicians don’t do that, because it’s hard to make a living playing music. I’ve starved and maybe I’ll starve again, but whatever it is, the responsibility has always been the music, never the business angle of it. It still isn’t. I still just like to play.”

At 12, he began to take up the drums. His parents had suggested that he play any instrument but the drums, but that was his fascination. Perhaps the biggest source of encouragement in Paul’s life was Donald Ehrensberger, his high school band director at Cary-Grove High School in Cary, Illinois. “When I got into the high school band, there would be auditions, and I’d come in late just because I didn’t care. Yet, the band director would always make me head of the percussion section. He was really cool. If there were five chairs in the concert band, and I’d come in eighth in the audition, he’d stretch it to eight chairs and then make me head of the percussion section. He let me do all these crazy things.” From the time Paul was six and found himself playing “Mary Had A Little Lamb” at a wedding, his drum concept was a melodic one. Instead of bashing like a typical child, he recalls that he tried to play notes on the drums. “The concept of my drumming was never patterns or rhythms, because I didn’t really study that. It was always melody.”

Somehow, Paul decided to pursue becoming a drummer. “I never said, ‘I’m going to become a musician.’ I just always loved to play. I never planned out anything. That’s why it’s really crazy to be with this band. I never really thought about making money from it, because I’ve always taken the musical gig over the money gig. Maybe that’s why I ended up here. A lot of times, people say, ‘You deserve this gig. ‘But there are 10,000 people who deserve a gig like this.”

RF: How did you get with Metheny in the first place?

PW: I had turned Pat down seven years ago. He called me to play some gigs, and I turned him down because 1 was playing with the sax player Joe Daley. He was sort of like a teacher/father figure. I was a young bebop drummer, and he saw a lot of potential in me and helped me along. We got this really good gig at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago, and Pat had heard my name from Ross Trout. I had been playing with Ross Trout and Steve Rodby in an ECM-type band. I knew who Pat was and really wanted to play with him, but I felt that I had to play with Joe. It was the best gig that band had done, and I couldn’t just say, “Thanks, goodbye.”

Pat and I didn’t really stay in touch. I went to see the band a couple of times, although I think I only went backstage once to say hello. I never said, “Hi. How’re you doing? Do you need a drummer?” I went to hear the music, I liked it, and I split. Then when Steve got the gig, he and Danny Gottlieb played together for a couple of years. One night, Steve brought Pat to hear me play with the Simon & Bard Group in Portland, the same night the Metheny Group was playing in Portland. Pat came up and said, “You sound great,” and walked away. Then when Nana Vasconcelos left the group, Danny couldn’t make the audition for another percussionist in Boston, so Pat called me to do the audition. I didn’t even bother to learn any of the tunes. I just went out and played. I didn’t really think about getting the gig. It’s weird, but it’s true, and it’s kind of neat. I feel good about it, because it was a very natural thing. It’s not like I’m trying to force my career to go anywhere.

RF: Musically, what are you thinking about when you’re playing odd-time signatures with Metheny?

PW: The clave, basically. I hear the twos and threes, or the clave beat. On a tune like “Phase Dance,” there’s a certain one- or two- bar pattern that I hear, and I play around it. Maybe being a Capricorn has something to do with it, but I always think logically. My solos are based like those of Roy Haynes, who is my favorite drummer. His solos always appealed to me because they were really out, but they always made sense. I try to do that. If I’m playing odd-time signatures, it’s the same thing. I hear one thing and I try to sculpt it. I’m hearing different things every night, but they’re based on the same thing.

RF: Are you counting?

PW: No, not really. Sometimes if I feel a little weird, I’ll start subdividing to make sure that everything is based on an even pulse. Like on that tune “First Circle,” which is in 22/8, I just learned the clave pattern, which is 3-2-3-2-2 and then 3-3-2-2. I just phrase around that. Pat doesn’t really write music that’s real segmented, so I don’t crash on the 1 a lot. I’ll hear the pattern, but I’ll be playing over it. I keep learning stuff about centering myself and really hitting the drums and the cymbals, rather than ghosting things. One thing I’ve learned about playing that stuff is that, even if I’m ghosting a note, I make sure I really play that note. A lot of drummers cheat on the count by implying it, rather than really giving it its full value.

RF: When we did an Update a few years ago, you said that there was something to be said for the mysteriousness of implication, as opposed to actually doing it.

PW: I remember talking about that, and that’s definitely true. It’s also important, however, that the message you are trying to convey is understood by the audience and not just by you. If there’s a mysterioso factor and you’re just thinking it, that’s one thing, but if it’s not real clear to the audience, then the effect is lost. It’s very important that, if you ghost a note, that space is really there. It’s also important for you to listen to yourself, and not just assume that what you’re playing is sounding a certain way. Try to separate yourself, and really listen to what the audience and the other musicians are probably hearing.

I think of myself as supporting the other musicians by giving them ideas and a lot of energy, which is what drummers do, but I don’t think of it in terms of “drumnastics” at all. It’s really strange: I’m just playing the immediate thing, and the band sounds different every night. Everybody goes out on a limb a lot.

RF: What do you mean specifically by going out on a limb?

PW: A lot of times when I play “Straight On Red,” which is a samba, Lyle Mays and I will just stare at each other while he’s playing the solo. It’s like we’re looking through each other, throwing these things back. It’s amazing the amount of ESP that happens. It’s stretching. We’re playing with the drum machine on that. There are certain tambourine things going on. We’ll play over the bar and stretch a phrase twice as long. It could almost fall apart, but we make it. It’s stuff like that, or even just approaching the tunes differently and not playing something we would play every night, just to see everybody’s reaction and wake everyone up. Pat might start off a tune at a different tempo one night, just to see what will happen and to keep the music fresh. It never gets boring.

RF: Can you be more specific about the art of improvisation?

PW: That can almost get into some extrasensory stuff. One reason why this band is really good is that everybody has a different approach. Steve is very studied, Pedro has got a Latin approach, Pat has his thing, and Lyle has his thing. The reason it works is the combination of players. All five of us are really tuned into each other. The more we play, the more we get to know each other. But just like a man/woman relationship or something like that, some people just hit it off better than others, and some people are just more attuned to what’s going on. I’ve played great with a lot of people I don’t even know. I think one reason it works is that it’s very open. If you’re carrying on a conversation with five different people and all you talk about is what you know, it doesn’t really make that much difference who you’re with. It really works out when you’re with people who are very interesting, or people you have a lot in common with and can grow with. It’s the same thing with music. I think the magical part of it has been that it reaches these dimensions where you don’t understand why it works. I almost don’t want to think about it.

RF: If I had to describe Pat’s music and what I know of the inner workings of the band, the expression that comes to mind is “controlled looseness,” which is really a contradiction in terms, if you think about it.

PW: I think that’s very accurate. That doesn’t imply chaos. You can be loose, yet controlled. That doesn’t sound weird at all, to me.

RF: I want to know how much is controlled and how much is loose. Pat is pretty specific about the things he wants.

PW: He’s specific about what’s in the compositions. Pat’s also pretty specific about things like maintaining a certain mood of the tune, things that may make him play better, sounds he wants to hear, and the sounds he wants surrounding his sound. But when you’ve played this music for as long as we’ve been playing it, you have an idea of what the rules are. On some tunes, I play exactly the same part every night, and I love it.

RF: Like which?

PW: For instance, the Bowie tune “This Is Not America.” I play it the same way, but I always feel as though it’s fresh. I’m into it, so that makes it feel fresh, whereas with some other tunes, I’ll really take some liberties. Sometimes I’ll break some rules.

RF: Is the Bowie tune that way because that’s the way Pat likes it, or because you’ve found that that’s what works the best?

PW: It’s what works the best. There are a lot of machines and a lot of things that have to be there, because they’re a part of it. It was a hit, so we play it that way. There’s no improvisation in that tune.

RF: That’s really a rock tune.

PW: It. is. We’re all 30ish. We all come from some rock background. You couldn’t escape it. As much as I like to play bebop, if I had to play only bebop for the rest of my life, I’d probably be pretty depressed after a while. I like to bash. I like to play backbeats. I like to listen to rock ‘n’ roll music. I grew up playing half jazz and half rock, and my sound might be somewhat bastardized because of it. I’ve played with true bebop players, though, and they seemed to like my playing. In fact, I’ve even played with really traditional swing players and I’m first call on their lists, so I must be doing something right. They might like me because I’ll throw in something that subconsciously comes from rock ‘n’ roll, or I’ll play something solid that a jazz drummer might play more loosely.

RF: How does one work at blending rock and jazz?

PW: When I was 15, I used to practice by playing along with the rock radio station, but I used to play over-the-bar stuff. I would play jazz stuff while The Turtles were on the radio.

RF: Do you ever have to worry about crossing that fine line?

PW: I tune my drums sort of to get both. I tune the snare relatively high and real crisp, so I can get a snappy backbeat, and yet I can do all the little traditional-grip ruffs and play with brushes. I tune the bass drum round and low enough to be able to get some punch out of it, yet it still sounds good with the acoustic bass. The toms ring, but they’re tuned in the range where they sound good if I do a rock fill or if I play in a jazz vein. We don’t really play much bebop, so I don’t have to have that high Gretsch sound, but we play one jazz tune that is almost like a big band thing, so the drums are tuned lower and they’re loud enough to sound good in that. It took me a long time to find the right balance. I went through hell sometimes trying to figure out how to do it, but it finally worked out. Plus, it sounds good through the PA. You have to realize that the close-mic’ situation on all the drums is almost like being in the studio. You can’t just use a four-piece Gretsch kit. It’s not going to sound the same if you’ve got mic’s on every drum.

RF: Back to the rules of your present situation.

PW: Since I’ve been in the band, a lot of things have changed. We improvise a lot. I guess the band always improvised, but we take a lot of chances. Basically, Pat wants us to be into the music 100% all the time. That’s really a demand not to shuck, although nobody in the band would ever think about shucking. Basically, the rules are to stay inside the set when we’re doing it, and not get outside the music. Pat’s concept is that it is a two-and-a-half hour set and that set should have a shape. Really pulling that off takes concentration from beginning to end. It’s almost like a long dream or a movie. I think that’s what he really demands of us. In the beginning, there were so many fine signals that I was missing. There are a zillion rules that I’m still learning now—not rules of his, but rules the music demands—and in the beginning, I’d close my eyes and miss a cue from him. He might have wanted me to get louder or something. Now I can feel that. But I remember drawing two eyes on my small tom-tom to remind me to keep my eyes open and look out at the band. It took me a long time to do that, because I used to get into myself. Now, I balance with both.

Pat’s very conscious of the fact that people are spending $15 to hear the band, so they should get their money’s worth, not just in terms of how much energy we put into the music, but also in terms of a good presentation. If they come to hear us, we’re going to give it our best shot. It’s funny, because I love to play and I always put out my best. When we did the Bowie single, I was up for 52 hours— without drugs, by the way. I flew from Montrose to Chicago, put on a tuxedo and did a wedding, because I love to play and I already had booked it. I really liked the feeling of going from Switzerland and David Bowie to playing a wedding in Chicago. Whenever I play a wedding or a club, I try to sound good because I’m afraid to sound bad, basically. I feel that, if I start getting lazy, I am not only cheating myself, but it might become a habit. It also rubs off on others. A lot of musicians in Chicago have said that, when they play with me now, they feel as though they’re playing in front of 10,000 people. For those three or four hours, I mean business. If that’s what you love to do, you should do the best you can.

RF: With Pat, can you try whatever you want to try?

PW: Yes, to the extent that I would try it out. I’ll try some things that I’m not sure will work. I trust my musicality well enough— and Pat trusts my musicality well enough—to know that, whatever I try, I’ll be able to pull it off, at least to the extent that, even if it doesn’t sound good, the band won’t come to a grinding halt. Recently, on the Ornette Coleman tune we do, I added this doublebass roll in the really fast section. This one thing makes it sound like the tune is going three times faster, and it really works out great. I asked Pat if he liked it and he said he wouldn’t use it all the time, so I said I’d just use it in the second half of the tune. When I do it, I hear the audience go “Ah,” because it really sounds like it’s burning. Pat told me to be careful, because it’s sort of in the same range as his guitar. You have to think about all that, too. I’m not only aware of beats and movements, but I’m also aware of textures and sounds clashing with someone else’s sound. I work to enable all the other musicians to play as much or as little as they want without scrunching them. That’s why Steve and I play so well together. We breathe together. When I think about breathing, it’s not only the breathing that’s involved in centering myself and being relaxed. It’s also having the music breathe, and letting a phrase have its natural contour for what it’s supposed to be.

RF: Speaking of Steve, you mentioned that you wanted to talk about bass players.

PW : Most of my best friends are bass players, which is very interesting. Obviously, drummers and bass players are the foundation of the band, but it’s really interesting, because I don’t think I’ve ever had any trouble playing with any bass player of any style. Steve Rodby and I could play the first time we ever played together. It was instant. Steve’s philosophies are probably very different from mine, because he’s classically trained, he has a degree, and he’s very exact. We play great together, though. I think one reason we work off each other is that he allows me the freedom to play the way I play, because he really just lays it down. He’s really conscious of making the music exactly the way he thinks it should be, and I add the craziness element to the whole thing. It’s the same thing with Jeff Czech, who is a totally opposite type of bass player from Steve. He’s much more like me and probably more out than I am, yet we play great together. I think a lot of young drummers don’t get the chance to play with good bass players. It’s really important to play with good bass players, though, and to get together and play grooves. It’s amazing how much freedom they can give you or take away from you. A lot of times, you can’t really tell what Steve and I work out or don’t work out, because what we don’t work out is so intuitive that it sounds like we worked it out. We’re very conscious of the ups and downs—downbeats and upbeats—and playing two notes or one note. We really think about all that stuff and then go off from there. Whereas with somebody like Jeff, we wouldn’t work out anything. We were talking about improvisation before. To get back to the conversation thing, having a foundation with somebody you know is like having your friend there to help you through some of the conversation. Your friend can say, “You really meant this . . . .”That’s what the bass player is like almost. I’ve been very lucky.

RF: How does the music with Pat evolve? Are you presented with the tunes finished or incomplete?

PW: In every variation you can think of. Pat and Lyle have a basic idea of what’s going on, but before we record it, we might tour with it. With The Falcon And The Snowman, Steve and I just flew out to London. They had written some music and we just did it. There are never any drum charts. There are just lead sheets, and we find out what works and what doesn’t.

RF: When Pat first started, he was taking his music out on the road for quite a long time before recording it. Does he still have that luxury?

PW: We try to. Ideally, it’s nice to do a tour with a tune, because if you play 40 or 50 gigs, you can pretty much center in on what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. It’s not always an option, though. We hardly rehearse. We get together five days before a tour. Before this last fall tour, we hadn’t been together in seven months. We got together and most of the time was spent fixing equipment from its coming back from Europe trashed. So we played half the set—some of the hard tunes like “Jaco” and “San Lorenzo”—cold on stage after not playing for seven months.

RF: Is the recording process a very creative environment?

PW: Oh yes, and very quick. We recorded the First Circle album in a couple of days and some of those were first takes. There, it’s almost better to have a few mistakes and keep the live fire. We literally played live, even though we were in booths and all that. We just came off a tour and played. I think a lot of people like that album for that reason. It’s funny, but a lot of things I really like on records are mistakes. Steve came over once. I played some of my favorite tracks of other drummers for him, and he said, “Paul, do you realize that 80% of what you pointed out were mistakes?” I didn’t even hear that it was a mistake. I love Keith Moon. If you really listen to his time and what he played, it was crazy, but he had this energy force. Listen to a lot of rock drummers, especially from that era—Ringo, Charlie Watts. I love those guys. I don’t like listening to drummers who sound like drum machines. It’s interesting to see what is happening with music, because in today’s society, it’s sort of computerized, and that’s what people are relating to. I’m not saying music ended with Traffic, but there’s a different attitude today. It’s going to be interesting to see where music will go. People are getting into television. Why are videos so popular? I can’t really watch a video, because the picture is in my head. Now they’re force-feeding the image. Once you see a video, that pretty much says it for that tune. When you take it from that perspective and then you take it back to trying to play dynamics within a phrase on a cymbal, that’s so far back there that it’s almost subliminal.

RF: What about the heavy improvisational experience you have with Ear Wax Control?

PW: That’s obviously a very ESP type of band. It’s a great band. We just did our first movie score, Interphase, and we nailed 40 minutes of music in four hours. It was amazing. The director just dipped. I really realized how good we are when we did this. That kind of band is a growing band. We basically start with no preconception of anything. We just improvise. The music is a language. How many beats you play or how fast you play can correlate with how many words you know or how eloquent you are. Once you start the conversation, that stuff comes into being. The magic happens when you can use those words to think of ideas that are new or at least unique for the people around you. That’s where language is great, too. If you know a lot of big words, great, but if you say something that’s really profound in five words rather than one hundred words, that’s when it really makes a difference. Playing with Ear Wax Control, we can take free improvisation and really nail it down so it doesn’t sound free. That’s what I’m really proud of. The album sounds like tunes, yet it was all free.

As soon as we first played together, we knew that was it. We had something. That was November of ’73. We all had the same vision. It’s important to find good people you can carry on a conversation with. If you’re doing studio work, jingles, soundtracks, or stuff like that, it’s more craftsmanship. Everybody knows what his or her job has to be for the particular result. That’s not improvisation, though. Members of Ear Wax Control listen to a lot of ethnic music, and once you do that, you increase your vocabulary. That way, when you improvise with other people, you have so much more to choose from. It keeps your mind really free, and the more people you play with, the more you will be on your toes. Every night when I play my drum solo, it’s totally different, and if I play something really good one night, I’ll try never to play that again. Sometimes I fail miserably, but that’s my approach.

RF: What are your thoughts about soloing?

PW: I take a couple of different solos during the course of a show. I’ve always loved to play drum solos, because when I play, I feel like I have a lot to say on the drums. Whether anybody else likes it or not, I don’t know. When we play the Ornette dedication, I just play. I have this Memory Man electronic device, which is an ancient device—a dinosaur. It’s a chorus/echo/delay unit, which kind of plays itself. I never know what it’s going to do for sure, because there’s no exact setting. I also have it hooked into a Maestro remodulator, which is one of the ugliest instruments ever created, and there are Barcus-Berry banjo pickups on some of the toms, which they don’t make anymore. During the course of the solo, I get into using it. I set it wherever I feel like setting it, and it just does these things. Then I start controlling it, and it starts feeding back and making noises. It’s like wrestling with this weird animal with my left hand, while I’m trying to play a solo with my right. That gives me some ideas, because I’m dealing with the immediate and not dealing with any preconceived thoughts. Obviously, I do have a set vocabulary, but I don’t play paradiddles around the kit to try to figure out a pattern. I just play what I do, so I never know what’s going to happen, and I’m real good at playing off my mistakes. I’m sort of an expert at doing that, because when you play like I play, you have a tendency to do some strange things. They’re not mistakes, necessarily, but since I might play a fill when I haven’t worked out the sticking, I might come out backwards. I know where I’m at, though, because I’m counting all the time, and I don’t ever lose the beat. If Pat’s solo is sculpted, I’ll use his thing for a launching off point to at least make a cohesive statement. I also do that “Straight On Red” solo, which is a duo with Pedro Aznar [percussionist], but it also becomes a solo. That’s with a drum machine and it’s a samba-type groove. I’m playing sort of samba figures, but not really. I’m playing what feels good to me at a certain time and what I think is going to make the tune happen.

RF: Let’s talk about equipment.

PW: It’s very important to have good equipment. When I joined Pat, we rehearsed five days, and I had to learn all the music by heart. We had a week off while they mixed Travels, we rehearsed a little at soundcheck, and I had to play. I barely knew what section belonged to what tune, but we made it through the gig. On the second tune, though, my snare drum fell apart. This was before I was with Yamaha, and I was using the kit I used in Chicago. I literally taped the snare strainer to the bottom head for the rest of my first gig with Pat. I wanted to commit suicide. I had enough problems without having that happen. I had the five or six Paistes they gave me, but I was also using a couple of K.s and all these weird cymbals, so it was a big mess. Yamaha had called right before I went on that tour and they wanted to give me some drums and stands, but I was kind of afraid to use different drums at that point. I thought I had enough problems without using something new. In retrospect, I wish I had done that. I had these drums that just didn’t sound good at all. On the first European tour, I was sure I would be fired. Pat dug some of the stuff I was doing, but basically I was still learning the music and the drums just weren’t up to concert class. Before the second tour, I called up Paiste again, and called up Yamaha and talked to Jim Coffin. The drums sound great, and the hardware is fantastic. Finally, for the second tour, I had some good cymbals and some good hardware. At the first rehearsal, Pat said, “Man, these sound 100 times better.” The drums I had before were fine for Chicago, and they recorded great, but they just weren’t good enough for what this was. We toured a couple of times, and I just endorsed those two companies. Then when I was at the NAMM Show last summer, I talked to ProMark, Remo, and Latin Percussion, and started endorsing those companies. They’ve all been fantastic. There isn’t one company I deal with that isn’t nice. I deal with RIMS now also. I just started using them on this tour, and immediately the drums sounded 25% better. Now I’m using the Aquarian cymbal springs, because that helps to prevent the cymbals from breaking. Any rattle from the stand is isolated as well. I’m also using the LP Claws on the tom-toms to hold the mic’s.

RF: Let’s talk about your cymbals. Were you always so enamored of cymbals, or has that happened since working with Pat?

PW: In Chicago, before Pat, drummers used to call me Dr. Cymbal. I didn’t have as many cymbals. I couldn’t afford it at that time, but when I got with Pat I borrowed some Paiste cymbals because I didn’t have enough. They’re just perfect for me. I play really hard and the cymbals usually don’t crack, except the crash cymbals because I really nail them. When I crack one, no matter where I am, there’s a new one there. They’re so consistent, and it’s always close to the one I broke. They’re the cleanest cymbals. There’s not a lot of low end or undertones. It’s hard to get sloppy on those cymbals because they’re so exact. Rhythmically, they kind of tell you where you’re at. If you have a cymbal that really spreads a lot, you can sort of “woosh” your way through it. For Pat’s music, they’re perfect because his guitar, with all the digital stuff, reverbs, and delays that he uses, has this clean, crystal sound. I think that, if you used cymbals that were sort of dark, they would cover up some of his sound.

RF: Would you detail your cymbals?

PW: I use two flat rides, both 22″. The one on the right, which is the main ride cymbal, is a 2002, and the one on the left is a 602 thin. I put two sizzles in there, one Paiste and one Zildjian, because I experimented and that got me the sound I wanted. It sizzles for like 30 seconds. When I got the cymbal, I turned the cymbal around about 30 times to figure out the weight, and then I put two sizzles on the lighter side so they never get in the way. It’s a fantastic cymbal. I do a lot of double rides. On a lot of things, I won’t play the snare; I’ll play two cymbals instead. I play two different ride beats at the same time, so each has its own shape. They correlate, but they can also be very independent. The two cymbals have to blend, but still be distinctive in sound. I use a bunch of splashes, crashes, and Rude cymbals, and I also use the Color Sounds. I use a 20″ ride, an 18″ crash, and the hi-hats. They almost sound like cymbals with just enough tape on them to get an interesting sound. They work really well for the electronics, too. They don’t have the same contour as the regular cymbals. They cut off faster. I use that ride for the out chorus of some tunes where I’m really bashing, and it builds, but not too much. It has a rock sound, but since it’s a little deader, it feels real good and comes across the PA really well. Since I play melodically, all the cymbals are paired off, so I can play melodies. I find the pitches that are interesting for me on the crashes, so when I play around the kit, I can hear where the highs and lows are. Then I can really contour the shape of what I’m doing to those specific cymbals. That’s why it’s important that, when I crack a crash, Paiste can give me one that’s almost identical.

RF: You’re also using the DW double-bass pedal. Why do you prefer that to using an actual double-bass setup?

PW: I like my hi-hat in close. This way, I use the pedal on the left side of the hi-hat, so the hi-hat can be right where it is. It sets up much better, it mikes much better, and I like the sound of one drum. There’s a pitch difference, just because of the placement of the beaters, but it’s much better because I can set up the way I want. Now I’m using their new cable hi-hat. The pedal is where it normally is, but I can put the cymbals anywhere I want. The action is fantastic. They gave it to me because I like to use two hi-hats. In fact, with Ear Wax Control, I use a Low Boy and a regular hi-hat. I have three pedals already on my left side. I have the timp tom, which is the Yamaha tunable floor tom. I’ve got the left bass drum off the DW 5000, and I’ve got the hi-hat. I was trying to figure out where to put this other hi-hat, because I wanted to use both. I cut the top off and attached it to my snare drum stand, so now I can play both hi-hats or any combination, and I’ve got it on the right side. I’m really going to be experimenting with the double hi-hat thing a lot, because it’s really incredible with brushes. If you’re playing a ballad, you don’t really need to play the bass drum that much. The way I have this second hi-hat, I can get to the bass drum in a second and go back to the hi-hat. If you’re playing brushes, you can get these double swishes, and over the PA, it’s stereo. It’s really fantastic. Also, if you’re playing with a drum machine, you can program the bass drum and then play the different grooves on the ride cymbal, snare, and the two different hi-hats. It’s really easy to play bass drum beats on the second hi-hat, because your foot is accustomed to doing that. The effect is incredible. You have these two different opening and closing swishes in stereo, but you can also ride and get those barking effects in different spots, against each other. It’s like overdubbing your own hi-hat part, live. Even with simple beats that would sound normal on the drumset, if you play the bass drum part on the second hi-hat, it sounds ridiculous. All you have to do is cut off that top part of the second hi-hat, and clamp it onto your snare drum stand, and you’ve got it right there. You can play it with either foot. DW also came up with this new bass drum pedal that triggers Simmons, so I’ve got one of those. I’ve got six pedals on my drumset, which is almost as many as Lyle has. I’m also using the DW hi-hat. I love the Yamaha hi-hat, but the DW hi-hat is great and the legs turn, so it’s easier to get all those pedals in there. On every tour, we add new tunes, so sometimes I have to have a new cymbal or a new drum, and the companies are very supportive.

RF: Have you any advice for young drummers?

PW: One of the most important things a drummer can do is to play for the other musicians and try to make them feel good. I think a lot of drummers become obsessed with this sort of inner-circle club, thinking about drums and reading drum ads. That really has nothing to do with playing music. If I’m, say, backing up Pat’s solo, I’m never thinking, “Where can I slip in this really hip lick?” Never. I’m listening to his solo, and I’m laying down as much of a good groove as I can. I’m listening to where I can sort of kick him in the butt or give him space. I do that with all musicians. I’m always listening to everybody else, trying to figure out what I can do to make it better than it is. With the exception of the really great drummers like Vinnie Colaiuta, a lot of times nobody will want to deal with the really fancy drummers. They become so technical that they lose the idea of what it’s all about. We’re also at odds with computers now, so we feel that we have to do all this amazing stuff. But why does Charlie Watts feel so good? It’s really just getting the message out.