With dates in Australia, Japan, Russia, the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., Stone Sour will be going nonstop well into the new year. During a recent recording session in New York City, Roy Mayorga told Modern Drummer that the stroke he suffered a few years ago prompted him to consider the task of touring differently. The incident—which seemed especially shocking considering how much energy and passion Mayorga exhibits on stage—forced him to reassess and adjust his technique, routines, and setup. “I lost a little bit of coordination and mobility for a moment,” Roy says. “I had to regain that and the feeling on my left side. It was a good learning process. I relearned how to play. Sitting up higher definitely helps. I’m not in as much pain as I used to be at the end of a show, and it feels better. [I have] more control. It’s kept me more focused, and I play more from the core. I don’t have any reminders that something’s wrong anymore.”
While his playing seems custom-made for the melodic metal of Stone Sour, “I don’t consider myself a metal drummer,” Mayorga says. “I’m a drummer that’s learned to adapt to a metal-band situation. Like with Soulfly [the raging tribal metal act he was in prior to Stone Sour], I adapted. I just basically assimilate and adapt to whatever is in front of me. That, to me, is the art—the art of adaption. That’s what I like to convey to people. That’s what I’m about.”
Mayorga’s enthusiasm for drumming is undeniable. “Any time I get to play drums, I’m in!” Roy says. “I’m not the guy that lets someone else soundcheck for me, unless I can’t be there. I’m always the first guy on stage. I just love playing.”
That positivity extends to the entire band.Whether it’s during songwriting or recording sessions, performances, or behind-the-scenes hang time, it seems that ego issues between Stone Sour’s members are nonexistent. Fun, on the other hand, is a priority. “We joke all the time,” Mayorga says. “We make fun of each other, we laugh—all we do is laugh. Nobody in this band fights, which is really bizarre. I’d never been in a band where it’s been that way.”
Such camaraderie extended to the making of the new Stone Sour album, Hydrograd. Each member contributed to the writing, and the band recorded live together—the first time Mayorga has done that with the group. On the current tour, Stone Sour is slowly introducing the new songs into the set list, and Roy is excited to bring something different to fans. “By the end of next year, [the set] will probably be half songs from the record and [half] old ones,” he says.
MD: So how long will you be on the road for, Roy?
Roy: We’ll be on road until the end of December, then start up again in January and go out all next year as well.
We just got off the road with Korn. That was awesome. It was a great way to start out. A really great bunch of dudes to be around, and the bands we were with were great. We were out with Skillet, Yelawolf, and this band called Ded. It was a really successful tour. Awesome crowds every night.
MD: In addition to being on the same label, were you friends with the Korn guys previously?
Roy: We weren’t best friends, but we’ve been acquaintances for a couple of decades, and we got to really know each other on this last run, especially [vocalist] Head [Brian Welch]. The last couple of times he hasn’t been in the band, so he’s the one I got to know the most. I’ve known [drummer] Ray Luzier for a long time, ever since I moved to L.A. We met each other on Sunset while he was still playing with Steel Panther, a.k.a. Metal Skool. So it was cool to be on the road with him. We just shot the shit the whole time and laughed.
MD: For your own headlining tour, do you guys or your label choose your opening acts?
Roy: We choose them.
MD: So they don’t have to be on your label?
Roy: No, they don’t. We make suggestions and they see what can be done. There’s a lot of logistics involved, but we pick the bands that we want to go with.
MD: What kind of bands were you in when you started touring?
Roy: I was in punk rock bands. We organized and booked our own tours, paid for our own flights to get to where we had to go. In the van, in the station wagon, whatever it took.
MD: For you personally, did things change when other people began taking care of bookings and logistics?
Roy: That kind of slowly evolved. I mean, I didn’t know any better when I first started doing it. I thought this is how you did it—you did it yourself. After a while, when I started playing in other bands that were more on a corporate level or signed to bigger labels, budget allowed that to happen. The first band that I was a part of that had that was Soulfly. That was the first bus tour I’ve ever done. I had my own drum tech. I used to tech and tune myself. I didn’t even have cases for my drums.
So it was a big change when I joined Soulfly. That was basically my gateway to where I’m at now. That was a great experience. It was a really great band and it was awesome playing with [singer/guitarist] Max Cavalera. We wrote a lot of great stuff together.
MD: Do you do your own soundchecks now and adjust the kit yourself, or is your tech on it enough to get it spot on the way you like it?
Roy: Everything’s marked and everything’s memory locked, so it’s easy to build the set. I design and build the kits in the beginning and then I teach whoever’s tech-ing how to build it and take it from there. Our tech also tunes up.
MD: Hydrograd was released on June 30 and hit the charts at number 1 pretty quickly.
Roy: Pretty surprising and unexpected.
MD: Why were you surprised? It’s awesome.
Roy: We don’t go into things with any expectations, but it’s just an amazing surprise how it was received. We definitely thank everyone for making that happen—everyone who bought it, streamed it, played it on the radio. I mean, if it wasn’t for them, it wouldn’t have gotten where it’s gone.
MD: You treat your fans really well. There’s a video of you taking a fan in for a preview of the album. That was pretty cool.
Roy: Yeah [laughs], Bert’s awesome. He’s a great man. We took him from his work, kidnapped him, put him in our car, and took him to the studio to listen to the record. That was actually Corey’s idea. It was pretty cool.
MD: You’ve made a couple of videos for the new record, like the inflatable tube men for “Fabuless.” Was that as much fun as it looked?
Roy: That was actually a treatment I came up with several years ago, originally for a song from one of our other records. We didn’t have the budget to do it at the time, so we scrapped the idea. Corey’s the one who resurrected the idea when we were writing “Fabuless.” It goes with the lyrics perfectly. We placed forty or fifty of those things in a room in different parts and then blended them all together to make it look like 4,000 fans in a sold-out Wiltern Theater in L.A.
MD: Do you have a favorite song from the new album to play live?
Roy: Oh, I love playing “Fabuless.” It’s the last song in the set. I call that the finish-line song. That’s where you’re sprinting as fast as you can to get to first place and break that ribbon at the finish line. So we actually play it a lot faster than we do on the record. By then we’re like, Ahhhghghhhh! Full throttle. I would say it’s a good six bpm faster than the recording. That doesn’t sound like a lot but it is.
MD: Keeping healthy, fit, and safe and preventing injury is important on the road. Is there any preparation you do upon waking up or before going to bed, or are there any pre- or post-gig rituals that you try to do religiously?
Roy: I try get as much sleep as I can, but sometimes it’s hard to sleep in those bunks [on tour bus]. I usually get up at 10:30 or 11, have a cup of coffee, do one of those high-power protein shakes, and then just eat little meals throughout the day and keep the energy level up. I don’t like gorging big amounts of food at a time, I like eating small amounts throughout the day. That’s something I learned over the years to keep the energy level up where your body doesn’t work as hard digesting. That’s what zaps a lot of people.
In the last few months I stopped eating bread, which weighs you down and bloats you. I stick to vegetables, protein, and some carbs here and there—rice, mashed potatoes—but I usually just eat lean protein and lots off veggies, salads, and fruits and drink tons of water throughout the day.
I take this post-workout stuff called Jym, usually 15 or 30 minutes before I play. It kind of levels me out while I’m playing throughout the show, and my muscles never cramp up. So I’m able to play with a lot of velocity for a good hour and twenty minutes and not worry about it. It’s got a lot of amino acids in it that prepare your muscles as you’re working them. That was something I was recently turned on to by Mathew, Korn’s physical therapist who they bring on the road. He gives it to all of them, and they’re flawless every night, so I tried it. I should have done this a log time ago. Before that, I used to drink half a Red Bull, which is really bad for you.
So that’s definitely something I do every day before a show. Before that, every day, [guitarist] Christian [Martucci], Chow [bassist Johnny Chow], [guitarist] Josh [Rand], and I will get together and run through the set on practice amps and a practice kit in the dressing room, then we’ll wait about an hour and a half and go out on stage and rock. So that’s our warm-up.
MD: Doesn’t the workout drink come back up when you’re playing if you drink it fifteen minutes prior to hitting the stage?
Roy: No. I usually eat maybe two and a half hours before a show, and if I’m feeling a little bit hungry an hour before, I’ll have a banana or something like that—something that will benefit me while I’m playing. Potassium’s good. I’ll usually chase that down with coconut water, and then I’ll have the drink right before and I’m good to go.
MD: Are you taking any supplements such as Magnesium?
Roy: No, not really. I take one of those Raw One multivitamins, some vitamin D, and that’s it. I keep it really simple. Sometimes I throw in a zinc pill about twice a week to keep the immune levels up.
MD: When you’re on the road, you’re obviously on the bus every day, unless you have a day off when you stay in a hotel. Where do you eat?
Roy: Whatever’s available that’s good and healthy. I don’t go to McDonalds or anything like that. If there’s a nice Thai, Indian, or Brazilian restaurant and I have some cash on me, I’m going there. I like eating well. I don’t like eating fast food—that’s a killer!
MD: What you put in your body is what you become.
Roy: You are what you eat—exactly! Yeah, I try.
MD: Do you do much stretching as well?
Roy: A little bit. Not as much as I should, and I’m reminded in a most vulgar way at the end of a show where I should have stretched my neck or my back. I’ll feel that the next day.
MD: On the road you’ve obviously got a crazy busy schedule. But in your downtime, are you guys writing together on the bus, reading books, FaceTiming with family…?
Roy: No writing. Maybe reading books. Yes, FaceTiming the family. We do press, we do meet-and-greets, stuff like that. Downtime is like the magical day where you just want to shut off. Usually I’ll just do that. If we’re in a nice town, I’ll take a walk or go out with the guys and catch a movie or something. Go to a restaurant or whatever, just be mellow. I don’t go nuts anymore.
MD: After your stroke, you had to make some changes and adjustments to your playing, including your setup and the height you sit at.
Roy: Sitting up higher definitely helps. I’m more on top of my drumkit, as opposed to being level with it or just below it. That’s how I used to play. I don’t know why, it just felt comfortable to me at the time, so I just stayed with that. Now I feel like my playing is a lot better and it definitely benefits my playing style. Relearning how to play was a good learning process. It’s kept me more focused, and I play more from the core and don’t flail about like I used to. That’s fun, but at the end of the day, you know, focus on hitting the goddamn drums and making the people move.
MD: You have a massive kit that you’ve built around yourself. Is there any reasoning behind that?
Roy: You know, it looks big but it’s not. There’s not a lot to it. The sizes of the drums are big. The kick’s a 24″, the toms are 12″ and 13″, and the floor toms are 16″ and 18″. All I have is two crash cymbals, two Chinas, a ride, and one China behind me. There’s not much to it. I mean, Neil Peart has a massive kit, I don’t. The core of my kit is basically the same kit that I started with—snare, kick, rack, and floor.
MD: You seem to have a variety of musical influences.
Roy: Yeah, that’s definitely something I’d like people to know about me. I’m not just this kind of drummer or that kind of drummer, I’m definitely capable of doing other things. I’ve learned over the years how to adapt to situations. If I’m going to play with a funk band, in a soul, R&B band, I’m going to assimilate to that. I’m not going to walk in there playing blast beats. I’m going to try to channel drummers like Clyde Stubblefield, who was James Brown’s drummer. Or try to get into the head of a jazz drummer’s approach, like, What would this person do if he was in this situation? And then I go through the rolodex of drummers that I love that play jazz and so forth—what would this person do playing in this metal kind of band? I’ll try and go through the rolodex of drummers I like who play metal. I’ll try copy that, make it my style, and apply what I do. Everybody’s interpretation’s different, right? So, saying I want to play something that sounds like what Dave Lombardo would do, it’s not going to come out like him, it’s going to sound like me doing what I do
MD: What gets you off the most—playing live shows, being in the studio, recording, writing…?
Roy: Playing live shows! I mean, it’s just an exchange between myself and the crowd and the band and the crowd. I get off on that. It drives me more. I start playing stuff a little faster, more off the rails, and just get into it. Turn off and let the instincts take you where you need to go.
MD: Did you write the new album all together?
Roy: Yeah, technically, but I gotta say, Christian brought in a fair chunk of it—I’d say a good seventy-five percent. Corey brought in “Rose Red” and “Song #3,” and Josh brought in a “YSIF,” “Taipei Person/Allah Tea,” and “When the Fever Broke.” Johnny Chow brought in a couple as well. Everything else was Christian and myself collaborating. Some of us wrote this, some of us wrote that, but at the end of the day, we all get together, take things apart, and put them back together. We do what’s best as a band together playing live, and really feel them. So there’s a great collaboration there.
MD: You have your own studio. I imagine you brought in material you worked on there?
Roy: I wrote a fair amount too with Christian and we flitted back and forth and worked on songs together. I’d send him riffs and ideas and he’d take my riffs and ideas and turn them into full songs with whatever he’s got. “Fabuless” is one of the first ones he and I worked on together.
I basically came up with the chorus riff and then he wrote everything else around it. I was pretty blown away with what he came back with. We’d all get together, take things apart, put them back together, and come out with what you hear on the album.
We did that with every song. We took Corey’s songs and did the same thing—added little things here and there, added newer drum parts, worked with dynamics and stuff like that. But the core parts in the songs didn’t really change from the demo stages. How we play them and what we’ve added to them, that’s what gave them a little bit more life.
It was a good process. What was really cool about this recording is that we actually all recorded in the studio together live, which I’ve never done with any Stone Sour record before. In fact, the last time I recorded live with the band was the first Soulfly record, with no click track on top of it. We didn’t do click track on this record either, except I’d have eight counts of click right before I take the band, then the click would just stop. So we’d do several takes, then go with one master take that was good from start to finish and then layer upon that.
MD: You did this on the whole album?
Roy: The whole record. The process basically was a song a day, top to bottom. We’d start at 11 in the morning. I’d play for a couple of hours with the band, then once my drums were comp’d, we kept the bass that was live with me and add more guitars on top of that. Then maybe a little bit of ear candy, and we’d do that every day. The next day, Corey would come in and lay vocals down in the morning on the song we played the night before. Then we’d start the process again the next day.
MD: Wow, that’s old school.
Roy: Yeah, man, it’s totally old school, because that’s how we made the demos for this album as well, at my house. The guys were like, “Let’s just record the record like this,” and I was, “Thank God, yeah!”
We did all the cover EPs the same way. We played all those live at my house and then layered upon whatever the master take was. No trickery, no moving the kicks or the snares. I left everything as it was and just comp’d. If I like what I did on this last take better than what I did on the second take, I would take the master take and maybe a fill from the first take and put it in the second take and just do it like that. I like to edit as little as possible. If I can have a good take from beginning to end, great, let’s leave it as it is.
MD: It’s not often these days a band records in that way.
Roy: Yeah, I mean, I love the push and pull that the drummer gives the band. You want that. You want the life. The sound of a band playing to a grid/click works for some bands, and it’s cool sounding, that rigidness, but it just doesn’t work for this band. There’s a lot of push and pull, especially a lot of dynamic stuff that I’m doing, a lot of grace notes, stuff that needs to be there and not be rigid and robotic. The process is going to pretty much stay this way from now on.
MD: Did you have an innate desire to play the drums when you were young, or was there a concert or something you saw that inspired you to play?
Roy: It was an instinctual thing, I guess. But seeing Kiss for the first time on TV definitely is what pulled me in to want to do this. All those people, explosions, fire, makeup, the spectacle and theatrics of it all. That attracted me to want to go there! Seeing and hearing bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin at that time on TV too—I’m in! This is what I’m going to work my ass off to get to.
MD: Why the drums in particular?
Roy: I don’t know, it was something I was naturally attracted to since I was a kid. The beats and pulse. My mom used to play records all the time. She was really into R&B, soul, and whatever was popular. Neil Diamond, Burt Bacharach, I listened to all of that in the beginning, and that’s what kind of got me in motion. Listening to James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, I mean, that’s the roots of my groove, of what I play. You don’t really hear it in my playing as much, but it’s there. It starts there for me.
Mayorga plays DW drums and Sabian cymbals, uses Promark sticks and Evans heads, and endorses products by D’Addario, Arturia, Samson, and Synthesizers.com.
Also on the Road
Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison, and Jeremy Stacey with King Crimson /// Chris Turner with Oceans Ate Alaska /// Alan Cassidy with the Black Dahlia Murder /// Steve Clifford with Circa Survive /// Riley Breckenridge with Thrice /// Joe Magistro with the Magpie Salute /// Vinnie Signorelli with Unsane /// Jeff Plate with Trans-Siberian Orchestra