On her role in the indie rock band Upset.
Recently we recorded six new songs with Steve McDonald, who plays bass in Redd Kross and is also in the Melvins. He records bands and produces, and he’s a good friend.
Upset is kind of a pop-punk band, so there’s a lot of energy and it keeps me on my toes. It’s a good workout and it’s fun. I was really happy with how the songs came out. We still need to mix them and record six more, but I really liked the recording. I’m usually really picky about that stuff, and I just had a good time with it.
I’m finding that, the older I get, I really like playing with a click in my ears when I’m recording. It’s a good little security blanket. I never get the “I think you sped up there….” I might rush a fill or something, so it’s nice to have that to lock into and get a good pocket with the click. Nowadays I really want to have a good groove, and I want there to be a nice rhythm-section vibe between the bass and drums. It’s not a tangible thing. If you work on it and practice, it’s easier to access, but it’s not something you can really teach to somebody. You’ve just got to find it. We’re not super-busy all the time, because I have a seven-year-old daughter and I have a lot of responsibilities at home. I like to go out on the road sometimes, but not all the time.
On her work with Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for Girls.
That started in 2010. I went in that first year and we kind of built up the drum instruction portion of the camp. Teaching girls drums every summer is really important and exciting, and I like being part of it. When we’re not teaching, the other instructors and I will trade beats, and I always go in with a drumbeat idea that I want to learn. The other instructors are women that are amazing players, so I’ll get a quick drum lesson from them and kind of check in. The camp is a week long with a showcase at the end. DW has donated some gear, and there’s an alliance of Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for Girls, so it’s worldwide.
On playing as hard as she did in the ’90s.
I’ve found that all that stuff they tell you about posture actually applies. I look back and I see how I used to set up, and it’s no wonder I was cramping up. Now I warm up before I play, and I feel like I have so much more stamina. I feel a lot more comfortable playing for long periods of time. Usually drummers do the old sticks-on-a-practice-pad [routine], but I’ll take a five-pound dumbbell and lift with my wrists with my palm down to get my arm muscles warmed up. I’ll do that for ten minutes on each hand and then grab the sticks and do some rudiments with the practice pad. When I get on stage and I pick up my sticks, everything feels really light. Warming up with the weights is equivalent for me to playing three or four songs.
On how her setup has changed in recent years.
My drums are flat now. Back in the ’90s my rack tom was a 14″ and was extra deep, and now I use a 12″ and a 16″ floor tom most of the time. My snare is flat now and a little bit higher. It just feels better. My ride cymbal is lower than I used to have it as well. My kit used to be like the cockpit of a plane, but now it’s more conventional.
On technique adaptations she’s had to make after years of playing.
All the stuff they say about learning rudiments and practicing is so important. It sounds corny, but rudiments present themselves in fills constantly. If you’re on it with your rudiments, you’ve got so many more options to use. Spending time sitting down and playing and finding things that you want to play along with helps you to stay fresh. There are songs that have always been kicking around in my head that I want to learn the drum parts to, and there are patterns I hear that I’ll spend time working out. I feel like I’m not getting anything done if it’s not some awkward thing where I’m trying to get the sticking right and it takes me a while to get the groove. If I don’t have to go through that process, I feel like I’m not learning anything new. I love seeking out new challenges.
On the importance of hitting hard and developing a strong bass drum sound.
It’s all based on that foot. When you’re sitting at your drumkit and you look out at a billion people and they’re moving from just your right foot, you’ve got a lot of responsibility there.
On other projects she’s been involved in lately.
I did a record with a project called Psychic Friend, and one of the songs just got picked up to be the theme song on Sarah Silverman’s I Love You, America show.
On what she’d like people to take away from her new memoir, Hit So Hard.
I would hope the reader would get a better understanding of the disease of addiction and that there is a way out. Playing drums for a living is a huge gift. Don’t ever take it for granted.
Schemel alternates between a DW kit and a 1957 Ludwig set. She plays Zildjian cymbals and uses Vater sticks.