Chad Wackerman
Photo by Lissa Wales

We had done a series of sessions. Most of it was adding drums to ‘Wendall,’ the drum machine, tracks. For some reason Frank wanted to add live drums to the stuff he had already recorded for the new album. A lot of it had been done before I even joined the band. Anyway, for about a week I did a bunch of that. One night, at about 3:30 in the morning, I had just about run out of things to do. There was some tape left so Frank told me to go back into the studio and play some rock time. He put on his guitar and started playing a guitar progression. I kind of knew what he wanted so I came up with a regular rock beat on the hi-hat for the first section and a floor tom ride for the second. We liked the second take and that was the end of it.

“None of us had any idea he was going to use it. It wasn’t even a song. Later he decided to write a tune and let his daughter, Moon, do her thing on it. It turned out to be ‘Valley Girls.’ We played it that night in his studio and we never played it again.”

The Frank Zappa-“Valley Girls” story is in many ways typical of the success that has followed Chad Wackerman. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time with the right stuff. The fact that he’s just 22 and has already had a lifetime of experience playing with people like Bill Watrous, Leslie Uggams, Alan Holdsworth and Frank Zappa would tend to prove that out.

Chad took time out from his busy schedule to be interviewed in his comfortable apartment in Sherman Oaks, The Valley, California. He was dressed in an outfit that included a faded pair of pants, a sleeveless T-shirt and his Nikes. His hair had recently been trimmed but signs of the blonde streaks he added for the last Zappa tour were still visible. The Zappa influence and the rock ‘n’ roll image were there alright.

But if a young drummer were to have a role model, Chad would be a good one. He is polite, quiet; almost shy. Yet when he sits down behind a set of drums he can take care of business as aggressively as any drummer you’d care to name.

“A guy’s got to be able to play,” Chad said. “But a lot of music is getting along with people. On some gigs you play one show a night and the other 23 1/2 hours a day you’re just hangin’ with the people you’re with. If you can’t get along with them, forget it!

“That’s just the way I am. That’s how I was raised. My dad’s like that. He gets along with everybody. That was a trait of his that I wanted to acquire. I try to respect everybody and every kind of music.”

Respect is one commodity that’s always been hard to give and even harder to get. It’s the first thing that impresses people who meet Chad and it’s definitely been an asset that has helped his career. As he mentioned, Chad’s easy-to-get-along-with personality came from the way he was brought up. Everyone’s family background is important. In Chad’s case it was “instrumental.”

To say that Chad comes from a musical family would be an understatement. His brothers, Bob (19) and John (17), play the bass and vibes and drums. Both of them are already following their older brother’s footsteps rather closely by working with jazz trombonist Bill Watrous’ big band. Even little brother Brooks (six) is a minor threat on the drums. Chad’s father, Chuck, is the band director at McGaugh Junior High School just up the street from the Wackerman house in Seal Beach, California. Besides teaching the kids at school and at home, Chad’s father and mother, Barbara, spent their weekends and summer vacations taking the boys to jazz festivals, band competitions and drum clinics.

“My father was a drummer and there were drums around the house. I think it’s only natural for a kid to want to hit things,” Chad, who started playing at age six, related. “They were there and I was interested. Dad taught me at first and I was a terrible student. I wouldn’t practice and I’d play whatever I wanted to play. He finally ended up taking me someplace else.

“Dad and I had a couple of lessons with Forrest Clark; he was ‘our’ first teacher. When he took me to Forrest it wasn’t just Dad showing me stuff anymore. This was a big deal. I mean, we were driving to this guy’s studio and he was expecting me to work on this stuff. From then on I got a lot more serious.

“Then Dad started taking from Allen Goodman. So I started taking from him, too. I really liked Allen. We went through Stick Control and we did some jazz things, too. Then I took from Pete Magadini over at the drum shop [Professional Drum Shop in Hollywood]. Pete got the gig with Diana Ross, so he left and Chuck Flores took over. I studied with Chuck for four or five years. At the same time I was studying with Murray Spivak. With Chuck I was working on independence and drumset while Murray was helping me with reading and snare drum technique.”

When Chad was 11 he attended his first Stan Kenton Jazz Clinic. He was too young to actually participate, but Kenton’s drummer, John Von Ohlen, sat him behind the set so he could follow what was going on. From 1971 until Kenton’s death in 1979, Chad was a Kenton Clinic regular. He worked his way up from the bottom band to the top ones during that time.

To develop his ear and his musicianship, Chad’s parents insisted that he also play a melodic instrument. In school orchestras, through high school, Chad played violin and viola. He always viewed the drums as his primary instrument, though, which was good because drums and music were just about the only things he was interested in.

“I wasn’t into sports and there weren’t any video games. I was just into music; into hanging out,” he confessed. “It’d be bad to recommend that to others. Definitely it’s better to be well rounded. But, if you take something seriously, whatever it is, you should pursue it.”

With the support and encouragement of his family, Chad pursued his interest in the drums. He never questioned the importance of practicing or the importance of taking drum lessons as being necessary to improve.

“Taking drum lessons helped me a lot. I think I got a lot further a lot faster and I didn’t hang myself up later on with bad habits. A lot of kids today are serious about playing but not about learning. I’ve seen guys that are self-taught who are amazing but they’re an exception. It’s not realistic for everyone to think that they can make it without studying. There are an awful lot of drummers out there,” Chad said.

Following his graduation from high school, Chad entered Cal State University at Long Beach. When he started at CSULB, Gordon Peake (now with Stanley Clarke) and John Ferraro (with Larry Carlton and Barry Manilow) occupied the drum chairs in the first and second jazz bands. Like most colleges, there were enough good rhythm section players for three bands but only enough horns for one. After a frustrating year and a half, Chad’s collegiate career came to an end.

“John was smart; he was going for a business degree. Gordon actually bought a marimba and practiced on it. I knew it wasn’t for me. I was interested in furthering my drumset ability. I wanted to play drumset,” emphasized Chad. “I didn’t know what to expect from college. When I got a call for a gig, I took it.”

Luckily, when John Ferraro got the job with Larry Carlton he called Chad to take over his gig playing with a top-40 band at Disneyland. The other members of that rhythm section included pianist Jim Cox and bass player Tom Child. Joining that band was a good decision that turned out to be an important career move. That rhythm section ended up doing a lot more than the rising stage on the Tomorrowland Terrace. It was Jim Cox that told Chad about the audition for the Bill Watrous Big Band.

Chad’s experience with high school jazz bands and at the Kenton Clinics helped him get the job with Watrous. His solid playing and open attitude helped him keep it. Watrous’ band played everything from up-tempo burners to jazz ballads; from hot salsa to laid back rock ‘n’ roll. The rhythm section again included Cox and Child, and later became the Bill Watrous Quartet, recording three albums on the Famous Door label.

“I had gotten my rock playing together at Disneyland. That rhythm section was groove conscious,” Chad explained. “Bill’s big band helped my jazz rhythm-section playing and his small group was even better for playing behind a soloist.”

While implying that playing music is a continuing learning process, Chad was also acknowledging that at the time when most musicians are going through college, he was fortunate enough to be earning while he was learning. His next professor was Leslie Uggams.

“After the gig ended at Disneyland, Jim [Cox] became Leslie’s musical director. He called Tom Child and me to do the gig. It was the same rhythm section as the Disneyland and Watrous bands. We all enjoyed each other and we were getting real tight. When there was a chance to groove I’d just look over at Tom and we knew there was groove potential. It was fun and it was financially good. I still work with Leslie whenever I can.

“One of the things about that rhythm section was that it could play so many styles. You always play for the music regardless of who the people in the rhythm section are. But at the same time, that rhythm section was so used to working together that things seemed to come naturally.”

So, without four years of college to prepare him, Chad was getting a practical education. Then he entered his version of graduate school. A bass player friend told him that Frank Zappa was looking for a new drummer. Chad, at first, wasn’t going to audition, but his friends convinced him that he had nothing to lose. Chad related his Zappa audition story: “I called Frank up and the first thing he asked me was if I could read; like it would do any good. I told him I was a pretty good reader—that I could read ‘normal’ music—but I knew his music was complex. Again he asked me if I was a good reader. I said I was okay but that I’d like to try out anyway.

“I went over to his house and he put up the music. It was stuff like I had never seen before. I told him, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this.’ There I was trying to sight read this music while the rest of the band was playing it perfectly. It was pretty obvious when I made a mistake.

“Certain things I knew. There were some triplets and quintuplets and things like that. I got up to a 3/4 measure that had eleven 8th notes all around the drums in it. Above it was written 11:3. I said, ‘I don’t know what this is.’ Frank explained it to me. I was surprised but he asked me to stick around. Then he gave me some music to practice and told me to come back the next day.

“The next day we went through every style possible: Okay, play a bossa, okay, now play swing, okay, now play ska… everything. Then he asked me back a third time. He wanted me to wait around until he heard one other player. Then he told me I got the gig.” Of course, getting the job was only part of the battle. With the first tour just two months away, Chad found himself in the position of having to learn and memorize 80 Zappa compositions. They weren’t all as hard as the “Black Page,” but why would someone want to put himself in that position?

“Whether you like listening to it [Zappa] or not, it is a challenge and it is fun to play,” Chad answered. “I think I’ve improved a lot. After hearing those albums with Vinnie [Colaiuta] and Terry [Bozzio] it was kind of scary to jump into that. But, where else can you get experience playing that kind of stuff? How do you learn things like that? I wanted to do it.”

Following two extensive tours with Zappa’s band, one in the US and one to Europe, Chad found himself back in LA with a lot of time on his hands. Zappa had decided to work on some other projects and take at least a year off from touring. Chad wasn’t out of a job but he was out of work. He did a few casuals and some demos. He needed something to do. He heard that British guitarist Alan Holdsworth was auditioning drummers for his new band that also featured Jeff Berlin on bass.

“That audition was really different,” said Chad. “We just played duos with guitar and drums. Alan just started playing and I tried to play something that I thought would fit. It was real out.”

The Holdsworth band, I.O.U., is a kind of jazz-rock-fusion power trio. There are songs, but the music is very free form, virtuosic and spontaneous. Chad doesn’t play time in the conventional sense. He uses a Keith Moon/Billy Cobham-like approach that is bombastic yet deadly accurate and musically fitting. It’s like he’s playing a constant solo, with bass accompaniment, behind a screaming guitar.

Now that we were more or less up to date, the conversation turned to the musical differences between the diverse types of work Chad has done. Pop, bop and rock, after all, are not exactly what you would call “one-bag.” There must be some reasons why Chad feels at home in almost any situation.

“All of those gigs are related,” he explained. “But they are all different, too. I’m not going to play in Bill’s small jazz group like I do in Alan Holdsworth’s band. I suppose it’s unusual for a young drummer to be interested in so many kinds of music. I mean, if somebody told me that Bill Watrous’ drummer was playing with Alan Holdsworth, I’d say, ‘Huh?’ If they told me that he was enjoying it I’d be even more surprised.

“I enjoy playing so many things. I’m better at some things than others but I enjoy them all and I’m always trying to improve on the things I’m weak at. If I were going to put a band together it would have to have players who could play everything. One of the reasons that I really enjoy Frank Zappa’s band is that it never gets boring. We learn 90 tunes before a tour and we mix them up every night. Frank also has visual cues. If he lifts the hair on one side of his head that means go into reggae. If he lifts both sides we go into ska. He does this at any time on any tune. That makes it fun.”

It’s one thing to enjoy different kinds of music but how does a young player become proficient and knowledgable about such a wide range of musical styles? Part of it goes back to being raised in a musically open environment.

“Dad was real open. I was fortunate that he was so open minded. As I was growing up, I never saw things as being different. I viewed it all as part of the same thing. Dad was the one that turned me on to Cream.

“I was aware of different styles early in my development. I had heard Mitch Mitchell with Hendrix and I had heard Chuck Flores with a small jazz combo so I knew there was a difference. I would practice playing different ways.

“When I grew up I liked a lot of music. I’m not just a rock ‘n’ roll kind of guy or a jazz kind of guy. I’ll listen to Miles Davis and then Ronnie Montrose on the next record.”

More than just being open to lots of music, Chad also was aware of how the drums were different for each type of music. At the age of 11 or 12, when most kids are worried about paradiddles, Chad was already developing a concept of style and sound.

“I was definitely worried about my paradiddles, too,” he laughed. “But I was aware of sounds. I found out who John Guerin and Hal Blaine were. I could tell the difference but I didn’t know how Hal Blaine got the sound he got until I saw him do a clinic. Then I said, ‘Okay, that’s what it is; single-headed drums.’ Then I found out who Elvin Jones and Tony Williams and those guys were and I started buying the records they were on.”

Regardless of the style, however, Chad doesn’t feel that the drummer’s role changes too much. He’s responsible for the stability of the time in any band. The style merely places creative limits on what is appropriate to play. Chad found it difficult to explain how styles of drumming are established and it was even harder for him to define the role of the contemporary drummer.

“Who sets the style?” he asked. “Like, why ‘spang-spangalang’; why that? Because it sure caught on. We take that as jazz now. That’s a style.”

When asked about the role of the drummer, he said: “It’s hard to put into words. You should have good time, that goes without saying. If you don’t, you’re not doing your job and you probably won’t have too many friends. We’re all keeping time but the drummer has more control over it than anyone else in the band. People have to go his way.

“The primary thing is to play for the music. When somebody hires me for a specific kind of thing I’ll definitely put a limit on my playing. I’ll try to do something that fits in with what the rest of the band’s doing. Your playing has to fit. Your creativity depends on the gig. Sometimes you have to restrict yourself. Sometimes there aren’t any stylistic limits; it’s just what your taste is. Part of your role is to use your discretion.”

In addition to satisfying the stylistic requirements of the music, one of Chad’s goals is to develop his own personal style. Lots of times a drummer’s style fits so well with the band he’s playing with that the player and the group become synonymous. What would the Who have been without Keith Moon, or The Police without Stewart Copeland, or Buddy Rich’s band without Buddy Rich? Chad’s style is to fit in with whatever band he’s working with. How can he do that and still be recognized as an individual?

“That’s another hard question,” he replied. “I hope I sound different than anybody else. You learn as much as you can. You’ll play what you like. You’ll play what you think sounds good and fits the music. Eventually that turns into something, or it should. You try to put as much of your personality into the music as it will allow. It’s always nice to leave your signature. Certain situations allow it and others don’t.

“I don’t consciously try to imitate players unless I’m called on to do that. If a producer says we want a Toto-kind of 16th-note rock ballad with a Jeff Porcaro-type of sound, you should know that style and how to tune your drums that way. But, I don’t purposely try to play like Jeff. I steal things from everybody but I don’t want to be them.”

Chad mentioned Jeff Porcaro, Ed Greene, Bernard Purdie, Stewart Copelend, Terry Bozzio, Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Gadd, Peter Erskine, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Bob Moses, Jack DeJohnette, Bobby Colomby, John Von Ohlen, Buddy Rich and Louie Bellson as a few of the drummers who have influenced his playing.

“I’m glad you didn’t ask me who my favorite drummer is, because I don’t have one,” he said. “That’s one of those questions that get asked. I have a lot of favorite drummers that I enjoy. You can learn from everyone.

“A lot of times I went to a drum clinic not knowing what to expect. There were drummers I had never heard of and some I had heard of but had never heard play. Through the clinic I got to understand what that person did. Some of it stuck.”

Chad is a veteran of drum clinics. He’ll still attend one if he has a chance, and though he’s usually not much older than the drummers in attendance, Chad puts on a pretty good clinic himself. He talks about practicing and rudiments, working with different rhythm sections, how to swing, how to groove, and how to play some of the more exotic Latin patterns. Chad mentioned that he prefers to do the clinic with at least a rhythm section.

“That way, I’m playing music rather than just a drum solo. I expect the kids to get something out of the clinic,” he continued. “If they learn just one new thing then the clinic is a success. If they learn two, that’s even better. I pass along some of the things that I learned from the clinics I attended, but I do other, more current things, too. I try to let the audience hear something they haven’t heard before, or hear it in a different way. Sometimes I learned a lot just from seeing a guy’s set-up.”

Chad has always had a large drumset. This tendency appeared at an early age. He liked the variety of sounds and the impressive look of a lot of drums. Once again his father was largely responsible. “Dad’s left handed and at the time I was starting to play we had just one set. Since I’d always have to turn the set around anyway I’d take the drums apart and retune them or set them up differently. I remember the first jazz festival I went to I took two drumsets and put them together. I just threw everything I could find all together. What a terrible kid,” he commented.

The “festival model” drumset had a WFL 22″ bass, a Ludwig 20″ bass, a 5 x 14 metal snare, another 5 x 14 snare with the snares off as a tom-tom, 8x 12, 9x 13 and 14x 14 mounted toms, and a 16″ floor tom. The large set developed into a Wackerman trademark as Chad grew to “prefer that much noise.”

One year, at the Reno Jazz Festival, Chad met Phil Hulsey and Gary Beckner. Hulsey is the West Coast sales rep for the Slingerland Drum Company and Beckner, at the time, was a Slingerland executive. The two men came up to Chad, introduced themselves and told Chad that they had enjoyed his playing. The following year they were there again and they offered the 8th grader a Slingerland endorsement.

“They approached me,” Chad said. “They said, ‘Play the drums and see what you think. If you like the drums and you’re interested, keep them. If not, just send them back.’ It wasn’t a high-pressure situation. It was real nice.”

Phil Hulsey became like a second father to Chad. He introduced Chad to other players and was very supportive of his playing. When the time came, Phil helped Chad with his career and he also gave him the opportunity to do drum clinics for the company.

Chad’s current Slingerland set has a natural maple finish and includes an 8 x 14 snare, 10 x 10, 10 x 12 and 12 x 14 mounted toms, 16 x 16 and 16 x 18 floor toms and a 16 x 22 bass drum. Chad’s also using a rack of 6″, 8″ and 10″ Roto-Toms and a 14″ Roto on a Pitch Pedal. Chad uses the Drum Workshop chain and sprocket bass drum pedal and he was one of the first to use the double bass pedal developed by Duane Livingston and now made by DW. Chad’s present set-up also incorporates the use of the RIMS mounting system on the mounted toms and Roto-Toms.

In discussing Chad’s tuning and head preference, he said to talk to John Good. John is Fred White’s (Earth, Wind and Fire) drum “technician” and, on last summer’s Zappa tour, took care of Chad’s equipment.

“When I first got the job with Zappa I had never met Chad,” John related. “The first thing I wanted to do was rework his drums. Immediately Chad said, ‘Wait a minute!’ There was a period of time that Chad and I had to hang-out and talk to each other and actually become friends so that he would trust me.

“I don’t like to go on the road with a drummer unless I can get inside his drums and find out what I’m going to have to deal with every day. That way I can come up with a formula that works for the drummer and the situation. On the road it’s best to have a working instrument that requires as little maintenance as possible. It’s like driving a car that’s been tuned once a day.”

After reworking the drums and refining the bearing edges, Chad was very happy with his set and with John’s work. The two of them then came up with a head combination that they felt would best fit the requirements of the road, the music, and Chad’s playing. To get a snappy, melodic tone a Remo coated Ambassador head was used on top. To restrict the amount of sound and bring out the lows, Remo Pinstripes were used on the bottom.

“The top head is what the player hears,” John said. “The bottom head is what everyone else hears. Most players who have problems with their sound have problems with their bottom head. I tune the bottom head first and then the top head.”

One of John’s special talents is his ability to consistently tune the drums the same way night after night and show after show. Because Zappa records everything the band does, from sound checks to rehearsals to concerts, having the drums sound the same at all times is very important. John tuned Chad’s drums twice a day; once before the sound check and again before the show. The amazing thing is that he does it by ear.

“Some people tune from the top drum down, others from the bass drum up. I prefer to tune each drum where it sounds good to my ear. That’s what works for me,” he said.

To keep the drum sound consistent, and also to avoid head breakage during a concert, the tom-tom heads were changed every three or four shows. The snare drum head was changed after every show. That, of course, meant that the number of shows divided by the number of changes, times the number of drums, equaled the number of heads John needed to buy in preparation for the tour.

“I made a mistake, though,” John said. “I prepared not really knowing the material. When you prepare for a tour you should know how the guy plays and the music he’ll be playing. You have to know the artist—not just what you think ought to be taken. I figured out how many dates and rehearsals, what kind of budget I had, and I ordered accordingly.

“But, I didn’t realize that Chad had to do a lot of riding on his 16″ floor tom. I’ve never seen anyone go through that many 16″ heads in my life. I made a mistake and didn’t take enough 16” heads. When we ran out of coated heads we found two Fiberskyn 2 heads in the case that had been left over from the last tour. We were in the middle of Germany at the time and we decided to use the Fiberskyns until we could get some coated heads. I put the first one on and it wore out.

“We only had a few dates left in Italy before the end of the tour, so I figured if I convinced Chad to lighten up, the last Fiberskyn might just get us through. No sooner had I put the head on the drum than a lighting technician who was working above me lost his wireless headset. It landed with the two antennas poking right through the head and it just stuck there.”

Chad echoed John’s comments about preparing for touring. “For long tours you have to prepare,” Chad said. “You have to make sure you have everything and spares of everything. You have to play it safe or you’ll be stuck somewhere in Europe without something you really need.

“We were in Geneva, Switzerland, and for some reason we had broken all the snares we had brought with us. I found a guy at a music shop who spoke English. I told him I needed a snare unit and I pointed to the bottom of a snare drum. He said, ‘No problem,’ and he went down to the basement. Then he yelled up, ‘What color do you want?’ ”

Another big part of Chad’s set-up is his miking. Since the drum mic’s are used for the PA system and constant recording, Chad has been using the Randy May EA internal drum miking system. The EA system also makes it easier and less cluttered to set up the drums. Each of Chad’s drums has a microphone mounted inside of it and a plug-in receptacle for the cable. The tom-toms have AKG C-450s with 20 db pads, the bass drum has both a Shure 57and an AKG D-12, and the snare has a Shure 57 for each head. There are also two overhead mic’s (AKG) for the cymbals.

Recently Chad was asked to endorse Paiste cymbals. After trying them he was happy to do so. His present cymbal set-up is a pair of 14″ Rock hi-hats, a 13″ 2002 thin crash, a 14″ Rude crash and 16″ Rude crash to his left, and a 22″ 2002 ride, inverted 22″ Dark China-type with a 14″ 404 bottom hi-hat placed on top of it, an 18″ 2002 crash and a 20″ Rude crash on the right side. Directly in front of him hang two Wuhan bell cymbals.

“The main reason I’m using what I’m using is that when I first got the gig with Frank, he and I got together and discussed the setup. He has a certain amount of things that you have to have. Other than that I just like to have as many colors as possible,” Chad explained.

“That’s one reason I like working with Ed Mann [Zappa’s percussionist]. He adds colors that I can’t add. He really uses what he has and he never overplays. Since he’s got all those orchestral instruments he doesn’t have much room left for congas or Latin stuff, but he does have a lot of real neat colors that most Latin guys don’t even think of. He’s got a set of temple blocks and cowbells that he’ll comp on. If we’re playing a real ‘death-rock’ tune he’ll play the back-beats on two Chinese cymbals or a low Syndrum. Working with Ed is great.”

Chad’s philosophy, and it seems to be the generally accepted one, is that the percussionist has to be aware of the drummer more than the drummer needs to concern himself with the percussionist. Percussionists are told, “When in doubt lay out,” but drummers learn, “When in doubt play out.”

“Of course, the whole thing has to work together,” Chad said. “Usually the drummer’s first worry is the bass player. A percussionist has to have a lot of ability but he also has to know when not to play. That’s real important. On rock ‘n’ roll things some guys will be playing conga patterns that are way too busy. If I’m playing 8th notes, the percussionist should realize that the groove is 8th notes, not 16ths. He should try to fit in with the drummer.”

At 22, Chad is the first to admit that he’s been very fortunate in his relatively brief but successful career. Each new job came along when he needed it and it needed him. As much as he has matured, he hasn’t lost his open and respectful attitude towards people and music. He’s grown, still growing, and frankly there’s no telling which direction he’ll go next.

“There are a lot of directions today, though I think the trend is to be a well-rounded player,” he commented. “There are still purists in every style and there are a few guys who can do everything. In the ’50s, when rock came in, there were a lot of guys who said, ‘This is a fad; don’t listen to it.’ Where are those guys now? At the same time there are rock ‘n’ rollers today who couldn’t swing a monkey. The point is that there’s no possible way keeping your ears open will hurt you.”

Attitude aside, there must be some secrets to cutting those tough auditions. Chad was quick to point out that he’s only done three or four in his entire life. But since he got all four jobs, he must be doing something right. He offered the following advice:

“Know what to expect and what will be expected of you. Do a little research to find out who you’re auditioning for. Buy a couple of records and see what the band sounds like. Be familiar with the style of music you’re going to be asked to play. Listen to the records and practice.

“Learning to read can’t hurt. If there is music, take a couple of minutes to look it over. If you have any questions, ask.

“I can’t say don’t be nervous because I’m always nervous at auditions. All you can do is go in and try to do your best. Bring your own pedals, seat or cymbals. Do anything you can to make yourself more comfortable.

“Your first impression is real important, especially on an audition. A few guys at the Zappa audition came in with real ‘attitudes.’ They said, ‘I want this gig for a while, maybe, but you get sick of it, don’t you?’ You shouldn’t say things like that. If you don’t want the gig, don’t take it.

“Listening is the most important thing. Listen to what the rest of the band is doing. Try to complement that. Of course, that’s always true but if you can do it at an audition, the people will appreciate it even more.”

It may have been premature to ask Chad what his long-range goals in drumming are. After all, even though he’s old enough to have a lot of playing behind him, he’s young enough to still have time to decide what he wants to do. When asked, he shrugged his shoulders, thought for a moment, and then answered.

“I just try to keep going,” he said. “I didn’t plan to be doing what I’m doing at any age. I was surprised at every gig. It’d be nice if this continues. I don’t really have a goal other than to keep improving myself. I’ve never stopped practicing and I still go out to hear other players every chance I can. I definitely don’t feel like I’ve arrived. Not at all. I’m just trying to keep up.”