Drummer and MD contributor Jeff Ryan chats with his recent drumming tour mate, who for the past twenty years has powered one of the most beloved and long-running bands of the alt-pop era.
As the ’80s drew to a close and musicians started to pack away their keyboards and drum machines for guitars and chorus pedals, a dream pop band called the Ocean Blue emerged from the unlikely town of Hershey, Pennsylvania. Once the band had signed a deal with Sire Records, they quickly solidified their success, with indie-rock hits like “Between Something and Nothing,” from their self-titled debut album, and “Ballerina Out of Control,” from their sophomore album, Cerulean.
In 2000, Peter Anderson replaced longtime Ocean Blue drummer Rob Minnig. Anderson’s driving and tasteful playing beautifully complements the veteran band’s sound, but he’s also been able to put his own rhythmic stamp on the songwriting process, as the group continues to record new albums and tour the States. There’s a controlled bombast to Anderson’s playing on record that comes through live as well. It’s a feat that’s not always easily achieved, and it comes from Anderson’s experience working with notable Minneapolis luminaries such as the Replacements, Golden Smog, and members of Soul Asylum.
Anderson’s playing continues to propel the Ocean Blue as they crisscross the nation on the heels of their successful release on Korda Records, Kings and Queens/Knaves and Thieves.
MD: Most of the members of the Ocean Blue now live in different states. How does the band prepare for its touring schedule?
Peter: The members of the Ocean Blue reside in three different time zones, so rehearsing for a new touring season requires meeting in a central location. For the KQKT album we met for a long weekend in March of 2019 to rehearse some of the newly finished songs and shoot videos for the first two singles. As the June release date approached, we came up with a working set list via email/chat that we felt worked well for the upcoming dates.
MD: Do you rehearse together prior to going out, and if so, where?
Peter: David Schelzel [Ocean Blue singer/guitarist] and I got together in Minneapolis to rehearse the show and put together any studio-based sounds or tracks that were needed. A couple of days prior to the fi rst shows we convened at [bass player] Bobby Mittan’s place outside of Hershey, and rehearsed the show along with alternate songs.
MD: Do your patterns evolve or change for the live shows, or do you stick pretty close to the album versions?
Peter: My drum parts and patterns do evolve and change, but for the most part I stick to the recorded parts. For example, on “9PM Direction” from the new album, there’s an extended improvisational section where the drums can go a bit crazy to build intensity and excitement in the live show.
MD: How do you approach songs from the earlier albums that Rob Minnig played on?
Peter: When playing the older songs I definitely strive for accuracy in interpreting the drum parts that Rob created. His playing is artful, driving, and part of what distinguishes the sound and style of the Ocean Blue.
MD: Do you lean towards a specific drum sound for the live shows, and are those similar to what you tracked on the album?
Peter: I’m rarely playing my own drums on the road, and often I play a different kit each night. I fly with cymbals, sticks, a Roland SPD-SX, an in-ear-monitor mixer, and often times a suitcase full of band merch. I kind of enjoy adapting to different kits.
At David’s studio in Minneapolis, we record with a Gretsch round-badge kit from the ’60s. It has a tone and dynamic that really comes to life in his room. Periodically I will cut some tracks at my house, or at the great Flowers Studio, using a variety of DW, Yamaha, and Ludwig kits and snares.
MD: Are you using any backing tracks or in-ear clicks live?
Peter: The SPD-SX has been a great tool for me. I play backing tracks and click tracks from it. I use the effects for live sound manipulation.
MD: What percentage of material for the live shows are from the latest release versus the earlier albums?
Peter: I really like the current touring song list. The latest record, the early records, and some deeper cuts are equally represented, and the audiences are responding favorably. We’re having a blast, and I think we’re playing the best shows we’ve ever done.
MD: How do you juggle touring schedules and life at home?
Peter: My other role in the Ocean Blue is booking tour dates. We have limited availability, and a certain number of conditions have to be met to make traveling for shows possible. We’ve gotten comfortable traveling on planes with only essential gear and using backline amps and drums. And our families are supportive and encouraging. We’re fortunate and thankful to be entering the fourth decade of the Ocean Blue. We’re friends and comrades. We feel inspired creating new music together, and excitement performing for an audience that cares about the music, new and old. It’s a good scene!
Check out this video of Peter Anderson playing one of the Ocean Blue’s biggest hits, “Between Something and Nothing.” (For more with Peter, go to https://www.peterandersondrums.com.)
Check out this video of MD contributor and Motorcade drummer Jeff Ryan playing “Desertion” from the band’s 2018 self-titled release. (For more with Jeff, go to http://jeffryanmusic.com.)
Watch Peter Anderson being interviewed by Jeff Ryan.
Videography and editing by Terry Jenkins.
Peter Anderson uses DW drums and hardware, Zildjian cymbals, Vic Firth sticks, Remo heads, Shure in-ear monitors, a Tama Rhythm Watch, and Roland, Korg, Rolls, and TC Electronics.