On the Cover

Gil Sharone

Many have been seduced by his mind-boggling drumming excursions with Dillinger Escape Plan, Team Sleep, and Stolen Babies. Others know him as the creator of the Wicked Beats DVD, the most insightful and pragmatic methodology available on playing Jamaican drum styles. Still more have been moved by his gargantuan beats on Marilyn Manson’s excellent new album, The Pale Emperor, and the way he’s been bringing them home with power and panache in arenas across the continents. And to think, he’s really only getting going.

Story by Adam Budofsky
Photos by Clemente Ruiz

It’s 2011, and a group of drummers has gathered in a hotel lobby during a music trade show. The conversation turns to new-wave music, and, as if on cue, Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” kicks in over the hotel’s sound system. Gil Sharone jumps at the opportunity to point out the killer fill Manny Elias nails going into the guitar solo, and his excitement about the simple genius of Elias’s part—offbeat quarter-note triplets on the snare followed by three 8th notes ending with a snare/crash—is visible.

It’s the kind of passion every drummer understands—Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” comes on the car radio, and in our mind we’re immediately transported to some big arena, perched on the drum riser, flawlessly playing Dave Grohl’s hand/foot combos or Ian Paice’s dancing hi-hats and making 20,000 screaming fans pump their fists in time. Sharone’s enthusiasm is all the more illuminating given the fact that it’s coming from a guy who’d already slayed the most demanding rhythmic complexities imaginable with Dillinger Escape Plan, a band whose name has become synonymous with extreme modern rock, and with whom Gil recorded and toured behind the 2007 genre classic Ire Works. Yet there he is, practically leaping out of his stool in anticipation of a relatively simple rhythmic device—though, it must be said, one that’s played impeccably.

And there’s the crux of the matter. Like all successful musicians, Sharone instinctively understands that playing seemingly simple parts impeccably is no small thing. In fact, in many scenarios—his current gig with Marilyn Manson, for instance—it’s a huge thing. Heck, it’s practically the thing. And, as we’ll learn more about later, in this drummer’s hands, simple is rarely as simple as it seems.

Sharone has certainly delved into the topic before in these very pages. In our Jamaican-music issue from August 2012, he talked about the underestimated demands of holding a 16th-note hi-hat groove with reggae legends like Eek-a-Mouse. And if you survey his recording career, whether it’s the Dillinger album; Morgan Heritage’s new single, “So Amazing,” which was topping the reggae charts at press time; or the progressive goth-metal sounds of Stolen Babies, the band he founded with his twin brother, Rani, you’ll find that Sharone has proven his mettle when the drum parts need to be clear, powerful, detailed, and full of life. That they’re sometimes also the kind of thing that would make your printer cry for mercy if you tried to run off a transcription is almost incidental; as Sharone consistently demonstrates, if the beat doesn’t hit you in the gut, even a barrage of 32nd notes won’t hurt a fly.

For his first Modern Drummer cover story, Sharone speaks with us via Skype from his rehearsal studio in L.A., which serves as Stolen Babies HQ as well as his preproduction and teaching studio. The space is set up with a full Pro Tools rig, a live room, and a vocal/guitar-amp isolation booth, and houses Gil’s significant collection of drums, including an impressive cymbal vault organized by size. As the drummer gives us a virtual tour, he points out five bags filled with more cymbals. “When I get called for a session, I don’t want to spend hours looking for one cymbal,” he explains. “And because I’m particular, I know exactly what gear I want to use for whatever the project is, and this makes it quicker—I know my go-to choices.”

Besides getting a taste of his working environment, speaking with Sharone at his studio allows us to ask him to demonstrate certain concepts that come up during our conversation. You can watch clips of him playing some of his Manson and Team Sleep parts at moderndrummer.com. But first things first. Like so many drummers out there, we want to know just what’s involved in playing with Marilyn Manson, one of the most notorious drum seats in modern rock….

MD: What’s the job requirement of the Manson gig?

Gil: To rock it hard every night. To provide the power and feel that makes the crowd move. There’s a lot of programming going on, and pretty much every song is to a click, so your playing has to be rock solid and tight with all of the parts. It’s a really fun gig.

MD: Did Manson ever ask for anything specific from you playing-wise?

Gil: One thing he said to me was, “Don’t confuse the strippers.” That basically means to keep the pocket strong and steady, and not do any fills that would interrupt the groove and make strippers fall over. [laughs] The first time I met Manson was when I was tracking The Pale Emperor, and he said to me, “You’re the drummer I want in my band. You have the attitude, the right feel.” There wasn’t much direction other than that, because we were on the same page and I know my role in this setting.

MD: Compared to some of the work you’re known for, the grooves on The Pale Emperor could be described as more basic. But basic doesn’t mean easy, does it?

Gil: Exactly—just because something is basic doesn’t make it easy. When [Manson producer/collaborator] Tyler Bates called me for the session, right off the bat he said, “Look, this isn’t going to be a flashy drum record. It’s all pocket, it’s feel, it’s sexy, but it also needs fire behind it.” Manson and Tyler are very aware of what I’m capable of on the drums, but there’s a time and place for more extreme playing. I aim to play what’s appropriate for the gig.

Most uneducated players automatically think a drummer is shitty because he’s playing a simple beat or his fills aren’t busy. My response to that is, sit down and play this beat the same way, with the same intensity, and the same passion, and the same feel, and don’t stop the groove for even a millisecond. I don’t care if you have a sneeze attack—you keep that groove and that tempo and that touch and that dynamic range and that pocket consistent, and don’t make it move. Most average drummers will find that much more difficult to play than a busy part, because you can hide behind a busy part. Letting the music breathe and providing the space is key in any style. Blowing chops…everybody has chops today. What separates you from someone else is how you make the music feel and sound.

MD: Is it a different headspace playing Manson grooves versus playing in Dillinger Escape Plan or Stolen Babies?

Gil: Not really. Whether I’m playing something more straightforward, like Manson, or something like Dillinger, which is some of the toughest music a drummer can ever be asked to play, I don’t “switch gears,” like I’m in easy mode here and advanced mode there. It all feels natural. Also, playing with Manson is just as stressful, if not more so, as playing in Dillinger—I’ll tell you that right now. The pressure isn’t necessarily because the parts are difficult. It’s everything else that’s happening on stage; it’s having to react in an instant when Manson wants to change something on the fly or cues something. You have to stay on your toes at all times. When I started playing certain songs that have been in Manson’s catalog for years, Twiggy [Ramirez], who’s back on bass, said to me, “Wow, these songs have never had this bounce to them before! I’m having so much fun playing bass again!”

Shuffles and the Power of Unison Parts

MD: One of the not-so-simple things you get to play with Manson is shuffles.

Gil: Yes, a lot of shuffles. Shuffles are near and dear to my heart, and I feel that I specialize in them. It’s cool, because producers are beginning to know me for that. Shuffles mean a lot to me because I play them in so many different applications, whether it’s reggae or rock or jazz or blues—even metal. Shuffles swing, and I feel that all drummers need to learn how to swing.

MD: There is such a huge variety of approaches you can take with shuffles. How do you decide how to apply them?

Gil: I pay attention to the vibe of the song. As soon as I hear two bars of something, I immediately internalize how I want to play it—super-lazy, a little ahead, a little behind, straight with just a little swing on it…. Some drummers say that there’s no such thing as playing behind the beat or ahead of it, that you’re either on it or off. But there is a way to play behind the beat or ahead of the beat while keeping the same bpm. I do it all the time, and it’s obvious when you play to a click. The space in shuffles or any kind of groove is also a factor.

I try to put my stamp on everything I’m playing, no matter how stripped down and basic it might be. Take “Third Day of a Seven Day Binge.” It’s the same pocket through the whole song, but that 8th-note space we put in on the hats, that breath, the way I’m touching the hi-hats, that’s very signature to me. I recognize myself in that when I hear it. I’m dancing on the hi-hats a certain way—the amount of pressure I’m putting on the hi-hat cymbals changes as every 8th note goes by.

MD: The consistency of the drums on that track also comes from your resisting the urge to play variations of fills.

Gil: Definitely. I like to find a hook in the drums, though not necessarily something that sticks out. I could have changed fills during each transition from the verse to the chorus, but I didn’t, for a reason. By purposely repeating that fill, it becomes a hook and a cue for listeners to feel that section change. It’s also the way Tyler and Manson felt it should be. When we do that song live, it has a different intensity, so I build it differently.

MD: You still make these beats your own, though, largely through the way you layer different parts of the kit. Can you give an example of that?

Gil: Even if I’m playing in unison to a programmed track, I still like to find a way to make it interesting by orchestrating the part on the kit a certain way. I have a gong floor tom on my left side and regular floor toms on my right. For “Cupid Carries a Gun” and “Slave Only Dreams to Be King,” for instance, there’s a way I’m using the floor toms and the bass drum, all playing in unison. By layering those hits with other drums, it adds power. A lot of people hearing the record might think I’m just doing this [plays simple version of the beat], but I’m also shuffling my foot along with the floor tom. The execution, the tightness, that’s very much a part of the feel, and the hits have to line up. They can’t flam!

MD: Playing things in unison can be really hard, especially with patterns that we’re not used to playing that way.

Gil: Most definitely. It’s difficult even for a lot of session players—that consistency. I think of it as another level of independence. When drummers think about independence, they think about polyrhythms and extreme limb independence. But there’s that other side of independence where you’re not playing things against each other but with each other. I’ve noticed players struggle with this and their notes flam, then the engineer has to edit their performance and line up the hits. I love flams to death, but this isn’t the instance to use them.

You can also use independence in service of dynamics. I play with dynamic independence in mind, like having built-in faders for each limb. If I’m playing jazz and everything’s at an equal dynamic, that’s like a rock drummer playing jazz. There has to be touch. Same with reggae. You can’t underestimate this approach.

The Manson Factor

MD: Does Manson pick up on everything you’re playing?

Gil: Every note. On stage he hears everything, and I know what he wants from me, so I give him that and there’s never any guesswork. Even if it’s a subtle cue or something he’s used to hearing, I make a mental note and I never forget it. I only need to be told something once, if at all. That’s my philosophy, and I put that pressure on myself. Whether it’s an arrangement that’s changed five minutes before we go on stage or new songs added to the set list last-second, it’s about being able to roll with the punches. I’ve been in so many situations outside of my comfort zone; that’s normal to me.

MD: Does Manson use any visual cues on stage?

Gil: They can be visual or something he says. Early on in the rehearsals he never mentioned cues, so at one point I asked Twiggy, “Dude, is it going to be obvious where he cues?” And he was like, “Just go with it.” Manson might have said once, “If I do this, go; if I do this, hold on.” He might also throw his hands up in the air James Brown–style, and we have to hit that cue. That’s why you just have to be on full alert at all times and not let the anticipation of what you think might come next distract you.

MD: What extramusical things do you have to contend with on stage?

Gil: This gig is totally unpredictable, which I feel makes it exciting, not only for me but for the audience as well. You really don’t know what you’re going to get from one minute to the next. It keeps it wild and exciting. Manson is the real deal, and he knows how to put on a show.

MD: There are notorious stories of things getting hairy at a Manson show.

Gil: Yup. I wasn’t oblivious to the history of Manson’s onstage antics. You just have to stay on your toes.

It’s funny—somebody sent me this thing on Facebook and said, “Is this true? Are you okay?” And I was like, “What do you mean, am I okay?” This writer at one of the shows wrote, “He hit drummer Gil Sharone in the head with a glass bottle and they stopped the show. Gil was able to finish the show like a true champ.” That didn’t happen. We stopped the show because of a technical issue. And yeah, we finished it, but he’s never thrown a glass bottle at my head. I’m okay, you know? [laughs]

Manson can throw my drums and cymbals. He’ll climb up on my gong drum and on my double bass and have his face this close to me and yell things at me, like, just having fun. The interaction is cool. It keeps things exciting. I like being in those situations where I’ll be super-distracted like that but I won’t get thrown off. It’s part of staying focused. I want to be this solid rock that everybody can depend on, every night. If anyone on stage were to get lost, all they’d have to do is look at me and they’d know exactly where they are. And that will make them play better. Other musicians love to play with a drummer who makes them feel like they don’t have to think about anything.

A Natural State of Self-Awareness

MD: How much attention do you pay to the way you’re moving behind the drums? You’re so deliberate, like you’re literally dancing back there.

Gil: One hundred percent. This is such an important topic to me. The two biggest things that factor into my drumming as an outside influence are dance and martial arts. I don’t actively dance now, but before I got interested in playing an instrument, I was that kid who was dancing at all the middle school dances. I listened to a lot of groove music, especially funk, R&B, and hip-hop, and I just felt the funk right away. That definitely translated into my drumming. No matter what style I’m playing, if it’s not making me move, if I’m not convinced, why should I expect it to make other people move?

Part of what you have to do is internalize how the music makes you feel, and how you want it to feel. Once it’s internalized and natural, it’s a given. I’m feeling it before I even touch drums. If I’m about to play anything, right away I know what that’s going to feel like, what it’s going to sound like, how the snare is going to crack—it’s built in; I don’t even have to think about it. I got that approach from the jazz great Carl Allen.

MD: Where do martial arts come in?

Gil: There’s a physical and mental connection to drumming from breathing, posture, power, speed, fluidity of motion, sensitivity, focus. There are drummers who hold their breath when playing, and that can hinder you. There are drummers who lean or slouch so far over because it’s their style—fine, but maybe their spine or sciatic nerve starts to give them trouble twenty years into their career.

I want to have a healthy, long career. My practice and my beliefs outside of drumming, especially with martial arts and that whole world, make me grow not only as a drummer but spiritually and in terms of connecting with music on another level. Doing the live Team Sleep record, there were moments when I felt like I transcended out of my body. To be able to get to that plane, you can’t be restricted by anything. I try to be in tune enough that even if I’m forced to play on someone else’s setup, I won’t make excuses and say, “Oh, I wasn’t used to the setup.” I just sit down and throw down. That’s what I had to do for the live Team Sleep session.

MD: Your personality comes across in your drumming. You have opinions, you’re confident, but you genuinely listen when other people speak—you enjoy the give and take.

Gil: For sure. I’m glad you see my personality in my playing. I notice that too with any great player on their instrument. Their musical expression is an extension of their personality. I want to command confidence and authority when I’m behind the drums, in any musical setting. I don’t have to overthink it and get myself into a mental state to click into that. Sitting behind the drums, whether it’s live or in the studio, that’s my element. It’s probably the most natural state I can be in. I don’t have to talk or use words. Any kind of mood will be reflected, and the confidence and passion will always be there.

That factor, to me, is one thing that separates pros and amateurs. When I work with students one on one, I’ll notice that. Some players I’ll look at and say, “You have the tools and the facility, but when you play that groove, you’re not convincing me. The confidence isn’t there.” You should always own what you’re playing. Stand behind it. And even if you’re making a mistake, someone with good confidence can roll right through it and no one will notice anything was wrong.

MD: What if you’re not a confident person by nature?

Gil: I’ve noticed that those subtleties come from real-life experiences. The more you do it, the better you get. It’s about getting in there and being around people who are better than you, and really facing your fears. Whether it’s going to jam sessions or putting yourself in a studio environment, or even approaching people to jam with when it might be a long shot getting to play with them. People will grow through that. That kind of experience will produce confidence with anyone.

No Sleep Till Woodstock

MD: Say you’re meeting a group of musicians for the first time at an audition. Do you consciously size up stuff like the tone in the room, the way people relate to each other, even the way they’re dressed? So many pieces of unfamiliar information come at us at times like these that it’s easy to be distracted.

Gil: Over the years I’ve learned to not let outside factors affect me. Focus on the
task at hand. That’s my job, even if I come into a situation where it’s my friends.
Take the Team Sleep Woodstock Sessions record. I’ve been playing music with them for two years. We love hanging together, and there’s a musical chemistry. They were going to record this live album with their original drummer, Zach Hill. I was going to be on tour with Manson during that time, and that was going to be a chance for the original lineup of Team Sleep to do one more thing. But three days before that session was scheduled to happen, I got a call saying that Zach couldn’t do it, and they asked me to come out. I was able to jump in since I ended
up not being on tour then.

So instead of the new music that we’d been working on together for the past two years, now we’re playing stuff off the first record, which I’d never played or heard before. But I didn’t worry about any outside factors. I just focused on the music, stepping up, and having everyone be stoked. I pride myself on being able to handle situations like that. I’m not going to fold. And everyone is going to talk about things like that. That’s the kind of thing that’s going to get you that next big gig.

MD: How did you approach playing Zach Hill’s original parts?

Gil: I didn’t want to approach it exactly the way Zach did, because Zach’s Zach and I’m me. But as a listener I did notice certain cool parts that Zach played that felt like hooks to me and that I thought needed to still be there because the fans would expect to hear them. So I would take some of those hooks and put them in what I was playing.

MD: What about the new Team Sleep material—when can we expect to
hear that?

Gil: Hopefully toward the end of this year. We have a lot of tunes written and recorded, so it’s just a matter of us figuring out how and when we want to release it. Everybody’s really excited about it. Team Sleep gives me the perfect platform to combine all of my different styles and influences. There’s plenty of groove and room to stretch out, and everyone gets to bring in ideas that we all vibe off of.

On Stolen Babies and Stealing the Scene

MD: What’s going on with Stolen Babies now?

Gil: We’re switching gears in terms of our vision for the band, and going back to our roots. Years ago, before we started Stolen Babies, we had a ten-piece band called the Fratellis. It was very theatrical, with life-size puppets and a story line. It was actually the birth of Stolen Babies—one of the Fratellis songs was called “Stolen Babies”—when we downsized members and the theatrics. We’re going back to the seeds we planted early on and embracing that theatrical element in a multimedia platform, which is what we’ve been dreaming about.

Even with all these other killer things going on, I’m probably most excited about Stolen Babies, because not only is it something that I’ve built with my brother and our singer from the ground up and invested in all these years, it’s something I’ve always believed in. And musically the new material is more than people would expect, especially fans that love our first album, There Be Squabbles Ahead. It’s like that on steroids. The arrangements are really fun and there are tons of time changes, but at the same time it’s all groovy. They’re compositions—basically each song is a score to pieces of the story line.

MD: Tyler Bates brought you in to do the John Wick soundtrack. What was that session like?

Gil: Tracking for John Wick was a blast. But it was a high-pressure situation, with Hollywood execs in the control room…. When Tyler called me for the session he said, “We only have a day to do this, and we have a ton of cues to do.” And he wasn’t lying. Most of the score was pretty straightforward as far as the drums, but there were some really difficult cues that I learned on the fly, and there were no charts.

There was a fight scene with Keanu Reeves and [Adrianne Palicki], a really fast, cut-up drum ’n’ bass cue, and I listened to what the composer [Joel Richard] had done as a reference. He was like, “I’m not a drummer—is it even possible for a live drummer to play this? Maybe you could just give me your version of it.” And I was like, “No, what you programmed is sick—I’m going to play this shit note for note!” [laughs] So they played it for me a few times and I just went in there and rocked it exactly like he programmed it, but I put my feel on it. And he was excited: “Dude, that totally made that scene come to life.”

MD: Do you normally have the kind of freedom to choose what you’re playing in a situation like that?

Gil: Depends on my relationship with the producer or composer and how specific a part is. I always like to add some creative input when the vibe is right. It’s also great when they ask me what I’m thinking. That opens the door for me to jump in.

MD: How about drum sounds? When you’re a member of a band, you know how you want them to be in the final mix. With soundtrack work you have to let that go, right?

Gil: Yeah, that’s kind of out of my hands. Usually the composer knows exactly what they want something to sound like, and I try to give them that. Bringing in the right gear is where it starts.

MD: Do you have go-to sounds?

Gil: Yes, but it’s on a case-by-case basis. It’s something I’m aware of immediately, though; it’s not an afterthought. I know what kind of gear I want to use as soon as I know what the gig is for. Even yesterday for the photo shoot for this story, even though I wasn’t recording anything, I set up that drumset a certain way, with a certain sound in mind. I would use that setup for Team Sleep.

I do have my go-to templates. If I know what kind of music it’s going to be, even just a rough vibe, I can narrow it down to one or two different drum and cymbal setups. I’ve also done plenty of sessions where I’m using the producer’s drums, which are tuned already, and the cymbals are already up. I literally walk in only with drumsticks. And I’m totally okay with that. Then there are times where, if I’m bringing my gear in, I’ll notice them say something like, “Nice ride cymbal—it really makes that chorus happen now.” There’s a big difference between what a 24″ A Medium ride sounds like versus a 20″ K Custom ride, and you have to know when to use what. That comes through experience, trial and error, and knowing the music you’re playing.

MD: When you’re working in high-pressure situations like the John Wick session, knowing the hierarchy of the decision makers in the room must be very important.

Gil: You have to know your place. You can’t walk in like you’re the shit, putting in your two cents where it doesn’t belong. There’s a million drummers who would kill for all of these gigs. Some of my earliest session work was because a producer got rid of a drummer who was either drunk or showed up at a session and refused to…take orders, basically. Because that’s really what it is: You’re providing a service, which is to play the drums. That doesn’t mean you have to kiss everybody’s ass and be phony, because people see through that as well. Things go a lot better when you’re a cool person to work with.

Learning Opportunities

MD: Are there specific drummers you’ve looked up to in terms of how they’ve handled their careers?

Gil: Definitely. The first two names that come into my head are Steve Smith and Vinnie Colaiuta. As a teenager I noticed Steve’s career. He was in one of the biggest rock bands ever, Journey, playing amazingly creative drum parts, but at the same time he’s constantly growing and evolving as a player. He does sessions. He tours the world. Plus there was the educational side—he’s a clinician, he’s done videos, he’s a historian doing amazing projects and giving props to the legends before him. So early on I was like, I want a career like that. I want to be in a successful band and get the taste of all that, but at the same time I want to do sessions, drum clinics, a DVD—multiple DVDs. I want to share the knowledge and the legacy of everybody who made me the kind of drummer I want to be. That’s why I did my DVD, Wicked Beats. Steve is also who connected me with [famed drum teacher] Freddie Gruber.

And then Vinnie, not only for his technical and musical ability, but he plays with everybody and plays every style of music. When I was thirteen and just starting, I noticed that I have this natural ability to feel certain styles right away. It wasn’t forced. Just like I was saying about being phony on a personal level, people will see through it if you’re trying too hard to come across like you have a feel that you haven’t developed yet. But it was never a chore for me to make something feel a certain way. Vinnie was a prime example to me of sounding authentic in any situation.

I also have to give props to one of my earliest influences, Phillip “Fish” Fisher. He made his mark in Fishbone when they were just teenagers, playing stuff that was killing. Every song was a completely different genre, but it still sounded like Fishbone. And talk about versatility and owning it. It was some of the best drumming I heard in whatever style they were playing. And then after Fishbone he went and played with some of the biggest acts in the world, like Justin Timberlake. He also got into the business side of the industry, which is another important role for me. I like to be involved, especially in my own projects. I produced and self-funded the Wicked Beats DVD. And the vision I had for that when I first chicken-scratched an outline was exactly what I made happen. Even down to having Hudson distribute it.

MD: Things don’t always go as we plan.

Gil: No, but you grow a lot by figuring out ways to make a plan come together. Sometimes you have to stray off the path to get back on the path. Half the stuff I learned that’s extremely valuable is because of mistakes or experiences that didn’t go the way I planned. There’s no such thing as learning something and now you’re bulletproof. We all fall; we just need to get back up.

MD: We’ve all met musicians who have a problem admitting their mistakes.

Gil: Pride is a very dangerous trait. I’ve seen a lot of very talented players lose gigs over not being able to admit when they were at fault for something. It’s important to stay humble in any professional environment.

MD: You’ve come a long way in your career.

Gil: There’s one side of me that’s like, Is this real? But there’s another side that’s like, Hell yeah, this is real—why are you surprised? I don’t want to call it ego…it’s fact. You see a goal, you work hard to get the skills, you travel in the right circles…. The recipe for my success was knowing early on how I wanted to build my career as a drummer and just going for it. I know that I wasn’t in control of the ultimate path, but I knew how I wanted to steer the ship when things were coming at me. My parents were always very supportive of my brother and me, which was also a great help. I don’t take any of it for granted.

MD: We measure where we are in our career by defining certain steps we’ve taken up the ladder. What were some of those steps for you?

Gil: When I started getting paid gigs during high school. Then, around the time I graduated, I got to play with some of my biggest influences, like Fishbone, Dave Wakeling of the English Beat, HR of Bad Brains, and Eek-a-Mouse. After that things just started to snowball, like getting the call to fill in for Travis Barker in +44, Puscifer, Dillinger Escape Plan…. Doing clinics and drum events were defining for me too. Getting that recognition from the industry meant a lot.

MD: Were there particular industry people who helped you early on?

Gil: One of my earliest supporters was my artist rep at Promark, Kevin Radomski. Kevin and I just hit it off. We became good friends, and we’d hang at all of the big industry events. I got to be included in these artist dinners with veterans and heroes of mine, talking to them on a personal level. Don Lombardi from DW is another guy I have a real strong connection with, and he’s been very supportive of me. He’s a total visionary, and I have so much respect for him.

I also got to have some really special hangs with the late Lennie DiMuzio. Talk about a behind-the-scenes hero. Lennie helped choose cymbal setups for all of the greats, like Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Louie Bellson, Philly Joe, Tony Williams, Weckl, Vinnie…. I play the way I do because of the influence of those guys. So to hang with a guy like Lennie was special.

MD: Part of your story is the variety of gigs that you’ve been able to work on. Are there styles that you’d like to rock that you haven’t gotten to yet? Or do you just take it day by day, wherever the wind blows you?

Gil: At this point I’ve kind of branded myself as a drummer that people can call on to play any style at the last minute. I like that I don’t have to start at square one as far as proving that I’m capable of doing a jazz gig or a pop session or a metal gig or reggae…. So since I’m at a point in my career where people are at least aware of my versatility and my background, it’s just a matter of where the wind blows me.

I would love to put a bebop group together. I’m very passionate about jazz and passing on that legacy. During my time in Dillinger, all these hardcore or metal drummers would talk to me about this guy or that and I’d be like, “Dude, I don’t know any of these bands you’re talking to me about.” They thought I was listening to hardcore, but I was listening
to Charlie Parker.

Just yesterday I actually got asked to do some gigs with a jazz guitar player, but I had to turn it down because I’m going out with Manson. I feel very fortunate that I could be called to do big rock gigs or any kind of gig. Tyler just called me for a project that involves some high-level session guys, and that’s great, because I’ve worked really hard to get in that world. So that’s another branch of the tree of where my career’s going.

I feel very satisfied with what I have on my plate—and then not knowing what’s going to happen tomorrow. It’s fun not knowing.

Gil’s Setups

Team Sleep Kit

Drums: DW Jazz series with custom liquid gold finish and nickel hardware
A. 5×13 snare
B. 6×14 snare
C. 8×10 tom
D. 8×12 tom
E. 16×16 floor tom
F. 16×18 floor tom
G. 16×22 bass drum

Heads: Remo Coated Emperor tom and snare batters and Coated Powerstroke 3 bass drum batter

Hardware: DW 9000 series, including double pedal

Cymbals: Zildjian
1. 19″ K Custom Hybrid Trash Smash (prototype)
2. 20″ A Custom EFX with 10″ China on top (prototypes)
3. 16″ K Light hi-hats
4. 24″ K Light ride
5. 22″ A Custom crash (prototype)
6. 14″ A New Beat hi-hats
7. 18″ FX Oriental China “Trash”

Sticks: Vater West Side model

Manson Kit

Drums: DW Collector’s series in satin gun metal metallic gray finish with black chrome hardware
A. 16×20 gong drum
B. 6.5×14 black-nickel-over-brass snare
C. 8×12 tom
D. 9×13 tom
E. 16×16 floor tom
F. 16×18 floor tom
G. 16×24 bass drum

Cymbals: Zildjian
1. 19″ K Custom Hybrid Smash Trash
2. 19″ A Ultra Hammered China
3. 16″ K Light hi-hats
4. 19″ A Custom Projection crash
5. 24″ A Medium ride
6. 15″ K Light hi-hats
7. 20″ A Custom crash
8. 19″ K Custom Hybrid China
9. 17″ K Custom Hybrid China

Heads: Remo Coated Emperor snare batter, Clear Emperor tom batters, and Clear Powerstroke 3 bass drum batter

Sticks: Vater West Side model

Hardware: DW 9000 series, including double pedal

Regarding the double pedal and two bass drums in the Manson setup, Gil says, “I knew I wanted my Manson kit to have two bass drums, and I have no problem playing two single pedals versus one double pedal, so it’s not a performance issue. But I use a double pedal in this setup for two reasons. The main reason is that in case my second bass drum gets thrown off the drum riser, I can still play any double bass parts. Second, our soundman asked if I wouldn’t mind just using one bass drum to have one less thing for him to worry about.”