After going on hiatus in 2009 and returning a couple years later with former Unified Theory singer Chris Shinn at the mic, the chart-topping rock band Live reunited with its full original lineup in December of 2016. With founding vocalist Ed Kowalczyk back in the fold, longtime drummer Chad Gracey has been backing the restored quartet on a string of headline and festival dates that last though early fall. New music is on the way, and as the band celebrates the twenty-fifth anniversary of its debut full-length, Mental Jewelry—a “happy coincidence,” as Gracey puts it—the drummer reflects on the reunion, touring, and more.
MD: What was it like reuniting with Ed Kowalczyk after eight years?
Chad: It was refreshing, and as comfortable as seeing a brother again. For better or worse, the separation was needed, and all parties experienced growth. It’s been a very positive experience thus far. It feels like home.
MD: Do Live’s songs change on stage compared to the records? Is there any room to improvise?
Chad: Some songs changed over the years on tour. We’d jam a little more in certain sections, or extend a song. With this reunion, we decided to bring them all back to the original form and see what new sections might arise. I personally like a drummer to stick relatively
close to the original parts in songs that I love. Not to say that I don’t enjoy some improvisation. But [I like to] stick to the original and improvise tastefully.
MD: How has the band’s writing process evolved over the years?
Chad: In the past, someone would bring in an idea and we’d jam to see if it went anywhere. That continued for a good deal of our career. Occasionally Ed would come in with a fully arranged song—he always wrote all the lyrics and melodies. Lately, for our new stuff, Ed, Chad [Taylor, guitar and backing vocals], or Patrick [Dahlheimer, bass] would come up with an idea and lay it down to a click in our studio. Then I’d play to it, and Chad would build the song from there. It’s nice to have our own studio now.
MD: How do you build up the stamina to play long, intense sets on tour?
Chad: I keep in fairly decent physical shape by working out and running while I’m off. But to be honest I don’t do anything special. I rely on rehearsals to build up stamina, and get out there for game time.
MD: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming drummers looking for a lasting career in music?
Chad: I’d say either find a core group of brothers who are all as committed as you, or practice a lot and be so damned good that you can play anything with anyone.
MD: Are there musical qualities that your favorite musicians share?
Chad: I think that generally we all share the quality of using the drums as a true instrument to accentuate what the band is doing. We don’t
get too busy, but we also don’t only play some boring, basic beat the whole time.
Also on the Road
Kevin Haskins with Poptone /// Chris Adler with Lamb of God /// Paul Bostaph with Slayer /// Joe Magistro with the Magpie Salute /// Zbigniew “Inferno” Promiński with Behemoth /// Bill Stevenson with Descendents /// Lee Falco with Donald Fagen and the Nightflyers /// Ben Koller with Converge