Authors Posts by Rick Van Horn

Rick Van Horn

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I’ve lost track of what number album this is for Iron Maiden. These guys have been producing arena rock that’s as melodic and evocative as it is hard and heavy since the early ’80s. And even though they’ve seen quite a few lineup changes over those years, they’ve kept true to their style and their sound. And their fans (and I’m one of them) have kept true to them.

The Book Of Souls features the current lineup, which is distinguished by their six-piece format with three guitars leading the pack. The players are: Bruce Dickinson, vocals; Steve Harris, bass’ Nicko McBrain, drums; Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers, guitars

Here’s my take on the first five tracks of the new album.

If Eternity Should Fail: An evocative beginning…with long sustained chords…leads to a solo vocal feature from Bruce Dickinson that should lay to rest any questions about his current vocal prowess. (He does seem mixed down a bit—at least for my taste. I like to at leasttry to catch all the lyrics.)

Speed of Light:  Maybe not quite as fast as the title indicates, but a rousing rocker with killer tom fills from drummer Nicko Mcbrain, along with some blazing guitar solos. Since I was sent the album tracks online, I have no “liner notes” to tell me which guitarist is doing what. But it’s all head bangin’ stuff.

The Great Unknown: A synth-oriented intro evokes a little Zep-like fantasy/folk, but the song quickly drops into a half-time power groove, with Dickinson’s vocal soaring above.

The Red And The Black: This is a 13 ½-minute opus that starts off with a low-tuned Flamenco-esque acoustic guitar intro and then launches into an anthemic vamp (which, admittedly, does seem to go on). But then the vocal kicks in, supported by lots of syncopated power chords. And we get some “woh oh oh ohs” from the rest of the band that audiences are going to love singing along to when Maiden tours.

When The River Runs Deep: This one kicks off big and bold right from the outset, snaps into a nearly blast-beat feel, then back into rock time, and then back to the fast tempo. This goes on throughout the song, leaving me drained of energy just from listening to it. And these guys have been doing this for forty years?

Okay, that’s enough of a play-by-play to whet your appetite. Let me just add that the entire rest of the album is as driving, powerful, and ultimately satisfying as these first five tunes. It’s classic Maiden, but nothing stale or repetitive. If this is what the band is going to sound like as they tour in 2016, I’m duly impressed. And hey, what other band is going to be touring in their own 747 jumbo jet, piloted by their own lead singer? Check your local listings (or the band’s website) and get tickets now!

Editor’s Note: We previously did a feature on the logistics underlying this tour and you can read that blog here.

Rick Van Horn, Staff Writer

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I’d like to share with you an experience that my good friend Tom Shelley had this past July. Before I do, I should tell you that Tom is the founder and president of Universal Percussion, which is America’s largest exclusive distributor of percussion products. That means he sells to drum shops the gear that they, in turn, sell to you. He’s a very talented drummer and percussionist in his own right. And he’s also one of the nicest men in the entire percussion industry.

The experience that Tom had was something that any drummer—or anyone even remotely interested in drumming—would envy. He spent eight days with Terry Bozzio.

Over the past couple of years Tom and Terry have been touring the country in a totally unprecedented and unique clinic format. In order to work out details for their next tour, Terry and Tom got together at Universal Percussion’s headquarters in Columbiana, Ohio. And work they did: Some nights didn’t end until 4:00 a.m.

Terry Bozzio needs little introduction to drumming fans. From his groundbreaking performances with Frank Zappa, through his innovative work with The Brecker Brothers, UK, Group 87, and Missing Persons, to his unprecedented work as a solo drum composer, Terry has established himself as a totally original and innovative artist. And then, of course, there’s that incredible drumkit, known throughout the drum world as the “S.S. Bozzio.”

Beato’sBlog #4-Bozzio-ShelleyClinic2-5-13 060 (Terry)

In their duo format Tom accompanies Terry on a percussion rig that rivals Terry’s kit for size and number of components. As he puts it, “Playing with Terry is always an honor—and a challenge—for me.”

Beato’sBlog #4-Bozzio-ShelleyClinic2-5-13(Tom)

Terry and Tom team up for presentations designed to entertain, educate, and inspire all who attend. Terry focuses on drumset performance and technique, and Tom demonstrates how a wide variety of hand percussion instruments are played. Then they play together to illustrate how drumset and percussion can be combined in the most musical fashion. In many venues Tom also conducts a drum circle for children, their parents, and any other interested would-be rhythmatists.

Beato’sBlog #4-Bozzio-ShelleyClinic2-5-13 055 (Both)

You can catch a few video clips of Tom and Terry taken at previous clinics by visiting youtube.com/universalpercussion.

A large part of the time that Tom and Terry spent together in July was devoted to preparing a beautiful purple birds-eye maple DW kit for their next tour. That kit (which had been in storage in Austin, Texas) is now road-worthy and ready to support Terry’s brilliant playing.

Beato’sBlog #4-Terry's Set at UP July 2015

As an addition to that already massive drumkit, Terry asked Tom to build him a 1 ½-octave set of tubular tom-toms. This was a labor of love for Tom, since building tubular toms was actually what got him into the drum-manufacturing and distributing business.

Back in the early 1970s, when Tom was a budding drum retailer, he created some 8″-diameter single-headed tubular drums, which he dubbed “Cannon Toms.” This project taught him that while it’s easy to buy shells and fit them with hardware, making high-quality professional-sounding drums takes a great deal of time, and no small amount of experimentation. His own experimentation included trying all different types of woods, bearing edges, and drum lengths, until he found the combination that produced the best sonic performance. It was a lesson well learned, because over the years Tom has built and sold thousands of Cannon Toms.

Tom hand-crafts each Cannon Tom, making sure that the bearing edges are perfect—a process that involves many painstaking cutting and sanding operations. The final step is to lay a thin layer of wax on the top of the bearing edge. This promotes smooth head-to-shell contact for easy tuning and maximum projection.

The drums are assembled with hardware components designed in the USA and manufactured to Universal Percussion’s stringent specifications overseas. The resulting Cannon Toms are absolutely unique, superior instruments. Frankly, they’d have to be in order to be a worthy part of Terry Bozzio’s performance arsenal.

Beato’sBlog #4-Cannon Toms

 

Terry and Tom had a great time playing, designing, building, and talking about all the great drummers that have graced the music scene over the past fifty years. As Tom told me, “Those eight days reminded me how much fun it is to come to work each day and be able to do what I really love to do. Honestly…it was more like a vacation than a job!”

By the way, Tom and Terry are booking their 2016 clinics now. Check with your drum dealer, or visit the Universal Percussion web site to find out if they’re going to be near you. If they are, you definitely don’t want to miss them.

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In the 1960s young people listened to music on hand-held, highly portable transistor radios. (I was one of those people.)

annette funicello with radio

In the 1970s young people listened to music on shoulder-carried, not-nearly-as-portable boom boxes—often to the dismay of the not-so-young people around them. (I was one of those people.)

ghetto_blaster

In both of these situations, the music came out of a speaker, went into the air, and eventually reached the ear of the listener. Or at least most of it did; some of it went elsewhere. (See the second sentence above.)

Ah, but then came the “personal listening” revolution of the 1980s, ushered in by the advent of the iconic Sony Walkman. This small, portable cassette player (remember those?) made it possible for the listener to enjoy his or her music without disturbing anyone nearby—through the use of headphones. Some of those headphones were fairly high-tech closed-cup models; others were low-cost foam-covered mini-speakers mounted on either side of a simple metal headband.

walkman_3016597b

Of course, people had been listening to music on headphones for years…connected to their home stereo systems. But the Walkman created a total paradigm shift when it came to music listening. Because music now could go anywhere, people began to believe first that it should, and later that it must. Especially young people, who essentially got to the point where they’d sooner leave home without their pants than without their Walkman and headphones.

The situation got more intense in the ’90s with the introduction of the mp3 player, followed by the Ipod in the 2000s. Downloadable music, personal playlists, and pocket-sized portability now made personal music listening an indispensable element of life for darn near everybody. And with those digital devices came a new accessory: earbuds. Gone were the headphones that let some of the music (gasp!) leak out. Now all of the sound could be projected directly into the listener’s ears. There would be no escape!

WomanWithMP3

And, of course, today we have the ultimate result of all this “progress,” which is the iphone. Now, besides music, people can listen to (as well as watch) their favorite movies, listen to (as well as play) their favorite games, and even (although it may seem sort of old-school) actually listen to someone speaking on a phone call. It’s gotten to the point where folks are on their phones more than off of them. And all of this sound goes directly into their ears via earbuds.

shower

Scientists have known for years that repeated exposure to loud noise can cause hearing loss. But when most people think of “loud noise,” they think of jet engines… grinding machinery… Marshall stacks. What they don’t realize—and what a New York Daily News article published this past May reported—is that constant exposure to sound via earbuds, even at low volumes, can cause as much, if not more, damage. And that damage is permanent.

To quote that article, “Sound waves travel through the middle ear into the cochlea of the inner ear, where they stimulate hair cells. The organ of Corti, inside the cochlea, transforms the physical motion of the hair cells into electronic pulses for the brain.

detail-inner-ear-diagram

“For decades, scientists have looked, almost exclusively, at the loss of hair cells as an indicator of hearing loss. Researchers at Harvard Medical School’s Eaton Peabody Laboratory learned you can lose up to 90% of your cochlear nerve fibers without losing the ability to detect a tone in quiet. But once background noise is introduced, hearing ability drops dramatically. Hair cells may be completely intact but hearing still lost if the nerve synapses are damaged.

“Earbud headphones deliver stronger, more damaging waves straight to the cochlea—even at lower volumes.” The result of those damaging waves is cochlear nerve damage, which has no known treatment.

The Daily News article goes on to quote Dr. Charles Liberman, director of the Eaton Peabody Lab, who said in their study, “A nerve fiber will never reconnect. It no longer responds to sound, and, within a few months or years, the rest of the neuron will disappear.”

Okay, now it’s back to me talking. I’m a poster child for the prevention of hearing damage, since my more than fifty years of drumming and playing in loud bands has left me with a significant hearing loss. I wear hearing aids these days as the result of that loss. It saddens me to think that anyone, musician or not, could unknowingly be creating this same situation for themselves in a much shorter time, simply by doing what has become an almost universal—and constant—daily activity.

I can’t begin to accurately describe what it’s like to have impaired hearing, and how much it adversely affects one’s quality of life. But I can suggest a little exercise to give you at least a slight idea. Get a pair of the squishy foam earplugs that are available in any drugstore. Then find a pair of over-the-ear headphones. (Don’t worry; you’re not going to plug them in to anything.)

Foam Earplugs

Put the plugs in your ears, and put the headphones on over them. Now attempt to spend a “normal” day…or even a few hours…while trying to understand what people say to you, or watch a television program, or (ironically) hear a telephone ring. I’m confident that you’ll be shocked at how difficult it is just to get through these activities.

So what’s the solution? Well, there are several, which can (and should) be employed in combination. First, get off the damn phone! And that doesn’t mean just phone calls, but time spent listening to music or any other source of sound. Give your ears a rest.

Second, trash the earbuds and instead go back to using over-the-ear headphones. (Consider them a “retro” fashion statement.) And third, when you do listen to anything, drop the volume and limit the length of time. Experts suggest a 60/60 rule: no more than 60% volume and no more than 60 minutes of sustained listening.

Till next time: Remember that “happy listening” also includes enjoying some occasional silence.

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If you’re not open to the idea of a recording that has more to do with the exploration of sounds than with traditional musical forms, stop reading now.

If you’re open to that idea, but not to the idea of a drummer exploring sounds created exclusively on drumset and “found percussion,” stop reading now.

And if you’re open to a drummer exploring sounds, but only if the result is presented in a familiar rhythmic structure…well, you know what to do.

Phil Haynes’ first-ever solo release, called Sanctuary, is just about the most non-traditional drummer-made recording you can imagine.

Phil Haynes
Phil Haynes

The accompanying promotional literature says that the hour-long performance “blurs the lines between composition and improvisation, sound and space, instinct and action.” That pretty much sums it up.

Haynes himself—a 25-year veteran of the New York City jazz scene with some pretty impressive credits, which you should definitely check out on Google—says his goal was “to make a contemporary solo recording that could not only be enjoyed by drummers, audiophiles, avant-garde followers, and solo music fans, but that was a terrific recording of modern music, period. If music at its most basic level is ‘aesthetically organized sound,’ then why not advocate an expanded appreciation and application for the expressive beauty of the world’s first ‘found instruments’ – drums?”

Okay, let’s talk about the CD itself. To begin with, although it sees release on September 29th of this year, it was recorded in January of 1999. Its twenty-seven short tracks were selected from four hour-long sets recorded over two days at SFB Radio studios in Berlin Germany. The tracks were edited in October of that year, first mastered in March of 2002, and finally sequenced and mastered earlier this year. That’s a very long time to produce a solo album. Is it worth the wait?

Well, that depends. If you meet all of the criteria listed at the beginning of this review, then I’d say yes. Terms like “esoteric,” “evocative,” and “ethereal” describe the sounds on several tracks that feature as much air space as they do percussive notes. Other, more traditional “drumming” tracks demonstrate Phil Haynes’ obvious mastery of the drumset, both technically and acoustically.

Phil Haynes
Phil Haynes

I’m not talking about blazing concert-style solos; I’m talking about digging deep into the sonic possibilities and the joyous feeling of playing jazz-style drums all by one’s self. As described in the promo literature, such tracks give Haynes “an opportunity to showcase fine details lost in the din of ensemble jazz performance.”

This isn’t the sort of recording you’ll want to play in your car, or as background music while sitting at your computer. You need to give yourself the chance to really hear it, so that you can focus on and appreciate all of its nuances. Frankly, you may not feel the need to play it more than once. But, then—if you’re like me—once may be enough to make an indelible impression.

Rick Van Horn

 

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Most people wouldn’t consider being a musician a high-risk job. We’re not firefighters, high-steel construction workers, coal miners, or any other jobholders who literally face the risk of serious injury or death on a daily basis. But that doesn’t mean we’re immune to hazards.

Many of us spend a lot of time driving to and from gigs—often very late at night, when we’re fatigued and when many other drivers are coming home from a night of drinking. So being involved in a traffic accident is a very real and frightening possibility. Those of us who spend a lot of time “on the road” find ourselves performing in cities where no one knows anything about us. If we were to suffer an injury on a gig, or a medical emergency in our hotel room, it’s possible that no one would be able to provide our health history to emergency personnel.

Any serious medical emergency is compounded by the risk of improper medical care. And I’m not talking about malpractice or negligence here. I have great respect for the medical profession, and I believe that doctors and paramedics do an amazing job at saving people’s lives every day. But to do that, they need as much information as possible about their patients.

While I was working as an editor at Modern Drummer magazine we received a letter from a drummer who suffered from epilepsy. In it he described a terrifying incident in which he suffered a seizure. The paramedics that responded mistakenly interpreted his seizure as symptomatic of substance abuse. He was taken to a local emergency room, where he received no further treatment. Fortunately, his seizure abated, and he suffered no further ill effects from the incident.

But stories like that don’t always turn out even that well. On April 24, 1992 the great Larrie Londin (known for his Nashville studio drumming as well as for his phenomenal work on ex-Journey singer Steve Perry’s Street Talk album) suffered a heart attack while conducting a drum clinic at the University of North Texas. Rumor has it that his condition was worsened by the inadvertent administration of medication that his body could not tolerate because he was diabetic. Following four months in a coma, Larrie passed away on August 24, at the age of only forty-eight. The story is made more tragic by the fact that Larrie supposedly wore a “medic alert” bracelet identifying his condition—but had removed it while playing at his clinic.

You might not suffer from such severe medical conditions as diabetes or epilepsy. But you might be asthmatic. You might have food sensitivities. You might have allergies to medication that could prove fatal if you aren’t able to inform medical personnel about them.

Remember, when you’re away from home and family—on the road, at a local club, or just driving home from a wedding gig—you are at risk for medical emergencies. If you have any condition that would affect the care you should receive, obtain appropriate “medic alert” identification, and wear it at all times. There are lots of choices available, ranging from fairly masculine watches, stainless-steel bracelets, and even classic “dog tags” to jeweled “charm”-type bracelets and attractive necklaces. Many of these can be custom engraved with emergency information such as your name, medical condition, medications, emergency phone contact, doctor’s number, and life-threatening allergies.

 

In addition, if you take prescription medications regularly, carry a list of those meds, along with information on what they’re for and who prescribed them. Type it up in small print on a computer, print it out, and then put it in the same place your keep your personal identification and medical-insurance cards. Here’s an example:

Prescription med regimen

ACIPHEX         20 mg            1 @ 1X daily     heartburn             Dr. Irving Klein          781-555-0090

LOVAZA         1 capsule        4 @ 1X daily     triglycerides         Dr. Michael Jones     781-555-5566

NIASPAN        500 mg          1 @ 1X daily     cholesterol           Dr. Michael Jones

BENICAR        20-12.5 mg    1 @ 1X daily     blood pressure     Dr. Michael Jones                    

WELCHOL       625 mg          3 @ 2X daily                                 cholesterol         Dr. Michael Jones

 

These simple precautions are easy and inexpensive to implement. But they’re vital to your self-protection. In fact, they just might save your life.

Until next time: Stay safe out there!

Rick Van Horn

 

 

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As I explained in my introductory blog, I’m a career drummer. That being said, I certainly will not be writing exclusively about drumming-related topics in the pieces that appear here. However, since a fair number of Beato’s Blog readers are, in fact, drummers, I will occasionally present blogs that offer suggestions and advice to those readers, based on my own experience. This, then, is the first of those blogs.

Over the years I’ve heard from many drummers who “play out” frequently—all describing the same problem: Constantly setting up and breaking down their kit is bad enough, but trying to get it set up comfortably each time is even worse. Even veteran drummers have complained that they just can’t seem to recreate their optimum setup consistently. As a result, their own kit often feels foreign to them.

Fortunately, the solution to this problem is neither difficult nor expensive. All it takes is a one-time exercise in placing, playing, adjusting, and marking. Once you’ve completed that exercise, your kit will never feel foreign to you again.

 

Get Ready…Get Set…

Start by getting your kit set up exactly the way you want it. It’s best to do this when you can take the time to adjust things, play for a while, and adjust things again. (By the way, you should do this on top of your drum rug. If you don’t have a drum rug, get one. I’ll tell you why a bit later.)

Your goal is to get all the drums positioned at the right spacing and angle; all the stands at the proper height; and all tripods and legs arranged without tangling. The result should be your ultimate setup in terms of playing comfort and efficiency. Now, how do you keep that setup so that you can recreate it on all your future gigs?

 

It’s All About The Memories

#1. tubejointmemlock #2. memorylocks

Obviously you have to mark the positions of your drums and stands. All of today’s major drum and hardware companies incorporate some form of “memory” collar on their stands. These collars interlock with the stand fitting below to hold the position of the drum or cymbal at the proper height and angle. If you have this type of hardware then 75% of your work is already done.

If your hardware is simpler (or perhaps older) and doesn’t include memory collars, you can easily create your own using automotive hose clamps. These inexpensive adjustable clamps are available at any auto parts store, in a variety of sizes. Just place a clamp at the proper point on each stand segment, and they’ll secure the height adjustment for you. Install them so that their adjustment screw lines up with the wing bolt of the section below, and they’ll also give you the exact horizontal position of each segment. That will keep your cymbals and drums pointing where they should point.

Even if your equipment has memory collars now, there are a few places where you might be able to use additional “home-made” ones. For example, they’re great for setting the height of floor tom legs, which often don’t come with any sort of memory devices at all. I’ve also used them on the inside ends of old-fashioned “disappearing” bass drum spurs. All I have to do is run the spurs out till the clamps stop them, and they’re at exactly the right length.

 

Alternative Plan “T”

#5. CommercialSpikingDevices

Of course, the cheapest and quickest method of marking stands is the use of tape. Once your drums are set up the way you want, simply place a loop of tape around each stand above where it fits into the next section. This will give you the point at which the sections meet so you can put them up that way next time. A simple ink mark on the tape corresponding to the tightening bolt below will give you the exact horizontal adjustment as well. Some folks like to use a different color of tape for each stand, so that the parts never get mixed up. Personally, I prefer white tape, which can be more easily marked on and is a little less conspicuous. I just give each stand a number and label the segments accordingly.

I also put small strips of tape across the tilters of cymbal stands, boom arms, and tom holders. This memorizes their angles if I have to fold them down for pack-up. Some drummers simply use a line drawn with magic marker. Whichever way appeals to you is fine.

Tape has pros and cons. It won’t secure your stands against slipping, the way a memory collar will. And it will get worn off eventually from wear and tear in your gear bag. But it’s easy to install and replace—which makes it especially good for marking experimental position changes that you might ultimately decide not to keep.

By the way, if you do choose to use tape, don’t use hardware-store duct tape. It wears poorly and creates a sticky mess when you want to remove it. Use genuine theatrical gaffer’s tape. It’s a cloth-based tape that stagehands use for all sorts of purposes. I get mine from Rose Brand (rosebrand.com), which is a big theatrical supply company.

 

No Penalty For Spiking

#4. Spiked drum rug

Okay…now let’s assume that you’ve achieved your ultimate setup, and you’ve secured the heights and angles of all your components. You still have to put all the stands and drums together to assemble the total kit. Now you’re faced with trying to re-create the arrangement of legs and tripods that worked perfectly the last time.

The way to do this is to employ a technique called spiking. It comes from the placement of scenery on theater stages, and has been adopted by stagehands placing equipment on rock concert stages.

Remember how I told you earlier that you should set up on a drum rug? Whether it’s a professionally made gig rug, or simply a carpet remnant that you picked up, that rug is now your “canvas” for marking the positions of your stands, pedals, and legs. Using small strips of gaffer’s tape, create little “U”s where the feet of each stand touch the rug. The open end of the “U” should point back along the angle of the stand leg. If you have lots of stands, you may want to label the spike marks with the number of each stand in order to avoid confusion. (There are some commercially available devices marketed for spiking drum gear, but I’ve honestly never seen the need to spend the money for them.)

Spiking achieves the double benefit of putting everything where you want it for playing, while re-creating an untangled stand arrangement each time. I also mark around the bases of all my pedals, and I create little squares where my floor tom legs touch down. Because my spiked rug travels with my kit, I always have the means of re-creating my perfect setup, no matter what stage I’m playing on.

 

Easy And Accurate Every Time

The benefits of having your own personal stage layout to carry with you are enormous. If you’ve ever spent the first few songs of a gig adjusting stands and drums by fractions of inches, you know what I mean.

Memory setting allow you to assemble your drumkit quickly. Spiking the positions of drums, pedal, and stands allows for rapid and identical positioning from gig to gig. This, in turn, allows you to concentrate on playing, rather than spending time and effort making those frustrating adjustments that can go on forever.

Till next time: Good luck, and happy spiking!

Rick Van Horn

Contributing Writer

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Rick Van Horn, and I’m thrilled to be joining Beato’s Blog as a contributing writer.

Some regular readers of the blog might be familiar with my name, but others might not, so I thought it would be a good idea to devote my first blog to a bit of background information. I hope that this will help to explain the perspective that I’ll be bringing to my future articles, and perhaps also establish my credibility as a writer and an observer of the music & entertainment scene.

First and foremost I’m a drummer. I’ve been one since the age of four (although admittedly between four and seven it was wanna-be drumming on pots and pans). I took lessons from seven to eleven, joined my first band at twelve, and got paid to play for the first time at thirteen. I’ve considered myself a professional drummer ever since.

Over the years I’ve played every conceivable style of music, and in bands of every possible description. I’ve played one-off casuals (or “club dates”); I’ve been in house bands (when those still existed); and I’ve toured with acts traveling from gig to gig in vans. I’ve schlepped my gear through thousands of kitchens to play weddings, and up thousands of stairs to play in second-floor nightclubs. Name a stereotypical drumming experience, and I’ve had it.

Today I’m fortunate enough to be touring at the national level. I’m anchoring the band behind 1960s singing icons Jay and The Americans. Since most of our shows are away from home I’m mainly using backline drumkits provided by the promoters. But I always take one gear bag with me—through airports, in the pickup limos, and still up those damn stairs half the time. When we play in our home area—which is anywhere within 300 miles of New York City—I drive to the gig in my own truck, and I set up my own kit. (Yes, it’s a major act; no, I don’t have a drum tech.)

First band -- The Avengers -- in San Diego, circa 1963.
First band — The Avengers — in San Diego, circa 1963.

First paying band -- Little Rick & The Pinkertones -- 1964
First paying band — Little Rick & The Pinkertones — 1964

Another side of my life has been devoted to writing. I enjoy the process of putting my thoughts down on paper (or, these days, on screen). I also admit to a certain amount of ego-fulfillment that writing provides. I had a poem published in a school magazine when I was in the fourth grade, and I’ve been hooked on seeing my name in print ever since. I was on the staff of my high school newspaper, and I did a fair amount of creative as well as academic writing while in college.

Speaking of college, that was where I delved into the third side of my life. My mother had pleaded with me to major in a solid and reliable subject that I could fall back on if my drumming career didn’t pan out. So what did I choose?

Theater.

I started out as an acting major. But although I had some performing skills, I frankly didn’t have the necessary physical attributes. (I wasn’t going to be the next Robert Redford.) So I gravitated toward the technical side, ultimately majoring in set and lighting design. Following graduation I worked in a variety of freelance design situations, including at the National Shakespeare Festival at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego.

In 1979 I was able to combine all three sides of my life into one amazing career. That was the year that I first submitted some articles to a then-fledgling magazine called Modern Drummer. They had big-name drummers like Hal Blaine, Ed Shaughnessy, and Carmine Appice writing columns about studio, big-band, and rock drumming. But they didn’t have anybody writing about what I call “blue-collar” drumming: playing clubs and casuals on the local level. Since that’s what I was doing, that’s what my articles were about.

Modern Drummer accepted my articles and invited me to submit more. I did, and this led to the creation of a long-running monthly column called “Club Scene.” And, after three years of being a columnist, I was invited to join the magazine’s staff full-time. I came on board in November of 1983 as managing editor, and later advanced to the position of senior editor—a post I held until I left the magazine in February of 2008, some twenty-four years later.

Gigging with Four Lane HyWay -- house band at Moose McGillyCuddy's in Waikiki, Hawaii -- 1983.
Gigging with Four Lane HyWay — house band at Moose McGillyCuddy’s in Waikiki, Hawaii — 1983.

My work at Modern Drummer gave me the opportunity to become acquainted with many of the world’s top drumming artists. I was also able to go “inside” virtually every drum, cymbal, percussion, drumstick, and drumhead factory on the face of the planet. I got to test thousands of new gear items—often on the local gigs that I continued to play throughout my MD career. And I even got the chance to employ my theatrical side—as production coordinator (and emcee) of the legendary Modern Drummer Festivals.

Today, in addition to my drumming with Jay and The Americans, I still play locally in clubs near my home. As a writer, I work as a freelance publicist and journalist. My articles are published in a variety of drumming magazines across the globe, and I do promotional work for several major companies in the percussion industry. And I’m still designing sets—currently for high school plays and musicals in my area.

Touring today with 1960s singing icons Jay and The Americans.
Touring today with 1960s singing icons Jay and The Americans.

I’ve had a tremendously varied and rewarding career, and I’m thrilled to say that it isn’t over yet. I’d like to think that the experiences and education I’ve gained from that career give me a unique perspective on life in general—and on the entertainment scene in particular. I hope to bring that perspective to the pieces I write for Beato’s Blog. And, of course, I hope that you find those pieces informative and entertaining.

So, till next time: Thanks for reading!

Rick Van Horn

Contributing Writer

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I'm Just Askin'

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We have covered 5 Seconds of Summer before and they are one of my favorite bands.  They are also one of the new generation...