Earlier this year I had the pleasure of hittin’ the road with The Graveltones on a support tour with Rival Sons - yeah, mind blown right? Well, on top of that here I am in ‘Laynes’ - a coffee shop in Leeds which drummer and coffee connoisseur Mikey Sorbello introduced us to earlier.
All tour I have been talking with Mikey and Miley about gettin’ together and talkin’ drums, but, on the road is a crazy place and here on my last date of the tour I was beginning to think it may not happen. However, all was not lost when I get the call from Talita (RS PR) letting me know that they were in ‘Laynes’ with Miley and asking if it was possible to go now?. Grabbing the bull by the horns I hauled ass outta the hotel, grabbing Mikey on the way out as we walk down to the interview….
We walk in, and Miley, Robin Everhart and Talita were already enjoying the delicacies & chatting. As we joined them and got comfy - Miley was talking about his recent interview with Modern Drummer Magazine. Seeing as this was a drum chat, without saying anything I switch the Dictaphone on.
Miley continues… “And it kinda opened up this whole thing on Brazilian drumming, talking about Brazilian rhythm and how I went to Brazil and studied with Brazilians. I used to teach this Samba band. I went into this whole Brazil route, so it was like being asked intricate things, like what I do musically - 98% of people aren’t listening for ghost notes, the style of ghost notes that you’re playing. There’s like funk ghost notes, there’s rock ghost notes. There’s like nineties…I call ‘em nineties ghost notes…”
Mikey asked with intrigue and a smile “How does a nineties ghost note go?”
“Where you do like a double stroke roll on the high hat and the snare” Miley tells Mikey (he goes on to sound out the beat) as Mikey laughs and nods “yeah, yeah” Miley continues “That probably comes from the 70’s anyway, guys like Matt Cameron. Those dudes they really made that shit, anyway (he looks toward us) I was talking about the Modern Drummer interview and explaining it was nice to be asked specific questions about what you do. Somebody was like ‘Man, that shit you do on the toms, bending the pitches, did you listen to Art Blakey?’ And I was like ‘Fuck yeah! I listen to Art Blakey!’ You’re talking about your real influences. Of course we’ve all listened to Keith Moon and fuckin’ Tommy Lee or whatever. Let’s talk about Elvin Jones, let’s talk about Tony Williams, man.”
Now, anyone who went to the shows on this tour or who has watched the videos will be well aware of how much Miley has supported Mikey on this tour, but not only supported but admired, and to watch this has been pretty cool so I had to ask them - So, you guys have got quite the bromance going on I’ve noticed?
Miley looks at me “Is this going?”
Yep, it’s been going a while, I’ve been watching you guys on tour, and you are giving each other a tip of the hat every night during each of your sets, watching each other play… So what’s going on there? You guys have got so much admiration for each other.
Miley tells me “I think it’s rare, I was telling you guys before - it’s like a drummer after your own heart. We see drummers, we play, we do gigs, we do tours, you appreciate the other guys that are on the tour or whatever, but it’s seldom you’re on tour with somebody you would admire, or that you wanna bring up like a little brother like Mikey you know…”
Mikey laughs and is looking somewhat bashful.
Miley continues “My whole thing with drumming has always been from the gut. Visceral, you know it’s cliché to say animalistic or primal but drumming is. It’s a very primal thing and I try and tap into that, when I watch Mikey I feel like it’s 100% that…” He says with a massive smile as he starts to laugh, as do we all.
I laugh, yeah, I definitely do - The first time I saw Mikey play was at The Garage at Highbury Islington last year, they were supporting Stonerider and I just stood there hands on head - I’m a drummer too, I haven’t played for years but I know drumming when I see it, and man it was just...so powerful. (I turn to Mikey) Tell us about you; tell us about the styles that you use and what gives you that edge…
Mikey replies “Well I don’t know, it’s an interesting thing, I was a very weird kid, I was listening to acid jazz and weird stuff when I was 12. Bands like Nirvana and rock music - stuff like that, I always just shrugged off. My sisters were listening to it and I was just ‘I don’t get it, ah, I don’t get it’ and then I’d put on some of my favourite Australian, abstract acid jazz and for some reason I just really liked that and I continued on that path. When I was 15 I started playing congas in an Elvis show.”
Miley interjects “In a what show?”
“In an Elvis show” Mikey says as they both laugh “I had sideburns when I was 15, hella sideburns…” Miley erupts with laughter and Mikey continues “So people were like ‘Dude what’s with the Elvis kid, with the sideburns on congas?’…. So that’s kinda where I started playing professionally, and although playing congas never really ended up being my thing, I always remember the rhythms, I had a really nice Jamaican fellow show me the way around congas. So it kind of got the hands on, what I really liked about that was making your hands bleed and really getting your hands on the drums and manipulating sounds that way.”
There are so many different techniques aren’t there, with congas you can use the side of your hand, the tips of your fingers, your palm; it is very much about how you make use of your hands.
Mikey agrees “Yeah, yeah” Miley adds “Mute tones, open tones, palm tones, centre of the drum, and edge of the drum…”
Mikey continues “He was a dude, and from then I was always playing kit and one day I decided to kinda get a little bit more… I think playing with Jimmy has adapted my style a bit. I’ve always been a loud hitter and then I don’t know what happened. The first gig something tweaked and changed it was really weird.”
So how did you come up with…I’ve seen, you’ll like play and you get the stick and you kind of put the tip pointing down on the drum skin and move your hand rapidly down the stick to kinda….
“Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrruuuuummmm” he laughs as he does the action and describes the sound.
I laugh so yeah, how did you discover that technique?”
Miley says “The Cuica technique” as he goes to demonstrate – Mikey points “Ah there it is, exactly like that, what’s it called?”
“The Cuica” Miley says “It’s Brazilian Cuica, It’s a wooden stick that is like stuck to the head underneath the drum, you wet a towel so you get some vibration, some…lubrication and move it up and down the wooden stick and it goes woo ooo woo ooo and then you bend the pitch and go woo, woo and it makes like a…” Mikey jumps in “a monkey sound…”
Miley continues “We were talking about Brazilian drumming… oh WAIT! That was on tape earlier.” We laugh and I agree. He continues “It’s my first love, I love Brazilian, when I was in college I was in a Samba band at school and when I first saw the whole carnival experience, have you ever seen it? When you see it in person like 50 to 100 drummers playing, I was in a marching band in high school and that shit’s boring compared to this. A Brazilian marching band is like Samba, uh, 1/54 on the metronome is like a really fast Samba, 1/48 is a little bit slower.
Mikey laughs and says with enthusiasm “YES! Wow, that’s so rad…” Miley continues “So back to Cuica… So you do your thing (demonstrates placing the stick tip down on the drum) Vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvrrrrrrrrr it’s more of a vibrational, like a stick on a floor tom or whatever…”
Mikey replies “Yep that’s exactly what it is, there’s somethin’; I had a drum teacher in school and he was Canadian and he was a dude, he was perhaps 60 – 65 when I was in school. He played with Sammy Davis, he had some cool gigs. Supported Buddy Rich and stuff in the day, he showed me that trick actually and I remember when he’d do it, and he’d grab his hand at the top of the stick and go rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr (as he glides his hand down) and then slap the stick into a rim shot, so he’d go Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrap, Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrap, He was the radest.”
“He had some great ideas, and he really encouraged me at school, so instead of taking one lesson off for like a drum lesson, he’d be like, ‘oh yeah, no no no, you stick around and help me with the uh, the other class’” He laughs “It was being in school, and when I look at American schools and marching bands, it’s like a culture…and that’s one thing I missed out on.”
Miley says “Me too, I missed out on it too. I did it for two football seasons in high school, I played football the first two years but then quit football to be a band geek, because when footballers saw band geeks over there, they steal the field at half time, there’s a stigma. I knew I wanted to be a drummer so when I sprained my ankle I was like ‘I’m gonna join the band’ and joined the jazz band, joined the marching band. It’s nerdy and dorky... It’s good to have the chops though.”
I imagine the technique that you learn in marching band is invaluable really.
“You can take it to the limit” Miley says “It’s good for showman stuff, a lot of that stuff is turned over, I never really learned that, I have probably like, one trick, I have a prayer… (Miley mimes throwing his stick in the air)...Sweet god.”
We all laugh and he continues “Showmanship is another reason why we might have a bromance. I love - I’ve always loved drummers who deliver what they’re doing, which to me is being a showman. It’s not about stick twirls and like Tommy Lee and wearing Speedos or something, but it kinda is, like when you see Tommy Lee or Terry Bozzio come out wearing Speedos and wrist bands, you’re like ‘Holy fuck this dude better be good.’” Mikey and I erupt with laughter “and then they come out and slay! I was never - no offence to anybody. I was never a Charlie Watts fan. I appreciated his groove, and that he laid simple grooves down for one of the greatest rock bands of all time. But when I was growing it up it was either Stones or Beatles. I was a Beatles guy, I was more into Ringo’s creative - he had more of a symphonic approach you know, where it’s not just like beats, beats, beats, it’s…”
Mikey jumps in “Melodies.” Miley continues “It’s melodies, and the fills actually have melodies to them (he starts tapping away) ‘Come Together’ is signature, the drumming on ‘Something in the way she moves’ is just like kick, snare, kick, snare, kick, snare, duh duh duh, doh doh doh, Psssshhhhh…. It’s like, they must have slowed it down, or I don’t know what they did but the delivery method is, to me it’s believability and my friend, my mentor growing up in my Long Beach days, Scott Devours, who is Roger Daltrey’s drummer now, he sat in with The Who on 6 dates in the U.S. – I really look up to him, when I got out of college he was the first drummer I saw who just like, pressed me up against a wall, punched me in the stomach, and erm, I think that feeling is a visceral gut feeling really, I got that the night when I watched him.” Miley points to Mikey beaming.
I remember, you came over and you were like “oooh I’ve just been in a fight” grabbing your stomach. Miley smiles “He just punched me in the stomach” We all laugh as Miley explains “You know when you get punched in the stomach and it’s just not pleasant. It’s that – believing. I wanna believe that any instrument - you know as a drummer I am biased, but I love when I see somebody really give it. When every cell in their body is like in that one hit, I’ve always tried to do that…”
Mikey adds quite passionately “Yeah!! Yeah damn straight you do… The first time I had that experience, I had a phone call, and a friend of mine was doing a thing. Anyway Donavon Frankenreiter came into town and Dean Butterworth was on drums, and Dean needed a drum kit for the night…”
Miley asked “Who was the artist?”
“Donavon Frankenreiter” Mikey answered “like a surfy kinda dude just after he was touring with Morrissey, then he came off and did this tour.”
“Is this after the Ben Harper days?” Miley asked with interest.
“I don’t know” Mikey pondered “oooh yeah, it is after the Ben Harper days - so I got a phone call. I was at work, from this guy, he was like ‘Man, I need a drum kit for tonight’ I was like ‘yeah sure man’ He was a good friend of mine so I didn’t really ask any questions and then I called him back as I was driving to the gig ‘I’m on my way to the gig, who’s the drum kit for?’ he was like ‘Oh for Dean Butterworth’ and I was like cool.
Miley interjects “I only got my CB700” Mikey laughs hysterically as Miley continues “With my Scimitar cymbals… ‘Fuck! I shoulda brought my Gretsch! My Ludwig!’”
Mikey composes himself “It was like that and seriously my drum kit was not very good at the time, it was just a small, a brought him a four piece, you know, whatever I just figured which at that time was a 10” and 14” Toms, when I look back at it now I think ‘what the hell’ If I tried to play a 10 and 14 I would be missing stuff, left right and centre. The bigger they are the better they are to hit, that show, it challenged me in a way that like the whole grabbing the bull by the horns. I was never brought up that way, I was never that person that took control of things, or played in a way like that and the way he just locked in and put on an amazing show, and played within his abilities so, so well, that’s one thing I have never really done, and something I need to work on is playing within’ my abilities more.
You’re so experimental with your stuff, you posted the other day “I am going to learn everything about drum”
Mikey smiles and replies “Yeah that’s the plan this year.”
As the interview continues I will have to save the rest for another time folks. Next time Mikey and Miley interview each other and discuss bass drum technique, timing, song writing within both bands and so much more.
Both bands are nominated for this years Classic Rock Awards, have your say here: http://awards.classicrockmagazine.com/
All articles are © Michelle Nevill