This industry can be tough. One day you are playing the best gig of your life and the next, you are out wondering what is next. With how fast things are going, it can be difficult for many artists in the entertainment industry to maintain their position. So how do you stay on the bull? Rich Redmond, with co-host, Jim McCarthy, brings over someone who has not only stayed on it but who is riding it so well that he jumps from one to the other. In this episode, world-class drummer Jason Stutter shares with us his career journey and what it is like playing with Marilyn Manson, Smash Mouth, New York Dolls, Chris Cornell, and Foreigner, to say the least. He talks about networking and handling a new gig and gives advice to those just starting out. Despite it all, Jason also discusses the importance of adding more legs to your stool, finding stability in life so you can pursue your passions by not depending on one job. Join him, Rich, and Jim as they tackle more of the topic and the life of a world-class musician.
This is the new thing. We’re coming from Los Angeles. My cohost, man about town, co-producer longtime pal, Jim McCarthy is joining us for Music City, USA. How are you doing?
It’s a heatwave. We need some rain.
Jim, over the years, you’ve heard me talk about this guy. I’ve probably been friends with our next guest for probably a decade. We’ve been on each other’s radar forever. In the last few years, we’ve become best friends. He needs no introduction. As a world-class drummer, he’s played with the likes of Marilyn Manson, Smash Mouth, New York Dolls, Chris Cornell and Foreigner, to say the least. That’s the tip of the iceberg. My friend, Jason Sutter. What’s up?
What’s going on? Thanks for having me.
Jim, if you’ve ever seen a picture of 50 drummers with a couple of musicians sprinkled in and maybe some fashion designers standing around a pool, it’s usually Jason’s backyard.
I did have a blowout in 2019. It was a pretty amazing birthday soiree that took on a life of its own.
How have you been handling this quarantine thing? Usually, people are not in the middle. They’re like, “I hate it. I can’t wait to get back to work.” Other people are like, “I’m reading all the books that are on my nightstand. I’m practicing. I’m doing yard work.”
I’m doing lots of yard work. For me, in a way, I’m trying to be positive with everything. I was in the middle of a tour with Cher. We were at ground zero in Oklahoma City when this all went south. We were about a week into a two-month tour when we came home. We were supposed to have a whole other batch of onset at the end of 2020 with a few Vegas runs in there. I’m trying to be positive about the whole thing. That’s all you can do and try to look at it as a reset. That’s the most positive way I can look at it is a chance to take a break.
Like yourself and probably a lot of musicians who are friends of ours, you set yourself up to, if you can, be working all the time and that’s the optimum. We have both been lucky. You, me, Riley, a bunch of North Texas guys who were careful what you wish for. We’ve been working nonstop. For me, to take a break like this, it’s like a chance to regroup and force myself to be home, which I’m rarely here. It’s a chance to enjoy it. I’m in North Hollywood, California which is pretty and beautiful. I dig my place. I’ve set it up as a quarantine situation where if I was stuck here, I’d be satisfied with all that I have here to do.
For me, it’s not that big of a bummer. I feel satisfied with the amount of work up to this point. In a way, it’s like, “There’s nothing we can do.” I’m trying to be positive. There’s nothing you can do about it. I’m trying to be as productive as I can here. That doesn’t include playing drums as much because, as I said, I feel like I was satisfied with that part of my world right up until this all happened. For me, I don’t feel the need to run to a practice room because I’ve been doing that my whole life to get to this point. Now, it’s forced us to regroup. There’s nothing I can do about that. Running to a practice room for me doesn’t seem like the first logical thing to do. It’s a lot of other creative things that have come into it. I’m trying to be positive because there’s nothing I can do to change the outcome, at least the touring situation I was in.
In the last few years, you’ve been the drummer with Cher. On little breaks in between her gig, instead of going home to North Hollywood, you’re out on the road with Joe Perry. Tell us about the last few years.
It’s been insane. Mark Schulman, our mutual friend was so cool when he had a conflict with the Cher thing with P!nk. He had been doing both for years. For the first time ever, they conflicted. He reached out to me and said, “Would you be in doing this?” For me, don’t tell anybody, but I’m a huge fan. This has been like an amazing experience. As you know, in Nashville, you guys tend to have maybe if a gig works, it goes for a while. In LA, it seems like gigs to last a few years is a lifetime.
We’re coming up on a few-year mark with Cher. For me, that’s something that I’m over the moon about. The fact that I make such great music with her, with such a great group of musicians and then the whole cast and crew and the dancers and Cher herself is an incredible human being. It’s been incredible last few years. I got to do the Joe Perry project with Joe Perry and Brad Whitford of Aerosmith, which is incredible. Gary Cherone from Extreme was insane. Dave Hull, bass players, and all the Buddy Miles stuff. We also played with Joe Perry back in the ‘80s and Dizzy Reed on keys from Guns N’ Roses. It was a super band.
It was a super time and you get to play all those deep cut Aerosmith stuff. A lot of Joe Perry projects stuff that I was a fan of. That was an incredible experience as well. I can’t complain. Right before the Cher thing, I was doing Dee Snider. We did whole summer European festivals opening for Aerosmith on a few of them. That was cool. Dee is a sweetheart and a legend. I grew up in the ‘80s hearing metal. The last few years have been great. It’s been great musically, from Dee Snider to Cher to Joe Perry, it’s these classic iconic figures. I can’t complain. I’ve got to say it’s been cool. That helps coming into slowing everything down.
Jim, don’t you think a background like that, a resume like that, you’re hopping and you’re playing double bass with Marilyn Manson with paint in your face, then you’re playing pop-rock songs with Smash Mouth and then you get to be in New York Dolls for a summer. What would you think that Jason’s background would be like? A self-taught guy in his parent’s basement playing double bass to records or would you think that he was a classically trained musician with a Master’s degree?
Being that he’s from Potsdam, New York when you think of Potsdam, you think of versatility. That’s what comes to my mind. To adapt to all those situations, Potsdam is the home of versatility as everyone knows.
Potsdam to be fair, it was a college town. There were three colleges there. In a weird way, that is where all that diversity did come from. I know you were joking, but it’s a college town. My dad was a professor there, the head of the Art Department at Potsdam State University. There were two other colleges. There were tons of bars and bands. This is in the ‘80s when I was growing up. When I was a junior, I was playing in five different projects and working on that whole diversifying and putting myself in different situations from a blues down with old cats with cigarettes, hanging out of their mouth and yelling at you not to rush to like the college band playing with a bunch of seniors playing like Missing Persons. It’s different pop songs like Joe Jackson and things.
From there to a total cheesy top-end where I’m playing electronic Simmons and we’re playing The Hooters and dances in dive bars. I was doing a bunch of different stuff. It’s funny that is where a lot of the original drum set diversity stemmed from. I was taking lessons. There was a great music school there with a great teacher named Jim Peterzak, who was my teacher since I was a little kid. He was friends with my father so that worked out great. He ended up teaching Dave Weckl down the road and Vinnie Colaiuta. He’s been working with his hands a little bit. I got to have that magnitude educator early on.
You got that early on, Jason. There are certain guys that are destined for greatness. You probably had a 5 to 10-year jump on your other colleagues because not only were you getting all the rudimental training and all the technical things that you would need to succeed at a collegiate level and in life, but you’re getting all this experience in the trenches. There are so many people that have one or the other, but when you can marry those things, it’s an incredible thing.
When I got to college, I had played for five-year straight gigging. I was negotiating contracts. I was negotiating personalities from this guy to that guy and knowing when to speak up and when to sit in the back and be quiet. It’s all by the time I was seventeen. By the time I got to college, it was like, “Now I’m going to put all the drum set stuff on the side and I’m going to go big on the drumline, marimba and timpani.” I didn’t play any drum set in college hardly at all. I didn’t gig on the side. I was playing drums at jazz bands like we were doing. I wasn’t gigging out because I already felt like I had done a lot of that.
It’s funny as we talk about that North Texas connection of like me, you, Jim Riley from the Rascal Flatts, the Luke Adamses, Blair Sinta’s, the Adam Gust’s, all these guys that are in LA that came out here to make their fame and fortune, or they went to Nashville to make their fame and fortune. The commonality with all those things is music education. The fact that we’re a product of music education. Jim and I always like to mention and thank our sponsor of the show, the School of Rock. Jason, imagine at that age, being able to go and academically be in a curriculum.
These kids from 5 to 18 are playing in groups. They’re learning songs, bass, guitar, drums and how to sing and how to front a band. Most importantly, they’re learning life skills about how to work together, how to show up on time, how to set goals and how to take direction. For the parents out there, who want to get their kids involved in the School of Rock, there are 250 locations. In Nashville, we have two of the best. It’s Angie and Kelly McCreight, my friends. I’ve known them for years. Jim, what’s the email address if those parents want to get their kids?
Tell them that all three of us sent you and you will have a great time. I know they’re socially distancing. They’re getting in a room. The kids are putting on their masks. They’re sanitizing. They’re playing The Troggs. They’re playing The Hooters. They’re playing all of the bands, The Stones, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Did you ever play behind sneeze guards, Jason?
I’ve only had to do it once. It was one of the worst experiences of my life, but I know some dudes, their whole career, that’s what they do or some singers. I know that you can do partial ones. I’ve seen just the cymbals. When I was playing with Chris Cornell, he put out a record that was produced by Timbaland. There were like a lot of hip-hop elements. I don’t know why maybe we move the stage set around. Instead of maybe behind him, I was off to the side. For some reason, somebody thought it would be a good idea, and I don’t even know who because I don’t think it was him, but I did end up doing 1.5 or 2 months of touring with a full.
A lot of people don’t realize when you’re doing that, first of all, there’s no airflow. It’s a stagnant feeling. Second of all, it sounds different. The sound bounces off. Normally the beauty of an acoustic drum that resonates in that beautiful hole that you’re playing in comes back to your ears and you get this full feeling. It stops right in front of you. If you have to tune your gear, it’s a brutal experience. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to do it. We were playing some gigs. I remember playing in Canada and people had signs. It was like, “Let him out. Tear down the wall.” I never stressed that I hated it because I can go with the flow. I thought, “I’ll try this out,” but it was awful. I remember one day Chris turned around and said, “Let’s lose that thing.” That was it. It was a short-lived experience, but I can say I survived. I did it.
Growing up in New York, did you ever get down to the city at all occasionally?
All the time. In fact, I have a great photograph of me, which is no longer there at Manny’s drum shop, all those great drum shops. People who didn’t grow up in that area, in New York there was a street of music stores and there would be the main music store and upstairs was the drum shop. Marco Soccoli worked there for years. He was there for years and he talked to Cats who worked for New Yorker. They would go in and hang with Marco before and now they’re professional drummers. They would joke about how that felt because it was this mega-music were compared to where we were from. I did get down there a lot and that was always fun, but it was also energy.
My father was a sculptor. At a young age, I have pictures of me and my twin sister like Super 8 videos of the two of us on the street corner where we’re 2 or 3. It looks like a Scorsese ‘70s film, like the grainy and the car, it’s like Taxi Driver looks at. My earliest memories were in New York and it was not pretty, but it was exciting. It was scary and there was an energy to it. I remember going with my dad, we’d go down to set up shows at different galleries. I’ve since gotten into collecting art. Going back to those galleries that were all in West Broadway, which are in SoHo, which most of them are galleries and where their clothing stores are, but there are still some galleries.
All the galleries are now in Chelsea, but it was a fun memory. To answer your question, we did get down there a lot. I was living up in the country. At the same time, I had this New York experience. My godfather lived in Columbus Circle. We go visit him and that was eating Ray’s Pizza when I was four years old and going, “Why does this pizza taste so much better than any other pizza I’ve ever had?” I was experiencing the stink and the smell and there were still hookers and pimps. For real, it was everywhere. It was crazy walking down the street as a little boy going, “What is going on? Why are we here?” I have to say, my dad, I learned a lot from going there and one on one with my dad. He would take one of us at a time. We’d go as a family too.
It was an experience of sometimes you got to jump into it. You can’t be worried about everything. You can’t worry about everything around you. You’ve got to live life. That was the lesson I learned from that experience. Instead of being freaked out by everything, I embraced it and became part of the scene rather than outside looking in. This is my New York City and I’m part of this. That fear or confusion has helped me relocate, become a musician where you moved to a new area and you say, “I’m part of the scene now. I’m not outside looking in.” It was a positive experience growing up. I miss that New York, even though it was stinky, spray paint, ugly, roaches and garbage. It was real and there was music on every corner, art, comedians and actors working on scenes.
Rich grew up in Milford. I grew up in Danbury, if you’re familiar with Danbury, Connecticut and our local music store was the East Coast Music Mall. Did you ever hear that?
I don’t know that.
When were you there? During the ‘90s and ‘80s and stuff?
I’m in New York in the ‘80s. For Connecticut, I know Pepe’s Pizza. That’s what I think of when I think of pizza. I don’t know about music stores, but I know that the pizza scene there is incredible.
It would be cool, Jason, that you had a very forward-thinking, creative and father that threw you into the deep end of the pool and probably wasn’t discouraging you from going into the arts because he was in the arts. He seemed like he straddled the line between education, art and commerce. What about your mom? Was she a homemaker? What did she do?
She’s a nurse.
My mom too.
There was a big creative scene. Everybody was very welcome to be part of that scene. There was a lot of artistic, cool music, cool characters. It was open, free, academic and a positive environment to be a musician. My dad wanted to be a sculptor and be famous in New York. He could relate. He was very supportive. He was always cool. It was like, “You’re going to be cool. You’re going to be all right. The same thing, jump in, get into it. It worked out so far, so good.
Jason, looking at your timeline with your career, it seems it’s typical. People will have their hometown. If they go to college and get their higher education, they become part of that scene. They have to make that decision. “Where am I going? Am I going to New York, LA, Nashville?” It seems like you were in Dallas for your Bachelor’s and then Miami to get your Master’s. You went up to Boston. What was that period like?
It was completely bizarre. It’s almost like a fairytale-type scenario. We’re in college, we have no idea what the path is to go from A to B or get that career. Most people who are young want to be in a band. For me, I always wanted to be a freelance person. When I was playing in those bands when I was 16 and 17, one of the bands was a college band. We would play up in Potsdam. It was called a beer blast. They would get twenty kegs. They might even have like a pig roasting. They would have themed shirts, tie-dyes. They would be sororities and fraternities getting drunk.
There were fences in this huge front yard. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Everyone would commingle. It was social. They’d always have bands. They usually sometimes have two bands. I remember playing one of those and a dear friend of mine named Dave Gibbs, who I ended up working on Rock of Ages, the musical with which is crazy back in 2005. He came and saw me playing in this band. I probably weighed 50 pounds. I was skinny rocking out. Dave came to see the band that I was playing in. He watched me and went, “He’s got it.” He could see at sixteen, I was half-baked. I had this form and I was already doing it.
Dave remembers that. Four or five years later, after North Texas, towards the end of the second year of my graduate studies, Dave recommended me for a couple of gigs that was Tracy Bonham and Juliana Hatfield, both on major labels in Boston. Dave said, “You sound like this guy, Stacy Jones. I remember watching you play. You look like him. They’re looking for a drummer.” They want to play with this kid, Stacy Jones, who now plays with Miley Cyrus and has done tons of great stuff, American Hi-Fi. Long story short, he said, “You play like Stacy. If you came to Boston, you’d probably get one of these gigs.” I flew up there, thanks to those guys, the management. Both those guys brought me up. I auditioned. I ended up getting a gig, which right out of college, it’s things you dream about. I had to make a decision.
Do I finish my Master’s recital and get my Master’s degree or do I go to Rockwell? I’m called to do it. I chose the latter. I went up to Boston. I played with Juliana. I got on a tour bus. It’s my first tour. I was playing on Conan O’Brien, which at the time in 1995, Conan O’Brien was the biggest thing in the world as far as the shows. I’m going from practicing my timpani and I remember playing in the big band, the CJB at Miami to two weeks later, all the kids, Kevin Stevens, one of our buddy drummers sent me a picture of a huge party going on in Miami.
These kids are all watching me play on Conan O’Brien. They had a party for one of their buddies, me, to watch me playing on late-night TV, which is bizarre. The thought of that to go from in a practice room in college to be on Conan O’Brien playing for seven million people or more viewers. It was an unusual, crazy, transition. From the Juliana Hatfield gig, I ended up getting a gig with a band called Jack Drag, where we signed a publishing deal, signed a record deal with A&M Records and put a record out, which was a satisfying thing. Right out of college, I got a lot of cool experiences.
I remember when I was seventeen and I couldn’t wash my underwear. I was in El Paso. My mom took care of everything. I was practicing. I went to college. I was like, “I’ve got to figure out how to live, do all this stuff.”
Nobody ever tells us how to do that. I was talking to Kevin Stevens who is our mutual friend in Miami. In college as musicians, there was blind optimism. We were optimistic that we were going to become a rock star somehow. We knew that would happen somehow in our mind because we had Modern Drummer magazine that says like, “If they could do it, you’ve got to follow their path and you can do it.” That was naive to tell you that. Thank God we had that. Whereas now young players are all much more educated on how to network and how to work, thanks to the internet. It’s an interesting thing. I think back to it, nobody ever told you what to do. There was no one telling you where to go or what to do. Do you go to LA or to New York? Nobody ever told you that. We’re expected to just figure that out, which is scary. There is no blueprint.
You can use the internet now to crack a door and then you could use it to create that synergy to meet someone in real life. Back in those days, we had to blindly crash parties and give people our demos, go to different auditions and free gigs and hope that it all works somehow.
It’s amazing that we got gigs at all. When I think about it, that was our system.
It was a shot in the dark, but at least we’re emphasizing the human connection. What I like to think of, I look at a resume like yours and the diversity. I’m thinking to myself, “What are the rules?” We talked to kids that want to be successful, the next generation. We talk about dressing well, be the first one there, be the last one to leave, have a firm handshake, look people in the eyes, be over-prepared, be able to take direction, and play well. Those are all a given. Something tells me along the way that you figured out. What is the deal in dealing with a Marilyn Manson? What is the deal in dealing with the frontman for Smash Mouth? What is the deal with filling in someone else’s chair in the New York Dolls when someone was sitting in the chair right before you? You have to learn these things quickly. How do we exist in those microcosms?
There’s a bunch of ways I’ve watched different people handle situations that are professional. In your case, we’ve talked about it. You’re playing with one artist for over many years, which is mind-blowing to me. I did a few years with Cher and that’s insane. The navigation of that is very unique. You know how everybody works. In my case so often, I joke about like, it’s not playing drums. It’s not learning the music. It’s not being consistent and playing the parts right and looking right, all the things you said, but also every gig I do, I have to start fresh, brand new. When I come into the Joe Perry Project, and I joke about it, I called it meeting the parents. It’s like dating some girl and then you guys get serious. You have to meet your parents.
In other words, you don’t just get her, you get everyone around her. It’s the same with an artist. When I go from Smash Mouth to Marilyn Manson, now I need a manager. I meet his girlfriend. I meet her friends. I meet the bassist, the guitarist, all of their people, the tour manager, the production and all these people. When I leave that gig, I start all over again. Whereas say maybe with the Rascal Flatts or Al Dean where these guys have done these gigs for many years, a lot of those guys are similar figures or when you meet them, it’s very subtle or more like they’re meeting you. You’re not meeting them. They’re the new guys.
For me, I’m often the new guy where I have to meet this whole sea of people. I have to navigate all of those personalities, even down to the bus driver. A lot of young players and people don’t realize is there are so many personalities that go into that and how you carry yourself and navigate can make or break a tour as far as it being fun or not and your personality. To go back to your question specifically, with someone like Manson, I’ve seen two different ways of doing it. I do it a certain way where even at North Texas, there was a microcosm when you meet the professors there who are very famous, but very ominous as well. Their reputation precedes them, but you’ve got to have respect.
I’ve noticed there are two ways to handle any situation when you’re new to a gig or even an audition or a Marilyn Manson. One way is to come in super cocky and be like, “I got this.” Another way is to be like, “Yes, sir.” You’re bowing first and slowly you figure out your situation. I tend to go with the latter. I tend to come into a situation and I’m like a sponge. I try to keep my head down. I try to be as humble and chill as I can. Once I get to know everybody, then I can change that a little bit. I’m not saying I’m like pretending to be one thing, but it’s better in my experience. Even at North Texas, it seems like the guys who came into North Texas and went up to Docker are like, “I’ve got this. I’m going to tell you how this is going to be. You’re going to do what I need you to do because I’m paying for you.” That never worked. It’s not how it was done.
My point is I want to prove myself musically. To me, that is my goal. I’d rather be known by playing first and we can go from there. When I come and do a gig, which is unorthodox, I don’t ever ask how much I’m getting paid. I never ask for any details. I assume I have my own hotel room. I assume there will be per diems, things like that. I’m not as particular about how much money I’m getting if it’s a gig I love. That usually works itself out once we discuss it. I prefer in some cases to play a few gigs before we nail that down. It sounds crazy. In some cases, to me, that way the music does the talking and that helps dictate your price or your demands financially. That’s how I try to go to it. I know a lot of other people may not use that method, but that to me has helped me navigate the personalities I’m about to encompass or come in contact with as well as also when I’m meeting the family, all these other people, this periphery that comes with the gig, that a lot of people don’t think about.
Young players think, “I’ve got to be able to play good. I’ve got to have good gear. I’ve got to have some chops and I’m good. Let’s go. Let’s learn the music I came here to play. We’re done.” There’s so much more to it than that. That will dictate whether or not you enjoy yourself or you don’t. One last thing with Manson, for me, that gig, I came in and I was the first, according to him, freelance drummer or session drummer he’d ever had where I had other gigs before him. We would assume I would have other gigs after him. He only had a certain amount of power over me. He knew that I could leave and get another gig. I’m not saying other players in his band couldn’t. In some cases, they were more beholden to him and then he could be creepy Manson and throw things at them. I didn’t get things thrown at me. He made it clear to me because he knew that I had an option. I would go and do another gig. That helped me with that.
That attitude kept me safe. The drums were unsafe. The drums were destroyed nightly, but the manager was a great manager and he bought my drum set for me right away. I started calling Ludwig and saying, “You need to send me extra bass drums, extra rack toms. They were getting punted off the stage or smashed with microphone stands.” That happened, which to me it was fun. I embraced all that crap because it was so rock and roll. It was such a spectacle. Some shows he’d come out and be so high. He would fall to his knees at the end, or midway through and start throwing up. We’d keep playing and he keeps throwing up. They drag him off stage. That was a satisfying show for a lot of the audience. That was okay because they knew that they wanted a certain amount of chaos that you would never get with your average band.
Were there some shows that he came out and he threw up and there was no show?
No. You can see clips of it where we’re playing the middle of the song and he starts throwing up. He can’t stop and end this. We’re still playing. We start the song, he sings a verse and throws up through half the song. We play the rest while they pull him off stage. There were many spectacles like that. The chaos was part of the show and the audience expected a certain amount of that. To me, in a way, it was like reminiscent of say ‘70s rock shows. We see Tyler would come on and sing three tunes and then pass out. It was rock and roll. You’d never have that with other gigs. There was an element of that. Chaos was fun. There was something about it where I can say like, “I’d probably never go do anything that’s more rock than that.” It was at a great time in my career where I was still were able to enjoy it, but I probably wouldn’t want to do it again at this point.
You probably never did any acoustic shows with him.
No, that did not happen.
It would be hilarious though.
I joke each one of those gigs is like another degree. I have a degree in heavy metal from Marilyn Manson. Each one of these gigs to me is like another little experience that I can throw in. That was a physicality, double bass and certain type of playing, a lot of triggers, things I hadn’t done a lot of before. For me, that was an experience where I learned, had a whole new bag of tricks after that. Also, for me, it was a challenge. My mantra was to stay on the bull. When you get into a bar and you get on the mechanical bull, you stay on that bull. That was my goal. No matter what he threw at me literally or figuratively, no matter what experience that I could be professional enough, that I could keep the gig. That was my goal. When it ended, there was a little moment of triumph like, “I did it. I stayed on the gig. He didn’t fire me. I didn’t quit,” because people were getting fired and quitting all over the place. I was like, “I’m going to stay on this bull. I’m going to make it.” That was a two-year gig, which for him, that’s like ten years.
“It took about eight years off my life, but I made it.” Would he just start throwing up halfway through the show or towards the end?
It varied. Anything could happen. It was like war. Things were flying around the stage. You’d be playing and you’d hear the smash of a cymbal. I’d look up and he’d be on these crazy stilts. He’d have these huge extended crutches. He’d be smashing my cymbals while I’m playing. The crutches were coming within inches of my face. He had a quick-change area where he’d go quick change. The drums were here and the quick change was right behind me. He’d go in and the girls would change his makeup and put on a mask or the Pope outfit or whatever the hell. The minute he walked in there, it was like profanities. He’s so amped up in the middle of the show. He’s screaming all the time. I can hear all that.
There was this as energy, but it was funny before every gig, I would come out early because they’d have tunes playing. I wasn’t in the house and they’d be preparing the stage for the apocalypse, torn newspapers and garbage. They emptied stuff on the stage and getting fog machines. I’d come out and I do five minutes of double bass by myself to get my feet warmed up. The last five minutes before he’d walk on stage, I played ballad brushes. I’d be sitting there because we were under a Kabuki.
When you say relax, you mean get yourself in the right headspace?
Yeah, to get the Zen zone. I heard that Jason Momoa is filming out there right now. A buddy of mine wanted to get pizza and went by. I said, “How is it?” He said, “Momoa is here in Flamingo Heights.” It’s called Giant Rock Pizza. It’s also coffee. It’s a great place. You should check it out. He took it over and was like, “They eat all the pizza that they had from this film crew and drank all the beer they had. They were having to go to other pizza places and bring them in.” Joshua Tree is crazy right now. It’s a whole scene of people descending on it to escape LA for a change of scenery, which has been happening because of Coachella. It’s exciting to see all these different little heading out there in mass to get that vibe.
Jason, tell us about Dee Snider. He seems like a nice guy.
We had one day of rehearsal and then we had a gig. We rehearsed and he took us all out to dinner, like a nice Italian restaurant. It was important that we all sat as a band at this outdoor table. It was an intelligent conversation. Tanya O’Callaghan was on bass. She’s one of my dear friends. She’s one of the best bass players in the world. She’s playing with Steve Adler right now. She’s adorable and super sweet. He’s extremely intelligent and sweet. I realized at one point I’m there with the band. It was four of the band members. We’re talking about everything but music. We’re talking about intelligent, cool conversation. I realized, “It’s just us and Dee. There’s no manager, no schmooze, no assistant.” It’s the four band members and Dee Snider.
We’re having this amazing conversation. He’s married to the same woman. She’s a doll. He’s grown kids. I’ve never met his kids. I’m sure they’re great. He’s the sweetest most genuine dude, never drank, never did drugs. He drinks a little wine, but it’s charming. He is the sweetest. He’s so positive. He’s into his 60s. He looks like a million bucks. There’s no body fat on. He’s like 8 feet tall, always a smile, always a positive attitude. I have to say one common thread I’ve found playing with a lot of older rock stars who’ve in business forever, maybe past their heyday mark and they’re on round two or whatever, 3, 4, or maybe they’re still in it. They take it for granted. Many of those artists like say Mötley Crüe or The Dolls or Poison.
I’ll watch these guys and they take their career for granted. Whereas you think of how many millions of people never made it through that ‘80s thing or dreamt of having that. These guys were at their peak their whole lives and they regret it. It’s almost like they don’t get to enjoy all that they’ve had and someone like Dee Snider, Chris Cornell, the same way, they so appreciate the fact that they get to go out on stage still. They appreciate every single fan. They still sing the songs like they were as important to them when they wrote them. It’s refreshing to have that environment. Dee was always like that. We’d be doing these festivals for 50,000 people. You couldn’t even line check in a lot of them.
His attitude was fine. He never would raise his voice. If the monitors were terrible, he was expecting the monitor to be terrible. He was going to sing through it. He was going to give that audience a great show. You would never, in a million years, dream of yelling at somebody because he couldn’t hear himself. He’s going to power through. He’s thinking about that audience 100% from the first body to the very last that say 100,000 festival in France or something. It was inspiring. He was a sweet guy like very family-oriented and treated us like family. He’s a great singer. I can’t say enough about him. He’s that good of a dude.
He’s someone like Joe Perry. They treat you like they’re lucky to be playing with you. That’s professional. When you’re playing someone like Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, who are probably playing guitar together in a rock and roll band longer than almost anyone in the world. These guys are this tour de force team with this band has changed our lives numerous decades and numerous eras. Those cats were so humble. I swear, always made it known that they felt that the appreciation. You could cut it with a knife, the appreciation they had for getting to play together. It was incredible. Note to self, that’s a rock star. That’s a real rock star.
I got so close. It was me, you and Schulman. We have a nice little brotherhood. We were all playing with Damon or flirting with Damon at that time. He was like, “Do you want to play for Dee Snider?” I was like, “Yeah, I got a break. I can do it.” I wasn’t able to do it. It always works out.
It was one of those weird things. It’s the same thing with Mark. It almost looked like it wasn’t going to happen like you could do that. The same with the Dee thing. It looked like Mark could do more Dee Snider and so I was like, “I’ll do it.” For me, it’s always a gift when a gig like that comes through because like yourself, or like you were saying, or Mark, there are so many other dudes. They don’t take things for granted. We don’t take things for granted. It takes so many factors to make it so that gig happens. I was talking to Tanya. We played all these European festivals. It was so much fun. It’s such a great vibe and incredible.
Jim, what have you always wanted to ask a rock star drummer?
Dee Snider stuff is curious to me because he was on the radio for a while. He did a morning show in Hartford. I heard a lot of great things, similar things to what Jason was saying, especially the smile. A friend of mine worked with him and he says, “He smiles all the time.”
I’ll never forget we were in a hotel and I was new to all this. I’m watching and Dee said, “We’re going to go get food.” We met in the lobby and then the restaurants in South Beach in Miami. We’re playing at this private party. We had to walk five city blocks down South Beach, I don’t know what road that was, a long way, popular people. It’s hustling and busting. It’s a Friday or Saturday night. Dee Snider is 7 feet tall with blonde hair. He’s totally identifiable. We’re walking down the street and every single person that walks by him, every car knew him. They’d say, “Hey, Dee,” like they knew him and he’d shake their hand, keep moving, shake their hand, stop for a picture, keep moving. It was very gracious. He’s so undeniable. It’s like a lion walking down Main Street. You don’t miss it.
His persona is such the antithesis of that it seems.
He takes the piss out of himself and the whole band, the whole rock star thing. It’s adorable.
Jason, what advice would you give someone from any walk of life that’s trying to accomplish something, somebody trying to start a business, somebody trying to accomplish their goals? What have you learned all these years?
For me, it’s tenacity. The longer you stick around, the better your odds. If you’re going to come to LA and you say, “I’m going to give myself five years in LA,” there’s a good chance you’re already cutting yourself off at the knees. You’ve got to say, “If it takes twenty years, I’m sticking this out.” I found that. I’ve watched it with so many other areas of not just music, but all the arts. The people who stick with it, who dedicate their whole being to whatever the art form is, whether it’s being a writer, a painter, a musician. The people who dedicate themselves and commit, they’re the ones who I see are the most successful and that’s you, me and all of our buddies from college.
I see so many younger people, the going gets tough and they don’t stay on the bull. You don’t get a lot of chances in this business. That’s the other thing, being overly prepared, prepping, preparing for that moment, making every effort to be as well versed and well-prepared in whatever your art form is so that when you’re put up against these other people or these other options that these artists can choose from, you’re going to be, I joke about it’s like the three bears or like the Goldilocks story of this bed is right or that bed is too hard. You want to be just right. You want to be the person that can adapt to the situation. You’re prepared.
You’re comfortable enough with yourself because you have done your homework that you can represent yourself freely and not be nervous or tense or scared. There’s nothing wrong with being all those things, but you can present yourself without that being the forefront. You can present yourself as a musician first and overshadow those other emotions. That’s a tough one. For me, it has been diversity. Diversity ties back in with all this. You’ve got to love it. Dave Weckl said a quote once, “If you don’t have to play drums, if you don’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘I’ve got to do this for a living,’” mostly directed at younger people, then change courses. Don’t do it.
If you’re not 100%, “I’m not going to do anything else. This is it,” don’t do it because this business is going to have ups and downs in any business, no matter what. If you’re a fireman, if you’re a cop or if you’re a musician or an artist, you’re going to have highs and lows in your career. For musicians, it’s usually real high or real low. You’re having the time of your life touring in Europe with a great band or you’re waiting for the phone to ring and you’re watching your bills pile up. There’s a fine line there too, but having a positive attitude, being positive, I always believe that there’s a gig around the corner. I always remind myself if I have a bout of depression or that moment where you’re like, “God, should I become a lawyer? I’m 35. I had a great gig four years ago, but now it’s been a while.” I would force myself to have a little mantra.
I would say to myself, there is a gig around the corner and you have to get to it. Once you get to it, all this attitude is going to change, and it did. It kept happening. Every time I would go through that cycle, I would have to tell myself, there’s going to be a gig around the corner and in a year from now, you’re going to be going, “I can’t believe I was thinking about becoming a lawyer or getting out of this business.” There I’m on a tour bus again. I was still doing it again. The last thing I would say is don’t ever take it for granted. Once you get one of those gigs, don’t take it for granted for a minute.
Real stars, someone like Cher, who is the pinnacle of the artists I’ve played with as far as originality and professionalism, to have a career that has spanned as long as her career has. We all know in the entertainment industry, that doesn’t happen. She takes this as seriously as she probably did when she was a little girl. She has fun with it. She never lets it get her. She never is angry. She never is it is somebody else’s fault. It’s always her fault. If she’s not performing great, it’s on her. It’s not, “It’s because of you.” You see that a lot with a lot of crappy artists. That is also another thing I’ve learned is you can control your destiny. You’ve got to tell yourself that. It goes back to staying positive.
It’s good to stay positive. There’s a gig around the corner. That could apply especially in these troubled times for people where their whole lives are unraveling. I talked to Jim about it a lot. When I speak to corporations, I say, “People are all self-employed because at any moment the acts can fall and you are back on the streets.” We’re all entrepreneurs essentially, especially as drummers, hunting and gathering for our meals. Jim, what’s the random question of the day?
To qualify what you’re saying, a lot of people need to understand that they’ve got to build their stool with three legs or more. Meaning, they can’t depend on one job. They’ve got to find other areas of income and streams of income. As we’ve seen, 35 million Americans all of a sudden lost their job. They’ve got nothing coming in other than unemployment, which is about to run out. That’s something you should consider in this day and age.
That’s a whole other topic, what you’re talking about, which I agree wholeheartedly. For me, I love a lot of other things than drums too. To me, it’s exciting to do other avenues that also can earn revenue. I remember having coffee with a buddy of mine and I was going over like diversifying as a career, not being a musician, but being a musician, being involved in many other facets of moneymaking. I remember talking to a guy. He’s like, “I wish I could, but I play drums. That’s it. That’s all I want to do.”
I thought that was interesting. For me, drumming is a very important part of my life. I also enjoy doing a lot of other things. I’ve tried to study a lot of other things. I’m constantly learning. To me, going with what you’re saying, Jim, that also leads to having other methods of you could call insurance, but other methods of acquiring money in other areas where you have the business acumen that can help provide if one of your income streams suddenly dries up.
I’m still friends with a lot of teachers on Facebook. They’re trying to figure out, navigate how it’s going to look for them going back to school now. A lot of them don’t want to go back to school.
I wouldn’t want to go. I was a substitute teacher when I was trying to make it in Nashville. I’d play in the clubs until 3:00 in the morning and be in front of that class in my chinos at 7:00 AM. We had the flu. We didn’t have COVID.
That’s what they’re worrying about is what it’s going to look like when they go back to school. They’re trying to figure out where to go. There’s an opportunity to be explored here that if more and more people are teaching and wanting to stay home with the kids, tutorship, there’s a whole bunch of opportunities to be explored that they’re not thinking that way.
There’s no question that I’m going to change a lot of things, how business is done. What will come back first? Will it be clubs? Will it be arenas? It’s mind-bending. It’s crazy to think about it. For now, I’m not racking my brain too hard because that doesn’t fall under my job description as far as trying to figure out how to get this back. When it’s back, then I’ll kick back in. It is tricky now.
Among us musicians, you have probably a reputation for being the smartest with your money ever, like in the history of the world. You’re interested in architecture. You’re interested in art and those are great things that bring you great joy. You also can monetize them. Me, I got the gift of gab and I am not shy. I’m able to make money off of that stuff.
It’s like buried treasure. That’s what I refer to it as. Whether you buy Bitcoin and maybe that appeals to you because you’re on a technical side or you get a tip and you throw a few grand that way. All of a sudden, Bitcoin becomes a real actual investment or maybe you have a family history of stocks and bonds, or fine art, and you have a way to figure that out or that excites you. For me, fine art is something that I enjoy. I always want to have my own little museum. On top of that, it turns out, it can gain a certain amount of value. To me, it can be a musical gear too. I sold a bunch of snare drums I had that I collected over the years.
I paid for them. A lot of these drums are rare, handmade drums. I want to support certain artisans and support them. I’m realizing, I haven’t played these drugs in years. Now’s a good time to get rid of them. It’s like buried treasure. I invested in them. They made a little more money. I let them go. Now that I’m not working right now, a lot of gear that I don’t need. To me, that’s like a small example of buried treasure. The other thing is buying homes, which excites me. I thought I’ve got to have a backup, like Jim was saying, some other income source. For me, I wanted the passive income of rental properties.
In 2007 in East Nashville, nobody was looking at nobody cared about it. To me, that’s more buried treasure. I bought that place when nobody was looking at it. I did it in Joshua Tree. That excites me to try to find these places that are on the precipice of going and getting there before everyone else does. That’s exciting to me. I enjoyed the process of real estate. I have a real estate license. I’ve sold a bunch of houses to a bunch of drummers that you guys know. It’s very satisfying to be able to help, but it’s about us to know about houses and to be able to help musicians because so many musicians, it’s such a big purchase for everybody.
Musicians sometimes can’t wrap their heads around, “How do I make this work?” For me, whether I’m making a commission in LA where I’m licensed in California or helping people relocate to Nashville, which I’ve done a whole bunch or other places in the world, it’s helpful to have that knowledge. It’s satisfying to see musicians make those smart plays. As a musician, you need a certain amount of stability in a home. For all of history, it’s been a stabilizing fact. It’s insane to think about it. For me, that’s a very satisfying feeling. I know what you’re talking about. You bought a home by playing drums and how do you do that? Nobody told us about that stuff when we were young and growing up. To me, that’s exciting.
Jim’s got that sexy voice. He’s got the monster truck’s voice. They don’t tell us about that. It’s like everybody wants you to get your song go down and your extreme bop ride cymbal and your one-handed roll in soloing against clave. We’re doing a kid such a disservice to not let them know this is the reality of what’s going to have to happen after you get out of these hallowed halls.
If you don’t have the stability of a home, it’s going to be very hard to stretch this out as rents rise and your gigs come and go. You need the stability of a set income. I do think so. That’s something to think about, but it is funny that growing up or even reading Modern Drummer when I’m in high school and some dude starts talking about he’s been on tour with Hugh Jackman, but he’s all jacked about investing in buying apartment buildings and things. You’re reading about that, it’s like, “I don’t care about that. I’m sixteen. I want to hear about what ride cymbal you’re using.”
It’s not lost on me that this talk can be unsexy to a younger person, but to me now, this is sexy. I know there’s a time and place for it, but to have those homes and that stability, it’s what helps certain musicians or certain people, this can be the thing that can insulate them through something as devastating financially as this. I always say you’ve got to eat your vegetables before you can have dessert. What I mean by that is you’ve got to cover your bases. My biggest thing about having the idea of buried treasure investments, however, you want to call it is that, I’ve mentioned this to you so that I can enjoy my career when I’m older.
What I mean by that is I don’t want to be the dude who had a great career, played all these great gigs that were so satisfying at the moment and it was awesome, but I didn’t save any of it. I spend it all on whatever and it’s gone. Now I’m in my mid-60s. I can barely pay my rent. I can’t afford groceries. I’m miserable. I’m out of my prime and now, I’m going to regret my career choice. I want to be 70 and living the life of Riley because I saved this money. I invested wisely and I can look back on my career with joy and enjoy it into my future and say, “I did what I set out to do and I can enjoy it.” That to me is the number one reason. The idea of being a drummer who retires. I want to hear about casts like that bunch of our friends in Nashville, who’s done that. They’re able to retire at a certain age. That to me is impressive that you could have a great career. You did it well enough that you were able to say, “If I don’t want to do this at this point when I’m older, I don’t have to.”
Jim, what’s your random question of the day?
If someone narrated your life, who would you want to be the narrator?
As a great voice as David Sedaris, I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to his books on tape. That’s good. It’s like a playful, ridiculous and slightly half-joking.
What about Sam Elliott?
If you were going to go that extreme, then you have James Earl Jones. You probably could do better than the Sesame Street actor who’s been in everything.
No, but that could be good too. Morgan Freeman is great.
The voice of God. He does a lot of documentaries. Back to the trenches for us. Jim is a professional voiceover artist and I’m a voiceover artist in training. We got work to do, Jim.
Who knows, you’ve got to earn my trust in order for me to say I would want you to be the voice of my life.
Jason, for people, do you like to be found? I know you have a website.
It’s JasonSutter.com. You can reach out and say, “I had a question about whatever.” I gave a lesson to a kid in London. He’s an orchestral percussionist. He wanted to talk brushes and he was able to reach out and say, “Let’s do a Skype lesson.” That’s the best way if you wanted to do a connection or had a question or want to do a lesson or something via Zoom or Skype.
Jason, with his Regal Tip signature brushes. They’re awesome.
I’ve got some mallets. They’re both blue. They’re pretty identifiable. I use the hell out of both those implements with the Cher gig. It’s great. It’s fun at this point too. If there isn’t something that’s out there to create something, to be able to feel the confidence to say, “I’ve tried everything and this doesn’t exist. This would help me get to another level musically,” I’m having fun with that.
Looking at your website and your kit overview, it looks like you’ve put together the kit I dreamed about when I was twelve.
That came from necessity. It sounds funny, but Hal Blaine recorded all those early Sonny & Cher records. He had that giant kit he had set up to so he could do any session, any sound he needed. It came from that. It’s funny, Willy Ramelius did the gig early in the ‘70s. He had a big black octopus kit that said Sonny & Cher on each bass drum head. I thought wouldn’t that be cool? If I had a full kit, we’re playing arenas, sound can control it. It could be vintage-sounding when I needed it and depending on where it was playing in the kit, be more modern.
I have an electronic rolling kit for all the dance numbers. It served its purpose as a necessity, but also it was getting to ride the unicorn. When I was a little boy that catalog and the idea of like getting to play that kit and getting to play it in front of a lot of people might do well in a very professional setting. It would be one thing to have it. You’re like Genesis cover band at some bar on the weekend with people in front of you. To have it be in a very real situation, but that was the process. I’ve got to give Ludwig drums credit for building it to the exact vintage specs. I made sure everything was done spec. I got my cake and I was able to eat it too on this gig for sure.
I would be totally comfortable going after one practice session, but are you doing a lot of that stuff?
Tons and Jeff Porcaro did the gig in the mid-‘70s too. It’s a great live in Vegas with Jeff Porcaro. The keyboard player from Toto as well. He’s got all the concert toms and he’s going for it. The films are like these long films. I had 8 to 10-concert toms and those sound so great. When I went to the regular double-headed toms, it lost the magic. I figured why not get more of them.
You don’t come across too many 6-inch toms these days.
It takes a lot of aim. You’re spotting. I’m over here and I got a thing. I have to be looking. I’m getting ready for it.
I would tighten up my butt cheeks so much. Whenever I do these Neil Peart benefits or whatever, and there are those two micro toms over here and then maybe three here and then two here.
When you do that and they’re that small and you go and you’re getting bigger, it’s like trying not to hit ribs. Not to mention playing the gig, my upper body from seeing stretched out from a ride cymbal. It was amazing, the upper body development that I felt the strain.
Those dancers, I can’t wait to do some gig someday with tons of sexy dancers. I did one time in Branson on the Pam Tillis game when I was behind the sneeze guard, he had a couple of dancers and I thought it was great. The dancers on the Cher gig are probably much better.
They’re so incredible. They’re so inspiring. As human beings, they’re also great. I say that one of the other things, the cool thing with that gig is that I could pick any one of those dancers, anyone in the band that I could spend the day and wherever we were. I would learn something from them. Every one there is inspired. Every one there put in all their times as it were little babies into this art form and they’ve reached the highest pinnacle. The energy in that room and the dancers are a big part of it. It’s a dedication to the art form. What I was talking about before, you don’t get there unless you’ve eaten your vegetables, you don’t get dessert yet.
Jim is a great cohost, a man of many talents. Jim, I had a great time. Jason, thanks for coming by.
Thank you. This is excellent, super fun. We’re all remote and incredible.
Technology is incredible. Everybody, follow Jason on the socials. Check out his website. Buy his brushes, his mallets. When this all comes back from the zombie apocalypse, he’ll be touring with Cher or somebody incredible. Jim, thank you so much for your time and talent as always. We appreciate you tuning in. Be sure to leave us a nice five-star rating. Leave us a nice review. It takes 30 seconds. We’re on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and YouTube. Tell your friends. Keep coming back for the good stuff. Jason, we’ll see you next time.