DW drums Interviews Deen
DW: How did you get started on the drums?
Deen: When I was a young a child, the doctors gave me Ritalin to calm me down 'cause I was hyperactive. I went through that for two years and then my mother got me a drum set. Ever since, I've been off drugs and on drums. I started out listening to Peter Criss, Neil Peart, Vinnie Colaiuta and Steve Smith. I remember Terry Bozzio, too, but he was way out of my league. I couldn't quite comprehend that at 8-9 years old.
DW: What have you been listening to lately?
Deen: I'll listen to anything. I have to. Longevity is important in this business and you have to learn every style or you're only going to work for three years like the MTV, "flavor-of-the-month" bands. You'll have your three years and you're done and then you'll be working at the local Burger King!
These days I like Danny Carey (Tool), Morgan Rose (Sevendust), Raymond Herrera (Fear Factor), Will Champion (Coldplay) and Andy Granelli (The Distillers). I listen to them and get inspired. I love the really ultra heavy stuff. In metal and hard rock you have the finesse of a jackhammer- there is no finesse. It's all about bashing and it's all about just going out and kicking ass and playing as fast and as hard as you can. Finesse and feel go out the window. As you get older you realize that's not what playing music's all about. I didn't learn that until I started playing with Bad English when I was 26 years old. I learned that they are songs! To this day, I am still picking up new stuff.
I also like to listen to guys like Jim Keltner, Steve Gadd and Steve Smith because they're the ones that show me how to play like a drummer, not just like a freakin' wild man. With Smith, Keltner, Gadd and the "drummer's drummers" you listen and you learn and you become more than just a drummer. By listening to players like that you can become a musician. You think musically, you think colors not in black and white.
DW: What are some of the more interesting projects you've played on?
Deen: Well, I've done all of those Varney records, the Shrapnel records and stuff with Marty Freeman and Tony MacAlpine. I also did some records with Steve Vai and other big name bands but I'm not supposed to talk about them because of confidentiality agreements. It's a little weird that there's a lot of stuff that people hear on the radio with me playing drums and they say, "Man, that's a great song" and I can't say a damn word about it!
I think the most interesting project I ever did was with an Italian singer named Vasco Rossi. The guy plays huge stadiums, 100-thousand seaters every night and he sells them out. But he only plays in Italy. He's had guys like Kenny Aronoff and Jonathan Moffett, you know all of those wicked players. These guys called me just after I got fired from Ozzy (Osbourne) and I was so depressed that I was going to quit playing. Since I didn't want to play I gave them an outrageous price and a bunch of conditions I figured they'd never meet. But they agreed so I was stuck! It ended up being the best gig I had ever done. Not only was it musically challenging, it got me through a very difficult period in my life.
Most recently I've been working with Journey. We're right in the middle of a big arena tour with REO Speedwagon and Styx. And I'm in a new band with Neal Schon, Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony and Joe Satriani called Planet Us. We're working on the record and it's due out soon, then we'll hit the road. It's been a long time since I've been able to play in my own band.
DW: What is it like to play with bass players like Ross Valerie (Journey) and Michael Anthony (Van Halen)?
Deen: I've played with a lot of bass players and Michael and Ross are certainly among the best. Michael Anthony is kind of frightening to play with. He's like a freight train. Ross is a real melodic, musical bass player. He's not the most aggressive player I've ever played with. He's super musical and it feels good. Instead of a locomotive it's more like a nice gliding plane- just smooth and relaxed.
DW: Do you see any big trends or changes in Rock drumming on the horizon?
Deen: There was a time when everything was less is more. No technique, you know, just bash. Then guys like Carter Beauford came along, thank God. You know, hey, you can be a good player and still play punk. They say it's "old school"- all of those chops- but man, it's nice to be able to master an instrument and be able to play all different styles and do all kinds of different stuff. I'm glad to see that's what most drummers are doing now-a-days. It's cool and it's working.
DW: What are your plans for the near future?
Deen: Since I've been off the road, I haven't been playing so much. I've been working on the nutrition thing and the health thing. I found that I'm lighter, more relaxed, a lot calmer and I've got a lot more energy. I used to wonder if all the fat was helping my endurance by storing extra energy. But I guess I was wrong. I'm in really good shape now and I'm still on 100 all of the time. As far as music, I take whatever comes to me. I take it day by day 'cause I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. I think if you're good at what you do and you learn as much as you can, you'll be able to keep working in this business. As I said, longevity is the key; especially when you're a hired gun like I've been.
Deen talks about his kit:
"When I first started working with Journey, I was using bigger drums, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and two 24s. The last couple of tours I've made everything smaller. Instead of the power toms, it's all traditional sizes now. I went for 8,10,12,14 and 16" racks and 22" kicks."
"I never paid as much attention to details as I have since I got involved with DW. They're the ones who'd say, 'Try this wood, try this depth, try the timbre matching'. These are things that other drum companies do NOT offer. You know, being with a company that's behind an artist like that is extremely rare. I've never had that before. So, now I'm with DW and I'm starting to learn. There is timbre matching, there are depths, sizes, woods; it does make a difference. I mean, if all you want to do is play on a great sounding drumset, DW Drums always sound great!"
"In the studio, the choice of snare drums is usually the producer's call. They might say try a metal, try a wood. I like the Craviottos and the Edge. The Edges are also great live. I mean, it knocks your head off!"
"The new 9000's are the fastest pedals on the planet! I love them. I've never felt a pedal that's so effortless. It's a whole new drive system with an adjustable cam. It's going to definitely increase my speed and power. When the guys at DW showed it to me I was like, 'Yeah, I want one of those!'"