Artist Interview: Rodney Howard

Artist Interview: Rodney Howard
(Gavin Degraw/Avril Lavigne)

Question: What was your first drum set?

My first drum kit was a used Pearl PowerMate from the 70’s that my dad found at the local music shop. Best Christmas morning ever! I was really lucky because it sounded great even though I wasn’t the best drum tuner back then. And I can’t remember anything ever breaking down on that kit, and as you can imagine as an amateur… I really pounded them. I can’t believe I sold them, I would kill to have those drums today!

Question: Did you ever take private lessons?

I took some private lessons once I got into college from a jazz drummer named David Via in a nearby city. After I moved to New York I took about four lessons with Zack Danziger. After I finally got serious about hand technique I also took a few lessons with Jojo Mayor. In retrospect I really wish I had studied when I was first starting out, it would have been great to have guidance as a younger player and I know I would’ve progressed more quickly with a good teacher.

Question: Who is your favorite drummer and why?

Man, I hate that question! I have a different favorite drummer for every genre. Honestly, my favorite drummer tends to change every week or so… And often it’s someone that I know personally that is not famous. To answer the “why” question though I can say this: I almost always value originality and uniqueness over speed or technique. And a great groove is not negotiable!

Question: What makes the Pearl brand special?

What I love about Pearl drums is that they were one of the first companies to make a high-quality kit at a price that I could afford at every level of my musical progress. Currently as a world-touring drummer I love their complete durability and reliability, as well as the fact that I never, EVER have trouble getting the sound that I need. I also think that Pearl should be given credit for having some of the greatest hardware made today. I can honestly say that I RELY on Pearl, and I have for a very long time…

Question: What are your thoughts on the electronic elements so common in percussion these days?

Current electronic percussion is just like any other technology – its value is directly related to the originality and musicality of the person that is using it. It can be used to enhance and expand your sound and music, or it can be used as a crutch. I would tell young players to absolutely embrace the new technology, but never let it replace your ability to make a good sound and groove on an acoustic drum set.

Question: How did you make the transition from recreational drummer to professional drummer? 

The main factor that helped me transition from the recreational drummer to a professional drummer was my ability and willingness to play lots of different kinds of music. As any professional will tell you, it’s more important to keep playing than it is to only play one narrow style of music that you happen to love. As a very famous drummer once told me, “Do whatever you need to do to keep a pair of sticks in your hand.” I played lots of weddings and other types of gigs that may not have been my favorite, but certainly kept my mind, ears, and hands in shape as well as helping to pay my bills while I searched for my dream gig. That is not to say that money is the most important. What it means is I think it’s better to play SOME type of music constantly on your way to your ultimate musical goals than it is to ONLY play one thing. Who knows, you might actually find other types of music you didn’t know you were going to enjoy…

Question: What inspires you to continue drumming? 

I find lately that I am just as inspired by a very old drumming as I am by the newest cutting edge players. Lately, what has inspired me to continue drumming is the fact that there is SO much great music out there –past and present-and SO many great drummers in history to love and be inspired by. There is virtually no end to the amount of great drumming that you can absorb and make your own. I’m also inspired by the fact that although the drum is the oldest known instrument in the world, it is still possible to make so much great music with our bare hands, wood, and metal.

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