Ryan Hoyle - January 2008

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Ryan Hoyle, Friday January 18th, 2008, Anaheim Convention Center, In the Sun…
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Every once in a while an opportunity comes along that you just can't' pass up. This was the case when I received an email out of the Blue asking if we'd be interested in interviewing Ryan Hoyle of Collective Soul.

Collective Soul has been one of my "A List" bands (meaning bands I always enjoy, can always listen to, and just love the music) since their very first album: Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid....I was hooked and a fan from that point on. My 17 year old son’s first real love of rock music started when he was about four with Collective Soul's "December" off their second, self titled LP. (He called it "The Spitting Out Song").

So of course I jumped at the chance, and immediately dove into checking out Ryan’s web site (www.ryanhoyle.com) and seeing what he was all about. He gives a lot of good info on his website, which he maintains himself, but I found our chat much more enlightening. Below is basically the bulk of that conversation that for the most part is the entire hour we spent sitting out in the Southern California sun outside the Anaheim Convention Center during the '08 NAMM show.

Drumrock: Ok…is there anything up on your site that is…

Ryan Hoyle: Incorrect?

DR: That is incorrect?

RH: Fraudulent?

DR: Or fraudulent?

RH: Well…

DR: Or that’s NOT up on your site that you want people to know?

RH: Wow that’s a good question – you’re starting out with a tough one...uhm I think my sites pretty thorough between the MySpace and the .com thing – I kind of do it myself – I had somebody design like the basic form….and then I update it myself…I kind of have fun with it…

DR: Right on…

RH: I guess the only thing that might sound kind of weird is that in my time off I like to record. I just built a really cool studio – a drum room. I think a lot of people, in this world, in this day and age have really nice home studio setups…

DR: Yep…

RH: But most people can’t do really good drum sessions…they just can’t make noise in their spot. It’s a different kind of setup to do drums, ya know? So I kind of thought it’d be nice to have my own drum setup that would allow people with home studios and people that are a long distance away from me to be able to record via the internet. That may be the next thing that I kind of introduce on the website - some sort of interactive way to record with people long distances away…

DR: cool…

RH: I mean it’s kind of cool this day and age that you can record with somebody who you love their music and they live in Australia or they live in Japan.

DR: I’m actually myself just learning how to record stuff so it’s an experience for me. I’m by no means a professional drummer so it’s a new experience…

RH: It’s always a new experience…

DR: I’ve been playing for 25 years and never really recorded, so that would be…

RH: Its fun!!! I’ve been in the studio all week this week because I’ve had a little time off. I’ve been dialing in my sounds…just having so much fun and I’ve really tried to put together a studio that’s really high class. I’ve really worked hard at every component and had a bunch of engineers give me advice. Guys that I really respect and kind of taken their advice, letting them help me with every little thing about it. Mic placement, which mics to use, what mic preamps to use. I’m really excited about that, so I think maybe the only thing I don’t really have up there is that.

RH: I know my passion for recording is what got me in this band, and getting in this band and working with Paul Rodgers and all that, sometimes I think that people may not realize that you also can be, even though you also play in this band, accessible to others to record with….

DR: That’s one of the things I saw on your site….you love to record…

RH: I love to do that….I don’t know why, it’s just really fun for me to work with others and watch a track come to life….

DR: So are you working out of Nashville AND LA now or kind of shifting to LA primarily?

RH: I work all over the place! I just did a record in Boston a couple of days ago with Anthony J. Resta who produced our last album. I just did a record in Atlanta. All next week I have two different projects I’m working on. One for Joel Kosche, our guitar player, who is making a solo record. We’ve done nine songs already we’re working on the 10th one right now and he’s agreed to let me do it in my home studio, so that’ll be really nice. That will officially be my first track in the new place. Then I’m working with Rob Giles, I’m a huge fan of his, I’ve known him ever since I moved to Nashville and he’s a close friend of mine. I love his music a lot and I’m working with him also next week…

DR: Cool Cool…

RH: Let’s see…there are rumors that Collective Soul’s going back in the studio soon…

DR: That’s a good rumor… I like that rumor….

RH: And let me say the rumor, I don’t know, I’m just spouting it out…the rumor is…and I want to say this because it’s fun to…the power of words…you can say things and it means something…it’s weird ya know? You’ve got to watch what comes out of your mouth and you can have fun with what comes out of your mouth. You can manifest things, ya know? What I’m told is that we’re going to be making 15 songs of pure rock and roll…

DR: Oh that’s awesome, that’d be sweet…

RH: I mean like heavy rock and roll….

DR: ...right on…

RH: So that’s what I’ve been told is that. And that’s kind of what we’re vibing on right now is the idea of “Let’s just go in and make a pure rock record...”

And once again, I’m hoping, I mean like I said earlier, one of the things I really love about making music is that I love to get together with people, you know? Engineers, singers, artists, producers, whatever. When you get those people in a room together that’s when something really special happens. That’s when everybody becomes better than they are, ya know? Every cool thing I’ve ever really played is the result of listening to somebody and their ideas and going “Wow! I don’t really know what they’re talking about, but I’m going to try to figure out what they’re talking about!!!” So I get off on that process. I really love working with people, it’s like any relationship, ya know, when you come together it’s like something else grows out of it, and it’s wonderful!

DR: Right on…

RH: So…hopefully we’ll be able to do some of the drum tracks for the new album at my place. I know Ed’s open to it. It’s exciting!

DR: Yeah! Ok, let’s see….some of these questions go back…I’m going to jump off the recording the track for a bit…

RH: Ok, no problem….

DR: So…how old were you when you landed the gig with Gary Moreno…

RH: ...wow…

DR: It says on your site you were 13 when you moved to Seattle….

RH: Yeah, I moved to Seattle when I was 12 or 13 and I think I started playing with Gary when I was 13. I was really involved with church and really
involved with youth group and things like that. My parents would obviously would be supportive if I mixed drumming and music and church together. It was a really good combination to get the support I needed at that age. I heard Gary was this hip youth pastor who was looking to put together a band. He had written all these original songs. He wasn’t just your average guy in a church singing music, he was actually doing something pretty cool and had a cutting edge youth group, and I showed up and it was good, really, really good.

DR: Very cool…

RH: It was great because at that age, I got to gig, and play in front of a lot of people. We had this system worked out using hand signals. His songs were pretty basic but it was a worship service so there were these huge dynamic ebbs and flows, highs and lows, and the arrangements were never ending. Sometimes a song would last ten minutes; sometimes it would last two minutes. It was really good because I learned how to follow somebody and play live – I learned how to get over that and get into it a little.

DR: So you moved to Texas after that…went to school...

RH: Yeah. After Seattle. With my parents I had the opportunity to go to college and all I’d ever read about was these drummers coming out of the University of North Texas. I thought about some of the other places like MI or Berkley or something like that. I was always the type of drummer where I had best of both worlds. I had drum teachers and I took lessons and I did music in school so I have this academic influence, but I always drove everyone crazy because all I wanted to talk about was Led Zeppelin records or whatever. So it was like I had the academics but I would drive the academia people nuts by wanting to learn about Rush’s Fly by Night or Biter and Snowdog or something. I felt like I wanted to continue that after school and I needed to go to college, so why not combine those again. So the University of North Texas made the most sense and I applied – and it’s the only school I applied to. I showed up there and that was intense – want to talk about intense…it’s like you feel like you’re pretty good coming from where you come from or whatever and you show up there – and you go – there are 200 guys that are just as good or better.

Looking back on it though, it was very stressful. They’d through all sorts of stuff on you like piano and sight singing and all of a sudden you’re doing all this stuff and going “Am I even playing drums anymore?” That’s the frustrating part. Then you’ve got to take your stuff like English too and it was like one o’clock in the morning before I could even play my drums. So that was a little frustrating. But looking back on it, it was all my friends, the other guys that I hung out with who I learned the most from. We’d all hang out and listen to records together, and talk about things. I still have a ton of friends from North Texas that I still hang out with today.

DR: So how did you get the gig with Le Freak and how was that….

RH: Oh god…

DR: That’s different… unless I misread what I was looking at….

RH: You probably didn’t…

DR: That’s disco…

RH: Yeah and I was a different person. I had a different character. My character’s name was Frankie Groovalini.

DR: I didn’t really see that anywhere….

RH: Well, Le Freak was like this: I went to college for about a year and a half, like I said it was a bit much – it was great – but I found myself playing piano too much, or sight singing, or doing this or doing that. After a year and a half of that I just kind of thought “Hold on, ya know…let me think about this for a second…” So I thought, let me take a year off to get my residency in Texas, that way school would be cheaper. In the meantime I just took the money that I had and I practiced and I auditioned for every band and I played for people.

DR: I know your site said you found yourself literally playing for people in their living rooms …

RH: I did, I mean I really did. I would get in the local newspaper, I can’t remember what it was called, and it’d say “We need a drummer or whatever.” I did that for long time, for a year and a half and nothing turned up. I worked really hard, auditioned for everybody, couldn’t get a gig, and it was tough for a long time. It was tough. But I didn’t really look at it as that tough. I thought I’d go back to school or whatever. It was just kind of an experiment. I don’t remember thinking it was that tough. I just thought, this I is par for the course, this is what I’m doing, I’m getting out, trying to get it started.

One of my friends from UNT, who I’m really good friends with to this day, called me and said “Hey man, I auditioned for this gig, and I got it, and it’s like the biggest show band. It’s like a huge gig…and I don’t think I can do it…”

I said, “Why, if it’s such a great gig, such a good gig, what am I missing here? I don’t understand. Why don’t you want it?”

He said, “Welllll, I just don’t think it’s for me.”

And I’m like, “C’mon dude…” and he said “Well – Ok, you gotta sing backups and you have to develop a character – its disco.”

I thought I’d check it out, and I soon discovered it WAS a big deal – I was in there for three and a half, four years…

DR: So did you wear like a big afro wig or something like that….?

RH: Noooo, if you go up to my site there’s a picture of what I did. I was sort of an Italian character. It s a national organization called Perfect World Entertainment that franchises these bands all over the place and I played in the one in Dallas. To sum it all up it was an AMAZING experience. I played like three plus hours a night, HARD, on 11, with a click track and a sequencer. All of our shows were sequenced. I had to sing background vocals at the same time. I had to be an entertainer. I had to say things to an audience. I tech'd all my own drums every night; it was a lot of work. We played five or six nights a week and I made really good money. I made a good living. I taught students during the day. I worked hard. That’s the one thing I learned is how to work.

That gig taught me how to work as a guy in a live situation. You’re a working drummer and it taught me how to really maneuver a click track to the point of just second nature. Because you’re holding the whole show on this thing, this sequence, so you gotta be careful. So yeah that was good...
And from there it was three or four years of that.

DR: Yeah, your site said it was a good while.

RH: I was the kind of kid who always put on little rock concerts in my practice room, of course like any kid, and I’d imagine an audience being there. I’d play along to Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same or Frampton Comes Alive, or whatever. I really would do that. But my initial exposure, the thing that got me on drums was watching Steve Gadd. When I saw Steve Gadd on Up Close and then I saw him with Grover Washington on an HBO special in Philadelphia live with the stuff for the rhythm section, ya know, Eric Gale, Richard T., Anthony Jackson, and Ralph McDonald and when I saw that, it was ingrained in my brain that being a studio musician was the hippest thing of all. I mean I thought rock stars were really cool, but that was ingrained in me. And when I see Steve Gadd play drums it still, to this day, freaks me out….

So that kind of moves me on to the next chapter in my life, Nashville. When I made the decision to go, I’d had enough, well not enough. I’d just been playing in bars and clubs six nights a week and working a lot and we were playing covers and working as a working drummer in show bands or top 40 bands. But I really wanted to say something, and get more into the creative side of this to, and develop a sound. Work with song writers and be a studio guy. So an opportunity came up. A friend of mine started working in Nashville with this writer and said “Hey man he’s putting together a band would you’d ever be interested in moving up here “ and I said “Sure!” and made the decision to move up there because I wanted to be in the studio. I never really planned on being in a band.

I think one of my big sayings is that I believe that’s one of the many fun parts of life – and this is me personally – for a lot of people, it’s difficult to focus and commit to something. But I found out in my life – and a lot of people disagree with me and though I do think it’s a good idea to learn to play Latin or jazz or this or that and be well rounded – at a certain point it can drive you crazy and you can spread yourself out too thin. I looked at school and said I’m probably not going to be a great piano player. I’m probably not going to be a great singer. What I want to do is be a studio drummer. I want to play on hit songs and I want to make cutting edge, popular, music. And I honed it in from there. Honed that vision down to a very finite thing. Very small and I put all my energy there and put everything to that. As soon as I did that a lot of things started happening.

DR: A lot of things opened up?

RH: Yeah. And what happened was, as soon as I broke through, as soon as my career in Nashville barely started to happen, I got surprised. Completely blindsided by something I never expected to happen….

DR: And that was…?

RH: Collective Soul. The next thing I know I’m on a phone call being asked if I could be in Atlanta on October 13th. They wanted me to me to cut their new record…Ok!!! Like I ‘m the biggest Collective Soul fan ever – I have CD’s of mixed down of me playing to their records.

So that’s a good thing, and I really believe that it’s hard for people for anyone to commit to something. I feel like we all have a lot of energy to give but if you spread it out to far you’re not going to break through but as soon as you get it down to that (at this point Ryan makes a gesture which expresses a sharp finite focus) you’ll break through. A lot of times when you break through you look around and go “Holy Shit! This is a great spot!” So that’s kind of what happened to me, I really wanted to be a studio musician and it works out great.

DR: So was your work with Paul Rodgers all studio?

RH: No, that was all live. We did a full UK Tour and we did a DVD and a live album. Which I guess is kind of studio in a way. Live studio. But we did a full tour and it was amazing.

Paul Rodgers is an interesting story that actually came about at UNT. Someone said there was an opportunity to work concert security. A company was looking for college kids and I was like “I’ll do it.” So I went down and started working security, me, with my little frame. And I actually got a job doing this for a while and one of the shows I saw was Paul Rodgers. And I’ll never forget it. It was in Dallas, a daylight gig, sunny day, outdoor amphitheater, and it just leveled me, man, I mean, leveled me. That dude came out and kicked my ass. I couldn’t believe it….

Someone had once asked me something that changed my life. He asked me “Who’s the greatest drummer in the world?” I’ve always thought that was a weird question to ask. I thought greatest, what does that mean? Is it a contest? If it’s a contest what does that mean? So think about sports. Sports is a contest, so if I answer that question and view the guy from a sport point of view, I would have to say the first great sport drummer was Buddy Rich. Still to this day, physically, on a drum set, he just amazes me. So I gave that answer and the guy was like “No. He’s just the greatest drummer you’ve ever heard of…”

DR: That’s a good answer…

RH: That changed my life because what that enabled me to think about was that you’ve got to be careful, all the things that you’re doing, if people don’t know about it then you’re not really doing anything. So from that point on, from an early age, I started thinking I need to come up with ways to cleverly and gently and non-obtrusively, let people know what’s going on…

So what I did was, and this was during the time that I was auditioning and showing up in people living rooms and stuff and trying to kind of get it going, I made up promo packs. They were Office Depot like, but they were still nice. I had pictures made up, got business cards. I got a lot of compliments on them, people said they were really well done; they even had a little demo CD. A friend told me I should get this confidential management roster. I it’s not advertised, you can’t find it anywhere, you’re not really supposed to have it, but you can get one. So I paid like $175.00 and I got this thing. It has every manager in the world, every artist you can think of. So I started sending out promo packs and I got every response under the sun. I would call around and say “May I speak to so and so” “Uhmm – they’re not around who’s calling?” “My names Ryan Hoyle, I’m a drummer from Dallas, blah blah blah blah”. And I literally got every response under the sun. Sometimes they’d just hang up on me. Most of the time it was like, “Well, yeah, send us what you got, and we’ll keep it on file…” And I’d call back two weeks later and say “Did you get it?” I was really proactive about it. My theory was if I spent four hours on the drum kit I’d spend four hours doing that. Equal parts: developing, and letting people know what I’m developing. And that’s honestly the way I did it.

So, when I saw Paul Rodgers I just made up my mind that one day I was going to play with Paul Rodgers. I just made up my mind. That’s my gig. So I sent off a promo pack to his manager, and his manager, to this day, is the only person out of hundreds, literally hundreds, is the only relationship I have from doing all of that. And I was like a business; I’d go the post office with stacks of promo packs. Out of the hundreds of packs, he’s the only one who wrote back. He was from the Pacific Northwest and my promo pack said that I was from the Pacific Northwest. So he’s the only manager I kept up with from all that. He said, “Yeah man, I get it – it’s really nice - keep me posted…” So for like 10 years, I talked to him for maybe once or twice a year, an email here or there or maybe I played on a record I was proud of I’d say “Hey man do you mind if I send this to you?” But it was totally gentle. It was only a couple times a year.

DR: So not pushy or overbearing…

RH: Noooo….but it took 10 years. He found out I got the gig with Collective Soul, and he and Paul are both big Collective Soul fans. So we (Collective Soul) did the DVD and that got a lot of exposure. We’d just come off two years of touring, and I remember I was in a moving to LA in a moving van driving, driving in the desert and I was thinking to myself “My hands are so swollen…” We played a lot of dates and I was just really beat up. But there was this weird thing. I wanted to play some other music even though I’m beat up and I need to rest. I didn’t know how to stop at that time, and I still sort of have that problem.

I don’t know how but somehow I got on the phone with him (Paul Rodgers manager) and just put it out there to him and said “Ya know, I just feel like playing some music, some other music right now, I’ve been playing the same stuff all the time, and I really just want to play some music.” And he goes “Really?” I said “Yeah” and he says s “Why don’t you send me a package, send me some stuff…” So I immediately got to LA and sent it out to him and he called me back and said “Here’s an address, it’s Paul’s address, send him the same thing you sent to me.” So I sent it FedEx overnight and I got a call the very next day saying “You’re on, two weeks, London…”

DR: Wow…

RH: So for two weeks I sat there and practiced like crazy and tried to learn the show and it changed every day. Every day I’d get an email saying “The set list has now changed! The set list has now changed!” and I’m like “gahhhhhh”. But it was good that I learned all the songs because when we actually got out there it gave Paul the ability to go “Nah, let’s do this” or “Let’s do that” …so that was incredible! But it was funny too because it was 10 years in the making, well about 9 years – I was about 20 when I started that intention.

DR: What has it been like working with CS? – Just from what I’ve read on your site and what you’ve said here it sounds really great….

RH: What’s it been like? You ask some big questions! Which I like! I’ve always had a home studio and I’ve always played along to songs. If I hear something I really like, I might want to dissect it and learn it. I’ve always done that, but I’ve never actually mixed anything like that down. Usually it’s just for practice and you kind of get to a point where you’ve either got it together or you don’t and you just move on. But I actually, for some reason, mixed some of their songs down. They put out a record called Dosage and it really floored me.

DR: Yeah, I know the disc well; it’s one of my favorites of Collective Souls.

RH: I just couldn’t get over how, for me at that time, and still to this day, I love that record. I loved it so much. Every note was so wisely chosen. Every ghost note, every hi-hat opening, every crash cymbal. Everything was just so perfect to me. I wanted to learn it and wanted to put that in myself. So I mixed all of that down.

The thing about working with Collective Soul, it’s just like the Paul Rodgers thing, it’s really something that is a dream. A dream come true. I love Collective Soul because I get to be a performer. I get to be in a band and I get all of those things, but also, I get to work with the consummate studio team. Ed Roland is the consummate songwriter, the consummate studio producer. We do a lot of things in the studio, so I get the best of both worlds. And that’s how I’d describe it – as I get to work with a band that I’ve been a major fan of and I’m playing in my favorite band. That’s how I feel with Collective Soul.

DR: Sweet. We covered the touring question earlier, with you saying how long you were out and how long you played…

RH: Yea we played a lot. In 2005 we did 165 shows out of 300 days. My hands were like pieces of meat.

DR: I can imagine! I have a question here about there being a defining moment in your career…

RH: Whoa…

DR: We may have hit that, but I’m not sure, so….

RH: I don’t know. I think every moment’s defining, ya know. I think your state of mind is defining. And my state of mind is really positive and excited. So that’s defining to me that I’m going to continue to grow. I always say, it’s like living the dream, and a lot of people say that’s really arrogant. I say “No, that’s not arrogant, everybody’s living their dreams. It’s what you’re dreaming about. What do you dream about?” I’ve got a lot of things I dream about and I’m excited. So that’s defining to me and I truly believe what I focus on I get out of my life. Like playing at Royal Albert Hall with Paul Rodgers was really good….

DR: A lot of what I have written down here we’ve covered in the course of the conversation…I was going to ask about road stories – but I don’t know if you want to share any of those or not…

RH: (Gives me an odd look and laughs.…)

DR: I get that look a lot when I ask that question…

RH: I don’t know what you’re talking about… (Still laughing)

DR: (Laughing) that’s a GREAT answer….that answer answers everything…

RH: (laughs) I don’t know ….it’s like the Bat Cave. You get sprayed with a spray on the way home and you don’t remember anything. I don’t know what happens…

DR: Sweeeet….Let’s talk about your drums for a minute…

RH: Yeaaaaahhhhh…

DR: I noticed you play a relatively small kit, essentially a four piece.

RH: With goodies. My concept, and that’s a GREAT question, my concept at this point is this: I’ve always loved classic rock, and that’s the foundation of it. In junior high that was my thing, so the middle of my kit, I felt like is very much about the 1970’s, taped, classic rock n’ roll sounds.

When I moved to Nashville for the first time in my life I really started hearing in the studios, working with songwriters, “Can you do something like Charlie Watts, can you do something like Stan Lynch, can you do something like Mick Fleetwood, can you do something like Don Henley?” I started hearing all these names and thought “whoa – these aren’t the names all my drummer friends are talking about!” These are the drummers that songwriters talk about.

So I started really going back to those records and thinking what if I was a studio drummer, I could read charts, I had all the drum sounds, I could program, I could show up on time, be professional, I could play to a click track…I could nail shit….I had all those things that a studio drummer does, but what if I could sound like an amateur? What if I could somehow harness that magic that a band drummer has that nobody else has? What if I could really do a Ringo trip? What if I could really do a Charlie Watts trip? What if I could really know how to get a tom sound like Stan Lynch and play shakers and tambourine like Stan could? What if I could put tom fills in the wrong spots like Mick Fleetwood? What if I could do that? So that was my concept when I went to Nashville, I really truly tried to be the guy who could sound like a band drummer but was a studio guy. I didn’t want to sound “professional”. I wanted to sound like magic and endearing and innocent and amateur and THAT’S the middle of my kit. It’s about being a high level band guy, a high level amateur if you will. I wanted it to sound fun, spirited, in the moment. Like you might fall off a cliff at any moment.

And then the “outside” of my kit is my love of hip-hop and rap music. Somebody gave me Run DMC’s Raising Hell when I was very young and the Beastie Boys Licensed to Ill so I really got into rap music a lot from a very young age. I really marveled and wondered “How are they doing that? Those drums, how are they doing that, where is that coming from?” And I would see guys with turntables and I’m asking “What is going on here???” And throughout the years I went ok, so they’re taking Clyde Stubblefield and they’d chop out those two beats and then they’d “Ahhh-ahhhh”. As I’ve grown in the recording thing I’ve learned a little of this and that and now I’m like, wow, what if I could design drum sounds that could be acoustic versions, what if I could not play to loops, but be the loop?

So we’d be in the studio, and we’d be like ok, let’s do a pass, let’s do the verses like this and let’s do this. We’d set up a kit and I’d have all these funky drums that I’d worked on designing the setup. Then the chorus, let’s go to this and then I thought,”How am I going to do that live???” And that’s sort of how my drum set evolved. I wanted two bass drums. I wanted a little hip-hop bass drum off to the side, both controlled with my right foot. I needed three hi-hats because I wanted to move lo-fi sources (mouths out a little rhythm). I listened to all these rap records and listened to all these great programmers and went “How are they creating that? Ohhhh – that’s different hi-hat samples there, there, there and there, there’s a different bass drum hit there…there’s a different snare!” So that’s how I evolved my thing, really, was from listening to rap records. So I think my setup is a perfect combination of dumb but genius classic rock band guy meets Timbale-land and hopefully cutting edge hip hop producers.

DR: So you don’t trigger any of the sounds you get?

RH: (Big) NOOOOO!! There are no loops on the latest Collective Soul record. I know everybody’s been saying “I love all the loops you guys are using!” There’s nothing like that. They’re all live acoustic drums. There are sounds that I really, really work hard on that I have to give credit to Anthony Resta, the producer. Credit to Carey Autti, the engineer. I have to give credit to Paiste, who’s worked on a lot of the stuff with me, creating the cymbal stackers and these really cool things. Ludwig has worked with me. Remo is a huge part of it. That’s what I do, I sit around, listen to records and go “Oh my god – how can I get that sound” and I’ll mess around with it. I have a collection of toy drums. Just different drums that I try to use for different sounds. But I try to keep it simple too. I don’t necessarily need a…

DR: Massive kit….

RH: Yeah. I want it to be kind of airy and not too techno techno guy. I think Ed and the guys in the band might not like that either. But I try to keep a nice balance. There’s the electro world and the simple acoustic world.

DR: So there’s no electronics involved…

RH: No electronics involved, it’s all acoustic…

DR: Outstanding…. (This coming from a guy with two trigger pads and a D4 mind you…)

RH: It’s just a lot of different head choices, a lot of different tuning combinations, a lot of different muffling choices. Just have fun with it. One of the big secrets is Remo. If you start getting into their catalog and start ordering all these crazy weird drumheads and start slapping them on drums and muffling and different ways you’d be surprised what you can come up with. You can come up with some really funky stuff.

DR: I’ve been playing Evans heads for a while, started out with Remo, but switched to Evans but I’m not really happy with how they sound on my kit, I may have to give Remo a try again.

RH: I think all the companies make good stuff, but I just really love Remo. I mean, they make stuff that goes right up the middle, stuff that’s hard to beat, Ambassadors, Emperors, things like that. But then there are so many cool things that they’re making right now, the Suede series, Renaissance series. The Ebony’s are a completely different plastic than any other thing Remo makes.

DR: Really…?

RH: Oh yeah, completely different plastic, completely different hoop design. All these things are really interesting and you put ‘em on your drum and it’s like “Maybe I don’t necessarily need a warehouse full of drums.” Oh, and this is another important thing, a very important studio bass player said to me one time…”Ya know what, I know all these studio guys that gotta have a lot of gear, ya know, show and tell is what we call it and it’s good because sometimes an engineer will put you up against it and he wants to hear 13 snare drums. And that’s cool. But just make sure you remember this: Don’t ever let it own you. Make sure that every instrument you have you really know it and that it makes you want to play” And that changed my world.

DR: That’s actually something I recently discovered on my own, I had all these plans to add all this gear to my kit and I stepped back and went ya know, am I going to use all that and is it something that I want to know how to play…so for me personally I’ve developed my kit to the point where everything that’s there is something that I like, that I want to play, I know the sounds, I love the sounds…and that’s what I deal with.

RH: I think that’s a good option. I look at it like, if it’s a different snare or different this or that, I want it to almost make me play a character, like an actor. I really want to become something when I’m playing and if I’m not then I’ll get rid of it or I’ll work on it for a while. Sometimes I have a stack of drums that I’m not sure yet but I haven’t found their voice yet, through me yet.

DR: So you keep working with them?

RH: Yes! I try different drumheads and different tuning. Sometimes it’s your ears, sometimes it’s your hands, that aren’t ready for that instrument yet, and sometimes you just don’t need it.


I was always really impressed by, going back to Steve Gadd, a quote I read one time. He said “All these studio drummers these days show up with all these bags and bags of cymbals and snare drums everywhere and I never really understood that. I just had my snare that made me sound like me.”

And that really affected me. I was like whoa. And I think there’s a lot to be said for that!

With that Ryan needed to get over to the Paiste booth for a signing session, which, I ended up going to get at least one photo with the man for this interview:

Not only did I get the photo he introduced me to Dean Butterworth from Good Charlotte whose interview will be coming soon.

And that's a wrap of our interview with Ryan. Many many thanks to him for taking the time out of his busy schedule at NAMM to talk to us. I have to thank Paki Newell from The Lippin Group for thinking of us and setting things up. Please check out Ryan’s endorsements, linked below, and if you haven’t checked out his work with Collective Soul, check out the albums Youth and Afterwords. Great discs and worth the listen as are all of Collective Soul’s albums.

Ryan endorses the following manufacturers. Click the image to visit their sites:


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