Bobby Jarzombek interview
By Steph Perry
January 13, 2010
You’re touring with Sebastian Bach’s band and just finished the European leg of the tour. What was the fan response like there?
The Russian fans (mostly younger than I expected) were great. It was a general admission venue and I was still tweaking my drums when they opened doors. The fans ran in and secured their standing spots in front of the stage. Then one young girl sang (at the top of her lungs) the complete lyrics to “18 & Life”. That was interesting.
Are you looking forward to the next leg of the Sebastian Bach tour along with Guns N’ Roses?
Yeah, it’s been great working with Sebastian again. We did a very similar run with GN’R back in Dec 2006. Mostly Canada, very cold, and capacity filled arena shows. We were lucky and didn’t hit any severe weather during that run 3 years ago. I’m hoping for the same this time around. It will also be a welcome change to live on a bus once again rather than living and sleeping in overseas hotels, shuttle vans, and airports. And it’s always good hanging out with the GN’R guys.
What went through your head when Rob Halford decided to do a Christmas themed album?
Well, it was something that I had been hearing about for a few years. Back in the Fight days, Rob recorded a song titled ‘Christmas Ride.’ I’m not sure why they recorded the song back then but it was pretty successful and I think Rob had been wanting to expand upon that concept – into a full CD of holiday music. One thing that did surprise me was when they sent me the demos to learn the songs. Usually what happens is: Rob and Roy Z will send me demo versions of the songs with scratch guitar, a basic vocal idea, bass (or no bass), and a click track or a basic drum machine pattern. I’ll sit down with the songs for days/weeks in San Antonio and work out some drum parts. Most of the time I’ll have everything completely worked out before they fly me out to LA to record drums. When I received the tracks I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Rob had already recorded his complete vocal performances on all the songs. It was very inspiring for me to learn the songs with Rob’s vocals already done… and even more so to record my drums with Rob’s vocals in my headphones.
What song(s) on the ‘Winter Songs’ album meant the most to you, and why?
There are a few I really like. ‘Get Into The Spirit’ is cool. When I was recording that song everyone in the studio was feeling the vibe and energy of the song. For me it was pretty intense because I really locked into the groove during the chorus repeats at the end. ‘We Three Kings’ is unique and interesting with the triplet feel. As I mentioned, most of time I have my drum parts worked out before I go in to record but for ‘Come All Ye Faithful’ Z wanted to record me playing a few different drum ideas. He first asked me to play a marching type snare drum part, then he had me play random ‘big tom fills’, then cymbal accents and rolls, etc.. We did about 4 or 5 passes on the song. I had no idea what he was going to do with what I had played. When I finally heard what he did by mixing all the drum parts together, I loved it. It’s sort of a ‘drum orchestration.’
Halford once said about you, “He’s like an illusionist on the drum kit. It’s effortless and entertaining, and he’s just brilliant.” How does it make you feel to get such accolades from the Metal God?
Yeah, my bio starts with that quote – I believe it’s from an interview he did with Stepping Out magazine several years ago. It certainly doesn’t get any better than that, that’s for sure! It’s still an amazing thing to me that I’ve been so fortunate to work with a metal icon like Rob. For me, the ‘Live Insurrection’ CD and ‘Rock In Rio’ DVD were surreal moments. To be part of those live performances with Rob and have it documented. Classic Judas Priest, Fight, and Halford songs all in one package. That’s the best! I’m also looking forward to the release of the ‘Live In Anaheim – Grove Show’ DVD. That was the last show the band played in June of 2003 before Rob rejoined Priest.
What’s up next for Halford’s band?
I’m not really sure right now. There are things that get communicated to us from time to time but it all comes down to Rob’s schedule with Priest. Hopefully we’ll put out another album down the road.
Are you excited about the Riot reunion? What can you tell me about it?
Yeah, I’m excited about rejoining Riot. I basically grew up as a pro drummer while playing in Riot. We always struggled but we had good times, too. We are going through some growing pains right now. Last year we reunited the line-up that I joined back in ’88, and we played a couple summer festivals in Europe and went to Japan in the fall. But then we hit a snag when our singer quit. The band is looking for a new vocalist now although we haven’t really gone public with an audition announcement.
What about Fates Warning, has Jim Matheos begun to write songs for the new album? Is there any news you can tell us about the album and your involvement so far?
Yeah, Jim has sent me some of the new material that he’s been writing. I’ve been demoing my drum parts and sending drum files back to him. There are 3 songs that I’ve been working on so far. One is 5 minutes long, 10 minutes long, and 16 minutes long! Very interesting stuff. I’m trying not to over-think it but I’m really trying to give the songs my own personality. Mark Zonder is a great drummer and I know there are some high expectations for this next record by the fans. I’m no stranger to progressive music (think Spastic Ink) but it’s a bit different when working on progressive music with the concept of a band in mind rather than individuals.
Your midi project, ‘Bobby Jarzombek Metal Grooves MIDI Pack’, will be released soon. How challenging was it for you to get comfortable playing electronic drums?
Well, it wasn’t challenging to get comfortable to playing the Yamaha DXTREME kit because I just played them the same way I play acoustic drums. I beat the hell out of them, ha ha! Seriously, I don’t have much experience playing electronic drums so I couldn’t say to myself, “OK, now you’re behind an electronic kit – you need to finesse the snare a bit, don’t dig into the toms, etc..” I just simply played them the only way I know how. Plus, the first thing we did was shoot the promotional video, so I needed to play aggressively.
You produced an instructional DVD a few years back and have talked about possibly doing another one. Does the activity of teaching others help you in your technique as a musician? What else have you learned from the experience?
Sure, I’d like to do another drum video. During my private teaching I’m not as analytical as I’d like to be. Lessons are short and I usually can’t break things down as much as I’d like to. Last year I was planning to do some heavy metal drumming master classes. I had most of the curriculum finished but then I got busy working on other projects. Today, most books and videos are filled with tons of complex patterns and coordination exercises that most drummers will never be able to play – or apply to music. I have a system of taking a certain beat, fill, (or any other type of drumming pattern that has been played on a popular recording) and demonstrating how the student can build upon that one idea to create numerous other useful patterns. Someday I’d like to get that stuff together and present it in a book and DVD.
What is something that few people know about you?
Maybe that I’ve played (and continue to play) other styles of music that are very un-metal, including German polka music, Tejano music, and tons of country music. Also, I play drums barefoot which most people don’t know because they can’t see behind the kit while I’m playing. Some people can’t image wailing away on double bass with no shoes on but I’ve played that way forever.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
One thing that’s nice is that people like my drumming enough to drop me a line complimenting my playing every now and then. I don’t always respond because I get so many emails between all my websites but it is always nice to hear. Thank you everybody!
Thanks for taking time out for this interview. Happy new year!
Thanks for the great questions!