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RICK LATHAN - Educator - Sessions

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Rick Latham is known as one of the music industry’s most in demand studio and touring drummers today, an exciting solo artist, Rick enjoys composing and producing, travelling globally as a renowned clinician as well as conducting master classes and music education. 

AW. How and when did your passion for drumming begin?

I started playing at the age of twelve and I think the combination of growing up in the South, being surrounded by Gospel, R&B and Soul music, at the time, had a lot to do with it. Also, my older brother was playing in the local High School concert and marching band, which was quite well known as the State Champions for many consecutive years. My family would also be traveling to watch competitions and concerts to support the band and I think the drumming was something that attracted me at that time.  I also would stay up late to watch the Johnny Carson Tonight Show to see drummers like Buddy Rick, Louie Bellson and Ed Shaughnessy when possible.


AW - Did you have any instruction from anyone?

I was initially self-taught.  I started playing on my own and then also joined the Jr. High School band when I was old enough.  I then learned to read music and became more interested in drumming and percussion in general. The High School band director showed me some basics but that was about it. I just kept investigating and learning as much as I could, still on my own at that point.  I didn’t really have any real private, formal instruction until I attended University later.

AW.  You gained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Percussion Performance at East Carolina University, thus expanding you’re rhythmic and percussion related vocabulary, studying snare drum, mallets and timpani with Harold Jones would you advise the next generation of drummers to study tuned percussion as well as drum set?

I always advise people to study percussion as well as drum set if they go to a music University.  I just think it makes for a more well-rounded musician.  Studying various techniques, concepts and styles or genres can only help everything. 


AW -  What do you think, what lessons during your studies were the most valuable?


There are many, however, the things I learned from Harold Jones have made the most impact on my playing.  Actually I never studied Drum set with Harold, but his musicality and finesse in his playing had such a positive effect on me. Studying, Snare Drum, Mallets and Timpani were the focus in his lessons.  I use the term a lot in my clinics “The Discipline Of Drumming” This was something I think that actually started with the High School band experience and followed right through with me until this day.  Physical training (practice), mental training and performance training all play a part in all of this Discipline

AW - What did you do when you graduated from university?

After my four years at East Carolina I was awarded a Scholarship to attend North Texas State University (now University of North Texas) one of the finest music Universities in America.  My Scholarship was to pursue my studies for a Masters Degree as well as teaching undergraduate students.  I was teaching snare drum and marimba while taking classes and studying drum set there as well.  After North Texas, I went on the road with a band and began playing, touring and recording as much as possible.  I lived in Dallas, Texas for about ten years after North Texas then moved to Los Angeles in 1984

AW - Which drummers inspired you the most and why?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, Buddy, Louie and Ed were my first inspirations, along with Joe Morello, These drummers were perhaps the most visible drummers also during the time I was growing up. Their musicality and flawless technique was what inspired me most at that time.  Then of course, Bernard Purdie, James Gadson, Harvey Mason, Mike Clark, David Garibaldi and Steve Gadd,  for the Funk, Groove and Linear stuff.  I would say these are my main inspirations but there are many others as well, like some of the guys with the Rock, Pop, Soul, R&B and Jazz groups on the radio at the time, especially Danny Seraphine (Chicago), Bobby Colomby (Blood, Sweat & Tears), Don Brewer (Grand Funk Railroad), Jimmy Fox (The James Gang), and Greg Errico (Sly and The Family Stone.

AW - You have raised a generation of drummers with your publications Advanced Funk Studies and Contemporary Drumset Techniques, how did the conception of these two volumes come about also your head of indie label RLP records?


Well, Advanced Funk Studies was written and published right after I finished North Texas.  It was really the encouragement of the teachers there (Jim Hall, Ron Fink, Robert Schietroma and Henry Okstel), that motivated me to write that book.  At that time in the late 70s, the linear funk thing was really hot with Gadd, Garibaldi and others being at the forefront of that style.  I really identified with this concept and would always be transcribing some of those grooves either for lessons or my own enjoyment.  I felt there was a need to write these exercises to help explain the concept.  The book hit at just the right time and it instantly became popular with professionals and students alike.  My second book, Contemporary Drumset Techniques is more of an in depth study of the linear style that I later developed after years of playing.  My Record label, RLP and Rick Latham Publishing Company was created so I could publish and control the rights to all my materials.  I own all the rights and publishing for all my titles.  Advice I got early on from Louie Bellson and Jim Chapin


AW - Do you have any thoughts on writing a new book to add to your two classic volumes?


I actually have a snare drum book in the works “American Snare Drumming” it will include many of the Old School, Traditional Rudimental techniques and concepts that I use along with a modern approach including exercises and solos. I feel there is a need for more modern sounding snare drum literature as well a more explanations of Traditional Rudimental Style techniques and concepts.


AW - Can you recall the time you met Louie Bellson on the Remo stand at one of the NAMM shows?


It was actually a show in Texas for Music Educators and Louie was performing there.  I met him in the Remo stand in the afternoon before this show.  We had talked on the phone several times and this was the first time meeting in person.  We also had several mutual friends and that is how I was introduced to him.  I had previously sent him a draft of my “Advanced Funk Studies” book, which he really loved and gave a great endorsement comment (whish is still included in the book today).  He was always so gracious and humble, so, we hit it off really well.  After the initial hello and nice to finally meet in person sort of conversation, he told me again that he really loved the book and he carried with him to always check out some licks.  I Kind of laughed and said something like “Oh, Man, thanks, I really appreciate that” and he said, “No, really! I have it right here in my briefcase”…. He opened his briefcase and sure enough the book was in there.  I was shocked and of course loved that.  We then continued to talk and he asks me to walk with him because he had to go setup and sound check.  I followed along and we continued talking about drums and the music life etc.  We finally reached the auditorium and walked to the stage.  There were his cases and all his gear, so I said something like, “don’t you have someone to help you set up” ????  He looked at me and said, “That’s why I asked you to come along”…we both laughed and of course started setting up his stuff.  We remained very good friends from that day on, and he would also mention me and my book at all of his clinics. Such a great Person, Musician and Mentor to so many.


AW - Have you a practice regime, what does it consist of and how much time does it take?


I really don’t have a set practice routine now, however, in the early stages of my career and while I was going to school I would practice a great deal.  I still play rudiments and hand exercises all the time, even if just sitting around and watching the news on TV.  I’m actually playing or recording most of the time so, I am playing a lot and just try to always warm up before with rudiments and the hand exercises.  When I do have time for serious “sit down” type practicing.  I will usually work on Independence, and trying new things as well as just playing to a click with some of my own material from my books. I always tell drummers that consistency is the key. Playing a little bit everyday is important. Even 30 minutes is good, if it is continuous and structured.  Things that I would suggest to work on, would be reading, Independence, time and then groove, plus, various licks.  Also, play with other musicians as much as possible. Practice playing music not only exercises.


AW - Having performed with many top figures is there anyone you would have wished to work with if so why?


Wow, that’s a tough one to answer.  There are so many and don’t make it sound like I’m done yet…Ha, ha….   I actually used to play a lot of Big Band stuff and I love that style.  Kicking a Big Band is so much fun.  I would have loved to play with Count Basie’s band or maybe Stan Kenton’s Band.  Maybe on the Rock side of things Jimi Hendrix would have been fun I think.  I love the things that Mitch Mitchell played with Hendrix and maybe for more Pop type current stuff I think Bruno Mars does some great music and that would be fun as well.  I would also love to do one of the Buddy Rich things sometime as well.  I have been very fortunate to play with many great artists and I feel confident there will be more to come. 


AW - Can you recall what product jingles, TV themes and Film soundtracks you have worked on?


I do remember “Fast Forward”, “Gone in 60 Seconds”, “SpiderMan” and “Daredevil” movies, to name a few and the product jingles were many such as Coke, Pepsi, Toyota, Honda, Ford, AT&T, some Beer commercials and things like that.  The TV work was limited mostly to background type cues or underscoring but I did play on various theme versions and cues used for the shows “9 To 5” and “Fame”


AW - Besides teaching in Los Angles you also teach in Milano, what attracted you Milano?


Well, I have actually been coming to Europe for the past 30 years or so and it seems that I began to work more and more over here (Germany, Italy, France, UK, etc.) over the years, with different artists, my own bands and doing clinics and workshops more in Europe. I still have a place in L.A. where I am still active in the states, doing much of the same, when I go back for visits.  I have been living mostly in Milano for the past three years now.  I like Milano geographically because it is really in the middle of Europe and I can travel very easily from Milano to just about anywhere in Europe in just a few hours.  Sometime it gets difficult with scheduling things in the States and back here in Europe but I like to work and stay busy, so it is working out nicely at the moment.


AW -  How has the life of a musician changed since you started to play?


I think basically it is still the same lifestyle, however, the industry has changed.  Less and smaller Budgets. Companies and clubs wanting more for less and the availability of things on the Internet have also played a large part in the ever-diminishing live opportunities.  The public now has gotten used to getting things for free (like downloads) or very little money and unfortunately seem to not support live music as much as before.  Streaming, Pay Per View, On Demand, have all had an impact on the support of live music.  You definitely have to hustle even more today than ever before to keep working and stay busy.  Good music and good musicians will always be in demand.  However, I think the public in general (as much as I wish it weren’t so) as lowered it’s standard when it comes to music.  Being versatile and doing many things that are all related, I feel, or the best approach in staying relevant and active.  I personally play Concerts, Teach, do Clinics and Master-classes and Recording Sessions.  It all adds up.  Where as, let’s say in the 80s I could live pretty comfortably by only playing in clubs…. now less clubs, and less people going to clubs that support live music.  Of course there are some Countries and Cities that still do have a lot of great live music but it is certainly less than in years before. Also, as mentioned, with smaller budgets, many large studios are having a tough time and/or going out of business and more of the recording is done in personal studios.  I do a lot of recording in my personal studios for musicians all over the world.  Things do go in cycles though and from time to time there are more live things and more recoding things.  You really have to stay on top of your game and in contact with other musicians, networking is important.


AW - What does your course consist of, do you encourage embracing technology?


I actually love technology and it can be a great thing, especially for Musicians.  However, the over use of or becoming dependent on it can have it’s negative side.  For instance I have several Mac Desktop Computers, Laptops, ipad and two iphones.  I use all the latest recording software in my studies in both Milano and L.A., however, the performance is still the main thing.  I also like a more natural and organic feel and sound when it comes to music.  I use these tools but just like a big tape recorder and not a lot of editing, overdubbing or fixing of parts…..I also have some electronic trigger pads that I use occasionally however, I prefer real drums for the feel and the sound.  I will say that it is important for all drummers to learn how to work with the technology, because it is here to stay. 


AW - I see you use AKG microphones any particular reason?


I actually do like the AKG brand very much and I have used many various mics over the years.  This is really a personal thing for everyone.  I feel if I find something I like, I stick with it.  The brand has been around for many years and is one of the standards in the industry.  They have a wide selection and are very consistent all over the world.  I’ve worked with the company on a few things and I have a good relationship with them over the years.  This is also important, as with all the gear I choose to use and endorse.


AW - What kind of computer and digital audio equipment do you use to do your work?


Well, as mentioned before, I’m a big Mac guy.  For DAW software, I run MOTU Digital Performer, Apple Logic and Digidesign Pro Tools.  I feel those work best for my needs and applications and very compatible around the world. I also have many of the standard outboard pieces, such as compressors, limiters, reverbs, etc. and also many of the software plug-ins as well. I try to keep it to a minimum because this stuff can easily get out of hand.  New things come out every day it seems and this can do serious damage to my wallet…..Ha, Ha.


AW - Do you have a particular favourite drumset or snare drum you like to record with?


As you know, I have been using DW Drums for more than 35 years and I absolutely love the drums, the hardware and the company.  I know how this instrument will react to my technique, my tuning and my style of playing at all levels.  I prefer the Collectors Maple drums and have several sets in various configurations.  Personally, I prefer 22” Bass Drums in various depths like 14”, 16” and 18”.  For toms, my usual set up consists of 8”, 10”, 12”, 14”,  and 16” again with various depths.  General 14” snare and I really like 7” x 14”  something about the 7” depth is very special.  I also use other 14s and sometimes 13s as well  


AW -  Like many top performers do you have a collection of snare drums?


You know, I am not a big drum collector type guy……I have maybe 8 or 10 additional snare drums and that is enough for me.  I like to use the ones I have and to be honest, I find that maybe 4 or 5  of them are my “go-to” drums.  I like to try different things at times or certain artists or producers might want a particular sound and I will try to accommodate.  It really depends of the music and vibe.


AW -  When recording do you have a particular studio/producer you prefer to work with?


I just love recording and the recording process in general and find it always an exciting, rewarding, fun and learning experience.  I will record anywhere……Ha, ha..   Of some of the studios I have recorded in and that I really like are Ocean Way/East West, The Village, Westlake Audio, The Lair, Evergreen and One On One…all in L.A.  In Copenhagen, Denmark a studio named Easy Sound and in Germany there are two private places I really like Klang Dialog and Amazing Sound.  There are so many studios around the world and I look forward to checking out many more as the journey continues.  As far as producers, I feel comfortable with just about anyone, so I don’t really have a preference. 


AW - What drums are you endorsing at the moment what configuration of drums do you play, do you still play the Istanbul Mehmet traditional high - hat trio and what attracted you to this combination?


As I mentioned above, for drums, I have been playing and endorsing DW for over 35 years.  I have had also a very long relationship with Istanbul Mehmet Cymbals and with Mehmet Tamdeger personally since 1982.  These are the Original Genuine Hand Made Cymbals from Turkey, that everyone tries to copy….!  Mehmet has been making cymbals since the age of nine ……nobody does it better! Period!   The Hat trio is something that I do like and use at times, it’s a combination of different weight bottoms, however, I do use various other Hi-Hat combinations as well as the other Istanbul Mehmet models.  My current set up consists of usually a 22” 61st Anniversary Vintage Ride, 16”, 17” and 18” crashes. 14” hats (Turk or Nostalgia line) and usually a 16” or 18” X-Ray Random effect cymbal plus sometimes a 10” and 12” splash.  I have also been having fun with some Turk series micro hats that are 8” or 10” very cool and interesting sounds.  I also use and Endorse Evans Drumheads for many years as well as Promark Sticks……they make my Signature Autograph Model Rick Latham 717 Groove Stick.



AW - What advice would you wish to pass on the next generation of drummers?


“Keep and Ear to the past and an Eye on the Future”  I feel it’s very important for a drummer to be knowledgeable about the history of the instrument and the great drummers that have come before. Keeping the history and traditions alive, yet developing it forward, throughout their individual career path.  Learn various styles and genres. Learn technology, learn how to Listen, Learn how to be part of the music.  It’s not so much about the chops as it is about playing the music.  Have and take care of your equipment. Be on Time…..Play live with others as much as possible, whether in your basement or at school. Learn good basic foundational techniques before learning specialty techniques and always strive for enjoyment and satisfaction in your playing.

Many thanks Rick

                                                                © 2020 Ashley Wardell. All Rights Reserved

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