michaelbalnd6SIS #3… nice.  So far I’ve featured a New York player and Nashville player, and this week it’s all about keeping it local.  The Twin Cities has an incredibly large and diverse music scene for it’s size, and one of the top dogs around here is Michael Bland.  Michael’s playing was highlighted in AOTW #14, and you can of course hear him on hundreds of other recordings over the last two decades.  If you live in the Twin Cities, then you can see Michael every Monday night at Bunkers!  At the very least, do yourself a favor and google him… but first check out his direct and insightful answers in this exclusive interview…

(Me) What are some of your favorite records that have had a big influence on your playing? (Bland) “Fresh”- Sly and the Family Stone.  “Sgt. Pepper’s”- the Beatles.  “Greatest Hits”- Al Green.  “Genius + Soul = Jazz”- Ray Charles.  “Physical Graffiti”- Led Zeppelin.  “What ‘cha Gonna Do For Me”- Chaka Khan.  “Live”- Donny Hathaway.

What’s your favorite snare for a wide-open rock sound? I use a Yamaha 5.5×14 Paul Leim Signature snare.

Do you go tip-side or butt-side with the snare stick… and why? I play butt end, mostly, because it works for me, somehow.  Also, if I want to play a cross stick, then it’s more pronounced, and easier to get a good crack.

How do you go about “doctoring” the drums with muffling and such? I tend to deaden the toms with duct tape till there’s no sympathetic ring. On the snare, I’ve taken to cutting moon gels in half, and placing three in a triangular pattern. It controls the ring, but doesn’t choke the drum.

Vintage Ludwigs… are they over-hyped or are they everything they’re made out to be? Over-hyped.

Fills… are you playing pre-planned stuff strategically, or are you just feeling the moment? Somewhere in between.  I have my devices, but my best takes are always where I’m just channeling… just doing what the music says.

How do you approach your relationship with the producer?  Are you just waiting for him to tell you what to play or are you pushing to make a case for your ideas? I don’t wait.  I initiate and stay proactive.  I ask what he’s after first.  Next, I cite examples or players that we both might be familiar with.  From there, I satisfy his requirements.  And, I’ll usually do one or 2 additional passes after that, which exemplify what could be done, just so he can see.

How do you handle an artist who wants you to play lame parts/ideas?   If he’s also the producer, then I just give him what he wants.  The sooner I do that, the sooner I can leave and forget the session ever happened.  If there’s another person to reason with, like a producer, then I make an appeal to them.  If that doesn’t work, all I can do is satisfy the need, and move on.

What’s your perspective on the “renaissance man” issue… do you prefer to be very diverse but perhaps mediocre at everything, or do you focus on just one thing and risk being pigeon-holed as a player? My perspective, in general, is that I want to be good at playing MUSIC.  There’s no such thing as a pigeonhole for someone who simply plays music.  I don’t worry about genres, strong suits, and whatnot.  Music is music… what kind is irrelevant.  Either you know how to listen and play appropriately, or you don’t.