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This week it’s all about super commercial pop music, and when it comes to that, it’s all about Billy Ashbaugh. Billy is a Miami guy, and aside from his widely-recognized work with superstar boy band N’SYNC, Billy has performed and recorded for many other pop icons including Pat Benetar, Britney Spears, and Jordan Knight. Billy’s also got a great instructional DVD and is an active clinician, and he played a big part in the launching of a new online drum community called drummerconnection.com. I am grateful for his participation in the series!
Quick editorial comment: As we get deeper into the series, I’m sure you’re noticing that I asked many of the same questions to the different players that I interviewed. It’s obviously interesting to see how these players differ in their views on things, but what’s more interesting to me is how many of these very different musicians have the same outlook on certain issues. Probably something worth paying attention to!
(Me) When is it okay to go with the obvious “stock” groove/idea, and when do you push yourself creatively to come up with something unique? (Billy) When the music or producer calls for a “stock” type groove then that’s what I try to play. I’ll admit that it’s much more interesting when I’m given a chance to create something unique.
How do you relate to producers? Do you just wait for them to tell you what to play or are you making a case for your own ideas? Unless they tell me otherwise, I like to try and come up with my own twist and ideas for parts. I’ve found that usually the producers like the idea of me bringing a bit of my own style to the track.
What’s your approach to fills… are you playing pre-planned stuff or are you just “feeling it” in the moment? It depends… I usually try to just feel the moment and hope something good comes out. Although, there are times when I’m asked to play something specific.
What’s your favorite snare for a wide-open rock sound? Hands down my 14′ DW Edge snare…..awesome drum.
What’s your preferred method for getting the “dead” muffled snare sound? Instead of running to the drum w/ duct tape, I prefer to use an Evans Genera Dry head along with a mini mad for additional muffling.
How do you deal with hihat bleed and other cymbal issues? Actually, lately I haven’t been using a hi-hat mic for a lot of my sessions. I really don’t miss it. My friend Bob Gatzen turned me on to this concept. He gets a great drum sound!!
What’s your stance on the “renaissance man” issue… is it better to be as diverse as possible and risk being mediocre at everything, or should a drummer focus on just one “thing” (sound) and risk being pigeon-holed in the industry? That’s a tough one. I think it’s very important for a drummer to be as well rounded as possible. But instead of going out and trying to tackle several different styles/ideas or concepts all at once, I would recommend that you first get a very good foundation for groove and timekeeping. This is the one thing that you MUST have as a drummer on any level. After that is under your belt, I would suggest exploring as many different avenues as possible.
What are some of your favorite records that have had a big influence on your playing? Wow…too many records to mention. Here are a few artist that have been an influence. Led Zeppelin, The Police, Level 42, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Toto, Frank Zappa.