orn and raised in New Orleans, Stanton Moore is an advocate for the city’s rich and diverse music, embracing its history and personally moving it forwards with his own hugely successful funk band, Galactic. Stanton is the author of two widely acclaimed books and DVDs; ‘Take it to the street’, which focuses on New Orleans drumming styles, and ‘Groove Alchemy’, a multimedia masterpiece that explores the roots and influences of funk drumming.
Stanton is known internationally as a respected clinician and actively runs the Stanton Moore Drum Academy online. At the end of 2018, GEWA Drums spoke to him to find out more about his Gretsch set up and what he’s working on for his third book…
GEWA Drums: Describe your Gretsch set up to us
Stanton: Gretsch reached out to me that they wanted to do an ad campaign with myself, Karl Brazil and Cindy Blackman and they wanted to get behind the Brooklyn series. They said they were going to make us new kits and asked what we wanted to do. They were going to bring us to the factory in Ridgeland South Carolina (just outside Savannah, Georgia, USA). I decided to go with my Galactic sizes; I’d been playing the same Galactic USA kit for about 6 years. I decided to go for 12”, 14”, 16” in traditional sizes and then a 14” x 20” and a 14” x 26”. They made me a 6.5” chrome over steel snare and then they made me a 5” wood drum. That one was in the finish to match, which is the creme oyster. The shells are maple/poplar/maple so it’s a slightly different shell to the maple/gum/maple shell that they have. They’re doing the 302 hoops, which are double flanged hoops. In the 50’s, they would be called ‘stick choppers’ but now they’ve made it so they don’t chop into the sticks. They’re a little bit flattened at the edge.
I just took them on a seven week tour with Trombone Shorty’s Voodoo Threauxdown with Galactic, Preservation Hall and New Breed Brass Band. It was four bands from New Orleans and we were playing, on average, from 6,000 to 8,000 people a night. So all of those people were there to see New Orleans music, which was exciting. The drums held up great. I put new heads on them at the beginning of the run and I didn’t even change them. They sounded fantastic; they’re really warm, punchy and very focused, but also just really round sounding.
When I compare them to the USAs they’re warm and punchy but with a little bit more attack. The USAs are warm and focused. The Broadkasters are warm and a little mellower with a nice round sound. All of the top level Gretsch lines are warm; that’s a unifying characteristic.
GEWA Drums: Have you got a favourite out of the three?
Stanton: To be honest, no. I think that all three fit particular music a little bit better. I have a set of Broadkasters in 12”, 14”, 16”, 18” and those are really cool, but I think that the Broadkasters really shine when they’re in larger sizes. I heard Steve Ferrone play with Tom Petty at JazzFest a couple of years ago, right before Tom passed away, and Ferrone was playing a 13”, 16”, 18”, 24”. Not his signature USA kit but it was a Broadkaster in a green to silver to green duco fade. It was super cool! I honestly feel like it was the best sounding, warm, mellow but still punchy drum sound coming through a PA that I’ve ever heard. It sounded so good.
The USA Customs are super versatile. I’ve got kits from all kinds of different eras; I’ve got everything from Bop Kits to a 70’s Bonham sized kit that I got over eBay, and then Paul Cooper made me a 26” to match. Those are 70’s shells – he made me a 70’s 26” from a bass drum out of the vineyard. Those drums sound huge – 14”, 16”, 18”, 26”. But then I’ve got smaller 60’s round badge drums that are essentially the same shell formula. Those sound great tuned up high. The USA Custom shell formula is so versatile and so is the Brooklyn. They all sound great and it just all depends on your personal preference and what music you’re going to find yourself playing the most. It’s really cool that you have these three different options that are all just slightly different tonally but fit in so many different musical situations. Each one has a bit more of a comfort zone of where they’re going to sit.
GEWA Drums: How was the UK Drum Show?
Stanton: It was a lot of fun. There were so many great artists who have seen each other and hung out with each other before so it was like seeing some old friends. Russ Miller and I were talking about things we’ve learnt from the people we’ve been hanging out with lately. I’ve hung out with Jeff Hamilton a fair bit in recent years, and so has Russ, so we were comparing our notes on that. He’s also been taking some lessons with Peter Erskine so we talked about that. Eventually I broke out some brushes and was playing at the table with Russ and Jojo Mayer. I hung out super late one night with Gregory Hutchinson… it was great to hear everybody play. I did a couple of seminars for the Sabian Education Network. There was a lot of great learning from each other. A lot of people came over for it. I think they’ve doubled their numbers from last year so everybody was pleased.
GEWA Drums: What drummers are you enjoying listening to at the moment?
Stanton: I’m always going back to my favourites. A lost record from the Coltrane Quartet just came out with Elvin Jones. So lately it’s been a lot of Elvin because he just came out with a new record! I’m always digging back to the cats I love but I’m always trying to come up with new ideas based off of what I’ve been working on for years.
GEWA Drums: What are you working on right now?
Stanton: Galactic is working on a new record and I’m always working on new lessons for Stanton Moore Drum Academy.com. At the moment, I’m working on different ratamacue variations, because I’m working on my third book, which is going to be my approach to applying rudiments around the kit.
I think I have some interesting ideas that other people haven’t done before. I’ve been working on things that I’m developing for the book and things that I haven’t ever taken the time to get comfortable with. So I’m taking ratamacues and applying them in a jazz context where you round out all the notes so that they’re all triplets; it’s less rudimental that way. I’ve been splitting single, double, triple ratamacues but then also starting them in different places and experimenting with the accents and where you put the bass drum. It’s been more of a challenge for me to round them all out and give them equal note value, as opposed to playing them where the diddles are pick-ups. I’m writing a whole section on that so I’m trying to think of ways they haven’t been used before.
GEWA Drums: Have you got a deadline for the book?
Stanton: As soon as I can get it done. I’m publishing it myself, which is the great thing about the Drum Academy and the website. I’ve been publishing things for two years now and my subscribers are always printing out the stuff that I’m writing. I think we’re up to 220 pages of PDFs in the two years that we’ve been going, and that’s in addition to the next book. I’m always publishing because of the website. I put stuff out as PDFs and that’s all available to the subscribers. I’m going to start doing it so you can buy certain packages soon. It’s really fun because with a book, you have to get it all tied in so it’s going to make sense. With a site, I can spit out a 2 to 5 page worksheet, which works on something specifically. I have a much more direct connection to my base.
I’m about to get married on October 13th, and we’re going to GoldenEye in Jamaica, which is where Ian Fleming wrote all the James Bond novels. I’m planning on shutting down offline but opening my computer to write while I’m there. I love writing so much that I keep writing for the site and pushing back the book but I want to frontline the book a bit now.
GEWA Drums: With all those people that you can reach, you can really hone in on what material works for a book
Stanton: Exactly. In my forum, I’m there a couple of hours a day and people tell me what they’d like to see me demonstrate, so it’s a very reciprocal thing. The forum is very active now.
My drum camp is coming up in December; it has sold out for a few years but this is the first year where we’re having to turn people away. I don’t like having to do that but I guess it’s a good place to be in. Elizabeth Lang, Thomas Lang’s wife, books my camp, and we’ve got our system down. Once we have our spreadsheet of our campers, we stay in contact with them in the months leading up to the camp. I send them worksheets to work on things that we’re going to be covering, then we’re really focused on stuff that they want to learn. I love getting those requests and suggestions because the content is ongoing. It helps keep me moving.
GEWA Drums: Do you have a system? You sound very organised and prepared.
Stanton: Yeah, a little bit. Before we even went live, I started writing out the worksheets for the questions that I get the most. I spent a year and a half teaching myself how to use Finale, asking for help from Mark Wessels, who does the Vic Firth site, and looking on YouTube for Finale instructional videos. It was a year and a half of me pulling out my hair and trying to figure it out. Now that I have, I write out the worksheets first and it serves as a script for me. That first 15 lessons on my Academy, I did the questions I get asked the most. The first lesson is the five things that I did to develop my buzz rolls. I became organised on that because I kept having to explain it in clinics and lessons so if it seems like I’m organised, thank you, but it’s after years and years of demonstrating stuff and crystallising these ideas in advance with Finale for the worksheets. I go in and I film for three days and that yields me a year of lessons. By the time I did the second batch of filming, I was much more prepared and much more organised. My Finale worksheets looked like pages from a book.
When I’ve finished a gig, if I went for something and didn’t quite make it, I embrace those moments because then I’ve thought of something new. I’ll get on the bus after the gig and try to figure out what it was that I went for and I’ll reduce that back down to its core element, which might be a sticking or something. Then I can reverse engineer it. I can make a variation and develop an idea. Then I start the worksheet for that idea, let it live for a little bit in my Finale files and I’ll flush it out when I need more material.
If you saw my Finale files, you wouldn’t think I was that organised because some of them are half written sketches. But I get the ideas out. If the original idea and concept are there, it might look like convoluted chicken scratch to some people, but I know how to work it out before I present it to everybody. It’s years and years in the making!
You can check out a free lesson from the Stanton Moore Drum Academy here:
Text: Gemma Hill
Photos: Jim Mimna www.jmimna.com