Friday night at Pickathon 2015 was a barnburner, literally, as Meatbodies destroyed the Galaxy Barn with a raucous display of pure rock and roll. I caught up with their drummer, Erik Jimenez, later on that weekend to talk about drums.
So I’m here with:
Eric Jimenez, from Meatbodies.
And we’re going to talk about drums.
How long have you been playing drums?
15 years. I was 11 years old when I started.
Was there a defining moment or series of moments where you knew you were going to be a drummer?
Yeah. It was around the same time my dad bought me a set of bongos, and I would play them every day. And then he said “Next month, I’ll buy you a drum set.” And he never did, so every month I’d keep bugging him, telling him I really wanted him to get it. He was probably trying to gauge my interest in it, so eventually he bought me a drum set for Christmas, and then I played every single day. I’d put headphones on with my Walkman, and I’d listen to deftones or rage against the machine or whatever and play along. I still used that same drum set up until about 6 months ago. But by then it was all torn apart, I was craiglisting different pieces, so it became a zombie drum set after a while. I finally had to retire it and buy myself a new one.
So why drums though? Did any thing draw you to that?
I guess I’ve always had rhythm, and I hear beats in my head all the time. I wasn’t really interested in school that much, and I started listening to punk and ska really early, and my older sister got me into music, and she gave me The Cure and The Smiths, so music has always kind of been there, so I would sit down and listen to it, and I would think about which instrument that I was most attracted to and it was always drums. I didn’t start picking up guitar until 18 or 19.
Do you have some favorite drummers?
Growing up, I loved Danny Carey from Tool.
You’re from LA and he’s an LA dude, right?
Yeah he is. I never got to see them play, but I was a huge Tool fan. Started to listen to Zeppelin in high school so Jon Bonham was one of those guys. Now my favorite drummers are just my buddies that are drummers that are way better than me. Like Thomas Alvarez who plays in a band called The Audacity from Fullerton. And Monty Najara from this band No Parents, also from LA
You’re wearing their shirt right now.
Yeah, No Parents, for life.
In the songwriting process, are you the kind of drummer that helps right riffs and brings melodic ideas to the band? Or do the songs get built beforehand and then you play a part that fits into that?
Well the two bands I’m in right now, for the most part both of those bands have songs written by one person.
Who does that?
I’m here with Meatbodies now, so Chad writes all those guitar progressions, I’m just kind of laying shit down . And I’m in another band called Pangea from LA and it is a little more democratic, I can push my opinion a little bit more. I have a little more sway because I’ve played in that band for like 6 years.
That question leads into a weird question that I ask. Let’s say in one of these projects the songwriter came to you and said “Here’s this song, but I’m imaging just one cymbal texture for the entire song.” You have to pick the hi hat or the ride. Which one do you pick?
There’s good reasons to pick either one. The hi hat for me has always been kind of a down home, centerpiece to start off any song with. The ride has always been kind of letting go a little bit and exploring the space. I guess I’m more that guy, so I’d pick the ride. Damn. That’s a tough question.
I’d say 90% of people say hi-hat.
It’s a good place to start.
It’s true. I like the ride, I’d probably say ride, just cause you can get a better crash sound out of it if you start bashing it. Anyways, another cymbal question, what is the biggest crash you would conceivably crash?
I don’t even know exactly what I’m using right now to crash but I like it. I’m using a Zildjian Sweet Ride, which to me sounds like a late 60’s early 70’s sound, when I go on the bell it has an older sound. I don’t like going that big unless I’m using the ride to crash, so I guess 22? If it was a ride.
So it would have to be a ride cymbal?
Yeah, it would be a ride cymbal that I was crashing.
Do you have a favorite drummer here at Pickathon?
Yeah, they played last night, the two drummers for Kamasi Washington. One was right handed and one was left handed, and they played right next to each other. They were fucking incredible. One of them was doing triplets with one hand and raising the other hand in the air. And they had a crazy drum solo near the end of their set.
I stuck around for that drum solo too…Have you ever taken formal lessons?
I took lessons once a week, for a month, at this old music shop where I grew up that eventually went out of business. He taught me how to read drum notation, and then taught me a basic 4/4 beat. Then I guess my parents didn’t have any money anymore so I stopped doing that. I forgot how to read music pretty much immediately after that. I still cant read.
Really? You never get on the internet and download a tab?
I’ve tried to do that, but I get so frustrated, because tabs for guitar are becoming easy for me to do, so I think it will be that easy with drums, but it is never that easy.
Because it’s all rhythm it’s not just different strings, those notes usually correspond to different body parts that have to do that.
I don’t get that. But if I hear it once, I’m usually able to play it pretty much exactly. I learn by ear.
When you’re playing, then you tend to be a “feel” drummer versus a technical drummer?
I’m definitely a feel drummer. I won’t play the same song the same way twice, I don’t think. I’ve played on this Meatbodies tour for two weeks now, and I can promise you that any song I haven’t played the same way. Some people fucking hate that, I know drummers that make a living being a studio drummer where you have to play the same thing and be as technical as possible. Like if I’m at a show and I’m not feeling that show, I’ll probably play a little bit worse. My fills might be a little weaker.
Not on purpose, if I could play 100% every night I would, its just, I have to feel like the audience is into it, that I’m making a difference or some shit. I don’t know, I need something. I need someone to go “Fuck yeah!” and then I’ll play way harder. I’ll do it for them.
Did you feel that way when you played here?
Yes, both times. Even though it was super hot today, we didn’t even do the costume thing today, it was the hottest part of the day and we thought people might be weird out. The crowd was into it but they weren’t going super crazy.
Earlier you mentioned you learned by playing along to songs. Do you have a song or a fill that you love to play?
I have a few of those, for sure. Let me think.
Also while we’re at it, which Rage of the Machine album did you play along to?
All of them really, Evil Empire, The Battle of Los Angeles…
I started when I was 10, and Evil Empire, fucking “People of the Sun”…
Yeah, and I’ve always thought Ringo Starr’s fills were interesting. I just started listening to this band Love, they were from LA in the 60’s, a psych rock band, but they have some incredible fills. I don’t know what his name is, but Love’s drummer on the album Four Sail, incredible fills on that. I’ve always loved jazz drummers, so I’ve always wanted to play jazz, but I don’t have the chops to do it. Rock was an easier thing, but I’ve always wanted to do that. Like if there’s no one around, I’ll listen to jazz and play along.
A secret jazz drummer?
The first Hives album, Barely Legal, from 97? That’s some of the fastest punk drumming I’ve ever heard. Straight rock and roll. I got my right hand hi-hat speed from that guy. Though honestly a lot of my fills are probably ska related.
Who’s your favorite ska band?
The third wave thing was what I was exposed to first growing up in the 90’s, so like Reel Big Fish and The Bosstones, and those guys. I started listening to The Specials later on, then I went back to the original Jamaican stuff, Desmond Dekker, so a lot of those fills make their way into my playing. I love those fills.
I can see that… Alright, last question, what’s your favorite rudiment?
Paradiddle…it’s really the only one I know how to do.
Excellent, thanks for talking with me.