Kyle Gibson – The Fresh and Onlys, Mikal Cronin

Another of my first set of drummer interviews at Pickathon in 2014., this time with Kyle Gibson, of Mikal Cronin and The Fresh and Onlys.

I’m here with Kyle Gibson from Mikal Cronin.

And The Fresh and Onlys.

You’re in the Fresh and Onlys too, awesome. First question, how long have you been playing drums?

11,12 years.

Excellent. And why drums?

My family is a family of musicians, and it seems like there is a point in everyone’s life where it was like,“Ok, time to choose an instrument.” My it came to be my time, I said “Drums!” And they said “No…an instrument…”

Ohhhh…wow…

Well my mom is a piano player and my dad is a guitar player. But I said, “Drums.” So it took months of wearing them down before they finally agreed to let me play drums.

With that did you have to put up with a lot of drummer jokes?

Yeah.

What’s the best drummer joke you’ve heard?

None of them are good.

None of them are good? Haha. How about one you can remember? Or a bassist joke.

I can tell you a common one I hear: What do you can a musician that is homeless?

A drummer.

A drummer. Or, what do you call a musician that lives off his girlfriend?

(At the same time):… A drummer.

Absolutely. Has that stopped now that you have found success as a drummer? Well, do you think you have found success as a drummer?

I’m satisfied, totally.

Awesome. So the Fresh and Onlys, you just released something?

Yeah, we did a record, it came out in June called House of Spirits.

And Mikal Cronin?

Mikal Cronin is writing some new tunes right now, so it looks like either late this year or early next year.

Is it weird being in multiple bands? Do people fight for your attention?

Yeah…but in San Francisco, in the musician community, we all play on each other’s records. Whereas in some cities all the musicians hate on each other, in San Francisco we all love each other, so its like “Hey, can you come in today and track this?”

So here’s a question that might get political. Do you actually live in the city of San Francisco?

Yeah.

I’ve heard its getting harder to do that now, as it is very expensive. How are you doing it?

I tour and I bartend, it isn’t a bad job to have there, bartending. So that’s what I do.

And do you have anything against “tech” people?

I wanted to, but I don’t. I understand that what they are doing is not good in some respects, but, fiscally for the city, they spend a lot of money. They go to restaurants, and a lot of our friends are servers. They go to bars, a lot of our friends are bartenders. They need construction on their house, a lot of our friends work in construction. I think if you look at the fiscal situation of San Francisco, its not bad that they are there. It’s bad for us because the rents get raised, but at the same time, there is more money being made.

In some service industries anyways.

Yeah.

Back to drumming questions: ride or hi-hat, if you had to choose one. If you could only play a song using just one.

I’m going to say hi-hat. I watched this footage of Keith Moon where he didn’t have a hi-hat for a while, and I was like “You’re not better without a hi-hat.” So, just because of that, hi-hat.

Because of Keith Moon not having one, that is great. And a great segue into the next question: Favorite drummer, alive, dead, or both.

Mitch Mitchell.

Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience. And why?

Usually drummers can either play mechanically, like a robot, or they play really loose and shambly. He had both. He could lock it in and play like a robot, but then during a certain part of the song he would loosen up. He was able to do both. But I have lots of drummers I love who can do one or the other. Stewart Copeland, because he’s a robot, for example.

Do you think Mitch Mitchell influences your playing style?

I think so. Drummers who only want to play a certain way, you’re not going to be any better for it. You need to be able to balance being a machine and being human. You play like a human, you play a little loose, maybe even a bit behind the beat, whatever. You’re better for being able to do both. On one hand my first set of favorite drummers were people like Stewart Copeland and Budgie from Siouxsie and the Banshees. I re-visit those records often. But then I started to get into psyche rock, and they play a little loose. I’m from DC, so…

So it was hardcore.

Yeah, and when you went to a Fugazi show or a Nation of Ulysses show, in between sets, you didn’t really hear punk. You heard like, MC5, James Brown, shit like that.

How did you get from DC all the way to the Bay?

I used to do graphics for a skateboard company, and they flew me out. A month after I got there, they went out of business, so I decided to stay and form bands.

Do you like burritos?

Duh.

What’s the best burrito in San Francisco?

I would have to say Guadalajara, the el pastor.

What makes that for you?

It is juicy and delicious.

Excellent. What is the biggest crash you will crash?

I used to have a 20 inch thin ride/crash. Now I just use 18 inch regulars.

Do you have a brand preference?

Zildjian.

And a series preference? A? K?

Anything I can play, they are all good. Even the bargain packets, like when you go to a place like Guitar Center and buy a package, you’re probably going to get a couple shitty cymbals, and then one that is pretty good. Like, you’ll get some shitty china, that you’re never going to use.

Why does everyone hate chinas?

I never use them. I don’t like them.

I don’t think anybody actually does.

I like cymbals that ring out and sustain. No short sustain. Don’t like a splash.

No splash?

No splash.

Tambourine?

Sure, but no short sustain cymbals.

Ok, you want a long sustaining cymbal. Are you classically trained at all?

Nope, like I said, I just listened like I said to early DC hardcore and then psych rock. I tried to play along with those.

Do you have a favorite drumming song or even fill that you like?

Speaking of Mitch Mitchell, a couple of my favorite drum songs are “Spanish Castle Magic” and “Little Miss Lover,” by Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Ok. Those are some favorite drum songs?

Oh yeah. I mean everyone wants to say like, “Kashmir” for the drum sound, but I’m going with those.

I know a lot of John Bonham fans. I’m one too.

Me too, you have to be.

I like your recognition of Mitch Mitchell though. I think of all the drummers in that era, he was one that could really stand up to Jimi Hendrix’s playing and not be overwhelmed.

Exactly.

I also don’t think a lot of people are familiar. Go to the average person on the street and say “Name the drummer for Jimi Hendrix,” maybe other drummers could name him, but…

Well you are pretty special if you know, John Lennon specifically asks you to play. I’m talking about the Dirty Mac, in Rolling Stone’s “Rock and Roll Circus” movie. There’s an all-star band in there, the DirtyMac, and its Mitch Mitchell, John Lennon, who specifically asked for Mitch, Eric Clapton, and its funny,Keith Richards plays bass.

So because you aren’t classically trained, if I asked you a question like “Favorite Rudiment,” there wouldn’t be one?

I think I would say paradiddle? Flam-a-diddle?

Haha. Do you actually try to incorporate those into your playing?

I do not. I try to play on feel, I don’t ever get too technical. I think if I tried to be tech, it wouldn’t sound like me.

Ok.

That’s the human element. I think self-trained are a lot of times the best. Not only that, but they sound like themselves.

If someone had to try and isolate your sound, how do you think you sound like yourself when you play? Is there a thing you do?

No, it ties into what I was talking about earlier with balance. I try not to get pigeon-holed or categorized as a drummer. People will always say “Oh, you remind me of so-and-so,” but I don’t think I sound like anybody.

Are you mindful of that while playing as well? Do you get into song composition in your role as a drummer?

Yes I do, I play to the song, I think that is imperative. Lock into the song, but play fills when appropriate. But always play to the song.

Being in both bands, is there a significant difference in the level of involvement you have in either band? Or is it the same?

I would say with The Fresh and Onlys it is more collaborative. Mikal will write stuff and have us come in, but in Fresh and Onlys I’m there for every step of the way, pretty much.

Are you a live drummer only or do you do session work as well?

I do sessions.

Is that easy to do in San Francisco?

No, not really, a lot of times you have to get to LA. There’s work for drummers in San Francisco though, but a lot of times I’ll go to LA too.

What’s the best experience you’ve had as a session drummer filling in?

Wow. Actually maybe the first time I filled in with Mikal, before I became a member of the band. That was really fun. That was super cool.

What made it so cool?

We’ve known each other for a while, I know some people in the band. He writes the songs, and they are somewhat jangly, but he wants musicians that can stretch out and do their own thing. Although he wrote the songs, he mostly says “Just do what you do, just make it cool.” He doesn’t tell us what to do. He trusts us. So that is what we do. A lot of people who see us can tell, we are stretching out musically.

I think that is good, unless there is anything you really want to tell me about drums or drumming.

If I could say it one last time, be your own drummer. Don’t try to be one other drummer, be your own drummer. Don’t take on one style, take on many styles, and try to be good at all of them.

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