Davesontour.com recently conducted an interview with veteran drummer Mark Schulman, who was on tour drumming for VELVET REVOLVER on their appearances at Ozzfest. Mark was spending his first off-day on the tour traveling to and from Muskegon, Michigan, where he was conducting a drum clinic. An excerpt from the chat follows:
Davesontour.com: You're taking over for VELVET REVOLVER's drummer, Matt Sorum, who injured his hand in a water-skiing accident. How is Matt doing, and why did he recommend you as his temporary replacement?
Mark Schulman: "Matt's doing okay. His hand had to be re-broken by his doctor, who also put a pin in his wrist. I've known Matt over the years. He saw me playing with FOREIGNER, and he knew that I could sing backing vocals. Most recently, we were in Australia at the same time. VELVET REVOLVER went to CHER's concert, whom I was drumming for, and I went to their show. This was the first summer that I haven't toured since 1997, so I said I could shift a few things around and do it. Matt was relieved, knowing that I was reliable and that I could pull it off."
Davesontour.com: BILLY IDOL's current drummer, Brian Tichy, played a few gigs as Matt's first stand-in, but he was committed to start a tour with Billy. Now it's your turn to handle VELVET REVOLVER's drumming duties. Please tell me about the sequence of events.
Mark Schulman: "Brian was Slash's first choice because he had played with him in SNAKEPIT. When Matt heard the doctor had to re-break his hand, he was tripping out because he couldn't reach the band and they didn't know he couldn't go back out on the road with them for the remaining three weeks. After Matt and I spoke, it was just a matter of communicating with the band. Even though Brian Tichy was lined up for three shows, Matt wanted to see if I could go in and do the whole thing. But Brian had already rehearsed with the band, and his gear was on a truck and headed to the gig. My audition was pretty funny, with Slash, Duff and Dave Kushner sitting on road cases in Scott Weiland's studio. They didn't have any gear, so I couldn't jam with them. All they could do was listen as I drummed along to the CD. Scott didn't show up until later. It was awkward, but we laughed about it later. Then Scott came in, and I had to do the same thing all over again! They saw and heard that I could play. Up until then, it was just Matt's recommendation. They were probably thinking, 'The guy that played with CHER, I don't know about this.' It turned out that I had no rehearsals with them. They didn't want to re-schedule their off-days, choosing to spend the time with their families instead. So I flew to Las Vegas to watch Brian drum at two shows. I got to do two soundchecks with them, playing each song with the band once. Before the first gig, we set up Brian's kit and a few guitar amps in a dressing room. We rehearsed about 20 minutes of the set. Then I had to play the show without a soundcheck. Plus, my drum kit was a new custom kit sent out by Gretsch that I hadn't played on, except for one day rehearsing by myself. I was literally thrown into the fire. My first show was last night, and with all things considered, it went marvelously well."
Davesontour.com: Talk about your preparation and your song-learning techniques when VELVET REVOLVER phones you with short notice.
Mark Schulman: "I write little abridged charts, more like road map charts, making it where I have to look at them as little as possible. They basically chart the arrangement and any specific beats, kicks or emphasis that I have to do. Then I played the entire set twice a day for five days before I went on the road. The challenge with VELVET REVOLVER isn't learning the songs. The challenge is they don't use any click tracks and all the tempos are different from the record. The songs ebb and flow and move. They were so used to the flow with Matt. Then they got used to the flow when Brian played his gigs. What I did was stand on the side of the stage and learn. Brian was so helpful and so cool. He was videotaping, so I watch his tapes for two days. I literally sat on the side of the stage with a metronome, clocking all the beginning, middle and ending tempos. I tried to emulate the flow they were used to. I had been doing gigs with click tracks and this is a whole other thing. Not to mention that VELVET REVOLVER plays about 10 times louder on stage than CHER. I'm playing like a banshee, hitting so hard and playing so heavy because that's what the music calls for. Duff was really complimentary; both Slash and Duff were so kind to me. These guys have been so damn cool, they're terrific. Slash said it sounded great. Duff said he only had to think about tempo changes a few times. I told him that I cheated, using Brian as my cheat. I got my tempos from him playing live so I saw what the guys were used to. Plus, I have to sing backing vocals and I've never sang with Scott. I'm singing them for the first time and he's phrasing them different from the record! It's a wild experience, but I've been thrown into the fire before. You just do what you've got to do."
Read the entire interview at Davesontour.com.