Dave’s a monster drummer that played with the Mars Volta and he loves to teach. Check out what he’s doing at davidelitch.com

What is your current set up and what are your endorsements?
Well my set up varies almost on a daily basis, but as of now I’m using 10,12,15,16, 22 and the snare du jour. I’m about to switch over to 12,13,16,18,24 for some stuff I’ve got coming up where I’m going to be needing a bigger drum sound. I play DW drums, Sabian cymbals, Vic Firth sticks, Remo heads, Protection Racket cases and Puresound snare wires.

What was your first endorsement?
The first endorsement I got was with DW Drums in 2007 when I started playing with Daughters Of Mara on Virgin/EMI. It’s kind of a funny story actually. I kept running into Garrison ( DW A&R guy) all over the place. ( all over the country actually) Finally, it got to a point we ended up tearing down Billy Ward’s drum kit together for the Hollywood Custom Drum Show. He was like ” Who the hell are you and why do I keep seeing you EVERYWHERE?!” We got along really well and he invited me up to the factory which is when I gave him the DOM demos and we inked the deal then and there. I’ve got so much love for that company – everyone up there is so awesome! They’re located 45min North of LA, so I’m up there all the time. ( Whether they like it or not! haha!)

How do you handle the business side of things with your AR reps?
This is something that most kids don’t get when they’re just getting into this whole thing. If you’re young and you have a band manager, they think that they should let the manager deal with all of their companies bc they have to keep up a certain “image.” That is THE WORST thing you can do! What ends up happening is the band will end up getting dropped form their label, lose their manager and then when they finally end up calling the A&R dude, they’ll be like “who is this?!” They won’t have any prior relationship to fall back on and now they’re screwed.

What are some mistakes you made along the way and what have you learned? You’ve had a lot of experiences and have worked with some great artists surely there has been a few bumps in the road.
I can’t think of any mistakes worth mentioning. I know I’ve made tons of them, but nothing is coming to mind right now. I try to focus on my successes rather than my failures. The important thing is that when you do make mistakes, you hold yourself accountable and you learn from them.

You studied music at Santa Monica college.  How important was that  in your development?  Would you encourage people that want to make a living in music to go to school or just hit the road and play?  What lasting relationships did you form while there?
That school was largely a gigantic waste of time. There were a few really amazing teachers there that I was lucky enough to learn a lot from like Dr. Goodman and Dr. Martin, but as far as music education, it wasn’t really anything exceptional. I’m glad I did it, but it’s not necessary. I think that going to college for music is a HUGE waste of time and money. If you’re actually trying to be a real working musician, going into $100,000 worth of debt and then playing The Baked Potato for $35 isn’t exactly going to cut it. A lot of people end up going to school because they’re afraid to take the plunge into the real world and they end up wasting their most valuable years in a coffin sized practice room working on a lot of things that won’t end up being applicable in the real world. It makes a lot more sense to study with a good teacher every week and get that one on one attention that you can’t really get at a school. It also comes out to less than $5,000/yr if you end up taking one every single week of the year which is around 1/10th of most schools.

How important is the Los Angeles connection?  Has living there opened new doors?
It’s absolutely imperative. I make it a point to go out every single night and shake as many hands as possible. The more people you know, the better. Everyone lives here, so it’s your job to meet them! Every gig that I’ve had, is because of a friend or a friend of a friend. You’re not going to get a gig while you’re sitting on the couch eating dorito’s and playing xbox. Sorry. I’ve had really good friends who are amazing players and just sat around and had to end up moving back home because they couldn’t find work.

Teaching seems to be an important part of what you do.  What kind of students do you get and how has teaching improved your own drumming?   Would you encourage successful drummers to follow the same path to teach?  Any success stories for your students?
Teaching is in my blood I guess. My dad taught business classes at Sonoma State and San Francisco State and my sister is also a teacher. I was lucky enough to have some amazing teachers in my formative years (Jason Gianni) that lead me into starting when I was 16. maybe that’s a little too young to teach, but you gotta start sometime! I’ve transitioned into having a lot more pro’s lately which is really cool. It’s so much fun for me to be challenged by people who are out there in the trenches and helping them “get out of their own way” so to speak. With dudes like that, I tend to specialize in technical/mechanical issues and getting the body to work the way it’s designed to. Sometimes people that are self taught, end up making things a lot more difficult physically, than they need to. I’ve been teaching my good buddy Dom Howard from Muse lately and a few other dudes like Tony Palermo from Papa Roach and my good fried Elias Mallin who plays with Ke$ha.

What are some of your career highlights?
Well, opening for Rage Against The Machine in South America last year with The Mars Volta was a pretty amazing experience. I couldn’t believe how hard the crowd goes off down there – especially for a band like Rage. I’ve been working with Terry Bozzio on some stuff for www.drumchannel.com. He was one of my hero’s when I was growing up, so that’s a trip for sure! I just worked on a record for this super talented artist on Interscope, Brenda Radney with Justin Timberlake producing. It was a ton of fun to work with Justin. He has so much talent, it almost doesn’t make any sense! I don’t think he’s  bad at anything! Really cool cat too.

Do you have to utilize just about everything you have ever learned to play with a band like The Mars Volta?  What are some difficulties you encounter when playing with a band like that?
Yeah, I guess so. That music can be pretty dense at times – you have to play very specific parts and then there are also times when you’ll be improvising for 30 minutes. It’s really all over the map. The most difficult thing for me with that gig was my stamina and endurance. I hit REALLY hard when I play live and their sets were 2.5 hours, so it was being able to pace myself more than anything. It was also really important that I kept visual contact with the guitarist Omar 100% of the time, because there we a lot of cues and hand signals to watch out for. He’d like to throw something new in almost every night to keep everyone on their toes.

There’s a drum cam video of you playing Goliath with The Mars Volta.  You were beating the hell out of those drums and took a little breather at the end there.  How do you stay ‘in shape’ to perform like that day after day?
Haha! Yeah that was in Sydney and it had to be damn near 120 degrees and 100% humidity that day! That was on The Big Day Out tour last year, so those sets were only an hour, but it was still exhausting. I go to the gym 6 days a week when I’m home, so I devote a lot of time to staying in shape and eating healthy. It’s very important to me and I think that it helps out with playing shows as well. Don’t forget to drink TONS of water and warm up for at least an hour before the show if it’s a demanding gig.

What kinds of suggestions do you have for young drummers looking to follow your route?  Anything from handling business to connecting with people that might call you one day to tour or do some session work.
NETWORK. NETWORK. NETWORK. The best thing you can do is meet as many people as possible. You never know where that next phone call will come from. Sometimes it’s a close friend and sometimes it can end up like playing ” 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon”, but you have to get out there and show face for people to even know you exist.

Who are your current drum heroes?  What do you admire about them?  Any drummers to be on the look out for?
I’m very fortunate that a lot of my favorite drummers are good friends of mine. Chris Coleman, Ron Bruner Jr and Tony Royster are all really close friends of mine and have been massively inspiring to me over the years. They are a constant reminder to me that no matter how good I get, there will always be people that will blow your doors off! I just kicked it with my friends Dave King of The Bad Plus while they were in town and we had a great time. He’s a really unique player. Mark Guiliana also came by my studio around NAMM and dropped some bombs on me! Both of those dudes are super heavy. They’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the instrument, so it’s always a very humbling experience to be in their presence. A lot of people need to know about Morgan Agren too! Check that dude out on Fredrik Thordendal’s record “Sol Niger Within.” He’s unreal. If I had to pick a singular drum hero, it would have to be Vinnie Colaiuta. I actually ran into him a few months back at a Thai place and he said some really, really nice things about my playing. One of the greatest moments of my life thus far.

Any clinics or news to pass along?
I’m going to be doing the London Drum Fest in October. I’m really looking forward to that. I’ll probably be doing private lessons while I’m over there as well.I’m also about to go into the studio with Greg Puciato ( The Dillinger Escape Plan) and Max Cavalera ( Sepultura) to do a record. Really looking forward to that. You can go to my website for updates www.davidelitch.com

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