Meytal CohenInterview by Sean Mitchell // March 16 2012
People want to interact, they want to know who you are, what you do, how you do it, and they want to be able to comment and be a part of it.
Meytal Cohen is no stranger to the internet. In fact I would fare a guess that she is no doubt the most viewed female drummer on the web. Having built a following with her famous smile, her incredible skills behind the kit and her internet savvy, Meytal is living the dream. It is incredible to watch someone as eloquent, graceful and professional as Meytal making her dreams reality. If you haven’t become a fan of Meytal by now, you soon will.
Meytal, I understand you served time in the Israel Defence Force. What an experience that must have been. Was it mandatory and what lessons did you take from that situation? Did you see any combat?
Yes, military service in Israel is mandatory and I can’t go deeply into that subject. In general I would just say that I pray and believe that a day will come, hopefully in the not so distant future, where we will all learn to accept one another and live together in harmony.
Tell me about your family? Are they still in Israel?
I am the youngest of seven brothers and sisters. My entire family lives in Israel.
Are there any other musicians in your family?
No, I’m the only musician in the family. Everyone in my family is either a doctor or a lawyer. My mom really doesn’t get why I picked such a “difficult lifestyle,” as she calls it.
What got you into drumming?
I remember ever since I was little I loved drums and rhythms. I remember telling my mom that I want to try to drum at a very early age, but she didn’t like the idea, so instead she put me in a tap dancing class. I was pretty good. They put me in a class with people five years older then me. I was tiny! So that was my first experience. That ended when my Russian teacher got deported from Israel. Then at a much later age, when I was about 17, my first boyfriend gave me a CD—it had Pantera on it, Metallica, Deftones, Faith No More and some other amazing bands—and that’s when I got really obsessed with drumming.
I understand you have a background in theatre. What made you decide to pursue that in school?
That was the only thing that seamed fun. Everything else was extremely boring, so obviously I chose that as my major.
Do you do any acting?
I did some acting but never on a professional level. However, I’d love to get back into acting one day if the right opportunity presents itself!
Can you tell me about the music industry in Israel? Is metal big over there?
Israel is a small country with a total population of 7 million people, so the music industry is pretty small, but there are still many local artists and original music in Hebrew. The metal community is big and people in Israel love all the metal bands that are popular here—Dream Theatre, Slipknot etc. At least that’s how it was when I was growing up, but I actually heard a rumour that they had to close all my favourite metal clubs because the youth is not in to that music anymore.
Is drumming popular there? What styles of music are popular in Israel?
I wouldn’t say drumming is popular; it’s probably as popular as anywhere else. The most common music in Israel right now is commercial Middle Eastern style music. It’s not my thing.
What made you decide to come to the US?
I wanted to give drumming a serious try. My drum teacher told me about a music school he attended in LA and he recommended that I go study there. At that point I was planning on going to study to be a veterinarian, since that’s how things worked in my family (you get out of the army and you go to a university). So it was basically a “now or never” kind of decision.
You have had many great teachers. Which teachers have stuck in your mind and what were some of the best lessons you took away from those experiences?
I would probably say my teacher in Israel, he gave me the fundamentals and had the best structure of teaching everything—snare reading, rudiments, funk, jazz, big band, Latin. Honestly, I learned more with him than in all my schooling in the music school. I wish I had more time to study with him, but as I said I had to make a move then and so I just went for it.
What bands are you playing with and are you going to be touring?
I’m not in a band. You never know what might come along, but it’s safe to say that my home base is YouTube. I recently signed with Maker Studios. They work with and create video content for YouTube’s most talented artists. I really love the world of new media and I am planning to explore it further.
Tell me a bit about your website and your YouTube site. What was the inspiration to shoot yourself doing covers?
The first videos I uploaded were intended to be a demo of my playing, since I wasn’t on any records. I tried to come up with a way to feature my playing. I had a few videos up at the time. There was one video, of my first ever drum cover; I played in my bedroom a cover for “Judith” by A Perfect Circle that had about a half million views on it. I noticed that there was a lot of interest. Then I shot the “Toxicity” cover with Jennifer and Christine on electric violins. We shot that as an audition video for “America’s Got Talent.” Nothing ever happened with that, but we posted the video on YouTube and it got millions of views after a couple of months. So many people were asking for more, and since I wasn’t able to make that happen with the girls I went a head and did my own thing and started shooting drum covers.
What goes into shooting one of your videos?
First I decide on a song. Then I start learning it; that can take between one to seven days, depending on how hard the song is, both learning the parts and remembering the whole song in one take. Then a shooting day–cameras setup, lighting, sound check and shooting the video. After that, audio mix, video editing and uploading the vid. It’s not an easy process but now that I have shot more than 70 videos, it’s much easier than when I was just starting.
How do you choose your material?
It’s a mix between my favourite songs and suggestions.
Where do you see the YouTube formula headed in the years to come?
Tough one…I’m not sure but I do think that YouTube is the future. People want to interact, they want to know who you are, what you do, how you do it, and they want to be able to comment and be a part it. I think it’s awesome.
Is it possible musicians will earn their living via a YouTube channel? Do you earn an income from your YouTube channel?
Yes, it is possible to make money off of YouTube, but only if the content you create is 100% original. I can’t monetize on any of the drum covers because I use the background tracks, but everybody should come to my 100% original vlogging channel, “MeytalsWorld,” and see lots of videos there so that I can keep this project alive!
Where do you feel you want to take your web presence?
I don’t have it all mapped out yet, but it will most likely continue to be awesome.
Why do you feel the YouTube phenomenon has become so popular among drummers?
YouTube is the best source of information, not only drumming. You can look up anything you want to learn in the whole world, anything that interests or inspires you as a drummer. I can tell you that if there’s anything you want to learn, from rudiments to reading, to how to play the hardest song, someone probably posted a video of it on YouTube.
What do you practice when you practice? How often do you practice?
I have my own studio where I can play 24/7. I’m usually there every day from 9am till 5pm, either practicing my rudiments, learning a new song for a video or shooting a new video.
What can we look forward to from you in 2012?
I recently signed up with a YouTube production/talent management company Maker Studios. Maker are responsible for some of the most successful YouTube channels, and together we are going to produce lots of exciting content. 2012 will be a great year!
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About the Author
Sean Mitchell has been an active participant in the drumming industry for over 20 years. He has studied under Crash Test Dummies drummer Mitch Dorge and Drumming's Global Ambassador Dom Famularo. Sean is also a songwriter and regularly performs with his wife (and singer) Jill Mitchell. Sean proudly endorses Aquarian Drumheads.