Sean WinchesterInterview by Sean Mitchell // August 14 2012
Don’t chase after the money all the time when you’re a musician—try not to as much as possible, try to do what’s in your heart as much as possible. It’s a lot harder to do it that way and it will take a lot longer, but you’re just going to find out so much more about yourself, and you’re going to be so much more pleased with who you are in the end.
For the first time, The Black Page will be presenting our feature interview in V-I-D-E-O, a format we will eventually adopt fulltime. For the purists among us, we will always have the transcription available below the video. As it is our first kick at the can, there are (of course) a few hiccups: some latency fun and a split-screen fiasco (Skype recorded Sean Winchester as landscape?). However the content is still awesome and we'll work out those bugs!
Everclear’s Sean Winchester is a consummate professional and all around very cool guy. I enjoyed talking with him immensely and walked away with an education that will last a lifetime. For those of you that have felt the pressure and frustration of making your way in the music business, you will find this video particularly uplifting. Sean is a drummer who is living the dream and makes no bones about the sacrifices and downsides that come with being successful at what you do.
What do you think of our first effort? Are you liking the vids? Leave your comments below and share this video with fellow drum people.
I read in a bio about you that you were actually gigging and making some serious contacts, but the success you were after was still sort of eluding you. You even took a part time job at a party rental supply company. How difficult was it to stick with your goal?
It was disheartening a lot of times, and it was also frustrating and I did go through battles of depression as well. It was not easy for me, especially because I always felt as a lot of drummers who get told that they’re good. They just automatically think that because they’re told that they’re good all the time that they are entitled to a good gig. I learned that that’s just not true. I’ve seen a lot of people drop out of the race, so to speak, because of that. I went through tons of stuff. I had tons of girlfriends that went bad because I was so bummed out. I had jobs that I was too bummed out to be at, therefore I didn’t perform my best at the job or at my drum set. I was running out of options and I was pretty bummed out through a good amount of my twenties, to be honest. I mean, I did have a couple of breaks every now and then where I’d pick up a salaried gig with some unknown band and that would help for like a year or something. Everybody was rooting for me but it just didn’t seem to happen yet. But it was all in good time and I learned a lot. I think when somebody goes through more adversity than not, I think their character gets developed a lot better.
Is it fair to say a lot of those struggles prepared you for what you are currently doing?
You are exactly where you need to be in life and that goes for everybody. I love that I share these experiences with my students. I’ve somehow become a life coach to a lot of my older students who are trying to get into the industry because it’s only really about twenty percent to thirty percent about your musical and technical abilities. Even if you’re a really intuitive player, you still have to have good character; you’ve got to be a constant professional and you’ve got to have your morals together.
Now that you have achieved a very lofty goal in landing a high profile gig, what do you feel has changed in what you now offer your students?
I think I offer my students a very realistic sense of what I tell them. It has a lot more weight to it, including saying things like, “Just don’t give up.” Saying things like “Dude, just stick it out,” “Wait until you get to the next thing,” “Be patient with yourself,” they mean more and I have a lot more conviction when I say those things to my students because they come from empirical experiences.
Tell me about your days at Berklee. What ws it like being a Berklee student?
I loved what I had to do at Berklee. It was the first time that I ever really wanted to try so hard at something. So day-to-day Berklee would be something like forcing myself to learn piano; forcing myself to learn theory; forcing myself to learn ear training, intervals, jazz chords, this and that and the other thing, then going right into finding the kids who were way better than me and watching them and getting my ass kicked on a daily basis, really. So you got your ego crushed a lot. I’d sit there and just kind of take it and get really frustrated. But I would start to fall in love with that discipline and I’d start to be so happy with getting my butt kicked because I knew the process; I knew that the only thing I could do was get better after that. So it was trying to make the Dean’s list, trying to get good grades for the first couple of semesters, but after that it just became about “Okay, who is cool and who is way better than me, who am I going to click with, and how am I going to get better from learning from them?” basically.
How did you get into drumming, what was the draw for you?
The draw to drumming for me was it seemed natural to love drumming. My dad used to play a lot of great records around the house when I was a kid—from Spyro Gyra to Pat Metheny, Sting and Björk and all kinds of just weird stuff that a lot of kids my age probably just didn’t listen to. Nobody in my family was a musician, but I just gravitated towards the beats, all the time. I really like to dance to music when I was a little kid before I started actually drumming. The first time I was able to have a drum kit was because I was getting in too much trouble as a teenager, and my parents had just kind of had enough of it. They told me I was grounded for the rest of my life, so I got myself a job, bought myself a drum set.
How did you land the Everclear gig?
It was primarily because there was a drummer who was playing with Everclear for a short while. He was an acquaintance of mine. We did auditions together and met each other and kind of hit it off, but we weren`t like the best of friends. But he knew that I could handle taking on a gig at short notice, and he was having a baby with his wife, so I had to learn the whole set and have no rehearsals and then show up and play a gig at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with no rehearsals. It was like an hour and a half set. I did well enough to where they trusted me with my playing abilities, and then I really liked everybody in the band, so I did a few more subbing gigs and it just really worked out. So I was kind of a shoe-in once that other drummer finally left.
Are you playing the Everclear tunes by the book or are you given some freedom to insert your interpretation into the drum parts?
Let me just tell you that Art, the singer, he is basically the sole proprietor of Everclear—he always has been and he always will be. And the way he puts it is that when you`re contributing to his songs that he writes, you are entering his wheelhouse and he has set things that he does and that he`s comfortable with and that works for him. And obviously it does work because he`s sold a lot of records. So you co-operate with that. Luckily being a drummer what I can do is bring my feel to it. No two drummers are alike and so it is Sean Winchester playing Everclear and they seem to like the way it sounds.
Now that you have landed the Everclear gig, do you see the fame game differently at all?
I see the fame game and I see it really only affect the singers more than anybody else, in my opinion. Because obviously they`re the ones who are putting their faces out there; they are the ones who are saying the lyrics that all of the people either connect with or don`t. So they take the brunt of the fame and stuff. I`m so thankful to be on this tour because it allowed me to be with four other drummers from four other different 90s bands, and I get to talk to all of them—and the consensus is I’m just going to continue to do my thing. I don’t see it affecting the players as much as it does the singers. That`s my standpoint on it.
You studied with one of my favorite drummers. How insanely cool was it to study with Zoro?
He does have a lot of great advice for grooves and I liked to watch him play. One of the things that he’s really good at is the half-time shuffle and a lot of that R’nB stuff he does really well, so it was nice to watch him do those things and it gave me a nice solid base to work off of. I think, in large, what I loved about Zorro the most was his spirit and his just wanting to build you up and make you feel good about yourself and that you can do whatever you want to do. Every single time we had a lesson, that was like half of the lesson – your business has to be together, your attitude’s got to be good and you can do whatever you want. I’m like, OK, so I just took that and ran with it, you know, as much as I could.
How does your band Something Bot Metro fit into your Everclear gig and where can someone check you guys out.
Well, we have a mainstay at The Baked Potato right now, and that’s been such a great experience. The owner there, Justin Randy, he absolutely loves us and we pack the place pretty much every time we’ve played there. We’re just so happy for that. I just couldn’t believe it. As a kid I used to travel from Thousand Oaks, California, to The Baked Potato and just like freak out, “How am I ever going to do what these cats do?” And now I’m there drawing a crowd…I just couldn’t believe it. The way I work it in, really, is because me and the bass player from Hoobastank, I mean he and I are both pretty respectively busy, so when we’re not on tour with those guys we just make it work when we’re back home. We get to work pretty hard and we make a lot of stuff happen in a short amount of time.
What advice can you offer aspiring musicians other than the obvious need to practice?
One thing I want to say is, as a peak thing as it is and as much as you need to survive, don’t chase after the money all the time when you’re a musician—try not to as much as possible, try to do what’s in your heart as much as possible. It’s a lot harder to do it that way and it will take a lot longer, but you’re just going to find out so much more about yourself, and you’re going to be so much more pleased with who you are in the end. That’s one thing I want to say.
The other thing is—I guess I kind of want to paraphrase what I read from a Trent Reznor interview when he was talking about Nine Inch Nails—he said that keyboard to him came pretty easily; this and that came pretty easily to him; but Nine Inch Nails was a project in going for something so hard, going for it till failure, almost with the intent to fail, trying so hard that you just kind of are almost hoping to fail. And you’ll find that if you go with it with that attitude that you won’t, cause you’ll always learn something new and get better.
What do you do on your off time when your touring?
Actually I think all the guys from Everclear on their off-time, we seem to all enjoy exercising and working out as much as possible. That helps keep you from being stagnant cause you know you got 23 hours in a day that you’re trying to figure out what to do; you’ve got one hour a day of just playing. I don’t find it too hard to stay inspired. I love what I do so much and I’m just so thankful that playing every day and just listening to the music that you want to listen to, that’s kind of what I do. You got to make sure to eat healthy as much as possible and exercise and I guess that’s about it. Talk to your loved ones and what not.
What do you have coming up?
Let’s see, I don’t have anything personally booked right now as far as clinics because as soon as I get off this tour Everclear already has some one-offs booked really close—as soon as we get home. Then we’re also doing an Australian tour in October. We also have something going on in September. I mean like, literally, we have like a short tour every month, and so I’m just kind of booking everything around that till the end of the year.
Visit Sean and Everclear online at http://www.everclearonline.com/
About the Author
Sean has 15 years experience behind the kit, studying under greats like Mitch Dorge and participating in master classes with Dom Famularo and Zoro. It was these life-changing exchanges that prompted the Canadian-born drummer to create a global drumming community, The Black Page, that was easily accessible to drummers of all backgrounds and levels of expertise. In addition to his work with BP, Sean is one-half of the world soul group The Mitchells.
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