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Camille Gainer

Interview by Sean Mitchell // August 02 2008
Camille Gainer

I love my parents dearly because I would practice six to eight hours a day, and then the band or other drummers would come over and we would be shedding in the basement. That’s love!

She gives new meaning to the phrase New York’s finest. In a town full of seriously talented players, you would be hard-pressed to find a drummer more dedicated to the art of groove and musicality than the girl who was raised in Jamaica Queens. Camille Gainer offers the drumming industry fresh new insight into an instrument that has been undergoing constant change since Buddy Rich picked up a pair of sticks. Camille has the full attention of some of the biggest names in the music industry, not only as a drummer, but as a producer as well. Her time behind the glass has put her in the path of heavy hitters like Dr. Dre and Run DMC. She brings to the game a dangerously massive groove, a set of chops that would make even Dennis Chambers blush, and a foundation of integrity and intelligence.

Suffice to say that Camille may be the closest thing to a superhero that the drumming community will ever see. Her dedication to the art of drumming bodes well for future generations. I feel this is an incredibly important interview for our industry. Camille’s leadership skills will no doubt forever transform the drumming world. She refuses to accept traditional roles and is paving a way toward accountability, self respect, humility, versatility and substance. Camille Gainer is a fitting interview for this, our second-year anniversary issue. She encompasses everything this magazine was built on and stands for.



Camille tell me about The Adventures of Drummette and what you hope a player will take away from your DVD.

First, I’d like to thank The Black Page for including me in this incredible magazine. My DVD The Adventures of Drummette is exactly that: an adventure for the viewer and myself. I’m basically demonstrating the many aspects of musicianship that is required to be a professional, working drummer. There’s some odd-meter fusion stuff, some straight grooves (no fills), an open solo, a few gospel tracks, and some hiphop; and, there are also hand exercises included that I use almost everyday in my practice regiment. I also give some advice on the music business itself. I hope that anyone viewing the DVD will get a firm grasp on the basics as well as an understanding of the complex and the not-so-complex things involved in playing a lot of different styles. My goal is that my DVD will spark a love for all types of music and playing styles, and hopefully encourage you to check out some private instruction to get your reading skills together. I feel that private study can only enhance what’s already inside of you.

What made you decide to release a DVD?

Well, I view myself as an entrepreneur. I believe in this current music business atmosphere that you have to make things happen for yourself. No one is responsible for your career, it’s up to you to promote and network to create income streams for yourself. I learned this from being a producer. We would always deliver a finished product to the labels, and all they had to do was buy it from us. It was already a mixed and mastered product. This compels companies to invest in you while maintaining ownership of your work. I also believe that sharing your gifts with people is the main reason you’ve been given a particular skill set. Allow people to see the brilliance that they possess through you.

I read that you studied with Gary Chester. How has Gary influenced your playing?

Wow! Gary Chester, may he rest in peace. Gary was a great instructor. He was no joke. He made you a solid player because he taught you how to internalize the click—by playing all of these Ostinatos with a click, and having you count out loud no matter how difficult the passage. Counting out loud helps with your musical form whereas you’ll be able to feel where the “one” is at all times. I also studied with Michael Carvin. He was a great mentor in my life, and still is. He calls me for recordings when he’s the producer on the date. I learned a lot of music and life lessons from Michael. I also had the privilege of studying with Keith Copeland, another great player and instructor, while attending Long Island University on a full scholarship.

The track T.R.2 on your Myspace has a really unique groove. How did you develope it?

Thank you, thank you. The beat evolved from the way the track was moving. It’s kind of Hip-hop Boogaloo beat with a Reggae-type hi-hat pattern played on the ride. “T.R.2” is named after my good friend and great musician/producer Teddie Rollins who lent his keyboards skills to the track.

How did you hook up with JT Taylor and what are you currently doing with him? 

It’s funny, I actually was contacted by J.T. years before I started working in his band. I was signed to Universal as a producer, and he heard a track that I produced and wanted to use it on his upcoming CD. Long story short, that aspect of the business never happened, but a friend of mine that was the MD for his band called me to come and audition for the drum chair. There were about ten other great players from the New York area there, and he picked me. I’ve been working with him for eight years now. He’s working on a new record for the summer, and I’ll be going out with him the end of this month. He’s always working, so it doesn’t depend on him having a record out. You can always tour when you’ve got a show of hits, so the summer should be a good one.

Tell me about The Immortals.

The Immortals, that’s my band, my vehicle to explore and play outside the box. I plan on recording the group sometime in the fall. For now, we are doing shows in the NY area. The band consists of my husband and great bass player, Dave Jones. We also have Jazzy Jay, the legendary DJ on the wheels of steel. On keys we have Marc Cary and Teddie Rollins. Casey Benjamin is on sax, as well as keys. In this band we play everything from gospel to be-bop. 

What acomplishments in music are you most proud of so far?

I am proud and grateful for everything that I have accomplished thus far in my career. The main accomplishment for me is being able to do what I love for a living. I thank God for that blessing every day.

How would you characterize yourself in a studio setting? Are you a one take wonder or do you take your time and analyze?

It depends on the situation. I’ve done sessions where they just hand you the charts, and you hit the tunes on the spot. I’ve also done sessions where you rehearse for a month. That’s mostly in the gospel world. Most times the artist will rent a GMS kit for me or give me the cart money to bring my own. Some sessions they allow me to be who I am as a player, and other times I give the artist or producer exactly what they want. I will bring a couple of different sized snare drums and a variety of rides and crashes and toys. I am basically about the business of making the track sound good. I have done a couple of one-takes, but it wasn’t my choice that it should be a one-take. Sometimes once the producer gets a solid drum track, and it just happens to be the first take, they’re like, “That’s it.” For instance I just did a recent recording for Michael Carvin with an artist named Jaine Rodgers, and everything was one or two takes, for me, that is. I can analyze my playing sometimes, as far as using the recording as a vehicle for growth at that moment, but I usually don’t obsess about it. Once the drum track is good, that’s that, and the producer keeps it moving. 

What attracted you to life behind the glass as a producer? How did you get started?

I played in a lot of R&B bands growing up in Queens, the home of the basement bands. We also had our originals as well, which we would record and use to shop for record deals. I, as well as other members of the band, would come up with the lyrics and musical arrangements for the songs. Those early experiences kind of got the ball rolling. One of my cousins, Darryl Gibbs, was a producer, and he took us hardheaded kids into the studio and got us a record deal with Are & Be Records out of Philly. The name of the song was “Come Back Lover.” From there it progressed to the Atari computer, SP1200, Ensoniq ASR10, and finally, after one of our all night sessions, DMC took me to a Long Island studio called Ian London where we worked all of our projects. The engineer Ken Wallace was an artist rep for Akai, and that is how I got my first MPC 60. 

How did you end up getting signed to Run DMC's label as a producer?

Me and my partner Davey DMX had a couple of groups we were shopping through our production company. We were working with Doctor Dre and TMoney from Long Island, Davey D was already working with Run DMC, and I was working with DMC and submitting tracks to Jam Master Jay. That is where our initial relationship comes from. They heard the artists, and they just signed their label deal with Universal and were looking for producers. 

Which tracks on your list of production credits best reresents your artistic integrity?

A lot of times the music that you come up with is one thing, but, after you sell the track, the lyrics that some of the artists put on the track changes the integrity of everything. A lot of tracks lyrically, that I have produced, are way over the top. For instance, when I produced the Nikki D record, an artist signed to Def Jam, one of the tracks that I produced was titled “Up the Ante for the Pante.” I loved the track. Another example is a group that we signed to Universal called FU2. The track was incredible, but the title of the tune was “No Head, No Backstage Pass.” This was the B-side to the single “Boomin’ in ya Jeep,” which integrity-wise I loved. Idris Muhammad was the drummer I sampled for the beat. I was really proud of “Boomin’ in ya Jeep.” It had a bangin’ beat, and the song was about cats riding in their jeeps, bangin’ their system. I’ve also done some break-beat CD’s on my own label, Stackin’ Beatz, called Attic Beats Vol. 1 & 2. Dr. Dre sampled some my beats off of those for a Snoop Dogg CD. I’m hoping that we’ll come to a place as a culture that controversy won’t be the ticket to selling music and other goods, because the music only reflects the culture we’re in as a people.

As a young girl growing up in Jamacia Queens how did your family influence your musical aspirations?

My family was very much into culture: music, art, reading, politics, analytical thinking and being your own person. My mother and father took us to all kinds of concerts, plays, museums, and to the library. I took piano, guitar, and violin lessons at an early age. I always wanted drums, but they would say, “Girls don’t play drums.” Yet, I persisted. I would leave drum company brochures on my father’s night stand circling the drum set that I wanted. Eventually my persistence paid off. My father was a NYC police officer and used to play the sax, but claims he gave it up when I was born. I got my fist drum set on my eighth birthday. My family also had a lot of records from all eras. From swing to Trane, to Motown, to whatever was current on the radio. As long as I was doing good in school, I got to play my drums. As kids, our band would rehearse in my basement, playing all the latest songs on the radio. We would play gigs Thursday through Sunday using my father’s van to transport ourselves back and forth. I love my parents dearly, because I would practice six to eight hours a day, and then the band or other drummers would come over, and we would be shedding in the basement. That’s love!

Where do you feel the abilty to groove comes from. Is it instinctive or can it be taught?

I think a lot of it is instinctive. Music is about feeling. I do think that if one does a lot of listening, and truly listens to the vocabulary, that it can be captured, but you have to truly be open to humbling yourself and being a servant of the music. That’s just my opinion, but that’s also why my motto is “Reinvent Yourself.” That applies to myself, as I’m always trying to stay open to new ideas and ways of playing. I would suggest playing to recordings or CD’s. To me, that is paramount in capturing conceptually what is going on in a particular genre. Its vocabulary is the DNA to the style. When you are playing to recordings, learn the beat and the phrasing. Don’t just play whatever you want to play. This applies at first when you are learning a style, because eventually you want to take everything you’ve learned and come up with your own voice. 

What steps do you take to ensure that your students are developing a solid foundation for thier drumming journey?

It all depends on the level of the student as far as what approach I take. First different people need different things. Some students that I’ve taught are complete beginners, and others are out playing but may not be able to sight read and want to take their playing technique to another level. I basically ensure that they have a firm foundation on the basics, such as grip, rudiments, theory, and song form. I also teach the basic rhythms that can get you working, such as bossa nova, samba, basic swing rhythms, R&B patterns, rhumbas, and rock. These are things that you would need to play a gig. Once you start gigging, then that is where the real schooling starts. I definitely try to get the student to play in public, because what happens on the bandstand doesn’t happen at all in the practice room. Things like controlling the band, that’s the drummer’s job. Whether it’s stated or not, the drummer is the band leader. You can only learn that from playing, such as setting up the bridges, hits, and verses. Those are things I see some drummers not aware of because they lack repertoire and experience. Another trend I see is people wanting to learn licks from you instead of getting together the basics that are necessary to create their own style. I definitely try to get them beyond that way of thinking. 

We are seeing more female drummers being brought into the limelight. Do you see a change in how they are being percieved?

First of all, I would like to thank all the men who have hired me throughout my career. Also it’s about how one carries one’s self. If you want to be treated in a particular fashion, make sure you’re carrying yourself in a way that will radiate respect. In my opinion, the music business is a male dominated industry. Change had to take place for myself and others to play the instrument on a professional level. I remember asking a well known alto saxophone player (who was definitely in his seventies when I asked) if I could sit in, and he told me women should be “home cooking, making babies.” That attitude still does exist, but I think by just persevering, you can achieve your goals. Again, whether a person sees a skilled musician or a model with an instrument is purely their perception. All you can do is play your instrument at your highest possible level, and I’m a firm believer in what’s yours is yours. No one can take that from you. 

What do you have coming up?

I will be touring with the various artists that I work with from Marc Cary to J.T. Taylor. I’m also open to working with anyone who’s about business. I have a clinic tour lined up for the summer, as well as some recordings with various artists. I will also be shooting a new DVD in September 2008 and “Reinventing Myself,” of course. 

Give me Camille Gainer's words of wisdom for those entering the music industry.

  • Develop the right mental attitude.
  • Aspire to something greater than yourself.
  • Possess a futuristic attitude. Take the long range view, release the past.
  • Develop deep personal integrity. Be some one you can admire.
  • Accept total personal responsibility; remain in complete control at all times. Do not be manipulated by people or events. Operate on a personal timetable.
  • Edify and affirm others. Remember, nothing is greater than love.
  • Be grateful, not critical. Develop a gratitude attitude.
  • Select your friends with care. Minimize people’s dependency. If you dominate your associates, there is no way for you to expand or grow.
  • Decide what habits or changes you wish to alter in your life. Make those changes and never let an exception occur.
  • Look for mentors. Mentors who are “larger than life” expand us, mentors in different fields broaden us, and deceased mentors inspire us.

I would also like to say that I’ve been given a gift to play and admire all styles of music. You may see me on a straight-ahead jazz gig or a jazz fusion gig, reggae or dance-hall gig, but, nope, that’s not all I do. You may see me on a hip-hop, gospel, or R&B gig, and, yes, those styles all encompass what I do, but I’m not a one-styledrummer, I’m a musician, and my goal has always been to play the integrity that the style requires. I feel I’ve definitely accomplished that by the diversity of artists I’ve worked with and continue to work with. And you too can accomplish this; let this be your goal. POOF!

To hear more Camille visit her online:




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About the Author
Sean Mitchell

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.

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