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Jeff Kathan

Interview by Donn Garrett // May 18 2014
Jeff Kathan

The music is the fun part, and the business is the hard part.

Part two of our Drummers of the Pacific Northwest series features Seattle legend Jeff Kathan. Jeff is the powerhouse behind Paul Rodgers and Spike and the Impalers. The Black Page's Donn Garrett chatted with his long time friend and brings us a look at a drummer who never gave up on his dreams.

Jeff, how long have you been playing drums? 

I started playing on a snare drum when I was 8 years old, but I actually started playing in junior high when I was in 8th grade back in 1965. My first actual gig was Chinook Jr. High School in Lacey. 

Are you self-taught?

Actually, yes and no. I am self-taught in a lot of ways, but in a lot of ways I mostly watched other drummers to see how they played. I would watch and listen to music of every drummer I possibly could. I also had several teachers along the way. In 1978, I reached out to Michael Derosier (Heart) and took lessons from him for about three years. In fact, Michael Derosier was the one who helped open up a lot of doors for me. Before taking lessons from Michael, I was really trying really hard to find a good teacher in the Seattle area who could help me, and now that’s the reason why I try to teach my students the way the wished I could have been taught all those years ago. 

How do you strike a balance between business and music? 

The music is the fun part, and the business is the hard part. Years ago, because I had a family, I had to decide to work a business outside of my music business so that I could actually afford to have fun playing music while going out on tour and playing on the weekends. That way I didn’t have to rely solely on making money from just playing music. The business of music is so ruthless; if I really cared about that side of it, I would have quit it years ago. 

What made you decide to play drums (if a particular artist, which one)? 

When I was eight years old I was invited to go to my grandparents' house, and my grand father asked me, “Do you want to know what I think is really special?“ Being a little kid that looked up to my grandfather, I definitely wanted to know what that was. So my grandfather took me down into the basement, he put a Gene Krupa record onto the record player and told me to listen to the drum solo. It was at that point when I knew I wanted to play drums. If my grandfather said that playing drums was special, I knew that's what I wanted to do. 

What was your first kit? 

My first kit was a Ludwig silver sparkle three-piece drum kit set like the one that Ringo played. My dad took me to Sherman Clay Music Store in Seattle, we saw the drum kit on display, and I told him that was the drum kit that I wanted. At that time it cost $800, which back then was a lot of money, but he told me that if I could come up with half of the money, then he would pay for the other half. Once he told me that, I worked that entire summer mowing lawns and I did other odd jobs in order to come up with my half of the money, and then my dad paid for the other half. And, within two years of getting my first drum kit I was in the Musicians' Union. 

Who did you most want to be like as an aspiring drummer?

When I really started to get a grasp on drumming I really wanted to be like Don Brewer from Grand Funk Railroad, and of course I also wanted to play like John Bonham. But if I go way back, then it was Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa who had the greatest influence on me.

Name the venue that you dream of playing at-- or have you already played there?

I have been fortunate to play in places all over the world, but I still dream of playing in a lot of other places. One in particular I would love to play is the Royal Albert Hall. That being said, I really enjoyed playing at Hammersmith in London, plus I've had a chance to play at The Ryman Auditorium where they used to hold the Grand Ole Opry, and I’ve also played at Grant Park in Chicago in front 350,000.

Who would you most love to jam with?

Sammy Haggar.

What is your current setup?

My endorsements are DW Drums, Sabian Cymbals, Remo Heads, Vater Drumsticks, Buttkicker, CAD Microphones, Rhythm Tech, Puresound, Randall May, Levy's Cases, Westone, Red Bear Cleaner, Holz, and Starflight cases. I currently have a custom built Cheetah Print drum kit with brass hardware. 



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About the Author
Donn  Garrett

Donn Garrett is an accomplished drummer, songwriter and producer. He has performed with Alan White, Liberty DeVitto, Reek Havok, Shelley Tomberg, Steve Fossen, Chris Slade and many other talents. Visit Donn online at http://www.donngarrett.net/

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