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Ricardo Melendez

Interview by Sean Mitchell // December 02 2008
Ricardo Melendez

It’s really hard for any aspiring band. It takes a lot out of you. You sacrifice all; you lose all for the one dream. Whether you make it or not shouldn’t matter. The fact that you gave it all and then some should be enough for you to feel like you actually made it. 

Ricardo Melendez is the intense passion behind the groove of Dearestazazel. Currently in the midst of an American tour, Ricardo took time to talk with us about his journey from Puerto Rico many years ago, to the realities of life on the road with an independent rock act.

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Ricardo, tell me about Dearestazazel. How did you end up with the throne?

D.A. is progressive pop band. We are the bastard child of The Cure, Queen, Judas Priest, and 80’s Nintendo music. It all started three years ago in Atlanta, Georgia. Peter (vocalist/keyboard) knew Jesse, and I was drummer #50. The combination was perfect, I got the spot right at my audition. Talk to me about your latest CD Be Mine. Have you guys evolved since your first effort Come Closer? Yes, I would say we have evolved. Be Mine is like our ultimate idea as to how we wanted to sound. Our first CD Come Closer was a cluster fwwk. We had so much going on at once that you really couldn’t tell what we were about. There was no direction. Our second effort, our EP Touch Me, was a lot cleaner and you could hear what we were trying to do, what we were about. We had direction. Be Mine is the epitome of all we are.

What was it like as a young drummer growing up in Puerto Rico? Is there a music scene there? How did you get started?

Growing up being—and wanting to be—a drummer in Puerto Rico was hard. Religion commanded my surroundings and tried to manipulate my fate. I started playing drums thanks to my incorrigible bad behavior. My father (RIP) got me my first drum kit when I was 8. I played every single day. I overcame the challenges and 20 years later I am still playing my drums. There is a music scene in Puerto Rico, geat bands like Sol d’ Menta, La Mosca, La Secta Allstar and Puya among others. The long lasting scene is the Latin Jazz scene. I was part of both. Caribbean music is amazing and the majority of the artists that make the Caribbean’s music scene are of the most talented and humble artists known.

You credit your father as a very important influence in your life. How did he impact your music career?

I have many heroes and idols, but all them make up a third of what my father was in my eyes. He is my ultimate hero and idol. He bought me my first drum kit, got me my first gig, went to every show and then got me my first professional drum kit. This drum kit is the one I have used on all of DA’s CD recordings and tours. My father taught me many things. The one I live off is “chasing my dreams until I can dream no longer.” The sky’s the limit. He always wanted to be remembered young, so I tattooed a portrait of him when he was 28, my same age.

You guys are out there touring and making it happen. What is life like for an aspiring band these days? How’s road life treating you?

It’s really hard for any aspiring band. It takes a lot out of you. You sacrifice all; you lose all for the one dream. Whether you make it or not shouldn’t matter. The fact that you gave it all and then some should be enough for you to feel like you actually made it. Life on the road is great. The driving is horrendous. I mean the first 100 miles is great because of the scenery around you, but then you feel trapped in a van. I hate the driving, I’d rather fly. Playing a show and meeting and greeting the fans is the best part of touring. The stories, the gifts, they make me forget of how overrated it is to be in a van.

If you could, pass on your words of wisdom and share with our readers some of the Latin influences they may not have heard of. Who are the drummers that best define the music of Puerto Rico?

There are so many of them. Listen to any old school salsa artists like Hector Lavoe, Ruben Blades, La Lupe, Tito Puente, Willie Colon, Ruben Blades, El Gran Combo, etc. There is also great Latin pop artists like Robi Draco Rosa, old school Ricky Martin, old school Shakira, Mana, Molotov, Ricardo Arjona, Glenn Monroig, etc. All of their drummers are amazing Latin drummers!

Reflecting on leaving Puerto Rico, it must have been very hard to come to the USA and start getting gigs. What were your challenges?

Everything was a challenge! I cheated though; my best friend’s parents lived in Georgia and they were cool on lodging us for free for a couple of months. We made a band called Fallein Wisdom (Century Media). One day we were hanging out at a local comic book shop when I saw a book called Musician’s Atlas, I bought it immediately. I contacted all the local bars/pubs/clubs, started playing and have not stopped since. That was back in 2002.

What would you say have been your biggest lessons in music since becoming a working drummer?

Being on the road changes you. This is where you separate the amateurs from the professionals, as well as your enemies and allies. The music business is all about money, so there are tons of politics involved. That’s when it becomes a job for me.

What do you guys have coming up in 2009, and where can readers buy a copy of Be Mine?

We just finished a one-month tour supporting Mindless Self Indulgence (MSI). We also toured with Inner Party System and UK’s Die So Fluid. It was a full U.S. Tour. We will be out again in January 2009, covering the same states, plus some extra ones. We keep our Myspace page up to date, so please make sure you visit.

 

Visit Ricardo online: http://www.myspace.com/ricardojcmelendez




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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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