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Yael

Interview by Sean Mitchell // November 02 2009
Yael

The indie road is where the hungrier artists get to showcase their work. It's just more raw, and nobody is telling you how to sound, what to wear, and what you need to do in order to be cool, or what they believe to be cool.

A wise man once said, “Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in time; it’s easy.” Enter a free-spirited drummer with a million ideas and only a humble set of hands and feet with which to express herself. Often the very best performers don’t really have to say anything at all. It’s not so much about how or what they say but rather how they make you feel. As we enter a new millennium and the dawn of a new age of thought, you can thank the deity that holds your faith (and the name you choose to give it) that Yael’s DrumAddict: The Love Project Journey has come to fruition. The Love Project Journey is, what I have come to believe to be, a true masterpiece. One that marries music, video, audio, graphic design and photography. An artistic statement made from kindred spirits wanting only to forge something truly demiurgic on the canvas of silence. A project so unique that future generations will be able to listen to a piece of art that dared to stand on its own and be the anthem our kind could never categorize. If we absolutely had to bestow a label on DrumAddict: The Love Project Journey, it could be said in two words, truly original.

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As a child growing up, how did the love of drumming develop for you? What were the musical influences in your life when drumming first entered the picture?

I was always intrigued by rhythm and had one beat or another going on in my head.  My parents had an 8-track player in the car. I’d say Motown, Stevie Wonder, Jackson 5, The Supremes, Ray Charles, James Brown, and Janis Joplin were the popular ones in their collection—American music and funky drummers. Only in my introduction to Led Zeppelin I heard the drum resonate through me simply because of the mix and the magic of how John Henry Bonham lays down a groove. To this day, it’s like the first time I ever heard it. Everytime. It inspired me to get a Ludwig kit immediately and play to the records repeatedly over and over again. I had one cymbal and eventually a set of hats for a couple solid years.

Your newest project is a very eclectic one in that you utilize some culturally specific sounds/instruments with some very heavy, modern, and classical soundscapes. How has the music of these cultures and genres influenced you?

I’ve been working with the guys in my newest project for quite a while now. Though the level it’s at now is definitely new to all of us. It’s quite surreal. Nik (Chinboukas) and I collaborated in the Jamaica Music Building in Queens for years and have been messing with recording equipment, unusual setups, and our own and other multicultural instrumentation—bazookis, dharboukas, zorna horns, dulcimers, electric sitars, onto guitar effects on drums and recording live drums on the beach or in elevators. He’s my guru producer of experimentation and brings the best out of every musician I’ve ever seen him work with. Same goes for Yury (Anisonyan). Nik has produced and engineered recordings and involved me personally with many a Love Project collaborators, only I was just meeting them in those years: Lucia Micarelli (violinist), Dave Eggar (Dual Mastery of Cello and Piano), Jay Sustain (DJ,Remixer), Max ZT (Hammered Dulcimer), Jake from Crete, (Lyra), to name a few.

I’ve been tight with Nik since the early 90s and Yury since moving to Los Angeles in 2000. The three of us have been in/out of many projects together and collaborated over the years on multiple records, soundtracks and live shows. During the making of this project, for example, I recorded drums for Nik in NY when he produced Chris Caffery’s Pins and Needles. Same for Yury when I recorded some tracks on George Lynch’s latest release but that was again back in LA. My music-life with these boys has been nutty. Nik and Yury are my east and west Coast co-producers and co-engineers on The Love Project. Yury started out on violin (Armenian/Russian influences), Nik with Greek music all around, and me, I was born in Tel-Aviv. My dad born in Cairo, and my mom in Casablanca. All different countries, but the actual sound of the music resonated the same vibe in all of us. It made me hungry. Basically the way I see it we are comparative to one big mutt full of a love of music that needed a home. We are united outside the box of one musical direction or a single style of expression. There is a whole world full of sound and color and I found the guys to bring it forward, who help me see it more clearly each time. I co-produced and arranged all the music with Nik and Yury along with a couple other amazingly talented musicians: Lucia, Dave, and Yariv on a couple tracks. We’ve all worked with each other for many years, so the comfort is there, and we will definitely continue to work together given the opportunity. We use anything and anyone we dig and that can play. If it sounds good, chances are we want to record it.

The whole Love Project DVD thing came about kind of organically. While we were making the Love Project CD, we filmed all the sessions from east to west. Again using any tools I can get my hands on, from the camera on my MacBook to my little HDV to having my friends in film bring their monster equipment (RED, Sony Z1s, etc.) down for some sessions; the sweeter the idea, the more people that were interested in hopping on board. We were able to be selective. And I was lucky enough to play with one of the most talented musicians ever, best friend Roy Mayorga (StoneSour, Amebix) on a track we call “YaelaYorga” It exposes us on a whole other level. This has lead to a unique drummers’ perspective DVD documentary film entitled The Love Project Journey and has been submitted and advanced in some instances for the 2010 Sundance, Slamdance, Cannes, and Zero Film Festivals. 

Would you categorize yourself as a metal drummer? 

I wouldn’t personally categorize myself as a metal drummer, but if that’s what the gig calls for, I got the hat. I’ve worn it many times as I’ve played my share of “metal drummer” gigs. I’ve recorded quite a few metal-esque tracks in my day. I don’t do it on a daily basis anymore, so I try keep those metal chops in check for when I need them. It’s like snowboarding or riding a bike; I need a minute but then I get the bug again and it’s on! You need to be in shape to play metal 24/7, and blast beats from hell aren’t always my favorite item on the menu these days, I prefer the play-what-feels-good category. If it’s metal that day, that’s cool but I like to have options.

What was it about metal that drew you to that genre?

Bottom Line... what drew me to metal music is the release; the energy that goes back and forth from player to audience is quite intense. By far the most enjoyable instrument in the metal band scene is drums. As for who turned me on to metal drumming, it's endless: Sabbath, Ozzy, Dio, Motorhead, Metallica, Venom, Testament, Maiden, Judas Priest, Anthrax, King Diamond, etc.Randy Rhoads’ guitar playing drew me to triplets and odd time grooves that had a ton of melody and dynamics. Aldridge, Appice (Vinny), Benante, Tempesta, Bostaph, Clive Burr, Lombardo, McBrain, Mikkey Dee and the list goes on...all monarchs of the metal drumming to me. The guys that kill and are underrated beyond words are Kings X drummer Jerry Gaskill and Clutch drummer Jean-Paul Gaster…if you want to hear groove and odd time signatures played so tasty you won’t need breakfast! I got into most of the Seattle bands and a dirtier grungier sound as it’s corporately described: Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam (this is also where I fell in love with DW drums) and of course Nirvana.

Your set up is very creative. Talk to me about your current setup and what sorts of sizes and types of drums you utilize to get the sounds you're after.

I’ve been using my Spider Pine, DW Exotics VLT’s (vertical shells) “drum addicted low rider” on Drum Channel with Ray Luzier and Terry Bozo this past month or so, messing around with smaller toms in front. I also have the Senza Peso Cave kit for the track Senza Peso that I used and borrowed parts for the video shoot. Thanks again T-Boz, DW and Sabian. I go for dynamics all around the kit—grooves that use hi to low range without full on intention. I know they are there, and when I feel like the moment calls for low end I veer away from the hi-hat maxed out section. Otherwise I spend most of my time there to groove. You can do a million things with simple kick, snare, hat. It's all you really need. The rest is color. I also have the new RATROD snare drum on there by PDP that I love. And last but not least, a very special snare drum built “In Loving Memory” hand painted by Louie Garcia at DW. I used it live once on DrumChannel (DC Live w/ Luzier n’ Kirkee B Sept22-09). It is my Love Project snare drum hands down. (The story is on the DVD.) The rebroadcast is linked from Drumchannel on my website.

22” kicks, a 12” rack smack in between those 2 kick drums, 10” rack left and sometimes a 6” rataban by the ride. 14 floors to the far left of my main hi-hats. A 6 short stack rataban and 10 popcorn (snares off) snare directly under the hats 8” chrome mini timbale if no rataban available, then we have the 14 floor next to the 18 floor tom on the right. I’m using Sabian Cymbals  21” AAX Ride, F/X cymbals as much as I can get my hands on Max Stax, 10”+12” Choppers, 18”+ 19” Ozone Crashes, JoJo 13” Hats, Alu-Bell, Bozzio’s Radia Chinas, Radia micro hats, Calhouns Chinese, and some Factory Metal Copter tops and crashes (I’ll have to look up the name but they sound and look killer as well) love the stackers and new “blingnuts” experimental all the way. They make a fire bell. I want to use it, see how that happens.

Being that I am a shameless Bonham-aholic, I was very intrigued by the very Bonzoesque groove you have on your track “Close your Eyes.” I am curious to know how much your influences enter into your playing and do you find yourself doing that stuff consciously or unconsciously?

“Close your Eyes” is a SwoCo (side project NYC) track from the daze in the Jamaica Music Building with Nik. To be perfectly honest with you the sound was captured in a very “Bonhamaholica” essence—two mics in a room (one overhead and one about 4 feet off center in front of the kick drum). It was collisions rehearsal/demo room and it had a rock ‘n’ roll magic to it. For the drumming on “Close your Eyes,” Nik literally danced in the room stomped his foot and sang the groove standing there smack in front of me while we tracked the drums live to tape just like that. It was subconscious, but at all times we are shameless about our love for Bonham and that sound only he has. I think the ghost of Bonham appears when you are in the zone. The purest place of just you n’ your genuine love for drums and music. His energy is just everywhere. I wish I could channel it always.

Can you give the uninitiated a run down on the projects that you feel have best represented you along your drumming path?

Meanstreak was my first step into the public eye straight outta high school. First time in those Van Halen magazines, cable TV shows, and my first real touring-the-van experience, opening and sharing the bill with some big rock/metal bands at the time, from Flotsam and Jetsam and King Diamond to Iron Maiden, Overkill and Anthrax. I am still very close to the girls and think the band was truly ahead of its time in some ways and had some very good years and songs under its belt. They are passionate about music to this day so that says a lot to me. Great memories there.

Next was probably 1st Born 7. This happened one night sitting in with Layne Stayley, Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains, Arrested Development vocalist Dionne Farris and Fishbone on a late night post Lollapalooza jam at the limelight in NYC playing to an overpacked house. This experience was my first step away from the all-girl-metal-band label which I really started to dislike. I found it boring that nobody can ask about anything else but what it’s like to be a girl playing with the big boys? The sound of 1st Born 7 was unique. It had Boots on guitar, Toni Ridley on vox with Eric (the 1st) in the forefront, Cedel Johnson on piano, James on bass. We got a ton of press. We played Nells on a regular basis, as well as the NYC Buddha bar clubs. We got to play in Morocco and Abiza after performing at Central Parks Tavern on the Green and being seen by the Crown Prince of Morocco.

Recording a soundtrack paved the way to a full album at one of the top studios in the world. It was my first time playing with session cats that played with Peter Gabriel, Tom Petty and Aretha Franklin at Powerstation in NYC (now known as Avatar). These years developed my ear for funk and hip hop and where the one is on drums. Dynamically there was a lot to learn. I was very used to playing hard and fast the whole time. This was relentless in a whole different light. But I loved it. It lead me back to opportunities to play with one of my favorite all time bands, Fishbone on tour with Snot and Dubwar. This was great to see because it combined so many styles and the audience loved it. Music doesn’t discriminate. Nobody cared if I was a girl in that world. They cared about the pocket. Fish is a master, just like Bozzio, and you know when you’re in the presence of a master. You learn the most on tour watching those guys when you’re coming up or trying to make a name for yourself. You observe and you take as much in as you can. I played with my friends Tom, Chris and Philippe in New York with a band called Drain NYC, which later became Tung and signed to George Karras’s label Rock Records. Every band had its new thing that I can experience. You just have to lay the pocket down—be cool and get the gig.

Before the Miller tour, when I first moved to LA, Roy (Mayorga) told me about an audition to check out. I auditioned, toured US, UK, Scotland, signed a record deal with Centrury Media, recorded a couple CDs, with the band My Ruin. I recorded a live record in the UK off the cuff, and it was back to the grind with the metal again. We had a good run for a while but went separate ways in Jan ‘05.

After having a blast on the Miller tour with Res, Kweli n’ crew I continued to work with multiple Grammy award winner, sushi connoisseur, songwriter and phenomenal bassist Colin Wolfe along with Yury, and we tracked about 10 songs with his project The Creins. I went on to record Chris Caffery’s (Transiberian Orchestra) solo debut, Pins and Needles. During this time I’ve recorded sessions on/off with Nik in NY and other spots in LA. I went back to the studio to record on George Lynch’s post Lynch mob solo debut with “souls.” Caffery and Lynch are metal guitar heroes, so to speak, and have made their mark. I didn’t tour with either guitarist. (just the recordings). I did an acoustic one off with Lynch when he came down to a Love Project session with his sitar. So everything just keeps spinning, and each session I did brought the people around us into our little Love Project.

Since you began DrumAddict: The Love Project, you have no doubt faced some challenges and growth. Talk to me about the personal growth you have experienced at this level, and what the term self sacrifice now means to you after a huge project like this.

I possibly sacrificed my sanity in this process. And my savings! I am learning that it is practically never done-done even when you think you’re finished, so it’s difficult to maintain sanity when there’s constantly another “last step” or more to do on an independent project. It tests your patience. You challenge yourself daily when you wear many hats. You have to learn to be very flexible with people, time and work. Your hours are grueling and you know you love it—or you are completely crazy.

Myself having been in the television media field at one point, I always found that in any editing situation (musical or otherwise) I really gained some insight into the small things I missed or could work on as a performer. How did the time in the editing suite (and the constant playback of your footage) change the way you look at yourself as a player?

Editing is a whole other animal. And doing such a huge project like this entails a mountain of patience and integrity. To see your vision through, and enhancing it in the editing bay, finding ways that show how the whole experience felt is a great thing to know. The pilot flies the plane best and Alain Vasquez (director-editor) and Cory Strassburger (special F/X - animation) were the best people. I was blessed enough to learn what I know now from them.  I am blessed to know them.  It’s sweet to be a fly on the wall when you’re into doing something or seeing how others do it... or make it happen. A good editor hardly ever sleeps and I went through some of my most intense personal life changes in the middle of the making of my Love Project journey—some of the biggest highs of my life, some of my very lowest points as well. Everything we do and go through makes us who we are. If I can change one thing I’d bring “her” back. Otherwise I’m right where I need to be right now. And feel like I learned more in four years than I ever thought possible. Especially the ‘08 and the ‘09! (ooof!)

Now that the project will soon be hitting the road, how do you plan to take the vibe you have created in the studio and translate it to the stage?

The vibe comes to life through the people that see what we’re doing more than just those hearing about it. Hence the DVD is the way to go, plus we threw in a bonus EP with a hidden track to boot. You definitely got alto for your buck and it’s important to feel good about what you do in life, no matter what it is. It’s wonderful to finally (thanks to Scott at DW for believing in The Love Project) have the ability to bring it forward on this level and I think the time has come to blow some minds at the drum festivals, film festivals and broadcasting the documentary wherever possible throughout the world on a bigger scale. It is my goal and not anything I would normally ever say about myself ‘cause it sounds a bit much but I’ve seen many musicians doing their thing and this time I really got some of the best talent out there. I am undeniably proud to mention and show them off. It is to be hoped that through all the channels I’ve signed up for now or featured this project with such as IMDB, without a box, VH1 and PBS along with some major film festivals in 2010 (Sundance, Slamdance, Cannes, Zero, Berlin, Sacramento etc.) Bigger things will keep happening and it will continue to grow. I’m just at the helmet getting the team together as much as possible.

How did DrumAddict: The Love Project come about?

It’s always been connected, constantly, consciously, subconsciously…perhaps even less than six degrees of separation, I think. At this point, everyone you dig or know happens to know or like someone else that likes you or someone you have worked with. For the name DrumAddict, Yarivs chill cousin and her man (Ran and Meirav) were sitting around at my place. He is a film guy, cinematographer, photographer, and I needed a name for the DVD so we were brainstorming and at one point I said, “It’s like an addiction,” and he said, “Yeah but addiction to drums,” and then I said, “Yeah, like a drum addict instead of a drug addict.” The three of us stared at each other for a moment and it got real quiet. I knew that was it. It was an “Aha” moment (is that what those are called)? DrumAddict isn’t the title of the DVD. The years went by and the project got bigger and the story was not just drum based—though I am sorta the nucleus of it all. I play on everything with everyone else, hence I grew increasingly into the title on a personal level. The DrumAddict it is, The DrumAddict I am, officially even. I started a company called DrumAddict and everything.

The music we were doing and all the sweet people putting in their time and talent proved it to be a true labor of love. If we had to pay for all this work and time and space in dollars and cents we wouldn’t be here right now feeling this way about it all. There’s a good reason we are called the “starving artists”... we are broke! Ha! So anyway, the words “Yael’s project” and “love” were floating around at each session. Dave said, “It’s like Yael’s little love project.” So another “Aha” happened. DrumAddict Presents: The Love Project and the journey is the whole trip to get to this point.

Now that you are on the other end of this project, what has transpired like you thought it would? What surprised you in the outcome?

I am surprised I learned how to use Final Cut Pro and edit for real After Effects. Creating menus and arranging the bloody credits were my nemesis. But I got through it somehow. Well, it took around three tries to get it right, but, hey, it’s all new to me. I learned a lot about people and passion. Things about myself I never knew. I went through four espresso machines, okay maybe five. I never expected Terry Bozzio to be on my DVD making music with my people and my friends and enjoying it so much. Experimenting with him was simply a magical time for all of us. I always wanted to give my friend Marc’s family something special that represents his work combined with mine, as he affected so many people in such a short time on this Earth, and I finally got to do that. Louie Garcia brought the Mirage Art back to us the Marc way. I never expected Senza Peso to turn into a short story and a CGI video on the level that it’s going with Cory and Alain directing their vision using the song. Days of filming with a crew of top grips, camera operators, DP, makeup, hair stylists, clothing designers, set designers, art dept. etc. The list goes on and on. One spark set off many fires. I can’t put this one out, nor do I wish to.

Tell me about your style and which players have influenced it over the years.

Non-genre-specific music. I like to play drums to just about anything. There are two types of music to me, good and bad. If it has passion and makes nice “noise in the kitchen” then let’s feast!

What is it about the independent road that attracts you?

The indie road is where the hungrier artists get to showcase their work. It's just more raw, and nobody is telling you how to sound, what to wear, and what you need to do in order to be cool, or what they believe to be cool. You have to be hella determined to make it work independently. Not to say that signed artists who handed off the big bucks haven’t impressed me with music but most of the time it seems they’re getting paid to look the part rather than being the part or living it. Everything and everyone seems to get on TV or the radio with barely any experience and as long as someone can make a dollar with it, they’re in. Personally I don’t have TV for that reason. It’s boring to me. Cable has some cool indie programs that I think are worthy. They retain some sense of integrity and that is kinda crucial to me. By all means I enjoy a great comedy just as much as the next guy/gal but keep it interesting because the A.D.D. will kick in and I will go back to a mix or an edit any day of the week.

My next question is two parts. You recently talked with Terry Bozzio on Drum Channel. First off how cool was that?!?!

11 on the cool meter for me. I’ve been a fan forever.

Second, Bozzio made a comment that I felt was very valid in that the music business has changed and in fact needs to be rebuilt. Where do you see our industry headed in the next 50 years?

I think there is a level of musicianship still out there gettin’ cooked up in the right ways. It’s just more apparent in the U.S. that it’s a business more than an art. In other parts of the world it is their way to communicate... sometimes even the only way and that has traced back many moons prior to our existence here and shall continue for an eternity. Music is immortal, universal and will hopefully be looked at as the sound of art.

I recently read in an old interview that you could see yourself working with kids if you weren’t a drummer. Do you have kids of your own and could you see yourself being a “mom-trepreneur” in years to come?

Love kids and don’t have my own yet. Just nephews! And I think I can be a mom and a drummer at the same time. We’ll see.

What do you have coming up?

Drum Channel spot with Chad Smith. Just finished up a Drum Channel live with Ray Luzier then releasing the DVD at those film festivals and live drumfest in Australia in January.

Thank you so much for this opportunity. Our very first feature and real interview regarding The Love Project journey, and you’ve graced us with the cover story. I will never forget it. Cheers, Sean... Hope to meet out of interview land in Cyberspace at 30,000 feet real soon. All we have is now... make it count!!!




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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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