Oct. 20 2006
Dean Butterworth

Dean Butterworth

Good Charlotte / Morrissey / Sessions

TAMA :When did you start playing drums, and what first drew you to the instrument?

Dean : I started playing when I was about 12 years old, and what drew me was that my mother remarried to a drummer named Patrick Shanahan. He was the drummer from Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon band, Tina Turner and Ike, and The New Riders of the Purple Sage. He had drums and he let me play them, so that’s where it all kinda began for me. I’d always loved music from being little, but that was it. And he taught me some basic rudiments, like the single paradiddle and double-stroke roll. He told me that you should really learn the rudiments before you sit at the drumset, so he made me learn a couple of rudiments and then he showed me a couple of grooves.

TAMA : Did you have any formal lessons or training?

Dean : I studied with David Garibaldi.

TAMA : When did that start?

Dean : That happened when I was sixteen. I went to Dick Grove School of Music in L.A., and took the advanced drumming course, and David Garibaldi was the teacher. And other than that, I just sat and listened to tons of records and just practiced and stuff like that.

TAMA : You played with Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals for many years. What did that gig require of you from a drumming standpoint?

Dean : You know, just diversity, cause there were so many different feels that you had to do. You could be playing one song that was reggae, kinda one-drop feel, or a steppers feel, and the next thing you know you’re playing a hip-hop-type feel, and then you’re playing a Zeppelin/AC-DC feel, and then kind of a Stones-feel, and then maybe like a Nirvana-type thing. It was all different styles across the board. So that was the thing about that gig, just being able to play a bunch of different styles.

TAMA : What about Morrissey? How did that compare to your work with Ben Harper, and what did that entail?

Dean : That was a totally different style. I think that gig, if you listen to a lot of Smiths music and Morrissey music, there’s a lot of rockabilly influence there. And so having that kind of thing, where you can just play simple rock with a little bit of swing, and you know, kinda that 80s feel. But it was definitely a different thing stylistically than Ben Harper, it was like doing a 180 degree turn. It’s just a whole different feel. But it was a lot of fun, and he’s just amazing, man.

TAMA : When did you start working with Good Charlotte, and how did that come about?

Dean : I started in March 2005, and I came in and did a video shoot with them and then shortly after we hit the road. What happened is, I’ve been friends with those guys for a long time through my other friend John Feldmann, who is the producer and singer for a band called Goldfinger. And basically, they had some trouble with their drummer and they called me. I’d just gotten finished in like November of 2004 with Morrissey on a world tour. And they called me and asked if I could come and help out. This was when they were in England around January of 2005, and I said yes. So they sent me a set list, and I sat at home and just woodshedded the songs, and it just kinda all went from there. I ended up doing a video with them, and then hitting the road, and we toured all the way through 2005 finishing up their cycle with a record called The Chronicles of Life and Death. And in mid-2005, they offered me the gig full-time. Morrissey went in September 2005 to make a record, and I just told him that I wasn’t available, and I moved on to this. Cause these guys, they stay real busy, and then we went in and started making a record, which we just finished. It’s a ton of fun, and they’re really great guys.

TAMA : You guys just kicked off a US tour. How is that going?

Dean : Last night we played Santa Cruz, which was great… that was the first show. And now we’re actually sitting in front of The Fillmore in San Francisco. We’re doing small clubs, just to do a quick warm-up. We’re playing two or three new songs. We haven’t played any live shows in almost a year, so it’s just to get out and play. We’re just trying to dial everything in so we’re ready to go. We’ll do this and maybe some Christmas shows, and then get into a rehearsal studio again before we hit the road next year to start promoting the record.

TAMA : Can you outline the drum kit that you are currently using?

Dean : It’s a TAMA Starclassic Maple… I’m using an 18x22 kick, 8x10 and 10x12 rack toms, and a 14x16 floor tom. And then I’m using a 6.5x14 brass snare, which sounds fantastic. And I have an Iron Cobra double-pedal.

TAMA : What other projects have you been involved with lately?

Dean : I just finished doing The Used’s new album. I played on everything except one song; the guitar player Quinn had his friend Dan play on one song. But I’m playing drums and percussion on the rest of the record. And then there’s a new Goldfinger record that’s gonna come out, and I did that whole record. And then a band on Sony Latin called Medeiros, which is two Brazillian brothers, and it’s fantastic. I just cut that record about three weeks ago. I worked on three tracks on The Matches record, they’re on Epitaph. And I worked on the theme song for the Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels television show, which was tons of fun. I got to cut in there while Gene came in. I did my drum tracks and then he did the vocals and bass. And I just recently worked on seven tracks with Tony Lovato, who’s the singer from a band called Mest. He’s got a new band called Permanent Holiday.

TAMA : So, lots of stuff… sounds like you’ve been really busy.

Dean : Yeah, lots of stuff… I’m trying to remember what else. There was stuff last year that I did, more kinda pop stuff, like I worked on the last Hilary Duff record. But yeah, I’ve been real active in the studio, along with doing all the work with Good Charlotte. It’s good to stay busy.

TAMA : What are the major differences for you between performing live and tracking in the studio?

Dean : Well, I think that it’s something that I’m always working on. Because sometimes playing live, depending on what style of music it is, but especially with a band like Good Charlotte which has a lot of heavier songs, it’s so easy to hit harder than you need to. One thing that I’m finding is that to really make the drums sound right in the studio, it’s not about smacking them… it’s about trying to be as relaxed as you can be. And there’s a sweet spot on each drum, and there’s a sweet spot on the cymbals. So for me, even if you’re doing a crash ride or playing a harder groove, you don’t have to beat the life out of the drum or the cymbal.

Don Gilmore, the producer on the Good Charlotte record, and I were talking about it, and he’s like, “wow, I love the way that the drums sound when you hit the drums.” And I said yeah, I don’t hit super hard. And he goes, “yeah, it just makes them sound bigger than they do if you really hit hard, because then you’re just choking the sound. It just makes them come alive.”

TAMA : Do you have a preference between playing live versus recording?

Dean : Well, it’s just two different schools of thought. Live is fun because you get that instant feedback from the audience, and there’s a certain energy that’s just really neat. You get an instant high from the audience. And I love that… the screaming and all that stuff. So that’s fun. The one thing that I think is a challenge is making those songs sound new every time you play them, because generally we have a set and we stick to that set every night. So when you’re like a year into a tour and you’re playing the same songs, it’s a challenge always trying to make the songs fresh, and not like you’re bored or burnt out.

One thing I love about studio work is that it is always new. You’re always working on a new track. So that’s why I love it, because it’s fresh. I don’t know which one I like better… there’s a challenge in both of them. In the studio, you’ve gotta go in and listen to a piece of music once or twice, make some notes, chart it out, and make that thing happen in 1 to 3 takes. So I love both, because both of them are fun and challenging in their own way. I just love doing it all.

TAMA : You play with a wide variety of artists. How did you develop the versatility to fit into these different styles, and do you have to alter your approach for each gig?

Dean : I think one of things that helped me out with that, is growing up – and I still do it today – but I grew up playing along and listening to drummers that influence me… drummers that also play in a lot of different genres. And practicing along to those drummers. Sometimes when I’m practicing, I’ll sit and play along to records from The Police, to Steely Dan, to some hip-hop stuff, to some old R&B stuff. You know, just across the board, always covering different styles and listening to how my idols approach a certain feel. And I try to take that and listen to where they phrase and how they turn the corners into a chorus or into a break in the song, and try to add my own flavor to that. I think a lot of it is just listening and then practicing.

I love Jeff Porcaro, Steve Gadd, and Stewart Copeland, and Carlton Barrett from Bob Marely… those guys have such great grooves and they’re such recognizable drummers. Those guys have signature feels. I love to listen to guys like that. And just listening to how they approach that to make those records sound the way that they do. So for me, when I go into a session, whatever the tune is that comes up, you just put your head into that space, and then try to mold into that thing.

But also, I grew up playing a lot of big band and a lot of fusion stuff, and drum corps stuff. I think a lot of it also has to do with taking the time to learn the rudiments and I think that gives you more flexibility on the drum kit, in any style. I think if you’re playing drums, or if you’re playing guitar, and you don’t know your scales or you don’t know your rudiments, you’re going to be held back in what you can do on your instrument. So I think that doing that stuff has allowed me to be more versatile.

TAMA : Is there anything else you’d like to add that we didn’t cover?

Dean : The only other thing I could say is that TAMA drums are the best drums ever made. And the hardware has never broken on me, ever in my life.