I love London. I was just there for the 15th time to play two sold-out shows with Cher at the O2 arena, which is basically the Madison Square Garden of Europe. I was sitting in my hotel room, thinking this is such a treat.
I remember the first time I stayed in that area. It was during my very first tour ever with Juliana Hatfield, who in the ‘90s was an ‘it girl’ all over college radio and soundtracks. I wanted to be a touring rock drummer, and this was my first experience. I’d only been doing the gig for maybe three weeks when I flew to London to do a promo tour with Juliana. The friend who recommended me had said to me (an orchestral major at music school at the time), “If she doesn’t look at you, don’t take it personally.”
It was the shoegazing era of the mid-’90s. In those days, it wasn’t ‘cool’ to like what you do in music. You’d hear Dave Grohl talk about how Nirvana would play an amazing show and Kurt Cobain wouldn’t say anything after. Same with Pearl Jam.
I was brand new to this world and I didn’t really know anybody. I’m not saying the band members weren’t nice…just standoffish. It wasn’t what I’d signed up for.
I wish I could go back in time and tell that 25-year-old sitting in that hotel room, “Dude, you’re going to have a career of a lifetime, do the coolest things, and make the best music with the best people, and you’ll be wildly successful in your mind.”
But with Juliana, I felt terrible. None of it was really satisfying or fun and I was confused and young.
We were playing with Faith No More on a famous show called The Word, which was basically designed for drunk British college kids to watch after the pubs closed. It had that MTV kind of culture with guests like Oasis and Blur and a snotty host.
I was doing soundcheck and felt like I couldn’t play drums. What am I doing with my life? This is so weird, my band is super strange, no warmth anywhere…
I was doing soundcheck and felt like I couldn’t play drums. What am I doing with my life?
It just sucked. I had this feeling of bleakness – and it’s part of being a musician or anyone in the arts – where I was doubting who I was.
I was mucking around with the rental kit on this huge soundstage and heard someone behind me.
“Hey man, what’s going on?”
I turned around on the riser and there was a long-haired dude standing below. He started asking me all these questions.
“Dude, you sound great! How are you? What’s your technique?”
It was such a breath of fresh air. Someone was listening and gave a shit. He wasn’t just into it, he was really into it, asking me how I held my sticks, who I was, who I had played with, and where I had come from.
It was Mike Borden of Faith No More.
Holy shit. Everything doesn’t suck.
Everything that was black and white was suddenly in color again. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I am a human being and I can play drums.
I needed that push, and Mike came up to me not knowing how much his words were going to mean. It was such a cool thing. He was so sweet. It was one of those life-changing moments.
“Are you going to the dressing room?” he asked. “Let’s walk up together.”
As we went up four flights of stairs, we talked about what we were into and what our backgrounds were. He was genuinely interested in what I was up to. When we got to the dressing room, it was the opposite of what I expected. I walked up with the drummer of Faith No More, and the other members of my band were looking at me like oh my God, who are you, and why does this guy care about you?
It was like a Cinderella story where the band was the shitty stepsisters. How come the prince from the cool headlining band is talking to you?
This changed my perspective on where I was. It really brought me back to how cool of an opportunity this was. I’m good. I don’t need them to tell me. I have this killer drummer talking to me.
I always wished I could tell that guy. I figured he’d probably never know what this meant to me.
Sure enough, a few years later, I was playing a festival with Chris Cornell. Faith No More had reunited and they were in catering with us. Mike Borden was sitting across from me. When I was introduced to him, he said “Dude, you’re the drummer? You gotta eat more than that. You’re just eating a salad? You’ve gotta eat carbs. You’re gonna fucking wither away!”
I wanted to say something, but I didn’t think it was the right time.
After our show – and after walking past Mike Patton, who was spinning around in a wheelchair and being super weird and artsy – Mike Borden grabs my arm and says “Dude, who are you?”
Hi, I’m me, we had dinner together.
“No, dude, I mean where did you come from? I’m scared to go on after you.”
You’ve got to be kidding me. He’s a bona fide rockstar drummer and he’s scared to go on after me?
I said, “You’re not going to believe this. But we had this hang…”
I told him the story. His eyes bugged out of his head and he was smiling the whole time.
He didn’t remember it at all.
“I always wanted to tell you. You have no idea how you changed my life by just being cool.”
Even if it seems like all is lost, you gotta stay the course – because if you don’t, it’ll never get better and you’ll never know. I’m glad I did.
You may not realize how you’re affecting somebody. I’ll never forget this story about just being cool, man. We’re drummers. Don’t think twice about reaching out and being friendly. This is what I do, no matter who I’m opening for or who’s opening for us.
If a local cover band is opening for Cher in Ireland, I’m going to introduce myself to that band and that drummer. If you hear someone and they’re good, take the time to tell them. Nobody ever gets sick of hearing that you appreciate them. You never know who might need to hear it. That’s what you do.
Be kind. Say hi. Just be nice. It’s a rough business. Don’t be too cool for school because nobody’s got time for that shit.
You don’t have much control in this rock and roll world. You can only control your playing and how you conduct yourself as a person. The rest falls into the hands of other factors: tour managers, artists, the record buying climate. But you should control what you can.
If you’re in a position where you’re feeling like shit, you’ve just gotta keep going. Hang in there and make the best of it. Look at every step as a learning experience. Maybe you won’t be able to see it when you’re a 25-year-old sitting in the Cop Tara hotel in Kensington, but if you can stick it out and make it to the point where you are sitting in a hotel three blocks from where you started, and you look back on your career and go “this has been amazing, I can’t believe I’m playing two nights sold out at O2 with an artist I respect”, it’s a pretty cool place to be.
It’s not where you start, it’s where you end.
Life is becoming more clear in a good way. It’s not where you start, it’s where you end. As a human or as a parent or as a musician, it’s what you do with it, where you take it. You can make a difference from here on out. Until it’s over, you’ve got a long way to go and you’ve gotta stay positive.
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