BBVD Drummer Answers Fan Questions & Lists His Top 3 Players

Thursday, August 2, 2012 15:39

An Interview with Kurt Sodergren of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

By Casey Pukl

Swing kings, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, have quickly become a staple of the Anthology calendar. A crowd favorite, these guys always bring their a-game.

Back in February, I had the chance to catch up with Glen Marhevka, who told us the group had just finished recording their next record. Fast forward to now, and drummer Kurt Sodergren was able to give us more of an update! Their next record will be coming out next month, and the band couldn’t be more excited to share their latest work with everyone!

This time around, we did something a little different. I opened the forum to our Facebook fans to get some of their questions for Kurt answered! Read on to find out what our readers wanted to know, who’s in Kurt’s top 3 drummers of all time list (as well as mine), and what we can expect from their next release!

CP: Tell me a little bit about the upcoming record, “Rattle Them Bones”!

KS: Well, the record comes out September 4, and it’s pretty cool. It has some traditional New Orleans jazz, ballads, covers. It has a little bit of everything all the way from the 20’s to the 40’s. It’s a cool record! I’m really excited about it. I actually just got my copy, but I can’t show it to you [laughs].

CP: [Laughs] Damn! You guys were in the studio in January, right?

KS: Yeah.

CP: Can you tell me a little bit about the recording process?

KS: Well, we started off with the rhythm section, laid those parts down, and then after that the horns came in and did their parts over it. We tried to get as much of it done live as possible. The rhythm section records all together in a room, and then Scott and Josh did the bulk of the producing. Josh arranged all the horn parts. It was a lot of fun.

CP: Getting into some of our fan questions, our friend Dahflow wants to know when you started playing the drums, and what turned you onto them?

KS: When I was a really young kid, we’d go to a beach house in Ventura every summer. We went to someone’s house that was kind of like a flea market— there was just stuff everywhere, and there was a full drum set set-up in there. So I sat down, and I could play a basic beat on it. I couldn’t convince my parents to buy it then because money was kind of tight, but then I got home, set up a bunch of pots and pans, and then played that.

My grandpa played in a big band, but I didn’t really start out trying to play that kind of music. I was into Led Zepplin, Kiss, the Police, stuff like that. When I got into high school, I started renting drum sets. I found out that you could do that, so I’d rent one and then friends and I would play parties on the weekends. I didn’t really start taking lessons until I got out of college though. When I was in college, I tried to practice, but I lived in an apartment, so as soon as I started playing, I got it from all sides [laughs]. People would bang on the doors and walls, so that didn’t really work.

But when I got out of college, I started taking private lessons. I met Scott shortly after that, and we started playing music together. The band has kind of been my music school. I didn’t really have a lot of experience playing swing and jazz, but I got it quick, and I started focusing on that. It’s been a long and crazy ride, but it’s been great.

CP: What drew you to swing?

KS: My dad had a lot of cool old records I used to listen to, but I was more into rock and punk rock. It was really Scott’s idea to start playing swing. I was really surprised because this was about the time Nirvana started exploding, so it wasn’t really the choice of most people, but I thought it was a good idea. I thought we could put more of our young energy into it and get crazy rather than be traditional. I wasn’t really that hip to how to play it that well, so I figured I’d bring some stuff to it that normally wasn’t played. I think that gave it a crazy kind of energy. Obviously since then I’ve been studying it a lot, and I kind of wince when I listen to the things I used to play back then [laughs]. But I do think it added a lot to the energy and in some ways, really the overall appeal.

CP: Absolutely. Sometimes you have to break out of that mold to do something worth paying attention to.

KS: Exactly. It’s been done before, so if you can put a different spin on it, that really keeps it fresh.

CP: Who are some of your influences?

KS: John Bonham, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, those are some of the biggest ones. And I don’t know if you know this, but Bonham is actually an amazing jazz drummer as well.

CP: Absolutely! I’m a huge Bonham fan. I would have to say that it’s tough to pick a favorite drummer, but he’s definitely in my top 3.

KS: Me too. I actually am in a Zepplin cover band, and we don’t dress like them or anything, but we do play the music.

CP: That’s so fun!

KS: Yeah, it is. It’s pretty amazing to hear him play. I watch this DVD I’ve got of him playing, and in his solo, he quotes Max Roach, which is pretty incredible to watch. The guy just had such an incredible knowledge and wide scope. It’s amazing.

CP: Totally. I have to tell you, it is so funny that you just listed those three drummers, because our next reader question comes from Gary Redmond, and he wants to know who you think was the better drummer— Buddy Rich or Gene Krupa [laughs].

KS: [Laughs] Oh, no way! I’d say Buddy Rich was a much better drummer, but Gene always looked like he was having more fun. He had a great stage presence, and he was an amazing player too. I think he was super musical, but he always had that smile on his face.

Buddy Rich though, he just killed it all the time. He’s just perfection. I like him, but I wouldn’t say that I study all of his chops because he’s just on such a different level than me. But I like watching him just to be amazed. I read a pretty cool biography on him written by Mel Torme, and it was just super incredible. It was about how he started when he was two or something crazy. He just had such a natural gift.

CP: I’m going to have to give that a read.

KS: It’s a great book! Even if you don’t like music or drums, it’s just extremely well written and a lot of fun.

CP: I don’t play drums myself— my boyfriend is the drummer, and I play keys. But, I still have my top drummers. I think I’d have to put Dave King at the top of my list because he’s just ridiculous, then Bonham, and I think Steve Gadd has to be my third.

KS: I love Steve Gadd too.

CP: I think he’s just the classiest drummer ever.

KS: I agree. In fact, I’m a little jealous that I didn’t just name that off for you on my list. I was kind of put on the spot with that [laughs]. Steve Gadd is definitely in the top 5 for me as well.

CP: I think I’m just impressed by how little he can play. I feel like the ability to keep it simple is more impressive than anything else. He can just lay back and keep it so simple.

KS: Yes! He can sit there and play simple shuffles that I can play, and then it sounds completely different! Just where he puts each beat is so deliberate and different. The sound that he gets out of his drums is just so different.

CP: The guy just lives in the pocket. End of story.

KS: Yes, yes he does [laughs].

CP: Another reader question we’ve got that I myself am very curious about, but Tamara wants to know, if you saw them in the audience, what person would make you most nervous?

KS: [Laughs] Steve Gadd definitely! Jim Keltner probably. Those two would definitely give me the jitters. Peter Erskine as well— he’s such a great educator. I actually saw him at a benefit in LA. There was a big band set up with a bunch of A-list players from the local 47 in LA. We went up and played a few songs on their equipment. The drummers that were going to come up and play with the big band where sitting in this bull pen directly behind the drum set. So the drummers there were Peter Erskine, and then the drummer from the Hollywood Bowl!

I have a bunch of Peter Erskine videos, and so when I walked up and saw him, I just thought, “Damn it!” [Laughs] So I went up and said hello, told him I was a huge fan, and then I went up and played, and I really don’t remember any of it. It was trial by fire [laughs].

He was extremely generous and kind to me when I got off stage, but man, that was the most nervous I’ve ever been. He was literally directly behind me. He’s such a stickler for technique and his videos are really great. But man, I probably broke all the rules of his videos that day. But I guess the energy was there!

CP: [Laughs] I’m sure it was! What are you most looking forward to about coming back to Anthology this weekend?

KS: We love it! Anthology is so much fun, and it’s in such a great part of town. We’re bringing our surf boards into town too, so I’m hoping for a few nice waves. But yeah, we love playing two shows, and I’m really looking forward to playing some of the new music. We’ve been rehearsing, and it really sounds great. I think people will love it.

Special thanks to Kurt for taking the time out for us, and to our loyal readers and Facebook fans for their great questions! Be sure to put on your dancing shoes, and swing the night away with BBVD!
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WHAT: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
WHEN: Friday, August 3, 7:30pm & Saturday, August 4, 7:30 & 9:30pm
TICKETS: $12-$66 Buy Tickets
MORE INFO: Artist Profile