Josh Rundquist is someone who has been showing so much support for metal for so long that it’s difficult to truly portray everything he’s done. He’s also an engaging conversationalist, so for these reasons this interview is a very long one! Once you’re finished reading, you’ll know a great deal about That Drummer Guy we’ve all heard of!
Logos Ironpaw: The first thing I’d like to talk about is your drumming background. You’ve been playing drums since you were nine years old. What’s the story behind that? Did you teach yourself to play?
Josh Rundquist: First of all, thank you for taking time from your schedule to do an interview with me. It’s a welcome change to be on the other side of the interview process.
I started playing piano when I was six years old and learned from my elementary school. I was told that I had to get straight A’s from 1st grade to 3rd grade in piano class to be able to play percussion. I wanted to play drums since I first saw a drum set when I was very little, so I ventured out to do that. When I finally got accepted to play drums, I quit piano on the spot as it stopped being fun learning from elementary school. My first three years, I learned how to play snare drum, bass drum, xylophone, etc …
It wasn’t till I was in eleven when I finally got behind a drum set. I learned my first four drumbeats from my music teacher (Rock, Swing, Samba, Bassa Nova), but after that he handed the sticks over to me and said, “You’ll get it eventually.” From that point on, learning AC/DC to learning Blast Beats, it was all on my own.
LI: Piano lessons being required to begin learning an instrument in school never used to be a thing. I was on the tail end of when schools weren’t doing that. We were just handed the instrument of our choice and taught to play. It would have been tragic if you weren’t able to learn drums in school, so I’m glad you made it! It’s nice, though, that the type of drumming you prefer is something you were perfectly capable of learning without instruction. What type of kit did you have in the very beginning?
JR: Honestly, I’m glad that I did go through piano classes because it did help me with the ideas of melody, harmony, song structure, etc. I didn’t realize it until I formed my own bands and we wrote our own songs how important it is to know as much as you can about everything outside your instrument in music.
My very first kit was a five-piece Wine Red Rhythm Art kit that was under $500 that Music-Go-Round had for sale. My parents wanted to make sure that if I wanted to play drums that I was going to stick with it, so they got me the crappiest kit they could find. Having a bad drum set taught me a lot about what look for and what not to look for in a kit. Make sure you have hardware that won’t snap off from normal use is a big one, haha.
The biggest thing that drum set taught me was to be able to find the right drumheads and learn how to tune. If you can’t do that, no acoustic kit you will ever play will sound good. After basic knowledge, I got the kit sounding as good as something like that could and I was finally able to upgrade when I was I sophomore in high school. I bought my eight-piece Pearl Export kit (in Ferrari Red) that I still use to this day.
LI: That’s the story of many a good musician. I think there’s definitely value in learning to play on substandard equipment, for pretty much the exact reasons you just went through. Not only are you learning to play, but you’re also on your way toward becoming your own tech in those situations. That skill can’t be underestimated.
JR: Exactly! You can never take good equipment for granted. Learning on subpar equipment also teaches you the how to become a more talented musician. If you can sound good on a broken five-piece kit with faulty hardware and store brand cymbals. You can make a pro sounding kit sound phenomenal all because of what you can do behind it.
LI: Which brings us to your equipment preferences. What are they these days?
JR: Since I was fifteen years old I have been a Pearl drum guy through and through. I have other, non-Pearl drums (PDP and Tama snares), but Pearl has always done it for me, sounding great no matter what style of music I am playing. For cymbals, a majority of my set up is Sabian, which is my favorite brand. I do have some Zildjian K Custom Hybrid effect cymbals (china and splash) that I am absolutely in love with. As for heads, it totally depends on the situation. I change between all three major brands (Remo, Evans, Aquarian). For my snare batter head, I have been using the Remo Emperor X head on my 14″x 8″ Pearl Vinnie Paul Signature snare and it is amazing; just the right amount of crack and projection without too much ring.
For hardware, I use my Pearl Icon rack as stands, a DW 5000 Hi-Hat pedal, and recently switched back to my Tama Iron Cobra double pedal after spending a few months on the Axis A21 Laser pedals. I prefer a chain drive because I love feeling the power of what I’m hitting. When I have the opportunity to use two bass drums, I use my DW 5000 pedals. Those are my personal favorites, but not a lot of venues I have gotten to play can accommodate two bass drums, so I stick with the double pedal. As for sticks, I am not picky on them at all. I’m usually a 5A guy with a wooden tip, but I can get the job done with any size.
LI: When you’re playing double bass, do you have a particular method you use? Heel-toe, for example?
JR: For a majority of my playing I was 100% heel down. It was mainly for the reason that in high school band, you were not supposed to overpower the rest of the group. I continued that until about years ago when I gradually started raising my heels up to gain speed, but still being able to have the control I did with heel down. Double bass is also something I hadn’t done until I was twenty-one. Before that, I never had a band that called for it, which is why I am more flashy with my hands than I am with my feet. Even to this day it’s a work in progress for me to get my feet to be as strong as my hands are. I have recently started trying to do the swivel heel technique which is helping quite a bit. Heel-toe is something I’d like to work on in the future
LI: I see a lot of the swivel technique. It seems very effective for the quicker stuff, like 16th notes at 230+ bpm.
JR: Exactly! When I was playing with Beauty of Decay, the band called for speeds that are much faster than I am used to, even with all the practice I’ve had. It wasn’t easy to achieve with how technical the songs are, so adding the swivel technique started making things a bit easier for those segments. It does take a while to get the hang of it.
LI: Speaking of Beauty of Decay, I’d like to discuss the bands in which you’ve played. What types of music have you played over the years? Is there material we can check out from your time in these bands?
JR: I honestly have played across the board when it comes to rock and metal. I started off playing with a couple friends in junior high that were really into Blink-182. After about 2 months of that, I learned I was never going to enjoy that style of music. When I was sixteen, I got a gig that lasted me until I was twenty-one, playing in Rock cover band. It was good money, although the whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth.
That gig is actually where the name That Drummer Guy came from. At one show, a drunk woman came up to me and said “Hey, you’re that drummer guy, ain’t ya,” and I said “Yes, I am,” to which replied “Where is your singer, I wanna bang him?” I said I wasn’t sure where he was , and the conversation ended with, “Okay thanks, Drummer Guy.” The name stuck from there and I kept it for a good reason, which I’ll get into later.
Back to the cover band era; the idea of playing music as solely a background for people to drink and hook up at shows was not what I wanted to accomplish. I therefore set out to make the music I wanted to make. My first band to make any demos was called Shattered.
Shattered was very much in the thrash metal route, but with some prog thrown in. After dissolving, I joined a band called Tears of Ash, which lasted for one gig. Tears of Ash was of the… I guess would be considered… metalcore genre. After that dissolved, I worked for years on a band that would eventually be called Planet Smasher which was what I’ve always wanted in a band – progressive metal with elements of almost every other heavy genre thrown in and lots of melody. The band went through a rather nasty breakup between myself and the rest. They went on to form a band called Graves I Dig, using elements of the songs written for Planet Smasher. I haven’t kept tabs, but from what I understand, they are still gigging and about to record. Lastly, I played with Beauty of Decay for two and a half years and I’m sad to be gone. We were called The Frank Zappa of Death Metal and I do like that because I think it fits quite well.
Sadly, I have the Bad Luck Brian stigma to my playing. For various reasons (my fault, others’ fault and just life in general), I don’t have an official album with my name on it. I hope to rectify that one day.
LI: I hope you get that chance too. The picture you posted with your drums in the closet saddened me.
JR: It hurts. It hurts really bad. This is the first time in my whole time playing drums that I have been unable to play. When I lived at home, I could play anytime I wanted (until 10pm). When I moved for the first time I had a basement to practice in under the same conditions. Now that I live in an apartment, I’ve been downgraded to a practice pad for my hands and feet. This spring I’m hoping to get an electronic kit so I can keep all of my chops up until the next opportunity comes.
This is also the first time since I was sixteen that I haven’t had a band. With the luck I’ve had, a band was right about to dissolve when I got an offer to join another band. In almost every situation I had at least one band to play in until this last time, so it’s a pretty rough shakeup to not be able to use my therapy of playing. However, things tend to work out in the end, and even if I have to start a one man band (playing my own instruments) I don’t want to let anything stop me from being able to enjoy the greatest passion of my life: Music.
LI: I know the apartment situation. I couldn’t do vocals in the apartment I lived in because they’re the kind that will get the police called. Apartments are horrible to live in when you’re a musician unless you can afford your own practice space, and who the fuck can do that these days? I only just got out of that situation recently, but it happened, so don’t worry. It’s temporary.
Would you want to you want to go ahead and explain the story about your nickname?
JR: Oh, yeah. The origin of the name came from a cover band show when the aforementioned drunk woman called me “That Drummer Guy”. A few years later, when I was starting my radio show, I was told that I needed a nickname for the show and the one that I thought was most appropriate was That Drummer Guy. Anyone who goes to shows (local, touring or festival) knows about the people who try to meet the band and says things like, “Hey, you’re that guy who’s in that band,” or “Aren’t you that guy I heard play that song?” It’s pretty universal in rock and metal for that to happen because a band is more than just a singer. A person who doesn’t know much about music doesn’t know the names of people in the band… and, for that matter, names of songs or the bands themselves.
With my show, I want be that guy who shows off what those guys can actually do. Give them proper interviews, play their music on air, review their shows/albums/etc… give them the exposure they deserve. It doesn’t matter if it’s the band down the street or a band coming to the states for their next international tour, this always happens to them. So “that drummer guy” or “that singer in the band”, will be remembered for who they are.
LI: I like it! One of the greatest things about this metal scene is, through all the bickering and drama, we hold what is ours up with our own strength, together. The ones who use their own time and resources to create a mass method of support are the cornerstones of the scene.
JR: That’s how it should be. I definitely know it’s true of the local scene in the Twin Cities area and it is true anywhere else where there is a music scene. Drama, tension, jealousy, rivalries… all for absolutely no reason! Granted there are some who hold no grudges, but there are so many who feel the music they like is superior and everything else sucks. There are those who feel they are in the best band in the world and all others suck. It’s really disheartening.
Weather it’s a band I’m playing in or a band that I’ll be part of in the future, I always try to keep a free mind and enjoy what I like and let others enjoy what they like. I will never belittle a person for their musical tastes. It’s pointless in the end, unless you are that bored. With what I do, I want to support all things rock and metal that I enjoy, and there is very little that is not for me. It doesn’t matter if it is local, indie touring, national touring, or a world tour, all bands need support. Support your favorite music!
LI: If only everyone felt that way, imagine what we could accomplish! The elitist attitude makes me sad (I used to participate in it, unfortunately), but I’m sure both of us will keep working in spite of it. As you mentioned, you have a radio show that you use to support local metal and rock bands. Tell us more about That Drummer Guy Presents.
JR: That Drummer Guy Presents started all the way back in high school when I first got Myspace, right before Facebook took over the world. Being a kid from a small town in Wisconsin where I wasn’t drinking, smoking, selling meth, playing football or getting laid, music was my outlet and showing off metal bands is something I always obsessed about. I made a lot of friends on Myspace from that and kept up the tradition when Facebook became the norm. I did so much that I got an offered to do a one hour show of rock and metal for an internet radio station that is now defunct. When the station went under, one of their contacts got in touch with me and asked if I wanted to do my show as a two hour format each week on FM. That was impossible for me to turn down! Here I am, almost five years later.
That Drummer Guy Presents is a two hour, syndicated rock and metal show where I try to play the best songs that you won’t hear on Top 40 Rock radio, no matter the genre. I always stick to the heavier stuff (hard rock and heavier). There really is no format to the show other than trying to pick out the best music I get from the promos I receive and music I buy. I like keeping it as random as possible. In the course of a given show you’ll hear black metal, death metal, progressive metal, post rock, hard rock, grindcore, etc… As long as I can dig it, the production is FM playable, and there is no audible cursing, I will play it.
Along with the show, I try to incorporate an interview every week. Last year I hit 54 interviews, which is a personal record for me. I always try to cover bands that are in town to help promote them. Since I moved back in June of 2015, I have been able to do phone and Skype interviews as well, so no area of the earth can go unpromoted.
You can check out what I do on Zero Point Radio – KROCKS, 13SRadio, and at the beginning of next month, Metal Onslaught Magazine Radio. Of course, you can always hear the podcast version on Podomatic and Spreaker.
LI: I see that the aforementioned interviews are accessible on the That Drummer Guy website. Which were the most fun to do?
JR: Almost every single interview has been incredible! There are a couple that were not pleasant experiences (I’ll leave the names out of it) but there are some that mean the most to me. Gene Hoglan, Adrian Erlandsson, and Paul Mazurkiewicz were huge ones for me as they are some of my biggest drumming inspirations. Devin Townsend is arguably my favorite musicians and Mike Mangini is probably the biggest highlight for me as Dream Theater is my all time favorite band.
LI: You recently created a “Top 100 Albums of 2015” list and reviewed every single one. I can’t imagine the amount of work that took, but the fact that there are seven parts to the whole (eight if you count the honorable mentions) gives a little glimpse. What process did you use to narrow these favorites of yours down and number them as you did?
JR: I feel like 100 it wasn’t good enough! I get many, many, many promos over the course of a year (in 2015 I hit 112GBs of 2015 music alone!). Each year has been pretty much the same since I started doing the big countdown lists. I try to look at the albums that I go back to the most in the course of the year -the ones that are doing something that strikes a chord with me. It doesn’t matter if it’s a band with a completely new sound no one has heard before nor does it doesn’t matter if it’s a band that’s been playing for 50 years. As long as it is solid and makes me want to keep going back to it, it will make my year end list.
A few years ago I learned that it was a useless endeavor to try to cover every album that I get by the end of the year since I’m only human. I attempted to start earlier last year, then some personal issue came up that prevented me from doing as much as I wanted, so I narrowed it down to 100 albums and ten honorable mentions. Last year, I went through every single album and put it in a list and picked the list of what I enjoyed the most. I ended up with 110 at the end so I made the last ten honorable mentions.
As you may guess, some albums that are truly amazing didn’t get the cut because I just wasn’t able to listen to them enough to enjoy them fully. I guess now that I’m between bands it gives me more time to check out music. I’ve already started doing reviews at the beginning of this year now and will be keeping up throughout the year to do a “Best Of” list in December. I think that will help me get through all the music I want and not kill me every December trying to write out 100-300 album reviews in a month.
LI: I’m sure that a lot of the material you’ve picked up throughout the years is from local sources. As far as the Minnesota metal scene goes, what has changed, both positive and negative, in your perception. How are the bands different between then and now and how has your communication with them evolved? In addition, do you think these changes make things easier, harder, or just different?
JR: As someone who has been a part of the scene since 2008 and as someone who is also in the field of wanting to help bands; there is definitely good and bad things about our local scene (I can already see some nodding in agreement and some ready to tear my head off). Starting with the bad (send your hate mail now). We are left with less venues for metal, which makes it very hard to reach new areas. Granted it makes those venues still open that much more special, but it’s hard not to feel repetitious after a while.
That is also a sign of the times. One day metal will come back stronger here as history dictates, but until then, it’s rough. Promoters are other huge problems. Some are absolutely awesome who genuinely care about the bands they promote (I am being interviewed by one of them now actually, haha). Others will do terrible things like pick the same one or two bands to open every national show, or even worse make those bands pay to play those shows, which is sickening to me. As artists and entertainers, you don’t get paid in exposure. Granted, you shouldn’t expect to get paid much in metal, but you should at least have enough to pay for gear, gas, food, merch, repairs, and a place to stay if you can’t find anywhere to crash for the night when you play a show or go out on tour. I’ve seen too many bands with talent here break up because they can’t afford to play anymore due to pay to play. It’s not fair to the bands and it’s not fair to the audience. It’s only good in a bad promoter’s eyes because they don’t know how to promote the show they book.
The other trouble spot, which we touched on is the drama here. Like I said, that is in every local scene. London, Portland, Tokyo, Chicago and the Twin Cities all have the same drama, just different names and places. It’s something I’d like to get away from because it’s like being in high school and college. You got your cool kids, your loners, your big men on campus, your nerds and so many more that I’m not mentioning. No one will ever fully get along, but it would be great if we could live and let live one day.
Now as for the good, there is a lot of passion here, which we need. Minnesota is starting to get some good recognition for what we are capable of; Reaping Asmodeia getting signed to Prosthetic Records is a great example! There is so much talent and passion. You go to any show here and you’ll see people play because they enjoy it. No one is here for the money. It is because they are making music they want to make. If something bigger happens for the band, that’s just an added bonus.
There are also a ton of great bands here. I’ll refrain from picking favorites publicly, but there are so many to choose from in every style you want. As long as we can stick together, we will keep showing that Minnesota can be a hotbed for metal. That also requires all of us to lose any ego and support each other. I’m the best drummer I can be and that’s it. I would never say that I’m the best or worst drummer in the scene. I’m just me doing what I love. That’s all that truly matters for my own head and that’s how
LI: I could not have said that better, myself! Do you have other endeavors going on now or upcoming that you want people to know about?
JR: Well, things changed quite recently with Beauty of Decay so I have more of an open schedule as far as my playing goes. As for the radio show, during the last month I’ve been having recording issues due to my old computer dying on me and having to upgrade to Windows 10. Since that time I have been able to update almost everything I use and I’m back in running shape. My radio show will be back starting January 11th, and starting February 5th, That Drummer Guy will have a 3rd affiliate with Metal Onslaught Magazine, being on the air Thursdays from 8pm-10pm CST; I am also on 13SRadio from 7pm-9pm CST, and on KROCKS/Zero Point Radio every day from 4am-6am and 4pm-6pm. There will be new episodes weekly, every Tuesday.
I’m working on getting as many album reviews in as I can this year so I can promote as many bands as possible. I’ll be trying to break my record of 54 interviews this year, so make sure to check out thatdrummerguy.com for any updates regarding me and all your favorite social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube) for everything That Drummer Guy.
If you’re a still hungry for more That Drummer Guy, Josh also interviewed with Ritual Madness Podcast in October of 2014. Click the flyer below to listen!