Wednesday, January 27, 2016

NAMM 2016: Reflecting on a Great Weekend

This past weekend I attended the NAMM (the National Association of Music Merchants) Show in Anaheim, CA as a guest of Soultone Cymbals. I had not attended the show since 2009 due to my performance schedule as well as other things that always seemed to pop up so I was excited to see not only all of the great music merchandise but also how much the show has changed over the years. That and I had the chance to spend a couple of days in Southern California, which is where I grew up (not the OC, but in the Carson and the Beach Cities area baby!) so I got to see members of my family along with some old friends from my younger days. 

Endorsement Companies
To start out, it was great to see Iki Levy and everyone at the Soultone Cymbals booth, which was now on a corner of a long aisle meaning that the company was in fact growing and needed more room to display their amazing cymbals. I have been with this ten year old company now for the past eight years so it's good to see how far along it has come since I one of the earliest drummers to join the roster. I also got to meet more Soultone artists from all over the world and was just great to share our musical experiences with each other while also sharing what it was like for us to use these fine cymbals. Of course every time one of those cymbals was hit many onlookers came by to see what hype was all about and once they got a closer look they could see that it wasn't hype at all but a quality product. 

Later I got to hang out with John Eberle, Betsy Palmeri and the rest of the crew from Drum Dots. I am so proud to be part of the artist roster of this amazing company that is really in the seedling phase right now yet moving forward quickly due to the fact that they make the finest dampening product on the market today. I was more than happy to help spread the word by passing out samples to those who were interested in the product and by describing how the product works to those who wanted to learn more about it. I wore a Drum Dots shirt on my first day there and it was great to see how many people took a look a the logo on my shirt and/or stopped me to talk about this new product that they keep hearing good things about.  

I also got a chance to stop by the Silverfox Drumsticks booth and chat a bit with owner Greg Scarselletti and his crew but they were swamped most of the time so I didn't get a chance to say too much. Then I also plugged my experiences with Hansenfutz Pedals to those I had a chance to speak with even though they were not in attendance. 

Old and New Friends. 
It was nice to see Erik Truelove, Aaron Emery and other local Tucson drummers from Drum and Drummer School of Percussion. I was able to connect Erik with the people from Drum Dots, which was great as it looks like his store is about to start selling the product. Erik just raved about how good they work in the studio so it was great to connect him with John and Betsy and to tell them that they should also put him on their artist roster because he is a phenomenal drummer.  

I also ran into Aaron "AJ" Gonzalez, a local Tucson bassist who I worked with in the Tony Corrales Band and other projects. We got to hang out for a bit, share the latest in what we're doing and just talk shop and what we were up to at NAMM thisyear. I also spoke briefly to another great Tucson drummer named Chip Ritter who was real busy in the Trick Drums booth but still had time for a quick handshake. 

Later I hooked up with some old buddies from the Los Angeles music scene; guitarist Michael De Larentiis from Jak Frost and musician/recording engineer Adam Cameron. We had our usual laughs and to my surprise didn't get arrested as getting us together is usually a dangerous thing. 

The best part though was seeing my old drum teacher Greg Alban, who I hadn't seen since moving to Arizona. Greg was my second private instructor but had the greatest influence on my playing. He taught me so much about having efficient motion and working with meters yet pushed me to explore music on my own in order to develop my own ear for certain sounds. He gave me a copy of his latest CD (while I hooked him up with some Drum Dots) and it totally floored me! The music was stellar and his drumming and drum sound were just amazing. Soon I'm going to have to pick his brain to see how he achieved the sounds he got. 

In the Company of Greatness
When attending the NAMM show sometimes you get lucky enough to see some of your favorite musicians. It's usually easy when they appear for a scheduled signing so that was when I got to meet Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain. I have been a fan of his drumming now for at least 30 years and it was such an honor to finally shake his hand and tell him how much his playing has meant to me and now to my son who has been drumming for a few years now. His playing is so unique for a drummer in a heavy metal band because he has a background in so many other musical styles. If you listen carefully you can hear those influences in his playing, which is why Iron Maiden has a groove that no other metal has ever had. Nicko was so cool and funny and really appreciated everything I had to say to him. 

When I first arrived to the exhibit room I ran into Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun. Immediately I asked him if I could shake his hand because he was such an influence on my playing during my college years. I told him which songs really changed my life as a musician and how I had been a fan for so many years. He was so appreciative of my comments and thanked me for all that I said. 

Later I met Latin drummer Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez. This man is one of the biggest influences on me in terms of showing me how to create the Desert Drummer act as his orchestrations of Latin rhythms around the drum set are astounding and most importantly, beautiful! There is no one on this planet that plays the drum set like he does and thanks to him I saw what was possible on the drum set in terms of creating what I call rhythmic harmony. I thanked him for his musical gifts and told him how much his playing has meant to me over the years. He was most gracious and then gave me a big hug. 

Later I met up with Rock legend Carmine Appice. I told him that his performance on the Paul Stanley solo song "Take Me Away (Together As One)" was still one of the most amazing tracks I had ever heard so I thanked him for that performance. He too was very gracious and then let me know he had an autobiography coming out soon with the forward being written by Paul Stanley. I thanked him and then told him that I would be all over that bad boy. 

Final Thoughts
Overall, it was a great weekend. It's always good to reconnect in person with your endorsees, to meet other manufacturers of music products, to try out new things (the Trick double pedal is the most amazing bass drum pedal I have ever played) and to see some famous faces doing their thing (Steve Vai, John Petrucci, Steve Smith, Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Weckl, John "JR" Robinson, Rick Latham and many others in case you were wondering).  I am hoping to attend next year but it will depend on my performance schedule. Of course musicians know that it's never bad to have gigs so either way, it should be a great weekend this time next year. 

The best part about NAMM for me was taking the group photo with Soultone Cymbals. After yelling out "Power to the Drummers" and taking the last picture of many I said goodbye to Iki and company as I prepared for my long drive home. I thanked him for all of his support and belief in my playing and how that always meant the world to me. He then offered his pleasantries as only he can because he is such an amazing person. 

Carlos Solorzano

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