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Chad Sexton Interview - May 22, 2012

Photo © Jennifer Langman

Chad Sexton, drummer for the band 311, has been kind enough to answer a series of questions from the snarescience forum community.

Quick Background:

Chad Sexton is the drummer for the rock band 311. He grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and went to Westside High School with fellow band members Nick Hexum and Tim Mahoney. Prior to joining the band he marched snare with the Railmen Drum Corps in Omaha, Nebraska and the Sky Ryders Drum Corps in Hutchinson, Kansas.

And now, on to the questions!

sxetnrdrmr: Where you involved in a high school band program and if so, in what way?

Chad Sexton: I've been involved in school music programs since jr high. I've had the fortunate experience of playing in orchestra, concert and marching band, and the award winning jazz band at Westside High School, in Omaha, Nebraska, directed by Roger Groth. I also was involved on the teaching side, teaching several high school drum lines in Nebraska and Iowa.

sxetnrdrmr: What aspects of being in a high school band program helped you later in becoming a professional drummer?

Chad Sexton: I believe the most important aspect of school music programs is consistency. Practicing every day and being able to have performances are key in the development of professional musicians. To have a creative influence everyday is important in any one person's development. The time spent focusing on a musical skill while one is young seems to greatly benefit your skills later in life.

snarescience: Which skill sets that you learned in corps have been most applicable and influential to your drumset playing in 311?

Chad Sexton: My 5 year experience in drum corps helped me understand how to focus in ensemble playing, how to concentrate for long periods of time, how to correct rhythmic phrases, learning what tendencies happen with which rhythms, and how to play dynamically. I also listened to and was a fan of drum corps music. Listening to these recordings I was very influenced by the writers Tom Float and Ralph Hardimon. All of these experiences have influenced my playing, writing and rehearsing. There were also non-musical lessons learned such as the simplicity of working hard towards a goal and achieving it.

Forlan10: What do you think sets you apart from the other drummers in the world?

Chad Sexton: I believe players' strikes and chops are what set all drummers apart. The most notable drummers generally have personalities coming from first their technique and style, and second from their tone. So my style comes from the fact I generally hit rim shots for my backbeats and have different patterns of ghost notes in between while adding a bd pattern. I adjust the parameters of that trio depending on the song. I think my writing, phrasing and my snare tone and technique are what set me apart from others.

Hulka: If you have the chance to go to a drum corps show, who do you try to make sure you see in the lot?

Chad Sexton: When I hit DCI shows, I have to always see as many drum lines as I can! Such as the Blue Devils, Cadets, Phantom, Carolina Crown, and the Cavies. I will be going to some shows as well as the finals this year.

Hulka: If you could march in a current line, who would it be and why?

Chad Sexton: If I could march in a current line it would have to be the Blue Devils or Cadets. When I was young it was the 1983 Blue Devils that were a huge influence in my life and started my drum corps career. Even though my corps, the Sky Ryders, made 9th in the 1986 Finals, I was always fond of the Garfield Cadets, Blue Devils, and Santa Clara Vanguard.

sxetnrdrmr: Who is your most favorite corps of all time?

Chad Sexton: It's a tie between The Cadets and The Blue Devils. I cannot pick one. Love 'em both.

sxetnrdrmr: Are other members of 311 interested in the drum corps activity?

Chad Sexton: Other members of 311 have a general interest in it. I think you almost have to grow up with, or be in, or have a kid that marches in drum corps to be a fan like myself.

PeteK: If there was a game show called "Name That Band In The Fewest Notes" I would win hands down with a single flam from your snare drum. What's the story behind your snare sound, and has it always been that way?

Chad Sexton: I rarely analyze it, but I believe my 'snare sound' was a natural progression coming from many years in drum corps. When I finished the '86 season I started practicing drum set again and it simply carried over. We would always crank our snare heads in corps so I started to crank it at home. We would hit rim shot accents in corps and I started hitting rim shots on the 'implied' accents (on counts 2 and 4) at home on drum set. It sounded cool to me.

snarescience: What is the single biggest challenge when touring with the band?

Chad Sexton: I would have to say that staying hydrated is one of the most challenging things while touring today.

snarescience: What is 311's methodology for writing new material?

Chad Sexton: There is no one method 311 uses for writing. There are several ways we write. For example one person can bring a whole song to the band or we can collaborate on a song.

JoeD: What steps do you take to continue being an evolved drummer in an industry that is progressing so fast?

Chad Sexton: I like to push myself and continue to strive to become a better player. I like changing my set up and changing heads and tones to hopefully evolve in a way that benefits my playing and/or sound. Listening to others input and checking yourself is key for progress. I also think listening to current live recordings of yourself and making adjustments is always a helpful tool to check yourself. Evolution of one's playing can come thru inspiration and influence from other great musicians.

Hulka: Your "311 Day" show in Vegas incorporated some marching percussion... are you looking at ways to use more of this type of thing into future venues with 311?

Chad Sexton: I think playing with other ensembles works best at 311 event shows. We hope to explore it further.

snarescience: 311's song "Applied Science" has the entire band playing drums. It sure is a unique moment to 311 for a rock band to do this. What is the story behind it? (the writing and the equipment used, etc).

Chad Sexton: The purpose for us doing the drum ensemble is a sort of musical tribal spirituality; a philosophy which the band embraced while creating 311. And when we started doing it, it seemed to be a crowd pleaser. We have evolved this part of the show and right now we have it sitting at a good spot with stick tosses and all! We use Zildjian Square Gongs and Nipple Gongs. 4 Pearl Surdo drums, a 36" Pearl Concert Bass Drum, and 2 Pearl piccalo snares. And 6 'A Custom' Projection Crashes with the racks to move it all.

Photo © Jennifer Langman