World of Wonder - Stanley Randolph
By Team HC |
World of Wonder - Stanley Randolph
Some players just make it look easy ... it's a wonder ...
by Scott Donnell
Some players just make it look easy. Fusing facility with boundless creativity can be a tall order and only an uber-talented, upper echelon drummer can pull off such a potent combination of chops and sheer tastiness. The man that occupies Stevie Wonder’s drum seat is one of these rare talents. Graceful, powerful, and rhythmically gifted, Mr. Randolph is truly a wonder to watch
Scott Donnell: Your creativity is so fluid, it seems effortless. How do you decide what to play? Is it all from within, or is it more conscious than that?
Stanley Randolph: Well, Scott, I don’t always decide what to play. The music and the vibes are all within me. I live it, feel it, produce it. It’s my job to share it with the world. There are moments when I am conscious of what I’m doing, and that’s usually when I’m learning, studying, or practicing music. After I study and vibe with different music, I let what’s in me take over. The creativity just comes out.
SD: Do you edit your playing?
SR: Yes, I do edit my playing. I’m always recording myself playing during rehearsals or shows and I watch and listen. I like to catch the moments that really do work in my playing. This way, I know when to play it again effectively. It’s kind of like producing live music. Since I started taking producing seriously, as a career, it’s totally changed my mindset. Sometimes it’s funkier not to interrupt the groove.
SD: Can creativity be rehearsed? What’s your practice routine?
SR: I wouldn’t say that you can practice creativity. I believe you become creative while practicing. My practice routine can be a bit random sometimes. I can be in a study-and-vibe mood for a while, just taking it in. Then there are times when I have to touch a drum set every day! It’s like I’m a five-year-old kid that just realized they love drums. I’m tapping on everything, beating on the tables at my crib. (Laughs). I usually end up at my studio playing drums for hours on those days.
SD: Does Stevie give you free rein or does he expect you to honor his parts? Is this an unspoken understanding?
SR: It’s a little bit of both. He allows me to be who I am as a character on the drums. But you gotta play the parts right. When I first got the gig, I can honestly say I approached his music from an R&B/ Gospel vibe, because that’s what I knew the most. So, that’s what came out. After doing the gig for a while, I decided I wanted to play his music in a more authentic way. I wanted to bring that era into my younger generation.
SD: You recently joined the DW family. Talk a bit about that.
SR: I basically wanted to be part of a family that loves drums more than me and believes in my vision and career as a professional drummer by showing their support. That’s what DW is to me. Not only that, the drums are just amazing! From the finishes, to the various wood choices, to the best hardware ever created! When you’re in my position, hardware can never fail during a performance. (Laughs). DW has always provided great quality drums that never fail. DW is the Ferrari of drums. Come take a ride in my Lamborghini, my Ruby Red Glass over Cherry Collector’s Series drum set! (Laughs). I’ve definitely learned more about drums because of DW.
SD: Does your set-up strongly influence the way you play? How do you decide which gear is right for a particular gig?
SR: It definitely does. I only have a few set-ups that I use continuously. I get questions all the time like, “Do you use everything on your kit?” The answer is, “YES I DO.” (Laughs). My drum set-up is designed for me to be comfortable. Whatever vibe I’m looking for, I can make it happen on the left or right side of my kit. I choose different gear based on the gig I’m doing at the time. Some music requires my drums to have a brighter attack or maybe a warmer sound. Being a drummer that wears many different hats, I need to have as many different drum options as possible.
SD: Talk about your sound. Has it evolved or changed over the years?
SR: Yes, my sound has definitely changed over the years. When I was younger I used to tune my drums higher. As I’ve gotten older, lower-tuned drums have become more of my sound. Also, the genres I’m playing at the moment don’t require me to be a flashy drummer. I shine more by leading the band with my groove. In this way, the flashy moments definitely stand out. I use different cymbals now, too. I’m into bigger crashes, rides, hi-hats…everything bigger! (Laughs).
SD: Who are some of the young players we should watch out for?
SR: There are a few new young drummers that are serious on the kit. Devon “Stixx” Taylor is killing the Justin Bieber tour right now. There’s this other young drummer, Vinnie Aguas. This kid is bananas. He’s only 13 and his vocabulary on the drums is incredible.
SD: Which drummers do you admire these days? Who inspires you to play better?
SR: I look up to Brian Frasier-Moore. This dude is always on point. It’s not only about his playing, though. He’s a non-stop working drummer. He’s always on a huge gig, his drums are always gonna look amazing, his drums are always gonna sound amazing, and he’s always gonna play the record exactly how it was meant to be played. In his professional drum career, he’s played for some of the biggest artists in Pop/Urban music. Because the internet is so oversaturated with new amazing talent, I feel like he’s underrated sometimes. I still listen to his live performance on the Usher album to this very day. When I first moved to LA, I got a chance to meet him and we’ve become great friends. I saw his kit and thought it was a spaceship! (Laughs). He’s a huge influence on my sound and drum set-up.
SD: What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring players?
SR: I always tell drummers to shed alone more. I’m not against drum sheds and playing with the homies. I do believe some drummers play together so much that they subconsciously all start to sound exactly the same. A wise person once told me: “You’ve got to have a sound.” People need to know when Stanley is playing. They should be able to close their eyes and say, “That’s Stanley playing.” He told me to practice alone, create my sound, and experiment with the drums. If you play a groove or chop and then I play the same groove or chop, what’s gonna make it different? The way I’m gonna hit the drum or the way the drums are gonna respond to me will be different from how they’ll respond to you. So, that’s what I did. I practiced more by myself. I want to stand out. I want my own thing. I want to be a legend in this world. This way I can always live on forever. That’s my advice for drummers, be different and stand out. Create your own sound and vibe. Be a legend.
SD: What are your interests outside of drumming?
SR: Producing. I have a music production company called M-Ten Music. I’ve been recording a lot of great new music with a few new artists The BBC, Emi Secrest, Billy Wes, Cherry Garcia, and Jasmin Cruz. All of these artists are produced by me, Stanley Randolph. Besides that, I’m a party guy. I love meeting new people and conversing, especially with beautiful ladies. (Laughs).
SD: Do you listen to a lot of music?
SR: I listen to as much music as I can. I always love hearing new stuff, as well as taking trips back to the past, and paying respect to the music before my time. I have my days where I don’t want to hear anything, too. (Laughs).
SD: What do you do with your downtime on the road?
SR: My downtime is so precious to me now. I used to try staying busy, but nowadays I enjoy relaxing a bit. It helps me think of new cool ideas for my career. I get to rest my brain and wake up fresh.
SD: How important is social media to drummers these days?
SR: Aw man, social media is definitely important. This is your way to be seen. There are drummers who don’t have gigs, but they still have fans because of social media. Social media is a huge marketing tool. Besides playing with an artist, it’s how I’m able to reach other people all over the world. It’s a huge part of today’s generation.
SD: What’s your philosophy on being a self-promoter?
SR: Be a character. Everybody wants to be entertained. Promote and brand yourself with grade-A quality. Keep evolving while you’re in the moment. It’s like reinventing yourself and making people love your work all over again.
SD: How much of your daily life is actually devoted to drumming?
SR: Right now, drumming and producing is 50/50 in my life. I have a good balance of both, at the moment.
SD: Tell us about your career as a producer. How does that creativity manifest itself? What’s your process?
SR: Well, I got into producing when I moved to Los Angeles. After doing huge tours and seeing how people respond to music, I decided I wanted to make that happen too. I wanted to create music that consumers could vibe to and create memories to. I want to see that same reaction from people about a hit song I produce; that’s something major to me. To see thousands of people all singing your music together in harmony, hearing that famous drum beat that makes them automatically get up and dance, that energy is unbelievable! When people hear me start Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” it’s unbelievable how they react; it’s a party! (Laughs). The whole arena screams and jumps up and starts dancing, all different races of people, together in harmony.
SD: How do you navigate the music business these days? What have been some of your most memorable lessons in the industry?
SR: Well, it’s about staying relevant to me. The music business is all about what you are doing now. I admire all the new young homies of this generation, they keep you current. The rhythms that they’re capable of creating these days on drums is just insane, I love it all! Older guys in the business should respect what the new guys are doing because it’s new. And new guys respect what the older guys did before you; it’s all influential. So, I navigate through the music business by keeping up with what’s new and collaborating with what’s fresh. Don’t let fear hold you back. Take risks and invest in yourself. No idea is a bad idea. If you do get attention for a bad idea, grow from it. Make it into something positive. It’s still attention on you. It’s all about how you react and deal with it. Trust your dopeness. Don’t let your dreams remain dreams, take action and make them reality.
SD: How would you sum up your career thus far in one word?
SR: Evolution. I’ll never stop evolving and growing. I’m like a fine wine, getting better and better with time. Hard work always pays off. It’s a fact. It’s science. I’m Evolution!
- reprinted with expressed written permission DW's Edge Magazine -
Scott Donnell is the Editor for DW's Edge Magazine. He's been involved in the percussion industry since 1997 and serves as the V.P. of Marketing for Drum Workshop. He states: "The Cutting Edge is not just a play on words. The fact is, DW’s mission statement is to solve problems for drummers, create the instruments and gear that can inspire musicians, and take the art form to new and uncharted place isn’t just a catch phrase or a way to label our latest product designs. It all goes back to our mission statement and our belief in a Darwinian approach to making drums and gear, while constantly refining and reinventing the tools needed to craft new rhythms and new beats — Play on."