Joel Maitoza of 24-7 Spyz
Saturday, 28 June 2008 19:00

Joel Maitoza is a professional drummer/percussionist with over 30 years of experience. He has played on over 20 CDs, toured all over the world, been featured on MTV, television and radio commercials and has played in such national acts as 24-7 Spyz, Shockhead, Seventrain, Crown 10, Gangland and Elysian. He is also a songwriter, arranger, record producer, session player and drum teacher. In 2001 he started his own production company (JWM Productions & Management) in order to help other bands get established in their careers and obtain recording contracts.

 
Interview by: Bruce Moore

 

B.M: Did you have formal education on drums?

Joel: My parents enrolled me into the Yamaha School of Music when I was four years old and I received my music degree by the time I was six. It was cool because I was able to learn all about scales, music theory and notation before ever sitting down behind a drum kit. This made me pay attention to the music a lot more so while I’m playing drums I’m always listening to the band instead of just playing my parts. I also took 6 years of private lessons with a local college music professor until I was about 13 years old. Then marching band and jazz band in school…etc.

B.M: What about your personal influences? Which drummers were you listening to early on? What about now?

Joel: When I was really little I loved KISS. I had KISS posters all over my walls. My drum teacher would always push to teach me jazz and fusion, but I loved hard rock, so early on I was into both. I’ll be the first to admit it…I’m a music freak. One minute I’ll be listening to Pantera…then put in a Burt Bacharach CD or listen to Earth, Wind & Fire or Frank Zappa. If I lost my MP3 player and someone found my IPod in the street, they would probably scroll through the artists and be like…This guy’s messed up. As far as drummers go, my main influences are Tommy Aldridge, Buddy Rich, Neil Peart (Little known fact: I was in a Rush cover band for about three years when I was a teenager and learned the drum solo in YYZ note for note. About 10 years ago I got to stand right behind Neil’s kit onstage while Rush was playing in San Diego, CA. Amazing!). Moving on… Deen Castronovo, Dennis Chambers, Simon Phillips, Keith Moon. There are so many I couldn’t begin to list them all.

 

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B.M: What are some of the qualities of a good a drummer?

Joel: For me, it’s all about the groove. If I’m listening to a song and my head starts moving without even thinking about it, then the drum track has IT. There are so many drummers with killer chops and can play fast double bass licks for days, but when it comes down to laying down a solid groove, they can’t do it.

B.M: Past or present other than 24-7 Spyz if you could be a drummer for any other band, which band would it be?

Joel: Well…the funny thing about the Spyz gig is that I was a huge fan of theirs prior to ever being in the band so it was kind of a perfect fit for me. I love the Foo Fighters and also dig John Mayer. I guess my guilty pleasure would be to jam with Van Halen, Pat Travers, Ozzy or maybe even Brand X.

B.M: You have been in the business for a while now what is the toughest lesson you ever learned in the studio and on the stage?

Joel: When I first started recording in the studio when I was about 16, the hardest thing for me do was to play to a click track. I was always a fan of the song fluctuating a little bit between the verse and the chorus and to kind of play what the song calls for so I had to get used to tracking to a click. Now I use it almost all the time when I track drums. Some producers trip out a little because I like to cut the drum tracks by myself with a click without any scratch guitar or bass tracks. When I play, I hear the completed song with all the parts in my head already and memorize the arrangement so I know in advance what I’m going to play.

B.M: What are the main elements of your drum sound and what are the most important tools you use to get that sound?

Joel: I like to use a lot of different types of drums and snares depending on what the song calls for. I have an old 1976 Ludwig snare that I use most of the time and that has become my signature sound. I also love to use tiny ice bells and splashes for unique sounds.

B.M: Do you think about distinguishing the drum performances and sounds from release to release?

Joel: Since I am more of a session player now, I have to play what the artist hears in their head and what the song calls out for. I play so many different styles that it comes fairly easy for me, but I love to offer alternative ideas that the songwriter might not have thought about doing originally. If they have a basic rock beat written for the track that they made up on a drum machine, I will play what they wrote first, but also will give them four or five other ideas to choose from. We almost never use what they originally thought would sound good for their song.

B.M: Tell us about your rig. What type of gear are you using?

joel: I’ve been endorsed with Paiste Cymbals and Vater Drumsticks for many years and continue to use them exclusively. I use a mixture of Paiste Signature Series and 2002s as well as a couple of old Sound Formulas that just sound great. I have four drum sets I flip flop back and forth with. I use a Taye maple kit as well as my Pearl (Masters Series) mostly in the studio. Still use my TAMA kits for live performances.

B.M: Do you decide on a suitable sound fairly quickly, or do you tend to tweak tones obsessively?

Joel: In some cases I have locked in a drum sound I’m happy with in about an hour. Other sessions I have spent a whole day just getting drum sounds, but that was very rare. If it’s an engineer or producer I have worked with before it usually takes about three hours to get sounds I’m happy with. I can usually track about 10 songs in a day. Most of the records I have played on I have recorded all the drum tracks in one day. I think the longest was three days for 14 songs just because we did multiple takes of each song. That was back in the analog tape days.

B.M: Can you offer any advice to any of the younger readers who may be reading this out there and are trying to etch out a career as a drummer in the music business?

Joel: Absolutely. Don’t just focus on just your playing. If you want this to become your career at some point, learn as much as you can about the business side of the music industry. Learn about how publishing and copyrights work. Read up on what to expect to see in recording and performance contracts. Lots of this kind of stuff you can now research on the internet, but it’s good to be informed. Don’t just assume that someone will take care of it for you once you have a manager. READ EVERYTHING yourself when it comes to contracts and agreements and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something.

B.M: What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far?

Joel: There have been so many. I feel so blessed just being able to earn a living doing what I love to do is a gift in itself. There was a huge festival that Spyz played in Finland in the early 90s in front of about 100,000 people. That was crazy. Maybe the shows we did during spring break in FL in 92. Recording at Electric Ladyland. Working with Terry Date. Meeting many of my drumming icons. Lots of high points.

B.M: You have been out on quite a few tours drumming for bands such as 24-7 Spyz, Shockhead, and Gangland to mention a few. When you are out on the road anything can happen and often does. Can you think of any disastrous events that happened while out on tour? How did you solve the problem?

Joel: There was a three-month European tour Spyz did with only four days off during the run. Everyone was exhausted. We were traveling down the Swiss Alps in a van towing a trailer with all our gear in it and the tour manager was riding the breaks all the way down the mountain. We all started to smell smoke and we noticed that huge flames were shooting out from the breaks on the van. We pulled over and collected as much water as we could from the snow melting off the mountains to put the fire out. Again…too many road stories to mention, but you get the idea.

B.M: All of that passion that you play with must be tough on you physically. How do you prepare for the physical demands of a tour?

Joel: This is a funny question because in all the years of touring with 24-7 Spyz, we never really did much rehearsing or pre-production. I remember getting tour itineraries faxed to me where we would fly into Europe and the next day would be the first show of the tour. NO REHERSALS?! I lived In California and the rest of the band lived in New York so it’s not like we could jam three or four days a week like most bands do. We all knew the musicianship was there and what we were all capable of doing so we would all learn about 30 songs on our own and needed to be ready to play them at any time. Even after 12 years of not playing together, we are starting to play some reunion shows in the US and Canada and we just fly in, play the show and go home. Now that I’m older, it takes a little more out of me physically so I spend a little more time warming up.

B.M: How do you maintain that level of energy and exuberance? You sound like you’re ready to go full bore every time you sit at the drums.

Joel: It’s just from years of playing I guess. I love what I do and anyone who has ever seen me play live knows that when I play I always have a goofy smile on my face. That hour or two I spend on stage is the best time of my life. I always give 110 percent when I play because I know when I go to see a band I really dig I expect that from them.

B.M: What projects are you currently working on now?

Joel: I’m just finishing up a full length CD for a singer/songwriter by the name of James Lloyd that I played most of the instruments on. We have three more vocal tracks to cut and then I’ll be in mix mode. I’ll also be playing drums on the next album by guitar virtuoso Christophe Godin from France. Amazing player! Other than that, I’m looking forward to doing the Spyz reunion shows.

B.M: How can people find out more information on you?

Joel: I try to update my website every month, but I don’t always get to if I’m busy in the studio or on the road. People can contact me directly on my MySpace pages at www.myspace.com/joelmaitoza or www.myspace.com/joelspy . You can also visit my website at http://mysite.verizon.net/restkv37/joelmaitoza



 

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