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Progressive Rock Interviews

Jason Schmidt

Interviewed by Vivian Lee
Interview With Jason Schmidt From 2000

MSJ: What can you tell me about your musical background and education?
I've been playing drums since 1985. I've studied with several teachers in New York, Maine and North Carolina as well as at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. I've also taken lessons with Rick Latham, Jim Chapin, Walfredo Reyes, Sr., John Ramsay and Trichy Sankaran. I participated in festivals at The Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts as well as the University of New Hampshire while in high school. I also appeared in the March '96 issue of Modern Drummer Magazine in Pro-Mark Sticks "Salute to the Not Yet Famous Drummers." I also received several awards from drum contests while in New York. I've kept busy doing session work both live as well as in the studio in different styles both as a percussionist and a drum set player.
I've been teaching privately since 1994. I'm currently teaching private lessons at my home studio as well as at Music-Go-Round. I've also been on faculty at the Raleigh Conservatory of Music since 1998. I've also been doing drum and percussion clinics and workshops. And I'm extremely fortunate to currently be endorsed by: Premier Drums, Meinl Cymbals, Regal Tip Sticks, Aquarian Drum Heads, Wright Hand Drum Co., Slug Percussion Products, Grover Pro Percussion, Perkanna Perkussion, Roc-n-Soc, Rich Redd Ashikos and Groove Juice.
MSJ: Considering your role as a music instructor, do you find yourself applying principles you pick up from students to your personal style?
Teaching makes me always look at my technique and continue to work on technique and time. Technique and time is something all musicians should always work on. We can always improve! Teaching students also makes me look at the way I play and approach things and inspires new ideas all the time.
MSJ: What can you tell me about any new Mamasutra projects?
We're currently writing and rehearsing some new material. We hope to start recording real soon.
MSJ: What about the upcoming solo CD Banged Oddities?
It is my dream come true! I've always wanted to do a drum record. The record is a bunch of multi-drum compositions. I wrote them while I was at Berklee College of Music in Boston and back home in Maine in the summer of 1999. I'll be done recording early March. I hope to have the CD out by May/June 2000.
MSJ: What sort of direction does it seem like the album is going in?
After my mom & dad gave me Terry Bozzio live in concert for Christmas 1998 it changed my life! He is the most amazing drummer/composer/musician! He is the total package. He writes the most complex pieces with the use of ostinatos. So I got inspired to write pieces with multiple drums and percussion instruments all playing ostinatos. I also use polyrhythms. I play all the pieces live! There's no looping or pro tools on this record. I also use some various keyboards for drone notes and ambience. And there are some surprises on the record.
MSJ: What does a project like Banged Oddities do for a musician?
It gives me an opportunity to express a different side of my playing and writing. Musicians should always find ways to express themselves and try new ideas.
MSJ: Will there be any similar projects in the future?
Oh yeah! This is the first of many. I already have scratch ideas for seven new compositions. I hear rhythms in my head all day. I hear ideas from water going down a drain to traffic. I have lots of ideas I want to get out there.
MSJ: What will you bring to Mamasutra from something like this?
Honestly, I won't know till I start recording the new album with Mamasutra. I'll be interested myself in seeing what I bring to it.
MSJ: What would you see as the differences and similarities between working with Mamasutra and working with other artists?
When working solo I'm involved in everything: writing, arranging, playing, producing, recording, mixing and designing the look of the album. So it's hard to have everything rest on my shoulders. When working with Mamasutra I have two amazing musicians to work with so it has more of a family atmosphere. Mamasutra is a total group effort. When doing session work with other artists, sometimes I feel detached from the rest of the band. They are a band and I'm just the fill in. And they want to play a certain way, which is fine but it's not as enjoyable. But I love to play so I don't mind.
MSJ: What other musicians would you like to work with?
I'd like to work with too many to name. I just want to continue to build my playing style and skills. I'd like one day to be in the elite circle of drummers in the triangle area like Kenny Soule, Franny Dyer, Jason Patterson, and Nick Campbell. I'd like to make a name for myself in this area and be one of those people called when a drummer is needed for a record or a show. And one day I hope to be in the same circle as Bozzio & Portnoy or at least help carry their drums (Just Kidding).
MSJ: Who do you consider to be your major influences as a percussionist/drummer/bassist/keyboardist and composer/arranger?
Percussion: Trilok Gurtu, Zakir Hussain, and Alex Acuna
Drummer: Terry Bozzio, Mike Portnoy, Mickey Hart, Dennis Chambers, Franny Dyer and too many others to name

Bassist: Tony Levin, John Myung and Victor Wooten (none of whom I sound like)

Composer/Arranger: Dream Theater, YES, King Crimson, RUSH, Terry Bozzio, Ozone Quartet

MSJ: What do you consider to be your influences in general?
Life, my fiancé Marcie, my Dog, my students, the musicians I play with (Mamasutra, Blue Healer, and others), my family and all of the drummers of the world that played before me.
MSJ: What is the biggest Spinal Tap moment that you have had?
A band I used to play with (which will remain nameless) got booked to play an acoustic set in a coffeehouse in a mall in High Point, NC. So I thought we would be inside the coffeehouse. Instead, we had to set up in the main walkway of the mall. So we ended up looking like Tiffany or Debbie Gibson.
MSJ: Could you tell me about your drum/percussion kit?
I have two setups that I play out right now. Here's the low down on my rigs:
Mamasutra Rig: Conga Set, Bongo Set, Djembe, Ubange , Doumbek, Gunta , Tibetan Bells Triangles, 14" Crash & 8" Splash and various Shakers

Blue Healer Rig: Premier Genista Series Custom Built Red Sparkle Kit (Birch Shells) 7 piece kit

*I use other Various Premier Kits And Snares for Recording, Teaching, and Cymbals (Meinl Custom Shop Champagne Finish) Including Splash, Crashes, Hi-Hats, Ride & China Percussion (Cowbells, Tambourine & Timbales)

MSJ: I understand you collect pieces from around the world.
I do collect drums and shakers from around the world but I don't perform out with any of them.  

MSJ: What was the last CD you bought?
Niacin - Billy Sheehan on Bass, John Novello Hammond B-3, Dennis Chambers It is amazing!
MSJ: What was the last concert you attended?
Ozone Quartet - They rule!
MSJ: What was the last music-related book you read?
It was a music legal book. Can't remember the title.
MSJ: If you weren't a musician what profession do think you'd be fulfilling?
Gas station attendant. No sorry the title is petroleum transfer technician. Just kidding! I'd be a graphic designer.
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 5 at
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