Cheesy Fun And Cubist Funk
By Don Zulaica
Brain didnít know he was going to be juggling advertisement gigs with Tom Waits, Colonel Claypoolís Bucket Of Bernie Brains (CCBOBB), Bill Laswell, Primus, Praxis, Bootsy Collins, and Guns Ní Roses. He was going to replace Anthony Cirone in the San Francisco Symphony, and somehow Ö well Ö he got sidetracked. The man of many hats wants to have fun with music again, and is considering making a living by opening a public storage facility so he can ďmake avant-garde tweak Ďbingeí albums with Buckethead.Ē In the meantime though, heís happy playing junkyard percussion with Waits, spreading cheese with CCBOBB, and looking forward to the (gasp) release of GNRís Chinese Democracy. You heard us.
DRUM!: Between Tom Waits, CCBOBB, GNR, and everybody else, your Day Planner must be insane.
Brain: Itís getting kind of hard. The other day I was saying to myself, ďIs this worth it?Ē I mean, Iím happy to have the work Ė when it rains, it pours Ė and when the work comes in, I just take it. I figured Iíve kind of over-booked myself, but Tom rarely tours, and we had a great time making Real Gone. He asked me to do some live dates, and it was in between the CCBOBB dates. We worked around Tomís schedule in order to do the CCBOBB stuff. I decided, ďHey, letís do it all.Ē
DRUM!: Is it tough to switch gears from Claypool to Waitsí ďcubist funk?Ē
Brain: Thatís whatís funny about the whole thing. Iíve always been a chameleon. Even in school Ė Iím half-Japanese and half-Italian Ė I could hang with pretty much any situation. I would hang out with the brothers and listen to funk music, and then with my white friends and listen to Van Halen. It always seemed like I was a chameleon, and the way I play is kind of an extension of my personality. Like when Iím with CCBOBB, Iíve got this big Neil Peart-ish kit with ten cymbals, an Octapad, Roto-Toms, and itís all about improvising. The more notes, the more people go crazy. Then with Tom, Iím using fewer drums; a 26Ē kick drum, a floor tom, and a snare. No cymbals, four congas, and all this percussion Ė stuff you couldnít even find in a junkyard. Iím going from more hi-hat notes than Stewart Copeland ever played, to no hi-hat. It is weird, but Iím able to adapt.
DRUM!: What was it like to meet Waits at first, musically?
Brain: Iíve been fortunate to play with what I would call my heroes: Tom Waits, Bootsy Collins, Bill Laswell, Bernie Worrell, people like that. The people I find that are the raddest to work for, they kind of let you do what you do. I mean, when I go into ad sessions, 90 percent of the work I do is, ďHey, can you play this? Do it this way!Ē When you get into that world, when there are ten people sitting around with pens and paper Ė all not musicians Ė telling you what you should do, I call it a ďwear down.Ē The things Iíve enjoyed the most are the ones where they never ask me to day anything, it just kind of happens. With Tom, I just walked in and it was, ďJust do what you do and letís see what happens,Ē which was so rad.
DRUM!: We have to ask. Guns Ní Roses. Can we talk about this?
Brain: I talked with Tom about this (interview) too, and he said, ďAs long as you donít get into personal stuff, as long as itís about music, Iím totally fine with that.Ē And thatís what Axl says. I canít say what Axl eats, but I can talk about my playing.
DRUM!: Our readers need to know what Axl puts in his burrito.
Brain: (laughs) I want to say something, but I canít.
DRUM!: Okay, Chinese Democracy Ö
Brain: Ö theyíre pretty much 95 percent done with it.
DRUM!: (laughs) We can quote you on this?
Brain: (laughs) If you want. But really, I think the album sounds great. What weíve done is awesome. I heard it recently and was like Ė damn. I want it to come out.
DRUM!: All of these big name bands and artists, and you actually had aspirations of taking Tony Cironeís spot in the San Francisco Symphony. What went wrong?
Brain: I needed to get paid, is what went wrong.
DRUM!: Thatís a Stewart Copeland answer.
Brain: Yeah, but itís funny, just yesterday I was talking to one of Tomís road guys, and I said, ďI want music to be a hobby again. I want it to be where you just do what you want to do and have fun, and then if something happens with it, great. And if not, itís not banking on that.Ē My new thing is Iím going to buy land and put public storage on it. Thatís it. Iíd rather make money in public storage, and then I could do an album with Buckethead for John Zornís label, and not worry about, ďOh, Iíve got to get paid now.Ē Every time thatís come into the factor, has just ruined it for me. I love music so much that I donít want it to be the main factor for my living.