Interview with Filter's Drummer- Chris Reeve

“Comparison is the Thief of Joy”

Interview with Filter's Drummer- Chris Reeve

with Song River
(Vents Magazine May/June 2016)

Our rock n roll history is rich and the tell-tale genealogies never fall far from the tree. We are many times destined towards or predisposed to become something that runs deep in our blood. And so it was to be for drummer Chris Reeve as the gift from both sides of him lineage called to him and he answered with a beat.

On a whirlwind possibility to become Filter's drummer, an emergency visa was given to Chris and he packed his things and headed from his home in Australia to the land of musical opportunists... California. It was the right calling to follow at the right time.

Song River: You have a rich history of music, almost genetically encoded in your DNA. Growing up with your dad as a radio DJ back home. Did it ever seem like “Wow, I have this really cool dad?”

(NOTE: Dad has been with various stations including 4CC, Radiowest, HOTFM)

Chris Reeve: Absolutely! I think it may have even been my first steps into a music career. Dad is always on the forefront of entertainment news so I was introduced to great music from birth. Then when I started school I remember being semi schoolyard famous because I was the 4CC Radio DJ's son.

You wouldn't believe how deep the musical DNA runs in my family. My Mum's Dad (technically stepdad) was a very successful singer/dancer/pianist/percussionist and toured the world a few times with his successful jazz singer sister, Jan Adele. He was definitely a HUGE influence on me. My first blues jams were with him when I was 10!

Then when I was around 20, after already dedicating my life to music. I was informed that my Mum's biological Father (whom she had never met and we knew nothing about) was a very successful bass player. In the 60's he was in a group called 'Vince Taylor and the Playboys.' The band had many successful players namely a 16-year-old Jimmy Paige (Led Zeppelin), and the drummer Bobby Clarke went on to play with Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Steve Howe (Yes), and Roundabout (later known as Deep Purple). Vince Taylor himself was the inspiration for David Bowie's character, 'Ziggy Stardust.'

SR: During your early years of grammar school did you ever think to bring your dad in for show and tell?

CR: (laughed) Definitely! In fact, when I was about 7, my whole class went to Dad's station for an excursion!

SR: Do you recall the first song your dad introduced you to?

CR: That one I'm sure Dad would answer better as I would have been about .001 years old. I do remember being informed that Bruce Springsteen was the greatest of all time at a young age. I also remember a lot of Michael Jackson around the house.

SR: The gift of art is a huge present for parents to share with their children. How much did the classic influence your interest as a young person? Are you classically trained as well?

CR: The closest I got to classical music when I was a kid was John Williams. A lot of his classic movie scores were a huge impact on my life. I remember I had the ' Star Wars: A New Hope' score on cassette and would love to listen and pretend I was Luke Skywalker going on adventures.
Later in life I explored classical music a little more, starting with Bach and Mozart. I almost went to College for Jazz but decided at the last-minute I wanted to take a different path.

SR: You saved your money and purchased your first drum kit. What brand, do you remember what colour it was, do you still own it and do you have a photo of you playing on it? (if so please send with the interview).

CR: My first kit was a black 'PROcussion' 5 pieces with Mapex heads. I still have the original bass drum pedal back in Australia I think!

SR: It seems sometimes that musicians get a bad rap of people thinking they really aren't highly intelligent or driven to carry out much outside of making sounds, and getting girls. Yet, there is a pattern among many musicians to pursue college and high academics. Where did your interest come from in the studies of psychology?

CR: From a young age I just loved helping people. I have always been an emotional person and in my mid teens (during a particularly emo period) I started reading self-help and introductory psychology books. It showed me early on how answers can come from within.

SR: When it comes to your keen interest in psychology was it more of the cognitive, social or clinical that interested you?

CR: I was definitely more interested in the cognitive/social approach of Psychology/Psychotherapy rather than the clinical areas of Psychiatry, medicine, and severe mental disorders. Using behavioral therapy techniques to deal with issues and better your life really resonated with me.

SR: Surely, at any given moment most psychologists make approximately 40 plus dollars stateside an hour, yet... there was something in your own human development that kept the drums calling. Could you relay Chris possibly what that was and still is today?

CR: Honestly, it's never been about the money. When I was a kid and deciding on my career path I never even considered it. Being some kind of therapist was about helping people feel good. But the drums have always called me even from back when I was a toddler. It was always in the back of my mind, and the day I realized I could make a career out of drumming and enjoy my passion while influencing others positively through music I was sold.

SR: Do you still offer classes online to teach drumming? If so, what are you hearing out there today that strikes you most about those who are learning?

CR: I do teach online and in LA (contact for details). I find it striking how many people get stuck in technique debates because they believe there is only one correct technique. From University lectures all the way to YouTube comments. It's hilarious. That said, I also find it striking how much awesome knowledge there is available now to the next generation of drummers courtesy of the Internet. For instance, guys like are paving the way with personalized lessons from real pros, anywhere, anytime on your cell phone. With dedication, people can get really good really fast with pro critique on demand. Different times to when I was a kid!!

SR: I read that you went through a phase according to you dad that you wouldn't answer unless you were called by either the name Michael Jackson of John Farnham. What were the impressions on you growing up? And do you answer now to only Chris Reeve? :)

CR: (Laughed) True story! I idolized those singers and just wanted to be them. I loved to entertain anyone in the room. I guess even if it was just dinner time. These days with the history of jokes and mispronunciation, I answer to; Chris Reeve, Chris Reeves, Chris Reid, Chris Reef, and Superman. I only answer to Christopher from Doctors, Customs Border Patrol Officers, and my Dad.

SR: Chris there is always a process pre, during, and after of everything we do. Most of the time we just don't think about it. Take us into your head space... when you are preparing for a drumming session (practice), then during, and after. Now take that same situation and apply it to when you are going into a recording studio, then take it to a performance out on tour. How do you prepare? Is each situation different or the same? What is taking place during? What do you hear, focus on, what is transpiring? Afterward, what is it you do? What is your go to after each one of these situations? Physically, mentally and even spiritually?

CR: In all areas, my process is essentially the same. Warm up and get calm and focused, stay calm and focused, then go to bed calm and clear. At all stages of my life there's no drinking, no smoking, no outside help other than deep breathing, laughing, and therapeutic tape.

My mental space during practice is entirely dependent on what I want to practice. No matter what, beforehand I will stretch my muscles and play something fun and familiar to get warmed up and excited for a few minutes.

Another given is that I always try to stay calm and relaxed. If I feel any frustration I push on for a bit then take a break. When I come back I can normally nail the issue.
If I'm practicing songs for a show I'll make a chart and run the tracks on loop until I don't need the chart.

If I'm practicing something like endurance/speed I like to put on a TV show or movie, then run exercises at length to a click. I'll keep an eye on my timing and technique but stay entertained by watching the screen I get so bored playing on a pad for an hour (laughed).

If I'm practicing groove/patterns I like to keep my surroundings silent and normally play with my eyes closed to really focus on the time and space between the beats.
I try to never end a practice session feeling bad. If I am not at a satisfactory level with something, I play it at a tempo where I can nail it for a while, then come back the next day to work further. I like to never take those frustrations home.

In a recording session, my head space is quite different. Beforehand I always take deep breaths and make sure I have the tunes down. During, I try to remain relaxed as always but sometimes it calls for a different attitude. If I'm playing on a really angry track and the producer wants an aggressive feel I will try to harness that emotion. Same deal with a lazy/drowsy song I try to put myself there in the moment. Sometimes while I play, I'll try to play a scene in my head that matches the feeling of the song (I've done this live too).
Afterward, I have been working on letting the session be what it was. I had a habit of judging myself harshly after listening back!
Live it's a different game again. I start with stretching 60-30 minutes before show time. Occasionally I will play with sticks on a pad, or table, or wall whatever I can hit. But I'm doing a little less of that these days. I read a great article recently in a drum-head magazine about which muscles you're using most at your gigs and how to prioritize them in warm up. Focusing on the larger muscle groups is really working out for me on this tour.

Right before stage when my adrenaline is peaking I like to sit down alone and do deep breathing exercises. This lowers my heart rate and allows me to hit the first notes relaxed, calm, and in control.

Through the show, I like to take in all the sights and sounds. The music and the crowd entertain me as much as we entertain them! I listen really closely to the bass and backing tracks to make sure my groove is sitting well. I'll also always pace myself physically, monitoring my technique and any signs of injury (especially on this tour with an almost 2 hour set list 6 nights a week). I also drink a LOT of water/Gatorade to stay hydrated.

If there are intricate songs such as "Pride," I like to close out the outside distractions a little more, watch my hands, and just focus on one bar at a time. Occasionally, in songs like "You Walk Away," I will count during odd bars as a safety measure.

After every song, I like to pull my in ears out and hear the crowd response, especially at festivals. Hearing the roar of 20,000 people is a special moment in a musicians life, and I like to soak it up every time.

After the show, I always go out into the crowd or to the merch booth to say hi to people. I love nerding out about drums and getting to know the audience, and they certainly appreciate the extra connection to the band.

Post show I ice my wrists and elbows to prevent future injuries, and continue with the hydration. I like to chill afterwards sometimes getting food, or sitting and chatting, or more recently I have gotten into doing jigsaw puzzles. It's hilarious! Ashley and I have a roll up puzzle mat that saves our progress for the next city it's amazingly relaxing.

SR: “You never know who is in the audience.” With modern technology, we are all in the spotlight now. Social media has given new meaning to Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame. Do you feel you have to be at 100% consistently and when or if you can't make that level on any given day... how do you deal with it?

CR: I absolutely agree that it has to be all or nothing at any given time. These days, the show from last night is already on YouTube or Facebook including all the flubs and crazy moments. Luckily, the people on stage are the only ones that know where those moments were! But if anything noticeable did happen, it's out there for the world to see so you have to be on your game.

I actually did have a show or two that I struggled with recently because of a nasty case of bronchitis. I felt horrible but mustered up every ounce of strength to nail the show. The guys in the support bands actually laughed because they witnessed the transition of being in total pain laying in the green room to being an animal on stage, then back to passed out in the green room.

SR: As a drummer who gives, what do you do to refill your own self?

CR: Honestly, giving is the most fulfilling thing I experience. If I must give to myself I like writing lists of jobs that need to be done in my life and doing them all. I love the sense of accomplishment and knowing I have a clear day ahead to relax.
Sometimes I play guitar or drums just for fun maybe I'll even write a tune.

I also love learning about anything. Instead of TV, I'll watch tutorials/lectures on video composing (my other passion), or nature and science, or maybe even how rubber bands are made.

SR: Recall any moments recently when there was someone in your audience that blew your mind and seemed to make you stop and go, “Whoa!”

CR: I think I've seen more amazing things happen in audiences than I've seen happen on stages in my life!
A big one for me is circle pit etiquette. I once watched a guy lose his hat in one, then a small group of guys formed a barrier around him holding everyone else off so he could pick it up safely then they all went back to running around pounding each other...not once, but TWICE! Sweetest and craziest thing to watch ever.

SR: The gift of art, you have found in music. As you feel your way along as Filter's drummer and on this tour, any thoughts on your own directions in the near future?

CR: I have several plans for 2016 beyond Filter. We are touring for the next few months but in the gaps, I will be playing/touring with other groups. I am also going to embark on my first clinic tour. Most likely starting in California and branching out from there. The biggest one for this year, though going home to Australia to visit my friends and family.

SR: On a personal level. You have a long-standing relationship with (bassist) Ashley Dzerigian. How did you two meet? What are your common core elements of strength? 

CR: Ashley and I met on the Filter gig and did everything we could to NOT form a romantic connection. We were both fresh out of relationships and not looking for anything, on top of the whole unspoken inter-band rules. But we had a connection that was

undeniable. Everyone else in the band knew it before we really did and were really positive about it Richard even encouraged it. But we still waited until after the first tour finished to start dating.

Aside from the obvious rhythm section connection, Ashley and I have the perfect balance of personality where our strengths complement the others weakness, and our passions are harmonious. It's unlike any other relationship we've had.

SR: Relationships take work, but they are worth it. How do you help Ashley be a better person and in turn what does she do that helps you?

CR: As I said above we really complement each other. If one of us is down the other will pick them up. If we are both down we can connect and laugh about it, and if we are both up then everything is golden. Either way, the result is both of us being up.

The insecurities in life that I have, Ashley is very confident with and talks me through different reasoning, and vice versa. We really talk all the time it's what brought us together and I think it's what keeps us together.

SR: Plans in the near future as a couple in development? (Yes, marriage is what I am asking. 

(Smiled) CR: There are absolutely plans in development! ;)

SR: Your journey to some may seem 'overnight' or a 'fairy tale' come true. In reality though becoming anything takes hours of hard work. Would you agree that it is when preparedness meets opportunity that the most awesome things occur?

CR: (Laughed) if by "overnight" they mean 15 years of effort and spending your life savings twice then yeah that's how it happened.. (Laughed) In other words, yes, when opportunity arises you need to be ready, qualified, and able to sacrifice which takes a lot of dedication.

SR: Filter has had some of the most incredible works of musical art come from deep within over the years. Most of you have come on board very recently, 2015, how has that been for you personally stepping into a band that has a distinct industrial rock sound since 1993?

CR: I was very lucky to join the band at the same time as Oumi and Ashley, so there was never a time when I was the "new guy" - we were all new! That said, I knew what was required for the drum chair before coming into it because of my buddy Jeff Friedl (Puscifer, EX-Filter). He said the parts are very solid and defined but Richard likes drummers to put their spin on it if they like. When I met Rich in rehearsals he confirmed this. So for me, it has been easy and welcoming. The bass, however (and some elements of Guitar)- really define the Filter sound, and swaying from them is sacrilegious!  

SR: Watching and working with Richard Patrick, the only static member, what have you learned by listening and observing him as an artist? As a person? As a producer?

CR: I've learned a lot about what I'm doing sonically from Rich. He has played some giant stages over the years and knows what cuts and translates instrument wise in those situations. For instance, he gave me great advice about my hi hats that I’d never considered because I was used to smaller venues.

He gives us advice all the time about image, sound, attitude, and performance. Lots of it resonates too because he has been there and done that in literally every scenario.

SR: The new album, Crazy Eyes, seems to embrace something beyond former Filter albums. Critics are stating it is a stronghold back to Short Bus. Media and music aficionados seem to love comparisons. Maybe, it is how we come up with 'new' words to use... I would like to know though Chris as you have acquainted, digested, breathed in old and new Filter music where does it all sit within you?

CR: I would agree that the new album is a lot more punk rock and raw like Short Bus for sure. I'm super proud to be on it and have my art out there for the world to hear forever. The older stuff I love too. Anything Josh Freese played on is golden especially. Lots of amalgamate is my kind of music that I listen to off the clock as well.

I like what you said about comparisons too. I recently heard someone state "Comparison is the thief of joy." It really hit me hard. Let the old be old, enjoy what's happening now!

SR: When you call home and dad answers the phone, what is the first music exchange made between you? And what music have you been turning your dad onto now in your own musical journey?

CR: Honestly, we don't talk too much music now outside of how the night's show was. With us being so far apart we tend to concentrate more on how we are doing personally!

I like to think I was definitely responsible for getting my Dad into Marilyn Manson and Korn though in my youth.

SR: Visa in hand... Perth is a few thousand miles away... on the road in the Americas. Wherever you go there you are Chris. In a few words who are you in your core?

CR: Honestly, I'm just someone who wants to do the right thing by myself and others. I firmly believe in chasing dreams no matter how wild they are, and I love my friends and family more than anything.

Photo Credits: CowGirlZen Photography
Writer: Allyson "Song River" Jaynes