Check out Ludwig’s interview of Sam Fogarino of Interpol

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LUDWIG HQ: So tell us what it has been like getting back in the studio with Interpol?

SAM FOGARINO: It’s been fantastic this time around. We cut a bunch of scratch tracks, so that I could record alone to fully take advantage of the large room in studio A, at Electric Lady, NYC. We have recorded live, basically, on our previous three LPs – which I have really enjoyed, and felt it necessary to achieve any level of a ‘band feel’. However, this is a different record for us, and the songs lend themselves to a more layered approach to recording. It has also allowed for me to try various tunings, and head types, on both kits that I’m using – Stainless and Legacy.

LUDWIG HQ: Is there anything you are doing differently for the recording of this record?

SAM FOGARINO: As I mentioned in the answer of the last question, we’re in a rather large live room, so there is a great deal of room recording being done. Our engineer, Claudius [Mittendorfer] is frequently changing mics and placement. And for the first time with Interpol, I’m being recorded without the rest of the band, playing to guide tracks of all the other instrumentation. It’s an amazing experience… above all, no one has to sit around just waiting… there’s no impatience to combat, nor boredom!

LUDWIG HQ: What has been happening over the past year to get you ready for this record?

SAM FOGARINO: Loads of writing/arranging sessions and demo recording… Basically we spent from January until July at our NYC studio, exhausting all the possibilities, so-to-speak. The chordal and harmonic progressions are written by our guitarist Daniel [Kessler] and bassist/keyboardist Carlos [Dengler], but from there the rest, barring vocals/lyrics, is worked on as a band…

This time around I used an audio sequencing program by propellerhead, simply called Record, to help with my drum beats/arrangements when I was away from the studio, and that process really brought something new to the table, in terms of objectivity, and the ability to present my ideas to the band fully realized.

LUDWIG HQ: What gear are you using for these sessions?

SAM FOGARINO: First and foremost my Ltd Edition Stainless Steel kit – 26″ kick, 15″ rack, 16″ floor… A Legacy kit – 24″ kick, 13″ rack, 16″ floor… 2 Black Beauty snares – 6.5″ and 5″, a circa 1930’s Ludwig and Ludwig Pioneer COB snare… A Supra-Phonic 6.5 steel snare, and my favorite of the lot – 6.5″ Chrome Plated Brass snare w/ brass hoops.

LUDWIG HQ: What got you started as a drummer?

SAM FOGARINO: My earliest childhood memories tend to have a soundtrack as my mother LOVED playing music in the house when I was growing up – loudly at that! She was (and is) a big Motown and Philly Sound fan, as well as being into Neil Young, CSNY, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles…

I remember seeing David Bowie for the first time at the age of 5 or so, on some TV show that my mother had on, he performed the song Fame (which was recorded here at Electric Lady, in Studio A). That pitch-shifted vocal part totally held my young imagination captive, giving me an early clue as to what can be expressed via musical output… My mother also took my sister and I to see the film Tommy at the Tower Theater in Philly (which is also a legendary music venue), when it was first released in the 1970’s…

I think all of this was a big influence, pointing me to a very music-driven path in life. My mother also encouraged playing an instrument. She played piano by ear, and did not mind the awful din of a young boy learning how to play an instrument. The first choices were piano and then guitar, but neither instrument held my interest until much later in life, and as long as I can remember, I could always play a four-on-the-floor beat. I finally got my first ‘real’ kit at the age of 12. It was some no-name brand, re-covered in flat black contact paper…. they were hideous to the eye, and sounded even worst! I bought them off of a friend from my West Philly neighborhood for next to nothing in 1980. And that was it, from there I was a drummer, playing in bands ever since.

LUDWIG HQ: What do you do to maintain your playing?

SAM FOGARINO: I just play a lot. I don’t really practice in a formal manner, but rather work on new ideas that are applicable to what I do inside and out of Interpol. I’m not a chops-driven type, which makes it easy to try new things out in the context of a song, and when it works, it’s all the more gratifying.

LUDWIG HQ: What do you liken your drumming style to?

SAM FOGARINO: I don’t know really… I like to draw upon different rock-based drumming styles, 60’s R&B, hip-hop beats and production…. There’s a constant drive, and challenge to play to the song, but to also contribute to it – if that’s a style, I’m a slave to it.

LUDWIG HQ: What do you like about the recording process as opposed to playing live?

SAM FOGARINO: The chance to play it over again! Seriously, the inherent challenge in getting that take for posterity, and the process of getting a good drum sound. Audio recording has also been a passion of mine from my mid teen years… I find a recording studio to be such the playground, with all its tactile ‘tweakability’. I’m always recording no matter if I’m working on an album or not.

LUDWIG HQ: Vice-Versa?

SAM FOGARINO: Playing live is the actual completion of the written song, to me. I view it as the relinquishing of ownership, sharing in real time with real human beings. Playing live is utterly necessary, cathartic, and totally visceral.

LUDWIG HQ: Are there certain shows that stick out in your mind above others?

SAM FOGARINO: Interpol played two sold out nights at Radio City Music Hall in 2005. It was completely nerve racking. The sheer magnitude of that room is crushing, but yet it’s extremely intimate – actually making it even harder to settle in… it’s seems like you can see every face in the audience in detail. And it did not get an easier on the second night! With that said, playing there brought an awesome sense of arrival and validation – even more so than Madison Square Garden (Interpol headlined there in Sept. of 2007), which was also amazing in its own right.

LUDWIG HQ: What was the strangest thing that has happened (or that you have seen) during a tour?

SAM FOGARINO: I can’t share those experiences with all-ages!

LUDWIG HQ: Your Ludwig set-up has changed a couple of times. Can you explain what you normally look for in a touring or recording set-up?

SAM FOGARINO: I’m constantly looking to improve, or just change my sound…. I’ve played several different makes over the past 10 years, but when I bought the Stainless Anniversary kit in 2006, while recording our previous LP Our Love To Admire, it felt like I hit a joyous end point in to what seemed to be a never ending search for “the sound”. I purchased the kit from Main Drag Music in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Their in-house drum genius, John Fell, delivered the drums to The Magic Shop where we were recording, and from the first down beat I knew I just made a life time investment. Despite the large sizes, those drums are extremely versatile instruments, taking to any kind of tuning implemented. I even toured the kit for a year, but decided to retire them from the road, saving them for studio use only. Then about a year later, I caught wind of the Legacy’s, and after conferring with John at Main Drag, I placed an order with Todd [Trent], who was the Ludwig rep at the time. How can one not have a good old wood set of Ludwig?!

LUDWIG HQ: Do the drums you play and affect your playing?

SAM FOGARINO: Greatly! My playing is totally affected by sound – the bigger the sound, the better I play. And tuning is a must, open, if the situation allows…

LUDWIG HQ: Can you describe how you tweak your drums to get your personal sound?

SAM FOGARINO: My drum tech, Bobby [Schayer] (ex Bad Religion), is not only an excellent drummer of many styles, but he’s an incredible guitarist too. This gives him quite an ear for tuning. So when Bobby is around, I don’t touch a tuning key. But when I’m on my own I try to employ an even tension method on all lugs, top and bottom, keeping the resonance from modulating – this allows for no dampening, but I will, at times, use a moongel if need be.

LUDWIG HQ: Which of your recorded performances do you feel best represents your playing?

SAM FOGARINO: As I’m always trying to push myself harder to achieving a higher level of performance and creativity, I rarely look back on my previous recordings. But we can’t ignore the highlights of what we’ve done as drummers and musicians as those early efforts can help to inform progression…

From Turn On The Bright Lights
Untitled, Obstacle 1, NYC

From Antics
Narc, Length Of Love, Not Even Jail, A Time To Be So Small, Take You On A Cruise

From Our Love To Admire

LUDWIG HQ: Top 5 drumming influences?

SAM FOGARINO: 1. John Bohnam
2. Ringo Starr
3. Charlie Watts
4. Dale Crover [Melvins]
5. Neil Peart
Honorable mention – The Bomb Squad – Best known for the beats/sounds behind Public Enemy.

LUDWIG HQ: Top 5 drumming albums?

SAM FOGARINO: 1. Led Zeppelin – The Complete Studio Records
2. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
3. Sonic Youth – Goo
4. Melvins – Houdini
5. Frank Black – Frank Black

LUDWIG HQ: Top 5 albums you have listened to more than any other?

SAM FOGARINO: 1. Loveless – My Bloody Valentine
2. Doolittle – Pixies
3. Yerself Is Steam – Mercury Rev
4. Mezcal Head – Swervedriver
5. Frank Black – S/T

LUDWIG HQ: Top 5 films you would watch on a tour bus

SAM FOGARINO: I tend to not watch any film more than twice. On the road there’s too much time to kill, and still there’s not enough time to take in all the great films that I have yet to see!

LUDWIG HQ: Top 5 survival essentials for the road?

SAM FOGARINO: iPhone, lap top, iPod, the back lounge of a tour bus, alone time.


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