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BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS TOUR: DYLAN ELISE INTERVIEW

BS&T Full Band
Blood Sweat & Tears
were one of the prime movers of the jazz rock sound in the early 70s. With major international hits such as “You Made Me So Very Happy,” “Spinning Wheel,” “And When I Die”, they brought brass to the top of the charts. Drummer/producer Bobby Colomby was one of the formation members of Blood Sweat and Tears and is still involved in sustaining the artistic integrity of the band. In a group which has seen legendary musicians like Al Kooper, Randy Becker, Steve Katz, Mike Stern, Joe Henderson, David Clayton-Thomas and Jaco Pastorious pass through the ranks, Colomby ensures that the lineage of excellence continues.

“When you’re at a Yankee game,” Colomby says, “you’re not going to see Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. They’re not going to be there. But what you will see is a brand, the pinstripes, and they’ll be able to hit, score runs and play great defense. Because management’s obligation is to recruit the best players available and put the most cohesive combination of players on the field to represent the Yankee brand. So that when the Yankees win, and they’ve played magnificently, no one’s going to say, “Where’s the Bambino: Where’s Mickey Mantle?”

The newest member to prove himself worthy of his place in Blood Sweat & Tears is New Zealand Drummer Dylan Elise, who began playing drums at the age of 6. Tutored by some of New Zealand’s finest drummers, Dylan went on to win numerous awards as a school age kid before breaking out later on his own, establishing his name playing drums as part of the X Factor house band, appearing at festivals and conducting clinics. In 2015, Dylan became an endorsee of DW drums and Paiste cymbal products.

Ahead of Blood Sweat & Tears Australian tour, which kicks off this week in Adelaide, AM’s Greg Phillips caught up with Dylan for a chat.

Do recall your parents having any Blood Sweat & Tears records in their music collection when you were growing up?
My mum definitely recognises some of the songs but it wasn’t a band that was big on my music vocabulary growing up. The BS&T portfolio wasn’t really much to my knowledge, so it was kind of strange when I got the call. I didn’t know if it was real. I had heard of the band but I wasn’t super familiar with their music.

Did you have experience playing with brass at school in school bands?
I was home schooled predominantly. But we did have this thing in New Zealand called Smokefree Rockquest, where high school-age kids would compete with other bands and if you make it through you get to compete against the rest of the country. But there wasn’t a lot of brass. I kind of did play in bands where there would be one saxophone or one trumpet but I didn’t have any experience playing with a horn section like this, especially not this calibre.

Who were your drummer heroes growing up?
There’s guy I discovered when I was  about 7 years old and his name is Tony Royster Jr. Since moving here to LA, I have met him and hung out with him and he’s very cool guy. Of course your interests change and broaden as you get older. So guys like Jeff Porcaro from Toto … Buddy Rich will always be one of my favourites. There are so many… Dave Weckl who is in LA … Vinnie Colaiuta. So many drummers and so many styles and I listen to as many as I can and I incorporate bits of that stuff into mine.

There was a time when New Zealand artists automatically moved to Australia at some point to broaden their horizons. That doesn’t seem to happen as much now and you didn’t do it either …
That was the progression I wanted to make, to move from Wellington to Auckland to Melbourne or Sydney and then onto America. Because this band reached out to me, I was able to short cut that process and come straight to the States. I went to Boston initially. I was there a year and a half but last year after a house fire in Boston, I lost everything. So I just thought I’ll move to LA.

How did the Blood Sweat & Tears gig come about?
Bobby Colomby, the original drummer for the band wrote to me. I believe he emailed me but I had some Facebook correspondence as well. He saw videos of me on YouTube that other people had posted of me busking on the street in Wellington after the Rugby 7’s weekend. He saw those videos and thought I might be a good fit for Blood Sweat and Tears. Credit to him because all I am doing in the videos is soloing really and spinning my sticks but it’s not incredibly musical what I am doing, just playing drum solos. For him to see into that and believe that I could sit in with a legendary band like this, was some very clever thinking on his part. He had that vision of how the sounds could work together and two years later I’m still with them. So he brought me out in 2013 to sit in with the band, not play a full gig but sit in and see how I felt, see how they felt. Then I came over to do that once again, just sit in with the band but the drummer put his back out. All I was coming over to do was one song but he put his back out while I was in the air so I had to learn the whole show in a day and then perform the next 4 nights with the band. So that proved that I had what it takes to be a musician here in the States. It’s great music and everyone can listen to it but it’s not super easy to come and learn, especially for a drummer. I was confident in my abilities and it all worked out.

Did you go back and listen to the original Blood, Sweat & Tears records or just go by the charts?
Absolutely. I had to listen to the original then listen to how the songs have developed over the years as well … look at the charts at how they are doing them today and what the last drummer was doing. There was a lot of research to do so that I was giving the songs credit but also bringing a piece of my own personal flavour to the music as well. You have to be respectful of how that music was made because that’s how people remember it. People who come to the shows remember those songs the way they were when they came out.

DYLAN POSTER 1
There’s a history of very famous musicians who have been through this band. When did you first become aware of that heritage?
The first time I came out to meet Bobby the original drummer, he showed me a lot of the history of the band. He showed me The Grammy Awards, all the other awards, the list of musicians. I realised I was filling some big shoes and in regard to the other instruments, there are bigger shoes. Al Kooper and Jaco Pastorius were in this band. It is incredible the lineage of musicians that have come through this band and gone on to bigger things. I didn’t understand the significance of the band and the music until I got here either and started playing with them. We’d do a great show and people were really enjoying it but then they would come and say hi after the show and there would be people crying because they are reminiscing over high school dances or something like that. It takes them back and it’s so much more than just the performances we are putting on. I realised how powerful this band and the music is and it gives you a really good feeling when you move people that way. That’s why we play music.

Is there any particular song that you enjoy playing?
You would assume that being a drummer that it would be a song with drum solo in it and there is one with a drum solo in it but that’s not my favourite song in the set, it’s You Make Me Feel So Very Happy. It’s just a beautiful song, a great feel and tempo and I love playing that. it’s feel-good for us as well as the audience.

Coming into this band with all of that brass did you find yourself hitting the drums harder?
We usually play good size theatres and arenas so it’s not too bad, there’s space for everyone. We all have our own in-ear monitors with our own mixes. We’re all good friends. When you see us on stage looking like we’re having fun, we really are and there’s no fighting for airspace

Let’s talk about your gear …
Yes I am endorsed by DW, Paiste  and Pro Mark. I have 8″, 10″ and 12″ mounted toms then 14″ and 16″ floor toms. So I have 5 toms. You don’t need that of course but because there is a solo, I do like to play around with different sounds. We cover jazz, blues, rock in this band there is a lot going on … Latin sections as well so you kind of want to have more than 2 or 3 sounds to play with. My primary snare is 14″, usually a 12″ or 10″ piccolo snare on the side as well. Then I have 14″ hats, a couple of 18s, a 17″ on the side, a couple of effects cymbals and a nice dry ride when we get into some swinging.  When I play somewhere on my own it’s the smallest kit but with this band where everything is set up for me, I go for it. I always take my own sticks and cymbals with me though. I play mostly Paiste Masters Series cymbals and they sound incredible. There’s also a Vinnie Colaiuta Modern Essentials 602, which is a fusion of the old Modern Essentials and the sound Vinnie wanted. So it’s a combination of those. So I’ll be lugging those cymbals around, on carry-on. I don’t like putting cymbals in check in even if they’re in a hard case. I have looked out the window and seen people drop my cymbals and I don’t want that to happen again.

What about sticks? Do you mix them up throughout the show?
I play the equivalent to a 5A stick, 16 inches long. They’re the Rick Latham signature stick, known as the groove stick. They’re Pro Mark, have red labelling. They’re a great filling stick, very bouncey, a nice squared off barrel tip on it. They’re not too heavy so I can use them for the straight ahead stuff, can you sue them for when we play rock. I can just switch grip, so they are a versatile stick. I’ve always grown up having to play with dynamics. I used to play bunch of shows in New Zealand where I would play in schools with the youngest kids at front and older ones at the back. The kids at the front are the ones with the most delicate ears so you have to be mindful of that so that’s where I learned my dynamics. Sometimes we play ballads where I will play brushes as well but for the most part it is the Rick Latham signature stick.

What’s a Blood Sweat & Tears Show like? How long are you guys on stage?
We’re on stage for over 90 minutes. There’s some instrumental stuff for the musos in the audience who wanted to hear everyone blow, then there’s the classics that everybody knows and loves. We don’t mess around with those, we respect them and play them how people expect to hear them. There’s a lot of excitement. It’s a fun show man, we have a great time on stage. Bo Bice the singer is incredible. A lot of people think he is the perfect cross over from David Clayton Thomas and the other guys in the band are phenomenal. I’m the only one in the band, who when they say any name… it’s Dylan Elise from New Zealand. Then they announce the other guys and they’ve played with John Mayer or Diana Ross or whoever. I’ve only been with the band for two years and it’s my first gig in the states and it’s not a bad gig at all.

BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES
Wednesday, 8th March, 2017
The Gov, Adelaide

Friday 10th March 2017
The Palms at Crown

Saturday 11th March 2017
Chelsea Heights Hotel

Wednesday 15th March
Astor Theatre, Perth

Thursday 16th March 2017
Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo

Friday 17th March 2017
The Juniors

Saturday 18th March 2017
Penrith Panthers

Tuesday 21st March 2017
Canberra Southern Cross Club

Wednesday 22nd March 2017
The Tivoli

Thursday 23rd March 2017
Ballina RSL

Friday 24th March 2017
Twin Towns

Saturday 25th March 2017
Revesby Workers Club

Sunday 26th March 2017
Lizotte’s Newcastle

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