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Drummer Josh Trager was recently in the UK with Frank Marino as part of the Legends of Rock tour. Thanks to Batttttty for passing on the questions.

1. What are you currently up to?

Well, let's see..We've been putting the finishing touches on our new double live album (tentatively called "All Access" due out Spring).It was recorded on Sept 8th 2001 and the performances are truly magical. We haven't had a long enough stretch of time to complete it so whenever there's off time we try to put some time in on the album. Frank, being the perfectionist that he is likes to do things himself and rightfully so..The guy's a genius behind the console! Besides that, I'll be heading off to the NAMM show in LA in a few days and then back home to start planning a North American excursion in support of the new disc.

2. What has been the highlight(s) and lowpoints(s) of your career to date?

Well, we'll save the best for last and start with the lowpoints. I cant really think of any personal blows I may have taken, you see I have a habit of making good of everything, at least in retrospect.. However, I would probably consider the day I discovered the utter corruptness of the music Industry to be a low point..a low point that just wont go away!=)

Now I feel blessed to say the highlights are far too many to list here. Obviously one that sticks out is being asked to play with Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush.

3. Who have been your main musical influences and why?

Well, first and foremost my favourite drummer is Vinnie Colaiuta.BIG TIME! He's got it all! He's the best mix of technique and musicality. A real musician's drummer. Other drummers I really dig are guy like Dennis Chambers, Gary Novak, Rodney Holmes, the list goes on and on. I basically listen to a very wide variety of music and have studied a wide variety of music. I've always been an advocate for finding the good in all music. I guess some of the main ones would be: Steely Dan, Sting, Chick Corea, Brad Meldau,Allan Holdsworth, Frank Zappa, Toto,. Man,I feel like I'm leaving out so many incredible people out of this one =) Lately Ive been into a lot of singer songwriters.John Mayer's great!

4. How did you get the Mahogany Rush gig? Do you enjoy the freedom of the music as opposed to say being in a band that has strict sets each night. How much improvisation do you do in a typical Mahogany Rush concert?

I was going to Berklee college of Music in Boston and had just come home for the summer to find myself gigless. Out of nowhere I got a phone call from someone at Justin Time Records . They told me that I'd been recommended for the gig with Mahogany Rush and what were my future plans. I swiftly answered and told them "Well, I hope they're to play with Frank Marino"=). So, I put together a little press kit for him and met him a few days after that and the rest is history. As for the freedom of the music, I totally dig it! That's my favourite part of the gig!

Although sometimes it can get a bit nerve wracking when he(Frank) starts talking about what he "might" play. He might go into something completely out of the blue so I really have to have put on my elephant ears.. We really never rehearse a set list for a tour. Things just sort of come together in the moment..Before our last tour we were in Frank's studio hangin' out and jamming a bit. He started doing all this cool sitar stuff on the guitar with NO effects..It sounded like a REAL sitar. Anyway, I just happened to mention, "hey wouldn't it be cool to break into a rockin' version of Tomorrow Never Knows?"(Beatles) next thing you know first night of the tour it became our closing tune and we never discussed doing that!

So as you can see we do as much improvisation in a show as possible! Frank's approach is very much of the jazz player's mentality. Alot of people don't realize the true extent of what he's capable of and what he has to offer.

5. How did the UK Legends of Rock tour go? The fans were particulary desperate to see Frank who last toured the Uk back in the early 80's! What were your personal highlights of the tour?

The Legends tour was amazing! It was the coolest experience sharing the stage with the likes of Glenn Hughes, Uli Jon Roth and Jack Bruce! Also sharing drum duties with Clive Bunker was just a real treat.That man has to be the sweetest most sincere and unassuming rock legend out there! And he makes a mean Espresso!

The fact that Frank hadn't been there for almost 20 years made that tour twice as special. The fans were grateful and some who hadn't expected to see Frank on the bill had quite a pleasant surprise so we gave it them 200% every night! Everybody on the tour became really good friends. Everyone helped each other out whenever they could. No egos on this one!. nothing but good times! Some personal highlights from the tour were doing a group bow at the end of every night. Jamming with Jack Bruce at soundcheck! Also some pretty cool people came to hang some nights like Don Airey, Debbie Bonham and Ian Anderson. Just being around and playing with all the great musicians on the tour was one of my favourite aspects of the tour.It was a great experience and Ill never forget it!

6. You have played in jazz/fusion bands - how does drumming technique differ between those styles of music and the more rock orientated style of Mahogany Rush? What style of drumming do you prefer to play?

Prior to playing with Frank I never "really" played in a loud rock band. It was all straight ahead or big band or fusion. I mean, I was actually pegged a "jazz guy" while at Berklee. The difference in the actual physical technique is more obvious between jazz and rock. Fusion's kind of in the middle somewhere hence the name. I mean, it was originally called jazz/rock! The main difference in that respect is in the level of power and volume. It can be debated weather or not actual technique changes or should change. Some guys change grips when switching gears from jazz to rock..I play matched grip all the time..I think the main difference is the mental approach to those particular styles and how one would approximate them on the drums. So in the end its really more of a feel thing than a ThIs is your rock technique and ThIs is your jazz technique. I don't really get off on any one style more than the other, I really thrive on the challenge of playing each style convincingly.

7. You run your own drum clinics - how do these operate? (for readers who may not be musos!) Any advice for up and coming drummers?

Drum clinics or master classes are often held at music stores or schools and they consist of a variety of drumming, different styles, there's usually space where I can demonstrate some of the things I do in particular as well as time where I can answer questions from the audience. Sometimes the program differs slightly depending on the audience. However they're always both informative and entertaining.

My advice for any drummer is to go to as many clinics as possible, check out as much music as possible. Its also important to keep up on what's out there for dummers and what some of the great one;s are up to.Magazines like Modern Drummer, Drum's ETC., Drum!, Batteur and Rhythm are great magazines. I'd also advice any aspiring drummers out there to get into learning piano or guitar and harmony and theory. That stuff comes in handy when relating to the guys you're working with.

8. Any tales from your days on the road with Frank?

Oh, where to begin! Well, there was the lasagna situation at one of the hotels. JJ(Marsh) the guitarist from the Legends tour and I were starving so we ordered some lasagne...It was served in a tinfoil dish and was ice cold! The damn thing cost 20$ to boot! Needless to say I went to ask for my money back.I got it back but a few moments later JJ had decided he was too hungry and just had to devour both plates! The hotel staff made a big stink about it how he shouldnt've eaten the lasagna after getting our money back. Our famed tour coordinator Batttttty transformed herself into the Terminator and took on the whole hotel staff. She sure took care of business!

One night on that tour Frank ended up mending Uli's "sky guitar" The guitar was virtually unplayable. In no time at all Frank, the Electronics wiz brought it back to life. One time during the group bow at the end of the show my fly was down! Broder, one of the keyboard players so "discretely" pointed it out to me in front of a rather large audience! One of the crazier things that happened took place in Cleveland a few months ago. There was a crazed stalker who'd sent a disturbing letter to the venue. He was to be at the show that night! We had to get all kinds of security it was total beadlum! I actually feared for my life! The show went on without a hitch and Frank ended up playing a song he hadn't played in like 25 years:."Buddy!"

hmmm, there was also the time on the van where I really really "had to go"=). But we wont talk about that here!=) Last summer Frank and I went to a party for Vanilla Fudge in NYC. I particularly enjoyed that event because they had placed us at a table with a bunch of models! Later on they had us in the limo with them as well! I was thinking, Man are the other two guys missing out or what?? On our 2001 US tour we had the pleasure of playing host to several fans who traveled as far as Japan! That was a real trip! No pun intended =) Also,. The first night of that tour in Buffalo we had some technical difficulties. Frank ended up blowing SIX speakers! He'd said that never before has he ever blown even TWO in one night!

9. Outside of business, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

While not on the road or busy with Frank my main gig is teaching .I have an ever-growing roster of students. Besides that, I'm always trying to improve my piano and guitar chops. Often I just try to hang out with friends a lot so as to not lose touch with anyone. Of course spending time with my girlfriend and family is high on the list. Probably one of my favourite activities would have to be going out to eat.=) Food seems to bring people together!

10. Message for your fans...

Thanks for keeping me cool on those hot nights! Just kidding!=) Thanks for all the support! Mahogany Rush fans, Franksters, Marinoheads, whatever you might be. You are the greatest most devoted fans in the (Strange) Universe!

Frank Marino interview

Interview © 2003 Jason Ritchie/
Format and edit: The Music Index.

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