A conversation with Kid Millions

 

    We spoke with Kid Millions (Oneida, Man Forever) about each piece of his drum kit, why Saved and Mingus are incredible records, feeling culture shock in Naples and being asked to join Royal Trux via a blank Twitter message.


    We asked Kid Millions to describe his drum setup in as much technical detail as possible.

    I love my drums. I bought them in 1999 or 2000 from the now defunct Modern Drum Shop, a custom shop that used to be on 30th Street in NYC. I worked two jobs to save up money for the kit and would go in there every week and lay a little more money on the counter. I asked them to make me a kit that would work well in rock and jazz contexts.

    Kick, toms, snare


    My kit a 20” kick, a 12” rack, and a 14” floor tom and snare. It has Yamaha hardware and is a really amazing instrument. However, I’m still wrestling with the kick. I’ve sorted out the rest of the drums fairly well, but with improvements with my own tuning technique over the years I’m still finding new ways to use the drums. Honestly, I can’t relate to electronic drums. I’m not saying they don’t have their place and utility, but I think acoustic sound is infinite.

    Ride


    I use a 22” Zildjian K Constantinople Ride that has a cut in it to manage a crack. When I brought this very expensive cymbal home with me, I realized it had a weird bend on the edge. Something very slight but definitely noticeable. It sounded great though so I kept it. Sure enough, it started to develop a crack there a couple years later.

    Crash


    I use an 18” Zildjian K dark crash. I honestly don’t like this cymbal that much. I really need to find a better sounding crash. Oh well.

    Hi-hats


    I use 13” hi-hats, which I love. They give you a little bit more room to maneuver. This happened because I needed new hi-hats. I walked into a drum shop that used to be on Metropolitan near Kellogg’s Diner and the only Ks they had for hi-hats were 13” ones. I’m a big believer that you can make any cymbal work for you. (Of course, I just told you that I don’t like my crash.)

    Anyway, I picked up the 13” hats without really thinking about it. When the bottom K cracked I picked up some Istanbuls and when one of those cracked I just combined the K and the Istanbul that weren’t broken. I think my technique has improved a lot from the days when I used to break cymbals all the time, so it’s held up for a while. I love the hats.

    Kick pedal


    I use a DW 2000 that is set up perfectly for me. It’s very floppy, so much so that when I use other kick pedals it fucks me up, so I drag it around with me everywhere. Not super pro of me.

    I recently salvaged a student model Ludwig aluminum snare with 10 lugs (more than usual.) It sounds OK. Not great, a little trashy.

    I’m irrelevant on so many levels. I’m a walking cliché. But it’s really not up to me to figure out the ways that what I do aren’t valid.

    1

    Morgan Enos

    I understand you’ve performed recently with the great rock & roll band Royal Trux. Can you tell us how this transpired? What has your experience with this ever-changing, volatile band been like? Please be as specific as you like.

    John Colpitts

    I received a blank Twitter message from Neil Hagerty. When I responded, wondering if he’d meant to send me something, he asked me if I would be available to play an upcoming Royal Trux show in Columbus, Ohio with no rehearsals. I quickly agreed, having been a huge fan during their original run. Trux is legendary – you never know what you’re going to get. It’s the same when you’re actually in the band. It’s exciting. Every show is different. My years of improvisation and time spent with Oneida prepared me for playing with them.

    At the first gig, I was onstage with Neil before we started the set and he turned to me and said, “Practice your drum fills.” I laughed, not sure whether he was joking. He responded, “No, I’m being serious, practice your drum fills!” Jennifer [Herrema] was still setting up her rig and I had a revelation to the basic tune of “OK, anything can and will happen with Royal Trux.” At that moment, I felt right at home with the band. I felt completely comfortable and had no fear. I thought it was an incredible set. Of course, about half the audience was outraged and disappointed.

    But bring no expectations to the Trux and you might learn something. There’s no band like Trux in the world.

    2

    I really enjoyed your recent piece about the late Jason Molina and your experiences with his music. I was especially intrigued by Molina’s reasoning for prolifically releasing so much music – he wanted to write his best songs before he got old and lost his edge. How is your attitude toward music similar to, or different from this?

    Thank you! I mean, I think it’s an absurd way to look at your life and artistic production. It’s an extreme viewpoint and I don’t think it’s accurate. Look at Dylan. Even Dylan albums that people write off without listening to like Saved are actually excellent. In a way, we shouldn’t be judging the work of these artists. Like Joni Mitchell. Are we really going to say for real that Mingus isn’t an incredible work?

    But at the same time, whatever gets you creating is probably fine. It really doesn’t matter what you think if you’re not able to create your work. There are countless excuses to be collected – from lack of time, money, schooling, technique, health – but all of these excuses have been refuted by masterpieces. I think Jason just worked the way he worked because he was interested in being productive in a way that resembled a craftsman or blue collar assembly line worker. I’m not saying this as a criticism. I think Jason felt ambivalent about his Oberlin education and was insecure about being drawn to art. His approach to creation was almost a defensive stance against being seen as a fraud by the people he grew up around. He was not precious about his work and we could all learn a thing or two from him.

     

    What’s the point of reflecting on your own relevance and so-called “edge”? That’s why I never really dug the archness of LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge.” Even as irony it was not interesting. Some kind of meta-narrative about taste. Of course, James Murphy has accomplished more than I could ever hope to, but I don’t like these investigations.

    I’m irrelevant on so many fucking levels. I’m a straight white male, for one. I’m American. I’m middle class. I’m college educated. I live in Brooklyn. I was turned on by rock music. I’m in an indie band. I’m a walking cliché. But it’s really not up to me to figure out the ways that what I do aren’t valid.

    Music is not good or evil or transformative. It does not create good out of nothing.

    3

    Has there been a single book you’ve read in your life that’s altered your perspective for good?

    Hmm, I don’t really like this question. It’s really been a collection of cautionary tales in a way. Countless stories of people who have gained success in different ways  – whether artistically, monetarily or morally – who tend to throw it away with vice. Vices are vices for a reason. They destroy people. They are our tendencies exploited to their logical ends. Alcohol, drugs, gambling… it’s all there to subvert your more constructive tendencies. I would say books just reflect these things back to me. Just be careful of where the party will lead. Love and music come first and family and friends should probably take the front row. Music should be a close second but music in and of itself is not good or evil or transformative. It does not create good out of nothing.

    4

    In a recent conversation I had with the songwriter Tom Brosseau, he told me that “there’s no deeper heartache than the first one you experience.” I disagree with that, in a way. I think emotional hurt can come from all angles, to varying degrees throughout your life. Have you had any serious heartaches? Can you tell me about how you processed them?

    Of course I’ve had them! You don’t really process them, honestly. I think you just forget the sharp edges, unless they become like post-traumatic stress disorder.

    And I don’t agree with the honorable Tom Brosseau either. The cliche holds that time heals all wounds, especially since one day you’re not going to be here.

    5

    I haven’t been very far out of the United States, but I’m always fascinated by different attitudes people have in different regions of the country. Have you ever experienced legitimate culture shock on your tours or travels? Where did this occur, and why?

    I think culture shock comes in many forms. I can remember first arriving in Naples, Italy. We were driving into the city from Rome and feeling like we had just descended upon something insectile, teeming humanity, and a desperation at that. Perhaps I was projecting. It was just madness. Naples is madness. But of course, it’s incredible, lovely. But riding into the center of the city, the people on the sidewalks spilling into the roadway… it was exciting and unsettling.

    The other side of it is that every single decision took at least an hour. The soundcheck involved five men, all who offered their opinion. We were starving. Fuck soundchecks really.

    After the show, there was a requisite two-hour discussion between the promoter and the club owner as they hashed out all the details of the night that the vagaries of the situation modified. Naples was culture shock to me.

    Also, as a dyed-in-the-wool New Englander (or northeasterner, at least) I found the Northwest of the USA to be kind of like an uncanny valley. People talk about the passive aggressiveness of that culture, and I think it’s true. I’m not sure I can put my finger on it, but I do think that Portlandia captures some of it. You are operating under some similar assumptions about human interaction – and even if you looked at them pretty closely they would look identical – but then when you are experiencing them there’s a je ne sais quoi that upends all expectations. I just want to come home.

    Same feeling as when I’m in Canada. God bless them – I love Canada and Canadians a lot, and would really love to live in Toronto. But when I’m there, there’s a part of me that’s inching towards home.

    People despair about the insipidity of what freedom breeds in America, but that’s honestly the beauty of it. Freedom has no taste.

    6

    What is your opinion of these three concepts: money, anger and freedom? How do they play into your own life?

    Opinion of money? Wow. Well, is there anything I can say about it that’s not a cliche? “Money money money, the root of all evil.”

    Anger… uh, it’s destructive and probably useful to warn people to stay away from you when you’re not feeling so great.

    Freedom is radical, visionary and really what I believe in wholeheartedly. People despair about the insipidity of what freedom breeds in America, but that’s honestly the beauty of it. Freedom has no taste.

    7

    Finally, can you tell me what you’ve done today, in as much detail as possible? What would you like to do for the rest of your life?

    I woke up and spent some time in bed with my girlfriend and dog Claire. I said goodbye to my girlfriend as she left for work and told her that I was gonna make dinner for her tonight. Then made breakfast of some toast, butter, honey, two fried eggs and loose English breakfast tea. I did some social media stuff related to my upcoming Man Forever USA tour and realized that I should probably bang out this interview in relation to that tour.

    What would I like to do with the rest of my life? I want to have a creative life, a mundane creative life that’s only possible with freedom. Of course there are many arguments about the USA and so-called freedoms. I’m not under any illusions. But I would like to generate a livable income with my creative work in a way that I can dictate what I’m going to do. But honestly, I don’t know if that’s sustainable.

    I need to invest some time in figuring out what I want of out life before it’s too late… and it’s quite late in the game!

    Thank you.

    Data


    Conversation: 36
    Curated by: Morgan Enos
    Conducted by: Email
    Published: September 27, 2017
    Total questions: 7 + 1
    Word count: 2145
    Reading time: Eight minutes
    Hyperlinks: 8
    Broken cymbals: Numerous
    Hagerty Sez: “Practice your drum fills!”
    Naples: Disorienting
    English breakfast: Yes
    Northeasterner: Yes

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