An Interview with Jimmy DeGrasso of F5

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In a career spanning over twenty years, drummer Jimmy DeGrasso has toured and recorded with some of the biggest acts in classic hard rock and metal, including Ozzy, Megadeth, David Lee Roth and Alice Cooper. So when his former Megadeth rhythm section partner, David Ellefson needed a drummer to record the sophomore album by his band F5, DeGrasso was his only choice. While Jimmy lays down some brutal double bass on The Reckoning he resists being labeled a “metal drummer” and reveals that the direction of his career was somewhat of a lucky accident. “When I moved to LA twenty-five years ago I wanted to be a fusion jazz drummer,” Jimmy admits. “But when I got the gig doing sessions for Ozzy I thought, ‘Oh, cool! I’ll try that too!’ Suddenly I was pigeonholed as a rock drummer, then a metal drummer, a thrash drummer, and now I’m back to being a ‘classic rock’ guy. I always laugh because you know what? I’m a musician. I like to play different things and I just try to keep my options open.”

Metal Edge: Speaking about the evolution of your playing, one interviewer recently remarked that you’ve moved on to what he called “The Morgan Rose Style” of playing. What are your thoughts on that?

Jimmy DeGrasso: That’s cool, because Morgan is a great drummer and a nice guy. But the funny thing is, my work on The Reckoning is more reminiscent of the Suicidal Tendencies record I made in 1994. It was about me stepping back in time and taking the same approach I did then, because that’s what the music dictated. When I played with Megadeth there was really nothing reminiscent of Suicidal Tendencies, and when I play with Alice Cooper there’s nothing similar to either of those bands. And David Lee Roth, that’s a totally different approach. I just want to create the best track and the best song. If the song works, then my job is done.

Metal Edge: I like your tom patterns on “Love is Dead.” What exactly is going on between your toms and your double bass work?

Jimmy DeGrasso: Most of the fills on that particular song were what I call a press quad, which is almost like a triplet, because everything is a swing or a triplet pattern. Most of them are where your hands and your feet counter each other, where you play something with your hands and then match it with your feet and go back and forth – hands feet, hands feet, hands feet. So, it’s like a flam, and then a triplet on the left and right bass drum.

Metal Edge: You co-own and operate a drum shop, San Jose Pro Drums. Has selling many different manufacturers influenced the type of drums you want to play yourself?

Jimmy DeGrasso: Whether you get a DW, Pearl, Tama, Gretsch or whatever, most of the companies make a good quality product and drums do sound different. It’s like the difference between a Fender and a Gibson guitar. There are different tones and sonic qualities. It takes years to understand, but when you hear little nuances here and there, that’s what draws you to an instrument. I’ve been playing Pearl drums for years because they have the certain ring, tone and warmth that I like to hear in a drum. It’s a very balanced sound. I have a lot of different kits for different situations and I often record with a Pearl mahogany kit that I got ten years ago. Pearl is actually the only company that makes a mahogany shell. It’s not a real popular shell, but the people in the know have them because it’s such a good sounding drum.

Metal Edge: Your drums are very prominent in the mix on The Reckoning. Did you have any input on that?

Jimmy DeGrasso: Our producer Ryan Greene is also a drummer and that was all his doing. He mixed it how he thought it was appropriate, but with this type of music the drums are a prominent instrument. I’ve always been a bit put off when, considering the drums are your foundation, some producers tend to mix the drums way back and you can barely hear the toms. I don’t understand that. If you’re going to play it, you’d better be able hear it. I’ve done records where you hear the rough mixes at the end of the day and go, ‘wow this is killer!’ Then it gets mixed, remixed and mastered for radio where it’s all squashed together. The drums are very soft and compressed and you’re like, ‘Man, the rough mixes sound way better than the final mixes!’

Jimmy’s Gear:
Drums: Pearl
Sizes: (2) 18” x 22” Kick Drums, 10”, 12” and 13” Rack Toms, 14” and 16” Floor Toms, 14” x 5 ½” Jimmy DeGrasso Signature Brass Snare.
Cymbals: Sabian
Sticks: Promark Jimmy DeGrasso Model
Heads: Evans

Jimmy DeGrasso

This article was originally written for Metal Edge Magazine as part of a monthly column by Gail Worley (under the pen name Jayne Rollins). With the magazines’ dissolution, the article has been added to the content base of The Worley Gig for our readers’ enjoyment.

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