My drug is the music

Interview with Brent Fitz, Drummer of Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators

Brent Fitz grew up in a small Canadian Town called Winnipeg and lives in Las Vegas now.  He has been in the music business for over 30 years and is currently touring with Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators. An interview with the Drummer.

Brent Fitz: We’ve been in 3 continents since we left. We went to China, Japan, Thailand, Korea. We were all over Asia first. We left in January, then we went to Australia and New Zealand and then we went over here. It was a lot of temperature changes, Jet Lag… it has nothing to do with music, but just all the transitional things that we’re deal with in our live. People have no idea.

I can imagine that. I saw the schedule of your tour. You played 20 concerts in America in one month. That’s a lot. Do you actually get to see the cities you stay at or do you just get to see another venue?
You know, a day off makes it a lot easier. But a show day with another show day? The schedule is always a tour bus or an airplane or some form of transportation to get you to the new gig. You don’t really get to see much when you’re travelling that way. We came from Berlin one day before the show. So a day off in Zurich is fantastic. Why? Because we got here a day before the show. So we actually got to leave the hotel and go for a nice restaurant or walk around outside of the hotel.

What about showdays?
On showdays, especially when we fly to different countries, it’s not like people who actually take a vacation and plan out and look forward like, «Oh, we gonna see the Eiffel Tower in Paris». The thing is I’ve been doing this for a long time, like 30 years. After a while you get to see the same cities and you kinda go, «Oh, I look forward to that restaurant I was at before».
We ever been kind of hermites. We are a little bit more hotel bound. We are easy, simple guys, we’re not party guys

Not any more or have you never been?
Not so even much back in the days. Slash obviously has stories that are written in books and we all know some of his stuff. But I think a lot of the things I did, if you’re asking me personally, I was involved with a lot of artists where a lot crazy stuff happened, but I don’t have the same scars. I was always arms lenght to a lot of crazy stuff. The hard thing as a drummer there’s a little more demanding on the physical side of playing and the requirements.

How does that show?
I was felt like if I smoked cigarettes I just gonna like burn out. You need to have all these physical things available to play drums and I wanna do it for my whole live. I don’t wanna play for ten years and have to retire because you’re not healthy. I’m almost 50 and your body tells you what you can and can’t do. The thing that the hardest thing on tour is you got to eat good. If you get drunk every night, someone’s gonna suffer and over time… Yeah, I did all that. But after a while it just kinda like it was fun but now I’m over it. And now the drug is the music. Because that’s the best part of the day. The travel is cool, but it does get grueling after a while. But the gig never gets old. We’ve been out for two and a half months playing that two hours every night. That’s the fucking best.

So it’s not becoming a routine after a while?
Never. It just feels fantastic, because you get to do something you selfishly love. I love playing music. I like playing with others. I don’t wanna play music by myself, I wanna play with other guys in a band. So I get to get on stage to play with people I like. And there’s actually an audience of people that really enjoy seeing this group of people play music together. It’s the fucking best.

What’s your favorite song on today’s setlist?
I like Wicked Stone, because it’s from the last record. It’s probably my favorite song that we put together on World on Fire. The reason I like it in this set is that I think it’s the one song that I got really selfish as a drummer. There’s some really cool drum stuff in it. We have an extended solo section live that Slash does and the thing is, it is very spontaneous. There isn’t a set amount of time. I’m studying Slash and watching him as he is soloing and I’m sort of giving him support and pushing the song. It’s really cool, but it’s very tiring too, because Slash goes as long as he wants and I have to sort of be there for him. So I love that song in the set, because it is sort of a highlight. But I also like the song Boulevard of Broken Hearts from our new record, which is our new single. It’s like the most freshest, newest and it seems like a song that people are really into and it’s also the last track on the record. So it’s almost like it’s not the first song you might hear, but once you discover it at the end you go, «That’s a great song», so we just started to add it.

Luckily I married the awesome wife that I have.

Brent Fitz

I didn’t found any private information about you. I saw on twitter another post, that you got married back in 2013. You still married? Do you have kids?
Happily married, no kids, but I would love to be a father. It’s been probably a sacrifice being a musician. Some people find a way to have a family and raise children. Some of the guys in our band did. Slash, and Todd has two grown daughters. The good thing is to be in this business and to find somebody who can handle this kind of life. It might seem like, “Oh this is really a lot of fun and things are exciting”, but the downside is that the separation is really hard. Unless you travel all the time together and some people like to do that. These tours go in different countries and continents. It’s not always easy and sometimes it is not always good to have your significant other travelling with you all the time. Because it’s like stressful out here too, and we are selfishly focussed on the gig and being playing good. And you have to take care of yourself. I’m self-propelled. My wife is very self-propelled. We love that we’re together and it works as couple in the music business.

How do you manage it to be away for a long time?
You have to find ways to manage that. I don’t have any kids, I have dogs and some people have pets and stuff that sort of satisfy your parental responsibility. I really miss home, I like homelife but I’m good with being on tour as well. And when I met my wife I was a travelling musician. So it’s not like we met and then one day, a few years later I was like, “By the way I going on the road now”. And I know that a lot of my friends, people I grew up with and they’re married and have kids, they think that I’m from Mars. They don’t understand, “How could you be gone from your wife all that time?”. Luckily I married the awesome wife that I have. It’s a perfect match, we’re happily married. Here’s another thing. Having everything available on the Internet: for some people they want that. I think I’m private enough that it keeps a little bit of the personal thing. My wife probably doesn’t want to be friends with everyone that I’m friends with on Social Media. You know what I’m saying. She didn’t signed up to be on tour like this. So she might not wanna be as social as I am.

I totally get that. That’s why it’s called “private live”.
But I don’t have any secrets in that sense of like I don’t live two mysterious lifes. What I do at home is the same up here. I kind of feel you should be more social up here because you’re doing something that involves playing in front of people. I think it’s important to have your social media presence, because people want to connect with you and people really love to connect with people who choose to be in the entertainment industry. We all follow other people’s instagrams and facebook and I follow other people too that I enjoy. That might not be a musician, it might be a comedian or a sports person. We all enjoy that, right? Did you see all the coffee on my Social Media? I should start my own coffee

Yes, you should! Todd has his own clothing line so maybe you could start with your own coffee brand.
The thing is if I’m cheapening my music career I wouldn’t do it. The whole idea is when you do something, I’m a musician first. I’m not gonna be an entrepreneur that’s gonna have too many other things to cover the fact that I still wanna be a great musician. Then you talk about branding. I toured in Gene Simmons Band the last couple of years and he really gave me some new understanding insight to the business of music. He’s not only one of the greatest musicians I ever got to play with, but his business sense is second to none fantastic. So I learned a lot by just being around him and seeing how he treats the business side of music. Because it is a business.

How so?
We’re out here and if you can pay your bills, it’s great to be in a band and play music, but as you get older you get mortgages and families and live takes over too. You have to make money. How do you make money playing music? Everybody has a job and even though I love this and you could say, «Well this isn’t really a job», it is a job, because it’s what I do for a living. But thankfully I like it and I like what I do. The business side is another thing where you just have to figure out how. I play with several different bands, Slash is in two different bands now and that is a very normal thing today. People are in different bands, because sometimes it’s hard to make a living only playing in one band. You have to be a little bit more enterprising or whatever you wanna call it. That’s working now, being in different bands.

I don’t actually know what it’s like to have a 9 to 5 and get a regular paycheck.

Brent Fitz

You’re on tour now. How do you manage playing in different bands?
Now we’re doing this and you can’t do anything else. We all are committed to this for the amount of time. Everybody in our band has something cool, that’s also going on. It makes you appreciate of what you have now. I love this band. And then you have something else. We took a long break from this band before we came back into this band. Slash was doing Guns ‘n Roses, Myles did an Alter Bridge record and because of that the separation brought back some renewed excitement. I’ve always been that guy having several different projects. I always enjoyed playing with different people, I don’t want to play in just one band in my entire life and only know that. I think it makes me a better musician and a better person to play with different personalities and experiences. Because I had played with Slash for the last 7 years up to that point and I hadn’t really played with a lot of other people. And then since playing with Slash I worked with all these other different people in the last couple of years. And it was so great to add all these new personalities to the experience.

So your plan is not staying at home in August after the tour has ended but continue with other projects?
Todd and I have another band and we already saw these dates coming together when this tour started. You can’t really plan your whole life. You sort of go little sections at a time. When a person has a day job they know I’m on salary. I don’t have a salary job. I don’t actually know what it’s like to have a 9 to 5 and get a regular paycheck. It’s always gig to gig, tour to tour. It’s not for everybody, but it’s a little more exciting. It keeps you a little more attentive to get complacent. I’m always paying attention to all this.

But if you wouldn’t love it you wouldn’t do it anymore.
Yeah. And I always wanna play with people that feel the same way. To me it’s you’re always building and people that always continue their career and excel, and Slash is not living in the past and I don’t wanna play with anybody that lives in the past. I feel like this is the best music I’m playing with the best people right now, and I’m in the best headspace, the best shape. I don’t wanna go, «Man, do you remember when we were twenty and how great it was?». Some people they do everything in their early twenties and then live the rest of their lives in retirement mode.

Like Slash, right?
Slash too, look at Slash. He’s doing more work than ever at 53. He’s the busiest guy I know. He’s got so many things going on and he’s doing everything so well, completely focussed. That’s the kind of guy you wanna be around, you wanna be around other people that have the same desires. If you’re all the same age and you do all the same is one thing. But if everyone is a little bit spread out you can feed off everybody for different things. Slash is kind of the guy you can’t keep up to. Todd and I are talking like ‘Man I got some back pain today’. We have the same things because we have the same age and do the same things. Myles and Slash are a lot alike. They are very driven in the sense, they’re not as the Conspirators, we actually like going out and doing things outside of the hotel. Coffees, we tend to be the more social in being around people. And Slash and Myles are definitely comfortable in their own personal space, being creative on their own.

Concertpicture of Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators
Bild: Michelle Brügger

Means you don’t want to stay too much in the spotlight?
I just had a great conversation with a friend in Amsterdam the other day. He goes, «Who wants to be so rich, to deal with whatever the responsibilites are of being so rich, people are pushing and pulling you. Don’t you wanna be just in the middle and kind of fit in?». You don’t wanna be poor, but you wanna be somewhere in the middle so you can have a great live and do all the things you wanna do. But you don’t wanna the pressures of the other things that come with the extremes.

I’d rather be part of a band but I don’t know if I want my name on the marquee.  

Brent Fitz

So you rather stay somewhere in the middle?
It’s a good place to be somewhere in the middle. I’m good with that. I come from a small town in Canada, so everything from the bottom up is monumental. I don’t know what the expectations were growing up but probably you get a job and you marry somebody and then you live in your neighborhood you grew up, live not far from your parents. Those things all sound wonderful. But somehow none of that has happened and always other things are going on and I guess I just didn’t wanna do the typical things you would be expected. But I’m okay with not being the household name and having the pressure of all that stuff too. I’d rather be part of a band but I don’t know if I want my name on the marquee. Does that make sense?

A band does not just live by off just from the frontman. The interaction of all musicians makes a band to a band.
I think as the drummer, that the drummer connects the entire band. Even though the singer is the front person, the singer is less connected to the bass player and the guitar player compared to the drummer. It’s keeping everybody in sync. I don’t mind not being the front guy, because there’s a certain characteristic personality expectation and vulnerability to be a front guy. It’s not for everybody to put yourself out in front of an audience and sing. They say public speaking is the scariest thing to do in live. So try singing in front of people! If you have a bad night… as a drummer I have a lot of drums, I have a lot of things to hide behind. But that nakedness of a singer is not for everbody. Some people are really good at it. We have two really good singers in our band. Not just Myles, Todd is a very relaxed guy on stage. I’m comfortable what I do in this band.

Bild: Michelle Brügger

I love it if the drummer is elevated so I can actually see him.
In this show the drums are up, but I’m ok if it’s on the floor. Led Zeppelin used to have John Bonham on the floor and I thought that was kind of cool, because he’s such a powerful drummer yet he didn’t have to be on a riser. You will see tonight, that Slash and I have a lot of communication going on. Not just with our instruments, but eye contact. There’s a lot of things that the audience might not know we’re communicating on. I’m seeing people from behind and I’m still able to control and have things moving, with songs how endings go. There are a lot of things that aren’t the same every night. We leave room for the liveshow. Slash is not working out a solo every night. In certain songs we extend sections of the song. I watch him like a hawk. I’m watching his feet, I’m watching his body, he has little mannerisms that I can follow him. And I also can give him little signals for when songs end. We have all these things going on on stage, because we worked together for so many years now. And those things come from me, as the drummer and everyone’s watching to see when we gonna start the next part, end a song. And again, they are all looking out front, entertaining the audience and I’m in the back. So how do I get people’s attention? You don’t want the band to be staring at the drummer all night.

I actually saw some bands doing that – it felt like they were playing just for themselves in the band room and forgot about the audience.
Slash is our leader and it works in this band, that Slash should be controlling. Although he looks for me, it’s sort of a give and take, we support each other. But I’m always paying attention to what Slash is doing. So I’ve got his back, I got him. It’s a very important thing and he knows that I’m always watching him. I got him covered.

The German version of this interview got published on Negative White. But since I held it in English I thought I could publish the original too. On Negative White you’ll find also a German review and some pictures of their concert in Zurich.

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