Interview with Aaron Thier in August 2008 - The Virus Of Happiness

In the universe of drumming there is always something to be discovered; this time Austria is the home planet and the name of a dangerous new life-form is Aaron Thier. He was infected himself by the virus of drumming at the age of three and since then he is spreading this pathogen that makes people dither like abulic marionettes. More and more he evolves into a monster on the drum set that makes you shiver because of the pulsating waves of energy he is transmitting, but while playing the drums he seems to get back some kind of cosmic energy. Let´s analyze this phenomenon to find out if drumming can be addictive.

ragazzi: "Under which conditions did you get infected with the virus of drumming?"

Aaron: "I think I have been infected very early with the virus, it is probably a hereditary disease. My father was a drummer, and I watched him all the time and of course I imitated him. When I had no drums near me I tormented my mother, took some pots and pans and created my own beats."

ragazzi: "What are the symptoms of this virus?"

Aaron: "Oh, this is a persistent virus, the impacts are incurable:) Permanent restlessness and obsessive urge to practice are the main symptoms. When I was at school, I annoyed my teachers, because I always played rhythms with my pen on the table. Today it dominates my life, I cannot imagine to go on holiday without my drum set."

ragazzi: "Did your parents ever try to cure you?"

Aaron: "My parents recognized very early, that my disease was incurable. Incurable things cannot be defeated, therefore they decided to support me and sent me to music school, so they had at least a few quiet hours at home:)"

ragazzi: "Is the virus strong enough to force you to daily practice?"


ragazzi: "Which deceased drum hero would you choose to show you some of his tricks if this would be possible?"

Aaron: "Well, this is hard to say, because there are many good drummers. But if I had to choose, I would name two drummers - Jeff Porcaro and Tony Williams. Porcaro because in my opinion he is the imbodiment of groove. He plays unbelievably groovy, effective and very song-serving. Tony Williams, while playing for Miles Davis at a very young age has set new standards in drumming. His way of playing was unique and influenced all good drummers after him."

ragazzi: "Do you know all the rudiments and do you think it is important to learn them for every drummer?"

Aaron: "Learning the basics is very important; it is easier to know how to read music, so one can learn most effectively in a music school, but theory alone is not enough. It takes a lot of engagement and it is also important to be able to play along with records. I think it is more important to play along to songs, than just to practice with instructional books. Only by playing along to songs you can get the real feeling for the music."

ragazzi: "What is the most important thing to know for a drummer in your opinion?"

Aaron: "Technical skills are important, but besides that, a drummer has to know, that he builds the base of a band. He has to play song-serving. Timing and groove have to be coordinated with the other instruments. You can compare this with a building. The drummer builds the carcass and the walls and the roof, the other instruments and the vocalists are the interior design, and the whole structure works only, when interior and exterior design fit together."

ragazzi: "What disposed you to release two DVDs ("Drummer Performer" in 2004 and "Drum Acrobatic" in 2005) at a quite young age?"

Aaron: "Well, the reason for recording the first demo DVD was that I wanted to get an endorsement deal, I was successful and provoked an article in the "Drums & Percussion" Magazine. A year later I released the second part of the DVD and drove to the Frankfurt Music Fair. My goal was to get an endorsement deal with TAYE drums and Anatolian cymbales, and it worked perfectly. When you have a goal you have to go for it."

ragazzi: "Do you have a favorite playing style?"

Aaron: "Well, I play different styles. I don't want to be pinpointed with a certain style. It is very important for me - not only in terms of music - to be flexible. I want to be open-minded about new experiences and I want to conserve the fun-factor while playing, BUT if I had to choose one style, that I prefer, the choice is clear for me - jazz/fusion. I like to improvise and the artistic freedom."

ragazzi: "You studied jazz drumming; is this a good foundation for becoming a versatile drummer?"

Aaron: "My interest in jazz started at a very young age. I started to study at the University at the age of sixteen years. Playing jazz does not mean that you are a perfect drummer. Many people think, that good jazz drummers are also good rock or pop drummers. That's not true. Some jazz players think, that jazz is the nec plus ultra, that's an arrogant attitude that I despise. Every musical style is different, and you can only be good when you take the style for serious and you get involved with the music. The advantage by learning jazz drumming is that you have extensive experiences due to improvisations you have to play there."

ragazzi: "Which thoughts cross your mind while soloing?"

Aaron: "You really don't want to know that:) Actually, I try not to think too much, I try to let my emotions to guide me. The only thing I have to think about is the time. I have to look at the watch. In Salzgitter last year I forgot, that I had put my mobile phone with the watch on it on one of my drums and I nearly destroyed it, because I had lost every thought. You can watch this on"

ragazzi: "Are your solos totally improvised or do you integrate some composed parts?"

Aaron: "I have a few designed ostinatos that I use, but most of my improvisations are free and come out of the moment. I would say the percentage is 30:70."

ragazzi: "Are you rather a soloist or a band musician?"

Aaron: "I always wanted to be both and I love to play solos, but for me it's important to play in a band. There is a big difference if you play alone or together with other people. It is much more challenging to interact with other musicians."

ragazzi: "Do you have any bands or projects at the moment?"

Aaron: "Yes, I have three main projects right now. I am a member of the Taucher/Wendt/Thier Trio, that's a jazz fusion band and we are working on an album right now, I also play with Blockwerk, where we work on a new album, too and with Studio Percussion. Besides that I have many smaller projects running."

ragazzi: "Please tell us about the ensemble "Studio Percussion"."

Aaron: "This ensemble is hard to describe. I would say it is a kind of drum theater. I perform with my drum kit, but there are all kinds of percussion instruments that interact and we try to emphasize the sound effects with visual effects. There are international tours planned for 2009, details about gigs will be on my homepage, there are also links to all other projects I am working on."

ragazzi: "Is the the Zappa project "Chris der Berg" still existing?"

Aaron: "Yes, we have planned a few gigs in November, the first time I played in the Zappa project was in 2003. We perform Zappa songs and also have own arrangements inspired by Frank Zappa."

ragazzi: "Do you like recording?"

Aaron: "Yes I love it. Studio work was always important to me. As a teenager I already worked a lot in the Kixx Soundstudio, followed by engagements by Robert Ponger (Falco producer). I still like to work in the studio, it is a real challenge to find the right feeling for each song. Sometimes I have to play along to songs that I listen to for the very first time in the studio and it takes a good portion of creativity to find the perfect beat and sound for the song."

ragazzi: "Why do you play double bass drums instead of a double pedal?"

Aaron: "Because I think the sound is better with two bass drums. I play two bass drums since I have been ten years old. The oscillation is clearer and therefore the tones hold on longer. I have a much better feeling sitting in front of two bass drums instead of one."

ragazzi: "Do you use double bass drums in every playing situation?"

Aaron: "When I am playing pure standard jazz I use a regular jazz set with one 18" bass drum, 12", 14" or 16" toms, but everything from jazz/fusion to pop or rock I play with two bass drums. That's just me."

ragazzi: "What makes your drum set special?"

Aaron: "The color and the imprints of TAYE and Anatolian:) No, just kidding:) I use two ride postions and have a balanced setup. Many drummers have their setup very one-sided. Right handed drummers usually have a tendency of playing more on the right side. I developed my playing in a way that I perform the grooving sounds on the left side and the swing and jazz sounds on the right side (ride patterns). My two floor toms are on my right side, on the opposite side I have my little percussion corner (two mini timbales, little side snare above it a gong drum). The set is balanced in a semi-circle because the percussion corner is just on the opposite side of the floor toms but it doesn't always travel with me, it depends on which style I am playing. It's important that the set is as universal as possible, because I play many different styles."

ragazzi: "If a kid asked you which instrument to learn, which one would you recommend and why?"

Aaron: "Recorder, then they wouldn't have drag too heavy:)"

ragazzi: "By the way, are you teaching drums?"

Aaron: "I give private lessons but just on request."

ragazzi: "What can we expect from Aaron Thier within the next months?"

Aaron: "In fall I am on a workshop tour, there are also a couple of new projects coming up. They will be announced on my homepage And what you can always expect I GIVE MY VERY BEST."

Frank Bender