Jordan Rose (Theo Katzman, Cory Wong, Charlie Puth) - Interview

Jordan, thanks for taking the time to chat Drums! You are a master of groove and have a feel to your playing that is recognisable from afar. Having studied at Berklee and now killing it with Theo Katzman, Cory Wong and many more. How did the opportunity come about to play with Theo and all these other incredible things you have going on?

Thank you so much for the kind and encouraging words! It's an honor to be a part of this blog! Thanks for having me! After I finished at Berklee in 2012 I began touring immediately with blues artist Joe Louis Walker. While working with Joe I decided to move from Boston to NYC as I could still keep that gig but could be checking out NYC while I was not on the road with JLW. After a while of doing that I realised that I wasn't really taking advantage of the city because of being gone so much. I decided to stop touring with JLW and really dive into the scene in NY. Shortly after doing that I got connected with a great NY based artist, Caleb Hawley. Caleb began throwing great gigs at me and I ended up playing and touring regularly with Caleb for about 5 years. Caleb is an incredible musician and songwriter who is very respected among musicians in the NY scene. I learned so much from working with him and consequently met a lot of great musicians through Caleb. I met Theo Katzman and Cory Wong (at different times) as Caleb was good friends with both of them. (Side note: Caleb introduced Cory Wong to the original members of Vulfpeck back in the day!).

The first time I met Theo was before Vulf had blown up. It was at a double bill with Caleb Hawley and Theo Katzman at the Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles. I was playing drums for Caleb and I had heard about this "Theo guy" from Caleb before but didn't know much about him. Joe Dart, who Caleb described as a "really great bass player" would be playing bass for both Caleb and Theo that night. I remember being blown away playing with Joe the first time I played with him. Caleb's music is quite intricate and Joe came into rehearsal with everything memorized and elevated everything to a new level. He was so easy to groove with and brought an incredible energy to the music. That show is when I spoke with Theo for the first time. He was such a nice dude and we connected about drumming (as he's a great drummer himself). We stayed in touch here and there and a few years later he asked me if I could play a gig with him at Madison Square Garden in NYC for a half time show at a New York Knicks basketball game! It would just be three songs and we'd rehearse the night before and do the gig.

I didn't have to think twice about that one! That was my first gig with Theo and it was an absolute blast. A few years later he asked me if I could go on tour with him and that's the tour that the "My Heart is Live In Berlin" record was recorded on. We just did another tour earlier this year which got cut short a little bit by the pandemic. We were supposed to head to Europe later last year as well but hopefully that can happen sooner than later! So coming full circle, I owe a lot to Caleb Hawley who is a great guy, a great friend, a great musician, and who connected me with many great musicians that I've been able to collaborate with over recent years.

Let’s talk a bit about your projects. Alongside Theo, you depped for Cory on a Uk leg if I am right? Who else have you been working with and who have you worked with in the past?

Yes, I did sub for Petar Janjic on a Cory Wong tour in Ireland and the UK.. that was a blast! I've done some other one off gigs and recordings for Cory in recent years as well.

Recently with the global pandemic I've been spending a lot of time in my home studio. I feel very fortunate to have a place in NYC that I can play and record. I've been able to record drums remotely for some major artists during the pandemic. I'm on 4 songs of Kirby's upcoming album that will be released soon. I did a thing with Pomplamoose. I composed a jingle for a JP Morgan commercial which was a totally new thing for me! Recorded on a Caleb Hawley tune that will be released soon and a handful of other things! The remote recording thing has definitely been a silver lining during all of this.

Some artists I've worked with in the past that you may have heard of include Charlie Hunter, Charlie Puth, Louis Cato, Ruel, SZA, Rufus Wainwright.

How are you keeping yourself busy during these strange times?

As I said above, I've been recording a lot. Whether it's for other people or doing fun projects that I've initiated. I started posting #FunkyTimes beats on Instagram and calling them #CoronaCollabs. People would then take those beats and add to them. I haven't done one for a little while but they were super fun and I was blown away by people from all over the world collaborating with these grooves. There are so many incredible musicians out there, it's truly inspiring!

Other than that, I've been spending a lot of time with my wife which has been awesome. We've gone camping a few times and done some projects around the apartment. She's a super talented and creative person and made the goal to cook every recipe in a cookbook called Dining In. She's documenting the journey on Instagram at @JulieDinesIn. I definitely didn't stop her from setting that goal as I've benefited greatly from it!

Your’re a Ludwig man right? What Drums are you using at the moment and what other gear completes your set up?

Yes Ludwig is my go to! I've been hooked on Ludwig drums since my early years of drumming. The first kit I ever had was an old 80s Ludwig and a very influential teacher during my high school years was a ludwig fanatic. He even had the Ludwig script logo tattooed on his leg! haha. Anyway, I just love the sound, feel, and vibe of vintage Ludwigs. Preferably 50s, 60s, and 70s.

My setup is always changing depending on the gig but for many of the gigs I end up using a Ludwig Supraphonic Snare drum. Either 14x5 or 14x6.5. Those drums just work for EVERYTHING. You can crank them or make them low and beefy. There's a reason they are the most recorded Snare drum in history!

In my home studio I've got a handful of old Ludwig Drums that I rotate through.. some are tuned low and beefy and some are tuned higher and have a full front head for a different vibe. I've got a big pile of "metal circles" that I enjoy playing as well! I've recently taken a liking to Istanbul Agop Cymbals but as I'm not an official endorser I have a mixture of Cymbals from Zildjian and Istanbul Agop. I've had some of these Cymbals modified by the incredible Cymbalsmith, Jesse Simpson. Jesse is based here in Brooklyn, NY and makes beautiful custom Cymbals but also modifies already existing Cymbals. I brought him two pairs of Hi Hats and three rides that I wasn't vibing with last year and he lathed them down, took some weight off of them, rehammered them and now they are some of my favorite Cymbals!

Whilst we are on the subject of gear, you also do ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ on Broadway right? How does your approach to the gig change towards that from a Theo Katzman gig and how does your equipment change?

Yes I play for Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway quite often. I'm not the main guy but I'm on a short list of subs and end up playing the show often. The original drummer who brought me in was Jamie Eblen. Jamie left that gig after 3 years and turned it over to Jake Goldbas. Both of these guys are incredible people and drummers and are involved in a ton of great things here in NYC. Definitely check them both out!

My approach for Dear Evan Hansen vs Theo Katzman has some similarities and some differences. Similarities would be that my main goal in both situations is to make the music groove and make the other musicians (and actors) feel confident and comfortable. In both situations I want to bring musicality, energy, and dynamics. In both gigs the "hang" is important. You have to be able to get along with the other musicians and be a pleasant person to be around. That doesn't mean you have to be a comedian or the center of attention but just a nice person who listens to others and is a team player.

Some differences are that at Dear Evan Hansen I'm pretty much playing the show the same note for note each time whereas with Theo there's more flexibility and more "in the moment responding" happening. With Theo there are things that are played basically the same each night as well but not in the same way as a Broadway show. As I was learning DEH I transcribed everything Jamie was playing and I now play it that way each time. The goal is that people shouldn't know that Jamie (and now Jake) are not there! Another difference at Dear Evan Hansen is that the majority of the show is on a click. We are all rocking in-ears and the music director controls the click. Theo is not on a click but some singer songwriters are.. just depends on the artist. Also in DEH we have a conductor to follow. Even though the show is on a click there are cues where you have to follow the conductor closely as he may be cuing a section where the click starts right on the downbeat with no countoff, or a ritardando, or a sound effect that changes depending on the actors delivery, etc.

As far as gear goes for Dear Evan Hansen everything is already there.. even sticks and mallets! I can literally just show up wearing whatever I want because I'm in a room by myself with screens so I can see the stage and the conductor. I do generally wear all black though (the Broadway pit musician standard) because I feel bad that the rest of the band doesn't have freedom of what to wear because they can actually be seen by the audience. haha. The setup for DEH is a four piece kit with three crashes, ride, hats, and a djembe to the left that's used on a few numbers. There are some shakers parts as well. Some Broadway shows have huge drum set ups with gongs and huge bass drums and stuff but Dear Evan Hansen is more of a "pop-Broadway" vibe anyway so it's a lot like playing a pop gig.

On the ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Gig, I assume you play to a Musical Director? For someone who hasn’t played to a MD before, how would you describe this style of playing and leadership in a theatre setting as apposed to playing a Theo Gig where perhaps arrangements and direction is from Theo and based on the night?

Yes, as mentioned earlier following the MD at Dear Evan Hansen is crucial! The opening number has these hits that are extremely exposed and come out of the blue based on dialogue on stage. These hits are totally reliant on the cue of the conductor. He basically takes a breath into his mic while lifting his head as a quick prep beat and as soon as his head lands that's the downbeat and everyone has to hit together. My eyes are GLUED on the conductor screen during this moment. There was one time where for some reason I wasn't totally focused and I completely missed the cue (because it happens so quick).. thankfully the MD is nice and made me feel ok about it but I definitely learned my lesson!

With Theo leading the band there are also cues that are important to watch for but it's in a different way. He'll count off tunes and motion things to us at times but overall he leaves a lot up to us and leads us just through the energy and vibe he brings to the music each night. There are times where he'll motion for me to speed up or slow down or whatever but that's only occasionally and whenever he does it's with love. He's an incredible band leader that's always encouraging and is a pleasure to work with.

Do you use any electronics/software or backing tracks in any of your gigs?

Yes! With Caleb Hawley I was rocking Roland SPD-SX and triggers on Snare and Kick. At one point I was controlling the backing tracks via Ableton but that responsibility shifted to the keyboard player at some point and I'm totally cool with that :)!

What’s your favourite piece of gear you own? Are you a vintage Drum lover?

I definitely am a vintage drum lover! In fact, the majority of drums that I own are vintage! It's hard to narrow it down but if I had to choose one favourite piece of gear I would have to say my 1968 Ludwig Supraphonic. It's just always there for me in any situation! Much love for that drum :).

Finally, can you share a quick tip or give us a small exercise you always use?

Something that has helped me a lot is to have a purpose when I play music. My purpose when I play music is to try to uplift, inspire, and bring joy to those who I have the opportunity to play music for. As I focus on this purpose the music is no longer about me and becomes about those that I'm sharing music with. I'm not performing to impress people but rather to bless people. As I try to perform with that purpose in mind it really changes the whole experience for me. I feel a deeper connection to the music and to the people I'm playing for and with. I'm less worried about what people think of me because I'm more concerned with how I can use my musical gifts for benefit of other people. I try to remind myself of that purpose often and meditate on it as I've found it to add a lot to my experience as a musician.

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