Keep up with Evan here:
Evan Sammons began playing drum kit at age 12 and immediately took an interest in the extreme side of music. Evan learned to read music and appreciate the rudiments through private lessons and taking part in school concert and jazz bands. The majority of his focus was the heavy and progressive acts he took part in that eventually morphed into the progressive metal band Last Chance to Reason.
Last Chance to Reason officially formed in 2004 and with early backing from local indie label, Abaddon Records, released an EP and toured the US several times over. Even early on the band showed their progressive roots with dizzying time signature changes, quick stylistic shifts and a generally discordant sound.
After several line-up changes Last Chance to Reason released their first full-length, “Lvl. 1” on Tribunal Records in August of 2007. Working with producer Jamie King (BTBAM, The Human Abstract) LCTR created a uniquely rhythmic and atonal album. Evan’s playing progressed with the band, simultaneously becoming more technically minded and groove oriented.
LCTR’s latest effort, “Level 2” sees the band fully embracing their prog destiny. Metric modulation, rhythmic illusions and polyrhythms are all employed to great effect while the previous atonality of the band is balanced with a more melodic sentiment. Beyond his drumming duties Evan also took the reigns for a chunk of the engineering and editing on the album as well as becoming the primary lyricist for the first time. LCTR's efforts earned them a spot in Prosthetic Records' line-up of prestigous artists like Animals as Leaders, Gojira, Scale the Summit and All That Remains.
Evan Sammons Interview:
SDM: How old were you when you started playing?
Evan: I started playing percussion in school band when I was still in elementary school, but I didn’t really start taking an interest in drumming until I got my first drum kit when I was 12.
SDM: Did you play in a school band or any drum corps?
Evan: As I mentioned, I played percussion starting as early as elementary school. They had me playing simple marching patterns on a practice pad and ‘Hot Cross Buns’ on a little xylophone. When my parents brought me home a drum kit I opted for private lessons and took a couple years off from the school band.
I had a great teacher named Mark Macksoud during that time. He taught me the rudiments, how to read music and helped transcribe all the wild metal I was listening to at the time. He was a jazz guy, but could see the things that inspired me and encouraged me to explore those directions. I’ll never forget his reaction to Meshuggah’s ‘Chaosphere.’ He would crack-up over the extreme nature of the music, but he never mocked it. Since then I’ve noticed myself and my band mates will burst into laughter whenever we’re excited by the music we’re listening to.
After doing private lessons, I returned to the school concert band and took up the jazz band. Doing private lessons helped me better appreciate the different focuses in school bands. However, at the time the majority of my learning came from instructional books, videos and clinics. When I was planning on majoring in music I went to the Berklee World Percussion festival and did classes with Mike Mangini, which was an influential experience to say the least.
SDM: Who are your top 5 metal influences?
Evan: I’d say my biggest metal influences are Thomas Haake, Mike Portnoy, Danny Carey, Vinnie Paul, and Sean Reinert. Haake’s approach to syncopation and polyrhythms is unlike any other player, plus he’s the lyricist for Meshuggah. Portnoy was a huge influence for me coming up. He’s a staple of progressive metal for good reason: he’s relentlessly tight, creative and was also the driving force of Dream Theater. Danny Carey is a guy I seem to keep rediscovering and I’m continually blown away. He’s smooth and musical and he brings wild rhythmic ideas to Tool without ever sounding like he’s over-playing. Vinnie Paul is the ultimate player when comes to power and groove in a metal setting. Sean Reinert brings jazz/fusion sensibility to metal without sounding schizophrenic. I’m always impressed by people who can combine styles without sounding like they’re just switching back and forth between genres.
SDM: Who are some other of your favorites?
Evan: I’m a big fan of Bill Bruford’s and Pat Mastelotto’s work in King Crimson. Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree is a favorite recently. I love all the drummer’s drummers like Virgil Donati, Mike Mangini, Thomas Lang, Marco Minneman, and the greats like Bozzio, Cobham, Weckl, Chambers, Vinnie Colaiuta. Ever since we toured with Carbomb I’ve really looked up to Elliot Hoffman. He’s one of the best and most knowledgeable players I’ve ever met, so I’m always picking his brain. Luckily all the Carbomb dudes love to share when it comes to music.
SDM: Let us know 5 CD's that are in your current rotation
Porcupine Tree “In Absentia”
Animals as Leaders’ self-titled album
Periphery’s self titled album
Godflesh “Street cleaner”
Steve Reich “Music for 18 Musicians”
Opeth’s new live disc.
That’s six and there’s way more than that too! I’m always taking in tons of music!
SDM: What do you do to warm up before a show?
Evan: First I go through a series of stretches for my entire body. I like to feel as loose as possible before hitting the drums. People dread stretching for some reason, but in addition to the physical benefits, I’ve found it gives me a good opportunity to clear my head before I hit the stage. After that I do singles and a series of paradiddle variations in unison with my feet. I start at a slow tempo and work my way up, focussing on relaxation and the bounce of the stick/pedal so when I get up on stage my nervous energy is less likely to take over make me force things out. Relaxation is huge for me.
SDM: Do you read music? Regardless of answering yes or no, please tell us how it might have effected your playing?
Evan: I do read music. I wouldn’t say that I’m an excellent sight reader, but understanding notation has been key for me learning the instrument and communicating with other musicians. Being able to interpret music visually puts a lot things in perspective for me and helps me break difficult parts down. I think many people get something similar from programming drums, regardless of whether they understand notation. Being able to visualize music on Pro-Tools grid, or piano/drum roll is quite analogous to reading music.
SDM: Can you tell us about the gear you use?
Evan: I’ve been playing a 4 piece set of Tama Starclassic Performers for a number of years and they’ve always recorded well and held up on the road. They’re 100% birch, as opposed to the new Birch/Bubinga mix Tama is making now. I’ve always loved the qualities of birch for aggressive music, lots of low punch and crisp attack. My one maple drum is a 13×6 Spaun snare which sounds awesome. My drums are fusion sized- 10×8 & 14×11 toms and an 18×22 kick.
Right now I’m playing mostly Zildjian cymbals. I’ve got a pair of 13” k/z hats and 12” special recording hats. For crashes I like the A custom Projection crashes. I also have one of the new Z3 Mega Bell rides, which is really fun. I also have three trash hats that are Wuhans on the bottom and Zildjian Trashformers on the top. From left to right there are 8”/10”, 10”/12” and 14”/18” combos. I’ve always loved stacks and trash hats.
For hardware I have a Pearl rack and I play Iron Cobra pedals setup mainly for power.
SDM: If you could give one piece of advice to young drummers, it would be…
Evan: Set goals for yourself and stick to them! Use your time on the kit wisely, because it’s easy to get distracted and screw around until you find your practice time is done and you really didn’t achieve anything. Furthermore, don’t be impatient. Really hitting something you’re working on to the point where it grooves and other people can appreciate it musically is key. If you get ahead of yourself eventually you’ll come to the realization that you have to go back to basics.
SDM: Who gave the best live performance you've ever seen?
Evan: One of the most memorable performances I have seen was a Dennis Chambers clinic. Besides being an astounding player, Chambers was a great speaker. He really made everyone in the room feel like a part of a bigger drumming community and had a great sense for the history of the instrument. He was telling stories about Buddy Rich playing a bass drum pedal with no spring and Billy Cobham playing singles on top of a glass of water without making a ripple. It was the stuff of legend and it was really inspiring.
SDM: Aside from drumming, what else do you like to do?
Evan: I recently got my BA in English, so I’m kind of nerd for reading and writing. I’m substitute teaching, which is an adventure everyday, and I also contribute to a blog called “Games Meet Metal.” I wrote the lyrics for “Level 2” and have already started in on lyrics for “Level 3.”
I also like working in the visual arts. I’ve drawn since I was a little kid and I’ll have times when I get into drawing frenzies. I like the immediacy of starting a piece and finishing it in one sitting. It’s a good counterpoint to song-writing, which is usually a very long process for LCTR.
Obviously a big part of LCTR’s theme deals with video games. I don’t have as much time to play video games as I used to, but I stay right on top of both the mainstream and indie scenes. Interactive entertainment is the emergent medium of our time and it’s a huge mistake to write it off in it’s infancy. There’s unlimited potential for videogames as an art form. Amazing things are going to happen with it in our lifetime.
I also spend a good deal of time with the social networking aspect of the band. Reaching out to people on Facebook, Twitter and all that fun stuff. Don’t be a stranger, come talk to us!