No doubt you heard the strains of Collective Soul’s latest single “Hollywood” as it serenaded the first-round lot of hopefuls on Fox’s American Idol this season. A bright burst of musical energy, this track from the band’s latest album Afterwords, is in many ways a testament to the staying power of this multi-platinum, post-grunge outfit. Refined songwriting, relentless touring, and sheer will have kept the band in the spotlight even without the aid of major-label support; which makes the addition of multi-faceted drummer Ryan Hoyle so perfect. In his relatively short time on the scene, Ryan has not only been able to secure the gig with Ed Roland and Co. but other coveted drum chairs as well. Coming from a solid percussive foundation of education, practice, and hard work, Ryan’s playing is a fresh blend of aggressive energy and in-the-pocket groove. However, as you will learn from the following interview, Ryan’s near-fanatical search for the perfect drum tone is one that fuels his personal sound as much as the music he is playing.
LUDWIG HQ: What is your schedule like for the next few months with Collective Soul?
RYAN HOYLE: This year we have already completed two six-week tours of both the US, Canada, and South America and are currently taking a little time off. Except for a few fly dates, I am spending most of May and June at home in Los Angeles working away in the studio. Our next tour begins on the 4th of July at Red Rocks Amphitheater and we will go out for another six-week run of US and Canadian dates with both Live and Blues Traveler.
LUDWIG HQ: The Collective Soul web site shows you as the OFFICIAL drummer for the band. How did this come about?
RYAN HOYLE: I have been working with Collective Soul for four and-a-half years now. I met Ed Roland through a producer friend of mine, Dexter Green (co-producer on “Youth”) in October 2003. At that time, I was living in Nashville and was completely focused on a career as a studio musician. Dex and I had been working together quite a lot in Nashville doing all sorts of different kinds of projects. One of those projects was a band from Atlanta called Five Star Iris. I got a call to come in and play on some of their tracks one morning and lo and behold, one of the songs we cut that day was co-written by Ed Roland who was a friend of the lead singer. Apparently, when Ed heard how this song turned out he decided to take a chance and invite Dex and I Atlanta to try a couple songs with the band. Things went well and we wound up doing the rest of the record with them. I worked in the studio as a session player on and off for about a year. The album eventually became “Youth” and was released in November 2004. I went to the record release party at The Roxy in Hollywood and didn't hear from anyone for a couple of months after that as they had started the tour. Then, early one morning in January, I got a call from Ed. He asked me if I would be into coming out on the road with them. He explained that he needed me to come help out for a while and he said that it was not a permanent thing but that it was not going to be just a month or two either. I said, "yes" immediately.
We had one rehearsal and off we went. I was playing some of my favorite songs on stage with one of my all-time favorite bands. So, in my first year on the road which was 2005, we played around 160 shows and filmed a DVD and I was basically considered a sub during that time. The following year there was a discussion and it was made clear that my involvement would potentially be more permanent; this was January 2006. In 2006, I started getting integrated within the media and included in the meet and greets. By 2007, I felt very much at home within the band. I was listed as a band member in the album artwork and at that point we had all of our business arrangements figured out. It definitely didn't happen overnight. I had to become part of a family; the other guys in the band all grew up on the same street. I think they wanted to see me at my worst and at my best. They wanted take time to develop trust and see if I was going to be responsible with things that affected the rest of the band other than just the music. In the beginning, I thought if you were on stage and on the record then you must be “in the band” but the reality is that the process tends to move slower than that. I remember consciously deciding during late 2005 that I had come far enough and that I really wanted to be in this band. So, I just acted as if until it happened. I think that you emit the kind of energy that you are thinking about. I loved being their drummer and I believed in their creative vision. I was willing to see the other members as leaders and peers. I guess I just made up my mind I was going to be in the band and here I am.
LUDWIG HQ: In the Collective Soul live set, is there room in the older material to play the track the way YOU would play it, or is there pressure to play it as it was recorded?
RYAN HOYLE: On any gig it is my number one goal to honor the music and to accurately portray what has made these songs successful...this certainly includes the drum part. I have always been the type of drummer that probably goes a little too far when it comes to learning exactly what was played on the record. For one, I enjoy getting inside just “what exactly makes this this drum track work?” “What is it about this production that defines the time that it was created in?” “What is it about this song that has the indefinable hit quality x-factor?” I guess that's the studio drummer in me. I believe that so many of the great epiphanies I have had and so many of the components that make up my style comes from taking the time to really learn all of the hidden secrets within the drum tracks that I have studied over the years. The other reason that I have traditionally gone over board when it comes to learning the material is because I think that you are showing a powerful statement of gratitude for being hired on the gig. When a band or an artist goes in to make a record there is so much work that goes into each arrangement, each cymbal crash, and even each ghost note that learning it, playing consistently, and enjoying every second of it sends a strong message that you believe in the vision of the band and are willing to align yourself with it. With that being said, I also think that after time there is a healthy evolution that takes place after playing hundreds of shows together and forming a deep trust within the group. Playing a live rock show isn't the record. There are times within the music where there is more space to fill, and more energy to provide. The other thing that can greatly affect things are the tempos. A lot of the time, we will play the songs faster live than they were originally recorded. This might mean that at 72 BPM the original part works great but at 80 BPM I might need to break up the sixteenth notes between two hands to make the groove still feel comfortable. One other note on this subject: I really like to take note of the percussion in the track as well and try work that kind of motion into my live groove if possible...never underestimate the motion that you can create by simulating the shaker track with a little dash of cleverly placed ghost notes on a 6x12” side snare.
Click here to check out some examples:
LUDWIG HQ: You have played as both a “Hired Gun” and “Band Member” in various situations; how does one situation differ from the other?
RYAN HOYLE: Aside from the obvious differences like: being involved in the media and press presentation of the group vs. being a non-advertised side man, getting a percentage of profits and losses vs. getting a flat rate, being involved in the creative process vs. just playing live, having longer term job security vs. wondering if you'll get called back for the next tour or session, having added responsibilities like meet and greets, radio interviews, charity events, photo shoots, merchandise approvals, and web-blogging chores vs. just showing up and playing the gig, there are actually more similarities than differences in my opinion. The fact remains that you are still a small but very important part of a larger organization who counts on you not only musically but professionally, ethically, and personally to make the right decisions and project the right energy that will compliment and further the image and ultimately the career of the group or artist that you are working with.
LUDWIG HQ: You have a background in percussion studies; how has your education helped you in your career and what do you do to develop and maintain your versatility?
RYAN HOYLE: Well, that's really two questions isn't it? I attended college at the University of North Texas and before that I had a well versed career in both public school bands and private drum lessons. When I was in junior high, my first official drum instructor would come to my school once a week and I would get to leave class to take a lesson. There were so many things that he tried to instill in me as he was very conservative and came from a big band jazz background. All I wanted to learn was how to get my right foot to do the John Bonham triplets but he would very patiently show me that the drumming of John Bonham was his house and that reading, rudiments, technique, and knowledge of different styles would be the tools that I would need to build my own house someday. I could go on forever about the countless times in my life that I have been frustrated in having to learn something that I felt had nothing to do with my passion but has actually been huge in developing the tools and concepts that I now use daily. When I was at UNT, I was studying music theory, sight singing, and playing piano. I didn't go there for that but I am so glad that I did. Without sight singing and a knowledge of intervals I would not have the ability to tune drums that I do today. Without music theory and reading I would not have a way to talk with producers and musicians or to make cheat sheets to learn large amounts of material before a gig or a session. Without a firm knowledge of rudiments and stick control I would never have the ability even warm up properly before a show or most importantly to improve as a drummer. Though I couldn't always see it at the time, my education has been more than priceless in helping me develop the tools that I use daily to work with others, improve as a musician, and develop my own sound or build my “house”. Now is the fun part, I maintain my versatility by taking the tools I have acquired to develop my own sound and apply it to the many different situations I am presented with.
LUDWIG HQ: You have been able to get some huge gigs in a relatively short amount of time. In your opinion, what in your playing says “HIRE ME” to acts in need of a drummer?
RYAN HOYLE: I was just recently speaking to a producer friend of mine in Nashville who was actually responsible for helping me get my start in that scene and he made a comment that I find interesting. He said that when he thought of me and remembered back to when we played together one word came to mind...confidence. I was of course extremely flattered by the comment and have since done some thinking about this. As all things in life, I think that confidence in this case contains a dichotomy. To me, it means that not only do you believe in every note that you play and every note that you don't play but feel like it is your last but also have the personal security or confidence to take criticism and learn from the suggestions of others. I have said this a few times but one of the greatest quotes I have ever heard that I agree with whole heartedly is from the great Steve Gadd who said “all of the good ideas came from the music within me, all of the great ideas came from listening to the ideas of others”. One other thing comes to mind on this subject. Someone had once asked me something that changed my life. He said, “Who's the greatest drummer in the world?” I've always thought that was a weird question to ask. I thought greatest, what does that mean? Is it a contest? If it's a contest what does that mean? So I think about sports. Sports is a contest, so if I answer that question and view the guy from an athletic point of view, I would have to say the first great sport drummer was Buddy Rich. Still to this day, physically, on a drum set, he just amazes me. So I gave that answer and the guy was like “No. He's just the greatest drummer you've ever heard of…” That changed my life because what that enabled me to think about was that you've got to be careful, all the things that you're doing, if people don't know about it then you're not really doing anything.
LUDWIG HQ: During some of your off-time, you landed the drum chair with Paul Rogers? What was it like backing a rock legend?
RYAN HOYLE: Truly unbelievable. I can't tell you how many times I have sat behind my kit and looked out in front of me and listened to the sound coming through my monitors and said “What in hell am I doing here!?!” Paul is the most consummate and classy professional. He means business without any of the wasted energy. Paul would sit on the tour bus everyday with his headphones on listening to the show from the night before. He would write notes about his performance and how we could do better. He would write notes about the light show or about the set list and how to make it flow more effectively. He would write notes about the beginnings, endings, and the tempos of the songs. It wasn't in an obsessive/compulsive way but rather it was in a very precise, constructive, and valuable way. No one ever felt like they were being attacked. He would show up at sound check with his list and give everyone the most constructive feedback. I certainly wouldn't call Paul my best friend, as he is very much a boss to me; an idol and a hero as well. He conducts himself with so much integrity; he translates that to the people around him and makes everyone so much better than they are.
LUDWIG HQ: Are there certain shows that stick out in your mind above others?
RYAN HOYLE: Well, let's see. I can remember opening for Metallica in South Africa. We played sold out cricket stadiums to 60,000 rabid Metallica fans and got the surprisingly warmest reception. I can remember playing two sold-out shows in Atlanta at the Woodruff Arts Center with a 120 piece youth orchestra when the cameras were rolling while filming our DVD after only playing with the band live for a little over two months. I can remember playing Royal Albert Hall in London with Paul Rodgers and having Jimmy Page, Roger Taylor, Brian May, and Roger Fischer on the side stage watching us play. It was only my second show with Paul and Gary Moore sat in and played a few songs with us...this all seems pretty ridiculous now that I think back on it....
Click here to see some footage from the gig with Collective Soul and the 120 piece orchestra:
Click here to see some footage from the gig at Royal Albert Hall with Paul Rodgers:
LUDWIG HQ: What was the strangest thing that has happened (or that you have seen,) during a tour?
RYAN HOYLE: That is the hardest of all questions to answer because part of being on the road with a rock and roll band is the inevitable desensitization that happens when everything around you is so bizarre. Aside from that, I have heard and seen no evil in my day...I don't know ….it's kind of like the Bat Cave. You get sprayed with an amnesia spray on the way home and you don't remember anything. I don't know what happens out there…
LUDWIG HQ: Your Ludwig set-up on the '07 Collective Soul tour was way out of the ordinary. Can you explain it and the reasons why you chose it?
RYAN HOYLE: Well, I think that the short answer would be that the music always dictates my setup. The music that I have played in the past, the music that I am currently playing, and even the music that I would like to play in the future. It's just like an artist's palette of colors that will inspire him to paint the next stroke...on a more detailed level, I like to think of my kit as a basic 4 piece setup with goodies. My concept at this point is this: I've always loved classic rock and roll, and that's the foundation of my setup. In the middle of my kit is that simple, dumb, rock-and-roll guy, who is innocent but charming. I like the 4-piece configuration because you don't have this row of toms that often can come off sounding very symmetrical. The snare and the two toms form a triangle, so your fills get choppier, your feel becomes a little bit quirkier, more interesting, and a little more challenged. On the outsides of my kit, I have 3 different hi-hats, 2 different bass drums, 2 different snare drums, 2 congas, and some of crazy combinations with obscure drumheads by Remo, renegade muffling techniques, and different cymbal stackers from Paiste. My goal was that I really wanted to try and emulate the things I hear the great programmers do but on a live acoustic level. So, I kind of took my love for Rap and Hip-Hop programmers, and tried to come up with a concept that blends the two together. The new Collective Soul record has no canned loops on it. It is all live acoustic drumming, although a lot of it does have that sound. I am kind of proud of that, and I am proud to be able to pull it off in concert as well. With an immense pedal setup, and different bass drums, I can switch back and forth to create the sounds that we used on the record. I wanted a warm analog drum sound on this record, not something digital. As I've grown more experienced in the recording world, I've learned a few things and now I'm like, wow, what if I could design drum sounds that could be acoustic versions of those sampled sounds? What if I didn't have to play to loops, but what if I could just be the loop? And that's sort of how my drum set evolved. I wanted two bass drums. I wanted a little hip-hop bass drum off to the side, both controlled with my right foot. I needed three hi-hats because I wanted to feature the texture of diverse lo-fi sound sources. I would listen to all these rap records and would marvel at how they could create a lope with no real human element. “How are they creating that? Ohhhh – that's different hi-hat samples...Ohh, there's a different bass drum hit there…there's a different snare!” So that's how my thing evolved. It was really from listening to rap records. So I think my setup is a perfect combination of dumb but genius classic rock band guy meets Timbaland-esque cutting edge hip-hop acousti-grammer.
LUDWIG HQ: What's your set-up like for this tour, and what are you digging about it?
RYAN HOYLE: My live setup with Collective Soul consists of:
26x14” Ludwig Maple Classic Bass Drum (with Remo Smooth White P3 on front and Remo Clear P3 on batter side)
14x5” Ludwig Supraphonic Snare Drum(with Remo Coated Emperor on batter side)
13x9” Ludwig Clear Vistalite Rack Tom (with Remo clear P3 on bottoms and Clear Pinstripes on batter side)
16x16” Ludwig Clear Vistalite Floor Tom(with Remo clear P3 on bottoms and Clear Pinstripes on batter side)
12x6” Ludwig Maple Classic Snare (with Remo Suede Emperor on batter side with paper muffling on head and bottom mic only)
18x14” Ludwig Maple Classic Bass Drum (with Remo Clear Powersonic heads on both sides no muffling)
11” and 13” LP Practice Congas
So, as you can see, the middle of my kit is very much about the classic sound of the 1970's; the warm, analog, soulful, timeless sound of rock and roll. Hence, the vistalite toms. They give me the volume I am looking for when it comes to drum fills especially. There is nothing worse than when I stand side stage and listen to a drummer and all I can hear is monster rim shots on a cranked up snare drum with die cast hoops. Then it's time for a monumental drum fill designed to create excitement and the volume and intensity actually drops away as soon as they go to the toms. Then there is my 26x14” Maple Classic bass drum...need I say more?!? The hardest thing to control in any situation is always low-end. I find that the 26x14” size gives me a super low fundamental pitch with all the controlled boom and punch I could ask for. Another size that I have recently really gotten hip to is the 24x16”. The theoretical amount of air inside the drum is the same as the 26x14 but the punch seems to be a little more round and less clicky. I also use the clear P3's on the bottom of the toms which I find really mellows some of the extravagance of the Vistalite shell and helps to minimize ring, exemplify the low end and warmth while retaining all the body and volume that I need out of that shell. One other note, I have recently switched from using a Vibraband to a snare stand on my rack tom for two reasons. One, nobody likes a moving target and on most of the stages that one will find themselves on there will be quite a bit of bouncing going on. Also, I used to marvel at my rack tom getting a ton of sustain while the floor tom seemed to have trouble competing. I have found that using a snare stand for my rack tom (with foam shims taped to the basket arms) helps to uniform the ring and sustain of my toms and solves the bouncing rack tom dilemma. I still just use the stock Ludwig hardware and actually really prefer it. I like to solid simplistic nature of it. I use the Ludwig throne as well. I am still using the very first set of Ludwig hardware that I got almost 4 years ago when I came on board.
LUDWIG HQ: How important to you are the drums you play and how do you feel it affects your playing?
RYAN HOYLE: The actual drums that I am playing in any given situation are very important to me for several reasons. First and foremost, I believe that my primary job as a drummer is to serve the song by creating a feel that honors the message and emotion that we are trying to create and convey to the listener. How can I do that if I am not comfortable? The feel of the kit which also includes the hardware is number one for me. In the studio, I am being hired not only to play but to provide and choose the most appropriate and highest fidelity sounds for any given song. Engineers and producers are counting on me to have the gear that is nothing short of world class. In a live situation, the drums also function kind of like furniture or a set prop. I want to know that the drums that I play look great on stage and portray what I am about as an artist. That is why I play Ludwig. It's kind of like cheating on your girlfriend, playing any other brand of drums just feels wrong. I have been playing Ludwig since the very beginning of my career and I am so honored to be with this company.
LUDWIG HQ: Everyone has their own snare drum sound. What snare are you playing, and how have you made it your own?
RYAN HOYLE: As I stated earlier, for both Paul Rodgers and Collective Soul I have been using a 5x14” Ludwig Supraphonic with a Remo Ambassador on bottom and a Remo Coated Emperor on top with no muffling and stock Ludwig snare wires. With Collective Soul, I also use a Ludwig 6x12” Maple Classic Snare off to my left hand side. I love this question because it challenges me to think about all the many snare drums that I own, love, and use in the studio on a regular basis for different jobs. The Supraphonic is the most present, softest feeling, and most versatile snare drum that I have ever come across. Within a live show, I have to chose one main snare that will get the job done across a wide range of styles with very little adjusting in between songs. That snare for me is the Supraphonic. However, I have a great engineer friend who once told me a story that has forever impacted me. He said that he was in a session where they had a house kit setup and for one reason or another they wound up calling in three different drummers to play the same track. Same kit, same room, and same tuning; the person was the only thing that changed. The result was that he and everyone who heard the different takes were blown away and could not fathom that the only thing that changed was the player. The point here is that in my opinion the uniqueness for the most part comes from from the hands of the player...I am sure Alex Van Halen has used many different snares over the years but I can still tell that it's him within one backbeat...I use a lot of different snares for the needs of a particular production but I have found that I always come out sounding like me.
LUDWIG HQ: Can you describe how you tweak your drums to get your personal sound?
RYAN HOYLE: I really do believe that my personal sound comes primarily from me. However, I love drums and I am always chasing the prospect of having as many diverse sounds or characters as I like to call it available as possible. There is no limit to what I have done or will do to tweak a drum to get it to work in a particular situation. I have been using everything from concert toms and no front head on my bass drum to genuine calf skin heads or putting the drumheads on the drum in the plastic bag that they came in. Right now, I have been fooling around with using Remo Powerstroke 3's on the bottoms of my toms to help reduce sustain and lower the pitch of the drum while creating a very full yet punchy kind of presence. Believe it or not, I have really been digging the newer Remo Pinstripes as well. They seem to be much thinner than the old ones were and again I really like to attack and the ability to tune them very low. Here's a little secret that I will pass on...ever try putting a piece of paper on your snare drum? Turn the stick that you use for backbeats around backwards and hit the drum directly in the middle with the butt of the stick and no rim shot. You just bought another snare for the price of a piece of paper! (works on toms too!)
LUDWIG HQ: What do you look for in your gear to get the ideal studio and live tone?
RYAN HOYLE: I look for quality craftsmanship. Are the bearing edges smooth and uniformed? Are the drums in round? Do they tune up easily and allow for lower tuning ranges? Do they stay in tune or are they fickle and finicky? I look for punch and presence. I think a few years ago the whole marketing pitch in the drum industry was resonance. Maybe it was misunderstanding on my part but I took that to mean that you want the drum to ring out as long as possible. Now, I have realized that what I was thinking about was actually sustain, not necessarily resonance. Now, my new thing is punch. I want the drum to jump out of the speakers and chase you down into the parking lot. I have actually recently been using the Ludwig Birch shells in the studio for that very reason. I have never owned a birch shelled kit but I am now a fan. They seem to have that magic presence that almost seems louder and more in your face; less blurry and sharper if you will.
Oh, and this is another important thing, a very influential studio bass player once said to me…”Ya know what, I know all these studio guys that have a ton of great gear. Show and tell is what we call it and it's good because sometimes an engineer will put you up against it and want to hear all 13 of your snare drums. But just make sure you remember this: Don't ever let it own you. Make sure that you intimately know every instrument you have and that it makes you want to play.” Hearing that changed my world. I look at it like, if it's a different snare or different cymbal or whatever, I want it to almost make me play a character, like an actor. I really want to become someone different when I'm playing that instrument . I was always really impressed by a quote that I read one time by Steve Gadd. He said, “All these studio drummers these days show up with bags and bags of cymbals and snare drums everywhere...I never really understood that. I just had my snare that made me sound like me.” That really affected me and I think there's a lot to be said for that too.
LUDWIG HQ: Your web site says that you have a new studio. Are there any upcoming projects that you are particularly excited about?
RYAN HOYLE: Yes!...I just built a studio in my home in Los Angeles. My goal is to be able to continue to record as much as I can with the added convenience of being able to work at home due to my touring schedule and the obvious high maintenance factor of having to travel and route gear all over the place. It's also a great thing to think about the reality that with current technology I can record a drum track for a producer in Tokyo, London, or even Sydney and deliver it to them during a night's sleep. You know in today's day and age, it seems to me that everyone has these really nice home studios. The one thing that is still very expensive and difficult to do well is to record live drums. When I listen to these songwriter demos where they program the drums, it just breaks my heart because I think there is a certain magic you get when you have someone performing live on your record. You are hearing someone that has worked their entire life to bring you this thing that they do. To me, that is part of what makes a beautiful recording. So, I just wanted to be able to do that for other artists without all the drama. I have been having so much fun with this as well!!! I've been in the studio all week as I've had a little time off. I've been having a blast dialing in new sounds. I've really tried to put together a studio that's really high class. I've worked really hard at carefully choosing every component and I am so grateful for a few my top-notch engineer friends that have given me their advice on everything from mic placement, to which mics to use, to what preamps to use, and so on. I know my passion for recording is what got me in this band and it is my mission to let the world know that even though I play in this band or that band I am still accessible to record on their project too.
For more information about Cave Studio please check out: http://www.ryanhoyle.com/thelab.html
LUDWIG HQ: What is your schedule like for the next few months with Collective Soul?
RYAN HOYLE: Steve Gadd (the most musical drummer I have ever seen), John Bonham (the definition of rock drumming), Dave Grohl (the perfect embodiment of every great rock drummer that ever lived), Steve Jordan (my inspiration for sound design and confidence), Stewart Copeland (the godfather of the power traditional grip and the definition of a signature sound...my reference for what playing on top means as well), Paul Rodgers (the greatest Rock and Roll singer in the world to me :), Salvador Dali (if he were a drummer he would be he most innovative drummer that ever lived), Florence Scovel Shinn (if she were a drummer she would teach efficiency and perfect technique), Phil Rudd (my inspiration for crash cymbal placement and some of the best sounding drums I have ever heard), Andy Newmark (the perfect drummer), Matt Chamberlain (the new Steve Gadd), Kenny Aronoff (a true business genius and my inspiration for staying in shape and staying on top), Larry Mullen Jr (the perfect band drummer in the perfect band), Dr. Wayne Dyer (if he were a drummer he would make everyone around him sound so much better than they are), and Jeffrey Lebowski (my inspiration for a sense of humor...is this your homework Larry?)
My current favorite bands: Bloc Party, Alice Smith, Louis XIV, Elbow, Kasabian, Robert Plant/Alison Krauss, Eagles of Death Metal, Death Cab For Cutie, Panic! at the Disco, Kings of Leon
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