Thomas Pridgen [Interview]
Prodigies. They are obviously a rare sort. Often confused with a “natural”. Natural would induce the thought that a person never really had to work at perfecting their ability. But even those born with the ability to do something amazing have to work their ass off to achieve near perfection. Perfection being an obvious impossiblity, considering nobody can really even know if they have reached such a mythological idealism without being around after a rapture or the complete extinction of mankind (whichever might be an actual outcome). But somewhere between naturalistic abilities and prodigal abilities, we find the occasional human who holds the ability to do something so fucking well, it can make us sick with envy. Envy being the highest form of flattery, of course. And in the world of drumming, Thomas Pridgen is an obvious node to look towards when considering the best of the best of the best. So, is there really a difference between a prodigy and a natural. Beethoven could be considered a natural since he couldn’t hear the shit he was producing. Mozart might be a prodigy because he had no reason to be good at what he did. In the end, who gives two unheard, or unwarranted, shits?
I was fortunate enough to get a few words from one of Rock N Roll’s latest prodigal sons, the aformentioned Thomas Pridgen. Here we have a cat who has been playing the drums since he was able to walk, and managed to destroy the competition before he even had pubes. He might as well be a registered genius on the drum kit. With the grandious support of his grandmother, Thomas went on to do amazing work. He spent three years with the megastar hard rock group The Mars Volta before he took off on his own to form the hottest new act, The Memorials. He’s also worked with the likes of Keyshia Cole and Juliette Lewis. (Side note: Ironically, this man has worked with two women I would probably faint from excitement if I saw them in person. Embarassing for me, but obviously impressive for this amazing artist.) Pridgen is an amazing artist who deserves ten fold the amount of praise he has already received. It is our pleasure to introduce the man who needs no real introduction (therefore, I won’t)…..Let’s begin.
What influenced you to pick up the drums at such a young age?
I was basically raised going to church. My church, Evergreen Baptist Church, was one of the biggest churches in the area at the time so a lot of people and different church groups would come through….i even think Jesse Jackson came and spoke there…My grandmother (still) plays piano in church so I’d always be at the choir rehearsals and outdoor church functions.
You’ve done drum clinics across the globe. What do you feel you have learned the most from in your tenor as an artist?
Well, being a drummer you’re always in the back. I think the drum clinics have helped my teaching. I’ve never had to explain what I do in this way. When your the only person on stage, it’s like being under the microscope.
How much stress is involved in being labeled a prodigy?
I’m stressed by the title. I stress myself out mainly because I’m always trying to get better. I guess as a career musician, feeling like “play and create or don’t and die” is a normal feeling. This is all I’ve ever wanted to do.
What do you love most about your new band, The Memorials?
I love the music, I like that we are creating. If people like it or don’t like it, we’re still throwing the paint around and as artist that’s living. Testing your works on the world. I also like what we represent: hard hitting music/musicians. We’re not out here selling out and we’re not over here trying to recreate anyone else’s sound. We’re focusing on how we wanna sound, how we wanna look and how we want this music to feel. I’m not down with being extra corny to sell a download.
You’re going to be turning 28 pretty soon. Do you fear that you might start slowing down the rampant pace of drumming you are widely known for?
Naw not at all. EverydayIi feel like im getting better . The only reason i know im turning 28 is because I’m counting with you. I’m still changing and improving my drumming style. I’ve also been throwing in way more influences and styles. I’m in this for the long haul. Buddy Rich didn’t ever slow down, I dont think I’ll every slow down either.
Is there a sound in existence that you think you just couldn’t match up with or learn to play?
Yeah, Squarepusher and Venetian Snares always have crazy shit I wish I could play on records.
What might be the most important question I will ask in this entire session……is Juliette Lewis nice in real life?
Juliette Lewis is one of the coolest people you ever wanna hang out with and she’s an awesome artist. Love to Juliette for sure.
Where your sessions with Keyshia Cole restricting to you by any means due to the more mild content?
No. Keyshia and I have always been friends and usually when I play behind her and other singers, I try to support them and their style. Everyone who comes to her shows wants to hear her voice and those tunes, so I try to just present the music in a way that’s appealing to their audience.
If you could play drums for any historical figure’s spoken word album, who would it be?
That’s an awesome question…..I think I’d pick Nelson Mandela.
How many instruments do you think you are proficient at to date?
One. The drums. I program and sample pretty good but, I’m a drummer. That is my instrument. Well, I guess that and the spray can.
What did you take professionally and personally from your time in The Mars Volta?
Just the work ethic and writing techniques. Playing in [The Mars Volta] totally helped me figure out what was musically acceptable. They lit the fire and now I’m off.
Something that always intrigues me with certain artists….where do you keep your Grammy?
It’s at my Grannies. She gets to see it more than me, haha, that was for my family.
Finally….What was the last thing that made you smile?
My 5 year old son. He was trying to play my double bass kit today.