August/September 2015

by Andrew Rooney

Get Yer Kit Off: Tristan Reilly

by Andrew Rooney

Get Yer Kit Off: Tristan Reilly

There were only a few personnel changes made when Blindspott were born again as Blacklistt, but one of them was in the heart of the engine room where Tristan Reilly took over the drum stool vacated by Shelton Woolright. The fact that Blacklistt won the Rock Album of the Year Tui first time out stands as proof that he was more than up to the task. Fellow drum professional Andrew Rooney talked with Tristan to learn more about his background behind the kit. 

What made you get into drums?

My father is a drummer and has been since his teen years, so I was fortunate enough to be born into it. He never gave me lessons as such. There was just always drums and drumming around the house. It also meant that I always had a lot of nice hand me down kits.

When I was 6 or 7 I played at talent quest on one of his Ludwig kits. It had a huge 26″” bass drum. I had to play it standing up with the hi-hat locked in the closed position. You could barely see me behind the huge bass drum. From the audience point of view there was just a big drum kit with a mop of curly hair poking over the top!

What was your own first kit then?

My own personal first drum kit was a blue oyster Winz kit. Not to be confused with Work & Income NZ! I’’ve still got it too. I had all my dad’’s broken Paiste 2002s to go with it. They were so beaten up they looked like ninja stars. Lots of jagged edges and bits missing.

Did you have formal lessons or were you dad/self-taught?

I have always learnt stuff from just listening to it to be honest. I was self-taught. I did have one lesson with Rex McLeod but it wasn’’t really me. Formal lessons like that just didn’’t work for me. Later on I had a couple of reading lessons with Chris Dawson at Drum City just to get some understanding of how it all works theory-wise. That was really good and now I can read at a basic level.

Whenever I’’ve had problems trying to learn a groove or fill I would write it out in my own sort of ghetto transcription. But essentially I play by ear. All my learning was very practical and on the job. I played in a covers band called Naked Lunch for years before doing originals. I was 14 and we were playing in bikie clubs and those kind of places. Rough westy gigs!

Then when I was 17 I started playing clubs in town like de Bretts and Kiwi Tavern with the same band. As well as some obscure songs we would also do Santana and April Sun In Cuba etc., to keep the punters happy. We did lots of unusual covers too. Music for musicians type stuff like Tool, Kyuss and Primus. I was a stickler for playing things note for note. To get around my lack of theory I would just rewind things and listen over and over. That’s how I really learnt and developed as a drummer.

Who were some of the drummers or bands that inspired you growing up?

My main influences as a young drummer were John Bonham, Ian Paice and Stewart Copeland. Dad was and still is a huge fan of Bonham and Paice so I just got hammered with it. I think for about five years solid I used to watch ‘‘The Song Remains The Same’’ a thousand times a week on VHS, ha ha! Stewart Copeland had all the basses covered. I think as a rock drummer it’’s quite a task to play reggae convincingly and vice versa. That goes for all styles.

I also really liked the drummer from Heart, Michael Derosier. He was incredible. My musical tastes expanded quite a bit the older I got. I started getting into Abe Cunningham from the Deftones. I was and still am a huge Danny Carey fan and would play Tool songs note for note. So those guys amongst others were the big influences that spring to mind.

What are some of your drumming career highlights?

My main highlights are what I’’ve done in two high profile bands, New Way Home and Blacklistt. I’’d have to say I’’ve been pretty lucky to play support for some of my favourite bands so that would be up there. Playing tours with sold out shows and headlining big events like Homegrown are always exciting.

With Blacklistt we got awarded with Rock Album of the Year at the Tui awards this year for our gold-selling self-titled album. That was pretty awesome! We had put so much time and effort into that album. Playing live to TV at that awards night was also a huge buzz.

What big name acts have you supported?

Most of the support shows I’’ve played were with New Way Home. We supported bands like Meshuggah, Slipknot, Machine Head and Killswitch Engage. When we supported them I was expecting my first child. Then on our second big support with Slipknot and Machine Head at Trusts Stadium out west I was expecting our second child.

Both times I had to race home immediately afterward, so I don’’t have any crazy stories… Although it was a bit disconcerting when I noticed the Machine Head drummer was watching me during our set. Blacklistt was the band that headlined most of the shows/tours we did, so no big support gigs there.

Do you prefer clicks or just to play organically and let the song go where it goes?

For the last maybe 10 or 15 years all my live playing has been to a click to accommodate for loops and samples. I try to groove within the click if that makes any sense. I’m definitely not mechanical by any means.

A few times my iPod has had a haemorrhage and skipped tracks so I’’ve had to turn it off! The few times that it has happened it actually felt good to hook in with the band and just groove. If I end up playing for another band I’’d probably like to not play with a click and just let things groove naturally. Maybe…

How do you find the recording process? Do you ever get red light syndrome and forget how to play?

Ha ha ha, mate! You mean the, “‘I’m smashing it right now, don’’t let me know when it’’s rolling,”’ bug? Yes I do! But normally in the early stages of the recording. It’’s really hard to pin down how long it will take to lay down a track or a whole album. But I’’m not a one-take wonder, that’’s for sure. It depends on the songs. It’’s also dependant on how much of a taskmaster the producer and engineer are.”

Any embarrassing stage moments or funny gig stories to share?

None really. I’’m quite low key and try to avoid any limelight. But a funny thing happened in Christchurch with Blacklistt one time. The crowd started clapping over an intro. The intro was atmospheric but still had a click pulsing through it. The groove was about to kick in. The crowd was getting right into it and started clapping in unison. But they were clapping out of time with the click track! I mean not even close, like 20 bpm off.

Damian our singer started clapping in time with them. I had to make a decision – follow the crowd and Damian or stick to my guns? I stopped the click to follow the crowd. I had to drive the song and get the band somewhere close to the proper tempo so the samples would work. Karl our DJ had to manually insert the loops. I had to try and smash out the proper tempo best I could. It’’s just one of those funny heat of the moment situations. When technology goes wrong!

Is there a drum or cymbal you can’t live without?

Yes, my DW Collectors solid brass snare. It’’s a 6 1/2 x 14” and a great snare drum. Due to having had an A level endorsement with Istanbul, I use their cymbals exclusively. Drum City endorsed me for DW gear and ProMark sticks.