Travis Orbin Interview!
to be interviewed for Drumazine.
I can only describe Travis as, well, a beast! I don't mean that in any derogatory way at all! Quite the contrary - It should be taken as a compliment when I say he is a monster behind the drum kit...
The heavy genres that Travis leans toward involve hugely technical study and application: Some extremely complicated 4-way playing and absolute precision. He is, maybe some would say, a technical wizard. This doesn't detract from his live performance (here with Sky Eats Airplane) though; live, it is definitely engaging, energetic and fascinating to watch!
Drumazine: Mr Travis Orbin! Welcome to Drumazine! Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Travis: Greetings! Most folks are cognizant of me through either my YouTube channel or my past association with Sky Eats Airplane and/or Periphery. However, I've been in and out of various local/regional bands since I graduated high school. I began doing session work for other artists in 2008 and it's grown and blossomed into more opportunities since that point onward.
Drumazine: How long have you been playing the drums for?
Travis: At the time of writing this, it'll be sixteen years this Christmas.
Drumazine: (Question thanks to Josh Rankin): Some would say you are a master of 4-way co-ordination. Can you explain what it is that you practice to achieve such amazing results?
Travis: Firstly, I'd state that I'm certainly no master, hah! My interest in ostinatos was piqued early on when I took private lessons. My instructor would turn me on to the more common ones: 'feet in 4', samba, kick - pedal hat - pedal hat (3-4), jazz ride rhythm, etc. We'd also go through books such as The New Breed, which would provide further challenges. Plus, I was into Dennis Chambers so I had the pedal hat - pedal splash thing down, which naturally grew into pedal hat - pedal hat - splash, phrased as two eighths and a quarter. Through my own autodidactism, I got into Maria Martinez's book 'Brazilian Coordination For The Drum Set', which took me into territory such as the baiao and tumbao ostinatos. After growing fond of Horacio Hernandez's drumming, I integrated some clave figures along with what I got out of Maria's book. Then down the road, I took an interest in the more nightmarish stuff, things that Donati and Minnemann were doing and would compound the difficulty by putting my own spin on their exercises. Nowadays, I'm not as focused on that approach but it's still a part of my playing. I like to compose unique ostinatos (regardless of the limb combos) that I haven't heard anyone play, and try to phrase the remaining limbs around the figure.
Drumazine: How much practice do you usually fit in to the average day?
Travis: Much of my practicing is centered around the material that I'm expected to track in a (very) near future recording session, so it greatly depends on the length and difficulty of the tune(s). I have some daily/weekly exercises that I adhere to but -- as stated -- the main thrust is to rehearse the material. A practice session can vary as much as three hours in one day to eight and sometimes even ten. If I go any longer, I faint from hunger! Haha.
Drumazine: Can you tell us a little more about the bands you have played for. Are there any particular successes you would like to talk about?
Travis: I was in Periphery from either Aug or Sept (can't recall the exact month) of '06 to Feb '09. Joining forces with them was critical for me from an artistic standpoint, early on. I was knee-deep in my Mangini/subdivisions/click-playing phase and it was crucial to have to perform such mechanical, syncopated, frantic music against a click. Don't get me wrong, though - I still adore Mike's playing, love toying with subdivisions and am still absolutely MARRIED to the click. Previous to that change, however, I wasn't; it was a necessary transition to get to where I'm at -- both in regards to my facility and ideas -- and where I want to go. Another big highlight for me was the first Sky Eats Airplane tour. The very first gig I ever played with them was at a convention center in Texas, in front of about four thousand people. All but two shows on that entire tour were sold out; we were support for A Day To Remember and The Devil Wears Prada. That whole experience is still a bit surreal to think about.
Drumazine: What would you consider to be your first “success” in music?
Travis: Being recognized by the members of SEA as a someone to take an interest in and someone to consider a band mate was a success. At the time of my joining, they had a good buzz about them and a record out (the 'self-titled' release) of which I was totally enamored; it was equally cool that they were on a respected label such as Equal Vision. Of course, the subsequent first tour that I mentioned was a success as well; it was not only a positive experience but I made substantial money playing music, something I had only prior experience with through teaching.
Drumazine: Would you describe this as a “defining moment” in your career?
Travis: I'm not sure. I think I'm still getting there!
Drumazine: You’ve talked about success; have there been any failures, defeats or bad times you can tell us about?
Travis: I don't prefer to regard the adverse moments in my career as 'failures' but learning experiences; some are tougher than others. The worst I can recount is when I realized that I really had to get my act together as far as timekeeping goes. I was recording frequently in a project with my best friend, Taylor Larson, and I never really preferred to record to a click. Listening to the playback and receiving dire criticism from close friends and associates, it was incredibly disheartening at first. However, fast forward a few years and everyone on YouTube thinks I'm a robot because of how tightly I can play, hah! (I'm still not nearly as 'clean' as I'd like but I work on it every day!)
Drumazine: So, would you describe the problems you have encountered as physical or psychological?
Travis: Both, at first. The psychologically-fear-induced portion subsided as I grew more confident and comfortable with the click and the 'red light' being on.
Drumazine: How did you combat this problem?
Travis: Recording myself often has helped. Seeing my 'hits' displayed in Pro Tools aligned with a MIDI drum track (as 100% mathematically precise as possible) is brutal but reveals that things ARE improving. The way my practice kit is setup and the way everything interfaces (click, mics) also allows for instantaneous feedback in regards to how tightly I am performing, and that's always a motivation. Finally, counting out loud (or under my breath) helps keep everything in time much better than not doing so.
Drumazine: Onto equipment - What kit (drums/cymbals/anything else you would like to mention) do you play?
Travis: I endorse Pearl Drums and TRX Cymbals. All of the other specifics are inventoried here: www.travisorbin.com/equipment.htm
Drumazine: With the advent of new technology on what seems to be a daily basis, what modern technology do you incorporate into your:
b. Live performance?
Travis: My practice and live performance setup is pretty much exact, technology-wise. I use the same mixer/cables to acquire dynamic feedback from my kick.
When recording out of my home studio, I record into Pro Tools with my magnificent analog gear, tracking to either my DB-90 metronome or a pre-programmed click track that I upload to my iPod.
Teaching is even more old-school, for me. I prefer 'in-person' lessons and aside from that I sell video lessons through my Big Cartel store (listed on my website). I'm not really into the webcam thing because I think it's clunky and awkward; I don't even have a connection at my studio, heh.
Drumazine: Do you have any other jobs than "drummer"? Is this a financial necessity or because you enjoy a diverse lifestyle?
Travis: Aye, I still must work a side job in order to sustain the quality of life that I prefer. I don't mind it, but I'd be super-ultra-mega-happy if I could make a living solely off of music-related work.
Drumazine: Would you like to promote yourself a little bit? Now’s your chance! Please tell us about any tours, releases, web links, endorsements etc…
Travis: These links will tell you everything, if you dig deep enough:
Finally, Drumazine would like to say a huge THANK YOU to Travis for his time in answering these questions and also to Josh Rankin who suggested the interview.
Until next time...