Marc St Saveur, Fang Island Origins:
When and why did you start playing drums?
I started when I was 11 or 12, so around ’97/’98. My dad had a giant all-chrome Ludwig kit in the basement, so that definitely sparked my interest. And Dave Grohl. Can’t forget about him.
What, if anything, transpired to keep you playing all these years?
Constantly being interested in what was going on in the world of music and drumming. There’s always something interesting that comes along and blows me away. Like, “why the hell didn’t I think of that?!” I think it’s important to stay humble and always have a drive to improve. It’s exciting when someone kicks your ass to such an awesome degree that it psyches you up and influences you to play.
What was your first kit and how did you pay for it?
My dad is a drummer, too, and an awesome person, so my first kit that I could really call mine was a junk CB kit or something that he fixed the bearing edges on and gave a new paint job. He put a lot of work into it, and it although I didn’t really get it at the time, that was like the ultimate way for my dad to show his support. I’ll always remember that moment. I still have that kit.
Spec out the kit(s) you are currently playing on – if there is significance to the set-up, in terms of sound or the genre of music you are currently making, please note it as well.
Yamaha Oak Custom. They’re super loud, but have a lot of good low-end and warmth. The photo is actually my set-up in one of my side projects “Dave n Steve” (shameless plug). But for Fang, I use a 12″ rack, 14″ and 16″ floor toms, a 24″ kick, and a 5 1/2 x14″ Brady Jarrah Stave snare which is ridiculous sounding. I also use a Roland SPD-S sampling pad which is kind of new to me and super fun. There’s also a tambourine, and a 24″ Paiste 2002 ride that isn’t pictured. That thing is insane, but for the most part the cymbals are the same. Damn things are expensive.Myths:
What are your thoughts (philosophies or opinions) on the “natural ability” vs. “practiced player” discourse surrounding percussion?
I think that you either have it or you don’t. There are certain things that you just can’t teach someone. That’s not to say that someone can’t influence, or help you evolve in regards to your craft, but to some degree you have to have it inside of you. It also seems like the guys whose calling is to play the drums, and really excel at it, have their own style that is easily identifiable. That’s stuff you can’t manufacture or teach. I’m sure some people would disagree, but what do I know? I don’t know if anything I just said even makes sense, haha.
I’ve heard many stories from musicians who have said they were “spiritually called” to play their instrument. Playing along with this idea, do you believe you were called to play drums? If so, was this something that happened early in your career or later?
I just really wanted to play drums starting at a pretty young age, and that drive never went away. I was a terrible student. It was tough for me to focus on drums and percussion in a student/teacher sense, but I at least always wanted to jam, and have fun and wail. But, I do regret not buckling down and REALLY studying the instrument.
Can someone who didn’t have the hand of god reach down and move them to play drums develop the skills of Tony Williams or Neil Peart? Or did these players posses something innate (pre-ordained by some god) that cannot be learned?
The skills of Tony Williams?! No way!
What makes a player a “legend” or “great”?
Someone who constantly rules you, and has a “sound”. That’s what makes guys like Dave Grohl, Billy Cobham, David Garibaldi, Gene Hoglan, or Bonham, and so many others that much more appealing. At least to me. Those are some of my drumming dudes! You always know when it’s them.
Can a woman ever be as great a player as a man? Name one female player who is, or isn’t, destined for greatness (Please don’t say Meg White!).
Of course! What’s wrong with Meg?! She’s cool!
What kind of drummer do you aspire to be?
Uhhh, a way better one. Haha. That’s a packed question.
How often do you practice? If you don’t, why? If you do, what aspects of drumming do you practice the most often?
Definitely not as much as I would like to or should. But since Fang has been on a break, I’ve had a little bit of time to jam on my own. Lately I’ve been trying to focus on breathing, posture, staying relaxed, conserving energy, not hitting as freakin’ hard!! That’s the stuff that I over-looked for a while. I’ve also been trying to apply double strokes and different rudiments on the kit. That’s a fun one, but also really difficult.
Do you rent rehearsal space or are you the neighborly nuisance?
When I first started until I was like, 21 I was the “neighborly nuisance”, but they were usually pretty cool about it. We have a space now, which is great. But I do miss the option of going into my basement and just mashing around like a fool for hours on end. I’d like to have that option in the future.
Have you had, or currently have, any physical difficulties from playing and what have you done to alleviate them?
This goes back to the posture, breathing thing. Not as much in Fang, but there have been times where I’ve been like 2 songs in and have felt like I’ve been playing for 3 hours straight. Cramps, being short of breath, legs feeling like they weigh about 500 lbs, which inevitably leads to me freaking out and having a meltdown. You know, just over-all misery. Haha. That is the worst feeling, so I’m really trying to avoid that at all costs. It really puts a serious damper on the night. It’s a work in progress. Not fun. I like fun. Give me fun.
Given the instrument is physically taxing do you have a health regimen you employ to maintain stamina and strength?
No, not really. Although I should. I smoke and like to have a drink, which clearly doesn’t help. It’s always weird to see someone get absolutely shit-faced then get up and destroy a set. I’m not that guy. I save the drinking for after the show.
I used to do a lot of bike riding, which I’m psyched to get back into this summer. But touring really doesn’t help the health issue for me. It’s really easy for me to totally cave on the healthy eating goal that I set up for myself on the road. I’ll grow up someday.
What was the first instance in which you managed to play a song in its entirety without missing a note? What song was it?
Aneurysm by Nirvana. That was one of the first songs I wanted to learn to play and my friend told me I’d never get it. What kinda friend is that?! I showed that ass what was up. But seriously, that was an insanely exciting and defining moment for a pre-teen me.
How often do you glance in the mirror and say, “Damn I have great __________!”
“Hair.” That happens often.
After all these years: How’s your hearing?
Surprisingly pretty good. There was a period when I was really young where I didn’t find hearing protection to be “cool”, which was totally insane. But I have grown up and am pretty adamant about wearing plugs.