Drummers, that’s what I chose.
A lot of people don’t know, with most touring drummers, there is someone who assists them with everything, every show, they are called drum techs.
Now the drum techs are usually phenomenal drummers in their own right, that’s where I come in, let’s meet these guys that help keep the band drummers going, the guys behind the scenes. I want everyone to know how important these guys are to a touring drummer’s success, and know them personally. I get to chat with the best drummers in the world, now I’m chatting with the backbone of those drummers. Please enjoy, I was so excited to talk to Mark Petrocelli of Foghat I will leave tagging to Mark. Big names in this one. This is a good one. I think it’s important.
I had the pleasure to sit down and chat with Mark Petrocelli. Mark is an exceptional drummer and current drum tech for the classic rock band Foghat. We chat about him, drums, tour life, and being a tech to one of the well known fathers of rock drumming, Roger Earl.
MS: You are the drum tech for the band Foghat, how did that gig come about? A fairly big band to be part of.
MP: In 2014 I was let go from my job. I reached out to several friend’s, asking if you hear of any opportunities (Including drum tech gig’s), to please let me know.
My friend Randy Meullier (Foghat FOH / TM) was one of the people that I sent a text to. I’ve known Randy for many years. We are both originally from Pittsburgh.
He used to run sound for some of my bands back in the 80’s / 90’s. Needless to say, there were no tech opportunities at the time. I ended up finding a great home with a company called Spectrum Audio. Fast forward to 2016, Randy finally responded to my 2014 text and asked if I would be interested in teching for Foghat. I jumped at the chance.
Spectrum Audio is an e-commerce music store, which can be run from anywhere in the country. The owner (John McCann) gave me his blessing to do both job’s. He said, “This is too cool of an opportunity, for you not to do it!” I have to agree with him, so here we are……
MS: How is Roger to work with? He’s been drumming a long time.
MP: Roger is an absolute gentleman, a great drummer and a fantastic guy. When I first started with the band, I made the mistake of watching Roger’s facial expressions, instead of focusing on the gear that he was hitting. I watched his face, because it was fun to see him genuinely enjoy what he was doing. The problem with watching his expressions was it took my focus off of the gear. I think a microphone went down once and I didn’t see it right away. He had to bring it to my attention. From that moment on, I started watching every hit he made.
Roger has a unique drumming style. Most right handed drummers lead with their right foot. At times when Roger plays a double bass pattern, he leads with his left foot. To me, it’s so unnatural, even to watch. But to him, its second nature. My friend JD is Alex Van Halen’s drum tech. He said Alex does the same thing. Perhaps it’s a generational thing?
MS: Do you do all the set up, tuning and sound check for each show?
MP: Yes, I prep everything for Roger. This includes maintaining his personal gear that we bring to the shows, as well as tuning the show kits etc. I do the initial drum check and get his monitor close to where he likes it sound wise. When Roger comes in for the band check, he will tweak some things until he feels comfortable.
MS: Is it always the same drum kit, or is there some gigs a rental kit is used, and what challenges does that give you, as far as setting up?
MP: Foghat shows are all fly dates, so every kit is a rental. I carry some of his personal gear to every show. He uses his snare, pedals, throne and cymbal’s.
The challenge with rental kits is they’re not all created equally. Sonically they all sound great. Some kit’s are in better condition than others. I’ve had kits that have warped hoops and shells. This makes it difficult to tune. At times some of the hardware is missing parts. If that happens, I carry a small parts kit with me and can usually make it work.
MS: A personal question from me, as I got to meet and work with the Foghat family, which is a pretty tight niche group, traveling all over with the band, how is the experience? What are the ups and downs?
MP: Travelling with the band and crew is great. We’re like a bunch of pirates invading a new port. Each place we go is a new adventure. Its cliché, but we truly are like a band of brother’s. I really enjoy every moment. Some industry folks might say I’m still in the honeymoon phase. I say, so be it, I’m having a blast! As for the downs, sometimes you only get a couple hours of sleep. When we fly, we almost always have connecting flights. That can make for a long day. Missing my family and not being there for special events is the biggest down side. But in the end, they understand.
MS: Have you worked as a drum tech for any other drummers?
MP: I worked for Guitar Center for 9 years. During that time we held many drum clinics. I was the department manager, so it was my responsibility to make certain the gear was prepped for each clinician. I guess you could say that’s where it all kind of started. In the late 90’s I tried booking a clinic tour for Randy Castillo. He wasn’t in Ozzy’s band at this time. Sadly none of the stores wanted anything to do with him, so the tour never happened. He was a great guy and I miss him very much. I did some studio tune ups, for the band Kings X. My first record with them was called Tapehead. I also tuned the drums for their record, Please Come Home Mr. Bulbous. Jerry Gaskill is a fantastic guy and a great drummer! I did two fill in tech shows, for Randy Black when he was with Primal Fear. Randy is a monster on the drums and was really fun to watch.
MS: You are not only a tech, you are an accomplished drummer yourself, a very good one I might add, tell us a little about who you’ve played for or with over the years. Any special musicians you’ve got to play with? Any recordings you’ve done, or drum tracked for?
MP: Thank you for the kind words. I got my rock-n-roll education in the clubs of Pittsburgh. I played in various local bands, from 1986 – 1991. The only “official” release that I played on was a 1991 compilation charity CD, for the rock station WDVE. The band I was in at the time (Triple X) had a song on the CD called Don’t Walk Away (DWA).
I’ve had the opportunity to sit in with some players. I sat in at a jam night with Danny Stag from the 80’s band Kingdom Come. We played a couple Hendrix songs.
My greatest moment as a drummer, was sitting in with Dee Snider from Twisted Sister. My wife and I were at my dear friends wedding. At the time my friend was the tour manager for Vince Neil. He also worked with Dokken at one time. His dad is a legend in the music industry. He used to work for Atlantic Records in the UK. He was involved with Led Zeppelin, Bad Co, AC/DC, YES, Foreigner and many others. He signed Twisted Sister to Atlantic, thus the reason Dee was at the wedding. Robert Plant and Jeff Pilson from Dokken were also in attendance. During dinner Plant and Dee must have had a conversation about sitting in with the wedding band. I think they both agreed to not do it. That didn’t last long, as Plant was the first one on stage. After he was done, Dee took the stage with Brent Fitz on the drums. Brent was playing for Vince Neil at the time. I was working for Pro-Mark Drumsticks and knew Brent from being one of our product endorser’s. They started out with AC/DC. Dee then said alright Robert, I’m gonna do one of yours and went into Rock-n-Roll. Brent started the song out. I was banging on the floor tom and cymbals, while he played the beat. I said to him, “Hey, on the break jump out and let me jump in!” He agreed and our transition was flawless. Prior to this I had a few glasses of wine and felt fearless. I was all smiles playing with Dee. I couldn’t believe I was playing with one of my childhood hero’s. I was thinking, WOW we are playing a Led Zeppelin song, in front of Robert Plant and there’s a drum solo at the end of this song! Wait a minute…..I’m playing in front of Robert friggin Plant and THERE’S A DRUM SOLO AT THE END OF THIS SONG!!! I went from having a blast to paying very close attention to every note being played. I’m happy to say, I nailed the ending! There’s video of the night on YouTube. To this day, every time I see Brent, I thank him for that moment…
MS: Have you ever done any drumming competitions?
MP: I did one competition called The Drum Master’s in Houston. I also played in the Guitar Center Drum off in 98. I made it to the Regional Finals and got my butt handed to me. There were some monster player’s in the Regional Finals. At the time I felt like it was something I had to do. If I could go back in time, I don’t think I would do it again.
Ms: When did you start drumming? How did you get started? Did you have an instructor or school?
Mp: According to my mom, I was banging on pots and pans at the age of 2. I really started taking lessons in the 4th grade. My first musical love was Elvis. He made me want to be a performer. In 5th grade someone showed me KISS Alive. After hearing the record and seeing the images, I decided I wanted to be a drummer for a living. KISS made me want to be a rock star! I played in the high school jazz band and was drum captain for the marching band. My favorite teacher was a guy named Ed Haffenden. He was a cool guy that was into Bozzio. He was my favorite teacher, because he brought himself down to my level. He took what I was doing and made me expand on it. His enthusiasm for drumming was infectious.
MS: Who were your influences for drumming?
MP: DJ Fontana was my initial influence. That was short lived once Peter Criss came into the picture. Tommy Lee was another huge influence on me. Tommy Aldridge, Nico McBrain, Phil Rudd, John Bonham, Bill Ward and Alex Van Halen were also big influences. There are so many great drummers out there. However, Buddy Rich is the king!
MS: What was your first drum kit?
MP: My first kit was a $300 mutt that my dad found in the paper. It consisted of a Radio King kick drum and mounted tom. The floor tom was a converted 15″ Gretsch marching snare drum. I had a Tornado 16″ floor tom and a Premier snare drum. Later on I found a 60’s Sonor red sparkle piccolo snare in the garbage. Who does that?!! I wish I had that kit to this day. I have fond memories of sweating on it!
MS: What drum kit do you use now? In live play, what do you have as far as kit, heads, cymbals, hardware and mics. Do you collect drums, and have any special kits you’d like to share with us?
MP: I currently have 2 drum sets. I have a Premier Gen-X NAMM show kit (10, 12, 14, 22). Premier introduced this line at the 2000 show, before they had some details worked out. The finish is silver sparkle lacquer. When the production Gen-X kits came out, silver sparkle ended up not being an available color. My kit also has Genista lugs and badges on it. The production kits had different badges and smaller lugs. My dear friend Joe Hibbs gave me this kit. He was a legend in the drum business and is sorely missed.
My other kit is currently my favorite. It’s a 1958 Leedy kit (13, 14, 16, 22) black diamond pearl finish. I bought it from the original owner. It was like buying a time capsule. The condition of the kit is impeccable.
MS: So, do you collect any drums?
MP: I collect snare drums and currently have 20 of them. I have a fetish for old Ludwig drums.
MP: I don’t play in bands anymore, so my answer to your question will be what I currently like. I use Sabian AAX cymbals. I’ve been using Sabian exclusively since 98. My main crashes are (2) 20″ AAxplosion crashes. Sabian to me produces a sweet warm sound. They have a beautiful shimmer when exploding and decaying. I use an assortment of Vater Drumstick’s. My favorites are the Gospel Series Fusion hickory wood tip model. I also like the 1A, 3A and 550 Bebop models. Vater has been so good to me over the years. I have very dear friends that work there, including Alan Vater himself. As for heads, the Aquarian Superkick II is hands down the best kick drum head. I use the Aquarian Modern Vintage heads on my Leedy kit, they sound fantastic. I go between Aquarian and Remo on my Premier kit. I use a limited edition DW 9002 Titanium double pedal. They only made 500 of them. The foot boards are super thin and very durable.
MS: Are you working on any special projects right now?
MP: I’m not currently working on anything.
MS: Have you ever given drum lessons before?
MP: I taught my friend’s son for a year. I’m not technically proficient enough to teach a person properly. Nor do I really have the patience of a great teacher!
MS: Do you have any endorsements for you? As in drum gear? Or helped anyone get one before?
MP: I don’t have any official endorsements for myself. Having been in the music industry for the majority of my life, I have made some great friends, who also happen to be great drummers.
MS: So, being in the industry, have you been a part of or helped other drummers with endorsements?
MP: Yes, while employed at Pro-Mark, I helped Pro-Mark sign artist deals with Todd Sucherman, Jason Bonham and my friend Steve Moore (The Drummer at the Wrong Gig / YouTube sensation). I had the friendships with these guys and the Artist Relation’s rep (Kevin Radomski) took it from there. I also helped LP / Toca make connections with Greg Upchurch and Ray Luzier.
MS: What do you do in your free time, any hobbies? I know the tour life can be crazy for bands, when you get some free time, it’s golden.
MP: Free time is really a luxury these days. In the summer when I’m home, my favorite thing to do is hang out on my boat with family and friends. I also enjoy fishing and grilling steaks.
MS: Well, at the time of this interview, we made a bet on the KC Chiefs/ Pittsburgh Steelers game, you won, so, looks like someone else will be preparing a steak dinner for you next show we are at together.
MP: Yes, it was a nail biter game, looking forward to dinner soon!
Ms: You get to travel a lot, what is your favorite city you’ve visited? Favorite concert venue?
MP: My favorite city is London. If I could afford to live there, I would. My wife on the other hand is a Texas girl. Texas girls don’t leave Texas, especially for somewhere that snows.
My favorite venue to date is the O2 in London. My wife and I got to see the Led Zeppelin reunion show there. What a thrill that was!
MS: Do you have a favorite sports team?
MP: I’m not really a big sports guy. I’ll jump in during playoff and championship games. I grew up in Pittsburgh, so are there really any other teams to root for?!! Pittsburgh didn’t have a pro basketball team, so I do love the Houston Rockets. I’ve lived in Texas half my life now, so I do like the Texan’s as well.
MS: Do you have a website that readers can check out your work?
MS: Do you go to shows, to watch a favorite band? Do you have a favorite band to watch, favorite drummer? Or, is there one band or drummer you would most like to see live?
MP: I love going to watch concerts. KISS and AC/DC are my favorite bands. I love watching all drummers. I love watching my friends bands when they come to town. The drummer’s I wish I could see live, unfortunately are no longer with us. I never saw, Keith Moon, John Bonham or Buddy Rich. Those guys would have been awesome to see.
MS: What is your favorite Foghat song? What is your favorite song of all time?
MP: My favorite Foghat song is Drivin’ Wheel. I love the tempo, groove and all around feel good vibe it has. Favorite all time song? Boy, I don’t think I have one song. I love Hallowed be Thy Name from Iron Maiden, War Pigs from Sabbath, Watching You from KISS, AC/DC’s For Those About to Rock, Some Kind of Wonderful from Grand Funk and Come Sail Away by STYX to name a few.
MS: Who does or did the best drum solo ever?
MP: Again, I’m not sure I can say just one. Buddy Rich, Sonny Payne, John Bonham, Terry Bozzio, Dennis Chambers, Tommy Aldridge, Tommy Lee, Peter Criss, Neil Peart, and the kid practicing in his bed room.
MS: Who helped you get where you are over the years? Who would you like to thank?
MP: These days it doesn’t seem popular to say the word God. I truly believe it’s through him and the people he’s put in my path, that I am where I am.
Thanks to Roger, Linda, Randy, Charlie, Bryan, Marko and Rodney for the amazing experience I’m having. Thanks to my friends at Roger’s drum companies for making my job easier: Garrison at DW Drums, Tim Shahady at Paiste Cymbals and Marco Soccoli at Pro-Mark. Also thanks to Chad Brandolini at Vater, Chris Brady at Aquarian and Bob Rupp from Sabian, for helping me with some gear needs for Roger.
Thanks to my mom and dad, my wife Tracy and my kids: Steffan, Zack and Sarah for their support.
And thanks to you Mark, for making me feel good about doing what I do.
MS: Anything you’d like to add for the readers?
MP: Keep smacking things with a stick. It’s good for the soul!!
MS: Funniest moment you recall on tour?
MD: We did a show on the beach in Santa Cruz California. The boardwalk / amusement park was the backdrop for a movie. The Lost Boys. It was a really cool town.
Dave Meniketti from Y&T was a guest guitarist that day. When Charlie introduced him, he called him Dave Manicotti. It was one of the moments that made you say… Oh noooooo. It was pretty funny and Dave was very gracious about it.