2018 has been quite the year for me, practically going non stop. I got engaged then married, and my wife and I traveled to Jamaica for our honeymoon. Galactic is releasing a new record coming up in February that we recorded and put the finishing touches on this year. We also had a summer US tour with Trombone Shorty and Preservation hall where I debuted my new Gretsch kit. I had some amazing experiences at the UK drum show as well as traveled to Cuba for the first time ever. Last but not least, I bought our favorite music venue in the whole entire world with my band members in Galactic. It was a memorable action packed year! Here’s a quick recap of those events.
Our wedding ceremony hosted in Mile Village, Florida.
Mardi Gras had just started, so I had decided that after seeing my girlfriend of three years, that it had been time to make the next step in our relationship. Mardi Gras is Lauren's favorite time of the year, so on Bacchus Sunday, through much running around and organizing, I got the 610 Stompers to agree to stop in front of her house while I proposed to her.
Our wedding was held just outside Destin Florida, where Lauren's parents live. The weather was beautiful, the ceremony was held on the beach and the reception featured food by Emeril's Coastal Italian. It was all lowkey just how we had wanted it. I even got behind the kit for part of the night to join my friends Shannon Powell, David Torkanowsky, James Singleton and Skerik.
Hopping in a song with my friend Skerik (pictured), Shannon Powell (pictured), David Torkanowsky and James Singleton.
We flew off to Jamaica shortly after and spent the next few days soaking up the sun and enjoying the next step in our relationship. If you want the whole 610 Stomper story, Sue Strachan wrote a great article on our engagement and marriage here.
ALREADY READY ALREADY will be the first Galactic record in almost three years. It’s been produced by members Robert Mercurio and Ben Ellman, and the first track “Clap Your Hands” is already out and can be heard on most platforms.
We started recording and tracking in the summer at our studio in New Orleans. This time we didn’t have a schedule looming over us since it was our studio. Often times selecting time for the studio, money for it, and only having a finite amount of time to create the record becomes part of the process. It’s nice to just have time to always be working on material.
This record yielded an array of featured singers. The list includes Princess Shaw singing on “Going Straight Crazy,” Boyfriend on “Dance At My Funeral, Erica Falls on “Touch Get Cut” and Ms. Charm Taylor on “Clap Your Hands” who was previous featured on our track “Right On” from our previous record Into The Deep. We also collaborated with David Shaw of The Revivalists alongside Nahko of Nahko & Medicine For The People.
We’re all excited for this record which has mixed elements of Funk, R&B and Jazz. You can read more and pre-order the album on Galactic’s website.
On December 3rd, We announced that Galactic became the new owners of the legendary New Orleans venue, Tipitina's. We started negotiating the purchase of Tipitina's, with then owner Roland Von Kurnatowski, back in February. It was a long, very emotional negotiation because we really wanted it, and there were many moments where we weren't sure if it was going to happen for us.
We've been playing at Tipitina’s for a quarter of a century now. I started going there when I was 16 years old, literally 30 years ago. Tipitina’s is our favorite place in New Orleans, we’ve all been on record many times over the years saying that it’s one of our favorite venues to play in the whole world. In the last 20 years, Galactic’s played there for Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, New Year's Eve, Halloween and many other events on an annual basis. We’ve even been nicknamed ‘The House Band’ at Tipitina's; our name is outside in the sidewalk in the Walk of Fame.
It's the most iconic music venue in New Orleans. Von Kurnatowski wanted to sell it to us because he knew we would carry on it’s legacy. He has owned it since 1997. That’s 20 years of history; we’re honored to know he trusted us to do it justice.
To check out a more detailed rendering of the events, you can read Keith Spera’s article on the purchase of Tipitina’s here.
Drum Shed from left to right Karl Brazil, myself, Scott Donnell & Paul Cooper.
New Gretsch Kit
Earlier in the year I got a call from Andrew Shreve, Gretsch artist relations rep, informing me that they were doing an ad campaign on their Brooklyn series. The idea was to make me a new kit, fly me out to their factory to receive it and do a photo shoot and hang out with the Gretsch family, then debut it on my Galactic tour with Trombone Shorty.
On June 3rd I traveled out to Ridgeland, South Carolina where their factory is located. I later met up with Gretsch artists Cindy Blackman and Karl Brazil, who were also involved in the Brooklyn launch and Gretsch/factory tour. The following two days we did all the filming and photoshoots for our new kits. Karl and I went on the 4th and Cindy met up with us the following day. This turned into a Drum-cation for me because they put us up in a nice hotel, where we had great dinners each night and got to see behind the scenes at the Gretsch factory.
The first day before the other two arrived, Andrew and myself went over to Paul Cooper’s house, the head of the factory. Paul has a Gretsch show room like you’ve never seen before. He has been collecting kits for over 20 years. He had four kits set up and we all got to shed some drums on these vintage kits he had. We came back the next day and did it all again, but this time with Karl.
After we had seen the factory and played our kits, Drum-cation was over and we all headed back to our homes. I was excited to see my kit again soon while we were gearing up for the Galactic tour that was going to kick off on August 2nd. During the tour, Drum Magazine met us on the road and we did a gear tour video which featured my Gretsch Brooklyn kit along with everything else I play on the kit.
This was my first trip to Cuba (pictured with Lee Guzofski).
I visited Cuba in November this year. It was amazing for me because it was my first time there but it was put together as a homecoming for Pedrito Martinez who was part of a group of 40 people on tour. He had never been there as a headliner and our host, Ned Sublette set up all these rumba bands that he had played with when he was a kid. He got the chance to play with them and was a special guest and headliner for multiple concerts. Groups like Rumba Timba and Los Munequitos de Matanzas played each day with one to three other musical groups. There were also costumed dancers that were oftentimes tied in with religious ceremonies. It was overwhelming.
There were dance and drum workshops each day and I threw myself in as an absolute beginner. I’ve only played congas a tiny bit before, so to sit down and lock in a part on the bass conga in a Guan Guan co and have Cuban dancers, singers and percussionists dancing, singing and playing all around me was quite an experience. I came away inspired with an enhanced perspective on rhythm, music and the human experience.
Trombone Shorty Tour: Galactic kicked off a tour at the beginning of August joining Trombone Shorty, Preservation hall and New Breed Brass Band that spanned all the way into September. I was debuting my new Gretsch kit on this tour and playing with some New Orleans legends. Check out my blog on the whole experience.
UK Drum Show: I performed and hung out with my drummer friends in Manchester, England. I got the chance to explore all of the booths; one featuring the release of my Signature Sabian Crescent Cymbals. Multiple nights I stayed up late chatting with a long list of talented drummers. You can find my whole recap for this marquee event here.
Jazz Fest: Jazz Fest 2018 was an absolute blast and one for the books. I played 18 gigs in 11 days at almost every stage in town. Galactic played on the main stage, created a super group with Dumpstaphunk, and met some SMDA members. I talk more about each day and show in my blog I wrote back in the spring.