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Nick Mason – The 2020 NAMM Interview

7 January 2020 One Comment

Nick Mason Jan 2020 CoverNick Mason is a drummer’s drummer: steel solid, intensely professional with a work ethic that most can only strive for, technical when he needs to be and laid back in the pocket when he doesn’t. And let’s face it the dude is easy on the eyes as well. Mr. Mason calls himself the “Living Dead Drummer” we assume for one reason is good marketing and the other is to differentiate himself from Nick Mason of Pink Floyd fame.  Two different dudes, both amazing drummers. This Nick Mason will be hitting NAMM and hitting it hard. Be sure to stop by and say hi to Nick at his sponsor’s booths.

What was the first year you attended NAMM? Do you remember your initial thoughts on the experience of walking into the convention for the first time?

I think it was 2004? I had always wanted to go and finally was given the opportunity though the job I had at the time. It was overwhelming for sure, just the amount of people and noise. It’s like sensory overload. Took me a couple of times going before I really learned how to “NAMM” correctly.

Who were some of the first celebrities you encountered or observed? 

I don’t think I can recall who some of the first ones were. At the time I was Artist Relations Manager from Regal Tip Drumsticks, so interacting with rockstars and professional musicians was my day job. I don’t get star-struck by other musicians often. I see them as peers, co-workers, or potential employers. I think the only time I ever stood in line to meet someone was Joey Kramer from Aerosmith. And that was years after I had stopped attending NAMM as an exhibitor and had begun attending as an Artist.

Over the years what are some of the new tech you have discovered at NAMM?

52688643_2242737209121910_6031448627044417536_o (1)There’s always someone there trying to reinvent the wheel. This sounds awful, but I like to play a game called “Who won’t be back next year.” It’s where you come across someone’s invention that is so bonkers that you know they will never sell enough units to allow them a booth on the floor next year. However, I have seen some rather impressive ideas over the years as well. A while back I remember Line 6 came out with an amp that had built-in amp modeling. A fantastic idea, especially if you play in a cover band and want to sound just like each artist from song to song. I like stuff like that, as I always try to re-create sounds from the source material when playing live. It’s harder with drums because I can’t switch snares between every song unless I trigger it.

In 2018 Yamaha launched the EAD10. It’s similar to the amp modeling idea but with an acoustic drum kit. I had the privilege of testing one of these out a few months before the show and I was blown away. It’s a small box that mounts to your kick drum. It has a trigger on it as well as mics inside. They all line to a module, similar to the brain on an electronic drum kit. It captures your kit from the inside out, and you can model the sounds with compression, reverb, and even EQ it with samples from all of Yamaha’s popular DTX series Electronic Drums. It has USB on it for recording, no interface or drivers to download, just plug directly in. This this is insane!!! I’ve been using it to track drums for clients, and across the board the reviews I get are outstanding. This is one of the few tech-toys I’ve seen that truly is a game changer.

Have you seen any of your heroes perform at NAMM? Or perhaps even met them in person?

I’m fortunate that every single “hero” I’ve had growing up I’ve gotten to meet. Some have been at NAMM, and others I met outside. I can’t say I’ve seen too many of them perform at the convention, but I have gotten to see some of the greatest musicians alive play there. People like Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Toto, jeez, too many to count.

How do you set up your networking game in your head and stay the course through the chaos of the day?

I try to reach out to people I want to meet with long in advance. “NAMM season” starts early, like November. I’ll arrange times/places to meet up at the show, and confirm with them closer to the dates. The closer it gets to the show the harder it is to track people down or fit into any kind of schedule, so get on the game early!

What sponsors are you repping this year? Are you on the hunt for any additional ones? If so in what department?

Wasteland_SoundcheckI endorse the following: Yamaha Drums, Paiste Cymbals, Regal Tip Drumsticks, Aquarian Drumheads, Cympad, Coffin Case, and Zombie Killer Clothing. Typically I come in as an artist for Yamaha, however this year I have credentials as a Gibson Artist and as a NAMM Speaker, as I’ll be performing for Gibson Guitars, and conducting a Seminar/Panel Discussion. I’m fortunate enough that the brands I endorse take good care of me and I’m not really in the market for any new toys. Striking deals has become a big part of the convention as it’s the one time a year where it’s easier for artists to have direct contact with the companies who make the gear. That’s exactly the topic of discussion at my Seminar this year.

What have been some of the best performances you have seen at NAMM?

That’s another difficult one to pin down. One year Yamaha had a huge private concert with Elton John, Earth Wind and Fire, Toto, Chaka Khan, and other all performing with an orchestra. The events at the Grove are always fantastic, Schecter Guitars always has some bangers there. I’m almost always at that one.

How do you feel that attending NAMM helps you as an artist?

For me personally I enjoy being able to get a little face time with the company reps that I otherwise only get to communicate over the phone or Email with. I also really like getting to hang with friends who come in for the show from out of town. The “hang” is important for me more than looking at the toys. Attending NAMM can present some fantastic opportunities. Not just getting to know people behind the scenes of your favorite brands, but getting to meet other musicians on a personal level. I’ve landed a couple of gigs because we met at NAMM. One person introduces you to another, and so on.

What is your appearance scheduling looking like? Where can people find you and will you be demoing? Signing?

Thursday evening I’m scheduled to be at the Grove for a Gibson Guitars event. Friday I’ll be doing some press throughout the day. Saturday I’ll be performing twice with solo artist Kapali Long. 1pm on the Gibson Main Stage, and again immediately after on the Gibson Acoustic Stage. Sunday I’ll be doing a panel discussion on Artist Relations, and how to create a mutually beneficial deal between artist and brand. This will be at 2pm in the Hilton Hotel, Room A5 on the 4th floor. Outside of those days and times you can typically catch me lurking around the convention floor at the following booths: Yamaha, Paiste, Regal Tip, Aquarian, and Coffin Case.

What are some of the most NAMM moments you have experienced?

201708-010 (2)The most NAMM moments? Hahaha I love the way that’s phrased. I think most of them come from these “How did I get here” moments. Like when your night takes a few unexpected turns and you end up riding a motorcycle up and down between the hotels, or having to hop a fence in the pouring rain. Most frequently it’s ending up in someone’s hotel room, and you know almost no one there. Or you end up backstage at a show, hanging with some people that are much more established than you, but for that night it’s all on an equal playing field. After 16 NAMM shows I’ve come to expect the unexpected.

You’re a drummer but are there any other instruments you like checking out at the convention?

I do enjoy looking at everything. I do a little guitar repair on the side as a hobby, so checking out some for the accessory companies is nice. Other times it’s just seeing instruments that are complete works of art. I try my best, schedule permitting, to get to most of the halls and floors to look at as much of the show as I can.

What after-parties will you be attending? Are you performing at any?

I’m not performing at any of the after parties this year. Thursday I’m supposed to be at The Groove for “Gibson Live.” Saturday it’s almost an annual guarantee that you can find me at the Schecter Party, also at the Groove. There have been some years that I never even make it past the lobby to see the show. I end up just getting caught up chatting with friends and meeting new people.

This year what vendor will you be hitting first?

I always try to hit Yamaha first. They are on the first floor of the Marriott Hotel, not in the convention center like the rest. So it’s easy to swing in there before fighting the crowd to get into the rest of the show. Plus being the drum brand I endorse, they take good care of me, provide me with credentials every year, so I always want to show them a lot of love and spend a good chunk of my time with them.

Overall what are you most excited about for this year’s NAMM?

It’s bit split between the Gibson Performance and the Seminar I’m doing. I did both last year as well, and it far exceeded my expectations. When I was asked to play for Gibson, I though “yeah, sure. They will stick us in the corner of the booth and we have to play as quite as possible.” I was SO wrong. They had a massive stage, with a gigantic LCD backdrop, and we got to just go for it on 11 for the whole set. It was outstanding! The AR Seminar/Panel Discussion was similar. When we found out it was going to take place in a huge ballroom in the Hilton I got nervous. How are we ever going to fill this place? Was it well publicized? Right up until we started, I was convinced the place would be empty, but again, I was wrong. The ballroom completely filled up to capacity. We did our thing, and then moved to a separate conference room to do a Q & A after. It was supposed to be a quick 30 min Q & A that ended up lasting almost an hour and half! I was thrilled when NAMM asked us to come back again this year.

Anything else you would like to add?

Just some advice to first time NAMM-ers. Get plenty of rest, eat right, take vitamins, and so on. Conventions always come with “Con Crud” or in this case “Nammthrax.” You don’t want to end up like so many others and be sick for a week after the show.

https://www.facebook.com/nmason

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