FEB. 11 th 2005 - INTERNATIONAL
JUDY COCUZZA INTERVIEWS BUN E. CARLOS FOR DRUM!
Judy as Bun E.
Judy as Judy
Judy and her Saturn Series kit.
Judy Cocuzza (aka Bunni Carlos from the Cheap Trick Tribute Band, Cheap Chick) recently got the chance to interview her Cheap Trick counterpart, Bun E. Carlos. The interview was published in the February 2005 issue of DRUM!.
While speaking to Judy at the recent NAMM convention, she revealed that there were some portions of the interview that didn't make it into the published article. Judy was kind enough to give us her interview transcript and ”DRUM! Editor In Chief, Andy Doerschuk was kind enough to grant us permission to use the unpublished excerpts.
In addition to her work with Cheap Chick, Judy stays busy in LA teaching drumming to students, doing studio work and performing with the band “Stay at Home Bomb.” You can find out more by going to cheapchick.com.
Judy has earned her reputation as a highly skilled player that hits ‘em as hard as any of the guys. Judy plays a Mapex Saturn Series Kit, Janus Pedals and Ergo Hat and Black Panther Snare Drums. She'll be featured in a new series of Mapex Black Panther Snare Drum ads later in the year.
What follows is the slightly-less editied interview between Judy and the legendary Bun E. Carlos.
Judy: How does it feel to know there are bands like Cheap Chick playing your material?
Bun E: It’s the highest form of praise. It’s really cool.
Judy: Since I have been in this band, I have met so many people who are huge fans of the Cheap Trick. I’ve found out that you guys have an extremely loyal following.
Bun E: That’s great!
Judy: I have been a Cheap Trick fan for years and I’ve always liked your playing. But since I’m now actually learning your parts and playing your parts, I have an even greater respect for your skills.
Bun E: (laughs) Well, thanks a lot!
Judy: You use a lot of rudiments and snare fills and accents that are very tasteful. Do you think some of that style is lost with the new drummers of today?
Bun E: I am sure that some of the older guys (drummers) thought the same about us -- that we were changing the style or loosing the feel, you know?
I think that everyone has their own style; you know their own approach to playing. I see some people and think, “Hey, what are they doing?” or “Wow, that part was amazing.”
We did some shows with Pearl Jam and I was standing by the soundboard listening to Matt Chamberlain thinking, “I can do that, but not as fast.” (laughs.) Seriously, he was doing his thing and it worked great.
I was sitting in with a cover band the other night. We played some AC/DC and I played it like Phil does -- I mean it wouldn’t sound right to play a different style -- but on other songs that were less well known or standards, I could change it up and throw in my fills because no one really notices on something like that.
Judy: I feel the same. It’s important to put your own style and feel into your playing. But it’s also good to be influenced by people and watch and learn from other drummers. I can always learn something new and really like to hear the way other people approach songs and try to pick up new things that way.
Judy: What’s your favorite Cheap Trick song?
Bun E: (Laughs.) All of them! That’s a tough one because they are like your children you know, it’s hard to choose just one. I like “Goodnight Now” because I can really let loose and go crazy and do whatever I want on that one. Plus it’s the end of the set so you can just let go and know you don’t have to play a whole set after that.
“Elo Kiddies” was always a favorite -- and also the hits -- you know the crowd favorites. It’s nice to play a song and feel the crowd reaction. That is always a good feeling so those are also fun to play.
Sometimes we leave something out. A few weeks ago, the guys from Pantara got up and jammed with us and we left off “Dream Police.” We just did “Goodnight Now.”
Judy: My favorites change too. It changes from month to month or depending on the type of crowd. When we have the hard core Cheap Trick fans there, they really get into it when we play some of the older songs like “He’s A Whore” or “Oh! Caroline” and you can see people singing along.
Judy: I hear you make the set lists. What are your favorite songs to open and close a set and why?
Bun E: I used to make the set lists but now it’s a collaborative effort. I felt that the drummer kind of has a better perspective of the whole picture, you know? They are sitting back there taking it all in -- the show, the crowd -- while the guitar player and singers are running around and doing their thing.
But these days we have a group effort. We used to start with “Hello There,” “C’mom, C’mon” and “Elo Kiddies,” but now we mix it up. I like to start off slow or with a song that builds -- to give the sound guy a chance to get his levels straight and dial stuff in. We like to build the set too. It gives us a chance to warm up and then play a hit on the third song and go from there.
Judy: That’s pretty considerate that you take in account the sound guy or the crew needs.
Bun E: Yeah. Well, you have to make sure the light guy and sound guys are set (and) have their cues. Even if someone in the house doesn’t notice something wasn’t there, we will know. So we try to keep the set consistent for them. But we do have two sets, so if we play somewhere two nights in a row, we can mix up the set. We keep the hits or the standards in and change up some of the other songs.
Judy: We get a lot of fans that talk about when you guys did the first three albums each in its entirety each night. Cheap Chick did the whole Budokan album exactly as is and the crowd response was great! Are you planning to anything like that again?
Bun E: That started as a radio promotion. I think it was Westwood One that had asked us to do that. We did it at the Roxy. I didn’t think too many people even know we were doing it at the time. Then we did the first three albums, one each night, three nights in a row.
I don’t know if we can really do anything past the third album because there is more production on the records and parts that would be hard to reproduce, some of the songs have multiple vocal and drums parts -- things like that.
Judy: What about Budokan?
Bun E: (Laughs) I don’t think I would have the stamina to do that anymore. It gets hard when you are pushing 50.
Judy: Is there a Cheap Trick song that you have played so much that you would be OK with never playing it again?
Bun E: (Laughs) Well there are a few. “The Flame.” Well, I would say the songs that we didn’t write, you know? Like “The Flame,” “Don’t Be Cruel” is another one -- and I would be like, “Oh no, not “Don’t Be Cruel” again. It’s mostly the songs we didn’t write.
Judy: I know you have been playing some of the hits night after night for a while now. How do you keep a song like “I Want You To Want Me” or “The Flame” exciting and fresh after all these years? (By the way, those are the two most requested songs we play.)
Bun E: (Laughs) Well the fan reaction to the songs and the hits helps. I stick pretty close to the record parts but will change up a fill here and there.
Judy: Well that actually brings me to my next question. I have tried to play your drum parts pretty closely to what you had originally recorded. Sometimes some of the serious, die-hard fans out there will say to me, “Hey, you guys did the Budokan version of a certain song and you didn’t play the right fill after the second verse.”
Bun E: Wow, really? That’s amazing. They must be drummers.
Judy: It’s crazy because I want to do the parts and the songs the right way. How much have you changed your parts over the years?
Bun E: As you probably know, a lot of the songs we do are demos and get worked on for a while before they actually may get to a record. So by then, I have changed the parts a bit and really have the best part for the song worked out. So when it goes to the record, I feel it’s the part that works the best. I don’t usually change it much from there.
I mean, I will change up a fill or something like that, but I keep to the original ideas. Like in “Ain’t That A Shame,” on the beginning, I will throw in a part that’s a little more busy or different from the recorded version -- play a little more or change up the fills.
Judy: What tuning tips would you give me to get that Bun E Carlos sound?
Bun E: Well I use standard drum sizes to start, 12” 13” 14” 16” toms 26” kick. I usually take the top head off and I will tune the bottom head first, you know? I will tune it up until I get the drum to sing. I will tune it up until I hit a note that stays and that’s pretty much where the drum wants to be. Then I will put the top head on do the same there. They kind of tune themselves.
Judy: I tune the same way, bottom head first, there is always a sweet spot on the drum and once I get that, I also put the top head on as well. I’m glad to know we have the same approach.
Bun E: I try to tune them so they go “boom, boom, boom,” -- kind of like a chord, you know? When the drums are tuned right, it forms a chord. Say the 13” tom is a E, then that’s the base note. And the others, like the 12 is a G and the 14 is a C.
I remember listening to Mitch Mitchell. He used to tune his 13” really high. I would listen to the record and then hit my tom and listen, and I thought, “Man, that tom is really high!”
(I like my) kick drum to be tuned low and deep. Again, it kind of tunes itself. I mean I don’t have any wrinkles or ripples in the head, but I tighten it up just enough.
Judy: I also tune the kick that way. In fact, I can pretty much finger tighten my lugs and I get a really great sound from my kick. I use a Mapex Kit and have been really happy with how the kit sounds.
Bun E: Oh yeah, they sound good, I know a few guys around here who have Mapex stuff and I have tapped around on it, they sound good.
As far as my snare I use a Black Beauty…. I like to tune it up a little higher then most guys, but I just tune it the way I like it to sound.
Judy: I use a Black Panther Hammered Brass Snare and it sounds great. I have to admit, I put it next to the Black Beauty and tuned it up the same and they sound pretty darn close, I am really happy with it.
Bun E: Great!
Judy: So how do you describe your feel?
Bun E: Oh I don’t know -- a little Dave Clark, a little Elvin Jones, ten percent Ginger Baker.
Judy: That’s pretty good company to be in. What should I do before the show to get into that ‘Bun E. Carlos headspace?’
Bun E: (Laughs.) Well, let’s see. I eat a Banana for potassium.
Judy: A banana? Really?
Bun E: Yes, you know I passed out after a show a few months ago.
Judy: I know. That was terrible! How have you been feeling? What happened?
Bun E: Well, it was after a show in Seattle. We were on the bus and I started not to feel so good. I didn’t want to lay down in my bunk because I wasn’t sure if I was having a heart attack or something and all I thought was, “I don’t want to die on the bus!”
So we got on the CB and asked where the nearest hospital was and they said 250 miles. So I said, “Forget this! Pull the bus over and call the highway patrol or something.”
They took me to a hospital back in Seattle. I passed out and when I woke up the doctors were saying I was dehydrated and needed potassium. I told them I drank Mountain Dew on stage.
Judy: Mountain Dew?
Bun E: I always have, I don’t like the stuff. I would never drink it off stage, but I drank it at shows because of the caffeine and sugar. The doctors told me that was a bad idea and to drink Gatorade because it has the electrolytes your body needs. So now I eat a banana for the potassium and drink Gatorade.
Judy: What is your favorite flavor?
Bun E: They all taste bad. The green, it’s the closest to Mountain Dew.
But to answer the rest of the question, I walk around. I used to stretch out more. I used to warm up about thirty minutes, but not anymore. Now I warm up about five minutes. At this stage of the game, it doesn’t make a difference for me.
Judy: I try to stretch out and warming up varies for me too. If I have been playing a lot, I warm up about five to ten minutes as well. Do you drink coffee?
Bun E: Nahh, not really just some in the morning like everyone else.
Judy: I hear you have your own brand though?
Bun E: Yeah there is a coffee company out of Minneapolis and they called me up and said they wanted to have a Bun E. blend, so I said, “Okay.” They are called Executive Coffee. If you “Google” me on-line, it should come up.
Judy: My singer Kristi, (aka Robin) and guitar player, Robin (aka Chick) love to eat chocolate. That’s what they use for energy.
Bun E: Yeah, I know some guys that do that, the doctor said that dark chocolate is actually good to eat as well.
Judy: Dark chocolate?
Bun E: Yeah, that what they said.
Judy: Well, I’ve learned a lot of nutritional facts here today, too!
Judy: What advice would you give my bass player about locking into the rhythm section?
Bun E: To watch your time keeper. If it’s the hat, the snare -- whatever it is that you are using to keep the time -- she should watch and lock into too. I feel sorry for your bass player.
Judy: Really why?
Bun E: Because she has to play that 12-string!
Judy: (Laughs.) I know, but it really sounds great.
Bun E: Oh yeah they do! The whole original idea behind that was to have a 12-string guitar and 12-string bass going. Tom (Petersson) had to wait forever for Hamer to build it. But after he got it, Hamer started selling them like crazy.
John Entwistle got a 12-string and used it on the soundtrack to Quadrohpenia. He and Tom both played on the song “The Joker.” It was pretty crazy.
Judy: Pam (Cheap Chick’s Bass Player) has a Hamer 12-string. It really makes the sound of the band come alive. We practiced before without it but when she came to rehearsal the first time and plugged that in, it was like, “Ah! That’s the Cheap Trick sound.” It was great. Plus the fans that come out are always so impressed that she is playing a 12-string bass.
The girls are always harassing me to bring the big sticks for the end of the show. What happened to your big sticks?
Bun E: I used to play a Radio King kit with a heavy double braced tom holder and they could take the heavy sticks. But the new stuff just can’t take the beating, I was breaking parts off the cymbals stands and breaking about a cymbal a week and that was before I had any endorsements.
Judy: That can get expensive.
Bun E: I know! The new gear just can’t take the beating. Those sticks are heavy. They were promotional sticks from Pro Mark. The idea behind the big sticks was that I was going to do a really big solo that no one could top, because I had these huge sticks. But I had to retire the sticks because the gear just couldn’t take it.
Judy: I know those sticks are super-heavy because I have a pair. I’ve brought them to shows, but now that you have officially retired them, I’ll be telling the girls it’s time for me to as well. They’re hard to play too!
Bun E: I’ve had guys sit in with us try to play with them. You have to hold them in the middle to get control.
Judy: Those damn things would be rolling off the back of the stage and all over the place!
Bun E: (Laughs.) Well, I had my roadie come out and hand them to me.
Judy: That’s cool. I don’t always have a roadie, so I’m glad I can retire the big sticks. If you could play the drums in any band in history, besides Cheap trick, who would it be and why?
Bun E: Well, I would like to be Max Roach or Elvin Jones, Mitch Mitchell, Ginger Baker -- any of those guys would be amazing.
Judy: I saw you and Torry Castellano from the Donna’s in a Target commercial. That was awesome! I got a lot of phone calls when that came out, asking me why I wasn’t in that commercial with you!
Bun E: That’s funny. I got a lot of calls from friends thinking that it was a look-alike in the commercial. They were saying, “Hey, there’s a guy dressed up like you in a Target commercial! Yes, we should do a commercial together. That would be great, anytime. I wish I could do three or four commercials a year, then I wouldn’t have to work.
Judy: Yeah me too! Did you guys film together or how did that go down?
Bun E: It was a two-day shoot, at least for the talent. I’m sure the crew was there longer then that. I basically went in the first day and met with the Target people and the crew, and we figured out what we wanted to do.
We had to fit everything into 28 seconds, so we kind of worked backwards -- took the 28 seconds, then took the song and figured out the beats per minute.
Judy: Which song did you use?
Bun E: I call it Bun E. and Torry’s theme. It was just something I came up with and wrote there. Torry came in about 11 AM on the second day. They had brought in a kit for her and we went over the parts. We started actually shooting about midnight that night.
Judy: Wow that’s a long day! Did you guys play together?
Bun E: We worked it out where we would play four measures together and then we would trade off and each play about four or five measures. They had a Pro Tools guy in the next room recording it all. We did it a few times until we had some good takes and they could fix or cut from there.
Judy: How do you feel about using Pro tools?
Bun E: In the right hands -- just like a machine gun in the right hands. (Laughs.) We used it on the last record. It has its uses. We were doing a song that didn’t make it to the record that had this 5/4 beat and the fill was a little off and they said, “Oh, we’ll just fix it in Pro Tools.” They kept messing with it but never seemed to make it work. It was worse than when we started.
Judy: Speaking of 5/4, you guys have some interesting time changes in a lot of your songs, like the ending of “Big Eyes” for example. I didn’t realize how many parts you have that change-up until I started playing them. It’s amazing because when you hear the song, everything just flows so naturally sometimes you don’t even realize those time changes are there.
Bun E: Yeah, that’s the point -- to make it seamless. We started as a dance band and we wanted the songs to have a dance feel. If the crowd stopped dancing, we would get in trouble with the club owner, so it was important (that) the time changes were transparent.
Judy: You, Tom and Rick all had garage bands as kids in Rockford. In a “Battle of the Bands Death Match,” which band would triumph – Rick’s band, “The Grim Reapers,” Tom’s band, “The Bol Weevils” or your band, “The Pagans?”
Bun E: (Laughs.) Robin had some bands too.
Judy: Do you remember the names?
Bun E: He was in a bunch. I remember one year at a battle of the bands, the Pagans beat the Grim Reapers, but then the next year the Grim Reapers won. I think we all beat each other once -- but never twice.
Judy: What’s the worst Cheap Trick gig you ever played and why?
Bun E: We played a show in Buffalo in 1998 and it was pouring rain outside. We played about nine songs or so and had to stop.
Judy: That sounds pretty miserable.
Bun E: One time in 1976 I was using a piano stool seat. Well, the bottom split right in two, and I fell on the ground. I was yelling, “Get me up! Get me up! But the guys were saying, “We can’t lift you!” But other than that, not too many bad ones.
Judy: Bun E., I can’t thank you enough for taking the time out to talk to me.
Bun E: Sure, I’ll see you in Los Angeles the next time we’re out there.
(photos courtesy of Cheap Chick.)