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The Drummers' Perspective - Ryan Hoyle (Collective Soul)
Ryan HoyleRyan HoyleRyan Hoyle

Interview Post: February, 2008
Occupation: Professional Drummer, Website: www.RyanHoyle.com
Excerpts from Biography: From the age of eight Ryan Hoyle knew he wanted to be a professional drummer. "I was snooping around in my dad's closet and found a pair of drumsticks and a practice pad. From that point on I was hooked." At thirteen, Hoyle and his family moved from Anaheim to Seattle where he landed his first gig with a Christian recording artist.After graduating from high school, Hoyle enrolled in the prestigious Percussion Performance program at the University of North Texas. In 1998, Hoyle left U.N.T. and landed a gig with one of the most prominent show bands in Texas, Le Freak. "Le Freak was truly the most amazing professional experience I could have had at that stage of my career," he said. From 1998 to 2001, Hoyle played worldwide with Le Freak for audiences as large as 25,000. His performances earned him recognition from Modern Drummer and Drum! Magazines, making his presence felt in the drumming community.

After five years in Dallas, Hoyle moved to Nashville with the intent to focus his energy entirely on a career in the studio. His high profile career in Nashville paid off, and in 2003 Hoyle met Ed Roland, Collective Soul frontman, through a mutual friend. In October 2003, Hoyle began working with multi-platinum selling rock artists Collective Soul, recording eight of the eleven drum/percussion tracks on their 2004 release, "Youth". Hoyle has since toured exclusively with the band, performing in hundreds of sold out shows around the globe.
Following two-years of touring in support of "Youth", the band decided to take a well needed break. During this time, Hoyle seized the opportunity to join Free, Bad Company, and Queen vocalist Paul Rodgers on his sold-out UK tour. This experience yielded a full-length live concert CD and DVD entitled "Live in Glasgow" that was released in May 2007.
When not on tour, Hoyle plans to continue his relentless session schedule as he recently opened his personal recording studio at his home in Los Angeles. "My ultimate goal is simple," says Hoyle, "For every day that I'm alive on this planet I want to continue to learn so that everyday I can truly make music to my full potential." Written by Sage Valmores. Ryan's full bio can be found at his website listed above.

Questions
The Drummers Lounge (TDL)

Answers
Ryan Hoyle (RH)

TDL: What was your goal for the drum tracks on the new album?
RH: Great question. I love great questions! My goal for the drum tracks on the new album…you know…when I started in Collective Soul, it was with a very accurate knowledge of the sound of the band. One of the reasons I was so excited about working with the band was because first and foremost, I was a fan. I loved the band, I loved the songs, the writing, the production, and I was very influenced by the former drummer. So, I really wanted to capture and maintain the essence of what that sound was all about, to do my job as a part of the band, and participate in the big vision. But, I really had a desire to carry that forward and evolve as well.

The first record I recorded was as a freelance studio player. My job was to come in and simply play the songs. With this record I really wanted to make it more personal, develop a little bit of an identity. But most importantly, I wanted to participate as a part of the bigger picture, which includes the sound and vision of the band.  Sometimes that means not doing as much, or not sticking out as much.


We had a band meeting about who was going to produce and what direction we were going in with this project. I really wanted to work with Anthony J. Resta, who is an amazing drummer and has worked on several albums for Collective Soul in the past. I am a huge fan of his. They granted my wish, and said I could go to Boston and cut the drum tracks with him. I was very excited about that because I knew that the drum sounds that I had been designing and the ideas that I had been working on, conceptually, would automatically go to the next level with Anthony involved.


I really wanted to come up with parts that served the song and the sound of the band, but also created a little bit of personal identity. One of my heroes, who is the perfect example of having a great signature sound, is Alex Van Halen. One snare drum hit, and you know it’s him. There are some very identifiable players out there. You know, within 1 or 2 seconds of the first snare hit you know who it is. I have always idolized guys that have that. I would also love to have a sound like that, potentially someday for myself.
TDL: You mentioned your studio work. Did you start out completely as a studio drummer, and then move into performing live?

RH: No, I’ve played live my whole life. Ever since I was thirteen years old I played in churches and in school bands. Then, I went to college at the University of North Texas. I studied there for about a year and a half and then gigged in the Dallas area for about 4 years. I did some session work during that time, but mostly played in clubs. My earliest inspiration was Steve Gadd, and on the rock side it was John Bonham. It was really weird. As much as I admired rock musicians, and being in a band, somehow I really thought studio guys were the coolest. I have always just had a great respect for the guys who make records day in and day out, and I think that all started with Steve Gadd.

Once I got through college, once I got through my stint in Texas as a working drummer, I decided to move to Nashville and commit to being a full-time session player. That is what was really in my heart at the time. I never intended on moving to Nashville to play rock music or be in a band. The weird thing that happened was, once I committed to that finite focus and wasn’t afraid to get rid of all the other distractions, I got a wonderful surprise. I kept saying look, this is what’s really in my heart and this is what I want to do. I am not going to give in to excuses like “well there are only 3 guys in Nashville who get those calls”. I was not going to let any of those thoughts come into my brain. This is the way it is going to be.


After about 3 years of working my way up the ladder in Nashville, I started to break through as a studio player and the weirdest thing happened…I wound up in Collective Soul. The great thing about it is that I get to be in a band that in my opinion is one of the great studio bands in rock music. Ed Roland is the consummate producer, writer, and I think that Collective Soul has always put out beautifully crafted, monumental studio albums. So, it all works out perfectly. I get to be a part of, not just any rock band, but a band that has a track record of consistently putting out really sophisticated and well-respected records.

TDL: So as a studio musician, I am assuming that you can read and write music?
RH: Absolutely. I went to college at the University of North Texas where reading music is a must. I still do a lot of studio work as well…reading music is very helpful to understanding and learning song forms quickly, it also helps greatly with communicating ideas with others. Speaking of which, I just built a studio in my home in Los Angeles. My goal is to be able to continue to record as much as I can with the added convenience of being able to work at home due to my touring schedule. It’s also a great thing to think about the reality that with today’s technology I can record a drum track for a producer in Tokyo, or London.  You never know, I may work on a solo project, or record some tracks that I think would be cool with some friends, maybe a side project.

You know in today’s day and age, everyone has these really nice home studios. The one thing that is still very expensive and difficult to do well is to record drums. When I listen to some of these songwriter demos where they program the drums, sometimes it sounds great but it just breaks my heart because I just think there is a magic when you have someone playing live on your record. You have someone that has worked their whole life to bring you this thing that they do. That is part of what makes a beautiful recording. So I just wanted to be able to do that for other people, and that is why I built the studio. I thought to myself before I built it, it would be so nice to have my own little setup that I was really proud of and that had my own sound. I could open myself up and do tracks for others as well, and you would not necessarily have to get an engineer, studio time, and so on, it would be all there for you in one place.
TDL: With Collective Soul, do you feel you have an advantage by having experience with studio work, and being able to read and write music, over other drummers who don’t have that experience? Or is there no difference?
RH: Reading and writing music does do a couple of things. It is very important because it enables you to come up with a system for communicating with others. Whether you are in a rock band, a studio musician, or whatever, at some point, you are going to be working with engineers, producers, and artists who do speak on those terms. So it will help you to be more effective in communicating with them. Even if the person you are working for doesn’t necessarily read or write music, you are able to think about things in terms that make you much more efficient at retaining information. For example, if you were doing a top-40 gig, where you have to learn 40 songs in 2 days, you want to nail it to make a living and eat next week. Even a basic understanding of music notation will help you to make great charts for yourself and make life so much easier for you. It also helps you retain what you have learned on a personal level too. Learning to read and write music is super important because it makes you more efficient in how you practice. You learn tools on how to practice smarter, so you can become better, easier, and in a lot less time.
TDL: What influences did you have on this album?
RH: Well, for every album, I can recall what I was listening to at that time. I think on the first record I was really listening to the Queens of the Stone Age and Jet. I think what happened for me was that when I was in Nashville, I was working with a lot of songwriters, and they would talk about all of these band drummers. They weren’t talking about the drummers that my friends and I were talking about as kids. These were great ‘song’ drummers. When I started working with these songwriters, someone asked me ‘hey, can we go for a Charlie Watts vibe on this?’ Of course I have listened to a ton of Rolling Stones music, but did I really know what that was all about? So, I started really evaluating these great band drummers like Charlie Watts, Ringo Starr, Mick Fleetwood, Stan Lynch, Phil Rudd, and Don Henley. They all had a feel that was so innocent and magical. I think that those discoveries are what eventually led me to Collective Soul. At that time, I figured out my own concept…I wanted to be a studio drummer that could make a track feel organic and innocent. 

I had all of the drum sounds, I could read and write music, I could program, I could show up on time and work efficiently. I could play to a click-track, I could communicate with people, I could be professional but I could also sound like an amateur!


Now, I hope this new record not only portrays my love for the great song drummers of classic rock but also my passion for Rap and Hip-Hop music as well. When I was young, a friend of mine gave me Run-DMC ‘Raising Hell’ and Beastie Boys ‘License To Ill’.  I would listen to these very early Rap records. I never really understood it, but I always wanted to know how they did that, how they created those beats. So, over the years I have discovered these different eras of music and how those grooves were created from sampling the great drummers of soul and funk. Then I started getting my own recording studios, my own rig, my own stuff, and now with all of these great acoustic drums that I have collected and all the great stuff from Paiste and Remo, I have started to create really funky drum sounds myself. Now I don’t have to play over loops, I can become the loop.


One of things I really wanted to do with this record was this. In the middle of my drumset, was that simple, dumb, rock-and-roll guy, who was innocent but charming, with a very basic 4-piece drum set. I like the 4-piece set because you don’t have this row of toms that often can sound very symmetrical. The snare and the two toms form a triangle, so your fills get choppier, your feel becomes a little bit quirkier, more interesting, a little more challenged. But on the outsides of my kit, I have 3 different hi-hats, 2 different bass drums, 2 different snare drums, and a lot of crazy combinations with obscure drumheads by Remo, weird muffling, and different cymbal stackers from Paiste. My goal was I really wanted to try and emulate the things I hear the great programmers do on a live acoustic level. So I kind of took my love for Rap and Hip-Hop, and for programming, and tried to come up with a concept that blends the two together. The new Collective Soul record has no canned loops on it. It is all live acoustic drumming, although a lot of it does sound like that. I am kind of proud of that, and I am able to pull it off in concert as well. With an immense pedal setup, and different bass drums, I can switch back and forth to create the sounds I am going for. I wanted a warm analog drum sound on this record, not something digital.
TDL: When you go from one album to another, and you have to create new music that the next generation of fans is going to enjoy, but still maintain the sound and feel of Collective Soul, how do you as the drummer change the way you play to not only match another album, but also stay up with the times of today’s music? How do you manage that?
RH: Well, I think a lot of that stuff takes care of itself naturally. If you are a musician that gets up every morning with that mission in your heart to become better, then a lot of that seems to happen naturally. I am the drummer for Collective Soul hopefully because at my essence they trust that my vision is going to be synonymous with theirs. After living together and hanging out all of the time, there is just a certain synergy that you get as a band. Hopefully at the same time, you have a sense of wanting to grow as an individual, and to discover new things. You know, half of the ideas and concepts that I have now, I didn’t have in 2004 when we were cutting ‘Youth’ because I have grown since then. Hopefully the next album will show the same kind of growth. I will be waking up every day trying to learn new things, develop new sounds, and new concepts. I will be listening to new bands, hanging out with new friends, and growing as a person.

A great record is just a snapshot of the collective entities that make up that band, at that particular time. I believe it is every band members’ responsibility to grow personally, so that the project itself evolves. What you want is the entire project to progress because all of the members of the band are growing as individuals. I get up every morning wanting to improve and get better. On the other hand, most of the best stuff that I have ever come up with is the result of trying to listen to the ideas of those around me. I like to surround myself with people who bring equal amounts of passion towards the project. When you get together with them, you know something really fresh is going to come out of it. Surround yourself with great people, and listen to what they have to say.


When I prepare for a session, I try to come prepared and unprepared at the same time. That way I am showing up as a professional having done my homework but also open and ready to listen to the ideas of those around me. I think that it’s good to have an equal amount of both, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
TDL: Is there anything on this album that you want other drummers to listen to and say ‘WOW’ to? Is there anything that you are really proud of creatively?
RH: That’s tough. I am really proud of the record as a whole. I don’t know that I would pinpoint one song above another. If I had to choose a favorite track, it would probably be ‘All That I Know’, which is our current single. It has some unique hi-hat melodies using 3 different hi-hats.  Another favorite is probably ‘What I Can Give You’. I really like the double snare and double bass sounds on that track. I kind of tried to ‘one-up’ the programmers of the world from an acoustic point of view. I think it is a solid record, kind of charming, kind of quirky, and a little different.
TDL: Does your music change with a background orchestra. Do you write differently when you will be accompanied by an orchestra? Will you be working with an orchestra again any time soon?
RH: I think we are going to do some more shows with an orchestra sometime soon. We have played a few dates with an orchestra since the taping of our DVD, and it works remarkably well. We already have all of the charts and arrangements done. Of course, we will need to get some written for the new songs. I am a huge fan of the use of strings in our music. We did not have any on this last record, but I look forward to hearing how it will sound live.

How is the approach different? I don’t know that it is. That is one of the beautiful things with Collective Soul. Most of the music was made with strings and symphonic instruments to begin with, so it’s a no-brainer.
TDL: When any drummer sits down at his/her kit to play, they develop a particular style and presence on the drum set. When you joined Collective Soul, did you have any difficulty playing in the style and sound of Collective Soul versus your own unique playing style?
RH: Honestly, there really is no difference for me. I was a huge fan of Collective Soul before I started playing with them. I still to this day have recordings of me playing along to their records. Long before I knew there was a possibility that I would ever get to actually play with them, I learned every hi-hat opening, every ghost note, and every drum fill. I think that is one of the reasons I am so happy and honored to play with this band. It is very natural for me to create and play in that direction.

It can sometimes be scary when you want to push yourself and move things forward. On this record, I have come up with sounds and concepts that are a little bit progressive for me as well as for the project. I was so pleased that the guys in the band and the production team were so open-minded. Some ideas that I had were a little bit out there and I wasn’t sure how it was going to be received. But, I was really pleasantly surprised by the acceptance of the group. There is definitely a synchronicity and a real chemistry between us, and it works. If anything, the drum fills may get scaled back from time to time, but I would rather have really creative and melodic grooves with inventive sounds then drum fills any day! I would much rather create beats that make people go ‘WOW!’ you know, beats that make the song.
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