A great man (I think it was Mr Miyagi from The Karate Kid) once said:

"There is no such thing as a bad student. Only a bad teacher".

Wise words.

And some that really make sense to me, having been involved in drum and music

education professionally for the past 10 years. In that time I have been extremely

fortunate to have met some truly inspirational teachers and I would like to dedicate

this blog/magazine - (you could call it either a blogazine or a blagazine, depending

on if you think I know what I'm talking about!) - to those drummers who have really

made a difference in the world of drums and drum education.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lester Estelle Jr!

Oh my, oh my, oh my!!!

Well, this is an interview I have been looking forward to for a long time;

I was introduced to Lester's drumming a little while back by a Drumazine! reader and was completely blown away.  Not only by his technique and technical skill, but also because of the interesting background that he seemed to have.  From Christian Rock band "Pillar" to Country music superstar Neal Mccoy, Lester is certainly making his mark in many areas of the music & drumming world.  But how did he get from playing in a college band to a being a Grammy nominated super drummer?!

I spoke with Lester to find out more...

Drumazine: Hello Lester!  Welcome to Drumazine!  For those people reading who might not already know you, please can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Lester Estelle: Thanks so much!  Glad to be apart of it.  I'm Lester Estelle.  I'm from Kansas City, now living in Nashville TN.  I've been touring since the age of 14.  I currently tour with country artist Neal Mccoy.

Dzn: You were very young when you started playing the drums, (I think I read somewhere that you were 2 years old!)  How did that interest start and eventually develop?

LE: My father is a guitar player.  I remember going to gigs with him and watching the drummer.  Someone gave me a pair of sticks and that was it.  I was hitting on everything!

Dzn: Who was the biggest influence in your early learning of the drums?

LE: Early on it was a lot of guys living in the KC area.  Scott Coulson, GoGo Ray, Jim Riley, and a few church drummers.  I grew up on gospel and jazz. When I was 13 I started to listening to more styles and more bands.  I got into Carter Beauford of the Dave Matthews Band: pretty heavy.  Also listened to "Ten Sommoners Tales" from Sting so i got into Vinnie Colaiuta big time.  Also Chad Sexton from 311.

Dzn: And who inspires you now?

LE: Currently everybody!  haha.  I'm on youtube for hours watching drummers.  I love Chris Coleman, Thomas Pridgen, Calvin Rodgers, Morgan Rose, Tony Royster Jr, Questlove, Chris Dave, Chris McHugh, Greg Morrow....the list goes on and on.

Dzn: Now a question from a Drumazine reader, Francois Naud√©: "You have had a varied musical background and have played for a very diverse range of artists.  How did the change from playing in heavy rock bands to playing country music come about?"

LE: A bass friend of mine told me about the audition.  I was looking for something different at the time so I called the musical director and asked if i could audition.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  Haha... Its been a great.  Working for Neal Mccoy is a privilege and he loves to showcase his players.

Dzn: Would you say that it is a good idea to be open-minded in your approach and play many different musical styles?

LE: Absolutely!  The biggest reason I got into playing all styles is I love recording.  When i lived in KC, I wanted to be one of the main guys producers or artist would call to drum on their records.  The more styles of music you can play, the more work you will get.  Every gig that I've been on has opened more doors to more musical situations.

Dzn: I heard a rumour that you play other musical instruments, one of which is Bass Guitar.  Does being able to play other instruments (bass in particular) help with your musicality as a drummer?

LE: For sure.  There was a time before I joined Pillar that I was playing more bass guitar than drums.  It helps me to not do my own thing on the kit...really concentrate on locking in with the bass.  Its not about me.  Also I got into engineering and producing which really helps you focus on the band as a whole.  Changes the way I listen to music.  I use to just pay attention to the drummer... (although I still do mostly! LOL)  

Dzn: What would you consider to be your first “success” in music?

LE: I think my first success was leaving high school to homeschool so I could travel on the road.  I can't believe my parents let me do it but they knew that it was a great opportunity to be able to make money and play music at a young age.  While kids were going to prom and playing sports, I was on the road in a van and trailer!

Dzn: Would you describe this as a “defining moment” in your career?

LE: In 2007, Pillar was nominated for a Grammy.  It was a huge honor for us to go and be apart of such a major awards show.  All the hard work, bad shows, good shows, long writing sessions, interviews had paid off.  It was a great day for us.  We didn't win but we were happy to be mentioned.  Went from 4 guys from the mid-west playing rock music in college to being nominated for a Grammy....good stuff!

Dzn: You've talked about success; have there been any hard times or "learning experiences"?

LE: There was an audition I was in:  It came down between me and another drummer.  I didn't get the gig.  It was good for me because I'd never been a part of anything like that before: I learned what to do, what not to do, what to say and what not to say.  I also got some great exposure.  

Dzn: And how did this experience affect your career?

LE: The next audition I had was with Neal Mccoy.  It worked out perfectly!  I just approached the whole thing different than the previous audition.  This turned out to be a better gig for myself, my family and i wouldn't change anything.

Dzn: Another question from Francoise: "How do you get to be so fast with your feet?!"

LE: haha...  Honestly I don't really know.  I learned on a crappy pedal(?!)  When I join Pillar, there were some double bass drum parts and at the time, I didn't want to buy one so I figured out how to play it with a single.  A lot of learning anything is repetition.

Dzn: Onto equipment!  I understand you play Risen Drums.  I also know you have 5 (?!) drum kit set-ups:  Francoise and Drumazine need to ask - "Can you explain your reasoning behind the different set-ups and also which one is your favourite and why?"

LE: Well, currently I have 8 different kits.  Its mostly for studio situations.  I keep a drum kit on the road and the rest at the studio.  Like I said earlier, I wanted to be able to cover all styles so i have 3 vintage kits and 5 modern type kits.  My favorite is probably my Risen maple with wood hoops.  Its deep but real punchy!  I love it.  All my kits sound completely different from each other and I just try to cater to the style of music I'm on the gig.

Dzn: What other gear do you play?

LE: I play Sabian Cymbals.  Mostly HHX and AAX.  Lots of different models and sizes.  My favorite crash is HHXtreme 19".  My favorite ride is 21" HHX groove ride.  
I play Evans Heads. Emad 2 on kick, reverse powercenter on snares, clear and coated G2 on toms.
I use Promark Sticks.  The Teddy Campbell signature model are my favorite.  It feels like a slim 5B to me.

Dzn: Francoise also asks: "What's so great about the 13"AAX Fusion Hi Hats?"

LE: Haha...  I don't know! I think that I'm use to that sound: fast, quick, nice stick definition and higher pitch.  My first good set of hats were 13" AA fusions.  Currently i'm using some 16" prototype hats.  I LOVE THEM!!!

Dzn: With the advent of new technology on what seems to be a daily basis, what modern technology do you incorporate into your:

Dzn: Practice? LE: Youtube!  I don't even have to buy drum dvds any more!  LOL.  

Dzn: Live performance? LE: Live I use my mac and a program called Ableton Live.  Its great for adding loops (and clicks) to any gigs!  

Dzn: Recording? LE: At my studio we use Pro Tools and Apogee converters.  With my [overseas] clients, I'm able to track and they can watch me on webcam.  I record for artist and producers overseas all the time.  Its a great way to get work and connect with other players.

Dzn. Teaching?  LE: I use Ableton Live at drum clinics for my backing tracks.  I also demonstrate how easy it is to incorporate this to live playing.

Dzn: What current projects have you got on at the moment?

LE: The new Neal Mccoy CD comes out in March.  I'm on that.  I'm producing a couple of artist who's name I can not mention yet but its gonna be fun and I'm looking forward to it.  

Dzn: Can you tell us more about your recording studio?

LE: The studio is called "OFF THE WALL STUDIOS" and it's in Nashville TN.  I have the studio with 2 of my friends:  Robert Venable, who engineers, produces, mixes and plays drums and Josh Gleave does everything but play drums!  They're both great guys.  I love being in the studio!

Dzn: Are there any other links you can lead us to to find out more about you and your work?

LE: Check out:

Dzn: Amazing stuff!  It just remains for me to say thanks to you Lester, and then want to go practice some country drums...

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