Marco Minnemann has become a well known name in the prog-rock and metal community due to his work with a large array of big-name artists and acts including Joe Satriani (solo instrumental hard rock guitarist), Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree/Blackfield frontman), Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa/Fantomas drummer), Tony Levin (King Crimson/Peter Gabriel bassist), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater keyboardist), Kreator (thrash metal band), Necrophagist (technical death metal group), Aristocrats (jazz-fusion trio) and many more. Minnemann will be releasing his next solo album, “EEPS,” on July 9th. I got the chance to interview the drum legend and talk about the current Joe Satriani tour, upcoming solo album, working with Steven Wilson and much more. You can view the interview below:
Currently, you are lending your drumming abilities to Joe Satriani’s live performances. Can you talk a little about how you got involved with Satriani and how the tour is going?
Marco: Joe and his manager wrote me an email and asked me specifically if I want to be on board and they would like me to bring my stuff to his music. They heard me play and Joe liked my style which is very kind to say. I remember the manager, Nick, was telling me once, “Look, we want you to do your thing. Two hours of guitar music can be be very boring after awhile.” So, I have a lot of freedom there. For some songs like “Devil’s Slide,” you can go crazy and do some fills, and I even have a drum solo, which is kind of awesome. But there’s also some songs like “Flying in a Blue Dream,” where you just have to really stick to the groove and deliver the meat. The touring experience is absolutely amazing, we get treated very, very nicely. Joe is a very cool guy to hang out with and it’s an overall very pleasing experience. This is already the second year in the tour and it will keep going so there’s a lot of things to expect.
“The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories),” a solo album by Porcupine Tree’s frontman Steven Wilson, featured many talented prog-rock musicians including: yourself, Guthrie Govan, Nick Beggs, Adam Holzman, Theo Travis, and Alan Parsons. Was it overwhelming writing the material for the album with so many renowned artists in the studio with you?
Marco: We received the songs from Steven in the demo phase already before we went to the studio, and I recorded drums at home at first. And then, after the songs were fully arranged and everybody brought their instrument to the table, we kind of worked like a live band and recorded it live. Certainly, overdubs were done after that but the vibe generally was actually very relaxed. That album was done in like 5 days of recording. Alan [Parsons] is a great guy to work with. He is super relaxed as well and he is just capturing the sound without any interference or telling you how to sound.
Live performance of Steven Wilson’s solo band perform “Luminol”
Were you familiar with Steven Wilson’s previous solo releases or his work in the progressive rock/metal band, Porcupine Tree, before you joined him on tour?
Marco: No, absolutely not. I heard his name but I have to honestly say I did not know about that band too much. I knew they were around, but never really listened to it. Actually to this day, I don’t know much of that material. Steven and I connected differently. We connected on a more personal level, just meeting, hanging, and sharing some cool stories and having a good vibe and starting to make music. There was chemistry, so I think that was the most important part of that story.
Now the big news in your career right now is your upcoming solo album, “EEPS,” in which you composed, played, and recorded all instruments. Can you discuss the writing process of the material and any difficulties you ran into while composing, playing, or recording the songs featured on the LP?
Marco: There weren’t any difficulties, I’ve been doing solo records since about 1994. And actually in all my solo records, I play the instruments and produce. The difference on this album, which is really because I love to experiment and try new things, was the collaboration with Scott Schorr, who successfully helped us with the release of “Levin Minnemann Rudess” which was released in 2013. He owns the label, Lazy Bones Recordings, and he is a musician himself and has great ideas. On “EEPS,” Schorr basically served as a co-producer. He has a very open mind for these things. I remember composing “OC DC,” which was made up of completely out of tune instruments and after awhile it started sounding like a song. I sent it to Scott and he responded by saying, “Wow, this is genius. I can’t believe it. I can’t stop listening to this song. Let’s make it a single.”
Track-by-track preview of Marco Minnemann’s upcoming LP “EEPS”
It is also noted that you wrote all the lyrics for the tracks on “EEPS.” What were the main inspirations for the lyrical content on this album?
Marco: On the song “OC DC,” I came up with the lyrics after the music. Since the song is out of tune and completely and an organized mess and chaos, I actually wrote about exactly the opposite topic, so the lyrics is about someone who is OCD and gets annoyed by little things and tries to fix them. There’s also a song called “When I Was Gone,” which is about religion, but actually in a funny way. It’s about someone who pretends to be Jesus. “Sunshine” is about hope and looking for love.
Music video for “OC DC,” single off upcoming solo LP
You have drummed in a large variety of bands including Necrophagist (a technical death metal group), The Aristocrats (an instrumental jazz-fusion trio), Paul Gilbert (hard rock solo guitarist), and many more. Are they any genres that you find more enjoyable or difficult to drum for?
Marco: Every genre you like to listen to, you automatically understand. That’s what I believe in. So to me, these are musical styles that I love listening to. All these bands have something to offer that I really enjoy playing. Especially with The Aristocrats, we have no boundaries and can do everything we want to do.
Track-by-track teaser of The Aristocrats’ self-titled LP (2011)
Throughout your discography, many big-name musicians have been featured on your solo releases like Tony Levin, Jordan Rudess, and more. Are there any musicians on your bucket list that you’d like to record with in the future?
Marco: I was never really looking for specific people to work with. They show up automatically. I go for chemistry. All of a sudden you meet someone and think, “Wow, this could be fantastic!” And then you start working with them. Which is what happened with Guthrie Govan (guitarist of The Aristocrats). Regarding musicians on my bucket list that I’d like to record with in the future, I’d have to really think about that. There’s many great musicians out there. Something with Kate Bush would be kinda cool. Aphex Twin, Sting, Peter Gabriel, or Tegan & Sara would be really interesting. Brian May would definitely be on that list. I grew up listening to Queen.
What are 5 drummers or artists that you would consider major influences on your overall sound and technique?
Marco: I’d say like Frank Zappa, Queen, Led Zeppelin, and The Police. Those were people that I really respect or listened to while I grew up. But honestly, when I compose music, I don’t think of how I could sound like these artists. It always flows out automatically.
If you had an infinite budget and amount of resources, what would be your dream tour consist of? Who would you want to tour with and what countries or festivals would you like to play in?
Marco: It would be really great to perform some of my work with an orchestra at some point. Like each performance, somewhere around the world, in like a concert hall, in Sydney, London, or Paris. That would be pretty cool.
You have released several instructional drumming books such as “Extreme Interdependence” and “Maximum Minnemann.” If you could give 3 tips of advice or techniques to recommend to aspiring drummers, what would they be?
Marco: I see myself more as an overall composer. But, my recommendations would be first of all, to play the right notes, feel out the music, and sit tight on it to make it sound good. Caring about your sound is very important. And believe in what you do. Stick to your guns and you will find people who will enamor themselves with you.
Drum solo while touring with Necrophagist in 2007’s Summer Slaughter
What is next for Marco Minnemann? Do you plan to tour in support of your upcoming solo album?
Marco: Here’s the funny bit, I never really toured for my solo albums. You’ll hear some of the songs performed live with The Aristocrats. But what can you expect next? Well, first of all, “EEPS” release.” I have already another album in the making. Then, a new Steven Wilson album. And also, a new Aristocrats album. And of course all the live touring in between.