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Omar Hakim Interview - Drummer Experiences
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Omar Hakim Interview
Omar Hakim Interview
An interview with drumming great, Omar Hakim
Published by DRUMMER111
06-16-2006
Post Omar Hakim Interview

Q: When and why did you pick drumming?
OH: I received a gift from my a uncle when I was little - a holiday toy snare drum and it was a love at first sight kind of deal. It was weird because my mom said that when they strapped the toy marching drum around my neck, I immediately started playing a marching beat. They said it didn't sound like a four year old playing a marching beat, but right away it sounded natural to them. They were like "Hmmm, that's weird. Lets get him a real drum." So the next year I ended up getting a snare drum and it was a love affair from there. I've basically been playing drums since age five.

Q: What CD's are in your cd changer?
OH: Lets change that to Ipod. I have the strangest mix of stuff. I have Jeff Beck, POD, Jimi Hendrix, Evanescence, Coldplay, Aerosmith, my boys Living Color, No Doubt, Peter Gabriel solo album, the Police, Prince, Sly, U2 (I love U2), and then I have an R&B mix. It's interesting because I have a bunch of different genres. That's what I love about the Ipod because you can carry around 5000 songs. I'm also listening to Seal, Miles, some records on some Turkish musicians, stuff from the Itunes website, some singles, and some guilty pleasure songs like the Kelly Clarkson record "Since You've Been Gone". I also have this record by Amarie called "One Thing" which is just guitar and drums and it's fun. I like the fact that the drum loop is really wild. Another guilty pleasure is this jazz record called "I Like It" by Narcotic Thrust. It's just a feel good dance single. My playlist is really all over the place.

Q: Is there any specific reason that you chose Pearl drums?
OH: This is a multi layered question for me because there are emotional reasons and a lot of other different reasons. These guys have hands down the best support in the world in terms of service. I think that their support in service is second to none and that was the main reason. I was at a point in my career where I was working with Sting and Madonna and all these other artists and when you're at that place you have to be with a company that is sensitive to your needs and that is committed to the excellence in terms of getting it right. No matter what I needed on any tour they would provide it. If they had to make it for me then they would make it for me. They will make things happen. This company is really amazing and whatever they are doing for their guys like Dennis, myself, or any of the other endorser guys, they are always listening to us which is really cool. That stuff starts showing up on products. They donít have a group of endorsers that they donít pay any attention to. They are really paying close attention to what we are saying and you really feel a part of the family. On top of the drums and hardware being incredible and amazing, I am very happy with my relationship with Pearl. In fact, next year will be my 20th anniversary with Pearl Drums and we are making some plans for some 20th anniversary stuff.

Q: What was your very first experience with Pearl drums?
OH: Wow! I was on tour with Sting and I was playing Yamaha at the time. We were in Europe at the time and the manager comes up to us and tells us that the next run of the gig is in Australia. But we donít have enough time from the last gig in the UK and the first gig in Australia to get all of the gear there in time. So everyone needs to get a hold of our companies and see if we can get loaned gear for the last week of the Australia run. We would then ship all the stuff to Australia. So I call Yamaha and I couldnít get a hold of anyone. For some reason nobody was around so I was bummed out and told the manager to rent a kit because I couldn't get in touch with anybody. So I get to the gig and there is Pearl drumset up on the stage. Pearl had gotten wind of the situation and they took it upon themselves to deliver a Pearl Kit for my use. I was really impressed and the drums were amazing. I got up on stage and I was like "Whoa, this is kind of cool!." So thatís kind of how I got into Pearl Drums.

Q: What keeps inspiring you to play drums today?
OH:I love music too much. For me its all about the music and I think that it's like a lifelong love affair with music. Even though I've been a professional for thirty years or whatever Iím still a music fan as you can tell by my IPOD playlist. So thereís some balance between still feeling like child about music in many ways and at the same time being very appreciative and fortunate that I have this little job.

Q: How often and how long do you practice?
OH: I donít practice nearly enough and thatís because between the work and being on the road and wanting to spend some time with my family in New York, I feel like I donít spend enough time practicing.

Q: You've gone from playing in "musician's favorite" bands (Weather Report, Sting, Scofield, etc.) to more commercial stuff - playing pop music with Madonna. How are the demands different technically and artistically? Is there the same level of artistic expression on a gig with "The Material Girl" as there is on a gig with Zawinul?
OH: That is a great question because what ends up happening is that you start to really understand that each genre or style of music has a certain level of commitment and a certain level of understanding and sensitivity that needs to be brought to the table, whether it's rock, pop, or the most difficult jazz fusion. It all takes a level of those things I've just described. You can't look at the Madonna gig and say, "Oh well it's just like an easy pop groove - four on the floor with the kick drum. "It's just dance music." That is just such the wrong attitude. For me, when Iím playing pop music, even though Iím not all over the place in terms of the whole chops concept, like I would be with when playing with Weather Report, my job in that music is to make that music feel good. When people hear that show, they actually feel like dancing, which means that there is a certain level of concentration and responsibility to make that show happen every night and to play that show every night takes a lot of focus. You're dealing with a lot of technology like click tracks so I think that they all require a certain level of commitment, understanding, and sensitivity to make it work.

Q: I loved getting to see you play each week on the NBC show "Sunday Night". If I remember correctly, the band was David Sanborn, Hiram Bullock, Don Alias, Philippe Saisse, and yourself on drums. Did you enjoy the experience of being on television each and every week? And what artists/bands did you enjoy playing with the most during your tenure on that show?
OH: That TV show called Night Music was one of the most fun gigs I have ever had in my career for the reason that I got a chance to play with all of those great musicians and artists every week. One stand out show for me was the one with Bootsy Collins. We did this fun show with Bootsy and we did another show with Donald Faggin which was great. That was also the first time I saw Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Q: If you could be in any band that ever existed, which one would it be?
OH: Great question. First choice would be Earth, Wind, & Fire because Iím a big fan. It's a drummers groove band and I think the tunes are amazing. I guess if I had to pick another band, because it just can't be one band for me, it would have to be U2. I like U2.

Q: Who were/are you biggest influences on drumming?
OH: Some drummers and some non-drummers who have influenced me are Art Blakley, Buddy Rich, Billy Cobham, Elvin Jones, Miles Davis, John Coltrain, and Max Roach.

Q: Would you consider coming out with a new redesigned signature snare? If so, what would the specs be?
OH: Actually the plan is to come out with a Pearl and Omar 20th anniversary signature snare. As for the specs, they are top secret.

Pearl Omar Hakim Signature Snare Drum 13x5 Inches

Q: What do you feel when you become absolutely involved within the music? (At the point when your eyes are closed, etc.)
OH: I feel like Iím not even there and like it's not even me. I go away at that moment and it's just like the music. If you're lucky you get to the place were you can actually move yourself away so that the music can come through. As soon as I start thinking, you know what happens.

Q: Out of all the artists you have played with, which one did you feel that the real Omar was playing?
OH: Weather Report


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