Chad Taylor is a drummer, percussionist and composer who made his mark on the verdant jazz and post-rock scenes in Chicago back in the 90s. Since then, he's continued his work with the ever-evolving cast of characters in those movements, and has expanded his role deeper into rock, jazz and experimental music all over the world. Chad was a founding member of the Chicago Underground Duo (also Trio, Quartet, etc) with Rob Mazurek, and has played on seminal albums with Marc Ribot, Eric Revis, Jeff Parker, Kris Davis, Joshua Abrams and too many others to mention.
Chad is not only an accomplished trap kit drummer, he plays a wicked mbira, and often shares his hypnotic style on that instrument on his Instagram page. He also writes exciting compositions and his tunes have featured on many albums over the years.
Here's our chat with Chad:
Can you pick out any favorites from your work that you're particularly proud of?
I’ve performed on close to 100 albums. It’s hard to pick just one...
Marc Ribot Trio / Live at the Village Vanguard
Chicago Underground Quartet / self titled
Iron and Wine / Kiss Each Other Clean
Sam Prekop / self titled (Chris @ Audeze: one of my favorite albums of all time.)
Triptych Myth / The Beautiful
Chad Taylor Trio / The Daily Biological
How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on?
I provide Rhythmic Navigation.
How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?
My first instrument was guitar, my father started his career as a concert pianist so I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Growing up I only listened to classical music and jazz. By the time I was in my 20’s I was listened to everything, rock, funk, R&B, blues, country, you name it.
Can you name any factors you feel majorly influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?
I started out as a classical guitarist but couldn’t deal with the pressure of having to play everything perfectly. When I first listened to Henry Threadgill (also an Audeze artist), I knew that I wanted to start getting serious about the drums. Later in my career I started working with the guitarist Marc Ribot. I’ve often joked with him that if I would of heard him perform in my earlier years I would of stuck with the guitar.
Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?
The first time I did my own record date I was extremely frustrated. I had an idea in my head about how I wanted this particular track to go but the musicians in my band kept on altering the arrangement. We did 5 different takes but they still weren’t playing my arrangement correctly. I got so mad that I ended the record date early and literally walked around the building to calm down. That particular track that I thought was a disaster wound up being my favorite track on the record. It was Active Ingredients, the title track from Titration on Delmark Records.
The lesson I learned was that you have to trust the musicians you hired know what they are doing, that they are going to make your music sound the best that it can be. If I had to do it again I wouldn’t have stressed so much.
Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?
I used to play flat ride cymbals pretty regularly. Flat rides don’t have a bell at the center. They are completely flat so they produce a slightly different type of sound. Best example might be Roy Haynes on the Chick Corea recording Now he Sings Now He Sobs, or any recording from Leon Parker in the 90’s. Matter of fact I have Leon’s Infamous flat ride that he used to play back in the day. I took a break from them for about 20 years but I started bringing them back into the studio. I have a collection of them now, an 18”, 20”, 22”, and 24”.
Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?
Nobody cares about your drum solos and bad ass fills. They don’t care that you can play 13/8 superimposed on a measure of 4/4. Make the music sound good. Make everybody in the band sound good and you’ll always keep working.
How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?
I use them often, in the studio and for personal use. With Audeze nothing is lost, from the overtones of the cymbals to the the exact sound of my brushes.