Audeze hits the skins with drummer, producer, and composer Dan Mayo

June 04, 2024

Dan Mayo is a virtuoso soloist, drummer, producer and composer.  Known for his jaw-dropping work with the innovative power-trio TATRAN, of which he’s a founding member. With hundreds of thousands of followers and countless views on social media worldwide, Mayo quickly established his own artistic footprint combining live drums with guitar pedals and fearless sound design.

Dan Mayo wearing Audeze LCD-XC headphones playing the drums
"Not only are my XC's clear, rich and full, they are also closed (not open back), which really gives me the freedom to record drums with them and mix everywhere my heart desires." - Dan Mayo
Here's our chat with Dan:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

Oh man, I've been through a lot, there are few moments that I truly cherish, The first one is teaming up with Mike Shinoda (Linkin Park) for his new tour Post Traumatic, not only it was amazing working with Mike and his amazing crew, It was extremely moving to see the fans and crew members celebrating life and getting somewhat of a closure after Chester's passed away, I haven't met Chester, but I feel like I got to know him through all the people that truly loved him.

Here's a video from Leeds festival with Mike: Mike Shinoda - Reading Festival

Second one is the live performance I had in Tel Aviv with my band Tatran, It was a completely improvised show in front of 1200 people, I remember I decided to challenge myself and I didn't bring any "normal" cymbals, it was broken stacks and bells, all of my sounds were short and cutting through, It made me focus on what phrases I actually play even more than usual instead of filling the void with long sounding cymbals, that show was truly legendary to me, Magic was in the air and the band was so hot, I will forever remember this show, we actually released it as a live album.

Video from that crazy show: TATRAN - Merchant House 

The third one was in 2017 when I was elected “Best New Drummer of 2017” by the biggest drumming magazine in the UK, Music Radar’s Rhythm Magazine, It was extremely surprising to me, I wasn't that known at that time so it was really moving, specially to see all the supportive fans loving my craft and giving their vote to me.

How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?

First and foremost I'm a drummer, a drummer in my soul at least :), but lately I started to mix and produce a lot in the studio, so these days you can say I'm a sound designer, producer and mix man.  With my band Tatran I'm a band member, we all write and produce our own music, and beside that I started making my own sample packs, and recording for all kinda different artists etc. In addition to that, I enjoy creating videos for my socials, I try basically to share my recent findings on the drums and in the studio. 

Dan Mayo - Greenhouse

How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?

I grew up in Israel with an amazing loving family, My dad loves music and my big sister (Shanny) is a singer, so music was all around me growing up, I started to play the drums at the age of 6, I was extremely passionate about it even before but when I turned 6 I was old enough to reach the pedals (lol), I was playing with people and other musicians from all ages all the time and I think that was the best "school" for me, to be able to connect through music with other musicians it's the most important thing and the real essence of music and being a musician, all the other stuff like technique and music theory are just tools you get along the way. As an Israeli, you get exposed to so many different cultures since this country is pretty young, this reflects in music too, In order to be a working musician in Israel, you have to know how to play a lot of different genres, for example I grew up listening to rock and heavy metal, then found the funk, from there continued to jazz and then started to play ethiopian music with Ester Rada, and Yemenai music with Yemen Blues and so on, it's all part of the culture here, therefore I think it gave me a lot of cool tools to play and connect with other musicians.

Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?

There are so many, I think i learned (and keep learning) that things feels different from what they seem, you can see something or some artist and think to yourself how fun it will be to play together, but then if feels completely different from what you expected, and this happened to me throughout my whole career, The most important thing is to focus on how things feels and let this guide your musical path, that to my opinion is the key to every aspect in our industry, whatever you're musician, composer or mastering engineer, it all comes down to how it feels. The way to keep growing as an artist is to always focus on how it feels or should feel when learning something new. So that was my biggest influence, this realization. 

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?

There are a lot of these moments, I remember my ever first gig with my band Tatran, I felt so bad, Like I fucked up the whole show, we didn't even made it to the backstage and I started talking and talking on and on about how bad I was and how I ruined the gig with my digusting playing (yes I was extremely harsh with myself) to my band members and to the audiance that came to our backstage to say it was a great show. I learned that when I'm performing I'm in a hyper state, I experience everything super intance, so a tiny mistake that no one can even hear is gonna sound to me like the worst thing ever, when I make a big deal out of it, and telling people it was a bad show, I actually manifest the mistake that was in my head, (and also my band members wanted to kill me). To overcome this issue, I started to try and not speak at all after my shows, but that wasn't the solution really, so I started to explore the meaning of a mistake and what a mistake means to me, and I found out there aren't any mistakes, there are events, you want to play something but something else happens, great! let's react to it, it's not a mistake :) Thanks to this approach I started to enjoy playing music much more, now I have those surprises in the session that I get to react to, and play with, that is what makes every session special to its own moment in time. I still need to remind myself of this everyday almost, it's very easy for me to fall back to this neurotic place of perfection and "mistakes" state of mind.

Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?

Like I've said, I'm a drummer, It all starts with the drums for me, I tried writing and producing with different synths etc, but at the end I find the solution always with my drums, that's why it is so much fun for me to incorporate my effects and pedalboards with my live drumming, that's the way I find new sounds and ideas but with the drum's DNA in it, that speaks right to my heart. 

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?

Yes, like I mentioned in previous question, always stick to what things feels like, how they should feel and how they are feeling in the given moment, I truly believe that even our ears are just a tool which we can achieve a desired feeling through, don't focus on small technical stuff, it's not really important, focus on how you feel, with your body and mind, once that's your main focus, all the other stuff will fall into place. 

How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?

Actually, from some weird reason, most of my mixes I do with headphones and use my speakers just for reference (and not the other way around), it might change with time but for now that's how I work, something about the workflow, and the fact I can dance in the studio and move freely without worrying the sound will change with each movement is something that important for me while I mix and work in the studio, I hate sitting still in front of a screen, I need to be able to have my freedom to reach every corner and jump when I get too excited haha! Also on stage, ever since I switched to working with headphones 7 years ago, there is no turning back for me, not only I don't need to chase musical information in a vortex of frequencies, I can enjoy a mouthwatering mixes and everything feels crispy like a record, so for me that was one of my biggest game changers.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work? Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?

As a touring musician that records a lot, and creates sample-packs, mixes and masters, having headphones I can trust and take with me on the road is absolutely priceless! Not only are my XC's clear, rich and full, they are also closed (not open back), which really gives me the freedom to record drums with them and mix everywhere my heart desires. Honestly it doesn't feel like wearing headphones, It's even funny to me to call them headphones, they are an amazing tool, I can hear with ease every little thing, my whole process of mixing got way faster and easier, I don't need to chase my own tail and check thousands of times in different speakers, it gives me the ability to create with ease and confidence.

Audeze LCD-XC headphones laying on drum set