INTERVIEW: VINCE MAYER (GRIZZLY RUN)

Last November, we had Vince here as a solo artist, talking about his personal brand: VINCE MAYER DRUMS. Today, however, we’re exploring him as the backbone of Buffalo heavy hitters, GRIZZLY RUN, now that he’s been behind the kit for them for what is coming up on a year or so. Vince is someone you want in your corner, or in this case, literally having your back on stage. Between being an aficionado of drummers, drum tech, lighting expert, home studio professor, and general gear geek, Vince is such an interesting dude to talk to, and has also really been taking the initiative lately in building a camaraderie between local drummers. He says he’s striving to get drummers helping each other on and off stage (or at least those with the knowledge and strength to assist in an efficient on/off stage procedure with larger drum sets). Let’s see what else Vince has cooking, while taking a look at his personal drum history as well!

1. How long have you been with Grizzly Run and how did you first come to join the band? Just prior to joining GR, I know you weren’t too keen on jumping into a new band setting just yet. You later went on to tell me that the camaraderie and laid back schedule within the Grizzly Run camp made joining GR an easy decision. Things obviously have picked up since, so I’d love to know how your jam packed summer with these guys has been going as a follow-up.

First of all, thanks for having me back for another round! So my history with Grizzly Run goes back to November 2020. At the time, the previous drummer had left the band and they were looking for a replacement. I didn’t have the ability to take on a second band but I did offer to do session work for an EP they were otherwise ready to record. I ended up sending over a playthrough of one of the new songs, Carcosa, mostly following drums that had been programmed but with a few liberties taken. Fast forward almost a year and after they had heard I left The Last Reign, they reached out to see if I would be interested in jamming with the band.

Originally I turned them down, as you mentioned I was not in a place where I could imagine joining another band. I was at a point where I had invested a massive amount of hours and dollars and creative effort into The Last Reign and it was no longer a good fit for me, I had friends and family and counselors telling me directly that it was time and that I was just making myself sick. There is a stress versus reward balance with being in a band, and I imagine most endeavors, that needs to be constantly evaluated and I’d let that balance slip a little at a time until it was firmly in the red.

It was in the time after I’d left The Last Reign but was filling in for the shows they’d already booked that we did the last interview that you referenced, and also in that time where Sam reached out again to gauge my interest in joining Grizzly Run. We met and I must have had a list of 30+ questions and concerns just to see if the band could fit into my lifestyle: How often do you rehearse, for how long, where, what are expenses like, how often do you play shows, what’s the gear situation, future plans, how do you organize this thing and that thing, etc. I was also very recently inspired by a great experience with The Behest of Serpents on the road, and seeing how they interacted and worked together gave me a different perspective on what was possible. So we ended up jamming once or twice, I consulted all of the friends and family and counselors from before for their guidance as well, set some healthy boundaries, and am very happy with the result! We played a gig a few weeks later in Sodus Point, NY that went smoothly and set a good tone for what was to come!

This summer has definitely been a busy one! We played at Mohawk Place in April and June, I tracked the drums for the EP and we played Iron Works with Attack Attack/Red Jumpsuit Apparatus in July, and we have a show with Johnny Booth at Stamps, the Music is Art Festival, and finally are opening for Monuments at the Rapids Theater in the coming weeks. It’s been a little chaotic as all of these require setting up click/backing track files and I have been trying different setups to reduce setup complexity and maintain some flexibility and redundancy on stage which is it’s own balancing act! So I’ve been learning a lot, probably buying too much stuff, but I’m enjoying myself and that’s what’s important. Also been constant drumset iteration to try and condense and shorten setup time, improve reliability, but still retain what makes a Vince kit a Vince kit!

2. You and I have touched on this question in past interviews, but I’d love a refresher for new audiences. How did you get your start playing drums and what made you gravitate toward drums over other instruments?

Always happy to tell these stories! Short answer is that my dad was the primary driver of all of it. I come from a very musical family: my grandparents on his side were prominent members of the Buffalo Philharmonic and taught upright bass and cello out of their home for decades, my dad played guitar and bass in wedding bands, blues bands etc over the years, and my mom is a regularly performs in international barbershop chorus/quartet competitions. Anyways, my dad felt drums would be a good instrument for me, so he started me up with lessons with Ted Reinhardt (Gamalon, Spyro Gyra, Buffalo Music Hall of Fame). I started with a practice pad at age 11, and got my first drum set at age 12. I see your next question so I’ll hold the details for it! It’s a full family commitment to me playing the instrument, as drums are loud and obnoxious, take up space, and have a lot of pieces that need to be replaced constantly, and be transported to and from gigs, so really both of my parents made that possible through my teen years until I had some agency to handle those tasks myself.

I’ve dabbled in other instruments but they never developed to the extent of the drums, so I do keep gravitating back. I believe I could grow on guitar if I invested a lot of time into it, but I haven’t made time for that yet so it remains an unfulfilled aspiration to eventually inflict that many hours of practice upon myself.

3. What was the first drum kit, hardware, and cymbal setup you had?

Well I can’t not tell this story. My beginner kit was an orange sparkle Kent kick drum with a rack tom and floor tom, an unknown marbled-looking middle tom, and a no-name snare drum. Zildjian ZBT cymbals, unknown hardware. How was this purchased? I’m so glad you asked. My dad knew a guy with just a bunch of drum gear all over his house that sold it to him. He’d met his match, as my dad was a talker and this guy had gotten into a 45 minute conversation with a wrong number once. Anyways, when my dad picked up the drums, I’m sure he expected a couple hours of conversation, but he was asked to leave in a hurry, as a prostitute was on the way over and thats where the money was going!

4. Talk about the gear you love, specific brands, makes, models, etc. (Another revisit to our interview in the fall of 2021)

*cracks knuckles, deep breath, it’s keyboard time*

So on drums themselves, others would be way more capable of giving good advice here. I went all out and started playing on a Tama Starclassic Maple in 2005 and have been playing only that kit until just this year when I moved to a DW Performer acrylic kit for live use. The Tama kit came with a set of Humes and Berg Enduro cases that honestly are the primary reason the kit is in this good of shape after 17 years of my use. I’d have to look into current case brands, I am intrigued by the Gruv Gear Veloc series, I like how the drums come out of the front of the case and they all lock together. I don’t own them yet but they have my interest and now my curiosity.

Cymbals I have been going full Meinl over the past few years. I still have a Zildjian A custom hi-hat and A custom crash that I haven’t replaced because they work great, but eventually I’ll finish that quest. As far as which cymbals, well that’s easy. “Does *insert famous drummer* use this? Well I need one”. I would say the cymbals that are most important to my sound are the Benny Greb Crasher Hats, the Matt Gartska Fat Stack, the MB20 Heavy Bell Ride, and Classics Custom Bell. Outside of Meinl I have had a Sabian Mike Portnoy Max Stax Mid on my kit for most of my life and it’s probably my favorite cymbal of all time.

For hardware I have been using a Gibraltar rack but am looking to move over to the Yamaha hexrack system (Thanks Paul from Behest of Serpents!). Round racks, if you don’t set them just right they can betray you in all kinds of creative ways…I have three freestanding (not interlinked) Gibraltar rack sections that I have named Anakin, Judas, and 006 for this reason. So anyways I think hex (or square like a pearl rack) is the play.

For Pedals I use Tama Dyna-Sync with a Trick linkage. I’d love to try a nice Trick pedal or one of the fancy brands like ACD but those will really double-kick your checking account. I go direct drive with longboards for learning that heel-toe technique that I’m definitely going to learn some day…

Footblaster Triggers are fantastic. Moving the trigger off the kick drum head and right onto the pedal is ingenious… if you are triggering you mostly need your kick drum to be a pillow filled dead tub of sadness because it’s all about that bounce, and it makes a good case for a second bass drum. But with Footblasters you can bring your pedal to any situation and have it be right, and then your kick drum is still usable if they have to mic it or just for room sound.

The only gloves I will use are Easton Ahead XL, and I always use them.

Stop what you are doing right now and go buy as many Trick cymbal toppers as it takes to replace all your cymbal stand toppers. I am sorry for the expense and you’re welcome for how much easier your kit just got to set up and tear down.

And then on audio gear in general: I use and love Ultimate Ears UE11 custom in-ears, and if you’re doing any kind of In-Ears, I haven’t found anything better suited to manage all the chaos than the Behringer X32 rack.

My full gear list is available on my website!

5. Discuss the ways your drum setups have evolved over the years.

So my time with the first orange Frankenkit above was thankfully short. That was the “hey, let’s see if he sticks with this” purchase. In 2000 I moved up to a Sonor Force 2001 5-piece kit, and I think started flirting with the drum rack idea. I still have this kit and have used it in the past few years, surprisingly solid for being a budget kit.

So in 2002, I was hired to drum for a production of “Grease” at the Lancaster Opera House. Funny aside from this experience: some of the rehearsals with the actors they were un-miced, so the instruments had to play impossibly quiet. Very difficult on drums. So I ran next door and bought two large size slim jims, and swapped my sticks for them for that rehearsal. They tenderized quickly but I can confirm are just as tasty afterwards. Anyways, the guitar player was some sort of instrument buyer and seller, and I used some of the proceeds from the shows to buy a TKO drum set, same exact color as my Sonor kit but in different Sizes. So at full power I had a 20” and 22” bass drum, and the toms were 10, 12, 12, 13, 14, 16. Oh to be a 16 year old Dream Theater fan again. This spawned the double Gibraltar rack which I think I’m still using components of.

Late 2004 I bought a DW classic series kit on eBay, and you’d think I’d be set for life right? Well…it was something. The hardware was some bizarre ratchet garbage (like it had a ratchet on each tom to tighten it, not the urban dictionary definition), it had weird unlined cases that didn’t fit the drums with those abominable hardware tumors on them, cymbal stands that were missing pieces, it was a bizarre collection of stuff. But it came with the hi hats I use today and a few good cymbals I used for many years, a set of DW 5000 double pedals that I used for a long time, and some awful drum mics that also did not fit on the drums. I ended up selling the kit to my much more talented cousin and hanging on to some of the stuff that came with it.

Later in 2005 I told the story before of ordering a drum set from the Easter Bunny at Guitar Center, but having it miss the boat and the 5 month lead time was too much for me, so I canceled that, and ended up buying the Tama Starclassics that I’ve used ever since. It was during this kit that my setup evolved, I added the Mapex Black Panther Sledgehammer snare somewhere around 2014-2015 when I wasn’t playing actively, and all the big changes during my time with The Last Reign with the new pedals, cymbals, hardware, and electronics.

And now finally in 2022, I have purchased my first brand new drum set, a DW Performer Acrylic kit. This is specifically meant for live use, although I’m sure it would sound great in the studio. This one keeps my Tama’s safe at home from the wear and tear of the road since they’re so special to me, and helped condense my stage footprint and setup time. Now my next frustrating challenge is obvious: I have to get fancy lights inside this thing somehow.

6. List off every active band (has played at least one live show at an established venue) you’ve ever been a part of in chronological order.

Ask and ye shall receive:

2000-2005 Second Floor Up (Pop Punk with metal Drums)

2000-2004 Maryvale Jazz Band (It Counts!)

2001-2005 Sinchronic (Metal – I am breaking your rule because we played talent shows and Town Park once but its significant to me)

2004-2009 Dying Breed (Metal)

2004-2010 And Many More (Ska with Metal Drums)

2005- It’s a Trap! (Tech Metal, technically still on hiatus)

2009-2010 One’s Own Blood (Metalcore)

2012 ECC Jazz Kats

2019-2021 The Last Reign (Melodic Death Metalcore)

2020- Washed Ashore (Progressive Metal)

2021- Grizzly Run (Metalcore)

2024-2030 Metallica (James, hit me up)

7. Discuss the most memorable local shows of your career. When thinking back, which local gigs stick out the most and why?

Oh, this is a fun question! Get your Neo moves ready because I’m sending more bullets your way!

It’s a Trap! – The Sons of Azrael CD release show. This was the first IAT performance which was a lot of work in the making and so fun, really well received! It was my first time hearing Arm Cannon or really any kind of metal video game music and that was super impactful, and I remember Tony Lorenzo running through WWE moves with Greg DiPasquale during the Hulk Hogan theme. Was a ton of great bands and a great day

It’s a Trap! – Genghis Tron and Behold the Arctopus. After we played, one of the guys at the bar came over and gave me a ton of compliments on my drumming, which is always enjoyable. That guy turned out to be Jason Bauers, drummer of Behold the Arctopus and Psyopus, so…that’s going on my resume

Dying Breed and And Many More – Classic Roxx. I played one instrument at 3:30PM and another at 12:00AM at the same show.

One’s Own Blood – Xtreme Wheels. After years of being stuck behind the kit, I could be found running full speed around the crowd while playing bass and headbanging with people in the pit

The Last Reign – Returns! I had maybe 40 people come out to see me specifically, it was an overwhelming experience and my first guitar gig in maybe 13 years. Got some great pictures from it and was cool to see what I could do on the instrument when I applied myself

The Last Reign – Winter Reigns at Rec Room, this one just had a wild crowd and big turnout and in general was a lot of fun to play. I had a few coworkers come out to the show and really liked them being able to see me in my element!

Grizzly Run – Mohawk; My first Buffalo show show with the band and utilizing the light show I spent months programming, fog and everything. I’d never played such a coordinated show before as far as audio and lighting, it felt like being a AAA band and is something I’d love to replicate in the future!

8. Discuss your most memorable out-of-town experiences performing with GR or any other band you’ve been a part of. What made these road experiences so unique, or noteworthy? As a follow-up, I know you’re in the midst of recording GR’s next release. How has that been going, and what GREAT things would you care to say about working with audio engineer, Jay Zubricky while you have the chance?

For me there’s only been the one out of town show with Grizzly Run, but it was memorable! I learned all of the material in like a week and then had about two more weeks to nail it down and get my audio stuff all figured out for backing tracks. We were driving in pitch black for a chunk of the way on dirt roads with no idea what was ahead, only to have the place be just covered in bright christmas lights, full of people, and had a really good show. Other memorable out of town experiences (pew pew pew, more bullets!):

It’s a Trap! – mini tour, we had one show in the auditorium of a church and I believe we had to say we were a Christian band. We crashed at the house of someone I guess that was loosely affiliated with the show. They had an enormous gun safe next to all of the Jesus paraphernalia, made excellent biscuits and gravy for breakfast, and gave us a dissertation on the hammond-dulcimer instrument. The next day we played in a venue that was literally a converted meat freezer which was super memorable because its some of the only video footage I have of It’s a Trap and I’ve watched those videos probably a hundred times. Also there was a Taco Bell incident.

One’s Own Blood – Well it turns out you can’t just go rent a u-haul the day of the show. So, my dad to the rescue, we used his open trailer (like the kind you see with lawnmowers on it) and ended up just tarping and bungee cording all our stuff down and drove that to Ohio and back. I remember bringing down an 8×10 and seeing another 8×10 on stage, and just being frustrated that any gig in any city ever occurs where more than one band is bringing a refrigerator sized speaker enclosure, and vowed to coordinate those things more in the future.

The Last Reign – had a couple sets of weekend gigs, the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia weekend. Pittsburgh I clearly remember a large guy moshing in a tiny TLR tanktop, and Philadelphia I am still mad at, we pulled my whole-ass drumset across their entire state and he made us all share a house kit. This house kit was like, if there were three kits at the salvation army, this was the cheap one. Factory heads that were so worn down you couldn’t read the writing on them, just like falling apart, it sounded so sad, and my kit just sat outside in the trailer. The other weekend gig was the one with Behest of Serpents and was my last couple shows with the band before Ryan took over, and the Erie show I remember being on a very tiny stage at Basement Transmissions while a much larger stage in the other room sat idle (I know its a cost thing but it felt like the house kit all over again haha), and really beyond me being impressed how positive and kind and organized Behest was (everyone there knew what to do to tear down the drum kit etc), I got my own hotel room specifically so I could sleep before the next show and ended up being awake until 4AM just shooting the shit and laughing our asses off. I got to enjoy Jesse Isadore and Spud from Behest get into really deep conversation about Deathcore vocals and styles and man those guys should make a podcast, it was a great experience.

The recording went well! I was a bit under the weather during the sessions but I powered through and am now in the editing phase; guitars and bass and vocals all start tracking soon! Jay has been great to work with and really knows how to coax a good performance out of me. He and I share a hatred of mayo and mustard and like the stickers say “I recorded with Jay Zubricky and now he’s my best friend”. Fun fact, he is also my son. Don’t burden yourself with the math or implications!

9. List off, or promote any and all upcoming shows you have in the works that you’re allowed to talk about.

I think this week’s show will miss the printing date, so come see Grizzly Run at Music as Art on September 10, 8pm on the Ganson Silo Front Stage at Buffalo Riverworks.

And then DEFINITELY come see Grizzly Run open up for Monuments! We are playing September 21 at the Rapids Theater in Niagara Falls, I can’t wait to play on a stage that big!

10. Looking back at your career, talk about the bassists you’ve jammed with going back to your very beginnings as a musician. Discuss the bass players that you feel pushed you to enhance your playing, or who just had a great dynamic with you in a band setting. You’ve incorporated a variety of drumming techniques over the years, having performed with an extremely diverse array of metal, metalcore, and avant-garde acts, so I’m curious to hear about these bassists from all those different perspectives. Feel free to discuss Dying Breed as well, even though you played guitar in that band.

Well, this one time, I was the bass player! I mostly played it as if it were a guitar, so only with a pick and the playing style showed it. I personally liked a lot of the stuff I came up with but the tendency to be too busy was there, and I hadn’t yet learned the role of the metal bassist at the time. If the bass is off in the noodleverse, it’s also then absent from reinforcing that chug that the rhythm guitar and kick drum are playing. On an album I’d probably reinforce a bass lead with a bass rhythm part too and I’m sure I did not invent the idea. One’s Own Blood – We Are Existence, on streaming, go enjoy!

Early on, I was pretty spoiled with great bass players. Jon Rasjeza from 2nd Floor Up/And Many More progressed very quickly on the instrument and we were very locked in. He had good equipment right away too so I could hear him clearly and it was a great partnership. And Many More also had my cousin Bert for a time who is an expert player, and Chris who joined after had a fantastic style that was busy but also locked right in.

In my metal bands, the bass largely followed the guitar which really makes sense for a cohesive sound and mix, but arguably is less fun than some of the other creative things the instrument can do. In Dying Breed we mostly wrote the bass this way, and even in Its a Trap with all the wild stuff we had going on the bass followed the root of the guitar (which is still a ton of work!). I will say I am really impressed with Shawn’s playing in Grizzly Run so I am spoiled with top tier bass playing on the regular!

The most powerful experience though, it might surprise you that I never really played music with my dad. It was something we both had in our lives but separately, I may sit in for a song here or there but the styles didn’t really overlap. However, in 2017 I decided to go sit in with a chuch band he was playing with every week, mostly as something to do and something to do together. Through that we were actually asked to play for a funeral. Instrumentally, it was a piano, bass, and drums (and vocals). So I had never heard any of these songs, I am playing in real time without a rehearsal in front of hundreds of very sad people. Piano is very hard to play drums to in this way, but my dad being the master improviser that he is, was able to figure out the bass parts on the spot by just watching her left hand and general music knowledge of what the most likely next note would be, and I was able to follow that, while restraining myself to a very limited playstyle (do I ever hit the crash? Do I play fills?). That was like the peak of any of my improvisation and it may be second nature for some but it was a milestone for me.

Thanks for reading! To purchase a physical copy of this interview in our September ’22 ALL-RHYTHM edition, click here.

Advertisement

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s