(Feature photos: Hillarie Jason Photography)
Article by: Leanne Ridgeway
The Gear Assembly interview series is especially for the music gear addicts, or simply the curious like myself.
Each article in the Gear Assembly series features a different musician answering the same questions, highlighting both their varying preference in music gear, as well as their own music that results from using that gear. Hopefully it brings some awareness to both the artists and their gear makers. You’re reading, so we’ve got at least one more. Find new music, learn about who’s making it and what they use to create it…
GEAR ASSEMBLY Series #14:
WARHORSE’s Mike Hubbard
Mr. Mike Hubbard is today’s featured Gear Assembly artist. He’s been in a few different bands over the years, but most recently it is with WarHorse that Mike has returned to continue their career of sonic annihilation. More specifically, he handles the rhythmic thunder bashing within the trio.
Mike wields a massive strike force behind his kit, yet he may seem a bit reserved in person. Storing up that energy to instead speak mostly through his sticks, I suppose. Like most bands these days, WarHorse has been kept corralled as of late, but we’ll find all about what Mike is up, as he’s here to be our fourteenth piece in the Gear Assembly! Rock on…
Riff Relevant /Leanne: What instrument(s) do you play?
Drums / Percussion
Riff Relevant /Leanne: Give us a rundown of your current live gear set-up.
1999 Ludwig Classic Maple
Cherry Lacquer finish
26″ x 16″ Kick
14″ x 10″ Rack
18″ x 16″ Floor
Snare – 14″ x 6.5″ Black Beauty, 14″ x 6.5″ Supra, or 14″ x 8″ Tama SLP Black Steel
Paiste 2002 cymbals – 24″ Ride, 22″ Crash, 20″ Power Crash
Zildjian 15″ Z top hi hat with 15″ Mastersound bottom
Scorpion Percussion 5B sticks
Riff Relevant: When was the exact moment you realized you wanted to play your instrument(s)? Who was your primary influence at that moment?
I was very young, maybe 6 or 7, not really sure where it came from. I loved Animal on the Muppet Show, and so I got a plastic Muppet Show drum kit for Christmas that year. It was destroyed by New Year’s.
I guess I’ve always had hammer hands. My mom got me my first ‘real’ drum kit from a friend she worked with. A Japanese Pearl knock-off (Maxwin??), jazz sized. Had the cool Ringo finish. I beat that thing, too.
My dad hated the drums, and made me put towels over the heads to muffle them. So I had to hit really hard to make them sound like anything, which I think is why I have always hit so hard.
Riff Relevant: Which one of your songs best exemplifies you as a musician? Why?
Probably “Black Acid Prophecy” off the ‘As Heaven Turns To Ash‘ album. It’s my favorite to play live. Some very cool grooves and changes.
I try to add some interesting parts to keep things moving. When you play slow and heavy, I think it’s important to add some color and personality.
Riff Relevant: Is there specific gear you prefer to use in the studio that would be different from your live set-up?
I try to stay as close to the live sound as possible, so I will usually use the same gear.
Riff Relevant: Any type of pre-show/practice warm up rituals?
I’m terrible with that stuff. I try to do some light stretching. My shoulders are shot, so anything I can do to minimize strain or pain is key.
My mental state is more important. I need to be calm; I hate being rushed. A whiskey and coke is also nice.
Riff Relevant: How do you keep things interesting when able to be out on tour & playing the same set each night?
I like to mix up the set, if possible. There are obvious songs we like to open with, and ones we like as closers, but it’s all pretty modular.
We can mess with song intros and outros to suit the flow and mood we are going for. Sometimes it’s just right to the point pummel, other times we like bring it down.
Riff Relevant: What do you think gives your playing its signature sound?
I like to think it’s being able to get quiet.
I love playing loud, obviously, but taking it down to something light is important. Having the ability to go from something serene and then explode is key.
I like to drag the beat a hair. Bill Ward, Phil Rudd. Being just behind the beat is the secret to a great swing.
Riff Relevant: Any brand loyalty? Are you partial to one company over another? Any current sponsorships or your own signature gear?
I love my Ludwigs. I have three sets, and they are all amazing. The absolute best ‘factory’ drums you can get.
I have been a Zildjian guy forever, and still love ’em. But I just started using some Paiste 2002’s and they are just perfect for what we’re doing. I found myself looking into other guys’ set ups, and more and more, the sounds I was digging were coming from dudes running Paiste. They are just so musical, and cutting. I need that to get through the super loud downtuned wall of sound coming from the other two guys.
I also just switched to Scorpion sticks. Played Vaters for most of my life, but gave these a try. Super impressed. They feel great, and take a lot of punishment.
Currently, not sponsored by any of these companies, but you know, I’d be into it for sure if they wanted me! lol
Riff Relevant: What is the most important piece of equipment currently in your live set-up? Why? What is it about that one?
My torque tuner. I hate tuning, it’s absolute alchemy.
When I have space and time to tune, like for the studio, I use a digital drum dial to get close, and then fine tune by ear. That takes a lot of time.
But for live, for gigs, the torque wrench makes my life so much easier. Tuning by ear at the venue sucks. Once you know your ‘numbers’ it’s quick work to get the kit sounding nice.
Ever since I started using it, there isn’t a show that goes by where the sound guy doesn’t comment on how good the kit sounds. It’s an absolutely essential part of my kit. That, and my hi-hat goat.
Riff Relevant: What do you enjoy doing outside of music, that you feel ultimately contributes to your musicality? (For example, a hobby that you turn to in order to stimulate your creativity.)
Cooking. I love making (and eating) food. Delicious, delicious food.
Riff Relevant: Are there any newly emerging artists or bands who are currently influencing you (or you just enjoy)? If yes, how so?
Been on a huge SubRosa kick lately. Was late to the party on them, but, fuck, those records are fantastic.
Loving the new Elephant Tree record. They do a really great mash of doom elements, super unique.
Riff Relevant: If you could give one piece of advice to an up and coming musician, what would it be?
Genuine me would say to play what’s in your heart, what makes you feel, what transports you to another place, and do it will all the passion you can.
Cynical me would say to never put your band name on any of your cases in any sort of permanent manner.
Riff Relevant: How has the virus pandemic impacted your music life or career? What are some ways you’ve been doing things differently?
Basically, everything we had lined up for the year is on hold currently, like everyone else.
I’m going to take that time to try and get some new material together.
Riff Relevant: If you could have any music gear you wanted, what would be your ideal set up?
Same stuff I have now, but with a roadie.
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