Having played with everyone from Styx to Spinal Tap, drummer Todd Sucherman is coming our way for the Drumscene Live Australian Tour 2015, which touches down at the Astor Theatre on Thursday, May 28. RAY DEEGAN checks in.
Your father was a drummer as well…
It’s a wonderful card to be dealt in life – to be the youngest in a musical family. I was in love with the drums from the time I was an infant. When the drums were set up in the house it was like Christmas for me! But to grow up in a nurturing family where music was at the epicentre – music and comedy, really – these were the centre of our life!
Can you tell us about your personal education during the early stages of your career?
It started with my father – he taught me how to read and play basic beats. He was very much a big band drummer – no frills, and all about time, and to this day has the most beautiful buzz roll I’ve ever heard anyone play! Because of my older brothers again, from grade one, I was pulled into the Junior High School, middle school band! So I ended up spending eight years in a program that you’re only meant to spend three years in!
Through High School I was involved in every musical event possible, but I didn’t really study drumswith anyone until I got to Berklee in Boston and then I was only there for one year. There were three teachers that really made an impact on me. One was Skip Hadden, who had some very conceptual notions and really helped with my sight-reading. Then there was Ian Froman who was 26 at the time and he was just an incredible jazz drummer, in the vein of Elvin Jones and Jack DeJohnette. And then I studied privately with Gary Chaffee, which was another mind-opening experience!
Eventually you returned to Chicago and began to build a career in the studio. Can you talk about that period in your life?
I’m 19 years old and still living at home – what now? It was a case of getting out there, meeting other musicians and trying to rekindle contacts with some older musicians I’d had before I’d left, and pretty soon I was playing with what they call in Chicago ‘jobbing bands,’ which is basically weddings, corporate parties – tuxedo gigs. Some of them were really good bands and had some players that were doing some serious sessions around town. In time, it took a while, but I began to get recommended for other things. I ended up getting work from being recommended by a couple of different musicians when the producer could not get the regular guy, so I owe a great debt of gratitude to those musicians who risked their reputation on recommending me!
How did your studio career lead into joining Styx?
Well the guy that handled my session gear at the cartage company, a guy named Keith Marks – he had my drum kits transported around the city from studio to studio. He’d worked with the guys from Styx in the past and a few of the guys on their solo projects. This was around 1995, the first time they’d gotten together in 13 years and their original drummer, John Panozzo, was in ill health and couldn’t physically play the drums. They asked Keith who they should get and he immediately recommended me! They phoned me up, I went in and played the song and it was just another session! It was a blast and was great meeting the guys, and off I went.
Then in February of 1996 I got another call from them to do a song that was going to be on their second greatest hits volume. This time I could tell something was a little different, it was a bit of a ‘get to know you’ session – they were asking me about my upbringing so I felt something was brewing here. I played the track and they were all high-fiving through the glass so I knew that it was going well – then I left! Two days later they called me up and asked, ”Would you like to do the summer tour? The gig is still John’s if he gets better, but would you be interested?” I’d never done a full scale rock tour before, so I obviously said, “Yes!” and, long story short, it’s been the majority of the last 20 years of my life!