An Interview with Sugar Ray Drummer, Stan Frazier
That's right, were doing an interview with a drummer. I'm sure there are plenty of guitarists out there who are closet drummers. Some that might even be better off staying there. With the possible exception of Mr. Dave Grohl, how many drummers get to step up to the mic, literally. How great it must be, for a drummer to be able to escape the confines of his drum kit and step out into the world of low-strung guitars, power chords and the white hot spotlight.
Stan Frazier is lucky enough and talented enough to be one of those drummers. Guitar.com catches up with Stan in between bus rides and tour dates to discuss the goings-on with Sugar Ray. Currently celebrating their 15th anniversary, find out how their latest Atlantic recording, In Pursuit of Leisure is doing, what kind of guitars and amps drummers are attracted to and what Stan and Jessica Simpsons little sister have in common.
Guitar.com: Stan, since you are primarily known as the drummer for Sugar Ray, how long have you been playing guitar?
Stan Frazier: I've been playing guitar (on and off as a hobby and as a writing tool) ever since I've first started playing in bands, which was back when I was in the sixth grade. I picked up the drums, but there were always guitars around my house because the other guys would leave them at my house. We all rehearse at my house, so I self-taught myself how to play guitar and had different people show me things over the years and indulged in playing guitar on the side. It also has become a really great outlet for me (as a drummer) to strap on a guitar, and come to the front of the stage and get to play. I've been playing guitar since I was about 12 years old or so. If anything I am a decent rhythm guitarist. I am not a lead guitar player at all, but like I said, the guitar has been my fundamental tool as a songwriter to pick up a guitar and write music.
Guitar.com: Do you own a lot of guitars? Do you have a favorite guitar?
Stan Frazier: I do! I have a bunch of guitars. I have a deal with Grestch Guitars, and they have been very generous with giving me both acoustic and electric guitars. I have a Silver Jet that I play at home. I also have a Falcon Junior, which is what I play on stage right now, and Ive got a series of acoustic guitars (all made by Grestch), different models that I have used throughout times. I have a couple of Gibson guitars that I've collected. Guitars are a hobby for me. I have a small recording studio at my house. I have the Vox Valvetronix amplifier on stage but, I also bought another one (when they first came out) for home recording. The Valvetronix amplifier is such a great, versatile amp. It really sounds great in any of the different circumstances with the different speakers and the different sounds and the different amps with all the effects. You can get any sound you want out of it. I've been working on production and songwriting outside of the band and me and my songwriting partner were lugging the amp around- it would have been cool if the Valvetronix was rack mounted. On stage, live, I use the AC30 setting a lot. It has been such a proven winner for Vox. It's cool that you get to use that cabinet sound along with a little bit of spring reverb that I use on a couple of songs. I am constantly tweaking the sounds to see what I can get out the amp. It is a really good. All around, across the board its awesome!
Guitar.com: Do you play a lot on the new album or do you just play live?
Stan Frazier: I haven't played on any of the recorded material. We usually leave that up to Rodney, (Sheppard, lead guitarist) and Murphy (Karges, bass player). Murphy and Rodney switch-off sometimes from playing guitars. Both of them will play certain things that each one of them particularly wrote. Maybe on the next album I'll be able to play some of my own material. To tell you the truth, on one of the tracks off the new album, I cut one of the tracks at my house that winded up making it on the record, so in that application, I did (officially) play on the record. Now that I think about it, I kept a demo at my house that I turned the band on to. We ended up using and keeping the guitar portion of that demo on the album.
Guitar.com: Do you work with the band when they are writing songs or is it just writing guitar stuff?
Stan Frazier: Usually the way we all write music is a collaborative effort, and everyone can bring to the table whatever they want. It wouldnt be completely freaky or unheard of in this band for the bass guitar player to come up with the drum part or vice versa. Let's say I come up with a guitar riff, I usually have a sound in mind and the style of how I want to record it or how I would like it to sound, so a lot of the time we usually bounce ideas off each other. We are all pretty open-minded. We've been a band for 15 years, and there's nothing that is off-limits for any particular guy. I encourage everyone to come up with cool drum parts, just so there is more definition and different things happening. I think you can get a lot more variety if you make an album like that. For instance, if Mark (McGrath) has a reggae bass line and he hears it on an old, vintage, Fender Bass well try to replicate that sound. A lot of times people will come up with ideas and see these things through. Everyone gets a stab at his own particular sound or what they were going for.
Guitar.com: Are all you guys all the original members of the band?
Stan Frazier: We are all originals members of the band! Which for us, we take pride in, because bands today are flaky sometimes and its really hard to keep a band together. This year, we celebrated our 15-year anniversary, so that's an accomplishment. Our DJ (DJ homicide) is our new guy and he's in at 10 years. We are really blessed and fortunate that we get along so well. Of course we fight, we bicker like a family would or like brothers and sisters would. We spend more time with each other than most familys and were on a level of communication where it doesnt even exist in familys. For us, we get to make cool music together, and tour together. If you can find band members that you get along with, and make great songs with, then thats half the battle. In the beginning, we were told to give up many times, and people told us to get a real job, but we realized that we have something special here, and there's a chemistry, and you have to try to maintain that through the ups and downs. It is easy to say, I am not making enough money doing this or I am not getting my artistic license, but we all say (to each other) I respect you as a writer or as a musician, and if someone wants to come up with a guitar riff and they are not the guitar player, than thats ok. We have always had that understanding. We just try to make albums worth of really good songs, and however that comes to be, we don't try to push that away, were always encourage that.
Guitar.com: So you've guys are working with producer David Kahne again right?
Stan Frazier: Yeah. Actually its pronounced Kahn. We've made 3 records with him. We worked with him on the album Floored (which is not our first record, it's just the first record that anybody would know us from because that's the album that had the hit single Fly) and then again on the album 14:59. Then, we took a hiatus from David Kahne, and started working with Producer Don Gilmore who has produced albums from artist like Linkin Park, Lit, and Eve 6. Don has a huge line of credits on his behalf, so that was great working with him. Don is a very guitar-oriented person, and he brings a great guitar driven sound, so it was great working with him, but we felt a natural progression to go back to David Kahne on the new album, In The Pursuit Of Leisure. We decided that David was really good with us, he understands the dynamics (not that Don Gilmore didnt or any other producer wouldnt), and we just clicked. David knows how to get the most out of us as musicians and writers.
Guitar.com: How is this album different or similar to albums in the past?
Stan Frazier: Well working with David Kahne was refreshing to be back, and we we're going to stick to our guns as far as writing songs regarding whatever we write about. The subject matter usually isn't the first thing we usually start with. We usually start off with the music first, and then the lyrics and the melody comes later, but we just wanted to (collectively) make an album from the songs that we would listen to as a band from top to bottom. From song one to song twelve; every song is a collaboration, every song is approved upon by everybody and we went back to the drawing board a couple of times, and we re-worked some songs as we did on the Floored album. Our goal on our new album was to make every song as good as possible, and to have five, six, seven, singles on the record. Another song I get to play guitar (live) on is on our newest single Chasing You Around, which is being shipped to radio stations as a single. We are currently releasing our third single right now.
Guitar.com: How does it work out when you don't play the drums and you are out playing the guitar?
Stan Frazier: Well, we have a DJ in our band (DJ Homicide), and he has a plethora of equipment up on his DJ station, which includes a replay machine, turntables, samplers, and sequencers. We program the drums, the proper elements that are going to be on the track, the lengths of it, and all the things comprised of what I would be doing, prior to going out on tour into his equipment. He then runs the loop from his DJ station, and I come out and play guitar. In a lot of situations, the loops sound fatter than the live drums could ever (because it has been equalized, mixed and sounds really, fat). It's a really good dynamic. Our fans get to hear us play in which 50% of our set is live and the other half of the set, I can come out and play guitar, while have our DJ playing all the drums sounds. I have never really seen any other band doing anything like that, which is very cool and unique that we get to do that. I also think the audience gets a break from that particular one sound-being aggressive. We can go in and out of a genre or style. We can play one of our really heavy songs like Mean Machine thats really fast and up tempo or we can lay back in the grove and play a song like Someday when have acoustic guitars and a drum loop, and sing harmony; so we have a bunch of different things happening at a Sugar Ray show. I feel fortunate and glad that we didnt have me only playing drums, and hire another guitar player to play the parts that I am playing now. I think its pretty unique. I'm so psyched. I look forward to the songs that I am not playing drums on. Most drummers would probably think I'm crazy, but it is a whole new dimension for a musician or artist to be able to play two instruments during every show, and be that involved in the writing. I'm pretty lucky.
Guitar.com: So your main guitars are Grestch and it sounds like the Valvetonix Amp really works for you. Are there any songs (more than others) that we can hear prime examples of you using them?
Stan Frazier: Basically, the songs that I play the Valvetronix on are, When Its Over, that song I come out and I play the White Falcon Jr. with all the gold hardware a great, great Gretch guitar, and I use the Valvetronix. I made my own presets on the amp. I went through and I goofed around for different songs, I found a bunch of different patches and settings that I used. I kind of mixed it up, and you're able to save your own settings not that the factory ones arent great they sound awesome, but I was just more particular about using certain reverbs, or certain types of delays or something like that. It's also great because its all just built in. I don't have to have a huge pedal that Im constantly meddling with to get these sounds. The amp is just stock. I go up, I walk over I hit preset 1B and Im in. It's really convenient and great. The other songs were still developing cause we just finished a long tour with Matchbox 20, and we were playing 45 minutes a night, so were going to be doing a bunch more of headlining stuff. I'll probably play guitar with that amp on 3 or 4 other songs. We're just havent really decided what we are playing in our set. We're going to revamp our whole set and be playing a bunch of different stuff. I'll let you know when I do.
Guitar.com: Hows the reception for the new stuff with the crowd?
Stan Frazier: It's been really great so far. We're lucky to have had some big, big radio songs and I think that gives any band a little bit of leeway when you play live, because they want to hear the big songs that they know, and they're willing to sit through it and give you guys a chance. We did a cover of the Joe Jackson song Is She Really Going Out With Him? That was our second single, and people are starting to warm up to that tune live. You hear most of the people sing along to it. Pretty big hit for Joe Jackson, or at least a lot of people know the song. For a band like us, were just always counting our blessing that were able to play in front of so many people and do so many cool things. You can tell, when we play the hits, people definitely respond a lot more. But if we keep making music that people can groove to, then people will be receptive to us.
Guitar.com: Like anything its going to take time to catch on.
Stan Frazier: Right. There are some die-hard fans out there that know every lyric to every song and they're in the front, and play air guitar to certain parts, they know it inside and out. They probably know the stuff better than we do. It's really cool. We've been totally lucky and blessed. We've worked really hard at it. We've been on the road for the last ten years, and were making records, and doing all that stuff. Its great and all of us are pretty much just happy to be here. We're looking forward to making another record too. We're already starting to goof around for some new ideas for a possible next release. I don't know when it will be, but were definitely thinking about it. Everyone is affected right now. The music business is in dire straits and people arent buying music anymore, they're downloading. So we have to do everything we can to make the best possible music. A good song a hit song is still a hit song on the radio. Whether it translates to sales or not, thats going to be a really tough problem to solve. Everyone is on the same boat. There are a lot of people that are hurting right now. We still have our live show. Our live shows are really spontaneous. Mark (McGrath) usually brings people on stage and people get to strap on a guitar every once in awhile and try to play one of our songs. We try to make it interesting. We just try to keep out there and make the live show the best thing we can because at the moment a lot of people arent buying records, and were going to have to see whats happening in the industry. Its not going to be a quick fix. It's something theyre going to have to resolve over time. We've made 5 records for Atlantic Records and thats longer than most bands. Most bands are lucky to make one record. We've been around for a while and its the same guys. It's been a total fantastic ride, we're totally happy to be here. We're definitely making another record and we'll see from there. We will just feel it as we go.
Guitar.com: So you're going to continue with your tour thing, getting your faces out there and going to work on some music?
Stan Frazier: Yeah. That's it. We're going to tour and stay out on the road for a while and make some music. I've got another couple of things I'm working out. When I get home, I've got another project I'm working on with my partner. We're constantly in the search of getting the best guitar sounds. He's a fantastic guitar player too. We're always working on stuff, whether I'm working with Sugar Ray, or trying to develop other artists, or write songs for other people, I always seem to have a guitar in my hand or I'm always in my studio working away. That for me has been really awesome. Sugar Ray, the popularity of us has opened a couple of doors for me as far as being a writer, which is very nice. I hope to be doing that for the rest of my life. When the band finally decides to hang the guitars on the wall for good, I'm definitely not going to do that. I'm going to do my best to stay busy and be a writer for my career.
Guitar.com: Is there anything specific you want me to plug for you? Anything you want me to talk about or to send people on the web or anything?
Stan Frazier: I don't have a website for the company that I started about a year ago. It's still being developed and conceived. I don't have anything like that. The thing that I would mention is that the partners name that I write with outside of Sugar Ray. His name is Steve Fox. Were actually writing and producing an album for an artist on Geffen. Her name is Ashley Simpson. Shes actually Jessica Simpsons little sister. So its my first real production credit for being a writer - my partner Steve and I. I think that record will be coming out summer next year. I'll probably play some guitar on that a little bit. We'll definitely be using the Valvetronix. We've already used that for a lot of her stuff, her demos.
Guitar.com: Stan, thanks for taking a few minutes to chat with us. Best of luck out on the road!!