He may only be 24 years old, but Alex Shelnutt has already enjoyed quite the career. Across nine years and four albums, Shelnutt has won an army of fans with his energetic playing, becoming a role model to young drummers all over the world.
One such sticksman is Dan Clarke, drummer for Brit rock upstarts Decade who sat down with Alex to grill his hero on gear, playing live, hitting the studio and the joy of techs…
Alex on advice for up-and-coming drummers
“Hold on to as many sticks as you can until you get a stick deal. I’m always messing around with my set-up, I will totally move things around if they’re feeling uncomfortable.
"If I look at pictures from a few years ago my cymbals are set up really high and flat. I’ll try something different every show, I’m still not completely comfortable with my set-up.”
Alex on dealing with the pressure of ever-bigger shows
“When we’re playing the bigger festivals I feel like no matter how much I warm up I always feel super-tense.
"One thing that has helped me a lot is instead of just listening to yourself, you should listen to the whole song and everyone else.
"When I think I’m playing bad I remember to listen to everything else that is going on and it instantly becomes just like muscle memory. On those big shows I concentrate on that. That helps me get over the nerves.”
Alex on the importance of a good tech
“Before I had a cymbal deal I played my cymbals until they didn’t make any noise anymore. It sucks but it’s what you have to do sometimes when you’re starting out.
"Same with heads, you’ve got to work twice as hard to make them sound good if they’re all dented. I’ve had to do a lot of weird stuff to make my kits sound good, like covering them with duct tape.
"A lot of the rental kits will have stands that won’t lock anymore. It was a chore in itself making sure the kit stays in one spot. Now I’m finally able to have better gear but stuff will still happen, you always have to be on the look out for things.”
Alex on keeping up your stamina for the big shows
“If I’m off for two or three weeks and then come into a tour it feels like I’ve had half a year off. Practising at home is not the same as playing a show.
"I’ll go too hard in the beginning and you have to remind yourself to slow down and know when to go hard. I can’t drink the night before a show, if I do it’s one or two beers.
"I can’t play a headline show when I’m hungover. When you’re hungover a one-hour show feels like four hours.”
Alex on being in the studio
“Being in the studio is fun but also really frustrating. You feel like you killed it and then when they play it back you go, ‘Oh man, that’s terrible.’ The studio teaches you patience.
"Two or three hours in, even if you’re doing well, you’re frustrated at playing the same parts again and again. You need to do that if you want to make it good, some people will fix things later on.
“I might have a fill that I think is real tight and someone in the band won’t like it. You have to suck it up a lot of the time and remember it is for the songs not for the drums. A song isn’t a solo, you need to be tasteful. You can’t do a crazy fill every eight measures.”
Alex on his drum heroes
“I got the chance to meet Travis Barker recently and he was a great dude, I was so happy about that. I’ve looked up to him for so long that he couldn’t be an a**hole!
"Playing in a band with Dave Grohl would be badass. I think with him it wouldn’t be pressure, he seems a cool enough dude that even if you f**ked up he would just laugh.”