Tony Hajjar's At The Drive-In drum setup in pictures
Brixton Academy is sold out the day Rhythm meets up with Tony Hajjar to talk about the triumphant return of At The Drive-In.
Born in Beirut, Tony’s family moved to El Paso, Texas to escape the civil war raging in Lebanon. His older brother introduced him to Led Zeppelin, which hooked Tony on rock before he was bitten by the metal bug.
“[Metallica’s] Ride The Lightning and Master Of Puppets changed my life,” says Tony. “Then I started getting into really technical drummers like Deen Castronovo, he’s in Journey now but he used to play in these prog metal bands like Cacophony with Marty Friedman. I was all about that double bass stuff.
“Besides how much I liked Lars Ulrich’s style, I feel like the person who really moulded me was Vinnie Paul. There was something about his drumming. It wasn’t like he was always trying to do a million things but when you let him go, he killed it. I always loved him for that.”
When Tony threw his lot in with At The Drive-In he cut down to a single kick drum and joined the grind of building a following the old fashioned way: relentless touring.
“Playing a room that’s 10ft x 10ft with three people every night in every basement in every small club, sleeping on the floor, picture that for years and years,” he says. But the dedication paid off with critical and commercial success before At The Drive-In called time in 2001.
Vocalist Cedric Bixler and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez went on to become The Mars Volta, while Tony formed Sparta with fellow ATD-I alumni Jim Ward and Paul Hinojos. Then, out of the blue, At The Drive-In reunited earlier this year, playing a handful of warm-up shows before delivering a killer set at the Coachella festival.
Here we bring you pictures of Tony’s kit from that Brixton Academy show, plus excerpts from Rhythm’s interview, which you can read in full in the November issue of Rhythm (209).
Tama Starclassic Bubinga: 24x16-inch kick drum; 13x8-inch tom; 16x14-inch & 16x16-inch floor toms; 14x5 1/2-inch SLP maple snare
On reuniting with his old band mates...
“We met up in April 2009, just to become friends again, we remembered that we really cared for each other and everything was still really the same,” says Tony. “We were still doing the same dumb jokes, and there is that passion there.
“We were there for five days at Omar’s house and we didn’t pick up an instrument. We just hung out. If that’s there, everything else really doesn’t matter.”
Zildjian: 20-inch K Crash ride; 22-inch K ride; 18-inch K crash; 14-inch EFX with 18-inch Oriental and Z Bell in a stack; 14-inch K Mastersound hi-hats
On returning to old ATD-I songs...
“My first rehearsal wasn’t even with the whole band, it was with Paul and Cedric, just bass, drums and vocals,” Tony says.
“I was in the middle of composing something so I had hardly any time to listen to the old songs. I got to rehearsal, sat down and they were calling out songs, I was going, ‘Oh man, I better remember this one.’
“It’s amazing the muscle memory, they’re like ‘Arcarsenal’, and I’m like, ‘Okay, that starts over here.’
“With all five of us in the room it was like, this is how it goes, this is how it locks in and this is where it loosens up. It was really immediate.”
Vater 5B sticks; Tama Iron Cobra Power Glide pedal and hardware; Heads - Evans Onyx on toms, EC1 on snare, G2 on kick
On being a heavy hitting drummer...
“I refuse to be any other way,” he says. “I feel I hit harder now than I did when I was 23. I know how to hit without killing myself. That’s the difference. The last European tour with At The Drive-In I was taking steroid shots in my right arm because I had damaged it so bad from the way I play.
“I still have pain - I have horrible neck pain now but it’s not even from drumming. I got involved in a hit and run a week before we left to do Lollapalooza. I hit my head on the steering wheel and slammed it back on the headrest, so that’s more painful than what I’m doing to myself drumming.
“I feel that I can still do it. For us, we’re never going to pretend. We are what we are. I’m playing the way I’m playing because I can still play that way. Will I always? Probably not? But right now I can play just as hard.”
Now check out Rhythm’s current Issue 210 for interviews with Jason Bonham, Brian Blade and Two Door Cinema Club’s Ben Thompson. Or subscribe to Rhythm here for a monthly dose of new gear reviews, kit buying guides, pro drum lessons and all-star interviews.
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