Jamie Perkins on playing with The Pretty Reckless
The Pretty Reckless are one of rock’s hottest properties thanks to hooky, riff-tastic rock tunes with raunchy female vocals in a Joan Jett vein, plus hard-hitting, intelligent grooves from drummer Jamie Perkins.
The band are fronted by glamorous former TV star Taylor Momsen but Perkins, bass player Mark Damon and guitarist Ben Phillips had previously played music together as the band Famous in the early 200s.
“She basically just joined our band and became the singer and took over!” laughs Perkins.
Jamie, you’re a pretty experienced drummer, used to playing across a lot of genres, what does the Pretty Reckless gig call for in particular?
“The first and foremost thing is we’re a really loud band so I have to hit them hard, to keep up with mostly the guitarist! Actually it’s a pretty demanding job drum-wise, everbody’s very focussed on the drums whether it be live or recording, so everybody’s sort of listening to the drums and paying attention to what I’m doing, so I sort of have to deliver. The pressure’s on. Which I don’t mind, it keeps me on my toes.”
How have you adapted your playing to suit the band?
“The biggest thing is probably playing around and to the vocals a lot more in this band than I had before. You’re almost more in a support role but they also want you to shine as a drummer so it’s kind of a melding of those two.”
Recording with the Pretty Reckless...
What did new album Going To Hell call for in recording that was different from the last album?
“It was different because this time we were trying to go more for a live sound, so depending on whereabouts in the process of recording, sometimes it was a little bit easier and sometimes it was absolutely brutal. There were some songs that were hard days! The day of recording ‘Follow Me Down’ was probably my hardest day in the studio ever, in the sense of they were looking for something very specific feel-wise and I had to come up with it quickly! But it’s all good, it’s all kind of an exercise, I get put through the ringer but I come out a better drummer for it – and you have to keep that in mind when you’re getting pummelled in the studio take after take after take, y’know? ‘Follow Me Down’ was one of the first songs written for the album and the feel they were looking for was very specific, there were other songs that were written later that I had a lot more freedom on and I could just come in and play to what was going on where as ‘Follow Me Down’ was sort of mapped out already and was very specific. So at that point it’s a matter of interpretation.”
Writing drum parts...
For ‘Heaven Knows’ off the new album, there’s a real kind of simple Queen and Joan Jett vibe to it, did you have to make certain kit choices to get that big sound?
“We kept the same kit we recorded the rest of the album, but we tuned the toms a little more open and bigger, we swapped out cymbals as well for these huge old brass rides to get a bigger, fuller sound out of them.”
How much are you involved in the writing process?
“Some songs actually get demo’d, some don’t, some we’re coming up with on the fly. Ben and Taylor write everything, so they’re at least coming into the studio with the sketch of a tune then Kato [Khandwala, producer], once we’re in the studio, Kato comes in and I come in and anything that isn’t hashed out then gets hashed out, then we figure it out – it really depends on the song.”
Do you ever get chance to just jam stuff out?
“Absolutely, Kato’s actually really good about that, usually we’ll get what everybody’s sort of thinking then he’ll give me a few takes to just kind of play through whatever I think of playing, and sometimes it gets you, sometimes it doesn’t but at least it gives you that chance just to kind of go through and put your stamp on it.”
Pretty Reckless vs Hurricane Sandy...
When you started recording Going To Hell, the sessions were brought to a halt by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 weren’t they?
“We were a little more than half way through recording the album and then Hurricane Sandy came in. We were recording in Hoboken, New Jersey and next thing we knew our studio was under 10 feet of water and so it was a bummer. Obviously it just delayed things. We lost a ton of equipment, we lost all kinds of stuff, but time marches on. The songs we recorded after that just wound up being a little angrier. We were pretty bitter about it, ’cos everything was going great. The vibe was really good and the studio was set up specifically for us, it was going well then Mother Nature wiped us out of commission. ‘Going To Hell’ was written after that, we got a little bit angrier. But I never mind angrier!”
Being a 'Hollywood' band...
What are the pros and cons of being in a band behind a singer with the kind of Hollywood profile Taylor Momsen has?
“You know, it’s a double-edged sword because obviously her being that star, when we started the band there were a lot of people at the shows, we always had a built-in audience. There were a lot of people there out of curiosity for the celebrity, there’s still a lot of people that don’t take us seriously because she’s an actress, that’s how she was known. So we just kind of approach it as, we come, we do our thing and hopefully we’re convincing people we’re the real deal, this isn’t like a novelty act, we’re an actual band and we’re writing actual music and really putting our best foot forward. So hopefully people respond to that, and so far a lot of people seem to, so it’s mostly cool.”
Playing to huge crowds...
What tips do you have for playing to festival-sized crowds?
“I’ve found with larger PAs and larger festivals that a lot of the nuance of your playing can get lost, so I tend to dumb down a little bit on the larger gigs but that’s really it for me I’m just as happy playing at a festival, as long as people are there enjoying themselves and getting into it then I’m having fun.”
Jamie's drum influences...
Who are your biggest drum influences?
“So many, I have such a hard time with this question. The go-to for me is John Bonham, just immediately, then you have to go to the other spectrum, Keith Moon. Everybody from Danny Carey to Vinnie Paul, to Stewart Copeland, Alex Van Halen, there are just so many I don’t know where to start!”
What of those drummers do you try and bring to your own playing?
“It’s funny, again it depends on the song. I can pretend that I’m trying to be as technical as Danny Carey but I fail miserably if I try to do that, I just kind of try to take what I like about each guy and incorporate it where I can, where it fits in. Ultimately it’s about serving the song and making sure you’re propelling the song without getting in the way of things.”