Eric Hernandez's Bruno Mars drum setup in pictures
The rise of Bruno Mars has been meteoric. He only released his first album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, in 2010 and by the following year he was the biggest-selling male artist in the UK and had sold over 31 million singles worldwide.
Bruno’s music covers the bases from soul to r&b to reggae and his live shows are dynamite. The energy pumped out by Bruno and his band - all playing live, all singing, all dancing - is off the scale. Their performances bring to mind the great showmen of popular music - James Brown, Jackie Eilson, Elvis - and pumping out the groove on the drums is Bruno’s big brother, Eric Hernandez.
Born in Brooklyn but raised in Hawaii, Eric grew up in the family business: music.
“My father is a percussionist, that’s where I get my musical ability from,” explains Eric. “He used to take me to shows and I’d sit under his rig. I was always fixated on the drummer. He picked up on that and bought me my first drumset at the age of four. That’s a wrap. I’ve been playing drums since.”
On top of being a percussionist, Mr Hernandez Senior was the producer of the Lovenotes Show, a musical revue at the Sheraton hotel in Waikiki.
“My dad performed six nights a week,” says Eric. “I went to the shows, I helped run the ticket booth with my sisters or I ran the lights. Finally at about 10 he put me in the show and let me play drums. I was like, ‘this is it, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.’”
The sight of a little kid playing drums in a band of adult musicians brought Eric plenty of attention, at least until someone even younger came along.
“After each show the cast would go out to the front and take photos and shake hands. I took a lot of pictures because people were fascinated that I had the ability to play the show. My brother had a knack for singing. He was a young Elvis impersonator at the age of three or four so he took all the limelight, but I didn’t care, I just wanted to play drums.”
Rhythm Magazine caught up with Hernandez earlier this year to take a look at his touring kit and chat about life on the road with his brother and the band. Here we bring you pictures of his drum setup along with extracts from the interview, which you can read in full in the March issue of Rhythm (issue 213.) Or you can subscribe to Rhythm for a monthly dose of drummer interviews, gear reviews, news and more.
Next: the kit...
DW Jazz Series in Maple, Twisted Black Oyster finish: 10x7-inch & 12x8-inch toms; 14x14-inch & 16x16-inch floor toms; 18x22-inch kick drum; 14x6 1⁄2-inch Brass snare; 14x5 1⁄2-inch Edge Maple Mahogany snare
Bruno’s is a very high-energy band, live...
“This is not your typical artist backed by the hired guns. In all honesty, if it was that, where I was in the dark background, I would be okay with that because I’m playing drums and I love that. On the plus side, Bruno is a showman and that means putting on a show, including his band.
“When he was looking for his horn section, he wanted guys that can dance. He didn’t want horn players that just stand there reading charts. The bass player and guitar player are up front with him and I’m right behind.
“We’re all fortunate. We have an artist who doesn’t want to just be in the limelight himself. He wants to bring his boys with him, which is really cool. You hardly see that. It’s bringing that old fashioned, live music thing back. You’re seeing a show. You’re seeing real musicians do their thing.
“Our bass player is incredible. He can play absurd bass and dance a million steps with high energy every night. It gets to the point that people think we’re playing to tracks. No, we’re playing live.”
Sabian: 6-inch AAX splash; 10-inch HHX splash; 14-inch AAX X-Celerator hi-hats; 20-inch AAX Aero crash; 22-inch HHX Legacy Heavy ride; 17-inch AAX Holy China; 20-inch AAX Xplosion crash
What about your own performance? You move around a lot behind the kit.
“I try to mimic some of their dance moves whenever I can. I think that comes from my background and our dad. We were always in that show atmosphere: ‘Look alive! Smile! Make your presence known!’ That’s why Bruno is so good at what he does when it comes to conceptualising shows, tours, music videos.
“He has such a smart mind, he positions us in these spots and he creates memories. If you come to our live show you say, ‘Wow, everybody on that stage was high energy. Not only did the music move me, they moved me!’ That’s the feedback we’re getting and that’s awesome.
“I know a lot of musicians would like to be sitting in my chair because they know this is a fun gig and they see we’re a family up there.”
DW 9000 hardware; Remo heads - Clear Vintage Emperors (tom batters), Ambassadors (bottom), Coated X14 (snare), Powerstroke 3 (kick); Vic Firth X5B sticks; Roland SPD-SX and triggers; “Woodshed Stage Art for all my head graphics”
How much do you use triggers live?
“On the last tour it was 95 percent organic and five percent triggering. Now I’ll probably be triggering a lot more songs. There are some cool drum sounds on the new album so I’ll probably trigger a lot of kick and snare.
“I always like to get distinguishing sounds off the album and I’ll act as a drummer/percussionist, putting in little extra sound effects. We just did Radio 1 Live and as soon as I started the intro for ‘Runaway Baby’, they knew exactly what I was playing.
“It comes with the territory, that’s why I tell younger musicians, learn to play the music and do it justice by respecting the music. It’s not about showcasing yourself. This is not the Eric Hernandez show. It’s a Bruno Mars concert so I want to do my part and respect the music that my brother wrote and play it properly.”
Now check out Rhythm’s current Issue 215 for the story of eighties legend Jeff Porcaro told by those who knew him best. 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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