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In The Mix with Drummer, John Xepoleas

Sep 15, 2014 11:32AM ● By Jennifer Neys

By Paul Cotruvo

Pleasant Hill’s own John Xepoleas is one of the most versatile and respected drummers and educators in the Bay Area. Not only is he the drummer for one of the most successful party bands, The Fundamentals, as well as the jazz band, Fundz, he hosts a very successful “Online Drum Lesson” website, is the music director for the Soundwall Rock and Roll summer music camps, wrote a top-selling drum book entitled, Style Studies for the Creative Drummer, and maintains a thriving teaching practice. Needless to say, he is one busy guy. As a fellow musician, I have seen John play for many years and really love his technique and style. He grooves like no other! Somehow he fit a little time in for this interview, so sit back and enjoy, and read what John has to say:

How old were you when you first started playing drums and were they your first instrument of choice? 11 years old. First and only choice. 

Who were your some of your inspirations and influences? When I saw Ringo and the Beatles, I got the drumming bug. Other influences include Stones, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Who, and Crosby, Stills and Nash. Then jazz took over for a while, with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Chic Corea and Pat Metheny. 

What have been some of your favorite musical highlights so far? Playing my first big concert with my first real band, The Gates of Eden, at Chabot College in Hayward. We played "Stairway to Heaven" as the closer, and I thought I was in heaven. In the mid to late 70's, I played in a jazz/fusion band called Daybreak LTD. We did one record and had great success in the local jazz scene for five or six years running. Played some great shows in some great rooms. I wrote and produced a two book series entitled, Drum Lessons with The Greats. It was published by Warner Bros. and sold worldwide. It was very exciting because I got to work with Neal Peart, Dave Weckl, Steve Smith, Terry Bozzio, Peter Erskine, Kenny Aronoff, Mike Portnoy, and some other great drummers. Most recently, I've enjoyed some nice success with my online drum lesson videos. It all started out with free YouTube videos and has now turned into an online drum lesson website. 

Who would you name as the best top three drummers of all time and why? Buddy Rich, because he had amazing technique and was able to play things that people are still trying to figure out today. John Bonham, because he had a sound and style that defined how rock drummers should play.  Steve Gadd, because he can play incredible stuff in a variety of musical styles. His drum parts always feel great and are perfect for whatever song he is playing. 

As such a versatile musician, if you could just choose one style of music, what would you choose and why? I would be unhappy if I could only play one style of music. I feel very fortunate that I can play everything, from small group jazz to big band, from funk and rock, to pop and soul. I also get to play with some of the best musicians in the Bay Area, if not the world. 

If you were a funk song, what song would you be and why? "What is Hip" by Tower of Power. Not that I consider myself to be Mr. Hip, it's just that that song and the way it feels and grooves resonates with me.

If you want to hear John and the Fundamentals, you can see them for free, as they are a part of the Downtown Pleasant Hill Plaza Concert Series, held at 6:30pm on Thursday, September 18. The stage is set up between Jack’s and Sweet Tomatoes Restaurants. Make sure you bring your dancing shoes, because this band rocks!

Quote of the Month: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

~~~Henry David Thoreau

Paul’s picks for September:

September 6: Lavay Smith, Armando’s, 707 Marina Vista, Martinez, 8pm 

September 7: East Bay Mudd, Pleasant Hill Summer by the Lake Series, City Hall Lawn, 100 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill, 5pm

September 18: The Fundamentals, Plaza Concert Series, Downtown Pleasant Hill on Crescent Dr.,6:30pm

September 20 and 21: Lafayette Art & Wine Festival, featuring The Sun Kings, Aja Vu, Petty Theft, The Spazmatics, The Big Jangle, Foreverland, and more. Check the website for more details.                   

September 27: Delta Wires, Armando’s, 707 Marina Vista, Martinez, 8pm

September 27: Loose Blues, Dallimonti’s, 1932 Oak Park Blvd. Pleasant Hill, 9pm                             



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