ROGER "HITMAN" ANDERSON - DRUMS
Music may not have started out as a choice for Roger Anderson, but very quickly he would come to recognize it as the greatest passion of his life. The son of two musicians, Roger chose drums, in part, to be a little rebellious, and in part as a way to channel his angst. Finding a home behind the kit, he became a professional musician in high school, not seeing a need to wait, since he already knew his path. Roger was always destined to be a musician, and he now channels that early found passion into teaching as well as performing, going about life with a desire to inspire and to make people move and groove.
Q. When and why did you start playing?
A. You’re taking me back to my childhood, living in Oakland, California! There was a lot of music around and, of course, coming from a musical family, I started playing drums when I was eight years old.
Q. Was your family a musical one?
A. My dad was a professional trumpet player, my grandma a piano teacher, [so], in our house, every child played something. My brother, Robin, being the oldest boy, he took after my father, Robert, and played the trumpet. My sister played violin. I choose drums.
Q. Why the drums?
A. I felt that my brother was already taking after dad and I was not too interested with the violin. Therefore, I, being the youngest child, thought I would branch out (and get my aggression out) with beating/playing the drums. I found the drums, and it has been my passion my entire life. My relationship with my instrument is not physical, though. I have 20 drum sets. They are all special to me and I play them all, but they are just objects. My playing is what’s important and is much more spiritual to me.
Q. Do you remember the first tune(s) you learned?
A. The first tune was something in symphonic band or something that I personally wrote on piano. (I play the piano as well.)
Q. Can you tell us about a teacher who inspired you creatively?
A. My mentor, Johnny Markham. He played with Red Norvo and was with Sinatra for 10 years. He was also in the original Ocean’s 11! I would hitchhike to San Francisco for private lessons. His lessons meant so much to me that I would do whatever it took to get there. John taught me control on the drums and how to deal with stage fright. As a young kid, stage fright can be intimidating at first. He really inspired me to always give my all and really push to make beautiful music.
Q. What are some of your fondest musical memories?
A. With the fact that stage fright can be intimidating and me being a Leo with a big ego, the minute I heard the applause after my first concert was one of the best feelings and memories I ever had as a child. And learning how to play, read music and present to an audience. My parents were always going out to hear music, as we lived in the city, and there was a lot of music to be heard out there. And my mom and dad would always have music playing throughout the house and/or one of us was always practicing. I remember there were times where we would have to fight over the time to practice. Good times for sure, fighting for time to make music.
Q. Do your siblings still play?
A. My brother is a professional trumpet player to this day, working shows in theater and also his own big band (The Robin Anderson Big Band). My sister doesn’t play anymore.
Q. You mentioned stage fright before. Do you get nervous before a performance now?
A. I don’t typically get nervous before a performance - with the end result of everyone having had a good time and me making music for people to feel. That applause and the way it makes me feel complete. No, I just relax and take it all in.
Q. What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous but know that desire is in them?
A. The advice I would give would be to take deep breaths, and know that we are creating a feeling that makes people move. We are human and will make mistakes from time to time, so just keep on keeping on, and you will get through it. Everyone is nervous the first few times getting on stage. That is totally normal.
Q. How about mistakes during a performance? How do you handle them?
A. This can get stressful and emotional at times depending on the mistake. If it’s something minor and doesn’t really go noticed, I just keep at it and move over it. If it’s a bigger mistake that was very easily noticed, I tell myself that I am human and humans make mistakes and try to get over it and move on.
Q. How often and for how long do you practice? And do you come at practice with a plan?
A. I practice 3-4 hours a day in my home. I have about 10 different drums sets all throughout my house and personal studios that I change around and play different sets throughout the day. I do come to practice with a plan, however that plan is based on the students that I will be having that day, as some are beginners and some are seniors that have been playing for a few years, etc. The plan that is set is dependent on the student.
Q. What’s the one song or who is the one artist you can always turn to for an attitude adjustment?
A. The one artist … would have to be David Garibaldi. I just love his music and it really does bring me around.
Q. If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island, and by some miracle had the forethought to bring your most prized collection, what 5 albums would you bring?
A. Breakfast Dance and Barbecue - Count Basie Orchestra
White Album - The Beatles
East Bay Grease - Tower of Power
Kind of Blue - Miles Davis
Live at Kuwwumba - The Robin Anderson Big Band
Q. If I were to go out to your car and turn the key, what would play through the speakers?
A. For sure it would be Herbie Hancock. One of my all-time favorites - I was rocking out to him today.
Q. Any closing thoughts on the state of being an artist in today's increasingly competitive music world?
A. You just have to find your own niche and run with it. Being an artist in this world is fun, due to the fact there is always room to make people want to move their bodies and groove to some music. That makes me happy to see people feeling and grooving to my music. This world is always willing to accept another new artist and music.
You can groove with Roger (and his brother!) in The Robin Anderson Big Band, the first Monday of every month at Coasters in Santa Cruz, California.