Let The Drummers Speak: J-Zone & PVD

jzone-x-pvdPhoto Courtesy of Pat Van Dyke

Pat Van Dyke and Jay Mumford aka PVD and J-Zone respectively are two musicians that have paid their dues. Van Dyke, the tireless, work horse of a drummer, composer, band leader, mulit-instrumentalist playing many gigs while simultaneously composing music for multiple television shows at the same time, and J-Zone, author, writer, former rapper, producer, and now bad ass drummer (and multi-instrumentalist), both have played the circuit, seen their shares of wins and losses, and have come out as better players and well respected individuals in the industry. The two recently sat down to talk about music, projects, drum set ups, and anything else that was on their mind. We were there to capture it. Sit back, relax, and take in this candid conversation between two of the most creative players out there today.

Pat Van Dyke: I’m really digging this new Du-Rites record. How did you and Pablo Martin initially link up?

J-Zone: Appreciate it! Pablo has been my mastering engineer since my second album in 2000. We became friends over the years and around 2006 I discovered he played guitar and bass. Then, when I started playing drums in 2012, he was the first person to come through and jam with me, then get me out of learning classic breaks in my basement and actually got me playing with other people. It’s a whole different skill. I started playing in his bands, which are more rock oriented, and we had the idea to make a funk instrumental project on the side, which became The Du-Rites.

J-Zone: Did you start with school band and lessons or just playing to records at home?

Pat Van Dyke: Man, I started playing piano as a kid at around 5 years old. I started playing drums around the 4th grade in school band. I initially wanted to play the trumpet, but went for drums instead. I got a snare drum at first and used to set random stuff up next to it to play the role of a cymbal and just bang away. Eventually, my parents got me signed up for some private lessons with a local teacher. I got a drum set a few years later after saving up some money. A few months later, I got some cymbals and hardware. I definitely did my share of playing along with records over the years as well. Matter of fact, I had that same Pearl Export kit until I got real serious about playing jazz and went to school for it.

Pat Van Dyke: I hear a real consistency in the drum sounds on Lunch Breaks, Backyard Breaks, Fish & Grits, and the new Du-Rites LP.

J-Zone: As far as drum sound, that was my goal – to have a distinct sound. Early Stax and Motown, Prestige, Blue Note and all the Rudy Van Gelder stuff – you knew what it was instantly.

Pat Van Dyke: Then I’d consider it a success. Who mixed the record?

J-Zone: Pablo and I mixed it together.

Pat Van Dyke: Are you tracking all of this in the studio that I saw in the Lunch Breaks promo?

J-Zone: Yeah, it’s the same studio, but I’ve tried 8-10 different kits and different mics and placements over the years. But because of the room, board, and my playing style, there’s a consistency even when the other tools are different.

Pat Van Dyke: If you don’t mind giving up this info: what’s your drum set / mic setup like?

J-Zone: I tune and mic the kit halfway between a funk and a jazz drummer. That way it sounds punchy but not too too dead. I’m not a hard hitter either, which has a lot to do with it. I always look at the kit as one instrument, so I’m not really gonna OD with 10 mics and be OCD about isolation. Bleed drives most engineers nuts, but I embrace it. How do you mic the set?

Pat Van Dyke: Really depends upon the situation…and I feel like I’m still learning how to get the best results in the least amount of time. For the PVD Breaks project, I went nuts and set up all sorts of mics to give my self options during the mixing process. I was using different kits, ribbon mics, condenser mics, dynamic mics….really whatever I had my hands on in my humble Jersey City studio. I had all sorts of options while I was mixing the tracks to really differentiate one break from the next. I was running overheads through guitar pedals, trying different compressors, tweaking reverbs, detuning drums…you name it. For my solo instrumental releases, I keep it pretty straightforward with a dynamic mic on the kick and snare, 2 condenser mics for L & R overheads, and a ribbon mic or 2 farther away from the kit to color the mix with some sort of unique characteristic, whether that be an overdrive, reverb, compression or whatever else.

Pat Van Dyke: What’s the writing process like being a duo? A lot of the songs feel like organic jams that happened spontaneously between the two of you rather than the typical; melody + chord changes structure of one guy bringing the tune in to the other. Am I right in assuming that the majority of the tracks were built out of “jams” / improvisations or did you just do a good job of making it feel natural like that?

J-Zone: ”Hustle,” “Bookie,” “The Chief & I,” “Blow Your Stack,” and “The Man With The Golden Tooth” were all jams. Some of those were just live with no click, and then we’d overdub. The rest, I did the drums and organ riffs, then Pablo would add guitar and one of us would play bass. “Du-n-It” Pablo did and gave me direction for drums and extras. I’m not a serious keyboard player and I played bass as a kid, but I was able to brush up enough to do both and compose songs from the combo organ.

Pat Van Dyke: Yeah man. The bass playing is spot on throughout the entire record. Any plans for some live Du-Rites shows? Can I play bass?

J-Zone: Hell yeah. We need all the help we can get! Maybe I can play tambourine at your next gig?

Pat Van Dyke: Right On. Anytime. Or, I can play tambourine, and you can play drums. Alright, so…3 most influential funk drummers to J-Zone’s style on the drum kit are…..?

J-Zone: Funky George Brown of Kool and the Gang, Bernard Purdie and Joe Dukes. Dukes was such an under-appreciated drummer. He did the organ jazz thing, but also was a nasty be-bop player and played funk with these insane jazz chops. The dude just swung his ass off, particularly with Jack McDuff and Lonnie Smith.

Pat Van Dyke: Well if you already got those guys covered, I’m going to have to say Al Jackson (Stax Records House Drummer), James Black (somewhat under the radar New Orleans Drummer who I only recently got hip to), and Idris Muhammad.

For those of you not in the know, check out this track James Black played on with Betty Harris here.

With multiple projects going all the time, both musicians have that mentality of always forward, never back. J-Zone’s latest project is a funk band with Pablo Martin, called the Du-Rites. Check out their first record on Redefinition Records the record here. Pat Van Dyke has also released a record of Royalty Free drum breaks, which you can check out here.

Check out the mini-documentary of the Du-Rites below:

Let The Drummers Speak is the first in a series of drum talk here at Flea Market Funk. Thank You to John at Redefinition Records, Pat Van Dyke, and J-Zone for taking the time out to talk candidly about their craft.

Keep Diggin’!

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