Music News & Reviews

TEN Qs FOR STEVE HILSTEIN

Drum teacher Steve Hilstein has reunited with his band from high school. Called The Scarlet Furies, the group backs the 21-year old daughter of band member Bob Holmes.
Drum teacher Steve Hilstein has reunited with his band from high school. Called The Scarlet Furies, the group backs the 21-year old daughter of band member Bob Holmes. TRIBUNE PHOTO BY DAVID MIDDLECAMP

N ow in his 50s, drummer Steve Hilstein suddenly finds himself in a time warp, performing with former band mates from high school. But one member of the The Scarlet Furies probably won’t get all the 1970s references.

When an agent for 21-year-old Raleigh Holmes suggested the rootsy singer get a backing band, she turned to her musician father, Bob Holmes, who assembled his old buddies to join the father-daughter team.

Because the band is based in Southern California, Hilstein initially declined to join due to work obligations. But once he sold the Drum Circuit, his schedule had enough flexibility to join the group, whose new album, “Dark Clad Company,” was produced by Paul McCartney guitarist Rusty Anderson.

Raised in Southern California himself, Hilstein now operates Drum School 101 in San Luis Obispo, which spawned the Bucket Busters, drummers who play on buckets and trash cans.

We talked to Hilstein at the Drum School about the band, The Beatles and drum solos.

Q: How old were you when you first started playing music with Bob?

A: I started playing drums at 10 years old, and we had bands going almost immediately. The first gig was the Jaycees in La Habra. He actually remembers how much we made. I think it was $35.

Q: You guys are in your 50s. What kind of nostalgia comes up when you get together now?

A: I think about it most when we’re onstage and we’re playing. He’ll turn around and look across the stage back at me. We’ll look at each other, and it feels like we’re thinking, ‘Who would have ever thought we’d be here now?’ ”

Q: What’s it like having a 21-year-old as the front woman in the band?

A: She’s great. There again, it’s (Bob’s) daughter, so there’s family interaction going on at times. And I can relate because I have a daughter who’s 24. But she’s amazing. She’s really talented. She’s an aspiring actress. We’re all kind of riding on her talent, really.

Q: What made her choose her dad?

A: Well, they’ve always been close. Bob used to tell me way back when she was a child and a teenager how great a voice she

had. But I never heard her until recently, and I used to think, “Sure, Bob, everybody thinks their kid is a great singer.” But when I heard her, I was amazed.

Q: Paul McCartney’s guitarist produced the CD?

A: Yeah. Bob played in a band with him the last couple of years in high school — an Orange County band called Eulogy. And they stayed in touch over the years.

The first time I was at the studio with him, we all went to get a sandwich down the street. We were kind of walking casually. But you can’t be with a member of Paul McCartney’s band and not bring it up. Because I’m a Beatles fan and have always been in awe of those guys. It’s The Beatles.

I said to him, “This is kind of crazy. You play for Paul McCartney — one of The Beatles.” And he said, “Yeah, it’s kind of surreal sometimes.”

Q: Speaking of The Beatles — Ringo just turned 70. What did he bring to the table as a drummer?

A: Personality for one. He’s kind of a quirky, real funny guy. He did Ludwig drums a lot of good. And I think he showed the drumming world that you can play straight and basic — you don’t have to be Buddy Rich or Neil Peart to do the job.

Q: What do you think is the best drum solo on record?

A: The first one that comes to my mind is Blood Sweat and Tears ( “Blues”) and it’s by a drummer by the name of Bobby Colomby, who I believe dated Buddy Rich’s daughter. I loved his solo as a kid. I always tried to copy it. It actually influenced my playing.

Q: If you had to list your top drummers of all time, who would they be?

A: Buddy Rich. I saw Buddy play live. He was playing over at the Spirit of San Luis. He sat down on the drums and just kicked ass. He was 67, and he died a couple of years later. I’ve never seen anyone play with such intensity in what they’re doing. I literally walked around two weeks in awe.

Who else do I really like? (Session drummer) Steve Gadd. I would have to say that Steve Gadd is probably my favorite. Jeff Pocaro (of Toto) — I always really dug him, he was the groove meister. You know what? I really dig Mick Fleetwood. I love the way that guy plays.

Q: Was your first drum set made of coffee cans, oatmeal boxes or Pringles cans?

A: Oatmeal boxes. I remember that. I had Quaker Oats box containers, and I had some kind of reeds, and I attached pie tins for cymbals. And I played “Rock Around the Clock” for my fourth-grade class.

Q: Speaking of cans, what’s up with the Bucket Busters?

A: I love the Bucket Busters. The Bucket Busters experience has surpassed anything that I would have expected. There are so many great things that have come out of that. No. 1 is the kids that are involved. They have grown, they have become better players. They’re learning performance skills, they’re learning discipline because you have to be at someplace at a certain time. You’re part of a band.

Reach Patrick S. Pemberton at 781-7903.

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