Deli Magazine




On The Beat with Steve Gardels


This week we chat with Appropriate Grammar’s Steve Gardels. Join us as we find out how he keeps his subjects and verbs in agreement, his infinitives un-split, and his prepositions away from the ends of his sentences as he strives to boldly drum…oops…to drum boldly like no man has drummed before.

The Deli: Just so you know, I will be scrutinizing your answers and pointing out any inappropriate grammar. Cool?

Steve Gardels: I should hope so. We're sticklers for that sort of thing, it's not just a name. Beyond a few run-on sentences and some awkward punctuation, I think we'll be just fine.

The Deli: Okay, now that we've gotten that out of the way, tell me about how you came to join Appropriate Grammar?

Steve: I had just graduated KCAI and had been band-less for about 4 months, which was a new thing for me. Not having a set time to sit down and play for a while was making me unhappy. I ran into Nick McKenna one night and he asked me to help him find a new rhythm section. Alex Dunsford, who had played in my previous band, had just moved back to town. We all jammed twice and decided to stick with Nick's tunes, but with some bite. We did the three-piece thing for about a year until Nick found Claire Adams, and she really took us to the next level by filling out our sound and giving a whole new dynamic to already familiar songs. We put her on bass, swapped Alex to his native lead guitar spot and we've been pushing ourselves ever since.

The Deli: What was your recording experience on Lies and Stories?

Steve: This was my first "real" studio environment as opposed to the tiled bathrooms, basements and the dreaded KCAI fart box I had recorded in before. Duane Trower was amazing; he made me feel really comfortable, but wasn't afraid to make me retake things I wasn't nailing. He also encouraged us to play with the space and all of the toys he had in there. There's a part on "High and Lonely" where I'm hitting this giant John Bonham bass drum with a timpani mallet. I overdubbed about 4 different vintage drums for that one part and he got the mix down so well that it's not overbearing yet you can still hear all of the drums. That sort of encouragement, hospitality and talent really helped me get comfy and get to work.

The Deli: Live or studio? Go!

Steve: Live. No contest. I need that energy! Seeing people get into what we do makes me play even harder, especially on the road. I'm there to drop it either way, but if a conga line breaks out, I get real hyped and start really throwing myself into it.

The Deli: Speaking of playing, how do you approach drumming?

Steve:  I'm self-taught, so a lot of it comes out in practice. I sit down, set my iPod to shuffle and get as close as I can to what's on. I'll hear something I really like and break it down; start slow, learn the beat and then throttle it. Sometimes something totally new will come out of it, but the important part is to keep pushing myself to learn new stuff. I listen to a lot of heavy metal, anything from Maiden and Sabbath to Valient Thorr and Municipal Waste. I have a long list of hometown heroes and I'll just go out and watch. I'm a visual guy, if I can see it, it's easier for me to translate the part and make it my own. Writing my parts begins with Nick. He'll start playing a riff and I'll pick up where the accents are, where I can put fills and keep it real basic. Then I'll throw in a lick here, maybe a slowed down version of a tom pattern I found in a Slayer song there, and it starts building. I'll start tuning in to Claire's bass lines and start matching my boots to her roots. It's really collaborative and very organic.

The Deli: You're a Hopeless Destroyer!?

Steve: I moved to town in 2005 and formed a punk band called Hobo Zero. We played a lot, time went on, we broke up, and I stopped going to punk shows. Some years later, I started dating Britt Adair and we had a lot of the same friends from back in the day, so I started hanging out at shows again. That's when it hit me, I wanted to play fast again! Brittain Lawless asked me to join Hopeless Destroyers about a year ago. I was floored. My first taste of local music in KC was Idiot Box, The Rippers, The Skate-O-Masochists and Hopeless Destroyers at El Torreon. It was my turn to join the legacy. Just listening to Hopeless in my car gets me stoked; all hopping around and screaming about kicking vampires in the nuts. I still can't believe I'm in one of my favorite local bands!

The Deli: When you're not making music, what keeps you busy and creative? 

Steve: Making more music! But seriously, my favorite thing at the moment is all the cool stuff I've been doing with XO Blackwater TV Party, my video collective. We did the stage show for this years' Midcoast Takeover, we've done a music video for Meat Mist, and we just did a VJ set for DJ Sheppa's Body2Body at the Pitch Music Showcase. There's only about 6 of us, but we go as big as we can and we usually wind up blowing a few minds in the process. I'm also going to be collaborating with former Opera Omaha director Hal France on developing a music program for kids.

Leave your split infinitives at home and come on out to hear Appropriate Grammar at the Crossroads Music Fest on Saturday, September 8; prior to that you can hear Steve with Hopeless Destroyers at the Pizza Party Massacre record release show on August 25; the location is undisclosed, so ask around!  

-Sergio Moreno

Sergio is a drummer drone for The Hillary Watts Riot and a contraption set buffoon with Alacartoona. He wishes he could get paid to practice meditation, do yoga, and drink white tea all day long. But in the meantime he earns his keep making greeting cards in Spanish.

Share this story on Facebook 

Steve Gardels

Photo by Todd Zimmer

Appropriate Grammar