Audix endorser Gregg Bissonette is closing out one of his busiest years to date. Touring drummer, session drummer, and educator, he’s constantly hard at work, either on the road or at home in LA. When we checked in with the GRAMMY® winning drummer, he was in the middle of his commute down the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Monica for a session at the Village Recorders studio, before heading back home to pack for a world tour with rock icon Ringo Starr. Just another day in the life of Gregg Bissonette.
There are moments, Gregg says when the whole thing still seems almost surreal. “When I was a kid and I went to see the Beatles at seven years old, if you would have told me I’d be touring with Ringo, I would have said you’re crazy!” he laughs. Just three months ago, the band played a short distance from where Gregg saw the Beatles all those years ago. “A lot of my family members and friends from high school came out to the show,” Gregg says, “and after the soundcheck was over, I told Ringo, ‘50 years ago, I saw you with the Beatles two blocks from here, and I can’t believe I’m here making music with you now!’ That night at the show, after the first song, Ringo stopped the band and said, ‘I was talking to my friend on the other kit before the show, and years ago he came to see a band at the other place, and I was in that band, and he’s from here-Gregg Bissonette! A lot of great music came out of this town!’ He knew how much that meant, and that’s the kind of man he is.”
Gregg has been a staple of Ringo Starr’s All–Starr band since 2008, the longest stretch in All-Starr history. With the many memorable nights on the road with his drumming hero, one show stands out among all the rest: “It was Ringo’s 70th birthday,” Gregg reminisces. “It was a magical night because many, many stars came out to sing ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’–members of the Eagles, members of Bruce Springsteen’s band, Yoko Ono came up and sang ‘Give Peace a Chance’–and at the very end, Paul McCartney came out with his Höfner bass and sang ‘Birthday’ from the White Album, and Ringo got up on the drums. I looked to my right, and there was Ringo, and I looked out in front, and there was Paul McCartney, the two last living Beatles, and I was crying tears of joy. It was one of those moments that I went back to my dressing room, fell to my knees, and thanked God for that moment, for being alive, for being the guy who got to be there and play and experience that. And Ringo truly was surprised; he leaned over while we were playing and said, ‘How long have you known about this?’ I said, ‘About a month!’ And he gave me this smile, and I flashed back to that seven-year-old kid again, seeing the Beatles for the first time. It’s just unreal.”
In addition to the two tours with Ringo, Gregg has traveled thousands of miles to the world over this year alone. He kicked off 2016 with Audix at our Drummer Extravaganza artist signing at the Winter NAMM Show, and since then has played a long list of recording sessions for blockbuster Hollywood movies, TV shows, and a variety of albums of all styles. He has performed dozens of drum clinics in Australia, the U.S., and Asia. He was also involved in a Russian rock ballet called Heart of Storm, which fuses classic U.S. rock with powerful Russian ballet.
His top tips for keeping up with his hectic pace are a high-protein, low-carb diet, and regular exercise (he gets in about one hour of cycling or swimming every day), as well as a solid eight hours of sleep as much as possible. “And I do have one vice,” he adds. “I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t do drugs-my vice is caffeine! I love caffeine because I hate feeling tired. I like feeling energized, so I drink a lot of coffee. Maybe not as much as Dave Grohl,” he adds with a laugh, referring to the viral YouTube video. “I’m probably the second most caffeinated drummer next to Dave Grohl.”
An educator at heart and mentor to many, Gregg’s advice to aspiring drummers in the industry has nothing to do with technical ability. “Half of the pie has nothing to do with drums,” he says. “It has to do with people, because the music business is a people business, probably more than any other business. When you’re in a band, you really are in that band because people love being with you, and if you’re the kind of person people don’t want to be with, I don’t care how great you play your instrument, you won’t be in that band. So the number one piece of advice I can give is to be the kind of person that lifts people up. Treat people the way you wish they would treat you. Realize that your attitude is infectious, and try to be a bright light in dark places. Be a light, and it will come back to you.”