How To Make a Living as a Drummer with LA Buckner
LA Buckner is the host of Sound Field but also a professional drummer, producer, and teacher. LA tells us about his musical journey from drumming at 3-years-old to performing for audiences of 8,000. We visit LA at his church in Minneapolis, and even sit in on one of his music lessons with a young student.
- This is like super (upbeat music)
in my neighborhood.
I drive the street almost every day.
Right now, we're headed, I had to leave church early.
I'm headed to, a soundcheck, for the gig tomorrow.
It's a pretty big venue.
It's my first time playing it.
I'm excited, to play it.
It holds like probably, I think it holds, 8000 people.
Double diddy, double stack diddy.
The name LA came from, well my name is Arthur.
My dad is Big Art, Big Arthur.
So that makes me Little Art, LA.
There was a point where, I had to make the decision
to choose, either choose music intentionally.
I figured, okay, since I can't play drums,
that's not gonna be a lucrative living,
I can just be, I have a decent voice,
I wanted to get into sports journalism.
That's what I wanna do.
I was registering for classes,
and nothing, sounded interesting.
I was sitting on the bus stop and the bus had pulled off.
There's like a steam, in the back of the bus,
that exhaust and I promise you, when that exhaust hit me,
I either heard or thought in my head, I said, " Music,
"it has to be."
And at that moment I thought, I said, "Okay, you know what?
"Life is way too short.
"Even if it don't work I'm about to try it."
This is my basement.
It's unfinished, it's a rough kinda the shed area.
I rehearse down here, I make it happen.
So it's a beginner, level home studio rehearsal space.
The tissue, is for earplugs.
How you like that?
I wanna be a drummer, what do I have to do?
You gotta be cool. (soft music)
Not be cool, not like this cool,
you gotta be like this cool.
Like talk to strangers.
What's up? (clapping)
Keep shinning, do your things man.
Be nice and I think, you knowing your stuff,
it works in your favor.
If you're cool and you play like that,
you make yourself an asset.
Toughest part about making a living as a musician,
is the feast and famine.
When is good, oh is sweet.
When it sucks, it sucks.
Another wack part, only thing, the only bad thing
about being a drummer specifically.
This is it, the only bad thing, is lugging
all the gear around.
It's a pretty big gig, so I'm gonna play a big kit.
Everybody who's, who I look up to they always got huge kits.
They always playing because all my friends out of town,
They always play in massive drum kits
so, I could do that too, let me do it.
It's a lot of work though.
A lot of them, they got drum techs, they got endorsements
and all that good stuff, that's on the way.
It's on the way for your boy.
How do I make a living?
My favorite way to make money is playing drums
in the studio, recording an album for somebody.
I teach in schools, I do private lessons, I play at church.
In bigger cities with way more gospel culture,
people feed families off of just church.
Church is lit, okay.
- [Man] I feel that shout right there.
- Now there's gigs and there's shows.
A gig is where like, "Hey we need a small jazz combo to play
"in the corner and nobody's gonna be paying
"attention to you."
You play, "Okay, cool."
That's a gig.
Nobody knows you at the gig, okay.
Gigs are kinda hard sometimes.
Shows are, what you want your friends
and family to come see.
For example with Dem Atlas, I play Sound Set
with him last summer.
Sound Set is a show.
How else, Sound Field.
Let's get it.
I'm a student who's trying to steal
from every single drummer I see.
If you're a kid, Caleb my student coming today,
I'm gonna take all of his stuff
and re-invent it to be mine.
And it's gonna be cold.
So like, there's nobody you can't learn from.
Caleb is 12 years old.
And Caleb was my favorite type of student
because, Caleb is exactly the way I was.
Close, it's close, it's super close.
There's something that you do, I don't know
what it is yet but I'm gonna take it, I'm stealing it.
What do you do foot in there too?
- So, with the foot it's gonna be like.
- I'm messing it up, do it-
- So at the beginning it's like, one two three four,
and then, so it's like.
- That's killing.
There's a reason why I mentor, because I had fire mentors,
when I was growing up.
That's one thing that church gave me.
That's one thing that, being in the black community gave me.
Then I realized that, that's one of my jobs.
That's why I even teach, cause I gotta tell all the secrets,
to the youth.
I gotta tell them, the stuff that I'm learning right now,
that's what I have to share, with Caleb.
One two, to do that with me (mumbling).
Things I learned from Sound Feild, they come in retrospect.
Experiences, meeting people or conversations
that Sound Field has provided, or talking to Nare, okay.
Just, after we shoot in DC we're having lunch,
and just having, just nerdy musical conversation.
One of my favorite tracks that we did was the parody track.
This was like, the overkill.
Like just doing so much and then cut it.
That was one of my favorite tracks to work on,
I like that one.
Trap, that was the goal cause like,
that was our first initial try add in and Nare sent
the whole folder of sounds and we had to pull
from that folder and that was a dope one,
that came together.
I was just like, that gave me hope.
I was like, "Okay yeah, this is about the work.
"This is gonna be tight."
Psych, I can't play.
But I got one note.
That's a wrap from before.
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