Alicia Zepeda is a Mexican drummer who plays with Ruido Rosa and Secret Agent. She started playing metal covers in bars, with her first band Mystica Girl, where she toured in Mexico and Europe. She has opened for bands like The Misfits, Cadavéria, and Brujería, and played in festivals like Vive Latino, SXSW, WOA Metal Battle, MTV Latin Awards, and Festival Internacional Cervantino. At 21 years old, she started playing drum clinics for Tama and Sabian, and sharing stages with Dom Famularo, John Blackwell, Jeremy Colsen, and more. In 2011, Zepeda joined the female rock band Ruido Rosa, where she opened for bands such as Queens of the Stone Age, Maroon Five, Goo Goo Dolls, Dum Dum Girls, Deap Vally. She’s also been a session drummer for international artists Kinky, Green Jellö (now Green Jellÿ), Jay de la Cueva, and others.
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What kind of gear do you use? What’s your setup?
Tama Starclassic drum set with 22″ bass drum, 10″, 14″, and 16″ toms, Starclassic Maple 14” x 5.5” snare, and an Iron Cobra 900 double pedal.
Sabian cymbals: Ride Legacy 21″; Vintage Ride 21″; Crash HHX Evolution O-Zone 16″”; Crash Artisan 18″; Groove Hi-Hats 14″.
Remo heads: Emperor X snare drum; Emperor Clear and Emperor Black Suede on toms; Pinstripe on bass drum.
Do you have endorsements?
TAMA, Sabian, Remo, and ProMark.
What bands/groups do you perform with, if any?
Ruido Rosa, Secret Agent, Green Jellö, Magneto & Mercurio, and Kabah.
What led you to your instrument?
One of my cousins had a band when I was very young and they always left the instruments at my parents’ house. After the parties, I woke up early to be able to secretly play the drums a little bit. Later in a mall I saw a Boom drum machine and asked my mom to buy it for me. Of course, she refused, but she proposed that I study and maybe that way I could have one. So, I had to wait more than two years for my parents to convince themselves that I really liked the drums. I practiced as best I could on pillows, chairs, and with a lot of imagination, so that when the class day came, it was the best part of the week because I could feel a real drum set.
What’s your origin story?
Rhythm has been a companion always; the music a soundtrack of each cycle, each story. When I was little, I liked dancing a lot. Then later, when I was 14 years old, I began to study drums with private lessons, and I also studied to be a concert pianist at the National Conservatory of Music. After passing the test and not being chosen, I decided that drums would be my main instrument. Over time it became my career and my lifestyle.
Who is your favorite drummer and why?
I don’t have a favorite drummer, but in the beginning I was very inspired to hear “Train Of Thought” by Dream Theater. I think Mike Portnoy has a lot of humor in his sets.
I am very versatile musically and always in constant motion, so that’s why I will love jazz drummers one day and be crazy over someone executing blast beats the next day.
How do you practice? Do you have a routine?
I like to look for random patterns and develop them step by step. I try to make myself aware of the space of each note, subdivide it, and orchestrate it. I like phrasing, trying things over melodic phrases to feel the sound sensations—it’s fun to explore how the rhythm and melody play together. I always start from something existing from a book and then my imagination begins to work.
Are there any specific playing tips or techniques, or advice, exercises, or discoveries you’d like to share with Drum readers?
Working on creativity is important. Stop judging yourself. You have to be brave and throw the chops live to get out, otherwise, the learning will stay at home. Always warm up, go from less to more, use a metronome, and be patient if you want speed. The key is to make things as slow as possible so that it sounds clean and the body recognizes it. And always study the most difficult part in order to improve.
What’s something you believe about drumming or music that other people think is crazy?
Music is a lifestyle. Many people aren’t doing it, they don’t bet anything to make a life with a career like that. Music is a crazy lifestyle, so I admit I have a bit of it. I only know that the reward is delicious.
As artists, the goal post for “success” is always moving. There’s not one “I made it!” point. How do you think about and define success?
Success is transitory. We cannot define it as the total realization. We should define “success” as the ability to keep giving better results to those desired. The goals are always going to change, a success achieved opens a new door, a new challenge that keeps us on fire and filled with power.
Do you have any quotes or sayings that you live by?
The mind is not able to recognize the difference between fantasy and reality—everything we can imagine, we can realize.
When you sit down to make music and are starting with a blank canvas, what’s your process like?
If I’m alone at home, it’s easier to sketch. It is usually clearer, it is always a simple foundation to develop. If I’m working with a band, it’s easy for me to get creativity based on a melodic phrase. Then, I look for the spaces where the instrument will shine. Drummers have the most power—we can create rhythmic illusions by just moving some notes and making the melody more interesting.
How important is a failure in making music/performing?
Failure is the most powerful nutrient to raise champions. Failure may be painful, but there’s nothing that gives us more strength than having a failure. That unforgivable land is where the most experienced are concentrated.
Any advice for girls contemplating getting started and making it in this arena?
There is no better ingredient than putting femininity into a musical instrument that remains stereotyped as aggressive and manly. You should feel special to be able to give a touch to the musical situation. And remember that being a woman will never be a factor against us—it’s in your power to destroy all stereotypes. Study, become the rhythm, and show the world what you can do.
Where else to find Alicia
Facebook: Alis Emerson