Madden Klass is the touring drummer for Mike Doughty (of Soul Coughing). A New York drummer, and current student at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Klass challenges herself with eclectic and intensely progressive material, but her roots lie in her early fandoms: heavy rock, hip-hop, and pop. During the Doughty/Wheatus USA tour, Klass has been performing the acclaimed Soul Coughing record, Ruby Vroom. Klass also plays with a keyboard-driven prog group called Space Junk Is Forever and an alternative/indie rock group called Raavi & The Houseplants.
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All About Madden Klass
What is your city, country, and age?
I am between Boston and New York, throughout the year. Those are my two homes. I am 19 years old.
What kind of gear do you use? What’s your setup?
Normally, I’m rocking a Gretsch Catalina Club with a Pearl BLX Maple Snare. I like to keep it to just a 4-piece kit when practicing. I am currently playing a Meinl 22” Byzance Tradition Ride, 14” Sand Hats, a small stack using a 14” Xplosion AAX with a 10” Air Splash on top, and an 18” Custom Special Dry Crash.
For the Wheatus/Doughty tour I was just on, I was using a Whitney kit and a 90s Ayotte Snare.
What bands/groups do you perform with, if any?
I play with a few different groups, all of varying genre. The project I dedicate most of my time to is called Space Junk Is Forever. This is a keyboard-driven prog group, that features Hammond B3, Rhodes, and technically challenging drum parts with an emphasis on melody in regard to the cymbal arrangements. I will be gigging all summer with this group, playing places like Discjam Festival.
I also play with my very talented friends in an Alternative/Indie Rock group called Raavi & the Houseplants. This group is all about groove for me, while creating subtle yet unusual parts that lock in with the bassist and support the vocals. We will be releasing our debut LP later this year.
Lastly, I just did my first run as the sole drummer on the Mike Doughty/Wheatus USA tour where we performed the acclaimed Soul Coughing record, Ruby Vroom, front to back, as well as the Wheatus support set which encompassed a repertoire loaded with tricky sticking and nuanced groove.
What led you to your instrument? What’s your origin story?
As a kid, I was fascinated with the Nickelodeon TV show, The Naked Brothers Band. I wanted to be just like them, start my own group, write music, and play drums. I tried in elementary school to put a band together, but I couldn’t find any committed players… I needed to wait a few years.
Who is your favorite drummer and why?
I’ll narrow it down to a few: Ilan Rubin for his heavy and unconventional rock grooves; Stewart Copeland for his whimsical cymbal accents and quick hands; Matt Gartska for his ridiculous precision, and Dan Mayo for his idiosyncratic/unmatched sound. Other drummers that inspire me include Tim Alexander (Primus), Connor Dennis (Beartooth), Aaron Sterling, Anika Nilles, and Benny Greb. I try to take a piece from all of these players while presenting my sound to the world.
How do you practice? Do you have a routine?
I try to keep my practice-pad regimen pretty consistent. I make sure I am including loads of different techniques to get all parts of my hands and brain working, before hitting the kit. This includes singles, doubles, and paradiddles all in different groupings and subdivisions.
Additionally, I practice different flam hand-to-hand exercises and lots of Moeller work. I’ve only recently figured out a pad routine that makes me truly feel warmed up. When I hit the kit, my practice is primarily focused on whatever project I have coming up, whether that is preparing a set list for a show, working on 40 songs for a tour, transcribing and learning parts for a group, or working on exercises that I’ve been assigned by my teachers or I’ve found myself.
I always make sure to revisit past books/sheets as well, to keep past exercises fresh. If I feel I am not growing with my practice, I take time to assess, and readjust.
Are there any specific playing tips or techniques, or advice, exercises, or discoveries you’d like to share with Drum readers?
Moeller Technique has completely shaped my playing. It helps my flow, and lifts a great deal of effort that I can now use for little subtleties and weird stickings. My teacher, when I was young, made me study a DVD that Jojo Mayer put out, all about the science of Moeller Technique, and I couldn’t have found it more boring at the time. It is about patience, and watching your every move. Once it is under your belt though, it stays with you. It’s a technique that has helped me tremendously.
Having said that, while technique is extremely important, something even more critical to my growth has been playing along to records since I started. This helped me develop feel, style, the ability to pick out parts/arrangements, and just an overall love for creating and being a part of the music world. Find music you love, sit down and groove to it. Interpret it however you want.
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, to me, means creating options and opportunities. Success is being welcomed by other musicians and working collaboratively. Having opportunities to create music that I, the musicians, and others connect with, is what I consider success.
Any advice for girls contemplating getting started and making it in this arena?
You are no different than your peers. You are just as capable as anyone else. Don’t let anyone make you feel inferior. If your heart is in it, you can take it far.