Ask Dr. Gretz







You know the deal, ask me a question (either through the email in the contact page or on the guestbook and I answer it... just check the archive first so I'm not answering questions about the same thing over and over.


Date, November 29 2008

Name: Jordan Stoney (The Great White North)
Question : What do you prefer, nice clean perfect production on an album with flawless playing or a raw gritty sound with fuckups involved? personally I prefer raw and gritty cuz I think its more honest.

"I agree for the most part, I guess it depends on the music and what you're trying to get across with the album. Sometimes making something really polished helps bring out details and nuances you WANT in there, sometimes the raw side ads an element that, even with things getting lost in the mud - so to speak- is beneficial. Some of the classics (Beatles, Who, the Stones, even stuff like the Beach Boys) are FILLED with mistakes and a lot of times those "mistakes" are what give the music life. I also really like Steely Dan, which is on the other side of the coin, NOTHING was getting past Fagen and Becker.

It just depends on what you're going for. A lot of people think that because of our Analog/Live recording stance on the Zao FEAR record that I'm against pro-tools and clean recordings. Not at all. It was just that record had to be made like that, the previous Zao record was sort of the extreme end of the polishing/fixing and everyone in the band thought it suffered for that, so The Fear... was meant to sort of be the polar opposite. In the case of that record I still stand by the production in terms of that album. The production was written into the songs, so to speak.

Some of my favorite records would be considered unlistenable by audiophile standards, but it's what gives them their character. On the other hand, other favorite albums of mine, I realize have been doctored to the point that they would be impossible to do without massive amounts of studio trickery. I let the situation and what type of record I want to make dictate whether it's "lo" or "hi" fi. There's room for both. Variety is the spice of life baby."


Name: Joe B. (Rhode Island)
Question: I 'm a drummer that has been thinking about making the move to NYC. How do you survive as a drummer there? I know rent is outrageous, but also, where do you practice? Do you have a car there?? I guess as a drummer you would have too. it all seems so overwhelming.

"When I first moved here I had a car, but then I was on tour so much and finding creative places to leave it (for free) and still avoiding tickets when I WAS home (you have to move your car around constantly in NY for street cleaning) it was just too much. When I got 300 dollars in tickets in the course of a week I said "ENOUGH" and ditched it. It's usually not a problem. Most clubs have built in back line and I'll just use the house sets and I bring my cymbals, snare and pedal which I just take with me on the Subway. Occasionally I have to take hardware, I have a bunch of really lightweight stuff for situations like this, and you learn to get by with very little.

The one or two cases where I've had to bring a full kit, you just call a car service, request a van and they come get you. You can usually do this for around (depending on who you call and where you're going) for around 30-50 bucks round trip. Which when you take into consideration, car upkeep, insurance, gas, and parking tickets, for the few times I've needed it is still cheaper than owning a car up here. Eventually my back will give out and I'll probably go back to being a car owner, but for now, I be creative and tough it out.

As far as practice spaces, your best bet is to just look around for ads, there are plenty of "space shares" where you can keep your drums and you get certain time slots that you can use. There's about 4 bands in mine, I get a nice chunk of time throughout the week and often times can use slots that other people aren't using. It's not ideal but you make do. Conversely, I'm able to find enough work in NY playing wise, that I'm always at rehearsals somewhere or gigs. So even though I don't get as much time in the room by myself to woodshed, I end up playing just as much. It works out."


Jim S (Latrobe, PA)
Question:Any chance of a Crank Radio reunion? Miss the old days of Illusions and the Derry Theater....

"Oh god, no. I don't even know which of our bass players to ask, none of them are really around and that stuff was so juvenile that I can't even begin to think about revisiting it. Those Derry/Latrobe shows were good times though. I miss having an outlet like that. Every show was different.

I remember the one time we came out and announced our "new direction" and played a bunch of grindcore songs and everyone just stared at us. I also remember a flier for a show where somebody described us as "Faith No More without the keyboards". So we showed up, played a big improvisation with me on keyboards and then broke into a cover of Epic by Faith No More. Or playing a Steelers fight song for 10 minutes? Or doing a Medley of the Friends theme "I'll Be There For You" into "I'll Be There For You" by Bon Jovi. Or doing covers of Six Pack by Black Flag and Drink Fight and Fuck by GG Allin at a show with a bunch of Straight Edge bands. Oh to be young and damaged again."


Name: Dave
Question: I was listening to your sound clips and i noticed that your drums sound different on almost every recording? How do you get so many different tones in the different sessions?

"As I've stated before, it's just different drums. I like to use what's there. It keeps me on my toes and sometimes you get really good recordings out of really weird kits. I've used my old pearl exports, I've used my Precision kit, I've used an ACRYLIC precision kit, Old Gretsch drums (my favorite to record with right now), old slingerlands, beat up 80's era Tama drums, DW's, Ludwig Vistelites, an old yamaha kit with single headed toms, you name it. I've used frankenstein kits that are bits and pieces of everything. I've tuned snares down to the point of the heads being wrinkled up, I've placed towels on the toms and played that. Broken cymbals. Whatever works."


Name: Concerned (North Caolina)
Question: I'm really worried. You were in my favorite band-FATA..And now your just making noise.

"Really? REALLY? I mean if you're referring to the intro video... I would hardly call it "noise". (to be fair, I have done some "NOISE" stuff in my time... but not enough to warrant concern). After playing with FATA and doing pretty straight-forward stuff, I am cleaning out the pipes by exploring some more "experimental" avenues. But for the most part most of the projects I've been involved with lately (Zero Spanish, Emanuel And The Fear, some session work I've done recently) are actually some of the poppier things I've done. All of the music I make isn't for everyone (heck, my mother thinks Zao is "noise" to a certain extent). It's all relative. Calm down. "


Date, June 23 2008

Name: Matt Nelson (Florida)
Question: Do you think that Matt Nelson was the best AND worst bass player you ever played with?  Do you think it's funny that he gave up playing bass to sing in a Barbershop quartet????

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Matt Nelson. I played with him all through college, both in Jazz situations and also he was the foundation in the "drunken mess" that was Disco Bitch And The Funk Machine. We OWNED the small college town of Indiana, PA. Disco Bitch was a pretty straight-forward party dance band with horn section before we joined. Some Parliament covers, Play That Funky Music, Jungle Boogie, stuff like that also, a healthy chunk of originals. I seem to remember us covering things like the theme from Sling Blade.This wasn't your get up and play for 45 minutes and get off... this was play for 3 hours and get everyone rowdy stuff. They were great fun and I used to go and watch them a lot.

Then one day myself (on KEYBOARDS actually), and my long-time musical co-horts Steve Moore and Adam MacGregor joined and all sorts of new weirdness began. Not only was it still the same material but we helped baffle but somehow entertain these ridiculous hippies/frat people that came to see us. Never again are you likely to hear covers of stuff like Groove Is In The Heart interspersed with references to Iannis Xennakis and The Boredoms. We would "borrow" stage banter from The Jesus Lizard's David Yow. Sometimes we would wear costumes (once I showed up as a chippendale dancer and our drummer was dressed as an elephant). Usually most of our clothes would come off. It was 9 times out of 10 complete bedlam. H.B. Culpeppers' (our regular residency in town) gave us a totally open bar tab and I remember one night us running up a bill that was close to 600 dollars. Pitchers of White Russians were the rule, not the exception.

Anyway, with that out of the way, Matt was one of the first REAL bass players I played with. And I learned a lot. I have an affinity for bass players. A good one is an amazing experience to play with, a terrible one can ruin a musical moment for me. I learn something from every bass player I have ever played with. I played with Matt probably more than any one bass player at this point and learned the most. So... NO matt, you're not the worst.

As far as you giving up bass to sing Barbershop??? That's simultaneously the most brilliant thing I've ever heard and the saddest (for us drummers that is)."

Name: A Fan (Detroit)
Question: What are those crazy drums you're using on the Zao footage from The Fear... they look crazy?

"They're not THAT crazy. Just mismatched. That kit is a result of a raid on the drum room of Electrical Audio in Chicago (where we did the record of course). The snare drum is a 1930's Brass Ludwig snare. Thing is incredible. It sort of predates the machine made polished rims that we're used to now. So the rim was like a fucking razor blade. But damn, that thing is great. Plays great and records great. I knew about that snare before I even got there. I asked them if it was still there before we even started unpacking. The rack tom is actually a Gretsch 14 inch maple floor tom. The floor tom is an 18 inch red Ludwig Vistalite. I used two different kick drums most of the record is with a 22" Gretsch (from the same kit as the rack tom). On the songs Cancer Eater and There Is No Such Thing As Paranoia I'm using a 24" Ludwig Vistalite kick.

I love trying out different drums in the studio and usually try not to record with exactly the same kit twice. I usually take mine "just in case" but my favorite part of the recording process is seeing what's sitting around and using that. Plus, engineers know how to get sounds quicker off of drums they are familiar with."


"There's a beer in Western PA called Stoney's. This is the result. "

Name: Ripper
Question: So will you ever play with Zao again???

"Absolutely. We're working on a record as we speak. And I'm getting ready to go back to PA to do our first show in about 2 years.

You're not THE ripper are you? I used to work at a record store where one of the owners knew The Ripper... they used to make us listen to Judas Priests Juggulator record all the time. On another related note... one of the guys in From Autumn To Ashes knows someone that has the Juggulator album art tattooed on his body. I just typed Juggulator 2 more times than I ever thought I would."

Name: corbin (austrailia)
Question: is that the same set u used in all the fata cds?

"I used my Precision kit on the Live At Looney Tunes cd. All of the other albums were Fran playing drums. I think he's kind of like me and uses whatever is laying around."

Name: Tony
Question: Here's one for Dr Gretz- What's the best compliment you've ever gotten on your playing??

"True story. While sitting in a Winnebago in Nashville, TN drinking honest to god moonshine out of a mason jar, Hank Williams III told me I reminded him of a young Bill Stevenson (ALL, Descendants, Black Flag). "

Name: concerned fan
Question: I heard From Autumn To Ashes broke up? Please tell me this isn't true

"Ok, It's not true. "

Name: anonymous (Pomona, CA)
Question: What's Ghosts for Breakfast? Are you brining it it to California??? please??

"New project. I'm calling it Punk/Jazz for a lack of better description. Trumpet, Tenor Sax, Bass, Drums. I have the amazing Nate Wooley on trumpet. Travis Laplante (from a band called Little Women that will knock you on your ass) playing Tenor and Steve Moore from Zombi on bass. I basically told Steve to turn on the distortion on the bass and leave it on. There is an even balance between tightly composed/rhythmic stuff and total free-improv hell. We're doing the one gig for now and we'll see how it goes. Hopefully I'll get to record the stuff and maybe do some more. No plans on leaving NY as of yet. Who knows. Still to early to tell "

Name: Zach
Question:i have a question for you.. i saw that you are recently playing drums with from autumn to ashes.. well francis has been a big influence for me for the last five years. very good musician.. well i wanted to ask what its like touring with the guys? and what are you views about life on on the road?

"Those guys are great. Fran is super easy to work with. He's an amazing drummer and it's always a pleasure to play "his" stuff. At the same time, he's never discouraged me from putting my own stuff in there. I learned his patterns note for note for the most part, but never really worried about the fills, I knew where the fills were, but aside from some really signature ones, just went for it. He was always fine with that. Those guys are super easy to tour with, a lot of fun, they've been doing it for so long there's very little bullshit. I've always watched other bands that I've toured with and wondered how they manage to function. There's some idiots out there.

As far as life on the road, I'm not going to lie. A LOT of it sucks. I mean, the first time you go somewhere it's great. But with few exceptions, it's all the same. You can't eat what you want, or when you want. You have to scramble to do laundry (or sometimes go without for a while), you can't even sleep when you want. In the middle of a long tour you can kind of lose your mind if you're not careful. It's all about routine and making your life as comfortable as possible.
here is mine:
wake up
hotel lobby/free breakfast
if i can, i try to sleep in the van if we're driving that day ( or I'll zone out with my headphones on or read or work on music on the computer)
get to the venue
(here's the fun part)
VANISH ---- I go away, I don't hang out backstage, I go for a walk get away from the club, try to find some local cuisine, see what's around do laundry. If there's nothing around see the part about the van.
Play the show
load out
Drive to the hotel (or if we're unlucky drive all night, which I usually do having slept all day and I HATE sleeping in the van on an overnight drive, I'm afraid we'll wreck, I'm perfectly fine taking the graveyard shift and driving all night downing coffee and listeing to Coast To Coast AM or Carole King.)

It's great getting to play music every night for a living, but too much road work A) saps your ability to make music with different people -- which is something I thrive on B) eat decent food C) enjoy the finer parts of life like a good glass of wine on the couch with your wife and watching a movie. "

Name: evan
Question: What's it like working with Steve Albini? I hear he's an asshole.

"I've heard them all: Elitist, Prick, Asshole, Audio Tyrant, Noise Monger, you name it. He's great. Super-nice. Will tell you lots of funny stories about all kinds of things you didn't know about. Loves poker, baseball, will teach you how to play "cat billiards" then kick your ass at it, keeps plenty of gourmet coffee in the studio, even had an intern that made these amazing coffee drinks for us that had maple syrup in them. All around great guy, super easy to work with, not a "dick" or "asshole" in the slightest. The most fun I've ever had on a session. Period. I think he's an asshole when the musicians are assholes (which we all know happens a lot). "

Date, April 17 2008

Name: Tom
How's the foot? When are we gonna hear all this music you're working on??

"Foot is 100% better. Done. Healed. I got the cast off in 6 weeks and jumped right back into everything. At the end of the day I got a lot of writing done, listened to a lot of music, read a bit, and did way to much "not playing." On top of that I missed probably my only chance to go to Austrailia. I did make it back up in time to go to Japan so I can't complain.
This music you speak of (at least a couple songs) are HERE."

NAME: Roland (Pittsburgh)
What are your thoughts on the one handed gravity blast? Ever consider putting yourself on

"I'm familiar with the gravity blast. It's an interesting technique but not exactly something I'm going to spend time on perfecting. I use it sometimes in "improv-type" settings as an extended technique, just another color option. I've never used it in a "metal" context and have no plans to do so. It just sounds silly to me. I'm not terribly familiar with Why don't YOU put me on? Bad voodoo to put yourself on something like that. My self-promotion tactics online are delegated to this website and the myspace page.
Aside from that it's up to the "fans" to give me that honor, or the site themselves. I'm not THAT narcissistic."

Name: Britney (Indianapolis)
I read that you're not christian but you've played with Zao. Does that bother you? Does that bother them? Why would you play with christians if you yourself are not?

"Ahhhhhh, there it is, been wondering how long it would take. Does it bother me that I've played with Zao? No, why would it, I'm proud of that. Does it bother me that they're Christians? Absolutely not.
I believe your personal beliefs are just that, personal. My opinion on matters spiritual is nobody's business and I don't feel that it has anything to do with what I do. I play with all sorts of people that I don't align with for whatever reasons, I've played with gay musicians and I'm not gay. I've played with sexists, I've played with Christians, I've played with Jewish musicians, I'm sure I've crossed some racists, who cares? I don't ask people what their beliefs are when I sign up, unless it gets in the way of making music or dealing with them on a day-to-day basis it's not a concern of mine.
I don't THINK it bothers them. They knew my deal when they asked me. I believe you can learn something from everyone and every situation. I am not so close minded that I would turn down working with a musician I admire for their personal politics."

Name: Matt (Cleveland)
Did you know someone flagged your wikipedia entry?

"As stated above, I don't really know anything about that and I don't know who made it. I have my suspicions but needless to say it was inaccurate on several accounts so whatever."

Name: Videodrome Question:
What have you been up to?

"Cleaning the kitchen, perfecting my martini, doing my taxes, enjoying the nice weather and the time off."

Date December 2007

Name: Robert (New York)
So where can I get some of those early releases in your Discography? Like Crank Radio or Napoleon In Rags?

"You can't. Those things are LONG out of print. I include things in the discography if they were ever "officially released" for sale or whatnot. I figure if it's out there, document it. If something is still around I include a link on where to buy it... eventually I will get my P.O. Box set up so if there's something that I DO have extra copies of... you'll be able to get it from me."

Name: none
Question: I saw that you got married. Does your wife tour with you?

"No. She has her own job. Sometimes she comes out for a weekend or so but even then, it's just to visit with me... not really to be on TOUR. It's actually quite boring and I wouldn't want to subject her to too much of the bullshit that I have to deal with on a daily basis. Who wants to ride around in a van for a month with a bunch of stinky dudes talking about Kiss and the Mets all day? "


Name: Billy (Cape Cod)
Question: I really think it would be nice to hear some sort of collaboration between you and Anthony Green. Not sure why exactly, but i feel it would be extremly worth listening to.

"Who is this guy? Do you know him? What does he do? Hook it up."


Name Josh (South Dakota)
Question: Saw you play recently in Sioux Falls with FATA, great stuff.... couple of questions,
what is that thing you were fiddling with between songs?
how do you scream and play drums at the same time?

"1) That is a very rudimentary phrase sampler. I load it up with little audio bytes to transition in between songs and generally make noise. Fran (Fata's singer) doesn't really like to talk much on stage, so instead of there being awkward silences and "Hello Cleveland" type moments we fill that space with things like loops of birds chirping, or recordings of shortwave Numbers Stations or Dawson's Creek dialogue.
2) Very carefully."


Date September 2007

Name: Chicagofan
Question: So why did you end up leaving Zao??

"There really isn't much to tell that hasn't been stated elsewhere. It came down to one thing and one thing only. I wasn't convinced it was a band anymore. I felt we short-changed the last album and gave up touring right when we were picking up steam. We had a lot of really cool offers that were turned down for no reason other than the other guys in the band didn't want to tour anymore. This added on to the fact that I was now in a different state made me question if it was worth me commuting back for random one-off shows or recordings that probably didn't have a home (since the Ferret contract had expired and was doubtful to be renewed if the band wasn't actively touring). The reality of it was, I didn't feel like I was going to get any solid offers for work (since I wanted to keep playing) if I was still in the band, so i "quit" to make it public knowledge. It worked. The next day I got the offer to join From Autumn To Ashes and Zao hasn't done a thing since I left. Which is a shame really... they had a really long run and made it through some tough times and things finally seemed to be rolling somewhat smoothly. Hopefully they'll prove me wrong. Aside from that, I have nothing but love for those guys and I wouldn't be doing the things I am now if it wasn't for them getting me rolling."


Name: Keith
Question: Have any tips on somebody trying to make it?

"You're implying that I HAVE. I've hardly "made it". I don't even know what that means. Even if I was wealthy beyond my wildest dreams and in all of the celebrity gossip magazines I'd still be trying to achieve something more musically. It never ends and I never plan on stopping. The concept of "making it" eludes me because I feel like there is always another level to reach... artistically that is. If anyone finds a way to "make it" financially that will enable me to devote more time and funds to the other side of it, feel free to drop me a line at"


Name: John Roman
Question: Get outta the shitter!

"No, John. That is where the magic happens. That is where I learn things in books and magazines. That is where the inspiration goes down. I'm gonna stay in the shitter for a while."


Name: TrueFriend
Question: What Five Albums changed your life?

"Well, I guess this would be different from FAVORITE albums. These are just albums that once I heard them it effected the way I looked at music and the kind of music I wanted to make. There was no turning back after hearing these.
1) Beach Boys - Pet Sounds --- Yeah I know... it's a cliche at this point. But that doesn't change the fact that this album showed me that you can make beautiful melodic music that is also intelligent. It's also extremely honest and at the same time not standard. I liked the fact that they were pop songs that weren't played by standard instrumentation and the harmonies, THE HARMONIES. Voices of angels.

2) Igor Stravinsky - Le Sacre du printemps (Rite Of Spring) --- Don't remember the exact recording (either Bernstein or Boulez) but up until that point my only exposure to orchestral music was Hollywood type stuff or the classics. I had no idea there were people that were alive in THIS CENTURY making music this violent that was being performed by orchestras. This led to me discovering and enjoying the later-Romantic era composers, and all of the 20th century cats which got me into Serialism, Minimalism etc. This was my gateway into orchestral music. Still one of my favorite pieces of ANY genre.

3) Ornette Coleman - Free Jazz --- Like the above, this was my gateway into the world of Jazz and Improvisational music. Up until that point I was only familiar with big-band and more bop oriented stuff. This had the same effect that Death Metal had on me when I first heard it. It scared the living shit out of me. But these guys weren't intimidating because they were amplified to 11... no, these guys were intimidating because they were raising holy hell with acoustic instruments and being beasts on their instruments in totally un-pretentious ways. Again, this led me to go back in Jazz history and pick up on stuff I missed the first time around.

4) Napalm Death - Harmony Corruption --- I'm not gonna pretend I'm cool and claim that I got into them with Scum, because I didn't. And even though I had already heard, and worshipped at the alter of Slayer's Reign In Blood, this was the first DEATH METAL record I had heard. It was the most alien sounding music I had ever heard. When I used to look at metal record covers in the local Camelot Music, I always THOUGHT this is what these bands would sound like (as cool as they were, Iron Maiden's music never matched up with the cover images for me) THIS was what I had envisioned. I take death metal very seriously by NOT taking it seriously.
It is a valid form of music that at it's best, has NO sense of humor about itself (even when it's obviously very funny). The best death metal is very serious, and that is what kills me every time.

5) John Zorn- Naked City --- I slept on this one. Didn't get into it until about 3 years after it came out. I wasn't ready before that... at this time I had already absorbed everything mentioned above. The first time I heard this record I thought, "Okay, so it IS possible to have the touchstones I have musically and put them together and make it work". This record probably fucked me up more than anything else because it led me down paths I NEVER would have gone down otherwise. The result of this record was me getting into a lot of the downtown NYC scene as a result of seeking out this John Zorn character that had produced this monstrosity. I can't really listen to this record anymore (i prefer where they went after it, both with the band and with the players other projects) but I would be lying if I didn't admit that it was a key in my musical development."


Name: Kirk
Question: Care to inspire me with some wise saying?

"Re-invent the wheel."


Name: Anonymous
Question: Your listed on the From Autumn To Ashes album and in the Deth Kult Social Club video... but why aren't you in the Pioneers video?

"The band's singer left halfway through the recording of the Holding A Wold By The Ears album so Francis Mark (the drummer) took over on vocals full time on the record. When it was done they decided to get a drummer so Fran could be the full time singer. I auditioned for the band about 3 weeks before a 10 week tour was starting. We filmed the Deth Kult Social Club video at my first show (about 2 weeks after my audition) at the Crazy Donkey in Long Island. Having just moved to NYC I had several gigs lined up (one of which was a recording session with the band Creation out of Conneticut.) A few days before we left for tour the FATA guys called me and informed me of the Pioneers video shoot. Alas, I had the recording session already booked. I don't cancel gigs for "better" gigs or whatnot. It's first come first serve, regardless of fame or fortune, or whatever. If I commit to a project I will see it thorugh regardless of what else comes up. So I explained this and they understood. So they filmed the video without me and I did the Creation session. I don't regret it for a second. It's just the way it is. As far as me being listed on the liner notes of Wolf, that was very nice of them and a nice treat when I saw the album art layout. I never expected that and never would have asked. But no, I don't play on that album even though sometimes people think I did."


Name : Michael
Question: What's going on with this solo stuff you mentioned in your bio?

"A few things.... there is a suite of solo drumset pieces I've been working on, roughly 32 "mini-movements" focusing on different combinations and extended techniques for the drum set. I've also been doing some more "electronic" type of pieces on my computer. A few "film-music" influenced pieces. And I'm also working on a "one man band" type recording, which is sort of lo-fi psychedelic "pop songs"."


Name: Adam
Question: My bandmates are trying to get me to use kick drum triggers... do you use them? any thoughts?

"Not a fan. The line of thought behind triggers is you can use two kick drums and have them sound consistent (not having to worry about matching microphones or tuning) and have them cut through the mix. I only use one kick and I use plastic beaters with a remo falam pad on my kick head. I also keep it pretty muffled because that's what the sound guys like to work with (plus when I'm doing faster double bass there's no room for the bass drum rigning out.) So, it's never really been an issue. There are some "metal dudes" that insist that you HAVE to have triggers. I say no. In fact, I had the pleasure of watching Slayer play from backstage recently and Dave Lombardo not only didn't use triggers he was using the FELT side of the beaters and it sounded incredible. You want to tell Dave Lombardo that he isn't playing metal right???? I don't think so. On top of that, I've seen more bands where the triggers are LOUDER than the kit.... so unless you have your own front of house guy, you are at the mercy of the house sound guy and it could work against you. I'd say ask them WHY they are asking you to use them and maybe rent them or borrow them from someone to try it out. But you don't NEED it. "