The Dead Girls

On The Beat with Eric Melin

This week, we put drumming madman Eric Melin in the hot seat. The Dead Girls' drummer talks to us about his rock-n-roll-all-night approach to the skins, his passion for air guitar, and his life as a movie critic. Catch the beat right here!

On The Beat is typically brought to you by Sergio Moreno, but has been overtaken this week by drummer and The Deli - Kansas City editor-in-chief Michelle Bacon. This weekly interview features some of the many talented drummers in the area.

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On The Beat with Eric Melin

 

 

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On The Beat with Eric Melin

 

When Eric Melin is behind a drum kit, you know Eric Melin is behind that drum kit. He's not the type of drummer content with blending in the background. Instead, he illuminates the stage by banging out each beat with force, flipping hair, and a smile that tells you he loves every second of his job. The mad machine behind The Dead Girls talks with us about his long career as one of the rockingest drummers in KC/Lawrence music scene.

The Deli: So, how did the drums find you?

Eric Melin: Wow. That's a big one. Well, ever since I heard KISS, I wanted to play rock music. I just knew that what was what I had to do. I tried the guitar, but it was way too difficult. I was always banging on my legs and desks during class in high school anyway, so I think drumming just seemed like a natural fit. As it turns out (I didn't even get a drum set 'til I was in 9th grade), I was practicing the whole time. I taught myself to play by plugging in a pair of headphones and listening to KISS, Van Halen, and whatever other hard rock I could get a hold of.

My parents were so supportive, they even signed me up for lessons at one point. The teacher sat me down at my first lesson and said, "Let's see what you can do." I played and he said, "OK, you know how to play rock. Let's start you on jazz fusion." Needless to say, it didn't stick. Reading drum music didn't stick either. A friend in the marching band asked me to join, so I did, for about 30 minutes. After getting up at 5 am to stand out in a field with a big bass drum strapped to my back and wait my turn to hit it, I nixed that as well. I was very focused on playing what I have come to call "the rock n' roll drums." I love listening to jazz drummers, but that's not what I do well and I haven't pursued it.

The Deli: You're a mad man on the drums and you put more emotion in them than a lot of other people I see locally. What's your approach to drumming?

Eric: Good segue -- ha! Everything I learned about drumming I stole from John Bonham: simple, powerful, serve the song, lay down a groove and put your arm into it. I don't go for the Neil Peart approach, which seems to be: hit as many drums as you can, as often as you can, in 7/8. I love flams and using ride cymbals as crashes. I learned to listen to the bass player after Jody Stephens from Big Star was essentially my drum teacher for a month while co-producing the Truck Stop Love full-length album, which is one of my proudest moments. All the recordings on that album were single takes with no click track and they have a classic, natural sound with a thumping bass drum.

The Deli: One of your most notable projects was Ultimate Fakebook. Though UFB and The Dead Girls both have a similar power pop twist to them, have you approached them differently? What other projects have you been in?

Eric: Truck Stop Love put out an EP and LP in 1993/1995. I was in Kill Creek for about a month, and then UFB and The Dead Girls after that. I was way busier a player when I was younger, especially in terms of fills and stuff. I've laid back a little more with The Dead Girls because we have a more open sound with two guitars. In UFB, even the guitar playing was percussive, so Bill [McShane] had very specific marks with his songs that we would hit all three together and orchestrate these strategic drum parts to go with. I think the older I get, the better my feel becomes, but I don't play at some of the breakneck speeds I used to...

The Deli: Obligatory question: favorite drummers?

Eric: Easy. Top 10: John Bonham, Keith Moon, Dave Grohl, Jody Stephens, Mac McNeilly, Bun E. Carlos, Steven Drozd, Kliph Scurlock, Billy Brimblecom Jr., Erik Conn.

The Deli: So, Mean Melin, you're reportedly the fourth best air guitarist in the United States, yes? Do you enjoy being able to get out from behind the kit and show yourself off a bit?

Eric: Hell yes. I'm kind of an attention hog so it's frustrating to be behind the drum kit all the time. And frankly, playing lead drums isn't an option because unless you're a noise rock band, it ruins the song. So I have the US Air Guitar circuit to flaunt my front-and-center rock skills. It goes back to wanting to be a rock n' roll drummer. I just want to rock. This means I'd rather play air guitar than jazz drums. That said, I've been lucky to play with people who write great songs and like to collaborate and be unique. I don't think I could play in a cover band for any length of time. One-off cover/tribute shows every now and then are fun (like Thik Lizzy, Heaven Tonight, and Sweet Band O'Mine), but I think I would get very bored playing covers every night. I always want playing the drums to be something I look forward to and not a chore. That would make it a chore, and that would suck.

The Deli: In addition to being a badass drummer and a rock star air guitarist, you're also a movie critic. Tell us a little bit about that.

Eric: I went back to school in 2004 when UFB broke up and got a film degree at KU and just started writing about movies. I started Scene-Stealers.com as a natural outgrowth of all the movie discussions we would have in the UFB van, and eventually was writing for the Lawrence Journal-World and The Kansas City Star. Now I also do reviews on 3 TV stations in Topeka as Kansas First News as well. Movies have always been a passion and it's another hobby that doesn't pay much. The thing is, you got to have things that keep you going and this is one of mine. I also got to make a couple of videos for The Dead Girls with some awesome local filmmakers, so that was pretty rad as well. There are many more, but these were the first that sprang to mind.

The Deli: So, I understand you guys have a full-length coming out pretty soon. Tell us a little about it.

Eric: Yeah, The Dead Girls just finished recording Fade In/Fade Out, our third full-length album, produced by the amazing Chris Cosgrove. We'll be finalizing mixes this week. I think it's going to turn some heads. It's definitely the most mature thing we've ever done and it has the most variety of any record we've made. We didn't skimp on the number of tracks. No idea was left unturned! But it's not all over-produced jackassery either. It's very focused on bringing out the songs.

The next time you can catch Eric rockin' out with the boys live will be Wednesday, September 26 at the Eighth Street Taproom in Lawrence. In the meantime, you can listen to The Dead Girls' exclusive Daytrotter session available today. Also, see the video to the right of Eric's sponsorship with Silverfox drumsticks. He's also sponsored by C&C Custom Drums.

--Michelle Bacon

Michelle is editor-in-chief of The Deli - Kansas City. She also has a weekly column with The Kansas City Star and reviews music for Ink. She plays with Deco AutoDrew Black and Dirty Electric, and Dolls on Fire. If you ever ask if she's a foreign exchange student, she is finally prepared to answer the question.

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The Dead Girls - Out Of Earshot
 
 

 
 

   

Chevy Music Showcase highlights local talent

Chevy has chosen to highlight the KC music scene with a short documentary series, focusing on 8 local bands and sponsored by local Chevy dealers. Starting May 30, the documentaries will air Wednesdays on KCWE between 9:40-9:50p during Entertainment Tonight and again between 10:40-10:45p during The Office. On Thursdays, episodes will air on KMBC between 11:29-11:34p during The Big Bang Theory and again between 12:58-1:03a during Jimmy Kimmel Live!. On Fridays, episodes will air on KMBC between 12:58-1:03 a.m. during Jimmy Kimmel Live!.

Here's the schedule:

And here's a video from Maps for Travelers, the first band featured in the series!