When, where and why did your dream as a musician first begin?
I must have “caught the musical bug” while still in my mother’s womb because as far back as I can remember, I was dressing up in bright colored outfits and dancing around the house to Michael Jackson, Led Zeppelin, The Beach Boys and Stevie Wonder among many others. But it really hit hard when I was about 5 or 6 years old and I saw the MTV premiere of the “Welcome to the Jungle” music video by Guns N’ Roses. I knew then that this was what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a Rockstar…girls, tattoos, cigarettes and booze!!
When and why did you choose the instrument you did? Did this ever change, if so why? Also do you play multiple instruments, if so which is your favourite to play and why?
My first instrument was actually the guitar. I asked my parents for a drum set for my 7th birthday but they got me a guitar instead…guess they didn’t want to hear that racket coming from my room without any sort of volume control. Can’t say I blame ‘em haha! I joined a punk band with some high school friends while I was still in middle school, just so I could get my hands on a kit and teach myself how to play. I’d write all of the songs; the lyrics, solos, arrangements and even most of the drum parts. It became obvious that I was getting better on the drums than I gave myself credit for so I figured it was time to start nurturing that and taking it more seriously.
Major influences? A specific song, band, scene, etc.
My whole passion for music was sparked by the classic rock bands of the 60’s and 70’s along with the early 80’s pop tunes that my parents would play through our home stereo, as well as my obsession with MTV. I was fascinated by the attitude and imagery of the early Glam Rock and Heavy Metal bands. But I can still remember vividly the feeling I got the first time I heard “Punk” music.
I would ride skateboards with the older kids in my neighborhood and this kid Jason would provide us a soundtrack on his boombox cassette player. One day he asked me to hit the play button and this voice just jumped out and grabbed me by my hairless 8 year old testicules and said, “It’s not my imagination… I GOTTA GUN IN MY BACK!!!” I remember thinking, “HOLY SHIT!! THIS DUDE IS PISSED! I’M PISSED OFF TOO!!!” Black Flag’s “Revenge” is, of course, the song I’m referring to. That’s where the real connection began for me. I quickly started borrowing and copying all of Jason’s tapes and learning how to play along to them on
my guitar. Minor Threat, Descendents, 411, Fear, Adolescents, Ramones, Misfits…you name it! I knew I would never be as good as Slash or Jimmy Page on the guitar, but this shit I could actually play along to as well as write my own songs in their same style.
Shortly after, I started going to local all ages punk shows and it was all downhill from there! The Punk scene made me feel safe and accepted. It provided a healthy outlet for my anger and confusion as a kid. And most importantly… it made me realize that my heroes weren’t untouchable! I could go see them play for less than my weekly allowance (most shows were between $5 and $7 back then). I could stand right up front and sing along! I could get up on stage and jump off and someone would catch me!! I could be a part of it all…not just a spectator.
Case and Point: The first time I ever got in a mosh pit was at a Voodoo Glow Skulls show when I was 12 years old…and now I play drums for them! How crazy is that?!?! Hahaha!
Successes and failures along the way?
There’s too many failures to even begin to mention in this short candid interview! Hahaha! So many in fact that I now take the “I’ll believe it when I get home from doing it” approach when it comes to almost anything in my life. But the simple fact that I’ve been able to travel the world and make over half of my yearly income doing kid shit like playing drums for a few bands that I grew up listening to, opening up for and ultimately idolizing are definitely signs that I’m on a “Successful” path, at least.
Any funny stories – lessons learned?
I probably shouldn’t share any tour stories publicly in order to protect the guilty, but as far as “lessons learned”… don’t trust Nigerian doormen in the Red Light district of Tokyo, Japan! You’ll end up getting a Roofie in your drink, your credit card stolen and your bank account emptied!!
Recommendations for those wanting to play your instrument or get into the business?
DON’T DO IT!! STAY IN SCHOOL, KIDS!!! Haha! Just kidding. All seriousness, follow your heart! IF you’ve got what it takes to do this… you’ll know! I call it the “Uncontrollable Passion”. Kind of like Dexter’s “Dark Passenger”. Haha! It’s always consumed me and has always come first in my life. As it should because that’s what it takes. Endless sacrifice, failed relationships, lost friendships, missed birthdays/weddings/graduations/deaths/funerals etc. Be prepared to constantly doubt yourself and every decision you’re making with your life! But, if ‘IT’ is in you, you’ll learn to harness and cherish that doubt. It will be the driving force that fuels your desire to get better.
Your future plans – upcoming tours, new albums, new videos, websites, etc.
I plan on GETTIN’ RAD DUDE!!! To just keep pushing myself to be the best drummer I can be! To keep creating more opportunities for myself that will help further my career.
Voodoo Glow Skulls is taking the rest of winter/spring off from touring to focus on finishing up a new record that we’ve been working on for the last few years. We were almost done with it when Frank quit the band which forced us to get a new singer (Efrem Schulz of Death By Stereo/Manic Hispanic) and take a new approach to the 16 songs we previously recorded. But it’s sounding killer and we promise it’ll be worth the wait! We’ll also be heading back out your way this summer with a full Europe/UK tour in July-August, playing a bunch of the big Punk/Metal festivals (Rebellion, Boomtown, Brakrock, Punk Rock Holiday) and some headlining club shows!
In the meantime, I might fill in on drum duties again for another Guttermouth tour this spring and I’m also learning a bunch of songs for another well known punk band that reached out to me about drumming for them. I’m not allowed to mention who it is at the moment! But if it works out then you’ll know soon enough… STAY TUNED!!
My other main band, Hit The Switch, has FINALLY finished our new record and are currently in the process of shopping it out to a few labels. It’s been a long road for us since our label (Nitro Records) went under, plus a couple members having kids, starting businesses, other projects, etc. But we’re ready to get back on that horse and start touring again!! Hopefully our fans still give a shit and haven’t forgotten about us!! Haha!
I also read on some “Punk News” sites that Jughead’s Revenge is working on new material to record and release but that’s news to me! Oh fuck… maybe I got fired and that’s their way of telling me?!? Haha.
Which specific instrument you started with and what is a good starter instrument? How much should you be willing to spend on this start up instrument?
I didn’t get a real drum kit until I was 17 years old so I learned how to play by drumming along to my favorite records on some old mailbox crates, couch cushions and pillows! Or whatever kit the drummer of whatever band I was playing guitar for at the time had. Every break we’d take at practice, I’d hop on their drums and try to transfer what I’d learned on the pillow kit at home to an actual drum set. It would only take a few attempts since the muscle memory was already there. But my first real drum set was a 5 piece Pearl Export Birchwood kit that I bought from a friend for $400 including a cheap set of pearl hardware and Zildjian ZBT and Avedis cymbals. I played that kit in the first couple of bands that I drummed for. After a couple years, I sold that kit to a friend and bought a slightly better Pearl Export Select Anniversary Series Birchwood kit for around $900 and eventually graduated to the kit I have now…
What do you play now? What kind of budget range?
I’m currently playing on a Pearl Masters All Maple 4 piece kit. I guess you could say that IS my “dream kit”. I fucking love it!! I bought it as a 5 piece (24”x18”, 16”x16”,13”x9”, 12”x8”) used for $1,000 which was a steal because it’s worth nearly double that amount… I guess the guy just didn’t know what he was selling or he really needed the money. I’ve always played it as a 4 piece and never used the 12”x8” rack tom. And recently replaced the 24” kick with a 22”x18” kick because it’s more suitable for fast punk and is much easier for any sound guy to EQ properly in any room, whether we’re playing a shitty dive bar or a big stage at an open air festival.
As for cymbals, I now play all Zildjian A Customs (21” Rizo Ride, 20” Medium Ride as a low crash with a 6” Z-Bell on top of it, 20” Ping Ride as a high crash, 15” Mastersound Hi-Hats and a 12” Splash for the ska stuff in VGS) but my head will explode if I even think of what they all cost brand new.
I crack cymbals so often that I usually buy them used on Ebay, Musician’s Friend or Craigslist. I also use a 14”x5.5” DW steel snare, all Aquarian Studio X Power Dot heads, Vater sticks and a Tama Speed Cobra Double Bass pedal.
What is your dream instrument/setup and how much?
Pretty much what I mentioned in my answer to your previous question… but FREE!!! Every little piece is expensive and also important for making a drum set function properly and sound good. Sometimes I wish I would’ve had that “Uncontrollable Passion” for the fucking Kazoo or something cheap!! Haha! EVERYTHING about drums is expensive!! But worth every penny! 😉
AJ Condosta’s band history:
Voodoo Glow Skulls (Skacore / Punk) – Dr. Strange / Epitaph / Victory / Asian Man /
Smelvis / California Street Music / Stomp (Canada) / Sony (Japan)
2013 – Present
Jughead’s Revenge (Punk / Hardcore) – Nitro / BYO
2011 – Present
Hit The Switch (Punk / Progressive) – Nitro
2009 – Present
I Hate Kate/Darling Thieves (Indie / Alternative / Rock) – Glassnote / In-N-Out (Japan)
2008 – 2010
Cardiac Black (Alternative / Rock / Punk) – Unsigned
(Guitar) 2006 – 2008
All She Wrote (Alternative / Rock) – Unsigned
2001 – 2006
Anemic (Metal / Screamo / Post Hardcore) – Positive Impact (UK)
2000 – 2001
Welfare (Punk / Hardcore) – Unsigned
(Guitar) 1996 – 1999
Hamper (Punk) – Crunchy
(Guitar) 1993 – 1996
…I also played drums for Guttermouth on a US tour in Nov – Dec. 2017, and will most likely be
sitting in with them more often in the future.