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Mike Cambra – Death By Stereo and The Adolescents

When, where and why did your dream as a musician begin?

I grew up around a lot of musicians and was going to shows at a young age. My Dad grew up playing guitar and bass as a young kid and played in a ton of bands growing up, and he still played in some when I was growing up and is an amazing bass player. Most of my uncles were all in bands too. One of my uncles on my Dad’s side was in a band called The Tubes who had some hits in the past and still drew pretty big crowds. We would go watch them when they toured through the area. It was cool to see my uncle up there completely killing it on stage, I came to realise how insanely talented he is. As a kid watching him on stage I always thought having all these people go nuts to your songs was a really cool thing, it looked so fun but completely terrifying at the same time. I knew really young that I wanted to do that. 

When and why did you choose to sing? Did this ever change, if so why? Also, do you play multiple instruments and if so which is your favourite to play and why?

Well, I’m predominately a drummer in the bands I play in but I started out playing bass guitar. When I was around 9 years old my Grandfather had an accident with a lawnmower and injured some fingers. When this happened he asked my Dad if I wanted his bass guitar because he couldn’t play it anymore – I was totally stoked. When he gave it to me my Dad let me plug into his amps and play it when, luckily for me he was in bands so we had a jam room at the house. I was enamoured. Eventually my parents got me my amp. It was so much fun once I just learned the very basic notes and all I wanted to do was sit in my room and learn songs that I liked, that vibe you get when you are first able to play along with a song was amazing, it was like getting high before I really knew what that was.

As I was starting to learn bass my brother had gotten a drum set. We both messed around a lot on the instruments but he was also involved in a lot of sports so that took a lot of his time. By that time for me I wasn’t really into team sports, I liked skating and playing music, so when he was at sports practice or not around I’d try to jump on his drums and play. I was too nervous to play in front of anyone so when I was alone I’d go for it. I remember just slowly getting more interested in the drums and playing bass only at night when it was too late to drum cause of the noise.

After another year or so I wanted to learn guitar also cause I felt like it wasn’t that different from bass and I wanted to be able to play everything in the songs I was trying to learn. Getting into punk around the same time, some of the more simple stuff I was able to pick up on all three instruments and it made me want to get better at all of them so i could play harder songs. It was like a contest to myself to play harder tunes. I think it was just because I got better at drums quicker than the other instruments I just went with that as my primary interest. It was like the better you got, the more fun it became because I could play more songs. 

Any major influences?  A specific song?

Well style-wise while I was just starting out I’d have to say the early 90’s Epitaph/fat stuff mostly. With the help of my brother turning me onto most of this stuff, I’d say bands like: Lagwagon; Strung Out; Propagandhi; The Suicide Machines; NOFX; The Vandals, and then some more Ska stuff like Operation Ivy and Meal Ticket kind of shaped my playing. Eventually I started getting into heavy stuff cause I had some straight-edge friends that introduced me to more of the hardcore scene.

As far as a personal influence – I’d be lying if I said that anyone had a bigger impact on me than Josh Freese [of The Vandals and Devo]. When I was like 13/14 years old some older dudes I played in a band with called Peanut n’ Me would all go to the Showcase Theater in Corona to see The Vandals’ Christmas-time shows. He [Josh] was insane, I’d never seen someone play like that before, he was effortless but crushing – smoking a cigarette with one hand and playing with one hand through an entire song without it even being audibly noticeable. He was what I wanted to be. I thought that ‘Live Fast, Diarrhea’ was the coolest punk drumming performance out and it’s still my favorite record for punk drumming.

A very close 2nd [personal influence], and at times a first, is Derrick Plourde from Lagwagon. On the same level as ‘Live fast’, is ‘Duh and Trashed’ for me. I spent hours and hours trying to learn Derrick’s fills. One of the most fun to listen to drummers in punk. I don’t think I’d hear any arguments if I was to say he is one of the most creative drummers to grace the genre. Unfortunately I never got to watch him in person before he passed, I would have loved to geek out to him. RIP Derrick. 

Successes and failures along the way?

Hahaha! I think success and failure is subjective. To what I thought I would have done with drumming I would say I’ve had some success, not really a financial one but more for the experiences I’ve had. When I was a teenage dipshit I never would have thought drumming some punk-rock songs would have taken me across the globe so many times so far. I cant begin to describe how stoked I am for the things I’ve seen and gotten to do with some of my best friends. I actually just got back home from playing on the Flogging Molly Salty Dog Cruise alongside the bands that have influenced me like crazy; Lagwagon and The Vandals. One of the days I found myself floating around on a beach on a private island in the Bahamas right next to Josh Freese, it was pretty surreal to be swimming in the ocean right next to one of my biggest influences. I probably sound like the biggest dork now hahaha! 

As far as failures, well I can’t pay rent or buy a house from just drumming yet so I guess there’s that haha. I don’t know if I’d say not getting a band you audition for is a failure, but as long as I don’t totally botch an audition I don’t really get that burnt. You can’t be the guy for every band, unless you’re Josh Freese and you drum for a million different rad bands hahaha!

Any funny stories – lessons learned?

Every tour you do there’s a ton of those stories that when you get home you spend hours just punishing your friends with cause you just want to relive some of those experiences. I don’t know..punk rock climbing near Bondi Beach with The Casualties, Ten Foot Pole, Strung Out and a few others while out in Australia on a tour was pretty ridiculous. Seeing dudes in punker boots was a fun thing to see.

I’d say a good lesson you learn from touring is just to relax and go for it. Tour can get stressful as hell and with a bunch of other grown men all traveling in a van (or bus if you’re one of the lucky ones) together for weeks or months can be stressful if you’re the type of person who can’t live outside their comfort zone. The less you stress, the easier and more fun your time is. I mean, you get to travel with a bunch of your friends playing shows in different cities/countries, often you have to take a step back and realise how lucky you are to be doing this and living this kind of a ridiculous life. 

Recommendations for those wanting to play your instrument or sing and get into the business?

The biggest type of advice I would tell anyone that’s trying to be a full-time musician is go play with EVERYONE. Take as many opportunities as you can, even if it’s not immediately rewarding it might lead to something that is, because you never know what can happen. One thing could lead to another which eventually lands you in a crazy place that you would have never gotten to if you didn’t do the 5 things that lead up to it. Also; don’t be afraid to listen and take criticism, some people can be a total dick about things but take it with a grain of salt and always try to improve. If someone has constructive criticism about your playing, be able to admit to yourself if they’re right and don’t let them be able to say the same next time they see you play. 

Your future plans?

This summer I’m gonna be quite busy. I have an East Coast tour and a 5 week long European/UK run with The Adolescents, and then I’m in the process of booking some runs with Death By Stereo. Actually, Death By Stereo is in the UK right now playing a bunch of sick shows with our buddy David Fajardo filling in for me. I wasn’t able to go due to the Flogging Molly Cruise Line but I’m stoked he was able to help us out – he’s an amazing drummer that also drums in Stay Wild and In Decline. He’s a dude that you’ll be seeing more of. 

In July Adolescents has a new album coming out called “Crop Duster” on Concrete Jungle. [I’m] pretty excited for it to come out, I’m really happy with how this album turned out. Everyone in the band had a hand in the songwriting which made it super diverse for us. Death By Stereo is also writing right now for an upcoming album that we’ll be trying to tour as much of worldwide as we can to support it. DBS [Death By Stereo] are kind of the boy-scouts of hardcore/punk, we’ll do the most DIY shit just to be able to go tour a rad place and we’ve been able to see some incredible places because of it.

I’m also in another band called Common War that’s more of a blackened hardcore/punk thing that also includes JP from Death By Stereo. Last year we released a record called “Possess Yourself” on Irish Voodoo Records. Hopefully by the end of 2018 we’ll be recording our next one. 

In addition to music, I also co-own a punk-rock/graffiti inspired street-wear brand called Learn To Forget with my homie Reilly Herrera. It’s been such a fun thing to do with him. Ever since I saw a few things he made like 5 years ago I wanted be involved in his art. We just wanted to put out cool shit that our friends would rock and it just started organically becoming something more than I think he or I imagined and everything we put out is 100% designed by Reilly. He’s one of those guys that is just inherently artistic. The company [Learn To Forget] is literally just him and I. The brand is completely inspired by the punk-rock lifestyle that we – being in DIY touring bands – live as a reality. We launched the company in 2013 with a mindset that comes with being in bands for so long and just wanting to do something real and rad. Reilly plays bass in a mindfucking band called Night Verses. I think they are one of the most talented bands out right now, as original as it gets and talent just overflowing from all of them, aside from being the raddest dudes. Slowly the brand has gotten busier and developed into something that we’re both completely stoked on. Check out our gear on Facebook, Instagram at ‘learntoforget_’ , or at www.learntoforgetbrand.com

 

Which specific instrument did you start with and what is a good starter instrument?

As far as drums, when I started playing it was on my brother’s Pearl Export kit; random cymbals, random metal snare, random everything. I didn’t know about good equipment and didn’t care, I was just stoked to play. I don’t think there’s a certain amount you should spend. If you’re broke then just figure it out and make a Frankenstein kit just so you can play. Eventually you’ll figure out how to get some better equipment. In the beginning I don’t think its even necessary to have good equipment, its more important to learn how to play with what you have. 

What do you play now?

Nowadays I play a Masters of Maple custom kit. It’s a company based out of Los Angeles and they sound great. For cymbals I play all Paiste, pretty stoked on how they sound live and in the studio. The kit and cymbals are pretty pricey but I get some help from them so it doesn’t kill me that bad. 

What is your dream instrument/set-up and how much?  

Growing up I always dreamed of having a DW kit. Eventually I bought one and I sold it a few years later to buy this Masters of Maple that I play now, so I guess I already got my dream kit and sold it? But honestly, if I could just have fresh heads and non-cracked cymbals forever that would be good enough for my dream kit, because I hit hard and cymbals break often haha, such is life… 

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