Marylise is an incredible drummer with fierce energy and a brilliantly clear position on music. She has toured in 55 countries and books her own tours. I saw her play in 2005 when she was 7 months pregnant and on her way to a tour in China. She was full of energy and had her idiosyncratic drumming style down. Her band Vialka is highly entertaining laced with costume and performance. I had the pleasure of interviewing her from France where she resides with her kid and partner in her medival house.
Full name: Marylise Frecheville
Hometown: Dunkerque, France
Where do you live now: Thiers, France
Bands you are drumming in currently: Vialka
Bands you were drumming for in the past: NNY, Tiptronic
What you do for a living: drum
“There is a transcendental point, an infinite explosion, a miraculous moment out there, in the vibration, where the sum of my cells is more than my body, when I stop thinking and have pleasure. Orgasm. It´s the good part of the drums. I think Kierkegaard calls it infinite time. I call it music.” – Marylise Frecheville
Tom Tom Magazine: When did you start playing the drums? Marylise Frecheville: One Saturday morning I skipped school and went to buy my first drum kit. On the way home was the news of Kurt Cobain’s death on the radio, so it’s pretty easy to date when I really started playing: 5th of April 1994.
Tom Tom Magazine: Reason that you started playing the drums? Marylise Frecheville: I was playing keyboards in a band whose drummer would rarely show up for practice. So I eventually took his place.
Tom Tom Magazine: How long did it take til you felt like a “real” and legit drummer? Marylise Frecheville: At least ten years. Now I feel free in most of my registers, but I am still learning.
Tom Tom Magazine: You played drums at the Woodser when you were pregnant. What was it like being on tour and playing while pregnant? Marylise Frecheville: Tiring but mostly fun! People took care of me very well, carrying my gear, and making sure I was not starving, while my pregnancy hormones made me feel good. Only during the 7th month came contractions as I was playing shows. Luckily the tour was ending.
Tom Tom Magazine: Have you always played the drums? Marylise Frecheville: I wish! I started with piano, now I play all kinds of keyboards and sing as well.
Tom Tom Magazine: What is your favorite set-up for your kit? Why? Marylise Frecheville: My last set up is a combination of learning processes mixed with the need of playing melodies, act fast, use my entire body and keep the whole thing simple and light enough to bring on tour by train. The base is a twelve inch snare drum, a fourteen inch floor tom, a twenty inch bass drum and hi-hats. A glockenspiel is mounted over the bass drum. Additionally are a heavy ride and a crash. (I can´t bring bass drum, floor tom or hardware on tour though)
Tom Tom Magazine: What would your dream kit consist of? Marylise Frecheville: The not-so-good-live-sounding glockenspiel should be replaced by a very light version of the Synare 2, but such an object does not exist on the market. I am considering getting a digital version of it, but did not find happiness yet. Otherwise: the perfect drums fit in a 5kg Sport-Billy bag and they´re not digital.
Tom Tom Magazine: How do you know Colin from USAISAMONSTER? Marylise Frecheville: I organized a part of Usaisamonster first European tour, in 2001. I did not meet him at the time as I was on tour myself, but Vialka toured the States later, he helped out and we met.
TTM: What do you do to get better at the drums/Best way to get chops? MF: I practice often, stay open, watch any other drummers, get books or occasionally look at some internet blogs.
TTM: What is your favorite drum warm up/what do you do to warm up before playing? MF: Before shows my fingers, wrists and ankles do some kind of yoga. At home I just open any book and set the metronome at 60 bpm.
TTM: What do you think the role of the drummer is? (In a band) MF: Mostly make an impression of time, keeping and unkeeping timings. Make people dance! It also depends on the band. In a big orchestra or in a duet should the drummers have different roles.
TTM: Do you play any other instruments? If so … how does that effect your drumming? MF: I believe my playing other instruments affects mostly the composition of my music in general, in which the drums are totally entangled. I write drums parts the same way I write for any other instrument, doing whatever, starting however.
TTM: What do you consider to be the most challenging thing about the drums? MF: I´d love my drums to sing (and my mouth to beat box).
I´d love them to be free and confident.
I´d love them to show me what we can do together to get out of here.
TTM: What’s your favorite part about playing drums? MF: When action bypasses Einstein´s theory of relativity. There is a transcendental point, an infinite explosion, a miraculous moment out there, in the vibration, where the sum of my cells is more than my body, when I stop thinking and have pleasure. Orgasm. It´s the good part of the drums. I think Kierkegaard calls it infinite time. I call it music.
TTM: What was it like touring in China? MF: Each time Vialka toured China was better. The first time in April 2003 was an epic punk story that ended by a trial and an eviction of the country. Then, as Chinese underground scene was developing with knowledge of amplified music and acquisition of sound equipment, as bands were sprouting over the country imitating their westerner peers, the shows got better and better, and the crowds too. Although one could easily complain about the incompetence of most sound engineers over there, we had decided not to care about it and give out all our wild energy to the people. It´s very rewarding. I love going over there for the very honest people and the delicious food.
TTM: Which countries have you been on tour to and why? MF: I have been on tour in about 55 countries all over the world except south America. This is part of my learning experience. What else would there be for me?
TTM: Have you experienced any setbacks as a female drummer? MF: Yes, many times, from “It´s nice of you to set your boyfriend´s drumkit” to the most common being “You´re a good drummer for a women”.
TTM: Who are your favorite drummers? MF: Nowadays none really. But when I started to really get into it around 1998 I fell in love with Neil Turpin, Sara Lund and Andrew Dymond, after having seeing them playing.
TTM: Where do you shop for your drum gear? MF: Anywhere on my way when I need it. Not on internet though, I need to try the sound and look at the craft to buy something.
TTM: Best piece of advice you got as a drummer? MF: Do whatever. Keep it quiet. Keep the pulse. Make things more simple.
TTM: What would you recommend to a new drummer starting off / advice for new drummers? MF: Learn how your hands want to hold the sticks, feel the bounces and listen to the skins.
TTM: What are some of your other hobbies/interests? MF: My kid. My medieval house. Books and theatre plays. It´s a lot of inspiration. I used to go walking a lot but my foot is broken at the moment and is taking a hell of a time to heal.
TTM: Who are some of your favorite lady drummers right now? MF: Unfortunately I did not cross any recently. I might have but I do not remember. My memory is quite selective, and as gigs accumulate I remember less and less people I meet unless is was really extraordinary. I always liked Katrin Ex although I have never seen her.
TTM: Who are some of your favorite bands right now? MF: Apart from the bands that are on Vialka´s web links and myspace page, there are Secret Chiefs 3. I also mostly like contemporary composers, like Gyögy Ligeti, Steve Reich, Takeshi Terauchi, Karlheinz Stockhausen…
TTM: What are your plans for the future? MF: I´d love to improvise with different people playing folk instruments, and tour India. I am also organising a Vialka tour for may 2010 (serious people please get in touch!). I am at the moment in Europe, soon in Russia and Israël, and hopefully Asia and Australia in the beginning of next year.
Interview by Mindy Abovitz (creator of Tom Tom Magazine)
Photos courtesy of Vialka:
With baby on tour, Anton Schevelyov, May 2009, Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine)
Singing the shitty monkey song, Yangon, Taiwan, April 2006