“We like to blend cultures and eras”, says Tiffany Preston of Rainbow Arabia, the band whose sound was inspired by a Lebanese Casio keyboard with programmed Arabic beats. “We really do write the songs around the beats, it’s what we start with first.”
Although guitar was Preston’s first love, she started playing percussion part time in her old band Pink Grenade and present band Rainbow Arabia, as well as singing. “Playing percussion really improved my guitar playing and it actually helped me write my guitar parts more easily”.
The band, which started with husband Danny Preston, has used beats and a more structured composition for their new album Boys and Diamonds, out in February, under famous German electro-centric label Kompact. Staying true to the theme of blending cultures, the duo also has a new video for the song, “Without You” that they filmed in Serbia. The cinematographer? Film students they found at the local university using a VHS camera. Their last video was filmed on a Flip camera around Rio by some kids they approached at one of their shows in Brazil taking pictures. “We said, ‘Hey, wanna make our music video?’ The kid said ‘okay!’, we threw some Michael Jackson costumes together and made a video!” I’m keeping my eye on you Tiffany, what weird little cultural expedition will you take us on next? – By Heather Cvar
Full name: Tiffany Preston
Nickname/pseudonym: T Bone
Hometown: San Jose, CA
Where do you live now: Los Angeles (Echo Park)
Bands you are drumming in currently: Rainbow Arabia
Bands you were drumming for in the past: Pink Grenade (part time)
What you do for a living: sales
All photos courtesy of Elena LaCuesta
Tom Tom Magazine: When did you start playing percussion?
TP: I started playing drums in my first band pink grenade. I just wanted to try it and immediately fell in love with it.
Tom Tom Magazine: Reason that you started playing percussion?
TP: I started playing percussion in Rainbow Arabia because it was needed. Rainbow Arabia consists of myself and Danny. We both tried to do as much as we could live. I had a crazy set up at first. I would sing, play guitar and play percussion. I thought it would make our live set more interesting.
Tom Tom Magazine: What is your favorite percussion set-up? Why?
TP: I’ve gotten used to playing standing up. I love my SPDS drum pad, rotto toms, and any crazy unique percussion instrument I can fit in there.
Tom Tom Magazine: What would your dream percussion set-up consist of?
TP: Wow, well I’m really interested oriental percussion. I like new sounds. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of percussion on the computer. It’s a whole different ball game, but it’s interesting to take non-percussion sounds and tweek it and make them sound like some sort of unique percussion instrument. I think it would consist of backing tracks, floor toms, spds, rotto toms, and random unique percussion instruments. Oh and an amazing roadie/drum tech, who can help set it up at every show (ha ha).
TTM: What do you think the role of a percussionist is?
TP: Get peoples hips moving. Lately my role is mostly on the computer. It’s been very challenging to make beats that feel organic- on, but loose. I still do record a bit of live percussion too.
TTM: Do you play any other instruments? If so, how does that effect your percussion playing?
TP: I play guitar and sing. I feel like my percussion playing helps my guitar and vocals. Phrasing and timing is always something I try to improve on. Sometimes when I’m figuring out a vocal part, I will look at it from a percussive point of view.
TTM: What do you consider to be the most challenging thing about percussion?
TP: Everything. There is so much to learn. Thinking about how much better I could be; it makes me ill.
TTM: What’s your favorite part about playing percussion?
TP: Learning a new rhythm and making it fit in the song.
TTM: Most notable show you ever played?
TP: Hmmm that’s tough. I’ve always loved playing The Echo in Echo Park. It feels like home.
TTM: Have you experienced any set backs as a female percussionist?
TP: Yeah, I think people expect you’re going to suck.
TTM: Who are your favorite drummers/percussionists?
TP: Tony Allen (Fela), Valerie Scoggins (ESG), Questlove, Elvin Jones, James Mingo Lewis, Butchy Fuego (Bordems, Pit er Pat) and many many more…
TTM: Where do you shop for your percussion pieces?
TP: When I’m traveling, I stop in local music stores, and flea markets. I always find some sort of cool percussion instrument.
TTM: What would you recommend to a new percussionist starting off?
TP: DO IT! Have fun.
TTM: What are some of your other hobbies / interests?
TP: Recording, guitar, and singing.
TTM: Who are some of your favorite lady drummers/percussionists right now? Valerie TP: Scroggins (ESG), Shelia E., Yoshmi P-wee (Bordems), Lizzie Bougatsos (Gang Gang Dance, I.U.D.) and Shannon Funchess (Light Asylum)
TTM: Who are some of your favorite bands right now?
TP: Too many. There is a lot of good music out there!
TTM: Is there anywhere in the world you’d love to play?
TP: Sure I would love to play Japan, China or anywhere we haven’t played yet.
TTM: What are some of your favorite husband and wife musical duos?
TP: Die Antwoord, not sure if they are married; I think they are.
TTM: What was your first concert you ever attended?
TP: I went to a crazy punk show, at this abandoned bar in San Jose California. D.O.A.
played, Megadeath was supposed to play, but they didn’t show up. It
was totally D.I.Y. style. My first real venue show was The Ramones at
one step beyond with Drop Kick Murphys.
TTM: Do you ever have guest musicians play with you and Danny? If not, do you
think you might in the future?
TP: The closest we ever had was Butchy Fuego , he co-produced Kabukimono. We love him he is amazing. We did a short tour with Gang Gang Dance . Our last show we asked some
members to come up and jam. It was pretty awesome. We really want
to get an additional percussion player for our live shows.
TTM: Has being a percussionist changed the way you listen to music?
TP: Yes, totally! I really became a beat-head.
TTM: Do you see a future of more female drummers?
TP: Watch out, women are taking over!