Full name: Carla Azar
Hometown: Huntsville, Al
Where do you live now: Los Angeles
Bands you are drumming in currently: Autolux
Bands you were drumming for in the past: I haven’t been in a real band before Autolux but I’ve toured with Vincent Gallo and played with T Bone Burnett.
What you do for a living: create music
Tom Tom Magazine: When did you start playing drums?
Carla Azar : I started playing percussion and mallet instruments (marimba, etc) in the orchestra when I was in high school my sophomore year. But I didn’t start playing a drum set until a couple years later.
Tom Tom Magazine: Reason that you started playing drums?
Carla Azar : My mom got me interested in it. She plays piano and there was always music around in our house growing up. She would have us play pots and pans while she played piano. I just always gravitated towards rhythm based things later.
Tom Tom Magazine: What is your favorite drum set-up? Why?
Carla Azar : Recording live are different for me. I always seem to gravitate towards a simple drum set when playing live, usually a 60’s Ludwig 22” bass drum, 13” rack tom, 16” floor tom, and 1970’s Ludwig Supraphonic 6.5×14. Reason = I’m always wanting to play better than I did at the last show. And for me, better means :::::: more musical, inspired, and spontaneous. I feel that it’s more difficult to do so on a simple drum setup and it challenges me to come up with weirder things with basic instruments in front of me.
For recording = I will play anything that makes a sound that I like. I definitely prefer to put together unusual drum sets a bucket for a bass drum, a glockenspiel on a stand instead of a floor tom so I can play a melody with my right hand and a drum beat w my left. I’ve put a banjo on the snare stand and played it with brushes. ////////// things like that. I try to be as creative as I can, because…. why not /////////
Tom Tom Magazine: What would your dream kit consist of?
CA : I don’t have a dream kit. I don’t think. I think that changes all the time. But the more things in front of me that make interesting sounds === the better.
TTM: What do you think the role of a drummer is in a band?
CA : Hypnosis – if playing something repetitive.
I don’t relate to drummers that don’t have a deep/heavy feel, so this is very important to me. If there are other musicians playing, I’m always listening to everyone else. Listening is ((to me)) the most important thing. I never listen to myself, unless I’m coming up with parts. I also feel that playing parts that serve the song and knowing when not to play is the most musical, hence ))))))))))) better.
TTM: Do you play any other instruments?
CA : piano/bass/guitar/various analog synthesizers
If so … how does that effect your drumming?
CA : In every way. Playing other instruments makes me more aware of those instruments if they’re playing with me at the time. I definitely come up with more musical parts because of this. When I play drums, I hear tones in there anyway /// I have always felt that if you record something with a band and mute all of the instruments except for the drums after everyone has finished, the drums/percussion should sound beautiful and musical without all of the other instruments in -playing other instruments basically makes me a more musical drummer.
TTM: What do you consider to be the most challenging thing about the drums?
CA : Coming up with new, interesting drum beats that are original with just a kick, hi hat, and snare drum.
TTM: What’s your favorite part about playing drums?
CA : Playing sick drum beats. Or trying to at least. And then hopefully effecting people whilst doing so.
TTM: Most notable show you ever played?
CA : There are a few.
With PJ Harvey in St. Petersburg, Russia. It was white nights there, so no night time for the human’s. Between the language barrier, constant sunlight — and the front of house mixing board smoking at sound check, coupled with jet lag and Russian Autolux fans (I think there were 9) —-surreal.
Playing with Vincent Gallo in Japan. He’s one of the most interesting humans I’ve met and besides the music being inspiring, Vincent convinced me to play guitar live, which I’d never done before.
Also opening for Thom Yorke in Santa Barbara was very notable.
No need to explain why.
TTM: Have you experienced any setbacks as a female drummer?
CA : None, so far.
TTM: Who are your favorite drummers?
CA : Jaki Liebezeit (Can), Clyde Stubblefield (James Brown), Greg Saunier (Deerhoof), John Bonham, Keith Moon, Stephen Morris (Joy Division), Tony Williams, Elvin Jones
TTM: If you could change one thing about the drums what would it be?
CA : I can’t think of anything, except I hate legs on everything. It bothers me on such a high level. I wish cymbal stands would just be poles that came out of the ground. No legs. Always movin’ them around; trying to make mic stands fit around them really wastes my time.
TTM: Where do you shop for your drum gear?
CA : Any store around the country, when I’m on tour, that has unique percussion or drums that I can find. Also people give me things a lot. When I’m in Los Angeles, Professional Drum Shop on Vine is good.. and they’re nice.
TTM: What would you recommend to a new drummer starting off?
CA : Listen to your favorite drummers and learn simple drum beats from those songs you like. And play along with them. If you know a drummer, have them teach you the drum beat. I think it’s more important to start off playing music and then learn how to play the things that you physically don’t know how to play second. That way, you start off playing music, not just a beat with no music attached.
TTM: What are some of your other hobbies / interests?
CA : I like to paint and I have been taking a lot of photographs over the last few years.
I have a Mamiya RZ 67 medium format camera that I love.
TTM: Who are some of your favorite lady drummers right now?
CA : Yuko Akari (Cornelius)
TTM: Who are some of your favorite bands right now?
CA : I’ve been listening to a lot electronic music -Flying Lotus, Actress, Gold Panda, Grischa Lichtenberger
Very good! Autolux has decent beats I’ve ever heard. Very balanced and structured. The Autolux is a perfect band! The only flaw was not yet come to Brazil. 🙂
Awesome. Carla is my hero. I was not surprised to see Jaki Liebezeit of Can is one of her favorite drummers. I have not stop listening to Autolux since Transit Transit came out and Trent Reznor posted that he could not stop listening to them. Good call Trent, good call. Thanks.
Carla is amazing — as is all of Autolux. Her drum parts and sounds are the glue for that band.
Thanks for sharing this interview; she is great. Long live Autolux.
Whats it been 30 years or so??? Just happened to see your article out here on the web. Looks like your doing what you love. That is soooo cooool. I still play but get a lot of hassels for it. Would love to hear you live sometime. Tell your bro Mark I said Hey