Linda Pitmon: The Baseball Project

Female Drummer, Girl Drummer, Lady Drummer, Female Percussion, Linda Pitmon, Alison Mazer, Karen Carpenter

In both Steve Wynn and The Miracle 3 and The Baseball
Project, Linda Pitmon owns the band…and the audience. She’s killer
serious and began their latest NYC gig at The Bell House in Brooklyn
with a solo fill so powerful, so blasting, everyone looked to see who the
powerhouse was. She grabbed the audience by their shirts.

– By Alison Mazer

Full name: Linda Pitmon
Nickname/pseudonym: Pitmonster, Or as Freedy Johnston says, The Pitmonster
Hometown: Minneapolis, “I cut my teeth in the scene there in the 80’s and 90’s”
Where do you live now: New York City
Bands you are drumming in currently: Steve Wynn and The Miracle 3, The Baseball Project, The Pretty Babies
What you do for a living: I produce events; I prefer playing music

“Girls, get on the drums, rock out, hit them hard if you feel like it. Don’t be afraid to
hit them hard.”

Tom Tom Magazine: Tell me about the Baseball Project

Linda Pitmon: I’m a huge baseball fan. Growing up: absolutely baseball crazy. Steve [Wynn],
my husband, is one of those encyclopedias of baseball, wanted to do a record about
baseball for years…close to five years before it actually came together. We were at
the induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for REM and Steve started talking
to Scott McCaughey. They are both huge baseball fans. We enlisted Peter Buck, an
Atlanta Braves fan, and it’s so much fun, makes people really happy.

TTM: I always found baseball really boring; but listening to your album has gotten me
excited about baseball. The songs!

LP: It’s the stories.

TTM: It’s a great album, infectious. When did you start playing the drums?
LP: Well, I started different things at different times. I started playing Tupperware
and Tinker Toys very seriously when I was three or four years old. Very heavily into
it. By the time I was five, I had one of those little Indian, with the rubber head, one
of those drums you would get at some cheeseball store, a rest stop in Wisconsin. My
Mom gave me a dollar and that was what I picked. Had that for a while. Worked on
that. Then I worked up to pencils on the desktop and cracking car dashboards with
my hands. Then when I was nine, I joined the school band. I took up drums. Did
that all the way through high school. But then I guess I kinda quit in the middle of
high school, I didn’t like the new band teacher they brought in or something
ridiculous. It wasn’t until college, a bunch of my friends that I made my first year
were all playing in garage punk rock bands, with a kind of 60’s take on it. That
appealed to me. And I was working in record stores all through high school and into
college. So I knew what I liked. Then I just started thinking, ‘you know, none of
these people are genius players. I can probably figure that out without too much
effort. So then I started sitting in with them in the basements when no one else was
around. I started playing in real bands and going out and playing shows when I was
25, 26.

TTM: Were you taking lessons throughout that time?
No, no

TTM: Your training stopped in high school? When you stopped the
school band?
Absolutely. Completely stopped then. And in fact, I never rehearse. Ever . I
don’t practice on my own. There will be the occasional rehearsal, when we have to
play a show and haven’t played together in a year, something, with our bandmates.
I live in a little apartment. I have these electronic drums, but even that annoys the
neighbors. I can’t be that horrible neighbor.

TTM: Do you warm up or do anything to get ready right before a gig?
No. I’ll stretch. I’ll do windmills. Because I’m old. Grandma’s not allowed to
pull a bicep. That won’t go over well. So I make sure I stretch out. I don’t even play
my drumsticks- I go backstage and see these bands and the drummer will be
tapping away and got a practice pad, loosening up, doing paradiddles. I can’t
remember how to do a paradiddle. That was when I was ten, twelve. And I’m not
sure I use them when I play, I’m pretty sure I don’t.

I’m pretty visceral when I play. I’m not thinking about technique a whole lot. I did
study really very seriously and I was definitely in competitions and considered
pretty good at that classical kind of thing. I was playing in orchestras as well. I
enjoyed all of that. I was listening to all kinds of rock at that time, but I did enjoy reading the music and learning cool pieces -I would give anything to play with a 30
piece band right now, it’s powerful and exciting. That was cool to be driving the bus
for a giant orchestra. Now, I would just make them play Kashmir though. Do some
work on the repertoire. It’s a really different thing obviously: playing written music
and trying to keep that all together. That’s a different sort of situation than going
out there and making up your own stuff. That was the hardest part for me: freeing
myself up from my training, more than anything. and allowing myself to experiment
and figure out my own way. That was a breakthrough; when I was able to do that,
then my technique came in handy. I had to sort of let it go for a little while to access
my primal self. Now they kind of come together and for certain songs or certain
bands, if I’m playing with a folkier artist say or somebody who is a gentler singer/
songwriter-which I really enjoy doing-I may not be accessing the deep primal stuff, I
may be accessing a slightly more intellectual side of my drumming in order to
compliment a delicate song. Any little hit is going to make a big impact. So you
have to think a little bit more and make a lot more choices. When I’m playing in a
band and we’re doing a lot of garage rock, I try to keep my brain out of it as much
as possible because otherwise that’s going to get everyone off the dance floor.

I don’t play with just one kind of artist. I’ve played with everyone from Freedy
Johnston and Amy Rigby, these great songwriters. Stay out of the way of these
songs. Marty Willson-Piper from The Church. I also played on the last Golden
Smog record, which is Jeff Tweedy and various other Soul Asylum/Jayhawks type
people. That was just accessing my roots, my Minneapolis roots, which I can do in
my sleep. Bluesy bar rock kind of stuff. I like it all.

TTM: How do you pack for a gig? What kind of cases do you use?
What do you keep in your gig bag?
Mascara…I always have backup mascara and a dry shirt for after I play. I am
one sweaty nasty mess. Being a drummer in New York is a lot different from being a
drummer in Minneapolis. In Minneapolis I had a car; I drove to every gig, that was
that. I never had cases for my drums. Now, I have a precious 1961 red sparkle
Slingerland kit that is gorgeous, pristine. I don’t want to be the one in history that
screws that thing up, so I have cases for it, soft cases. They have made it to gigs in
the city by Town Car, by taxi cab, sometimes we’ve had to rent vans. Then other
times I don’t have to bring my whole kit, so I’ll just have my snare, cymbals and kit
pedal. It’s a huge bottle of mascara, so that’s heavy.

Photograph by Jim Bennett

Interview by Alison Mazer

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