When you’ve got it, you’ve got it, and we think 29 year old Veronica Bellino has got it – and then some! In her short career, Bellino has become an accomplished drummer and percussionist. From hitting trashcan lids and pipes in SLAMM to whipping the skins behind a kit in Jeff Beck’s band, Bellino is a class musician with a long and promising career in music. Tom Tom magazine had the honor of interviewing this lovely lady and this is what she had to say.
Hometown: New York
Lives In: Los Angeles
Past Bands: Rob Balducci Band, Carmine Appice’s SLAMM, 13, DMC
Current Bands: Jeff Beck, Street Drum Corps
Day Job: none
Favorite Food: Seafood
You are a lady with such diverse talent. You’ve played everything from kick ass rock and roll behind a traditional kit, to hitting amazing beats out on objects like pipes, buckets and trash can lids. Have you always had that beat inside you that wanted to get out and hit things?
I think so. Even when I was learning guitar I had a tendency to tap on myself, desks, even car steering wheels when I drive!
How old were you when you started learning to play drums/percussion? Did you initially do that through traditional lessons or did you learn from playing by ear?
I could sit down and play beats on the drums naturally without any training, but I did take lessons to get the basics down and learn how to read music when I was about 12.
You’ve had the opportunity to learn from well-respected drum professors Fred Kaltz, Drummers’ Collective, NYC, and Frank Cassara, C.W Post, in the early part of your career. What led you to work with them and describe your experience?
Frank Cassara was the drum teacher at CW Post. He was very cool and a great teacher. That part of my life seems like a blur right now! Fred Klatz I met through a friend who was studying with him. I learned a lot of cool stuff from Fred. He had a great approach to taking snare drum syncopations and applying them to the kit in different ways. For example, we would keep 8th notes on the hi-hat, and play whatever was on the 1st and 3rd beat on the kick, and the 2nd and 4th beats would be on the snare. Some of the beats would be really out there depending on how syncopated the phrase was. It was a cool way to apply simple snare drum reading to the kit.
Who can you identify as some of your musician influences when you were learning and have those influences changed as you’ve evolved as a musician?
When I was first starting out I was really into Nirvana, Korn, Pantera, Sepultura, bands like that. Of course I would play and jam out songs from those bands with friends. It was a great time. I started out mostly playing rock and heavy music. Later I started listening to drummers like Carter Beauford, Billy Martin and Dave Weckl. I loved it all and I think it definitely influenced my playing, especially when playing rock. I was told that I had a unique style from other rock drummers.
How has your family supported your career as a musician?
They supported me since day one! My parents bought me a guitar for my 11th birthday and it pretty much all started from there. Later on, after taking some guitar lessons and figuring out that I was a drummer, they got me a kit. My mom drove me to my first show ever. I was about 16. We were supposed to go on at 9pm, but didn’t end up playing till 1am! She stuck around the whole time and watched the show. It was really cool. My parents knew how serious I was about playing and saw that I had the talent and the drive, so they always supported me and came to every show they could.
You initially started your career in New York and now you are located in Los Angeles. What are some variances that you see in the music scene in NY vs. L.A?
The NY scene is tough because it is very spread out. In L.A I feel that there is more going on in a more compact space. It’s easier to meet people and network. I’ve met some pretty heavy hitters just hanging around Hollywood. I find that very rare in New York.
You were asked to join the smash drum show SLAMM in 2007. This is such a unique and invigorating show where the use of percussion has no bounds. How did you become involved with SLAMM?
Well I was at a bar one night when a fellow drummer came up to me and said he saw my band play recently. We started talking and he mention that Carmine Appice was looking for drummers, specifically a female, for his new drum show. He gave me the contact info and I sent in a video of myself soloing. The guy that was holding the auditions said that all the positions were filled but he would forward my video to Carmine anyway. I figured that I was too late and didn’t think anything of it after that. Maybe one or two days later I get a call from Carmine. I remember him saying something like “Ey, you’re pretty good girl, how did you get so fucking fast?” So he actually ended up added me to the cast as the 6th member even though he wanted only 5. It was really cool!
You then went on to do some work with LL Cool J’s band 13 which is a blend of hip hop and rock from which you are a major contributor. What has that experience been like? Especially working with a distinct mix of musicians?
Hip Hop was something I had never done so when I heard 13’s music, it intrigued me because it was not just hip-hop; it had a mix of rock and alternative. It was something different for me and I really liked the music a lot. The musicians in the band were top notch, even the DJ, DJ Crossphada, played the turntables like an instrument. The dynamic was great. We got to record our EP at Platinum Sound studios, where we met Wyclef and Jerry Wonda. It was an amazing experience, and it was amazing to work with LL.
In late 2011 you announced that you were going to be playing with Jeff Beck. Is it true that he discovered you while looking for drummers on YouTube? Tell us how all that came together and what was your reaction to being asked to work with him?
Yes! I got an email one morning from Jeff’s management saying that he saw some videos of me on YouTube and was interested in working with me on a new project. I didn’t believe it was real at first, so I asked them if Jeff would call me later that day. Sure enough, he did! We spoke on the phone about how he wanted to do an album that was different from his past albums. I was super excited about it. He was playing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in New York later that year, so when he was in town, we met for lunch at his hotel in the afternoon and he gave me VIP passes to the show that night. I didn’t even believe that day was real. I was nervous as hell but he was very down to earth and cool when we met. He toured like crazy the following year so we didn’t get in the studio until the summer of 2011 to work on material. When we did, Jeff was very happy with what we came up with. I am actually singing on the album too.
What is it like to work and play alongside Jeff Beck?
Completely surreal, it is an honor to play with such a legend. It is so fulfilling to me too because I have worked so hard over the years and to land a gig such as this is the most unbelievable feeling. It is a very comfortable vibe too because Jeff is a great individual and has a sense of humor, so I can be myself which makes working with him that much better!
You have also collaborated with Jeff Beck on songwriting and arranging. Was that something that you naturally fell into or have you written songs for a while?
I have been writing songs for a while by myself and with different producers. I landed a placement with DMC, Run DMC, last year, which I am really proud of. His first single is called “Attention Please.” I wrote the melody and lyrics for the hook of the song, which on the record, was sung by Pauley Perrette of NCIS. We are all so happy with how the song turned out. I still write music all the time and currently working with two producers here in LA. Songwriting and singing is huge passion of mine aside from drumming.
You are working on establishing yourself as a songwriter. What attracted you to want to write songs?
I guess just music in general. When I started singing for a band years ago, I realized how much I loved it and even when the band parted ways, I still wrote and recorded my own songs. Eventually I recognized that I can actually make a career out of it as well, so I am striving for that. There is just something about recording songs and singing that gives me a high!
How often do you practice and are there any routine workouts that you follow to keep in shape?
I try to practice every day for a few hours. Sometimes its 4-5 times a week. I am always stretching and massaging my arms and wrists to keep them loose. I am kind of a health freak so I do work out a lot to keep in shape. I also eat a lot of food. I burn calories like a mofo when I play. As far as routine workouts, I hike in Runyon Canyon a few times a week. I also try to do arm and ab workouts almost every day. I actually took pole dancing classes for 6 to 7 years as a workout, which some people might find surprising, but it is so much fun and really shreds you out! I recommend it to anyone!
You are such a versatile drummer. How would you classify your style (rock, punk, jazz, etc.)?
I don’t like to label myself as a one-style type drummer since I love to play a bunch of different styles. When people ask me, “what style do you play?” I say, rock, hip hop, progressive, funk, jazz, anything!
Having already worked with some amazing musicians, are there any other people who you would like to work with in the future?
I would love to work with Lady Gaga, writing, playing, whatever, or even just hang out with. We are both Italians from New York so it has to work out well!
What’s your favorite part about drumming?
When I make myself and other people move!
Have you been treated any differently because you are a female drummer?
In the past yes, especially when I wasn’t old enough to get into bars. They door guys never believed that I was actually in the band. It is different now though. People think its way cool to have a female drummer in the band. I don’t know if I get treated differently, but maybe since female drummers are rare, people are more willing to listen and pay attention.
In the beginning of your career, were any techniques that you found particularly difficult for you to initially learn (i.e.; rolls, kicks, etc.)?
The one handed roll always blew my mind. But then once Fred Klatz taught me how to do it, it’s like, Oh that’s it? Then it’s just about practicing it to get it smooth.
Tell me about the kit you play on (size, cymbals, accessories, sticks, etc.).
I just got my new Yamaha Stage Custom Birch kit. I love it! I have a 22×18 kick, 10×8 and 12×9 rack toms, 14×14 and 16×16 floors. I will most likely keep it a 5 piece with one rack tom and the 2 floors. I have a 14×5 1/2 birch snare and a 13×6 oak snare. Cymbals I use Soultone – 15′ vintage crash, 17” and 18” brilliant crashes, 21″ brilliant ride, 14” brilliant hi-hats, 8″ latin splash, 17″ china, a stacker with a 12″ FXO crash, and a 10″ china splash. I use the Mapex Falcon pedal and Vic Firth American Classic 5A wood tip sticks.
What items can you not be without when you are touring?
My iPhone and beats headphones. Laptop.
What are some of your other hobbies?
I was into video editing for a while. I did the promo video for a group called Industrial Rhythm that I play with sometimes. We do mostly corporate events. But yeah, I like having fun editing videos. I did one for SLAMM too when we were out on the road and gigging. Mostly making fun of Carmine and the funny shit he says. Also all the crazy antics of 5 drummers! Which reminds me, I should post that on YouTube because it is funny as hell!
By Jen Ruano