By Anthony Lozano for Tom Tom Magazine
Photos by Stefano Galli
One of the more recognizable faces of drumming, Samantha Maloney has played with the likes of Hole, Mötley Crüe, Peaches, and Eagles of Death Metal. As we meet in her office, I come to find that recently, Maloney has devoted her focus to managing artists. One walk around her office provides ample evidence that this is the workplace of one of the most accomplished rock drummers out there. Hanging around are gold and platinum records from each project, signed records and memorabilia from friends made, as well as a gorgeous gold drum set highlighting just where her heart is at. On this hot day in the San Fernando Valley, we sit and chat about where her love affair for the drums began and run through her over 15 year career of well-known gigs so far. I get the impression that Maloney is itching to play drums again. She is just waiting for that next dream gig.
Tom Tom Magazine: First off, can you describe where you grew up and the vibes of the environment you grew up in?
Samantha Maloney: I grew up in Queens, New York and it was a tough city to grow up in. I’m the oldest of three children and my dad was a cop. I grew up playing basketball and I was very athletic. I went to Performing Arts High School in New York City, which is also known as Fame High School. So I studied drums (percussion) there and was also a very good basketball player.
So that inspired you to play drums?
What inspired me to play drums first was my parents got MTV. We got cable television and my life changed. I saw Headbanger’s Ball with Tommy Lee rolling around in a drum cage and I thought, “That is the job for me!” That looks like the most fun job in the world! Then I discovered this album called Appetite for Destruction and seeing Guns N’ Roses, Whitesnake, Mötley Crüe; bands like those. That made me want to play drums.
That’s awesome! Before your first band Shift, what was your experience with bands?
I had bands in high school, but the first real band was Shift. I was in 11th grade when we started that. Before that, I remember being fourteen years old and walking into a music store -Sam Ash in Queens- where some kid was playing guitar and he saw me go into the drum section. He asked if I played drums. So we started a band and we played friends’ houses and clubs in Brooklyn and Queens. It was just a lot of rock music that I played. In school I studied jazz and classical. I had to play timpani, xylophone, marimbas; all of the instruments you need to know how to play as a percussionist, but my true love was playing rock ‘n’ roll.
Going back to the MTV thing, the first time I saw you was in the Hole video for the song “Celebrity Skin.” For many people this was their first exposure to you as a drummer. How did that affect your life?
Hole was a life changing gig for me. Thanks to Courtney Love, Eric Erlandson, and Melissa Auf der Maur, they gave me my first big break into the rock n’ roll world. Although I had been touring with Shift for six years, I got the call to play with Hole and honestly I knew nothing about that band except that Courtney Love was the singer. So, when I got the call to audition, I thought why not? I’ll just go and try out, but I had to fly to LA from New York. I remember the ticket cost me $620, which was a lot of money at the time; still is. So I said I’m going to give this a shot. I went out to LA, tried out, and I got the call the next day. They asked me if I was interested in playing with them. I said, “Hell yeah!” Before I knew it, I was on a plane again the next week to go film the video with them. I didn’t even have a chance to go home and tell Shift that I had done the video. It was already announced on MTV that I was their new drummer. So, it was a crazy. I started touring. I had my first real tour bus and I had my first drum tech. When I got the gig for Hole, I honestly was more excited at the fact that my drum tech was Tommy Aldridge’s (of Whitesnake) drum tech rather than the fact I was in Hole. ’Cause I got to talk to him and ask him, “What was it like being on the road with Whitesnake?”
So, how did you go from Hole to Mötley Crüe,?
In May of 2000, Courtney had decided she wanted to do a movie and Melissa wanted to move on. We didn’t know what we wanted to do, so me, Eric, and Courtney started auditioning new bass players. I was still living in New York and was commuting to L.A. One morning, I was home and my phone rang and my friend said, “Nikki Sixx is trying to reach you! He wants you to play in Mötley Crüe!” Tommy (Lee) had taken a sabbatical. My friend told me that their current drummer Randy (Castillo) was sick so they needed a replacement for maybe a week or so, to fill some dates coming up. So, I said, “Well give Nikki my number.” When Nikki called me, I said, “Are you kidding me?!” And he said, “No, I’m serious, I want you to get on a plane.” I said “You get me a ticket, I will be on a plane in an hour,” and basically that’s what happened. I packed up my bags, went to the airport, with the ticket waiting there for me. The next thing I know, I’m in LA, driving to rehearse with Mötley Crüe. It was the most surreal thing that has happened to me, since when I was 14 years old, I was watching Tommy Lee roll around in a drum cage. 10 years later at 24, I was playing the gig that I dreamed of playing.
Living the dream.
I was living the dream. (smiles)
So, after your stint with the Crüe, along came a woman they call Peaches. How did this come about?
I met this woman who was Peaches’ manager and told her that I was obsessed with Peaches and I needed to meet her. She said, “Well, Peaches is looking for a female drummer. I think you guys should meet.” We did meet the night she played a New Year’s Eve party in New York. Peaches and I hit it off right away. She asked me if I wanted to come to Berlin and write with her for her new album, which was called “Impeach my Bush.” So, of course, when Peaches calls, you gotta go.
It had been a while since I had seen you on television, then I saw you performing with Eagles of Death Metal. How did this all happen?
I was home from Berlin, back in LA [Samantha had moved from New York to LA around her time with Mötley Crüe] and I got a phone call from Josh Homme, a friend of mine, who is the singer for Queens of the Stone Age. (I knew Josh because Queens of the Stone Age had just started in 1998 and Melissa Auf der Maur, bassist of Hole, was obsessed with that band. Auf der Maur really championed for them to be our opening act for our tour in the States, which they were.) So Josh was saying that he had this band called Eagles of Death Metal and he was a drummer, but he couldn’t play with them anymore because he had to go back out with Queens. They needed a replacement and he wanted to know if I wanted to do it. I said, “Well, what’s it sound like?” He said, “You gotta come over. I gotta play you some music.” So I went to his house and heard this album and I thought that this is the most fun rock n’ roll party music I’ve ever heard. That whole album “Peace, Love, and Death Metal,” you just turn it up from beginning to end -any party you’re at- that is the CD you have to listen to. Everybody’s happy when they hear Eagles of Death Metal. So, that’s how I got the Eagles of Death Metal gig. I played with them for over a year, touring all over the world.
Now, you are one of the most respected female drummers out there. But, you don’t hear a lot of praise usually for female drummers in the mainstream. What is your stance on this and why do you think this is?
Times are changing. There are more girls that are playing. I just think it’s ridiculous. Either you’re talented or you’re not. Either you’ve got it or you don’t. Either you’re a great drummer or you’re a good drummer. Whether you’re a guy or a girl….you’re good or you’re not. What gender you are? Who cares?
Samantha currently is a partner of a worldwide music management company for the past three years. She is also a judge/music mentor on the NBC/COZI TV network show called “Next Great Family Band” where they search for the next great band who has family members in them! Her top two choices this season were Vessio and The Sledge Grits Band. Both have awesome female drummers in them.