Q&A with Terrica Jean Kleinknecht

Terrica Jean Kleinknecht
Interview by Andrea L. Gehrz

Full Name: Terrica Jean Kleinknecht

Hometown: Jamestown, North Dakota   Lives In: Portland, Oregon

Day Job: Material Handler/Apprentice Electrician (Hopefully)

Current Band: Magic Mansion

Age: 39

Drum Kit: 1973 Ludwig Walnut Cortex kit, refinished by Kirsch Drums3-ply maple/poplar/mahogany with maple re-enforcement rings and Granitone interiors – 14 x 10″ mounted tom, 18 X 16″ floor tom, 24 x 14″ bass drum.
Snare drum: 14 x 6.5″ Ludwig Black Beauty Supra-Phonic.
Cymbals: 14″ Istanbul Agop Signature Hi-Hats (w/handmade Ching Ring)
19″ Sabian SR Thin Cymbal
22″ Istanbul Mehmet Original Light Ride
22″ Istanbul Agop Cindy Blackman Signature OM Series Ride
24″ Istanbul Agop Xist Brilliant Ride

I have known Terrica Jean Kleinknecht as a personal friend for over 15 years. She also happens to be my favorite drummer. As we sit down in a sports bar, hungry and excited for our interview, I ask Terrica what she thinks of the place. “This interview is really EFORB….”extreme feats of regular being.” EFORB means doing regular, everyday things in an extreme way. Like, if you are mowing your lawn, but also jogging at the same time, totally EFORB. I can be very distracted by stimuli. This place is full of stimulation.…TVs everywhere. Total EFORB right now…..EFORB interview :D.”

Interviewer (Andrea L. Gehrz): When did you first sit down at a drum set?
Terrica Jean Kleinknecht: I was in kindergarten. There was a family friend, a younger man who worked for my parents….Roger Block. He took me to his parents house. In their basement was a humongous drum set. He put on an 80s KISS record…not even a good one. It was post make up KISS. It might have been Animalize. So yeah, he put on an actual record, not something from a phone. He didn’t stream it from YouTube. It was an actual record. He gave me some drumsticks and said, play along. I did. In my five year old way, I thought I was playing exactly to the music. It was the coolest thing. I immediately became obsessed with the drums. I started begging my parents for a drum set, which lasted 3 years. They made me start with piano lessons, as they wanted to see commitment. They eventually let me get a drumset. To start off, I got a snare drum and took lessons from a guy named Charlie. He was skinny, with a salt and pepper mullet, and he chain smoked. He played traditional grip, so I started traditional style. He taught me snare drum rudiments.

A: Who are your top three musical influences?
T: Hm. I don’t feel influenced by one person specifically. I am more affected by genres of music. Lately, I am most inspired by Deep Purple. All members are great musicians independently—Drummer Ian Paice, Bassist Roger Glover, Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and my favorite, Jon Lord the organ player. They utilize musical styles I have loved in the past — rock and blues mixed with classical…even some jazz. They use these styles in a cohesive way—never seems gratuitous, makes sense, etc. I often watch live performances from the 1970s. It’s like getting a music lesson on every instrument. They play together so well. It’s like a study in musicianship, on how people should play together. They listen well, support and challenge each other. I like structured music that also has space for improvisation. I do like the complexity of prog rock, yet it’s often not loose enough for me. Deep Purple has a perfect blend—incredibly tight, structured, complex, yet very loose, with space for spontaneity.

I am highly influenced by great jazz drummers. Elvin Jones is a huge inspiration. I admire him. When I was younger, I learned a lot by watching Susie Ibarra, who fuses jazz, avant garde, and traditional indigenous music. Cindy Blackman is a huge inspiration. I love that she can play as a standard pop rock drummer…holding it together. She can also go off on experimental jazz. She does each one equally well.  When she functions as a rock drummer, she doesn’t sound like a jazz drummer. She sticks to each form and context. I appreciate her style, she plays just right.

Terrica Jean Kleinknecht

A: Can you describe the details of your drumkit?
T: I love a classic jazz set up—rack tom, floor tom, kick, snare. I love a classic, heavy rock version, same exact configuration but with big drums. The John Bohnam original setup. I am now playing my perfect set; a 14 inch rack tom, 18 inch floor tom, 24 inch kick drum. It’s an early 1970s Ludwig. It had a thick, fake wood wrap, which I had removed. I asked Jeff Kirsch, a local drum builder and craftsman to remove it. He applied a natural finish. I have the best snare ever. It’s my snare drum soul mate— Ludwig Black Beauty Brass Snare. This style of snare has been made for a long time but I have a newer one. It’s 14 inches and deep. It’s the best sounding snare I’ve ever heard. It’s epic. With it I use an Evans HD dry drumhead. I’ve had the same head since I bought the drum, which is unheard of. I usually change my snare head several times a year. This one is magical, haven’t had to change it once. It’s the perfect combo, the Evans dry head on that specific snare drum—bliss.

A: What advice would you give to young drummers?
T: Get into practicing. Practice as much as you can, as soon as possible. Practice like a traditional drummer. If you can learn marching snare drum and traditional jazz theory, do it. Learn rudiments, inside and out. Later in life, this kind of focus will provide a vast musical vocabulary. If you prefer to simply sit down and play drumbeats, that’s okay too. If you want to be a true musician, with something meaningful and interesting to express, you need to train your body. If you don’t have the passion to play for hours, the drums might not be your instrument. That being said, not all music requires technical skill. No judgements against people who enjoy banging on the drums. I really encourage you to throw yourself into the drums though, get inside them. This level of commitment will feel good. You can discover a level of meaning in the drums you won’t find if you are a hobbyist. There is a lot to discover if you play a lot. It’s hard to describe. Committing to the drums provides more than technical skill. The act of playing becomes soulful. You can get to where playing is like meditating, a tool to access your highest self. For me, that’s the best part.

A; How often do you practice the drums?
T: I usually practice a few times a month on my own. My goal is to practice a few times a week. I hope to get back to that. It’s what I used to do. I love practicing on my own. I wish I could train everyday. Whether rudiments or playing freely, it’s meditative. I use my hands and body in a precise, repetitive way, like a mantra. It’s on the drums that I become quiet inside and just exist. Rudiments also condition my hands and arms to stay strong. They enable me to access more when playing with a band. My hands know how to move, what type of sticking I need in each moment, etc. This allows for improvisation, accessing  complex patterns and rhythms in the moment.

A: Do you tune your drums?
T: I do a light tuning every time I sit down to play. I always check the top and bottom heads. I fiddle with things. The technical or mechanical aspects of the instrument are fun. I do a more extensive tuning when I change my heads. I started tuning at 8 years old, when I studied traditional snare technique. My instructor looked like a butt rocker, but he was old school. With him, I practiced rudiments using a traditional grip. To him, tuning the snare was important. I still remember his snare and what it sounded like, really good and tight, not floppy at all.

A: Describe your involvement with the Rock n Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, Oregon.
T: I moved to Portland in 2001. I had heard about the Rock n Roll Camp for Girls, soon to happen for the first time. I contacted the founder, Misti McElroy, and asked if I could be a drum instructor. I didn’t think they would have me. I figured they already had enough teachers. Turns out she invited me and I got to help organize the first year. Along with a few awesome, local drummers, I played a part in developing the drum curriculum. I taught for a few years, and also at the Girls Rock Institute when it started. It was a really cool, seeing kids create music, especially kids who hadn’t played an instrument before. Very inspiring.

A: Why do you ride a motorcycle?
T: Well, I’ve always loved machines and vehicles—four wheelers, tractors, lawn mowers. My family includes bus drivers and truckers. My mom is a trucker. Growing up in North Dakota, being able to get places was really important. I learned to drive my grandpa’s pick up truck when I was 10. It was a manual, no power steering. I always thought motorcycles were cool. I love two wheel vehicles. My grandpa, Curly, got me a moped in high school. That was my introduction. He rode a motorcycle when he was young. I started riding about 12 years ago. I didn’t have a truck and needed to get around. I stopped riding for a number of years. When I got back into it, I felt trapped—by debt, in my relationship. I didn’t have any freedom, couldn’t afford to go anywhere, to travel. I was pent up. Getting a motorcycle was a way to feel free….like I was going somewhere. I took it out on rides. It felt like vacation, fulfilled my need for travel and freedom. Riding was also an outlet for my rage. Accelerating fast, feeling the power helped a lot. I was getting rid of pent up warrior energy. If I lived in a different time I could have been a soldier, fought with my bare hands, lived off the land perhaps. Being physical and struggling feels good. I like activities that require exertion, which can be hard to get nowadays. I was working a customer service office job, sitting at a computer, having unpleasant interactions. I felt disrespected. The motorcycle got rid of the bad feelings. Listening to metal and riding fast…best feeling ever.

A: What is your process to writing a song?
T: It depends on the musical project. Each project calls for a different approach. When I write solo music, there are two different methods I use. Often, I come up with a guitar riff. I get the riff going in my head and envision a drumbeat. Then I play drums along to the guitar part in my head while I record it. I might not have all the guitar parts written. I record a long drum track and alter the beat where I hear a change in my head. Song structure feels innate after so many years of playing in bands. I then record the guitar track over the drums. I listen through the song a few times and come up with more guitar parts. I add other instruments if the song calls for it. I’m a little technologically challenged so I’m limited to four tracks.

A: How do you handle breathing? Do you practice breathing as a drummer?
T: I think about breathing and body ergonomics a lot when I play. I focus on grounding and connecting to the earth below me, paying attention to relax my body. I want everything to be coming from center. When I do this, my breathing deepens and I take in more oxygen. In the past, I had issues being tense. I would have trouble getting adequate air to sustain myself – I felt like I was riding on top of the drums rather than being down in the center of them. Nowadays, whenever I notice that feeling of being on top of the drums—unstable or insecure—I draw my focus back to my lower abdomen. Sometimes for inspiration I picture Elvin Jones sitting at his drums. To see him play is a wonderful thing. (I was very fortunate to see this in a Minneapolis supper club once!). I have also seen videos of him. He has so much power coming from his center, everything flows from it – his arms are down, loose and powerful. He was entirely connected, tapped into the energy of the universe.

A: What advice do you have for young girls about band dynamics?
T: I assume you mean interpersonal dynamics? I would say communication is essential to maintaining a band (and enjoying yourself). Also, try not to interpret other people’s behavior – if a bandmate says something that upsets you, ask them about it. You may have read it wrong. Also, don’t take things personally – everybody has issues and moods – try not to absorb it. Sometimes it’s better to let things roll off. But be assertive if something consistently bothers you. Respect yourself and bandmates. Cherish the creative spark they’re sharing with you. Likewise, if you feel you aren’t being respected or cherished, bring it up. If it doesn’t change, move on. It’s a waste of time to be in a lackluster musical project when there isn’t love, or at least mutual musical respect. Always be aware of your ego – remember you (and your musical parts) are not the center of the universe. Be willing to think objectively. Someone may have a suggestion, or ask you to change something. You don’t have to give up your part. But, when you are willing to try someone else’s suggestion, the outcome might be awesome, a unique part you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. That is the magic of collaboration. Let people know when you like what they are doing. Pay attention to what your musical collaborators are playing, listen to the nuances, let them know what you hear. They’ll likely start doing the same, and together you’ll build an encouraging atmosphere to stretch the bounds of your abilities, all the while developing ideas you would not have stumbled on otherwise.

A: What current projects are you involved in?
T: I’m currently in a four piece called Magic Mansion. The music is mostly metal, with elements of fantasy, doom, psychedelic, blues, and prog. I am really lucky for the opportunity to work with this group of musicians. There are two guitarists. One is Radio Sloan, who has played in The Need, Peaches, and Courtney Love. Leanne Dunn also plays guitar. She is an awesome musician. Tasha Sloan, in a number of significant bands throughout the years, plays bass, synthesizer, and sings. One of her most memorable projects was Heart Beats Red. We just added Leanne, and are refining our songs. We have shows upcoming in Portland and Olympia, and also have plans to record an album soon.

Nectar; Layers (cassette 1997)

Roast Beast; self-titled, 1999

Party of One; Caught the Blast (Bass, singing), 2003

Pom Pom Meltdown; Fight or Fall 2003

Palo Verde; Zero Hour (vinyl) 2011, Eolian Empire Keep Our Heads Compilation,

History for the Rest of Eternity CD 2010, Split 7 inch with Hot Victory 2010, Split    Cassette with Cinder Cone 2011,

Haley Westeiner solo album 2016

Magic Mansion Live at Sloan’s 2015


soundcloud.com/terrica-trouble (Home recordings)



Band History:
Nectar—shoegaze band
The Mafia
All the Pretty Horses
Party of One
Roast Beast
Pom Pom Meltdown
Sarah Dougher
Emily Herring
League of the Tempest
Fact or Fiction
Palo Verde (Guitar)
Haley Westeiner
She She R
Magic Mansion

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