An Interview with Tim Lancaster
Tim Lancaster is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and singer. With music spanning the spectrum of pop-rock-psychedelic-punk to modern jazz, Tim Lancaster is about eliminating sonic boundaries. Generally known for his jazz drumming, Tim Lancaster has performed with some of today’s greatest musicians. With over a hundred original compositions to his credit, he continues to break boundaries with his original music spanning the far reaches of jazz and rock to modern electronic music. In this interview, we discussed his inspirations, start making music, and more.
Hey! Introduce yourself. Where are you from?
I grew up in a small town in Central Massachusetts. I moved to NJ years back to go to college and be close to the NYC music scene, after finishing my music degree in Jazz Studies at William Paterson University, I stayed and made the area home.
When did you start making music?
Like a lot of kids, I started playing drums in the middle school band. I took piano lessons and drum lessons and joined a rock group when I was sixteen. My father sent me to Berklee College of Music Summer Performance Program prior to my senior year of high school. That summer in Boston changed my life. I became hooked on jazz and my healthy obsession with Miles Davis began, I couldn’t practice, listen, or play enough music at that point
Who inspired you to start making music?
My older brother Brian and sister Liz played music and introduced me to a ton of great music, like really diverse music. To this day I still listen to Black Sabbath, Gram Parsons, Iron Maiden, Frank Zappa, Van Halen, Prince, Genesis, JP Harvey, Nirvana, The Melvins, Joni Mitchell, The Counting Crows, Ryan Adams, Johnny Cash, The Smiths, Husker Du. I’ll stop there because it’s a long list. I inherited my jazz bug from my father. Plus my dad is Detroit, Motown. I had great albums to listen to, you know, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Aretha Franklin. But he also had a ton of Chick Corea, Miles, Art Blakey, George Benson, Jimmy Smith, Wes, I mean I guess I was lucky to have access to some of the greatest music ever made.
How would you describe your music style?
My music style? Oh boy, sometimes this gets interesting. I love rock music. It’s what caught my ear first. I have always followed the alternative rock and punk music scene. I guess I gravitated toward indie music, kind of in a way to search out really interesting music, Here’s an example. When I first heard Return of the Rat on an early Nirvana recording, I learned he didn’t write the song. I had to know who did it. Well, Greg Sage and The Wipers wrote and recorded that song in 1980 on the album Is this Real? So I listened to everything by Greg Sage and to this day,I still LOVE the Wipers. Over the years, I continued to write modern rock stuff over the years and I have incorporated guitar into my playing and writing process. I guess it’s just another aspect of what I hear in my head and just has to get out of there sometimes, Jazz and punk rock have a lot of similarities in their hearts. How would you describe John Zorn’s music? That’s a graduate thesis in and of itself.
I am a jazz drummer at heart and by profession but, I have had the most musical success with my eclectic vision of rock. The idea behind The Tim Lancaster Conspiracy is that the group might show up and play rock or jazz or whatever we feel like playing, It’s probably best not to label it. It’s a conspiracy! It’s my secret plot to merge together all the musical ideas knocking around in my mind.
Who are you listening to now?
You want to know what’s spinning on the turntable or playing on the iPhone? I buy any new Ryan Adams’ albums as they come out. My wife and I just saw one of his concerts at Carnegie Hall. Now, this guy can really do it all. He’s a punk rocker and country singer-songwriter at heart. I love Hank Jones and at one time I wanted to be him, during my short-lived jazz piano phase. So I have been listening to The Hank Jones Trio a lot as well as Chris Cornell for inspiration, I really like his solo albums and they are underrated. I like Euphoria Morning. I try to listen to anything by Pat Bianchi, Paul Bollenback, and Mike DiRubbo, my current favorite jazz musicians and some of the baddest cats on the planet.
- Ryan Adams, Romeo & Juliet
- The Hank Jones Trio
- Chris Cornell, Euphoria Morning
- Paul Bollenback, Double Gemini
- Pat Bianchi, Back Home
- Mike DiRubbo, Chronos
- Husker Du, Candy Apple Grey
What’s your best project or single so far?
I had my most success with the album The Tim Lancaster Conspiracy. The video for Bad Sex Face played at a lot of independent film festivals and won some awards.
Any upcoming releases from you to look out for?
Definitely, Look out for a new single and video to be released later this Summer. It’s called DAMAGE. I think it will be something a little unexpected. It’s an instrumental. I’m happy with the recording.
Have any shoutouts?
Sure. My first shoutout goes to Ed Scheindlin at DCR for believing in my vision. Secondly, I would like to thank Pat Bianchi, Paul Bollenback, and Mike DiRubbo, the baddest jazz cats on earth, for taking part in the next phase of The Tim Lancaster Conspiracy. There will be more to come from this band. And one last shout out to Mark Griffith, editor and chief of Modern Drummer magazine www.moderndrummer.com, and producer of my upcoming album. Mark’s encouragement and belief in me go back to our college years. His friendship means more to me than he knows.
Listen to everything The Tim Lancaster Conspiracy on Spotify.