Life On The Road / 17 September 2022

Andrew Marshall talks hybrid drum setup and favorite Billie Eilish song

Andrew Marshall is a seasoned drummer who has performed and recorded with countless artists and bands. 

A New York native, Andrew first encountered the city’s vibrant music scene as a child. He received his first drum set at the age of 9 and soon after, his father took him to jazz clubs in Manhattan to develop his love for music. By the age of 14, he was playing professionally.

Currently, he sits on the drum throne for Billie Eilish’s ongoing Happier Than Ever, The World Tour. We catch up with Andrew to talk about his drum influences and everything about his hybrid drum setup.

Who are some of the biggest influences in your drumming? 

Steve Gadd is always top of the list. He’s going to be on top of everybody’s list, and deservedly so. The only thing I can say about him that hasn’t already been said is that I’ve been able to see him in several different contexts. I’ve seen him play with James Taylor twice, I saw him play with Paul Simon, with his own band multiple times, and I saw him do a clinic. He’s just the perfect amalgamation of everything – tone, feel, taste. I’ve taken a lot from him. Also, he can play anything. He’s a huge influence.

Andrew Marshall in action at Coachella 2022
Photo by: Matty Vogel

Brendan Buckley – he’s an LA-based drummer who plays with Shakira and many other artists. He’s really good at fitting into different situations in the pop world and playing the parts without overplaying. I’ve taken a lot from that. Those are the types of players that I try to model myself on.

Aaron Sterling, Steve Jordan, and Jeff Porcaro. Just groove-based players who are freelancers, who play with a lot of people and have been able to fit into many different situations. At the same time, they fully understand how to play what the music calls for instead of just playing what they want to play. That’s always been the lane I want to be in.

How did you land the Billie Eilish gig?

I got connected with Billie’s team through a couple of friends of mine. One of them knew her tour manager and the other one knew her management. They sort of got some recommendations from close friends of drummers to audition. There was an audition in which I had to submit a video. They sent me three songs to learn and some drum samples. I just programmed everything, shot the video, sent it in and basically got the gig. Finally, I had an interview, we did some rehearsals, and then flew to Singapore for the first show – Laneway Festival Singapore 2018. Actually, that was really one out of two or three auditions I’ve ever done throughout my career.

Andrew Marshall playing for Billie Eilish at Coachella 2022
Photo by: Matty Vogel

What’s your favorite thing about your hybrid drum set up and how long did it take to get accustomed to it?

My favorite thing is that it’s very musical in the way that it’s set up. All the pads and electronics are placed in a way that allows me to not think about them. I don’t have to think about “Okay, I hit this pad now, and I hit this pad at this other time.” It’s just musical. Everything is just right under my hands. I automate all the pad sounds to change all the time so that I don’t have to think about whether it’s a snap or a clap or a snare in the chorus. It doesn’t matter because all the sounds I need are there. I can just think about the groove, the music, and the interaction among the band. So basically, I designed it in a way that was ergonomic and musical as opposed to my previous setup – the Roland SPD. Those are great for a certain purpose. Especially if you have to set up really quickly and you don’t have a drum tech, but I just found myself thinking about pad choreography all the time instead of the music. So that’s basically the thing I like about my current setup. It’s very ergonomic and it’s no more than what I need.

Every single piece of the kit serves a purpose musically. There’s nothing that I hit once in the set or that I added just because I felt like it, because it’d be fun. It’s all coming directly from the music. Every single piece that was added was added because I had a bunch of songs with specific samples in their set.

Andrew Marshall’s Happier Than Ever tour kit
Photo by: Matty Vogel

I have two snares. One’s really cranked and the other one is really deep sounding. That was really just because when Billie put out her first record, there were a bunch of songs that didn’t work with the main snare. 

As far as getting used to it, because it makes sense musically, I was dying to be able to have an opportunity to change, because we were touring and I would start thinking, “Oh man, like I really need another floor tom or I want to use these V Drums instead of the Roland SPD or whatever.” I would have to wait three months to finish the tour until we could get into rehearsals again so that I could actually do that. But by the time I had it all set up, it honestly made my job a lot easier.

Have you experienced any technical difficulties with the hybrid setup and if there were any, how did you recover from it?

Yeah, I’ve had that happen plenty of times. I think anybody who plays any electronic instruments has had that happen. Especially if they’ve done enough playing or if they’ve been on tour. Recently, I had this problem where one of the pads on my left started triggering every time I would hit the snare, and luckily my drum tech was able to just jack the threshold up and fix the problem on the fly, which I’m very grateful for. He’s incredible. He is really able to fix things fast and he’s always watching me, making sure nothing’s going wrong. I’ve also had unresponsive pads. We were running MIDI over Ethernet, and we would have momentary dropouts like once every couple of months. It was very hard to replicate and so we just started running MIDI over XLR.

98% of the time, my setup is really solid and I’m really grateful for that. We spent a lot of time in rehearsal ironing out all the kinks and making sure the way we were routing everything was solid and was going to hold up to touring.

Andrew’s hybrid drum setup in action

All the electronics live in a rack off stage, and there’s a pass-through on the back of the rack so that we’re not plugging things into and out of the boxes directly and putting wear on the jacks. Basically, everything has been thought through to be really solid for touring, and knock on wood, it’s been great so far!

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

My pre-show ritual is kind of the entire day. On a show day, I definitely make sure to try to work out. Usually running or yoga because that helps me feel good if I get a workout in before a show. I work out on other days too, but definitely on a show day. I also do a lot of stretching at some point during the day, and then right before the show.

Andrew warming up backstage

I also have this little practice pad rig in my dressing room that I just warm up on. I’ve been working out of this book by the drummer, Carter McLean. It’s titled “Drumset Concepts & Creativity”. That’s really great for warming up. That’s sort of the main thing I work on these days, just trying to stay present and in my body. Also meditation. I often meditate before shows.

What’s your favorite Billie Eilish number to perform on the current tour?

We have this medley of “Ocean Eyes” and “Bellyache” that I really love. It’s just really organic and fun. The other tune is “Overheated”, which ironically was one of the most difficult to learn. For the first bunch of shows, it was like the hardest song in the set because there’s all this double-kick stuff on the pads and on the actual kick drum. It took me a while to wrap my head around it technically, but now it’s one of my favorite songs to play.

Andrew Marshall behind the kit
Photo by: Matty Vogel

If you could share the stage with anyone past or present, who would that be?

I’d probably go with Michael Jackson. I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan and all the grooves on his records just seem like they’d be so fun to play live.

Yeah, Michael Jackson.

What’s in your MONO Cymbal Case?

All my cymbals are from Istanbul Agop Cymbals – 24” Traditional Dark Ride, a 20” Traditional Dark Crash, 15” Traditional Light Hi-hats, and a 20” OM Crash with four rivets and that’s it.

Watch Andrew Marshall in action here:

Check out all our other artist features here.

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