Inside the Circle with Ben Klink, Bass Drummer, Aspiring Singer, & Helicopter Company Finance Guy
Originally Posted April 2016
When and why did you start playing drums? Why a pipe band?
I started playing drums in junior high. I played the piano, the trumpet, and the trombone. But, those weren’t cool once you hit 8th grade/Junior High so I tried out for the snare drum in the concert band and got into that. Immediately after, I started playing in rock bands all the way through High School and into college. Everything developed from there into a passion and a hobby.
The pipe band was a fluke. I know the red hair leads people to the assumption that I am Irish or Scottish, which there is a little in there, but I actually stopped playing for about 2 or 3 years when I got out of college. It created a big gap and was something I wanted to get back into so I looked up bands on Craigslist to see if anyone needed drummers. There was a posting to learn Scottish snare in 6 weeks and then the opportunity to try out for the band. So, I took it up, played beginning Scottish snare with Kit Chattam, and 3 or 4 others. When I walked in the first day, I think I was 30 years old, and everyone else was about 12 or 13! Which was entirely awkward. Scarlett was in the class too (another drummer in the band.) From there I grew into practicing with the band weekly and it developed into what it is now.
Is your family musical?
I have a very musical family. A lot of drummers. My mom is a drummer, both my uncles are drummers, my aunt is a drummer, my Dad can play a little piano; lots and lots of music so it was highly encouraged which made it easy to keep up with it.
What was your first musical memory?
I had to play piano first and I hated it. It was very much forced on me. In retrospect, I am grateful for it now, but I remember Tuesday piano lessons. My Dad had to pick me up from school and I would go to my lessons. I would have to sit there and count out loud as the metronome was going… Oh god! It drove me absolutely up the wall.. Then I would have to go home and count out loud and I practiced on our piano at home. There you have it, my first musical memory - piano, counting out loud, and metronomes.
Who was your first teacher?
My first music teacher was a brilliant man- Don Royster. He actually had a PHD in piano studies from Yale! He was a phenomenal piano player and family friend. He passed away about 10 years ago. He is definitely missed. My first drum teacher was my Junior High band teacher, Mr. Lindsay. I’m not sure where he is at these days. I don’t have a lot of memories there. I remember he was a passionate teacher and when he would get worked up he would sweat a lot!. But actual one-on-one drum lessons weren’t consistent until I started playing with the pipe band, with Kit and Ed Best.
Describe your practice routine.
Well, I remember Tony’s answer so I’m going to say I have a drum pad down on my kitchen counter and every morning when I wake up and go downstairs, I practice before I go to work! In honesty, I’m probably not quite that diligent. I do play at several churches here in town so I always have, every week, at least two to four nights, where I’m doing something with the drums. It helps me keep my chops up and keeps my mind sharp musically. With the pipe band, we have practice every Thursday night, and then at least two or three nights a week, I pull out the pad and do rudiments and run through the music.
How do you balance drumming with other obligations in your life? Family, job, etc. and what inspires you to stick with it?
It is by far my number one hobby/passion so whatever normal people do to fill their time: fly airplanes, helicopters, whatever, I go drumming. It just becomes my priority. I get off work at 5:00 or 6:00 but I might not get home until 8:00 or 9:00 that night because I am doing what I love to do.
Who are your favorite musicians?
Drumming musicians? Current drummers (a drummer can go on about this forever!): Travis Barker of Blink 182 famedom, as far as flair and style, I don’t think you can beat him right now; Tommy Lee is a close second, that guy is entertaining as hell with his drum roller coaster. Then for classic drummers: John Bonham, Keith Moon, Neil Peart all of the sixties/seventies rockers that started it all.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance and competition?
Oh (laughing), like our Thanksgiving concert where I had to go out on stage without a drum harness because I couldn’t find it! Could have been the beer then too but I really couldn’t find it. You have to just power through it and pretend like nothing is wrong. You keep moving because you may know you made a mistake and other people may not. In that particular mistake, I’m pretty sure everyone knew because I was holding the drum up and as my arm got more and more tired during the drum salute, I was basically laying on the ground by the end trying to keep playing. So that one was probably obvious, but again, I just kept playing, went out with the corps, and then went off the stage with the corps at the same time.
What advice would you give to a new student/musician just starting out in drumming?
Learn the basics. Learn time signatures, learn how to read music, learn how to count, learn to play with a metronome right off the bat. There are a lot of advanced players that still can’t play with a metronome and its such a good tool. The boring basics. Get those down and get used to them before you start picking up tempo and trying to get flashy.
What do you think it takes to make a great/the best drummer?
Its gotta be your priority. I don’t know because I’m not the greatest or the best, far from it. But, it has to be your passion. What is the saying about 10,000 hours you have to put into it. Anyone that dedicates the time, week in and week out, will start to see the benefits and know they are excelling beyond their peers. It has to be your everything.
Where would you like to see the band in the next 5 - 10 years? What do you hope to accomplish personally as a musician in the next 5 - 10 years?
Within the next 1 year, I would like to see the band have more success at competitions and see some of the benefits of the practice we have been putting in and the time with Ed (Best) and Seumas (Coyne) and from there continue to grow. Get a full Grade 4 band back in Vegas, Grade 3, etc. and be more competitive with some of those California bands we go and watch.
Personally, I hope I can continue to balance my career with drumming and family someday, if that happens. I hope I can make it continue to be one of my top priorities. Right now it is 10-15 hours per week that I dedicate to drumming between drum set, the churches, pipe band, etc. I know that might not be realistic down the road but 5 years from now, if I can figure out a way to keep doing that, I will be happy.
How would your life be different if you weren't a drummer?
Oh man, that is a great question because if I didn’t have drumming right now, I would probably fill the void with more work and beer. It seems like that is what I do with the rest of my time. I don’t know. I’m sure I would pick up a different hobby. I probably would lift weights and get in shape and feel good about myself but instead I took up drumming. It's hard to say because it’s something I’ve done passionately since i was 10 or 12 years old.
What other instrument would you most like to play if you weren't a drummer?
I still want to get back to piano. I know I said that was one of the things I hated but its also something I really admire and it's a great chick magnet when a dude can sit down and rip on a piano. I would like to sing too. I want to take some vocal lessons and see if I can sing and do that with the piano - then I’m in!
What is your favorite thing about being a drummer in the Las Vegas Pipe Band?
There are a lot of really cool experiences I’ve gotten to be a part of. I can confidently say, if I wasn’t in the Las Vegas Pipe Band, I probably wouldn’t be able to say that I got to play on the Las Vegas Strip...doing parades through a casino… All the dorky things we do are really cool to me because there would never be an opportunity to do that in any other forum. The competition stuff is somewhat new to me but I’m liking the travel associated with it, the camaraderie, the bonds, relationship you grow with people. That is probably the best part and it is only getting stronger for us as a band as we develop our image and everyone develops more and more pride in who we are. We are all becoming closer and better friends.
What is your favorite curse word?
My favorite word is A**hole. Because that is what my girlfriend said I would be if I let my original response go out in this interview!