Ron Keel Band drummer Jeff ‘The Rev’ Koller does a Q&A interview and discusses drums, techniques, his setup and tips. Jeff’s playing can be heard on the new RKB release ‘SOUTH X SOUTH DAKOTA’. During recording sessions for their 2019 original album release FIGHT LIKE A BAND, the Ron Keel Band warmed up each day by ripping through some of their favorite southern rock classics. What started as a fun way to loosen up in the studio has now turned into ‘SOUTH X SOUTH DAKOTA’, an 11-track covers album featuring the music of Skynyrd, Allman Brothers, Outlaws, Blackfoot, Molly Hatchet, .38 Special, Creedence and more, releasing worldwide April 24th on the HighVolMusic label.
Give us a little history on how you got in to music and what inspired to you to play drums.
REV: I was FORCED to take piano lessons during elementary school. So, I learned early how to
read music and play the piano. As I got older, I played drums in the school bands. And I played along with all of my favorite bands on a set of boxes and cake pans. Finally got my first real drums in Middle School! I loved music and loved the drums because they pace the band. Drums just looked cool.
Did you have a drum teacher or are you self-taught? If self-taught, how did you teach yourself?
REV: While I did have band directors and a piano teacher early on, I was mostly self-taught. I learned a lot by watching other drummers play. I had a lot of friends who were good musicians growing up and they helped me too. But I learned the most by just playing along with my favorite records and bands. In all I learned to play keys, guitar, bass and can harmonize vocally to anything. I also have perfect pitch. This all came from those piano lessons I was FORCED to take!
What were the things that you practiced that brought you the best results?
REV: Playing along with other drummers when I was young. And there is nothing like playing live shows.
Let’s talk a bit about foot technique. What advice can you give readers about developing speed and accuracy?
REV: I am a double kick freak. I have always felt that you have four contact points on the kit, so why not use all four? I suggest staying balanced between with your kick pedals. Make sure they are aligned with your legs and feet while you are sitting on the throne. And tuck the Hi Hat pedal in as close as you can get it. Keep it straight. Speed comes from practice and playing live shows. The more you play the stronger you get. HEELS UP!!
What type of grip to you use on the sticks?
What type of warm up techniques do you do?
REV: Finger stretches. Arm and neck stretches.
How often do you practice playing the drums?
REV: Not often enough! Sometimes it’s hard when my gear is in the truck.
What type of player are you? Are you a flashy Tommy Lee type player or more of a Cozy Powell/Bill Ward type player and why?
REV: I am aggressive. Like to hit ‘em hard. Play every show like it might be my last one. I like watching a drummer who covers his kit well, brings some showmanship and flash, and plays with passion. You will see me throw a stick from time to time. Also twirl or flip or balance one standing up on my open palm. But putting on a show is the rock drummer’s job!
Who is your favorite drummer?
REV: Can’t name a #1. But I learned a lot from Peart, Aldridge, Paice, Moon and Rudd.
What was your first kit and what is your ultimate drum kit?
REV: I had Ludwig Standard Red/Black swirl finish. Wish I still had that kit. I played a Ludwig Octaplus for many years. Currently I have a DW Collectors Maple kit with 7 Toms, 2 Kicks and an Edge Snare. I have always had a big kit. Right now my setup is: 2-22 Kicks, 18 and 16 Floor Toms, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14 Rack Toms 14×5 EDGE Snare
Can you tell us what drum setup you are currently using in the studio and on the road?
REV: Always varies upon the material or show I am doing at the time. My kit can be made into anything that’s required that day.
Tell us about your cymbal setup and why this brand.
REV: Right now, I am playing SABIAN. I love the AAX X-Celerator Hats. The Heavy Ride sounds great and they also have a killer 21” Extreme China that’s ruthless. Also: 22 Ride, 2-18″ Crash 2-16″ Crash, 14” Crash, 14” Hats, 12” China, 2-LP Cowbells
Tell us about you pedal setup and why you chose this brand.
REV: DW 9000 or 5000 is all I use. I also have a 5000 Double pedal for smaller kits. Durable
Tell us about some of your influences and how they have contributed to your playing.
REV: Guys who hit me hard were: Peart with Rush. He evolved along with the band. He taught me how to use certain parts of the kit only when needed. Also, Tommy Aldridge and his double kicking. And Phil Rudd taught me to accent the music while you keep it simple and effective.
You are in the Ron Keel Band, tell us how you landed the gig and what your experiences have been.
REV: I first got hooked up with Ron by landing the drumming position in the Badlands House Band. That was quite a ride. We worked with a lot of big time Rockers. When that folded Ron and everybody else wanted to keep it going. The Ron Keel Band was formed. We released “Fight Like A Band,” an all original album in 2019. Then “South X South Dakota” was just released along with our new video “Red White & Blue.” It has been awesome for me.
Ron Keel is legendary and has had an astounding career. What has it been like being in a band with Ron?
REV: It’s been a fun and intense ride. Ron doesn’t mess around and expects perfection. So, it’s easy for me to relate with him because I feel the same way. And it’s always fun to hear his old war stories and meet some of the legendary rockers he knows. He lives and breathes his work. And I really admire and respect him for all of the things he has accomplished.
What have been the biggest challenges in working in a band like the Ron Keel Band?
REV: I think challenges come with the business. I expect and accept them. But at this level you need to give it all you’ve got or get left behind.
Are you working on a new album? If so, tell us about it.
REV: After just releasing “South x S.D.” this year we are getting some new ideas going for another original RKB album. We have had 2 releases in 2 years but much more to come!!
Tell us about what you have coming up in the next few months.
REV: RKB will be heading to Sturgis in August for some shows there and then Sioux Falls, Ohio, and Detroit this fall as well.
What advice can you offer aspiring musicians?
REV: Give it all you’ve got. When it gets bad, keep trying. Never give up. Also play along with your favorite music. That is what moves you and that is what you will do best at. Practice a lot and always PLAY LIVE!! Whenever you can!