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Ask a Drummer | The Pocket Queen

Ask a Drummer | The Pocket Queen

New Orleans native Taylor Gordon—better known as The Pocket Queen for her ability to lay down a thoroughly undeniable groove—has been banging on "anything that looked like a drum" from her earliest memories. Starting her social media presence with a mini-series of YouTube videos named "Road to Chops" over a decade ago, Gordon has become an in-demand drummer, producer and writer. Her infectiously energetic videos—backed with serious chops, solid songwriting, eclectic style and superb production—helped make her debut EP, Groove Theory, Vol. 1, a contender on multiple lists of best recent drum recordings. We sat down to chat about her lifelong fascination with drumming, her advice to beginning drummers and her new signature Pocket Queen drum sticks from Vater. If you want more, you can also check out the series of videos Gordon did with Guitar Center in 2020 that focus on basic technique, building a groove and how to make magic on the drum kit. 

First off, congrats on the new sticks. What’s it like having your own signature set?

Pocket Queen: It's very surreal. Vater’s always been my favorite brand of sticks, so when they approached me about having my own set, I was so honored, and it was so exciting. It just feels incredible to walk through the music stores I walked through when I was a little kid and see my own stick on the shelves. I think that's absolutely insane.

How did your relationship with Vater start?

Chad Brandolini at Vater approached me about having my own stick, and he asked what specifications I wanted. I've always used their model called the Matrix. I thought if it's not broken, why would I fix it? I always thought it was a perfect stick for me. It fits so well with my hand size. I told him that I didn’t know if I want to move from the Matrix since I've been playing it for nine years. I just wanted to make it more me, you know? I love gold. I wear a lot of gold jewelry, and I look at the drum sticks as somewhat of an accessory that accentuates everything about me. I wear gold jewelry because it matches everything. It looks good on my skin tone, and I'm the Pocket “Queen.” So, gold just made sense.

Can you describe what you mean when you say it fits your hand size so well?

What I love about the Matrix is it's a 5A grip and an 8A-type taper with a barrel tip. I've always found the 8A stick to be a bit small. So, the Matrix was a perfect size for my hand, and the length is perfect for hitting directly in the middle of the snare. It gives me a nice, full sound—cohesive and consistent. I get the same amount of attack and fullness with every stroke.

The Pocket Queen showing off her signature Vater drum sticks

What do you hope a drummer feels when playing your sticks?

This is really a story that dreams do become a reality. I initially took a pair of Vater Matrix sticks and spray painted them gold because I had a vision of having my own gold stick, and now it's a reality! I would hope that anybody who tries my sticks is able to unlock the creativity and power within themselves. I hope they feel regal, special—like a king or queen, or whatever, on the throne. I want to be a reminder of that any time someone picks up Pocket Queen sticks.

Why did you choose drums?

I hate to sound cliché, but I almost feel like I didn’t really choose the drums. A lot of people say, “Well, why did you choose to play the drums?” I feel like it was just something that was already in me that just needed to come out. So, really, I always wonder why the drums chose me.

Do you remember a specific moment that the drums chose you?

It's just always been there. When I was younger, my parents would sing along to records, and my habit would always be to play on anything that looked like a drum. I think by the time I was maybe three, they got me my little Fisher-Price drum kit, and I finally started to play along when they would sing. They moved me up to a TAMA Swingstar when I was six. That was my first big girl drum kit. Drums have always been a fascination and something that just came really natural to me, almost like speaking.

Vater's signature Pocket Queen drumsticks

What are you working on right now?

I am currently working on a plethora of different albums and EPs that I'm very excited to be producing. Groove Theory, Vol. 2 will be coming out this year. I'm building a loop store, I started that this year, and I'm excited to continue to build that catalog. Making more music and being creative—that's what's coming up.

Best drum track of all time?

It's so hard to say, but one of the best is "Schism" by Tool. The drumming is absolutely incredible and really made my imagination go crazy in terms of playing for the music and accompanying everything that's going on. It's so complementary to the bass line.

Can you describe the first time you heard it?

I was watching MTV2. This music, along with the music video, really intrigued me, and I just couldn’t help but notice the drum sound. After really letting the music set in, I just listened to the sound of the drums and the parts. It was really incredible. I was maybe 11 or 10 years old. It just left such an impression on me.

The Pocket Queen with her Vater Drum Sticks

What is your favorite piece of drum gear?

I would have to say the piece of drum gear that has proven to be most useful to me is Moongel. It's great. If you're in a situation where you've got a kit that's not that great, you can just throw a whole bunch of them little gelatin pieces on it, and we can ride, you know?

What words of wisdom do you have for a drummer just starting?

I would say the beginning is a great time to be practicing and doing fundamental technical work. A lot of the time, when you interact with other musicians, you will need to be able to implement what you've learned on your own. And getting into those situations, it's important to listen more. I think that listening has been a very big aid for me and why people like for me to be a part of their bands. They know that I'm listening to what's going on, similar to a conversation. You wouldn’t really want to talk to somebody if you knew that they weren't really listening to you. It's pointless, like talking to a brick wall. So, I would say build your skills and learn the vocabulary like a language. You'll learn new words. You'll learn new ways to fit them into conversations and into culture. Also, just be fearless. Try anything. You can do anything.

How about for someone who’s a bit further along and getting into bands, recording and gigging?

My number-one tip for drummers is to really just check your emotions, your energy. It does make a difference. I've noticed that my tempo is a little shifty, or not necessarily in the pocket based on where I am mentally. It's good to check in with yourself. Assess your emotions and adjust accordingly. Again, listening is so important. Pocket is really about complementing. Finding the space in which you fit. That's the pocket. Bonus tip: I don’t think it's wise to play on an empty stomach. Your whole body should be really planted and centered, otherwise, you might fly away, and that's not solid. You need to be solid and in the pocket. Just like my sticks—solid gold.

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