Interview: Thomas Pridgen Talks Current Projects, The Mars Volta, and Future Endeavors

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The words "virtuoso" and "prodigy" get thrown around a lot in music.

For Thomas Pridgen, however, both of the previous terms are appropriate when assessing his musical prowess; he is the youngest drummer to have been sponsored by Zildjian Cymbals--earning an endorsement from the company when he was 10.

But that wasn't the end for the percussionist; he earned a scholarship to Berklee College of Music just five years later.

He burst onto the scene when he joined The Mars Volta to record The Bedlam in Goliath. When listening to Bedlam, it's hard to not get fixated on Pridgen.

His presence is undeniable, and he turns the drums into a lead instrument without compromising their primary role. The record is simultaneously groovy, face-melting, and-- thanks to Pridgen-- jaw-dropping.

He has since moved on to play with different artists, including his own project, The Memorials. Empty Lighthouse caught up with Pridgen to talk about his recent endeavors, including an unnamed project you should all stay tuned for.

What caused you to start learning drums?

I started playing drums in church. My grandmother played piano and organ, so I was always surrounded by music.

What drummers inspired you early in your development as a musician?

I was inspired by local church drummers at first-- then national guys. Then I moved on to drummers of all genres.

Was it ever hard to stay motivated given your success at such a young age?

I've always wanted to keep improving. Sometimes I would get into a rut and would feel like I couldn't get better, but I continued.

What is your approach to kit building?

I try to make sure I place drums and cymbals in places my body naturally moves to.

Does your approach to kit building change depending on your current project?

Yes, sometimes guys want a certain sound (double bass parts, big rock tones, tight jazzy sound) so it changes depending on the project.

The recording process for Bedlam in Goliath was talked about a lot when the album was released. What was the process like for you?

It was good times, man...

You're currently offering drum lessons via Skype. What was the initial reaction like when you first announced the idea?

I think everyone was ready for it. I got tons of request for Skype lessons before I actually started.

I always declined mainly because I felt the sound wouldn't be good, and I didn't want to get over on people. I want to give quality lessons that actually help drummers.

You joined Suicidal Tendencies and Chiodos this year. How did you get involved with these two bands?

ST wanted someone new, and Chiodos had a drummer who decided to do other projects.

2014 is expected to be the first year without a platinum record.

What is your take on the current state of the music industry?

I try not to focus on the industry and just focus on what I'm doing these days.

You can get caught up in it--forgetting how small of a speck in the world you are.

Do you have any upcoming records or tours?

Yes, I'm still working with Trash Talk, and I have another project that is about to get talked about, but I don't know if I'm supposed to disclose it yet.