They say speed kills. But in music, speed thrills. Now add hard and loud to the mixture and you've got a helluva drummer. I always marvel at these katz bcuz I can't do what they do, lol! It's nice to be able to get some Metal drummers in the mix and I was glad I came across Stephen. A man with a band, a dream and determination. Grab a hold of seats and pop in your ear plugs, we're taking a trip to the DFW area to Talk Chop with Stephen Bonilla.
Where are you from?
I'm from Austin Texas, but live in Fort Worth, Texas.
How long have you been playing?
I've been playing since 2013, but my first year was just a practice pad and sticks. I got serious about practice in 2016.
What made you want to play drums?
I was always fascinated with drums. My friend Sam played drums and turned me onto some new music. When I heard the self titled Slipknot album, I suddenly NEEDED to play. Haha. Sam pushes me to play and I haven't looked back since.
I see you started off playing Sax. Do you still play on the side?
Unfortunately, no. I haven't played in an ensemble since 2012. I pick it up every once in awhile, but never with a group. I do miss it sometimes.
How much of that education do you use now as a drummer?
I never really took any drum lessons. I'm self taught. However, I do use some of the music theory I took in college. Whenever the writing process gets stuck, I try to incorporate key changes or suggesting some metric modulation by keeping the subdivision but changing the "1".
How would you describe your drumming style?
I like to think my drumming style is unique, but that's pretty presumptuous. Haha.
I come from a background in metal but became engrossed in the "gospel chops" style of playing. So there's lots double bass and fast playing mixed with ghost notes and linear fills. I like to play with the music and vocals to add to it without throwing in unnecessary fills.
Describe your current set up & gear - heads and sticks...ect?
I currently have 2 Yamaha kits. 1 birch stage custom. 1 custom oak kit. 10", 12", 14" toms and 20" kick. 13" Pork Pie little squealer maple snare. I use the Axis longboard double pedal. My gig cymbals are Soultone. 14" extreme hats, 19" extreme crash, 8" custom splash, 18" explosion crash, 23" Custom AR crash/ride, and 18" explosion China. I'm still trying to find the right stick for me. I'm currently using 5B Promark sticks and trying out 5B Scorpion drum sticks. I use Evans drumheads. Genera HD dry snare batter head, hydraulic for the toms and heavyweight Emad for the kick.
How were you introduced to Soultone Cymbals?
I found out about Soultone cymbals through YouTube videos. I saw a video of Nick Smith playing a song called "Rebirth" and LOVED the sound. I finally got my hands on some with the help of Yannick Sastre. He has been a big help.
What is it about the cymbals that made you choose them over other brands?
Soultone cymbals have had such an interesting sound to me since I heard them on YouTube. There's just something about them that appeals to me. The dark trashy sound, but still cuts through of the Gospel series is one of my favorites. Unfortunately they're a little too thin for my playing. The main reason I like them so much is that I have a unique sound with them. I love the sound and aesthetic of them, plus I get to add my personal logo to each one which really makes it my own.
Your in a band called Bad Blood. What kind of band is this?
Bad Blood is a metal band that is heavily influenced by Slipknot, Sepultura, Marilyn Manson, and Gojira. We keep it simple with no sampling, fancy light shows, or anything. We just bring raw energy and intense music. Bad Blood wants the music and performance to be something you want to experience over and over again.
How did it come about?
The guitarist, Tony, and I worked at a warehouse together. As we started talking more, we noticed we had a lot in common and both played instruments. It took MULTIPLE attempts to bring him into the practice space but when he did get there we wrote two songs and new we had to start a band. The vocalist, Talmage, and I were in an indie band together and I knew he had a metal background so I asked him to join us for a practice and see if we had something. Similar to the time with Tony, Talmage came up with lyrics almost instantly and was happy to join. We've gone through a couple bassists, but had Dustin join us from a project Talmage and Tony were doing with him. The energy he brought instantly changed our live performances and we haven't looked back.
You guys are working on a new project?
YES! We have completed the first stages of pre-production. We have a couple studios in mind, but we are narrowing it down soon. It'll be a 5 song EP with some of the fastest and in aggressive music we've done. We are hoping to bring on a friend, Los Pulido from Born and Raised, to be featured on a song as well.
Has the band done any touring?
Unfortunately, no. We've done some excursions through Texas and played Oklahoma a couple times. We are looking to start expanding our reach this summer by branching out and playing different states.
Being that you're playing fast a lot, what do you do to maintain your speed, accuracy and endurance?
I practice almost every day. Haha. It's the only real way to maintain and improve upon the speed I have. I focus on playing consistently for long periods of time to maintain my endurance.
How much time do you practice?
I try to practice a minimum hour a day. I will usually practice 1-3 hours when I sit down and focus. I'm definitely not naturally gifted, so I have had to practice a lot to get where I am. Even still, I have SO MUCH more to grow.
Is there a different approach to your playing from studio to live?
Most definitely! Live, I try to make it more of a show by exaggerating hits, being organic by playing without a click, and playing things a certain way you'll only see live. Studio playing is something I'm still working on. I'm very particular when it comes to recording. I play to a click a month or more before we go to the studio to make sure tempos are right and that my hits line up. I like to make things uniform so each take is the same, minus mistakes, unlike live playing where I change fills each show.
Being an Indie band, do you guys feel like you've got a good plan for success?
Talmage and I like to think so, Haha. We've got a plan for this upcoming EP to shop around to labels for distribution and are working to get on major festivals. We talk about things frequently to brain storm ideas for promo, who to reach out to, and what we need to work on as a band to help boost our performance and reach. It'll definitely be a lot of hard work, but I think we can do it with our current goals and plan.
How has drumming impacted or changed your life?
It has! Both for good and bad. The main draw back is the amount of money it takes and playing gigs takes time away from my 3 children and wife. It has had a huge impact on my social life. I've gained some amazing friends and acquaintances. I've befriended some amazing drummers and musicians throughout this journey. Jerrin Castillo, from Renatus, and Joey Gonzalez, from Phil Anselmo's projects, are amazing drummers I've had the privilege of getting to know and help me progress. I was never social in high school and barely talked to anyone. Through the years of promoting and talking to people, I've finally started to be more personable.
How do you balance being in a band and family life?
This is still a struggle for me. I use to be in 2 bands and work on projects, but it left no time for my family. So, I cut down and focused on Bad Blood. We practice once a week and play 1-2 shows a month. With keeping gigs spread out, it gives us a chance to really promote and allows me to spend more weekends at home. It helps that when I practice on my own, I'm at home too.
Do you have any specific goals for your drumming career?
Other than making music my career, my main goal is to either open for Slipknot or play Knotfest the same day/stage as Slipknot. Haha
What's the live music scene like in your hometown?
The DFW music scene is overflowing with talent. From jazz to R&B and Pop to Metal, there is always a good show close to you. In the metal scene it seems to be more metalcore/breakdown music or death/tech metal. So Bad Blood doesn't really fit in and tends to get overlooked. However, being the odd one out can have its benefits too. It's a little saturated but it only pushes others to make better music and perfect their craft to stand out.
Name 5 of your drumming influences? why?
Mike Johnston-He is one of the best YouTube drum instructors I've seen. He's very musical and helps bring things into perspective.
Gavin Harrison - the precision and subtlety he brings into his music is so crazy to me. I love the ghost notes and the way he "manipulates" time.
Jerrin Castillo - while he's not well known, he should be, Jerrin in a crazy talented drummer. He's a humble guy who works hard and is talented. Since knowing him I've pushed myself to get to his level.
Dan Presland - I came across Dan through Jerrin. Once I watched his playthrough videos, I couldn't stop. Haha. His playing looks so effortless and is so tasteful. It's a little busy but always suits the song so well.
Eloy Casagrande - Eloy is a powerhouse drummer. The energy he brings to the stage blows me away. He's 100% all the time. I want to bring that kind of intensity to Bad Blood shows.
Name an inspiring concert that made you want to go home and start shedding?
My first Slipknot concert on Halloween with Korn was so inspiring. It just made me want music as a career even more! The entire car ride home I just wanted to go to the practice space and play until I couldn't play anymore.
Do you record drum videos of yourself? if so, how has it helped you?
I record videos of myself all the time. I record practices, ideas, and gigs. It's helped quite a bit in pin pointing where I need to improve and helped me see some of my mistakes weren't as bad as I thought. Haha. I post things on my Instagram mainly, @sbonilla46, and ask for constructive criticism from anyone.
Do you have a crazy or interesting gig you can share with us?
I've had a few gigs that I'll never forget, but the one that surprised me the most was a show at Curtain Club in Deep Ellum. The venue was double booked with a pop show first and then a metal show afterwards. When I got there for load in, it was PACKED with teenage girls going crazy over this boy pop band with unbuttoned shirts and pandering lyrics. After they finished we got on stage and expected everyone to clear out. Curtains open and we see everyone has stayed. We open with our song "Chicken Nuggets" and these teenagers are "woo"ing and moshing. We get to "Kill Kill" and the crowd has grown. The moshing continued through our whole set. One of the best crowds we had and it was left over from a pop show. Haha
What are your words of wisdom for your fellow drummers out there?
I think the best advice I could give is the same I heard from Mike Johnston. Stop comparing yourself to all these amazing drummers out there. You see the final product of all their practices. They don't show you the struggle and the hard work. This plagued me for so long. We all struggle and we can all achieve the aptitude we desire. It just takes work. Lots of work.
Last Words, Links, Hashtags and Thank You's???
Be sure to follow my band Bad Blood on Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify. If you go to the band website you can get to all of the social media sites as well as download 2 covers, "Roots Bloody Roots" and "Surfacing". Thank you to my family for all the support. Especially my Mother, Vicki for everything she's done to help me get to where I am, and my wife, Tori for putting up with me and my crazy schedule. Thank you DeHaven for having me for this interview!