Bouncing from the Bronx to Boston, drummer Will Calhoun graduated from the Berklee College of Music not only with honors, but also as the recipient of the Buddy Rich Jazz Masters Award. Not long after, Calhoun joined forces with guitarist Vernon Reid and Living Colour. Living Colour debuted with the 1988 smash Vivid, which rose to #6 on Billboard's Top 200. MTV's video rotation of the hit "Cult of Personality" and a 1989 appearance on Saturday Night Live placed the band firmly in the spotlight, along with stints opening for The Rolling Stones. After scoring a couple of Grammys and turning out a series of great albums, Living Colour released their fifth studio album last fall – The Chair in the Doorway – which also climbed its way into the Billboard Top 200.
Through it all, Will Calhoun has remained a dynamic force in the world of drumming, and has found time to pursue his other musical interests, performing with artists as diverse as Public Enemy and Herb Alpert. We talked with Will recently to catch up his career, and to talk about his fondness for the Korg Wavedrum.
KORG: Hi Will. So when would you say your journey as a musician began?
WC: It started at Birth without my knowledge. I was surrounded by great/international books, magazines, and albums in my parent's home. Although I didn't begin playing drums seriously till age 16, my older brother and sister, local musicians like Steve Jordan, Ray Chew, and Erroll "Pumpkin" Bedward – the sole creator of Hip-Hop and Rap as a serious art form – were invaluable examples for my early development. Growing up in NYC was also a blessing.
KORG: So what's happening with you musically these days?
WC: Living Colour released a new CD titled The Chair in the Doorway, and we are touring around the World for this CD.
KORG: And how's that going?
WC: Fantastic! At the moment, we are on the Jimi Hendrix Experience Tribute tour, and it's amazing. It's great to be back on the road playing new music for new and old fans.
KORG: What's new with you? Any projects you're working on outside of Living Colour?
WC: I just returned from Mali. I recorded a new CD with many of the master musicians in Mali. It sounds amazing. I will begin mixing the tracks in late spring. I've covered a few regional rhythms from the country … music from the North, South, East, West; beats for celebrations, weddings, hunting grooves, etc.
KORG: That sounds pretty exciting …
WC: I will keep you posted on the details of this project. At the moment I'm recovering from the overwhelming – and at times exhausting – experience of learning, studying, remembering, and playing this music. It was a new and challenging experience for a North American musician (like myself) … and mind bending for a drummer.
KORG: Any other recent recordings or projects stand out in your mind?
WC: Yes; … Oumou Sangare's latest CD Saye.
KORG: So, Will, let's talk Wavedrum. You've been a user of the original and are now into the new one. What drew you to it?
WC: The [Korg] Wavedrum has a unique voice in electronic percussion. I've always been frustrated over the years with electronic percussion. Many of the companies make units that create the same sounds as acoustic percussion. This is insane to me. Drummers/percussionists in the 21st Century should be able to have the same access to sound enhancement as a guitarist; delay, feedback, looping, distortion, pitch control, reverse effects, etc. The Wavedrum allowed me to experiment with great electronic sounds and sound enhancement. I didn't want my electronic percussion to sound like anyone else, and I certainly didn't want to use kick, snare, and tom sounds. The Wavedrum sounds amazing on its own; however it also tracks extremely well with outboard gear.
KORG: Any favorite features of the new Wavedrum?
WC: Yes; the ability to create and store your own versions of the onboard sounds. You can create patches for assorted musical keys, making the drum more useful in multiple performance conditions.
KORG: How do you incorporate it into your performances and/or recordings?
WC: In the studio I plug the Wavedrum directly into the console, or Pro Tools. Live I set the Wavedrum next to my kit, and during my solo (especially on Living Colour tours) I leave the kit, walk over to the Wavedrum create a few great rhythmic ideas, then loop them, solo over the loops with other sounds on the Wavedrum. Then I go back to kit and play a bit of acoustic drums over the Wavedrum loops. I always improvise this part of my performance.
KORG: Has the Wavedrum influenced your playing at all?
WC: The Wavedrum allows me to play exactly what I'm feeling at the moment. The Wavedrum also influences me to take risk, and match sounds and rhythms that I wouldn't usually combine if I were sitting thinking about grooves. There is an example of this performance with the 1st Wavedrum on the 2008 Modern Drummer Festival DVD – and the soon to be released Living Colour Live in NY DVD!
KORG: Will, thanks for your time and your comments. Is there anything else you'd like to mention before we sign off?
WC: Just if anyone would like know more information about Will Calhoun and my use of the Wavedrum, please visit: www.willcalhoun.com or www.myspace.com/nativelands
KORG: Care to sum it all up for us?
WC: The new Wavedrum allows the user to have a fresh new sonic/rhythmic pallet.