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Interview: Isaias Gil Talks On Drumming For Black Flag, Houston, And Life On The Road

ME What was your upbringing in Acapulco, Mexico and Houston like?

Isaias I don’t remember much about Acapulco. Houston has been home and the music scene has always been thriving and welcoming. Sure do wanna go visit my motherland soon though. Beaches, surf, oysters… 

ME What’s your earliest memory of drumming? (icebreaker question)

Isaias Sitting in my grandparents garage with a boombox playing hard enough to hear an album but soft enough so the disc didn’t skip. Also, I have a picture where I’m 2 and I’m hanging out with pots and pans set up in a very drum-set-like order hitting with wooden spoons. I don’t remember that either (I apparently block out a lot). However, 15 is my most cognizant recollection of drumming. It was Sting, Hanson, Jaci Velasquez, Rick Astley, I was just bashing away in my parents garage. Such a good time. 

ME Was there a musical community in either of those places you became involved with when you were younger?

Isaias Houston Is an amazing hub for musicians. Always has been and it’s so underrated. You’ve got Beyoncé, Robert Glasper, Chris Dave… the list goes on and on. My buddy John Calderon is an amazing human and he played with Al Jarreau for a long while. I was living in SoCal and he invited me to see him perform at a vineyard. It was the most beautiful scene, to see my brother represent Houston, his craft and honor Al’s music so well. Yeah, I’d say Houston is pretty great at nurturing musicians. 

ME Was there any cultural influences early on in your life as a drummer? 

Isaias I wasn’t formally trained so I never knew that cultural was or could be a divide. I listened and still listen to music as a whole. A capture of a specific state in time and motion. 

ME How did you become acquainted with Mike Vallely?

Isaias My friend Tommy Luna is a great bassist and super hip to the skating community. Mike came thru for a tour and needed a band to back his project. My buddy was on bass and asked if I wanted to drum. I had been a fan of Mike’s for a long time. I gladly obliged and we hit it off. That was that. 

ME How were you recruited for the recent Black Flag tour?

Isaias Thanks to Mike I was in the mix but it wasn’t a “bro, you’re in” deal. I auditioned and played as well as hung out to see if the dynamic was right. 

ME What’s the difference (if any) between drumming for poppier Christian acts such as Jaci Velasquez and performing with a legendary punk band like Black Flag? 

Is there a lot of adjustments in performing those seemingly opposite genres?

Isaias I don’t think about it. I view it as a conversation. If you’re talking about veggies I’m not gonna blurt our about my oil change or the work that my shocks need. It’s all about being honest, present and real. If you get a gig and you do it for the notoriety then you’ll be found. You’ll be the guy looking for the next gig. No one wants that guy. They want the human that’s real and means everything they play, say, don’t say. That’s all I’m trying to be. The best drummer for Jaci, Nic, Greg and Mike. However that looks, I’ll try my best. 

ME What’s the road life like? Is life on the road as fun as it’s portrayed in movies or television?

Isaias Road life is RAW! I’m fortunate to work with bands that have ZERO ego and ZERO techs. I get to unload gear, set it up, tear it down. The whole jam. I really dig it. It’s my Tetris zen moment. I can tell you everything every member of the band needs or would like and I could patch it for you too. Nic taught me a really valuable way of thinking;  I drum for free. I’m paid for missing time from my loved ones and for the setup. The drumming is free though. 

Life on the road is not for everyone. I’m still learning it but enjoying every minute of it. I miss my lady, my dog, my mom, my normalcy. However, I don’t take it for granted to share music and to get people to forget about their troubles for a few minutes. 

ME What were some of your own struggles as an aspiring musician?

Financial stability, knowing that everything would be ok and not taking accolades as validation. I learned that music and musicians are like morning fog, they’re here and prominent but quickly gone. Being a good human, knowing that my value isn’t from a band or gig I have helps. 

About Mark Smitty Neal

NewYork Based Photographer. Music Enthusiast with a background in Graphic Design. Whether I'm shooting a live event or just out wondering the streets its about capturing the moment.

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