Joe Piteo "Drum Master Joe Piteo"

Joe Piteo (photo by Peter A. Riekstins)
"Drum Master Joe Piteo"

Interview by Roger-Z (01/18/14)

Roger-Z: Which bands do you play in? How does it feel to play with your brother, guitarist/vocalist John James Piteo?
Joe Piteo: I always have a tough time answering this question because I perform with so many different bands and artists and play so many different types of gigs. I've been working regularly with The Gil Parris Band for about eight years now. That is what you might say is my "main gig." Lately, Gil and I have been doing a lot of work with former NY Yankee (turned guitar player), Bernie Williams. I also perform regularly with guitarist Myles Mancuso. I play drums with singer/guitarist, Scott Bailey in his original band, Tycoon Dog. Let's see... Geoff Hartwell, Dave Fields, John James Piteo... Come to think of it, I work with a lot of guitar players lately!

Playing with my brother is always a pleasure on many levels. He's an extremely talented musician and we generally "agree" when it comes to the music. And he can groove! What more could a drummer ask for?

Roger-Z: What inspired you to pick up the drums?
Joe Piteo: I'm told that I had a toy drum set at the age of one. My father is a trumpet player and we always had instruments in the house. He brought home a real snare drum one day, and then about a year later we got a bass drum. Eventually, by age ten, I had a thrown-together drum set. Saxophone was my main instrument all through school. It was when I started playing with the high school jazz band that I realized how important the drums were to a group. If the drums weren't "happening," the whole band would not sound good. So, I convinced my band teacher to let me play drums. I guess it all started with me simply wanting to make the music sound good. If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself!

Roger-Z: Where did you study music and what styles do you play?
Joe Piteo: Like I said, my father is a musician so there was always music at the house. He still practices every day. Although he never pushed music on me or my brother, never made me practice. Music was just "around" growing up. I've "studied" music since I was in kindergarten. I played the violin and then I started saxophone in third grade. I was very lucky to grow up in a school system that was supportive of music and art. I had some great music teachers throughout school. By the time I was a teenager and getting serious about the drums, I was trying to get my hands on every drum book and instructional video that was out there. I took my first few drum lessons from a drummer/teacher named Al Esposito. He's kind of a local drum "legend" at this point. I meet people all the time who studied with him. He still teaches in the lower Westchester area. I never pass up an opportunity to pick the brain of a great drummer or any great musician. I occasionally study with drummers such as Thierry Arpino and Joel Rosenblatt but I have done most of my "studying" on my own.

As far as styles go, I never wanted to pick a style. I always felt that if I'm going to play the drums, I want to try to master the instrument, which means all styles! So I've studied them all to some extent. Eventually, I came up with my own sound -- which is hopefully, continuously evolving. But I guess my style is a blend of jazz, rock, hip-hop, funk and maybe a twist of Latin? I truly enjoy all varieties of music.

Roger-Z: What's your practice regimen?
Joe Piteo: I practice for at least one hour every day but I also believe that much of the practice that we musicians do is away from the instrument. I think about music all day so when I sit down to perform or record, my brain is all ready to go and full of ideas.

Roger-Z: Where do you teach? What's your teaching philosophy?
Joe Piteo: I teach privately. I have students all over Westchester. I feel that my job as a teacher is to make sure my students not only know what to practice, but also how to practice so that they can get the most out of their practice time. I try to inspire my students and get them excited about music. The more you play, the better you get, and the better you get -- the more you want to play! It's just a matter of getting that cycle started.

Roger-Z: How do you feel about the current state of the music business?
Joe Piteo: People don't spend money on recorded music anymore. Being a musician today is kind of like being a typewriter repair man, or a blacksmith. Those jobs are gone! That's an exaggeration, obviously, but it can seem true sometimes -- especially if you look back at how the business existed in the past. There are much fewer records being made today. For me, that means less albums to record drums for. Also, there are much fewer "big record company budgets" for the records that are being made today, which means the musicians that play on these records are getting paid less than they would have thirty years ago. I hope that over time, more and more people will want to go out and see live music -- whether it's a cover band at a bar or an original artist at a jazz club. People need to experience live music more often. The music business isn't dead, it's just hibernating -- going through a metamorphosis, if you will. I think this is a transitional period for the music industry. I don't know where it's headed, but wherever it goes, that's where I'll be!

2014 Roger-Z