Few of us will get to tick the boxes Kye Smith has ticked. After playing drums in the most excellent Newcastle skate punk outfit Local Resident Failure (RIP) for years, the rather shy film student decided to combine his acquired media education with his love of percussion and launched his YouTube channel with the concept of screening overplayed drum covers and piecing together entire back catalogues of his favourite bands, with the sequencing of these discographies a pretty mean feat in itself. As things go, before too long he was racking up millions of views and then nek minute… BOOM! He’s centre court playing Madison Square Garden.
Along the way he’s toured Australia, Europe and Japan with his aforementioned band LRF sharing stages with a fair portion of his favourite bands, one of which was a little Californian quartet by the name of NOFX who he just happened to sit in with and whilst Gordy Forman was down and out with a broken arm he got the call up to sit on the throne for Frenzal Rhomb.
Kye has also caught the eye of percussion powerhouses Pearl and Zildjian and recently been endorsed by the pair. With just a quick peruse through their respective web pages you’ll see his name amongst the likes of Dennis Chambers, Joey Jordison, Tommy Lee, Taylor Hawkins, Travis Barker, Lars Ulrich and Questlove. Not bad company to be keeping ehhh.
Like I said, few of us will get close to the goals Kye has kicked, and for a YouTube wonder kid with praise and sunshine blown directly in the direction of his rear end you’d excuse the bloke for being somewhat of an egotistical jerk, but I tell you young Mr Smith is possibly the most humble, well mannered musician this town has ever given birth to. He just goes about his business, does what he does and does it well. Here at Novotone we’re both extremely proud and stoked to call the legend a mate and have him come in here to use and abuse our facilities… errr as long as he continues to pay his hourly rate like everyone else.
1. Do you remember a catalyst moment for you wanting to pick up a pair of drumsticks?
I remember having an interest in finding the beat in songs since I was really young. I grew up listening to records of Slim Dusty, Elvis and The Beatles at my grandparent’s place and can remember clapping along to the songs came pretty naturally. One of my earliest memories of school was in kindergarten when we were tapping along to ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ on a triangle and it felt wrong tapping along to the melody rather than the beat because I had learnt to listen for the beat in songs. It wasn’t until high school that I saw a drum kit in person for the first time on the first day of music class and from then on every chance we had free time I was stuck to it.
2. You recently became endorsed by Pearl and Zildjian, have these always been your go to or preferred brands?
That first kit I sat behind in music class was a Pearl kit so I had always had this idea that Pearl was the brand to aspire to playing, but at first my parents got me a beginner kit for Christmas (which I was still beyond stoked about), so it took a few years to build up to playing Pearl again. As for cymbals, Zildjian was always my favourite brand of cymbals but as a student I could never really afford to go all out and deck out the kit with A Customs so I would just get whatever cymbal was on a discount at the time to get me out of trouble. So for a lot of years I had a kit with 3 or 4 different brands of cymbals at any one time, not out of preference but just for affordability (drumming isn’t a cheap hobby!). It really wasn’t until this year, after 15 years of drumming that I got to a point where I had a dream setup of all my favourite brands, up until then it was just buying little bits and pieces one at a time whenever something got broken or cracked.
3. You’re about to become a father for the first time, has this refocussed what you want to achieve?
I have never really had a clear goal of what I am working towards, it has always just been a case of working hard and see what happens which led to some crazy experiences I never would have even considered a possibility to work towards. I think now that I am going to be a father it has definitely made me reassess things a little bit. It has become less about working towards cool experiences for myself and more about wanting to be able to give the baby the best life possible and wanting to be around for it. This has really made me reassess a lot of aspects of my working and personal life and make some decisions for the better.
4. Local Resident Failure finished this year, do you see yourself joining another band in the near future or are you happy being an occasional hired gun?
I love filling in for different bands whenever the opportunity pops up so for now that is my only real plan, but I’m sure I will end up in another band somewhere down the track, no solid plans for now though.
5. When you decide to do a drum cover chronology, are you genuinely into all the bands you choose to cover?
Yeah I definitely have to have an interest in the artist to be able to commit to making a drum chronology for them. A lot of the chronologies are my personal favourite bands, and some of the others are artists that I may not listen to on a daily basis but I find their story interesting and feel that their career lends itself well to the drum chronology concept. A lot of the time I will end up adding these artists to my personal playlists because after spending more time listening to their stuff it becomes a favourite, it was just that I never really gave them the time they deserved before making the chronology on their work. But yeah I could never do a chronology for an artist I genuinely dislike.
6. Who are your all time drumming heroes?
My biggest personal influences would probably be Gordy Forman (Frenzal Rhomb), Dave Raun (Lagwagon/Me First and the Gimme Gimmes), Tre Cool (Green Day), Smelly (NOFX) and Travis Barker (Blink 182).
7. You have studied film and have had experience in the industry, do you have any ambition to become more involved in film making projects?
I recently just moved on from my job as a video editor after five years in the media industry due to a number of different reasons but I still do really have a passion for working on media and film. I don’t really have any concrete plans in the works for further film making projects other than the drum videos but I do have a few bigger ideas that I would like to try down the track sometime, I’m just going with the flow for now and see what happens.
8. In the last couple of years, amongst other things, you’ve toured the US, Europe and Japan, played Madison Square Gardens and met and drummed with some of your childhood heroes. Is there one single moment that stands as an absolute pinnacle?
I think the Madison Square Garden gig would probably have to be it just because it is something I never thought was even a possibility so it still doesn’t quite seem real that it happened. It was also about a year long process to get the visa in place and sorted so there seemed like a lot of build up and uncertainty whether it would actually happen. It was the first time on stage by myself as a drummer without a band to hide behind and to do it in front of 19,000 people at one of the most iconic venues in the world was terrifying but one of those experiences I will never forget. Other than that filling in for Frenzal Rhomb would have to be the weird teenage-dream-come-true situation for my punk rock roots.
9. You’re about as humble as they come, what is it like being a YouTube wonder kid and how do you manage to keep your ego in check?
Haha I’m not sure, there is so much talent around Newcastle specifically so I don’t think that what I do is anything super special. With YouTube anyone can upload their stuff for the world to see but I think that there are so many people out there with amazing talent who just might not have the confidence or media skills to put it online. It was just lucky that I had a background in media and that one day I found the confidence to give it a go and yeah weird stuff happened after that. So I do recognize that it was a bit of luck that all those things fell into place and I don’t take it for granted at all. Thinking about that kind of stuff keeps me grounded I guess.
10. You have predominantly played a punk rock style of drumming. Do you have aspirations to get into other genres such as hip hop or jazz?
Punk rock is always going to be my roots and one of my favourite genres to play but I have really been trying to branch out a bit over the last few years. I do find it a lot of fun playing hip hop and other groovier genres and do jam them a bit whenever I get a chance but mostly whenever I’m behind the kit I am learning a new chronology or practicing a band’s set or something so I don’t have a heap of time to just play and learn for the sake of learning. I’m not sure I’ll ever be committed enough to focus on jazz as it is so different than my drumming background and would be a real learning curve for me but who knows! I’m always open to trying new things.
11. What does the next 12 months hold for Kye Smith – what can we expect?
As you mentioned we have a baby due in January so that is the main focus right now. But I have a massive list of new chronologies I want to work on as well so it’s just a case of slowly ticking them off one-by-one whenever I have the time. I’m also working on some more collaborative songs and videos and getting some of my favourite musicians on board so that has been a heap of fun and those videos will be coming out over the next year or so as well. Also, I’ll be heading to Punk Rock Bowling in Vegas in May with my mates at Soundmart Tours who have set up a cool package for the trip which will be a lot of fun! Other than that I’m just taking it as it comes and see what happens!
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