Capital Timekeepers: Interview with Chad Ploss -By: OP Callaghan

Written by on September 5, 2022

One of the most obvious benefits to being involved in the local music scene is the “behind the scene” activities that occur.  The scene can certainly be “gossipy” at times, but in this particular case, the gossip is good. The gossip is Chad Ploss.  

Nearly every drummer that I have interviewed thus far, has mentioned Chad in a very favorable manner.  Drummers love him. He’s an incredible player, with exceptional chops, and is able to play multiple genres in a seemingly effortless way. To watch Chad play is a joy.  His technique is remarkably refined, discreet, and flawless.  One of my favorite aspects of his playing are his fills.  Chad’s use of space and rests in his playing adds additional depth and texture. Instead of cramming as many notes in as possible, Chad exercises patience and care in his playing. He’s humble, talented and keeps great time.   The result is clean, concise and admirable.

Chad received his bachelor’s in music education from the reputable Crane School of Music and has been teaching in Scotia-Glenville for over 25 years.  He has played with several regional acts, including Keith Pray’s 3 Bass Hit, Soul Session, The Audiostars, Tollbooth, Lo Faber, The Ominous Seapods, Rob Beaulieu, and Family Tree.  Chad is truly a master at his craft, and an exceptionally nice guy as well.  So, without further ado, give it up for Chad Ploss!

RRX:  Hey man! Thanks for doing this.  Let’s get started with an easy one first. How old were you when you started playing drums?

CP: I was in fifth grade when I started taking lessons in school.  In fourth grade, my classroom music teacher brought her brother in to play drums for the class.  He played “Wipe Out” and all I could think was, I need to do this…not want, NEED!

RRX:  That’s great.  Having a teacher like that is certainly a life changing experience.  Tell me about your current set up, cymbals, drums, sizes, etc.

CP: My setup is fluid; in that it changes depending on the gig. And even with a steady gig, it changes within that setting too.  I love trying new things. It keeps it fresh! Over the years I’ve accumulated a bunch of different sizes and styles of drums and cymbals to choose from. I’ve always got my eyes and ears open.

RRX: Do you have a favorite rudiment?

CP:  I never really thought of this, but yeah, I guess I do.  The six-stroke roll.  First of all, it’s used all over the Motown stuff.  That’s reason enough, but it’s so cool to use in fills and grooves.  It’s a fun and effective way to get around the kit. Also, you can morph it into a rolling triplet feel and add your feet in there as well.  I guess you can do that with other rudiments too, but I mean, C’mon, it’s Motown!

RRX:  Great answer. Okay, Tommy Lee (Motley Crue) or Tommy Aldridge (Whitesnake and a bunch of others)?

CP: Definitely Tommy Lee! He was my guy when I was a kid starting out.  When “Shout at The Devil” dropped, I couldn’t get enough.  His sound, feel, and showmanship really appealed to me. Playing to a tune on “Theater of Pain ” called “Louder than Hell ” was the first time I freed my foot from the shackles of my hi hat stand. If you listen to the drum intro, you’ll know what I mean.

RRX: Yes! “Livewire” was my intro to double bass, and I always appreciated his use of rudiments.  You can tell that he trained in marching percussion. Alright, let’s go brother vs. brother – Vinnie Appice, or Carmine Appice?

CP: I’d have to say Vinnie.  I love his playing with Dio, and at the time I listened to it a lot.  Also, Andrew Hearn and I saw a clinic of his in Schenectady, and he changed my way of thinking about sympathetic vibrations around the kit.  For instance, the snare wires making noise because you hit a tom adds organic reverb and helps tie the kit together.

RRX: I agree. He’s really humble, and the playing on “Holy Diver”, particularly the song “Stand Up and Shout” is just great.  You’ve played with a ton of great bands, and various styles.  Tell me about some of your favorite gigs.

CP: I’m going to go with the first two bands I played with when I moved to Albany.  The original band Tollbooth is one. I moved after college with the members of that band. We had a special connection, and the creative energy just flowed every time we got together. We wrote some cool music. Good Friday is the second, because I got to play with Adam Graham (bass). He gave me an amazing education on how to support the music and the groove.  He’s a huge part of why I play the way I do. Those bands set the stage, so to speak, for my playing career. I could literally name all of the groups that I’ve played with past and present, but I will spare you! They’ve all been very positive experiences.  I feel very fortunate.

RRX: I loved watching Adam play.  He truly brought magic and depth to every performance.  He is surely missed.  How fortunate for you to have had that experience.  Ok, as a teacher, what is your strongest message to young aspiring percussionists?

CP:  Play with as many people as you can. All of those experiences are invaluable. Whether they’re good or bad ones.  The people you meet and form connections with help shape you into who you are as a musician and a person.  You realize what works, and what doesn’t work, both professionally and personally.

RRX:  So true. Do you play any other instruments?

CP:  I do.  I play all of the wind instruments you find in a concert band.  I teach those as well in school lessons and band rehearsals at Scotia Glenville Middle School.

RRX:  OK, you get to put together your dream band, with you on drums. Who do you pick, dead or alive, for the rest of your band?

CP: My dream band already exists; It’s The Roots. The musicianship is top notch.  Great tunes.  They stretch out live and have a blast on stage. They also play with a ton of different musicians at gigs, on albums, and on Jimmy Fallon. So hip! Can I just say that Questlove is THE MAN!  Talk about supporting music in the best way possible!

RRX:  And his pocket drum kits are pretty badass as well! What do you think about putting the drums out front for a change, and having the guitar players sit down in the back?

CP:  I think it’s cool as hell.  I love seeing different stage setups rather than the drummer suck in the back. It gives the audience, as well as the musicians on stage a different perspective.  It also allows the drummer who sings lead to better connect with the audience.

RRX:  Let’s start a trend! Drummers up front! What makes a great drummer?

CP: Someone who supports the music in the best way possible.

RRX:  What is something that every drummer should know?

CP:  You need to have people skills. Be positive and genuine with people. Treat people with respect and dignity.

RRX:  What is your dream kit?

CP:  I don’t think I really have a dream kit. I love great vintage drums, and I love what A&F Drum Company are making. I love Paiste cymbals. I definitely would like to get a Gretsch round badge kit some day!

RRX: Serious question; who inspires you more, Travis Barker or Lars Ulrich? (This is not a serious question, but because Chad is such a nice guy, he answers in a professional manner).

CP:  Travis. He’s more interesting to me.  He’s got a funky setup with low, flat drums and high cymbals.  He’s done live remixes of Hip Hop like Flo Rida, Soulja Boy and Eminem. Lots of energy and dialed in. And he kills it live!

RRX:  Tell me about that recent picture that you posted on social media.

CP:  My long time close friend, Andrew Hearn; (who happens to be a prominent drummer in the area) and I got tickets for Nate Smith and Kinfolk. We took the train down and hung out for a while and went to the show.  Nate Smith is one of my drumming/musical heroes.  After the show, which was absolutely phenomenal, we went upstairs to look at merchandise.  The dressing room is right there, so when Nate came out, Andrew and I fanboyed a bit and got our pictures taken. What a gracious dude.

Chad Ploss, is a more than gracious dude, and a tremendous talent.  Check him out with Keith Pray, Family Tree, or any of his other endeavors.  You won’t be sorry!

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