Leo Kachidurian – An Xperience Interview
Written by Staff on December 10, 2023
Leo Kachidurian – Capital Region Timekeepers – An Xperience Interview – by OP Callaghan.
I first saw Leo Kachidurian playing with Doc Scanlon. I was relatively new in the area, and went to The Saratoga Race Track for a day of betting when I heard the band from a distance. Being the nosey music geek that I am, I made my way to the other entrance to watch the band. I immediately focused on the drummer, who was not only a great player, but so relaxed and just looking cool as can be on an exceptionally warm Saratoga summer day. Years later, while celebrating a mutual friend’s birthday, I was able to finally meet and talk with Leo. He is a lover of all things music, and an avid supporter of the local music scene. He’s a terrific player, a terrific guy, and I’m lucky to call him a friend. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give it up for Leo!
RRX: Welcome my friend. Let’s start at the beginning; How did you get started drumming?
LK: I originally wanted to be a bass player. I was 8 when I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Next day I wanted to be a Beatle. Dad took me to his friend at Romeo’s Music but my hand was too small to reach around the guitar neck. I ended up with an accordion for a few lessons but that wasn’t happening. Then a couple of guitar lessons but I wasn’t getting it.
Finally my Dad let me take his St. George bass and tweed Fender Bassman amp. During an unauthorized transport of the amp over to my friend’s house in a little wagon, the amp tipped over into a snowbank. We got there and plugged it in anyway and of course blew it up. Needless to say, my bass career was over.
A few years later, Dad agreed to help me get some drums.(they didn’t plug in) He actually borrowed a kit from his friend Bill Rezey. Beautiful white marine pearl Rogers with a bass drum, snare and a floor tom.
RRX: Did you take lessons?
LK: I took lessons from one of Dad’s friends named Paul Beuhler. His studio was in Watervliet near Brownie’s Indian Motorcycle dealer. I took the bus from Lansingburgh to downtown and then walked over the bridge. This was just the beginning of many teachers over the years. I have been very lucky to study with some incredible people.
I moved to San Francisco in 1979 and took lessons with Johnny Rae. He was an incredible Drummer/Percussionist who played with George Shearing and Cal Tjader. He introduced me to Latin playing.
In 1982, after moving down to LA, I studied at Dick Grove Music Workshop. All the teachers at that school were experienced recording and touring players. The percussion program had Richie Lepore (Bette Midler, Elvis), Jerry Steinholtz (Diana Ross, Lee Ritenour), Nick Ceroli (Tijuana Brass, Merv Griffin Show) and David Garibaldi (Tower of Power). After I graduated from the program, I took some private lessons with David when he was writing Future Sounds. I also took some private lessons with Joe Porcaro.
RRX: Wow! Do you come from a musical Family?
LK: Yes. My Dad was a Sinatra style singer with a great voice. He had charisma and an easy going delivery. He played clubs all around the area. And my cousin, Dicky Charles, was a really great drummer in the 60’s and 70’s. He was in some legendary bands including The Aerodrome (house band), Mother, Flag and Country and Merlin’s Minstrels. Growing up with these guys definitely set me on my path.
RRX: Tell me about your first kit?
LK: My first kit was a Red Sparkle Fuji brand made in Japan. I beat the hell out of them until I could save up for a Ludwig kit.
RRX: Talk about your first real gig. What bands have you played with? Any recordings?
LK: My first real gig was with my good friend Rick Rourke. I replaced Gary Sagendorf in their band. The first gig was in Bangor, Maine. On the road at nineteen, I learned a lot about how to be in a band. We played all over New England. Then the disco monster took over and we went for that ride. I did that for about a year and quit. The jumpsuit was too much for me. I came home and played with Charlie Smith for a while before moving to California.
In San Francisco I got a gig with a guy named Domingo Balinton who had been with Lydia Pense and Cold Blood. That was short lived. Eventually I moved to LA. Played with a bunch of Top 40 bands around LA. After music school, I got into the wedding band circuit. The money was good and the players were generally well versed in all different musical styles. World class players would show up on the bandstand on any given weekend. I tried to keep my mouth shut and my ears open. Guys like Jeff Clayton (Stevie Wonder), Mike Paulo (Al Jarreau) and Eric Marienthal (Chick Corea) would come and play weddings when they were available. I learned so much from those guys.
I did some recording while I was out there. I started out playing on songwriter demos. Did a little piece for a B movie for my friend Robert Etoll. Then they invented the dreaded drum machine and that stuff dried up quickly. Everyone bought a drum machine and all those little $50 demo gigs were gone.
I came back here in ‘89 and one of the first people I met was Chuck D’Aloia. That was very lucky for me. It opened a lot of doors and I met all the amazing Albany players. I was in Mother Was Right and Doc Scanlon’s Rhythm Boys at the same time. I got to play with Jay Traynor and the Americans. Did an album with Mike DeAngelis and started at Mahar’s with CD3 all in the first year back here. I went back to LA in ‘91 to give it another shot but that didn’t quite work out so I came back home.
I was lucky enough to do a lot of work with Ed Tourge and Chuck D’Aloia. I’ve done a ton of playing and subbing with many different bands.
These days I play when the phone rings. I’m involved with a couple of bands right now. I’ve also been doing some recording at home.
RRX: Amazing! Who are some of your influences?
LK: Dicky Charles, Buddy Rich, Steve Gadd, Jim Keltner, Jeff Porcaro, Hal Blaine, Jim Gordon, Vinnie Coliuta and of course, David Garibaldi and all my teachers. My friends Mark Foster, Gene Garone, Chris Garabedian, Gary Sagendorf and David Calarco have been big influences over the years.This area is full of amazing musicians and I always try to pay attention. Ace Parkhurst, Bernie Muleeda, Ed Tourge, Chuck D’Aloia and Bert Pagano to name a few non-drummers who have influenced me greatly.
RRX: Do you play any other instruments?
LK: I fool around with timbales and congas
RRX: If you weren’t a drummer, what would you be doing?
LK: I would be a bass player.
RRX: Are you a drum collector? Talk about some of your kits, as well as your current set-up.
LK: I don’t really collect drums. I have a ‘67 Ludwig kit and a Ludwig cocktail drum that belonged to my Dad. I’ve owned most of the major brands over the years. Now I play drums that I’ve put together myself. Keller shells and a couple of repurposed vintage shells that I wrapped in Tamo Ash veneer. I also have a set of DW Performance shells with Drum Factory lugs. I use a ‘90’s Black Beauty snare that works for most everything.
RRX: What is some advice you would give to young drummers just starting out? Any advice for old guys like me?
LK: Young drummers should learn to groove. Support the music. Listen and add to the conversation. There are many ways to approach a song or tune. Ask yourself – what’s the focus here? Am I supporting a singer or soloist? Is it time for a busy drum part?
It comes back to listening and playing what works for that situation.
I think people my age should just keep practicing. It’s a lifelong pursuit for me.
RRX: Agreed! Who is your favorite drummer and why?
LK: I really don’t have one favorite. I try to take away something positive from any drummer who is out there playing.
RRX: Anything else that you would like to add?
LK: Thanks for asking me to do this. I’m sorry for dropping all those names. I’m very grateful for all the players I’ve encountered along the way.
Thank you, Leo! We love name drops!