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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, July 24, 2014

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In Music

Jason Sutter has played with Marilyn Manson and The New York Dolls and his roots are in Milwaukee. (PHOTO: Mike Hacala)

Sutter returns to his second home to share secrets of rock 'n' roll drumming


Everyone that knows anything about Milwaukee music knows that blues harmonica master Jim Liban is the patriarch of a musical family. Liban's son Matt is also a respected drummer here, playing most famously these days with 5-Card Studs.

But on Monday, July 14, Milwaukee will get a look at yet another talented family member.

Drummer Jason Sutter, Jim Liban's nephew, returns to his family's hometown to lead a free drum clinic at Brass Bell Music, 210 W. Silver Spring Dr., in Glendale.

Sutter, whose roots are in Milwaukee, was recently voted the third best mainstream rock drummer in Modern Drummer magazine and has a list of credentials as big as Bonzo's kick drum.

"He's equally as skilled with a pair of brushes as he is playing metal," says Matt Liban.

Sutter has a degree in music from the University of North Texas and a masters from the University of Miami, but it's the school of rock where he's learned the most, says Sutter, who has played with The New York Dolls, Marilyn Manson, Foreigner, Vertical Horizon, American Hi-Fi and Chris Cornell.

"I played in cover bands since I was 9," says Sutter from the road. "I am currently out with Smashmouth on their 'Under the Sun,' tour along with Sugar Ray, Uncle Kracker and Blues Traveler.

"We are touring for two months across the U.S. -- playing Oshkosh on July 17 -- and are fortunate to have three full days off in Milwaukee which is special for me not only because I was able to fit in the Brass Bell appearance but because it is where I basically grew up!"

Though Sutter grew up in New York, he spent summers and holidays in Milwaukee, the town from which both his parents hailed. Matt Liban says Sutter's from a family of Milwaukee cops.

"It is like my second home," says Sutter, "so it's great to get to hit my old haunts like Kopp's burgers or Balistreri's pizza and a ton of great bars."

At 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Sutter will be at the Brass Bell to lead a clinic, during which he shares not only drumming skills, but also some of what he's learned in a lifetime of rock and roll.

"I like to cover the bases of what I have done as a professional drummer and break down how I got there, starting from the beginning," Sutter says. "I try to encourage young musicians to practice now while they can and practice correctly, not to forget the fundamentals of the instrument. I think your foundation is what is going to carry you as a musician in your future. I compare it to eating your vegetables so you can have dessert.

"I like to shed some light on my path from my humble beginnings to playing rock 'n' roll for a living. That if you work hard, diversify and learn to learn you can carve out a niche in this ever changing business of music."

Sutter will also play along to selections from recordings by some of the bands in which he's played and he'll use that as an opportunity to explain how, as a musician who performs with multiple bands, he has to be able to mentally and physically switch gears from one gig to the next.

He also takes questions and says this interaction is the best part of the clinics he does around the country.

"Part of the fun of being able to do these lectures/clinics is to get to hang with young musicians and interact on a personal basis," says Sutter. "I have a very regimented program I like to cover but I like to keep the atmosphere light and like one big hang where we are all new friends who love music and drums and it's a chance to connect rather than being on a stage 100 feet away from each other night after night."

Sutter says he's also looking forward to spending time with the Libans.

"My cousin Matt is also a fantastic professional drummer in town who teaches at the Brass Bell and we grew up together playing drums from a young age, always trading ideas and inspiring and pushing each other as players. My uncle Jim Liban is arguably one of the best harmonica players in the world and he is one of Milwaukee's true gems.

"I grew up with Matt watching him play summerfest and at the Up and Under as kids with different blues bands and it had a serious effect on me and helped push me in the direction I went. I made it to Summerfest last year to see Rush with Matt and his son Owen on the Fourth of July last year. I had a day off in Chicago while on tour with Marilyn Manson and caught a train for the show. If I am close to Milwaukee I will do what I can to get there, even if it's for a day. I love the city and that's what makes this clinic extra cool."


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