Interview:1999 Ginger Fish interview with Guitar Center

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Ginger Fish of Marilyn Manson
Interview with Ginger Fish
Date 1999

Ginger Fish has been the drummer for Marilyn Manson since 1995 during which time he has toured extensively and recorded with the band. He recently took the time to talk to Guitar Center about his drum gear and his adventures on the road with Manson.

GC: So, why do you choose Premier Drums?

Fish: The first drum my Mom ever bought was a Premier snare drum! Then, by weird chance, I was trying out electronic drums because didn't think I could afford a full acoustic set. But, I went to a garage sale and the guy asked me if I wanted me to buy a drum set. He showed it to me and it was a Premier Resonator Kit! I ended up buying that set and since then I've always played Premier and I never had any reason to change! I thought they were great drums. I wouldn't play them if they weren't.

GC: Tell us about your current drum kit.

Fish: We're not on tour anymore so I'm not playing the tour kit. The tour kit was set up mainly, so that I could be seen! On the tour before there were no pictures of me and I was behind this big black set. I was totally covered and no one could tell I was even there! So I cut the bass drums to eight inches so I could drop the toms in front of them and be seen for this tour. It worked out fine. Everyone could see me great and there were a lot more pictures and press because of it.

GC: I heard you play with three kick drums, is that right?

Fish: The three kick drums are mainly just for looks. The two bass drums to my left are the ones I'm playing. The bass drums aren't sitting right by my feet. Because of the toms being right in front of me the bass drums have to be thrown to the left. I'm using DW extensions. DW made me a special pedal that extends to the bass drum. But, the two bass drums being off to the left made the whole kit look a little lopsided. I added the third bass drum just to even out the look. It's just for appearance.

GC: What's the coolest recent addition to your drum set?

Fish: The coolest thing I've gotten recently would be my Akai S5000 which I just got at Guitar Center. It's got, like, 256 meg of RAM in it and I can just load up all my studio drum sounds and stuff. I've used the MPC3000, which I still use, and I've used a lot of other machines where once you loaded them up you were done. With the S5000, I can load it up limitlessly and I can layer drums. I can put three different drum sets in, set three different MIDI channels and fatten up my kicks or snares or hi-hats or whatever I want to do.

GC: Can you tell us a little about your use of electronics?

Fish: Live, I use a Ddrum 3 brain. What I use it for mainly my seat. My seat has shakers on the bottom of it so I can feel a real punch without having this immense PA system behind me. The shakers kick you in the butt when you hit the bass drum. To get the cleanest, best pop out of that I use the trigger bass drum out of the Ddrum into my seat. Out front, it's mainly like a 70/30 mix, 70 percent is mic and 30 percent electronic, The majority of the electronic is just used for my seat and for my monitor system. I also use an MPC3000, that I run a click track-out of and loops, little distorted things that are going on in some songs. And I also run two Tascam DA88's, digital eight-track recorders. They're synced up with an RC848 remote control unit. I don't deal with pads and stuff live, just because of the unreliability. I'm just not waiting for the one night the pad breaks. I use the MPC3000 and it's much more reliable than a pad is and I have a start/stop pedal by my high-hat and I'll start the loop when I feel like or stop it when I feel like it. A lot of it is just click-track to keep the songs in line and stuff, because Pogo, our keyboard player, plays a lot of loops and when he hits the down beat with the keyboard, the loop might be eight bars long. I've got to be exactly at 92 bpm or that loop's not going to be in time with the song. So I have to play with the click track in my ear, so when he hits one, it stays in time. I can't always hear him and everything is so chaotic live that its just the most logical way to keep everything together.

GC: But his stuff's not synched up with your stuff?

Fish: No, he's totally self-contained and I'm totally self-contained.

GC: It sounds like you have your hands full on stage.

Fish: Yeah, I run the show live. I pretty much go song to song. I'm trying to read Manson's mind and trying to figure out what he's going to say next and when he wants the song to start! But I start and stop every single song. I have to listen the tonality of his voice. When he pronounces with a certain loudness or a scream, I know that he's expecting the next song to start. Sometimes, I'll miss it or I'll start it when he didn't want to start it. If he wanted to say something more, he'll turn around and start throwing water at me or stuff like that! So, it's a lot of reading his mind and guessing.

GC: That sounds tough! But he's not actually changing the set order, is he?

Fish: He does! I know a lot of people start a show and end a show the same way. They usually will press play on a tape machine, or something, and the shows will run straight through from beginning to end. Manson doesn't do that. He'll turn around in the middle of the night and skip a song, or go to a different song. Or he'll go over and whisper into the bass player's ear to start a different song and I won't know it's coming until I hear what the bass player is playing! So it's a mental thing on stage with Manson. There's not a lot of organization. Or rather it's really organized, but in a chaotic way. I mean, you've just got to know what's going to happen. Like I said, I've been hit in the head, my set is trashed on a regular basis. They get wound up before a show and you just don't know what's going to happen. Every time I get onstage I'm saying in the back of my mind, "This is the last show I'm going to be play with these guys!"

GC: That's kind of an interesting situation! The obvious question is why do you keep on doing it, then?

Fish: It's what I know, you know? I couldn't see going and playing with the Backstreet Boys or playing for N'Sync, or the GooGoo Dolls you know? If I had to get onstage and just play a couple songs, and people applauded and I got off stage, I'd be bored, I think. I think that it's grown to the point that if I didn't have that craziness, I would be bored!

GC: Maybe Whitney Houston might be willing to throw a couple of mic stands at your head?

Fish: Yeah, exactly!

GC: Is your approach and playing different between a live situation and a studio situation?

Fish: Yeah, definitely. When we're playing live, I try to be seen and the set has to look good. When you're playing an hour, hour and fifteen minutes, or something like that, you have to have enough drums to cover all the songs. I don't set up a ton of drums just for the sake of setting them up. Everything I have, I use or I wouldn't set it up. Sometimes Manson will take a song out of the set or for a couple of days we won't play certain songs, so I'll pull out the ten-inch tom if I don't have to use it for those songs. If he decides one night that he's going to put the song back in and I need the ten-inch tom then I throw the ten-inch tom back on my set that night. Basically, I don't put up all kinds of stuff because it becomes a mental thing. You start thinking about all these drums and how you've got to hit all these things, you know? Everything I use live, I use because I have to for an hour show. I designed the live set so it might not be the easiest thing to play, the easiest setup on your back, and your positioning and everything else, but it looks good! In the studio I wouldn't set up that whole kit. The only thing I would set up in the studio would be the bare minimum. If I have to play a bass drum, a snare drum, a high-hat, and no crashes in a song part or if I don't need any toms, I won't set up the toms. If I need just a regular four-piece kit, I'll set up a thirteen, sixteen, a ride and crash, or something, but I won't set up a whole drum set. Every song will change. If I have to do new over-dubs in some part of the song so it sounds like two drummers, a lot of the time I'll stand up. I'll set up a tri-tom, like I was marching, and play standing up to approach it in a different way.

GC: Do you bring a whole bunch of drums into the studio in order to have some variety to choose from, or to have some options?

Fish: I try to bring as much as I can into the studio. Premier sent me a ton of drums. But the last producer that we worked with rented every drum set in town. He went to, like, three different companies! He went to Drum Paradise, he went to Drum Doctors, he went everywhere! First, he got every drum set you could think of in town. Then they got into the room and he listened to every single drum, and every single drum set, and every single head on each drum, with a mic in each corner of the room before he decided on what to use.

GC: Do you think that made a difference?

Fish: It did in his eyes, I guess. The drums sound great, so I would say he did a good job, definitely! I mean, I'd never had that much time spent on drums and I always wished I could've. Usually we just throw them up from the tour with the broken front heads and the bass drum is rattling and broken. We threw it up and we did "Smells Like Children" in three days. I listen to that album now and the drums sound great! But, when we were doing it at the time I thought, "I wish we could spend some more time on these drums." But they still sound good in their own way. They sound totally different. You know, everything has its time, I guess! With the last album we got some really thick, warm, fat, classic-sounding drums. But on "Smells Like Children" it was very punk. Throw it up and get-it-done. It sounds good. We did "I Put A Spell On You" for the Lost Highway soundtrack, and the drums are real dry and we did those on the same set. We just threw them up really quick. I'm not really that anal about it. You know, a lot of people listen to eighteen crash cymbals that are the same size before they find the one they like. But, we go through stuff so fast, that it doesn't really matter that much. We throw up crashes, and they end up being broken or whatever, so we throw up another one and then it'll end up being broken!

GC: Are you involved in writing material for the band?

Fish: Just as the sense of a drummer, mainly. We start writing a program for a drum machine or a loop, or we'll play something at sound check. I'll come up with a beat, and the bass player will come up with a bass riff and the guitar player will start playing and it's basically that. I mean, I don't play guitar, so I don't claim to be able to write rock music for a rock band. In the past I've fiddled around and programmed stuff, or whatever. Nothing that Manson has used to this point, or that I expect them to use, but I'm okay with that. I'm trying at this point to be the best drummer I can be and I don't want to overshadow that by arguing about who writes more of the material on something, you know? The time will come. You know, one song will end up being run, and then two songs, and before you know it, you'll end up having six or seven songs. It's a slow process, you know? I did a little bit of keyboard on the new album so far, but so did Manson, so did Twiggy, so did everybody! So, pretty much, whoever's around just starts banging on something and whatever gets used, gets used. I played a little on the Powerman 5000 album that just came out. They're friends and they said "Why don't you come down and play some keyboard?" So I went down and I jammed with them on a song and they recorded it and it ended up on the album. I expected, like, to practice it for a day and then rehearse it, and record it. But we just started jamming and recorded it, and we were done! It was a total improv kind of thing.

GC: Do you have a home recording studio?

Fish: The band owns a full recording studio and I continually purchase pieces for them and they reimburse me. When our old engineer left us to go do other projects in LA, the studio sat and nobody was running it, so I started taking control. I started learning how to run ProTools and Studio Vision. I hooked up the racks and we took them out on tour. I used to set them up in my hotel room on tour. Since we got back into town, I've been the one that moves them around and sets them up in the studio. So the studio is there for me to use twenty-four hours a day, whenever I want it. I basically consider that a home studio because I can use it anytime I want, even though the band really owns it. We run Logic and Studio Vision and we have a twenty-four bit ProTools system. We have all the TC Electronics stuff. We have a couple of everything. A couple Finalizers, we have a couple Fireworx. We've got pretty much everything TC makes. Then we have old Eventides, Drwmer compressors, a bunch of boss pedals, all the pedals you can think of. Then we have the three DA88's. I use two of them live, and then when they're not live, they come back to the studio I can sync those up to the computer. Our mixing consoles are all Mackie. I have a SR32o4, I think it is, and I have two1604's. I have some very high-end Shure mics. Other than that I've got the SM57s and 58s, but they're all Shure.

GC: So, if I was just getting started drumming and I don't have a lot of money to spend, what would you suggest I should start off with?

Fish: A couple of friends of mine have called me up wanting to know what kit they should get. I've always suggested that they buy the Cabria kit, which is a Premier kit. It's pretty much the same as the Projector kits used to be. I used to play Projectors. They sound great and the Cabria is basically an old Projector-style set. It's a great price and it's a great set. A couple of the guys in my band want to set up drum sets at their house and those are the ones I want to get for them.

GC: What your advice would you give to young drummers?

Fish: You defininitely have to learn how to play to a click track. You have to practice with a drum machine and play to a click track. You're not going to get very far if you can't go into the studio and play to a click track because everything nowadays is run on computers and timed up and stuff like that. You're going to get replaced. The last drummer from Manson couldn't play to a click track. He couldn't do it in the studio and he couldn't do it live. They hired me because I could. When you get to a certain level and your band wants to use a click track in the studio or something, they're going to end up replacing you with a drummer that can!

GC: Do you warm up before performances?

Fish: I used to on the "AntiChrist" tour. I used to play for about an hour. I would set up a practice pad behind the stage and I would play for about an hour behind the opening band. Then I started realizing that a lot of times it's easier to just get up and play, depending on the arrangement of the set list. If it's a hard song first or if it's real simple songs that give you time to warm up before you get to the middle of the set. On the last tour, I spent, like 5 minutes warming up my hands, but I spent, like, 20 minutes stretching. I started realizing that with my age I need to stretch my muscles, because I was lifting a lot of weights and my muscles were locking up on me, and you get cold hands and stuff, so it's really something you have to do. When you're young, maybe you get away with not doing it, but when you get older, you've definitely got to. I spend like 20 minutes stretching, but I don't stretch more than 20 minutes because I've over-stretched before. I've stretched myself and then gone up to play and it's been harder to play the show than if I didn't stretch at all. So I try to limit my stretching before playing. I stretch at night before I go to bed and then get up in the morning and stretch a little bit. You definitely have to stretch your muscles before, and relax. If you start getting tense and tightening up your muscles, your hands won't work properly. You'll drop the stick or your hands will get cold. You really have to relax. There's a lot of mental stress that you have to blow off as you're playing.

GC: Do you practice?

Fish: I'm trying to at this moment as much as I can. I've got, like, five drum sets set up in my family room. I play right handed and left handed. So I'm spending time right now playing right handed, which is very different because obviously playing right handed, my right foot doesn't want to do the same things my left foot would. My left foot is very swingy and fast and my right foot is very rock-oriented, very straight and to the point. So there are a lot of things I play right handed that sound very cool. Left handed, I play a lot of the swing. Alot of Manson stuff is swing and people don't realize it. It's a lot of blues and swing. "Beautiful People" and "Dope Show," those are all swing beats and blues riffs and stuff like that. But I practice about an hour a day right handed and about an hour a day left handed. When we're recording, I'm down at the studio at noon and leave when Manson's tired. Which is like noon to two in the morning. So, practice can't be regimented at that point, I'm just working around the clock. I really want to get more on a regimen of reading, and maybe pick up a teacher again while we're in town for the year and start taking lessons again. I took lessons from a Yamaha drummer named Les Miller for awhile in Florida. I also talked a couple times to Chuck Silverman who's now teaching at MI. He's great at Latin rhythms and stuff like that, so I may call him up and try to hook up with him for a little while. I try to hit clinics. I know there's a clinic today at Guitar Center that I'm gonna try and get to. I'm just trying to be a drummer. Trying to get to as many things as I can. Guitar Center's Drum-Off competition was last Tuesday, and every Tuesday for the next couple of months, and I'm gonna try and get to that and see all the young drummers because you learn so much by listening!

GC: Do you shop at Guitar Center?

Fish: I live there, pretty much! I'm there daily. And I love the drum room. I could live up there! I want to go back just to have fun and play and discuss drums and talk to people and see people. So, I pretty much hang out there a lot, and for everything that's not given to me by a sponsor, I have an account and we pick up stuff at Guitar Center daily. All my keyboard stuff comes from Guitar Center plus effects, patch bays and cords and any kind of libraries and stands. I got my cases and racks for the studio, and Twiggy goes in there and dropped thousands on basses and guitars all the time!