Canadian Musician - January/February 2023 | Page 56


Justin Tessier is the drummer for Canadian blues-rock duo The Blue Stones , alongside singer and multi-instrumentalist Tarek Jafar . Their 2019 single “ Shakin ’ Off the Rust ” reached number one on the Canadian rock charts and the band was nominated for Breakthrough Group of the Year at the 2020 Juno Awards . Their 2021 album , Hidden Gems , was nominated for Rock Album of the Year at the Juno Awards . The Blues Stones ’ latest LP is 2022 ’ s Pretty Monster .
CM : Generally , how do you and Tarek compose your songs ? How do you test and settle on the right drum part of a Blue Stones song ?
Justin Tessier : It usually starts with a riff or a drum beat – either something I ’ ve composed , or something Tarek stumbles upon from a sample pack or other song , which I then modify to my own style and the riff Tarek wrote . There ’ s usually three or four stages of back-andforth evolution in drum and guitar parts . I find that vocals really shape the final drum pattern I work with , which is typically the last piece added to our songs .
CM : Do you have much experience playing with bands outside of The Blue Stones ? If so , do you find the presence ( or lack of ) of a bass player alters your approach to the drums within a song ’ s structure ?
Tessier : No , The Blue Stones is the only serious project I ’ ve been part of . I ’ ve jammed with groups with bassists and never really found much of the connection that a lot of other “ rhythm section ” players talk about . Again , a lot of the key accents in my playing are actually informed by vocal parts more than anything .
CM : Over the last year or two , is there any particular skill you ’ ve worked on learning / improving ? If so , how did you approach it in your practice regimen ?
Tessier : Sitting in the pocket . There ’ s such a raw , instinctual component to the pocket , but to improve , I ’ ll just sit with our songs for extended periods of time , playing and jamming over them . Incorporating polyrhythms that I wouldn ’ t normally play is a good way to feel and track the overarching click . I feel like if you ’ re always just playing straight eighths and sixteenths on the click , your rigidity actually makes your pocket stability more fragile .
CM : What ’ s your best advice to other drummers on how to most efficiently and effectively improve on the drum kit ?
Tessier : Play more shows . Nothing makes you want to be better than the immediate threat of “ failing ” in front of an audience . You can always tell the difference between a drummer who ’ s spent a thousand hours playing in a basement versus a thousand hours on stage .
CM : When it comes to drum and gear preferences , have there been any significant changes you ’ ve made in recent years ? If so , what led to the change ?
Tessier : Going with a larger diameter but shallower kick versus smaller and deeper . I used to play a 22 x 18-in . kick because I thought I needed the drum depth to bring a big low-end to our sound since we don ’ t have a bassist . My drum manufacturer , Jordan Gauthier of YC Drums , strongly recommended going with a 24 x 12-in . kick . I trusted the process and am so much better off for it – that dimension is perfect for bringing the huge , punchy kick sound I ’ m after .
CM : Lastly , for the gear heads , can you describe your go-to touring kit ?
Tessier : YC Drums Custom : a 14 x 8-in . snare , 13 x 9-in . rack tom , 16 x 14-in . floor tom , and 24 x 12-in . kick .
For cymbals , it ’ s all Zildjian : 22-in . K Custom Dark Ride , 20-in . K Custom Dark Crash , 18-in . Oriental China Trash , and 14-in . A Avedis hi-hats .