Russ Lawton is known fondly as “the man behind the kit” for his time with The Trey Anastasio Band, Strangefolk, and extensive session work. While the Trey Band has some down time, Lawton has been focusing his attention on his latest project, the funk-duo Soul Monde with fellow Trey Band member, keyboardist Ray Paczkowski.
Lawton recently checked in with Honest Tune to discuss drumming, touring, and what the future holds for the hard-working drummer.
Honest Tune: When was the moment that you first knew you wanted be a drummer?
Russ Lawton: My first memory is being at the Portuguese Feast parade in New Bedford, MA with my parents where I grew up. You could hear the drummers coming down the street. It gave me chills and I didn’t understand what was going on, I was maybe nine-years old. Luckily there was a drum and bugle corp in my neighborhood that I joined soon after and then started saving for a drum kit.
RL: Steve Jordan; he has an amazing time, feel and tone that keeps the music fresh. John Bonham; again time and feel that swings. I go back and listen to him and he’s inspiring. Check out his isolated drum tracks on Youtube; you’ve got to hit the drums after that. And Tony Allen, Afro-Beat never gets old. His grooves are so inventive, slinky and heartfelt.
HT: Do you have a favorite drumming style to use?
RL: My favorite style is a cross between rock-funk and Afro beat. Kind of what you hear with Soule Monde and Trey Band.
RL: I meet Trey through Tony Markellis, the bass player in the Trey Band. When Trey was looking to put together the Trey Anastasio Band, he wanted Tony to be in the band. He asked Tony who he would like to play drums, Tony suggested me and thankfully it clicked. What makes this project different is that it was the first time I had worked with an established artist. I’ve been in original bands my whole life, slugging it out in the clubs so it is great to play at the theater level.
HT: How did you first meet Ray Paczkowski? How did Soule Monde come about?
RL: The first time I meet Ray was in 2001 when he joined the Trey Band. Soule Monde got together in Sugarbush, VT at a little club called Slide Brook. They have a house Hammond Organ, so I called Ray and asked if he wanted to play there. We came in with a few songs of his and some grooves of mine and made stuff up that turned into songs. Slide Brook kept asking us to come back to play every month and we started making home recordings and we saw the potential. It really has grown little by little. Ray’s great to collaborate with too.
HT: You call Vermont home. Are there any venues that hold special meaning to you in the Green Mountain State?
RL: There’s two. Nectar’s has special meaning because I’ve been playing there for a long time and its always felt like home. I just played at their 40th anniversary party. Years ago we would play four nights in a row, once a month. It really helped get your band tight. People came out to support you and it paid the rent too.
Higher Ground is a great club too, bringing in the next level of national acts. It would be less cutting edge around Burlington if the club was not around. Some of my early Trey shows were at the old and new Higher Ground.
HT: What does the future hold for Russ Lawton?
RL: I’m hoping the future will be as it is now; Trey Band, Soule Monde, releasing some of my vocal rock
songs, playing and recording with other musicians and always working to become a better drummer.