Finding my Sound

I recently had the privilege of attending the Percussion Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) in Indianapolis last November. For any drummer/percussionist, this is essentially the weekend that we all dream of, long for, and completely nerd out at every year. We get to experience several days of nothing but drum gear, master classes, clinics, and performances from some of today’s coolest players. I was there on assignment for Modern Drummer taking pictures and spending time with industry friends. There were two clinics throughout the convention that really inspired me to take action and make some changes in my daily routine. Well for one, they inspired me to actually have a daily routine for my music!

The first clinic that caught my attention was by my good friend and Modern Drummer Managing Editor, Mike Dawson. He shared how he was able to grow and experience more freedom in his playing by maintaining a more disciplined routine for his practice and exploration on the instrument. Every day he gets up, practices for about an hour, then records a 60-second video of his work to share on social media. These videos have resulted in a killer Instagram page and a dynamic group of followers that love engaging with him about his current work. You can check out his page here. The second clinic that really inspired me was from Nate Wood. My goodness that man is a machine. He plays keys, bass, drums, and sings at the same time! What I loved most about his music is that it didn’t feel like an exercise in independence. It was true creative expression. His clinic sparked an old flame inside of me for my love of piano and got me starting to think if there was a way for me to combine my passion for drums and keys together.

After staying up till the wee hours with Mike chatting about my love of analog synths and everything else that was swirling around in my head…a plan was born :-)

I came home and picked up a beautiful Deepmind 6 Analog Synth from Behringer, re-configured my drum setup to include the synth and let the exploration begin! Every day I’ve been dedicating time to figuring out my voice on this new setup. I’ve been exploring playing both instruments at the same time, both separately and over-dubbed on top of each other, or simply getting lost in the wild tones and sounds of the synth by itself. The process of discovering my sound is still ongoing, but it’s been pretty fun to see the process and evolution of everything thus far. Below is a little timeline of the music that I’ve created to date.

I gave myself one simple rule for this new project: I’ve got 60 seconds to take someone on a musical journey.

Hope you all enjoy!


Take 1 - Just me and my synth

Take 2 - Exploring a vibe

Take 3 - Both at the same time

Take 4 - Getting comfortable

Take 5 - Back to overdubs and feeling inspired

Take 6 - All together and getting deep

Take 7 - Finally writing some music

Take 8 - Finding my sound

Interstellar - "Day One" Drum Video

I still find myself thinking about Interstellar all the time, and love listening to the soundtrack while I work. I was inspired to find a way to combine my passion for drumming with the music of Interstellar. Finding a drum part that would serve this song was a big challenge, and an absolute blast. I hope you all enjoy :-) 

Groovin' on the Housetop with The Sonora Project

So here's the basic flow of my jazz/fusion band, The Sonora Project. If everyone shows up, then we work on writing music and recording our new album. If only a few of us show up then we get to hit the pause button on everything and make a little musical mischief :-) The video below is the result of one of those times. We did a Christmas video last year and it was something that we thoroughly enjoyed, and I anticipate this becoming a fun tradition for the band that may even result in a Christmas album some day. 

We picked a song, wrote an arrangement, and recorded this video all within a couple hours.

If you listen carefully, you can hear a lot of our musical influences and tributes that we pay to the holiday albums that influenced us growing up. One of the big ones for me was the Jackson 5 Christmas album. There is so much groove going on throughout that album that you can't help but just get lost in it. The bass and drums alone are just out of this world! So hopefully with that in mind, you can sit back and enjoy our take of Up on the Housetop, or in this case... Groovin' on the Housetop.

Merry Christmas from everyone at The Sonora Project!

Bass - Robert J Payne
Drums - Miguel Angel Monroy
Keys - Steve Marsh

Band Photography with Justin & Megan Shaffer

I've been scheming with my good friend Chuck Heeke about doing a photo shoot with Justin and Megan Shaffer for several months. Although both Chuck and I get to take photos for our full-time jobs, it's only a small part of what we do, and we were looking for an opportunity to experiment some more, and specifically to do a stylized shoot with more of an artistic influence. We really loved a lot of the photography that we had seen of the Civil Wars, and wanted to try our hand at capturing a duo like that. Justin and Meg were perfect. They have incredible chemistry musically AND romantically as husband and wife :-) My goal is that these pictures would capture that chemistry, their individual personalities, and hopefully be the type of photography they would use as album artwork or to promote their music. Everything you see below are my personal favs from the shoot. I'm posting many with similar poses because I just love them all, and even the subtle differences I think are special. All these pics are by yours truly. I hope you all enjoy everything, and thanks for checking out this post!