On the road with Kansas’s Drum Tech Eric Holmquist

Eric, welcome to Kickacts and tell use a little bit about  yourself.

My name is Eric Holmquist and I am Phil Eharts Drum Tech from the band KANSAS. I live in Northwest Indiana, about 45 minutes from Downtown Chicago. I’ve been playing drums since the age of 3 and alot of that had to do with my Dad, who is also a drummer. Before jumping on board with KANSAS, I worked at Guitar Center as a Drum Department Manager for 4 years. As a kid, I was an avid basketball player and would play any chance I could. When I realized that I would never make it to the NBA HAHAHA, I shifted towards music. I have two younger brothers, Ian (27 yrs old, lives in England and is in the Air Force) and Evan (24 yrs old, Special Needs Teacher) and two Great Parents, Neil and Judy

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These drums are now set for Rock and Roll!

How did you get to become a drum tech for Phil Ehart of KANSAS and what’s it like being a drum tech?

Ever since I was about 6 or 7 yrs old, KANSAS was my ALL TIME FAVORITE BAND. My parents, who also love Kansas, played their records while I was growing up as well as lots of other bands (Yes, Styx, The Dixie Dregs etc) so I was introduced to this music at a very young age. I got to see Kansas for the first time in 1987 and from then on, I was hooked. My parents would take me to see them 5 or 6 times a year so after awhile, the guys got to know me. I definitely stuck out in a crowd, a 6 yr old, Red Head with Freckles singing every word to every song. When I finally got my Drivers License, I took off for the Summer and would see as many shows as possible all over the USA. I formed friendships with all those guys, both band and crew. One day while working at Guitar Center, I got a call from JT Thompson (Phil’s Tech On and Off since 1978) and he informed me that he was retiring from the road and asked if I would like the job. I guess I was the first choice so without hesitation, I gladly accepted the job and quit Guitar Center that same day. And here we are, 9 yrs later..

 

Describe a typical show day for you?

Usually my day starts between 3 a.m and 5 a.m, depending on what time my flights are. Drive the hour to the airport and fly to my destination. From there, I meet the rest of the crew and we pile into Rental Cars and drive to the venue (we drive anywhere from 10 miles to 300 miles depending on where we are playing.) After arriving at the venue, (usually around 11 or 11:30), we’ll grab some lunch and start unloading our truck. It takes me about an hour or so to set up Phil’s Kit, which his kit is Pretty Monsterous. Every once in awhile the band will come in for a Sound check but most of the time, we just do a quick line check to make sure it all works. After our line check, we usually just hang out and relax before dinner. Our showtimes are anywhere from 7 p.m to 10 p.m. During the show, I am either sitting right behind Phil or off to the side of the stage. My ears take ALOT of abuse so lately I have been off to the side stage. I keep my eyes on Phil the entire show, just in case something breaks or he needs something. After the show, we pack up our gear and load our truck ( From the end of the show, it takes us about an hour and a half to pack up and load out) We all pile into the Rental Car and drive to our hotel, arriving anywhere between 10:30 p.m to sometimes 2 or 3 a.m. After getting to my room, I usually just sit down and unwind, maybe have a beer or two before going to bed. Sleep is hit or miss on the road, especially when we have a 5 a.m Lobby Call and didn’t get to bed until 2 or 3. I’ve mastered the art of sleeping on Airplanes really well 🙂 Fly to the next city and do it all over again…

 

Your also a bad ass drummer yourself. Are you venturing out to play behind the kit full time?

Thanks for your kind words Chuck. I still play drums everyday, whether on the road or at home but it’s really tough to get into a band when I’m gone every weekend. I’m always looking for a Better Gig bc nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky HAHAHAHAHA. I enjoy doing Recording Sessions as often as possible and I really enjoy playing different types of music. I would love to be just a Session Drummer and stay home but that kind of work is NOT consistent.

 

Is there any truth to the Rock and Roll lifestyle? And are most musicians’ modern day gypsies?

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Phil Ehart and Eric!

Yes and No. To me, the term Rock and Roll Lifestyle is whatever you make it and how you handle yourself on the road. A lot of people believe its all Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll but its really not. Sex and Drugs are EVERYWHERE, not just on tour. As far as the Kansas guys go, NOBODY has an ego. We all have our good days and our bad days but usually we respect each other and give each other space. We have toured with MANY MANY different bands such as Styx, Journey, Yes, REO Speedwagon, Jethro Tull, Blue Oyster Cult, Foghat, The Doobie Brothers, Status Quo, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eddie Money, KISS, Joan Jett, Bad Company, Kings X, Heart, Grand Funk Railroad, Dream Theater, Foreigner etc etc etc. I have met performers who will not talk to their fans, no autographs, no pictures, nothing, and I always tried to be the exact opposite. If it wasn’t for the fans, we wouldn’t be here just like every other band out there. These are the people who are buying your albums and dvds and tshirts and putting food on the table. I am very fortunate with my job and I know other people who would DIE to be in my shoes.

 

 Without getting anyone in trouble, what’s the craziest thing you can tell us you have seen or done on the road?

On my first tour in Europe back in 2005 we played a gig in Holland at a huge festival with tons of different bands such as Styx, Dream Theater, Twisted Sister, Lou Graham of Foreigner and Crosby, Stills and Nash to name a few. During the song Bringing It Back, I would come out dressed in a Red Pimp Suit and would play the Congas. When the song ended, I turned around and David Crosby was standing there watching. He came right up to me and asked if he could buy my Red Suit HAHAHAHA. I think he was serious about buying my suit hahaha but I ended up keeping it.

 

Last year we did a Fall Tour with Kings X and although it was a short tour, it was

GREAT. The first song of the encore was Hungarian Rhapsody (an old piece that they used to play back in the 70s with a little bit of The Saber Dance included). Well I thought it would be funny to dress up like a clown and run out on stage and dance around. The band seemed to get a kick out of it for awhile but that night in Minneapolis, they decided to pull a prank on me. During the Hungarian Rhapsody, I’m out there in my Clown Suit dancing around when all of a sudden 2 Cops run on stage and proceed to physically remove me with force. They grabbed me by my arms and took me backstage and cuffed me. During this time, I’m trying to tell these Cops that I’m part of the show and I’m supposed to be up there. The Cops looked at me and started laughing their heads off. The band guys arranged it with the Cops before the gig so I had no idea. Some friends of mine were video taping this from the front of the stage so when I watched it back, I could see ALL the Kansas Guys with their heads down, laughing hysterically. GOOD TIMES

 

 You just got back from the “Legends of Rock” cruise. I had a cousin attend that. He said the show was awesome! Was this your first boat show?

Yes it was my first Cruise and it was a blast. We played 2 gigs on the boat in 2 different venues (The Pool Deck Stage and The Platinum Theater). I get motion sick really bad so I was on a 10 Dramamine a day habit HAHA. It was really great hanging out with all those bands (Foreigner, Paul Rodgers, Blue Oyster Cult, Foghat, CCR, 38 Special, Molly Hatchett and many many more.

 

Do you ever get star struck when meeting people like David Crosby? I mean the guy played at WOODSTOCK!

Sometimes. I didn’t have time to be starstruck with David Crosby bc it happened so fast. I met Stevie Wonder at NAMM and i ‘ll admit that I was kind of speechless. But you gotta realize that they are just people with really cool jobs.

Do you ever ask the other bands for autographs for yourself or is there a unwritten “protocol” against that?

I’m not an autograph type of guy. I like snapping pictures if I can but that’s about it.

Do you collect memorabilia from the bands you tour with and if so, What are some of them and what do you consider the coolest one?

The only thing I still collect is Backstage Passes. I think I’m up to about 3,000 haha. I collected Kansas Memorabilia as a kid and had a Big Collection but I gave most of it to friends and charities..

 Does the smell of fog juice and cigarette smoke ever get old in the arenas?

Most of the arenas we play are NON SMOKING, especially the newer ones. The smell of FOG juice doesn’t bother me as much as the FOG itself. I know it looks really cool but sometimes its just too much and we cant see a thing.

 

 In your opinion, are today’s drummers any better or worse than classic drummers and what could they both “learn” from each other?

In my opinion, the drummers of “today” are better. With technology now, drummers can watch DVDS, look on the Internet, Rewind and slow it down for you. Classic drummers are The Pioneers in my opinion bc those are the guys who created that groove or wrote that song and has influenced every drummer out there. Some of these young drummers like Tony Royster Jr, Thomas Pridgen and Jonathan Schang are in their own world, almost Prodigy Material.

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Eric rocking out with Steve Walsh!

 

 Any advice for someone wanting to be a musicians’ tech?

Make sure you have a good relationship with that musician. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and always try to better your life. HAHA Oh and GET A PASSPORT 🙂

What is your opinion of today’s music? The Good/The Bad?

Honestly, I think today’s music is TERRIBLE, in my opinion.  Everything is done with computers and pro tools as opposed to having musicians on stage.  I think Adele can sing her ass off but its not my type of music.

What would you tell someone that has never heard of Kansas and their music and what they are missing.

Kansas, in my opinion, are some of the most talented musicians I’ve ever seen.  Some of that early stuff is just incredible and I still get goosebumps from time to time.  You have to appreciate their musicianship even if its not your type of music..

Any idea why classic rock bands continue to sell out arenas and only a select few modern bands can do it…

When 2 or 3 Classic Rock Bands tour together, its always a success.  People can spend 40 or 50 bucks to see three bands so the market is much better.  When we do gigs with just us, the venues change everyday.  We play anywhere from Fairs and Festivals to Casinos to Amphitheaters to Arenas, depending on where we are in the world.  A few years ago, we did a Summer Tour with Styx and Foreigner and it was GREAT.  We played Amphitheaters (including the famous Red Rocks) and Arenas and every night, 10,000 people or more were there.

Do you ever get requests for backstage passes and how do you handle that?

LOL Not too many people wanna come backstage at a Kansas show but the ones who do, we usually just ignore them.  Its hard enough to work but to be bothered by drunk fans is not always fun…  just smile and say the band has left the building…

Coolest rock star you have ever met (excluding your present employers’: P)

I got to meet Stevie Wonder at the NAMM show in LA years ago.  Even though I am a drummer, he was still one of my heroes.  I also met Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters at an airport somewhere.  Other than that, I’ve met pretty much every Classic Rock Band from that era (Journey, Styx, Foreigner, REO Speedwagon, YES, Jethro Tull, Eddie Money, Three Dog Night, Blue Oyster Cult, Foghat, etc, etc, etc)

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Eric with Kansas, Foreigner and Styx!

What are you listening to at the moment?

I’m currently listening to the airport telling me that my flight is delayed HAHA.  I listen to a lot of Progressive Rock Music (YES, Genesis, Tool, Gentle Giant, Spocks Beard).  I’m usually so busy that I rarely listen to music while I’m home…

Is the band’s stage volume as loud as the front house speakers?

Everybody in KANSAS is on in ear monitors so the stage volume is mostly drums and a little bit of guitar so its usually quiet.  It all changes from venue to venue but for the most part, just drums..

 

You’re stranded on an island and you have only one album to keep and listen to. What is it?

Can I pick the Island?  Haha, I would have to say the album Troubles with Machines by District 97.  They’re a GREAT band from Chicago that I’ve been working with. Their lead singer is Leslie Hunt (American Idol Semi Finalist from 2007) and she can really put on a show while the band is playing some off the wall Prog Rock..   Just a KILLER band and Jonathan Schang (Drummer), who writes most of the material, is a True Genius, in my opinion.

Did you ever have the hots for the pink power ranger?

Never watched Power Rangers, a little after my time….

The last question we call “Shout it out Loud’. So go ahead Eric, and “SHOUT IT OUT LOUD”.

 

SHOW ME THE MONEY! 🙂

 Eric

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