Snap-Drag drum duo is a collaborative project between professional percussionists Jessie Nelson and Jane Boxall. In 2012, the pair began exploring, composing and arranging new music for two drumkits. Snap-Drag’s repertoire ranges from ‘The Black Page’ by Frank Zappa to original compositions by Nelson and Boxall, ‘Seventh Heaven’ by Gary Chaffee and the Bjork song ‘Mutual Core’. Snap-Drag drum duo is dedicated to presenting fresh and adventurous music that redefines and stretches the possibilities of drums and percussion.
Jessie Nelson – jessiemnelson.com:
Background with drums and percussion: “I started late at the age of 17, and decided I wanted to go to music school for percussion for my undergraduate degree at Arizona State. I then spent six years playing catch up in the percussion world, learning marimba, vibraphone, african and latin percussion and the drum set. By the time I graduated I was out gigging with a different jazz group every six months, playing restaurants and weddings. I also picked up a church gig as a percussionist where I worked with the same drummer for four years. I also taught during my time in Phoenix, Arizona after my undergraduate degree. I taught private drum lessons and K-12 music. When I moved to New York, I began my graduate degree at Brooklyn College and jumped into the Off Broadway musical theater scene. I spent a few summers in New York during that time teaching at the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, team teaching the advanced students and that’s where I met Jane. We taught together one summer and had a blast watching the girls soak up the information we gave them like sponges!”
How have you managed to learn the program when you live in two different states? A lot of email and just consistent practicing on our own parts. We both are skilled at working on difficult music in short periods of time and both live with the metronome so it wasn’t difficult.
Why the name “snap drag drum duo”? We wanted something that wasn’t cheezy but creative and embodied our idea of the concept of innovation and precision that our material entails.
Who are some of your biggest influences as a drummer? Elvin Jones / Tony Williams / Roy Haynes / Jeff Ballard / Allison Miller / Lafrae Sci.
Tell us something interesting about one of the pieces on the 3/31 program: Learning the Black Page was a total trip for me, I learned it in a month and recorded it for Jane to practice with. I was pretty amazed at myself, seeing that five or six years ago I saw that piece performed by graduate students during my undergraduate time at Arizona State. The thought in my head was “I could never do that” and here I am executing it!
What is your favorite part of the standard drum kit setup, and why? I love the whole snare drum / floor tom / bass drum set up. Love executing various triplet and sixteenth note configurations on those three.
Jane Boxall – janeboxall.com:
Background with drums and percussion: “I’ve been playing drumkit since I was 11 and marimba since I was almost 19. Marimba is what led me to move to the States from the UK, between my second and third music performance degrees. Now I live in Vermont and am happy to spend much of each day playing drums and marimba. I’ve played all kinds of venues from concert halls to kindergartens, from London to Chicago and Manhattan to Seattle. Percussion is the reason I get up in the morning.”
How and why did Snap Drag drum duo form?
In December 2011 I emailed Jessie: “Would you be interested in working up a concert program for two drumkits (me and you)? I was thinking it could be cool and relatively transportable for gigs in NYC and VT…There seems to be very little concert/experimental music for double drums. I would love to change this.” The first piece we found was Gary Chaffee’s ‘Seventh Heaven’ – originally written for Vinnie Colaiuta and Steve Smith — and then we got to work on composing our own music and adapting existing pieces by Frank Zappa and Bjork.
Tell us about your original composition. ‘Particle Series’ is a set of eight miniatures that I wrote at the very start of 2012. It’s basically a lot of ideas I had that I thought might be interesting, exciting or funny to work out on two drumkits. Each miniature is linked to a poetry fragment by Edwin Morgan, the former Scottish poet laureate. We’ll play with drumsticks, brushes, hotrods, mallets and our hands in the miniatures, exploring cross-rhythm, beat phasing, stacked time-signatures, battling beat partials and the choreography of drumming. Hopefully without hitting each other.
Tell us something interesting about one of the pieces on the 3/31 program:
The Bjork song ‘Mutual Core’ is taken from her recent album Biophilia. I really like what she’s doing with that album. I have a couple of drums made from propane tanks (metal tongues are cut in the top of the tank to produce different pitches) and I worked out a fully acoustic version of ‘Mutual Core’ for Snap Drag to sing and play on propane tanks and drumkit.
Who are some of your biggest influences as a drummer?
Jimmy Chamberlin of the Smashing Pumpkins was a formative influence on my playing – particularly for left-foot hi-hat and left-handed cymbal work. Interpol’s Sam Fogarino and Hole’s Patty Schemel for angular, linear beats that say something with space. Tony Hajjar of At The Drive In for creativity and wallop. Jon Theodore and Thomas Pridgen of The Mars Volta for wallop, chops and more wallop. Johnny Rabb for tempo and fizz. Les DeMerle for jazz chops and making the drumkit sing.
What is your favorite part of the standard drum kit setup, and why?
I am a huge fan of tom toms. I like their melodic potential, and the way a drummer can create geometric and melodic shapes between the toms. Ironically, with Snap Drag drum duo I’m using only two toms – one rack and one floor – and am thinking hard about getting the most out of this setup.