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Adam Phillips

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On The Beat with Adam Phillips

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)

Nobody in Kansas City—and I mean nobody—hits harder and more precisely than Adam Phillips of The Architects. In anticipation of their upcoming show at Apocalypse Meow next Saturday, we sit down with the drummer and find out more about his technique, his favorite drummers in town, and why Van Halen is better than Van Hagar. Catch the beat right here!

--Michelle Bacon

On The Beat is a weekly Q&A with some of the best drummers in Kansas City. If you'd like to be considered for this interview, please send us an email at kceditor@thedelimagazine.com.

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On The Beat with Adam Phillips


If you haven't seen Adam Phillips in action, you're missing one of the hardest hitting drummers in Kansas City and beyond. His band The Architects has been a Kansas City institution for almost 10 years, with him and his brothers Brandon and Zach, and Keenan Nichols. Adam's balls-to-the-wall drumming style has lended to the band's success, which includes being a part of the 2010 Warped Tour and opening up for My Chemical Romance. Adam talks to us today about his long history as a drummer and his hard-hitting techniques. 

The Deli: How did the drums find you?

Adam PhillipsI started playing the drums when I was 9. My grandparents had given me a little kids drum set years earlier but that doesn't really count. When I was 9, my parents bought me a snare drum for Christmas and my neighbor gave me the rest of his old drum set. It was a cool old Ludwig 4-piece and I wish I still had it. The drums came with the requirement that I start taking lessons and even though I was the worst student EVER, my teacher taught me what I needed to get going. As for the "why" I started playing, I don't really remember. I suppose I was always a music lover. Tapping along with the songs on the oldies station in the car.

The DeliWhat type of kit do you use?

Adam: I play a big bad C&C custom-made kit, and although I want more and more drums, I would never ever ever ever part with mine. She's a beast, and I love her.

The DeliYou've been in bands with your brothers for a number of years. How's that dynamic different than being in a band with people you aren't so closely related to?

AdamYeah yeah, I play in a band with my brothers and I always have ever since I picked up a pair of drumsticks. I don't know any other way. It makes it hard sometimes to play with non-brothers when I do a studio session with another band or fill in for someone else on a gig. Brandon, Zach, and I can write and arrange music only using bizarre music reference language that most people wouldn't get right away. Example: "All right. 4 bars of the Nine Inch Nails thing and then drop the Blondie beat before the Helmet part” (but none of it sounds remotely like NiN or Blondie or whatever). Keenan Nichols caught on fast though, and he fucking rules to play with.

The DeliYou're one of the heaviest hitting drummers in KC. What's your approach to playing the drums?

Adam I play with the butt-end of my drum sticks and I play extra long heavy sticks because Rock and Roll drums just sound better loud. And I play better when I play with every ounce of energy I can muster. 

I learned at a young age that when I play more reserved and try to express a lot of subtle stuff, I end up just playing like most everyone else and anyone listening can tell. But when I really give it hell and play with everything I have, there's a kind of special energy to it and when I just let go, sometimes something clicks and a little bit of unrehearsed magic happens. Also should be noted that sometimes I fall flat on my face. But the risk is worth the reward. 

In a world where every Tom, Dick and Harry thinks they should play live music, it becomes painfully clear that if you want to give people a reason to keep paying the ticket price at the door, you need to give them what they paid for and try to put on a real show.

The DeliYou also play in the SKA/reggae-style band Sex Police and have done several other small projects. Has that caused you to take a different approach to your playing?

Adam: I've had the pleasure of playing a lot of different types of music through the years with The Gadjits, Sex Police, and bunch of other small projects. They all make a mark on my playing.  You can never stop learning new licks ad new styles if you really love playing. I'm not reinventing the wheel by a long shot, but it keeps me busy trying to learn the best ways to play what I hear in my head.

The DeliGot a favorite ass-kicking drum fill that comes to mind?

AdamThe first big tom and double kick fill in “Hot For Teacher”! Van Halen, not Van Hagar!

The DeliWho are your biggest influences?

AdamKeith Moon, Max Roach, Lloyd Knibb, Charlie Watts.

The Deli: You've been in the KC music scene for a long time. Are there any other drummers around here that you think have that same bombastic, machine-like energy as you?

AdamI love this question! In no particular order: Duck McLane (Blue Riddim), Go-Go Ray, Mike Dillon, Chris Metcalf (The Life and Times), Brett Southard (Cherokee Rock Rifle), Marshall Kilpatric (The Esoteric), Lance Bennett (The Leo Project), Mike MiniBarf Myers (Olivetti Letter, In The Pines), Rob Veitch (The Hearers), Jason Gerken (Shiner), and Alex Organ (Sirhan Sirhan, Overstep). There are a ton of great drummers in this town, but right now these are the ones that come to mind. They all have very different styles, but I love them all.

The Deli: You guys have done huge tours around the country. I imagine playing hard every night takes a toll on your body. Any advice for drummers who are beginning to tour?

Adam: Don't be a dumbass. Tour is hard work. It's not a vacation from your home life. If you treat it like it is, that's all it will be. Take care of yourself. Drink water. Get some sleep. Also, watch the drummers of the other bands, but try not to learn anything from the shitty ones.

The Deli: So, what's next for The Architects? What do you think the future holds for you guys?

Adam: A lot. We have been writing and recording and working our fingers to the bone to make something extra special, but its not done yet so I can't really talk about it. I hope to make a big announcement or two soon! Stay tuned!

Adam will be filling up the sound of The Beaumont Club with his merciless pounding of the drums next Saturday at Apocalypse Meow. The Architects will be headlining the event.

--Michelle Bacon
Michelle is editor-in-chief of The Deli - Kansas City. She also has a weekly column with The Kansas City Star and reviews music for Ink. She plays with Deco AutoDrew Black and Dirty Electric, and Dolls on Fire. In 5th grade, she dressed up as a computer programmer when everyone had to dress up for their dream job. She is not a computer programmer and never would be.

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Adam Phillips

Photo by Todd Zimmer

The Architects



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