TCZ: Tell us a little bit about what influenced you the most in pursuing a career in music.
Dena: Seeing Karen Carpenter perform live.
TCZ: You've credited Karen carpenter as your main inspiration to begin drumming. Can you tell us about that?
Dena: I fell in love with the music of the Carpenters as a kid - my parents listened to them. After learning that she was a drummer, I became interested in the drums. I would take my mom's pots and pans out of the cabinet & bang on them with chopsticks in the middle of the living room. My parents took me to see them in concert and my Dad sweet-talked a security guy who was able to get me and my brother backstage to meet them. It was a life-altering experience...truly. Then, during their show, she was featured on drums. Seeing her up there beaming and playing the hell out of those drums made me want to do it, too. I was relentless with my parents, begging them for lessons & they finally gave in! The autographed poster from that night hangs next to my bed!
TCZ: What was the most difficult aspect of learning to play drums for you and did you have any professional training?
Dena: I studied privately for 8 years as a kid; I got away from it for a bit and have studied over the past 8 years with several diffferent teachers. I found the most difficult part to be focusing on my actual lessons. I practiced my lessons, but was far more interested in playing along to records!
TCZ: Do you play any other instruments besides the drums?
Dena: I taught myself some guitar about 10 years ago. I had gotten pretty good at rhythm, but haven't played in quite a while.
TCZ: When did you first begin performing and do you remember that first night when you took the stage and how you felt?
Dena: My first "gig" was during 8th grade. I was playing covers with a bunch of boys a bit older than me. The gig was a high school dance, in the gymnasium. The first time I was on a "stage" was a little later that year, also at the high school. It was some sort of concert with a few different bands. It was the most amazing feeling to be on a stage, with all the lights and noise surrounding you. I loved it immediately!
TCZ: Tell us about that first meeting with Cathy and Kristen and what influenced you the most to join, Antigone Rising?
Dena: I first met the girls back in late '98 when I was asked to audition for the band. I had less than 24 hours to prep - I was asked to learn 4 of their tunes. I had been working a day gig in retail at the time & the bassist dropped of the CD at about noon that monday - my long day - which meant I wasn't going to get to listen to it until I got home after 9pm. I stayed up, charted the tunes, worked the next day til 5 and bolted into NYC for the audition. I read down the tunes and got the gig.
It was a bit nerve-wracking, but it went pretty well. I liked the music and their vibe - it felt like things were definitely going in the right direction & I wanted to be a part of it. I had been working with several other projects at the time and none of them seemed to be going in the right direction. I was really excited about the opportunity to work with AR.
TCZ: Can you describe your bandmates and what each of them brings to the band through your eyes?
Dena: That's a really hard question - they all bring a lot to the table & I feel I will be selling them short by trying to say it concisely. I first must say that we all share a ridiculous sense of humor. It's insane how much & how hard we make each other laugh. Now that I have that out of the way....
Kristen is rock solid, very consistent and very creative in her writing & arrangement ideas. Her work ethic is crazy - she's always working on her computer or doing something to learn more about guitar.
Cathy is the quickest wit on the planet...her sense of humor permeates everything. Her style is rocker-based, with a more soulful/blues feel, which is a great asset to us.
Jen is the quiet beatle (comparitively speaking!), but always throws in a line or 2 when we least expect it, which is hysterical. She is technically amazing - incredibly proficient - and insanely groovy.
Cass has incredible stage presence and creative instincts. Her lyrics, more often than not, make me cry (I do recognize that I am prone to that as a pisces, but it's not just because of that!) Her voice is somewhat familiar, yet unlike anything anyone has ever heard. So powerful, soulful and amazing.
TCZ: Describe for us a day in the life of Dena Tauriello on a typical show day, while touring.
Dena: There hasn't been much consistency for us - most of our touring has been in a van, but some recently has been in a bus. I'll give you the bus version:
I'm usually up early - it's hard to sleep long on the road, especially when you're in a bus with like 8 other people and then I go work out. Workouts are usually about 1 1/2 hours (cardio, stretching, weights). Then, it's time for coffee, a little something to eat and a shower. We have to get to the venue early - around 1pm - so the crew can load in. The band has to sit around and rot until we soundcheck much later, so I usually check in on email, maybe do a little playing, then grab some lunch. Sometimes I just lay in my bunk and read, or listen to my iPod.
Then, we soundcheck (somewhere between 5 & 6pm. I'll start to get ready for the show - do hair, make-up, warm-up and eat dinner. After the show, it's usually a meet & greet with fans; a brief cool-down, then we watch the headliner and relax a bit on the bus. We get ready to crawl back in our bunks (I usually crash about midnight) & drive thru the night while trying to sleep in a moving object so that we can do it all again the next day!
TCZ: What is your favorite song to perform live and why?
Dena: I actually don't have one favorite. Because of the diversity in the songwriting, my parts are a bit varied. I enjoy moving from one style to the next. It seems like more of a challenge to change gears with each song as we move though the set.
TCZ: Using just one word describe for us "From The Ground Up"?
TCZ: With the band's fast rise to success you have had some amazing opportunities including a chance open for the Rolling Stones. Tell us about that.
Dena: It was crazy...very high security and a very tight ship. It was such a great experience....the huge venues (arenas), the delicious catering (it's tough to eat well on the road!), the warm reception from the crowd. It was all great. We didn't get too much time with the boys, but we did a quick photo on our last night and we did have a few moments with Ketih, Ron & Charlie prior to that. They were SO nice - they even came up to watch some of our set. That was such a huge compliment. It feels a bit surreal.
TCZ: What can you tell us about the pending studio album and can we expect any surprise contributions from you?
Dena: I actually can't tell you much at this point! The girls have done a ton of writing, so there will be some great new stuff on it. We haven't finished hammering out the details yet, but we know it will all happen very, very soon. We're excited to make this record. Sorry to say, no surprise contributions from me....though if I did tell you, it wouldn't be a surprise, would it?!
TCZ: What do you believe has been the most difficult barrier for you as a female drummer in today's music industry and how do you overcome it?
Dena: Just walking into a store to buy something is a challenge. I can't tell you how many times I've wandered into a Guitar Center or Sam Ash and have been ignored. It's really shocking. All the guys around me will get asked if they need help, and I'm just standing there laughing to myself. It's so ridiculous. There is just this stereotype that girls can't drum. I don't know why - there are plenty of women who play their asses off - but the prejudice still exists.
Even when you finish a show, sometimes you still get the backhanded compliment of, "hey, that was pretty good". I hate that. I'd rather be ignored than patronized! The only thing you can do is continue to play great. Every time you are on stage, you have to be your best. You are under a much larger microscope as a female musician & there is no margin for error. That is the exact thing that has made AR a great band - we have to be amazing every night we take the stage.
TCZ: What advice would you give an aspiring female drummer today?
Dena: Take lessons - learn how to read, learn rudimentals and all the basics and do it with a metronome. Listen to different drummers - get exposed to many different styles of drumming and music and play along to it. I hate to even say this, but image is also important - create one for yourself. You have to always present yourself as best you can. Drumming is very demanding and it requires strength, which women don't inherently have. Work out a bit - stretch and get a little stronger. Take care of yourself and your body. If drumming is your passion, it will most certainly require perseverance - don't give up!
TCZ: What can we expect from Antigone Rising in the near future?
Dena: A killer studio record & more touring. Always more touring!
Drummer Dena Tauriello of Antigone Rising