Isaias Gil Talks Drums, Touring, and Joining Black Flag (Interview)

Isaias Gil is a professional punk rock drummer from Houston, TX who recently joined up with American punk rock act Black Flag.

The group is out on a massive tour across the United States, and they are set to hit Latin America in early 2020.

His credits include working with multi-Grammy winner Macy Gray, David Lee Roth, Salvador, Jaci Velaquez, Charlie and The Regrets, Thunderado, and more recently Black Flag.

Gil has shared the stage with many incredible drummers, including Travis Barker (Blink 182) and Stephen Perkins (Jane’s Addiction).

Isaias took the crown in the 2010 Guitar Center Drum-Off with an astonishing solo that incorporated a wide diversity of styles, dynamics, phrasing, technical ability, melodic ideas, stick tricks, and pocket playing.

There’s even a moment of comedic relief around 1:55 that couldn’t be more appropriate.

Gil was born in Acapulco, Mexico, but quickly moved to Houston, TX as a child. He had a late start to drumming, only beginning at the age of fifteen. In an interview with Music Existence, he recalls “bashing away in his parents’ garage,” as so many of us did.

In addition to touring with Black Flag, Isaias teaches private lessons and works as a session drummer.

Interview with Isaias Gil

NC: “Hi Isaias! Thanks for taking a minute to answer some questions. First off, congratulations on the Black Flag gig! How has the tour been thus far? It’s quite extensive from the flyers I’ve seen.”

IG: “Howdy! Thank YOU for letting me be part of this! Also, thanks for the congrats! The tour has been pretty awesome. We are having tons of fun. It has been non-stop, but so much fun.”

Isaias Gil with Black Flag

NC: “How was the process of preparing and auditioning for the band? I understand that you are friends with Mike Vallely, but that alone wasn’t a shoo-in, and there was still a formal audition.”

IG: “I wasn’t sure how to prepare, to be honest. I listened to as much as I could to honor the music and show respect, but I had no idea what to expect. Yeah, I’m friends with Mike and we had worked and traveled together.

However, you’re right, that alone wasn’t my in. The audition was very relaxed but still formal. My name was brought to the table when Black Flag was looking for a drummer and I met with Greg to audition. We met 2 or 3 times. It was cool to see that it wasn’t just about the music, but also to see what kind of a person I was.”

Isaias Gil Kit Front

NC: “Leaving home to travel for an extended period can be exhausting, both physically and mentally. What are some tips you can give to drummers new to touring to help them prepare?”

IG: “I don’t know that I have any tips to give. I think every touring situation is pretty unique. You’re dealing with a lot of personalities. What’s worked for me is being aware that we all react to stressors.

Everyone has good and bad days. I try to be aware that I’m a grouch in the mornings and I don’t like to speak until about 19 cups of coffee. Being aware of my actions helped me some. Also, being a little reserved with opinions or comments helps. I definitely have days where I can’t control it, but for the most part I try to be as easy going and understanding as I can be.

I find it helps to keep my mind busy in order to be conscious of what others in the group might need. Sometimes that’s lending a hand in one situation and in others, that’s giving space.

It’s a lot more mental than anything for me. One tip I would give is to just be a good person. It’s not that hard, but it’s something that keeps you aware of your actions, reactions, and personal approach toward others.”

Isaias Gil Kit Back

NC: “What led you to study drumming?”

IG: “I just loved it. I loved watching drummers jam and seeing the power, control, and finesse of it all. It’s like controlled chaos and a cool dance all at once.”

NC: “Can you remember your first experience recording in a professional studio? I remember being blown away as to how beautiful drums sound in a great room.”

IG: “Yeah! It was terrifying and so much fun. I was 16 and had been playing drums for just a few months. This band asked me to track some songs and I didn’t have a double bass drum pedal (in my head I NEEDED this for their music), so we went to a music store and they bought a DW5000 double pedal.

That ended up being my payment for the recording. I had heard about musicians feeling paralized with the click track or the red light coming on. I was waiting to see how it would affect me. It was the complete antithesis of that..

I loved every bit of it. I was nervous, but excited, and would go into the control room to listen/make sure that I wasn’t fighting the click. I played this green Yamaha recording custom and it sounded so powerful and pretty.”

NC: “Who are some of your favorite influential drummers of today?”

IG: “Josh Freese is one of my biggest influences. Vinnie Colaiuta is another. Aric Improta and his power and control is one of my favorites, too. A lot of drummers come to mind for different reasons, but these are the top 3 for me right now.”

NC: “Drummers today have so many incredible resources to learn from. Some examples come to mind like Drumeo, 180 Drums, Mike Johnston’s YT channel, Adam Tuminaro’s YT channel, etc. What are some of your favorite drumming resources that you share with your students and others?”

IG: “I grew up without YouTube or online stuff. I was all about the Modern Drummer tapes and then the instructional DVDs that came after. I still go back to some basic stuff with my students. Things like Stick Control, 4-Way Coordination, New Breed. All of those books are so, so good.”

NC: “What’s the quickest you’ve had to learn a tune or a setlist for an artist?”

IG: “I’ve had to sit in with a band with less than 2hours notice. I had NO CLUE what we were gonna play or what to do. I set up and they handed me a setlist.

I immediately walked over to my contact there and asked what style each song needed to be like and wrote that next to the titles. Lucky for me, they didn’t ask me to count in any of the songs. Lucky for them too, I suppose.”

NC: “What are you currently working on in your practice regimen?”

IG: “I had some gnarly shoulder and hand numbness come up. I’m currently working on a lot of body mechanics and learning how to be a little more fluid and relaxed. I’m practicing slow and controlled movements and staying aware of my grip, fulcrum, all of that basic stuff.”

NC: “Thanks so much for your time, Isaias!”

IG: “Thank YOU! I really appreciate it!”

Follow Isaias Gil at the following links:

Nick Cesarz

Nick is a drummer, percussionist, and blogger from Milwaukee, WI. He toured extensively with Vinyl Theatre, opening up for acts like twenty one pilots, Panic! at the Disco, and more. Now no longer touring, his passion lies in gear and playing the kit as much as time allows.

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