My conversation with drummer, Andres Forero, begins with him telling me that he, and everyone involved in the Broadway hit, Hamilton, are getting ready for the Tony awards, where they have a modest 16 nominations(!) This sets the tone quite nicely; Forero’s time on Broadway itself has been a great success (he’s also played drums for the humongous Book of Mormon), but as a jazz drummer and percussionist, he has also played with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Alicia Keys, and on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon. Oh, and he’s already got a Grammy, Emmy, and Tony..!
“I think that’s the most a show has ever had, as far as nominations at the Tony awards are concerned,” Forero tells me. Since we spoke, Hamilton has swept the board, notching no fewer than 11 Tonys, I should add! "This show just continues to break all the old records, when it comes to record sales. We just certified platinum about a week ago. Never in the history of a Broadway show has one been certified gold within less than a year, never mind platinum!”
Forero is proud of these achievements, and so should he be. The only downside is a scarcity of free time:
“I’ve been in the studio a lot: at Avatar (a studio in New York), recording the acceptance music, if the show should win; and recording underscoring, and things like that.”
The show did win - a lot - and was recently featured on the front of Rolling Stone; these sort of gratifications make the hectic lifestyle all worthwhile for Forero; and speaking of magazine covers, he recently made the cover of Modern Drummer. However, he is happy to admit that he’s getting to an age where all these long shows and his other commitments are starting to be felt in his body.
“I’m a little bit tired... It’s a long show,” he concedes. “It’s three-hours long, and my body is starting to tell me that I need to slow down a little bit. I’ve been going for three years without any vacation.”
Not only is the show a long slog, he’s also committed to doing eight of them a week, meaning a whopping 24 hours of vigorous drum time (or an entire day and night of drumming, if you prefer to look at it in a sadistic way). So how on earth does he stick to his other commitments, like teaching and recording with the band Fish, with that kind of schedule?
“Well, one of the great things about doing a Broadway show is that most of the shows are at night, so it leaves a lot of your day open. Although some people think I’m just working three hours a night; but those three hours are so demanding, so physically brutal, that I would say they more equate to seven hours,” he says, with a smile. “So the next day, it is important to rest a little bit, but it also gives us an opportunity to teach and work on other projects. That is the gift of working in theatre.”
This is something Forero feels isn’t impressed enough on young students who have Broadway aspirations of their own.
“A lot of what they teach young folks in college is just how to be a legit player, or how to be a great player, which is wonderful,” he says. “But it’s important to know as a musician you can buy a home, have a family, not just get by on 50 dollar gigs here and there. I think it’s important for folks to know there is another platform out there. Locate your musician union. Get a hold of them, and sign up for all of the opportunities that are out there. Be a part of that, rather than being a starving musician.”
When it comes to the technology side of matters, Forero is not after a shallow relationship with the companies who supply his equipment; and in audio engineers, RME, he has formed a bond that is anything but.
“One day, my close friend Karl said to me, ‘there’s this company called RME, you’ve gotta meet the people’”, Forero recalls. “He didn’t say anything about the product! [laughs] Karl and I had both been with the same drum company for 16 years, so for us, what’s important isn’t just the product, it’s the people that you interact with. I believe that if the people are good, and they treat you like family, the product will stand behind the person.”
If you need further proof of this importance, Forero’s son is named after the cymbal company, Sabian, whose owners were chosen as his boy’s godparents
“Richard DeClemente (of RME) is one of the finest human beings I’ve ever met. His approach – how he dealt with me, how he treated me; I was sold before I heard anything about the gear. Then I started researching the equipment,” Forero says. “I have the RME Fireface UFX, and I also have the Babyface Pro for when I travel. I do a lot of travelling and remote drum clinics, so I need the Babyface’s portable capabilities quite often. The Fireface UFX stays in my studio at home; and on Hamilton, we have two Fireface units at front of house, and then in the pit we have four separate RME interfaces.”
Forero also finds RME kit very user-friendly, and loves the lack of latency:
“If you’re someone like me who doesn’t live in audio geek land, it’s so great to have these products which you just plug in and they work. The RME gear is very accessible, and the lack of latency is a huge deal for people like me!”
It becomes very clear that a big part of this man’s success is his hugely positive energy, and if he can always retain that, he will continue to be one of the most in demand drummers on the planet. Congratulations, Hamilton, on all the plaudits you’ve deservedly received.