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Rockford Rocked Interviews: Spotlight on Kashmir drummer Doug Marocco

Todd Houston

RRI: Hey Doug what have you been up to lately? How’s the family?

Doug Marocco: Doing great Todd! I really enjoy your Rockford Rocked page by the way. The family is doing great as well. My oldest daughter, Alexandra, is at Rockford University finishing her teaching degree. My son Brady is in his senior year and my youngest, Miranda, is a junior – both at Harlem High School. The younger kids both run cross country and track which makes for a busy schedule. My wife Susan, besides running the household, works in IT at Mercyhealth and lately has become a crossfit junkie.

RRI: Marocco is a cool name for a drummer. Where does the name originate?

DM: I guess I have never really thought about my name being cool, but it does have a nice ring to it. My grandfather, Geno Marocco, was from Rome, Italy.

RRI: For those who don’t know, you’ve been playing drums in one band or another for more than half of your life. Let’s talk about how/why you got into music and drumming in the first place and who were the people/bands/musicians you looked up to starting out?

DM: Well as a young kid, I really knew very little about music, because my parents didn’t have a stereo. My dad was a car guy. So, my musical interest was sparked my uncle, Mike. He had a nice stereo and was into the popular hard rock bands of the time. He would let me look through his albums and listen to them. I was intrigued by the album covers and the guys with long hair and psychedelic clothes. The three albums that captivated me were Jimi Hendrix Cry of Love, Santana, and Chicago Transit Authority. I wanted to be one of those mysterious guys with the long hair. Somehow, I convinced my parents that I wanted to play drums and they eventually signed me up to take lessons from Jack Brand. I was hooked. I played drums non-stop, mostly along to records. Jack introduced me to Jazz and the importance of keeping good time, playing for the music and being professional. Danny Seraphine (Chicago) was my first real influence.

RRI: I understand that you hooked up with a very popular Rockford area band called The Employees. Didn’t this band have a spot on one of the WYFE Y95 albums?

DM: The Employees was my first real band. We had a spot on the second WYFE album and won the voting, if I remember correctly.

RRI: What style of music were you gravitating toward during this time?

DM: We were kind of a power pop type of band. We played half covers and half originals at our shows. Frank Isabelli was the guitarist and songwriter. He was a huge Beatles and Cheap Trick fan, so we had a lot of those influences.

RRI: Are you still doing The Kashmir – (Chicago’s Led Zeppelin Show) gig? From the video footage that I watched you guys put on a very convincing and fantastic show! Start with how you got that gig if you would.

DM: Yes, I am still doing shows with Kashmir. I got that gig in early 2009 by answering an ad in Illinois Entertainer. I thought it might be a cool gig; I like Led Zeppelin. I called Frank Livingston and set up an audition. I remember I played four songs at that audition, The Ocean, The Lemon Song, Rock and Roll, and Out on the Tiles. Frank liked my feel and I got the gig along with another drummer-they use a rotation of musicians to cover all the shows. I was given the set list to learn, as it’s complicated with truncated versions and one song goes into the next without stopping for much of the show. I had just been practicing at home when I told Frank I was going to come watch one of the shows. On the day of the show, Frank calls and asks if I could go ahead and play the gig. The night before did not go so well and the singer and the bass player refused to go on again with the other drummer. I said I really didn’t know the songs that well yet, but he convinced me to play that night. I frantically listened to the songs driving to the gig. There were about 800 people there including the drummer they just fired. I screwed up a couple things, but got through it pretty well considering I had only had one audition that didn’t include the singer.

RRI: Wow, talk about pressure!

DM: So yeah, I started playing gigs with them right away. I really had to learn on-the-fly. As a band, we’ve really only had three real practice sessions and they were basically stripped down rehearsals, with no vocals. I continually listen to the songs and practice at home to improve my playing.

RRI: What song in the set list is the most fun for you to play?

DM: I really like playing Kashmir as it just sits in a big fat pocket. I’ve learned to play it better with the click track (to sync up with the recorded keyboard track). It was a disaster the first time I played it. Really, all the Zeppelin songs are pretty fun to play.

RRI: Where in the world did you find those orange Ludwig Vistalite drums? They look identical to the set Bonham used on the 1973 tour. (These drums were made from a clear plastic material)

DM: The drums belong to the band actually. They were custom built for Frank by a guy in Indiana named Jamie. I use my own cymbals, hardware and a ‘70s supraphonic snare. The drums are played wide open and they are loud! (laughs)

RRI: So being based in Chicago and being a full-time dad, husband among many other things, did you ever say to yourself, “man this is just too much”? Or does your passion for music put a stop to those silly thoughts?

DM: I tell ya man my schedule can be very tight and has been hectic at times. I’m juggling a day job, family, running and the demands of multiple bands. There were times when my kids were younger and I was driving home from Chicago racing the clock to get home before my wife had to leave for work at 5:30 a.m. I took a break from Kashmir gigs last year, but I have tried to become better at scheduling a sensible workload. I still have a passion to play the drums and hopefully entertain people.

RRI: Okay here comes the fun part. If you had to choose one.

RRI: Neil Peart (RUSH drummer) or Keith Moon (The Who)?

DM: That’s a tough one! They are both great and important drummers, but neither was very inspirational for me. They were great fits for their bands, but they both play a little busy for my taste. To answer the question, I would have to say Moon, since he was a more improvisational player.

RRI: Listening to digitally remastered music or old vinyl records on a turntable?

DM: That’s an easy one – old vinyl records on vintage tube gear.

RRI: Led Zeppelin fourth album (featuring “Stairway to Heaven”) or their second album (featuring “Heart Breaker”)?

DM: Another tough question and, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to go with both.

RRI: American Idol or America’s Got Talent? (Television shows)

DM: I really don’t watch reality TV, so I guess neither one. I do like The Office reruns though.

RRI: What’s next for Doug Marocco?

DM: I think I’m in a good situation musically right now playing with Kashmir, Mr. Big Stuff and doing a little free-lancing. I hope to keep improving my playing and focus on quality gigs versus quantity. As far as outside of music, I plan to focus on spending time with Susan and the kids. Hopefully, we can get in some more travel and adventures before Brady and Miranda are off to college. On a personal level, I want to get back to running and racing at a competitive level again, possibly eventually doing an Ironman. I have been really lucky and thankful to have played music with so many really great musicians over the years that have helped shape who I am today.

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