GUNS N' ROSES drummer Bryan "Brain" Mantia is interviewed in the May 2009 issue of Modern Drummer magazine. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Modern Drummer: The tune "Better", and several others, list you and Frank Ferrer as the drummers. How did it come about that you now share the drum chair in GUNS N' ROSES?
Brain: I was having a baby girl at the beginning of a tour in '06, and l told them before I started that I would have to leave early. I got Frank Ferrer, who had played with [GUNS guitarist and bassist] Richard Fortus and Tommy Stinson, to fill in, and that was cool. When I got home, I was kind of diggin' being home. The album wasn't out yet, and Frank was doing a great job and I was getting a lot of production gigs just staying home. I'm really into computers and music, and I have my own studio. I rent a room at Studio 880,and I built this MIDI studio with all these MPCs and outboard gear, and I just started doing production — commercials for TV, that kind of stuff. And I kept getting more and more gigs and making almost as much money doing that as I was from touring and being a drummer. I also started taking theory lessons, piano lessons, ear training, computer and music lesson, going that route.
When I left I was only supposed to be gone for two weeks, and then that turned into a month, and then that turned into three months, because I was getting a lot of studio work. "Hey, can you do this Gatorade commercial?" "Hey, we've got this Best Buy commercial." Write the music or make the beat for this...." I do a lot of work with Bootsy Collins on that side of things, the commercials and stuff. "Hey Brain, can you put a beat to this?" We're working on a Gatorade commercial right now. I've been a Bootsy fan for years, so I'm just honored to be working with him on any level. Anyway, I started doing more of that, so I was like, "Hey Frank, I'm kind of doing this and they're digging your playing. Would you mind hanging out and staying?"
He was thrilled. "Oh, man, this is the greatest gig in the world. I'm so happy, this is awesome." And nobody else in the band was complaining, though they were like, "Well, are you ever coming back?" I told them, "Well, yeah, we'll see what's going on, but right now let Frank do it." Frank is more rock. He's more like the original GUNS N' ROSES drummer [Steven Adler], which is more like straight-up rock, open hi-hat bashing, hitting as hard as you can.
So I think Axl was like, "Hey, Frank plays this way, let him play the chorus to 'Better', because that's supposed to be open. Let's see what it sounds like." So I think it's me playing all the way up to the chorus, then it's Frank in the chorus, and then it goes back to me. We never actually played together. It was all done after the fact. I asked the engineer how much Frank is on it, and he said, "It's mainly you, with Frank playing a chorus here or a bridge there." So that's why I'm listed first on those tracks.
Modern Drummer: You've brought GUNS N' ROSES up to the minute with these drum tracks, like the break-beat intro before the big grooves come in.
Brain: Axl is really interested in having everybody bring what they do into the picture. I just did a remix of "Shackler's Revenge" — made it kind of more club. And I think he wants to put out a remx album of some of the other songs we did. The great thing is he lets you do what you do. He still has the final say and wants it to work as a GUNS N' ROSES cut. But he definitely will let you stretch it out in that way, and I think that's where my influences come in. I listen to a lot hip-hop and R&B. I listen to all of Questlove's productions. Every time a ROOTS album comes out I'm in line at the store, I'm still a fan that way.
Modern Drummer: I've never seen three people credited for a drum arrangement before on an album.
Brain: I think Axl really went back and thought about who added what where, and gave people credit for it. It's incredible. He wants me to add what I know about modem music and what I'm into. I'm not just a rock dude. Somehow I get the rock gigs, but I really listen to every style, and I'm on top of of whatever's happening in hip-hop and R&B.