Exclusive Q+A with Spanky McCurdy, Lady Gaga‘s Drummer
Interview conducted on September 10, 2010
Philly 360° Insider, Tayyib Smith, and Philly 360° staff had the chance to catch up with George “Spanky” McCurdy, Lady Gaga‘s drummer while he was in town for her tour. Check out the exclusive interview and photo shoot with the Philly native.
Who are some of the most notable artists you’ve played for?
Spanky: Man, I’ve been blessed to grace the stage with Kanye [West], P. Diddy, and I’ve worked with Jill [Scott] … Common, Nas, Backstreet Boys … Right now, I’m on tour with Lady Gaga, and it looks like I’m going to be there for a long time.
So this year, where have you traveled with Lady Gaga?
Spanky: We started in Europe – we did all of Europe. We did all of Australia. We did Japan. We did Europe about three times already. Right now, we’re doing the States. We finish that up in a couple of weeks. And then, we start back up in Europe again in October. I mean, everywhere. You name it, we’ve been there … It’s non-stop.
What size venues do you play?
Spanky: Arenas and a few stadiums. It’s insane.
You grew up in Philly?
What section of Philly do you live in?
Spanky: South Philly.
Is that the neighborhood you’re from?
Spanky: No. I grew up in Olney, you know way on the other side. Then I moved to Southwest Philly. Then Germantown, and now South Philly.
Being that you’re in entertainment, you know a lot of people choose to move to New York or Los Angeles. What made you choose to maintain your base here?
Spanky: Well, because New York is a train ticket away. In LA, so many people have moved there, like we have so many friends – I don’t have to move. … That’s why it’s easier to just save money and stay in Philly.
When did you start playing drums? Did you take lessons? Did you play in the church?
Spanky: I was about 3 or 4 [years old] and you know, growing up beating everything. My mom had this coffee table, and the edges were all scratched up. I used to beat them with coat hangers and anything. She still has this coffee table in her basement.
I grew up in the church, and started playing for the kid’s choir and got better and better.
What were some of organizations you played for?
Spanky: I played for Open Door Mission Church – that’s in West Philly. I did All City Jazz Band, and All City Choir. I went to Kinhaven Music School in Vermont. They chose about 30 of the most talented musicians. I was thirteen, and I went there about six weeks.
When you go on tour, what is it about Philly that you take with you or miss?
Spanky: The vibe is so relaxed and chill. You know, that’s just how I am at all times. Just relaxed and chill. Like the bigger the crowd gets, then the more chill I get. You know, that’s definitely a Philly thing.
What have you learned from traveling the world? How are audiences responding to you?
Spanky: Man, they show me so much love. ‘Cause a lot of the supporters I have, you know, have supported me from like, Tye Tribbett, and now to like this. … It’s amazing. It’s like a dream. You know, like everyday it’s reoccurring. I’m never used to it. … ‘Cause the second you get used to it, that’s when you’ve got to step down and just let somebody else [do it]. But, it’s just a dream. I’m just so grateful. Like, I’m here doing a photo shoot, I’m just like, ‘Wow.’
How did you become aware of Philly 360°?
Spanky: A good friend of mine, like a big brother, Ernest Miller called me.
What are your thoughts on Philly 360°, The Book:
What’s the outside view of Philly?
Spanky: … This city is respected. That’s one thing I definitely noticed being in LA and Chicago, Philly is definitely respected. … It’s like, they can’t hate, because we do so much work. Like, we have everybody working. We have so many accounts, so you can’t hate. So you have to just realize like, wow, it’s just a lot of talent. A lot work coming out of Philly. Got to respect those guys. ‘Cause you know, they all compare this and that. And when it comes to Philly, it shuts down. That’s one of the things I definitely love about Philly. So when you say that you’re from Philly, they say, ‘Oh yeah, there’s a lot of talent out of Philly.’ It’s like that.
For your musical set with Lady Gaga, do you get a section where you can display your talent?
Spanky: She gives me 100% freedom. She has never been like, ‘Spanky, I don’t like that. Please, do not do that.’ It’s like, never. Never ever. She has never even addressed me in that matter at all. Everything is, if I do something, she’ll react to it, like, ‘Whoo.’ You know, she loves that. She’s all about synergy and everything, even on a big stage. There’s a song called, ‘Teeth’ and all throughout that song, you know, I’m able to do different things and then afterward, she announces my name. She’s like, ‘Spanky, from the church of Philadelphia.’ And I’m like, ‘Very nice. Wow.’ It’s crazy, right. So, the shows [in Philadelphia] on September 14 and 15, who knows what she’s going to do. She’s so random.
Who are some of your favorite Philly artists and producers?
Spanky: Definitely Jill [Scott]. I just spoke with her a couple nights ago. That’s my sister. You know, we have like a super tight relationship, which makes the work easy. You know, I’m cool with Musiq. … I mean everybody plays some type of part in my life. Tayyib [Smith] – even though I don’t see him every day, but it’s like, you know when I do see him, it’s all love. It’s family. Everybody, Ahmir [Questlove]. Of course, The Roots.
What’s your favorite restaurant to go on a date?
Where do you like to shop?
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
Spanky: This job isn’t for everybody. A lot of musicians think that they can do it. It’s easy. You’ve got to practice. So you should never get to the point where you say, ‘You know what? I’m good.’ You’ve got to take it seriously.