Flamtronic ready to electrify the OTWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
While drums are noisy, at least one person in John Hubbell’s family was fully supportive of his interest in the instrument. That person was his grandma, who was in the marching band at her golf club when Hubbell was a boy.
“They had this lady’s auxiliary thing where they did like a Scottish drum and bagpipe band, and my grandma was doing that and I thought that was kind of neat,” Hubbell said in a phone interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “So she gave me her practice pad that they had given her to work on, and I thought that was pretty cool.”
Hubbell’s grandma ended up buying him a month’s worth of lessons when he was in the fifth grade, and drums have been a part of his life ever since. Now 45, the Toledo native is the drummer for local trio Flamtronic, which will perform at the Ottawa Tavern on July 16. Formerly of the duo Shuttlecock, Hubbell’s drumming took a new creative direction when he stumbled upon an electronic drum set several years back.
“I always liked a lot of different kinds of music, and then back in I guess the late ’90s maybe, I was just in a drum shop and found a set of old, Simmons electronic drums just sitting in a corner and I thought, ‘That looks kind of interesting,’” Hubbell said. “So I bought those, started using them in the band I was in at the time a little bit. I didn’t really know what I was doing with them yet as far as how I wanted to use them, so it just took a little while to get that going. Then I realized you could take these old, analog, electronic drums and pitch them up to an actual pitch, and I started playing simple little things on that.”
Hubbell started experimenting with the different sounds in Shuttlecock, sounds which eventually led him to start Flamtronic with Joel Roberts (synths, vocals) of goLab and Stylex and Brandon Boltz (synths, bass, vocals) of My Special Agent. Mashing together a unique setup of both electronic and acoustic drums, Hubbell is able to create a variety of sounds not typical to the normal drum kit.
“It’s computer-based now,” Hubbell said. “The pads that I have trigger sounds in the laptop, so I can use soft synths, which are just software models of synthesizers, and I can set all that up and play notes out of that. Then, I can also at the same time use a sampler to play other sounds underneath.”
The result is an eclectic sound the band crafted on its debut album, “Something Primate,” which was released on Pretend Records in April.
The family involvement for Hubbell’s music also came full circle with “Something Primate.” The album title was actually inspired by a watercolor painting Hubbell’s now 4-year-old daughter did when she was 2-and-a-half, one which Pretend Records’ co-owner/operator Dustin Hostetler ended up using as the cover art for the record.
“We got talking and I was like, ‘Well, I don’t know what to name this, but I think it should have primate — something primate in the name. I don’t know that the something would be any good; how about just “Something Primate”?’” Hubbell said. “He was like, ‘Oh, OK. That sounds good.’ So Dustin gets the credit I guess for naming that CD.”
Hubbell said he strives for uniqueness in Flamtronic’s music, emphasizing improvisation when playing in front of audiences.
“It’s a very kind of seat-of-your-pants playing style,” Hubbell said. “And so I think that maybe some of that excitement that we’re getting while we’re playing — because we don’t know what’s coming next for sure translates out to the audience, and hopefully they have fun with that as well.”
Flamtronic will be at the Ottawa Tavern, located at 1817 Adams St., on July 16 with Patrons of Sweet. The show is free and starts at 10:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.otavern.com or call (419) 725-5483. To check out Flamtronic, visit www.facebook.com/flamtronic or www.myspace.com/flamtronic.