by Mike Malinin
Rick Woolstenhulme Jr. has been the drummer for Lifehouse since 2000. In the ’90s, after high school, he moved to California from his home state of Arizona and attended the Los Angeles Music Academy, where he spent most of his time working on straight-ahead jazz. “My passion while in school was definitely jazz,” Woolstenhulme says.
Around 1999, Rick hooked up with an artist signed to the DreamWorks label. As is all too common in the record industry, this artist soon lost her deal, without releasing an album. Woolstenhulme wasn’t around for the end, however. “Strangely enough,” he says, “I got canned for being too young.”
As luck would have it, Rick had been rehearsing in the space next to the room where Lifehouse practiced, and he would often see the band’s lead singer, Jason Wade, in the allway. In an instance of excellent timing, Lifehouse was in need of a drummer just when Woolstenhulme was in need of a gig. Needless to say, things worked out well, and Rick has been with the band ever since.
A couple of years ago, Lifehouse was on tour with my band, the Goo Goo Dolls, so I got to see Rick play a few dozen times during the course of the summer. His drumming was always extremely solid, and his musicality is one of the things that made the band such a pleasure to watch. He has a great instinct for knowing just how to approach a song, and there is no better example of this than his performance on “Disarray” from Lifehouse’s 2007 album, Who We Are.
“With ‘Disarray,’” Woolstenhulme says, “I tried to go for a dark mood and feel. The song seemed to call for that. I also wanted to keep building the dynamics.” One of Rick’s all-time favorite drummers is Jim Keltner, which makes perfect sense; Keltner is known for his ability to always play for the song, and that’s something that Rick himself has also had success with.
Woolstenhulme picked some relatively big drums for the recording. “I used my blond ’70s Gretsch set, which is maple,” he recalls. “The kick drum is 24", and I used 13" and 18" toms. For cymbals, I used Zil jian 15" New Beat hi-hats and a 21" Sweet ride. The crashes were probably a 19" A Custom fast crash and a regular 19" A Custom crash.” The drummer describes his snare as “a 61/2x14 Black Beauty knockoff.” He’s had it for a while, and he says it has always worked well for him in the studio.
At the top of the song, Rick avoids a straight-ahead beat by keeping time on the floor tom, while playing his rack tom on the upbeat of beat 2 and holding the snare down on beat 4. It’s very effective in setting the tone for the track. A nice little addition is the tambourine hit on every other bar. There’s also some added percussion in the second half of the verse that helps move things along. Here’s the intro beat.
Woolstenhulme goes to a straight-ahead rock beat for the chorus, playing a kick drum pattern that grooves nicely.
After a relaxed bridge, the song gets to the third chorus. At this point, Rick follows the vocal line with his rhythm.
Woolstenhulme continues to build the chorus slightly the next time it comes around, and then he hits the final chorus with the snare on all of the downbeats.
All in all, “Disarray” displays a talent for building a song in a simple yet powerful and very musical way. Rick’s ability to come up with just what each track needs to make it special is something we can all learn from.
In this series, Mike Malinin, drummer for the platinum-selling band the Goo Goo Dolls, takes his magnifying glass to burning tracks recorded by some of his drumming buddies. Tunes from Mike’s side project Forty Marshas can be heard at myspace.com/fortymarshas.