NORWOOD Jason J. Sutter has been a drummer since the third grade when his father, James, an art professor at SUNY Potsdam, traded a painting for drum lessons from a percussion instructor at the Crane School of Music.
While many children who grow up playing the drums may dream of stardom, Mr. Sutter has achieved it and is in the midst of a 14-country world tour playing drums for controversial rocker Marilyn Manson.
Mr. Sutter, who has also toured with Foreigner, Vertical Horizon, the Rembrandts, Our Lady Peace, the New York Dolls, Smashmouth, Pink and Kenneth Babyface Edmunds among others, said his current tour is by far the most unusual hes ever been a part of.
The shows are truly indescribable and dont compare to anything Ive ever done as they are more like sporting events than rock shows. Anything can happen and you have to be on your toes at all times. The show is super intense, high energy, and loud as hell, he said. Manson is a true artist and a riot, but all the stories are true and then some, so you never know what youre going to get, as he has many personalities. There is a certain amount of strategic chaos. The music is technically challenging and the shows can be physically punishing and require an intense amount of stamina and focus.
That being said, Mr. Sutter, who was interviewed via email and responded to questions from a hotel in Melbourne, Australia, said he wouldnt have it any other way.
The show is fun as hell. ... Serious rock and roll! Truly indescribable, he said.
Other stops on the Born Villain tour include shows in Japan, Taiwan, Russia, Switzerland, Holland, France, Italy, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Poland, the United Kingdom and 17 cities across the U.S., although the closest this tour will come to the north country is April 27 in Providence, R.I., April 28 in Hampton Beach, N.H., April 29 in Huntington, May 2 in Montclair, N.J., or May 4 in Atlantic City, N.J. The tour does not include any Canadian dates.
While Mr. Sutter may now be playing at major venues with some of the best musicians in the world, he said he looks fondly back at his time playing smaller venues across the north country.
I got my first taste of professional drumming by playing at parties and local school dances in Potsdam and Norwood and made my first two dollars at a private party for sixth and seventh-graders in Potsdam, he said. My father still has the $2 and wrote Jasons first paid gig on them.
From that point on, Mr. Sutter said he was hooked.
I then started playing weekends at the municipal hall in Norwood for dances and realized that not only was I starting to make way more than I did with my allowance, but that I got to be surrounded by girls from other schools. It was then that I realized I could possibly make a living doing what I loved to do, he said.
Even at an early age, playing in what many would describe as a garage band, other people were also recognizing his talents.
Andrew VanDuyne was his instrumental music teacher at Norwood-Norfolk Elementary School and he can still recall listening to him play.
Jason is naturally talented. He was a fine concert band drummer given his age, but he was really impressive with his band. He was playing well beyond his years, Mr. VanDuyne said, recalling Mr. Sutters band playing spot-on covers of Rolling Stones songs when he was only 13 years old.
Mr. VanDuyne went as far as saying, I dont know if I taught him anything, I think I just let him play.
Mr. Sutter may have moved on from school auditoriums, gymnasiums and bars, but he has not forgotten where he came, giving credit for his success to many of the teachers hes had along the way.
I was so very lucky to have such amazing educators and role models at a young age, he said. My very first teacher was James Petercsack, who is still the head of the Crane percussion department.
In fact it was Mr. Petercsack who accepted a painting from Mr. Sutters father in exchange for drum lessons.
I would get weekly lessons at Crane with JP and they were mind-blowing for me, as I was in third grade and he was and still is one of the most highly regarded drum teachers in the world. So to say I was in good hands is an understatement.
Mr. Sutter also gave credit to Mr. VanDuyne.
He really helped me with the basics, but most importantly he taught me the importance of listening and playing with other musicians, he said. Mr. VanDuyne was extremely forward-thinking and encouraging. He threw us into the trenches at a young age, treating us like professional musicians.
In middle school Mr. Sutter learned from Scott Levine.
He too took things very seriously, as he, like Mr. VanDuyne, was a fantastic musician himself and expected us to strive for the best. It wasnt always easy, but the lessons I learned from Scott where to be dedicated and focused at a young age.
Mr. Sutter then played under the tutelage of Elmer James at Potsdam Central High School.
He treated me with respect as a player and taught me the importance of being versatile and not just a rock drummer, he said. As a senior I received the Elmer James Jazz Scholarship before graduating and it was the ultimate pat on the back to know he believed in me.
In addition to the impact his teachers had on him, Mr. Sutter also gave credit to the members of Double Axel, including Rob Zolner and Alex Vangelow, who are still in the band and ran Northern Music.
They were bona fide rock stars and would always help me and my young bands out by lending us our first amps and speakers for our first gigs, he said.
Mr. Sutter then gave a collective thank you to all of those who helped him along the way.
I can honestly say I couldnt have done what Ive done without everything these teachers and musicians Ive mentioned did for me, he said.
When asked what some of the highlights of his career would be, Mr. Sutter replied, The diversity of it. When I consider how many wonderful bands Ive been fortunate to get to share the stage with, to be able to look out and see a friend from high school at a gig or your parents at some big rock show and be able to think Look at this, Im still doing it and all that racket I made in the basement for all those years was worth it. To have been able to travel to so many amazing places and not as a tourist, but as a musician. To have been able to support myself and buy my houses by playing drums is a wonderful thing.
Another wonderful thing he said is the fact hes living out his dreams.
Most of all it is an honor to be able to make a living doing what I love to do and what Ive always wanted to do. There is no bigger highlight. I still get just as much of a buzz sitting behind a set of drums now as I did the very first time.