Over the past two years, several music artists have had to find ways to stay busy throughout the pandemic, and that includes Frank Zummo. The drummer, who is best known for his presence in punk rock band Sum 41, encountered some downtime when the band was pulled from touring on the road due to the unpredictable nature of the ongoing global pandemic.
Zummo, who has been working on a solo venture since 2019, found a silver lining through the COVID-19 chaos. He immersed himself in the dance music space, incorporating his drumming style into the new sound.
Zummo’s newest release entitled, “On My Mind” featuring Grabbitz, finds him demonstrating his percussion mastery, as Grabbitz delivers an emotional performance about a lost love on vocals. “On My Mind” is the sixth overall release from Zummo’s solo catalog, out via Jauz’ Bite This! label. The song follows “Sick” with Jauz, “Night Rider” with Neffex, and his 2019 EP, It’s My War, which he debuted alongside Kayzo at Coachella Music Festival.
The Sum 41 drummer recently spent some time with Music Mayhem to discuss his solo projects, upcoming plans, drumming expertise, and more.
Read on to learn more about Zummo in this exclusive Q & A below!
How did you get into drumming?
It found me, which is such a cool way to discover music. My parents were super musical. They were in a band together, and my dad had the drums set up in the house. When I was about 3-years-old, I walked away from the dinner table one night and found the drums in the room and started playing on them, and that was it. My mom was performing and singing in a band until she had me. So I was just a part of that being in the womb and experiencing that, and I know that played a big part in it. The thing to solidify it all was seeing my first concert at 5-years-old. I saw Ozzy Osbourne and Motley Crue. Seeing that giant arena show, I knew at that moment that this is what I wanted to do. So, it was a pretty crazy introduction to finding music and drums and all that.
What kind of music did your parents expose you to growing up?
My dad was a college radio DeeJay. He had a pretty extensive record collection. He didn’t want to teach me because he was self-taught, and didn’t want to teach me the wrong way. So, he gave me his records and a pair of headphones and told me to have them, which was a great way for me to fall in love with drums and learn them. His record collection, which I still have to this day, was all rock and a lot of funk music. All of that stuff is so beat-driven, with James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone and P-Funk.
Then on the rock side, it was Queen, Led Zeppelin, and AC/DC. All of that stuff was all about these grooves that you feel. It played such a role in me, and then getting a little bit older, I remember those shows clear as day. I loved metal, and Metallica was a game-changer for me, but, it’s like even with the Tommy Lee’s, that drumming style, we had a lot of the same influences. It was just about that feel-good, big beat groove stuff.
You’ve been on a solo venture for a while now. Do you write the songs that you choose to release?
I collaborate with a producer, songwriter, and vocalist. But in some instances, for example, my single that came up this summer, “Night Rider” with NEFFEX, it’s one guy. He and I wrote that track together. We did all the programming and instruments, and he sang on it. So, there have been some examples where some of the artists do it all. This whole project was to push me and get out of my comfort zone and explore other passions. I love dance music and rock music. So I wanted to combine those and collaborate with these amazing singers, songwriters, and producers that inspire me. The process has been completely different on every song on the project because it’s not just me going in with one singer and one producer. Some of the songs have started with a piano riff, and others have started with a guitar riff. Some start with a concept, where we go, ‘What do we want to talk about?’ Then we create it from there. Some have been from a beat or a loop, and it’s all been different. So, it’s been a great way to explore songwriting for me.
I had been touring with so many DeeJays, and I fell in love with that dance culture. Seeing a DeeJay with a live drummer on stage – DeeJays are producers. They make the songs in the studio. So to play them live, they’re standing in the booth touching buttons, jumping up and down, and getting people hyped on the microphone. So, I’m like, ‘There is no reason why a drummer can’t do this.’ I’m playing the beats. So, I started experimenting and playing some live shows, and it was amazing. I built my playlist on the computer, used those as backing tracks, and performed drums live on top of that. It was having the same effects as a DeeJay. So it’s been fun to break into that mold and get into that space and be this solo artist.
What drumming techniques have you taken away from the dance lane?
You can be one person and do massive festivals and these different productions. A lot of that world is evolving in technology. It’s incredible. I. can have my laptop firing my video and lighting cues without having all of these technicians and crew there. That scene is at the forefront with all of that technology. If you go to those shows, it’s like being at Disney World, or something, with this visual stimulation and all of that. But, something about the beat is so primal. As a drummer, it is all about the beat, which is why I am so connected to that. I love that culture and seeing where things evolve with the different dance music styles. It’s cool to see how all of that is coming to play. When I was on tour with Kayzo, we would play System of a Down or Sum 41, not a remix, and we’d see young kids of a different generation go nuts. So it’s all connected, and I think even more now, you’re seeing a resurgence of pop, punk, and rock. All of these roles are colliding because DeeJays right now love emo and pop-punk. Working on Jauz, we did a track together. Sum 41 is his favorite band, and I’m on his label, and we collaborate, and he’s a guitar player. So it’s cool they are a part of my world, and I am a part of theirs, and at the end of the day, it’s all the same thing.
Tell me about your sixth single via Jauz, “On My Mind” with Grabbitz.
Last summer, I was doing songwriting sessions every day on the Zoom App and in person. Last year, I released an EP with Jauz, a three-song EP, and I was so inspired. I started writing with people like mad, and everybody was home and wanted to be creative because of the pandemic. There’s a songwriter/producer named FourNames, and he’s a good friend of mine. He was my touring bass player in Street Drum Corps, and I was his roommate. So, we got together and whipped that song up pretty quickly. Then we were like, ‘This is a special song.’ It was such a beautiful, drum-heavy song. I was like, ‘We need a really special singer for this song.’ After our session, I drove to pick up my kids from school, and Grabbitz was on the radio. He had that big single with Rezz, and I’ve known him for years. I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is the guy for this song.’ His voice fits the track perfectly. So, when I got home, I sent him the instrumental, and he sent me back the vocals. He was like, ‘Listen, I want to add some production on this. I’d love to take a shot at mixing this.’ I was like, ‘Absolutely.’ I went into the studio and tracked my drums and sent him all of the files, and he mixed and mastered that song. So not only did he come up with all of the lyrics and the hook, but he also went and added production and mixed and mastered the song. He was going through something at that time too, so it was cool that he could express himself within this bit of music that we sent him as a therapeutic thing. Music saves us all. So, it’s cool to have this heartbreaking lyric over this musical track. It’s like a yin and yang thing. I feel like when the song is over, it’s still heavy. You feel happy and uplifted. That’s the goal of the project. When I do this solo project, I want to inspire people and leave the listener happy. I want to put a smile on their face because the world is heavy right now. If I can be something that’s happy in these times, that’s my mantra in this project.
How about the music video for “On My Mind”?
We did this raw performance video that was shot beautifully. We had John Asher, who has done a lot of Sum 41’s music videos, direct it. We went into a warehouse, and he shot it so beautifully. We just had this raw performance piece of the two of us, which was really fun to play and make a video for. I’m stoked, and we knew this was a special song that we wanted to save for the final release to end this year, which is a great way to go out.
As a drummer, was getting together with various artists for your solo project difficult during the global health crisis?
It was 50/50 with zoom and in-person meetings. I was in Los Angeles at that time, and many people were there too? So, it wasn’t a problem, and I think everyone was just so happy to create something. I was doing sessions five days out of the week, driving around town. And, technology got good, so I wasn’t hearing shi*** audio over Zoom App. There are other apps where you can log into the computer to hear a better quality in your headphones, so you feel like you’re in the same room together working on stuff. So, I think it was successful in that way, and everyone I worked with wasn’t scared to get into the room to create and do stuff. Also, I was able to do a lot of collaborations, where I guest-starred on other people’s projects. The coolest thing that came out of this pandemic was, I got to collaborate with Kodo from Japan. They have been somebody that I’ve looked up to and admired for years. I’ve seen them live and I got a call around the Olympics. They were doing this collaborative record. So, I wrote the track with FourNames, who is the same songwriter/producer I did “On My Mind” with, and we wrote this track. Then Kodo freaked out over the track, and they added all of their stuff to it. So that was amazing to collaborate with them and do that amazing track together. But, now after everything, it’s like, ‘Get back to playing live shows.’ In the past three months, I’ve played three solo live shows, and it’s been the greatest thing ever to be able to connect with humans again and see an audience reaction and play these songs live. It’s been so beautiful. I’m still writing right now and finishing up a bunch of other music, but I’m all about live shows too. I want to take this solo thing around the world.
Can fans expect “On My Mind” to be featured on a full album?
Originally, I was going to put all of these songs on a record. I pitched that idea to the label, and we decided to focus on one song a month for six months to give listeners the attention that is needed. There’s no plan for a full-length right now, but I’m just finishing up a bunch of new music. After the holidays, I’ll regroup with the team to see what we want to do. There’s a bunch of other collaborations that I’ve done with other artists and DeeJays that are slated to come out at some point next year.
How has the response been with fans with the solo project?
The response has been incredible! People have been stripped of live shows for one or two years, depending on where you live. I think the response has been bigger. That interaction and feeling of performing in a live setting, it’s never going to go away. People starve for it, and it’s been incredible.
Will you juggle your solo project and touring with Sum 41?
When Sum 41 came to a halt with this pandemic, I needed to do something to stay creative and everything because that’s just a part of my life, touring and doing all of that. So I started the solo project in 2019, and now I’m going full hardcore with it and immersing myself in it. It’s been incredible to be able to do that in these times. But, yes. I’m going to juggle Sum 41 schedule with solo stuff whenever it makes sense. I’m 100% doing Sum 41. That’s my everything. This is the longest that we haven’t been able to do anything, so I can’t wait! It’s exciting to see dates on the calendar again. So, whatever I can do between Sum 41’s schedule because when it’s fully back on, then it’s go time. So, I’ve been able to focus on my projects right now. And, I’ve always been that way. I’m always busy. I love to push myself creatively, so it always works out somehow.
You launched the Frank Zummo X School Of Rock Workshop for kids. How has that experience been for you?
It has been one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. It’s something I am so passionate about, giving back and inspiring kids. They are the future of music, and it’s so important. I didn’t have that stuff coming up, and I think that’s why I’m even more inspired to do that stuff. I was asked to go to China to do drum workshops a couple of years ago, and it was the most inspiring thing ever. I knew I needed to do that in America and elsewhere. I partnered up with companies like Vans shoes and Laird Superfood and companies that help to put me out on the road, so these events are free for kids. We’re doing them at cool places like Skateboard parks and record shops, and I go to several of the School of Rocks across America. The program is, I open up the stage to students to do what they want to open a show. I get up there and play my solo stuff and Sum 41 stuff, and then we hang out with them, talk to them, take their questions and share advice. Then, we end the whole thing with me jamming with these kids, which is so fun! Some of these kids have excelled in their careers already. Some are doing tours and have YouTube channels with millions of subscribers. We’ve seen some amazing stuff come from this. Kids got robbed the most throughout this pandemic because they haven’t been able to go to graduations or participate in sports, so I was like, ‘I’ve got to get out and do this.’ So, I did that this past May. I did a West Coast run. The biggest question these kids ask is how to deal with anxiety or depression, you know, serious stuff. First of all, it’s amazing they are this open with me for advice and see that it’s proven I need to be out there to inspire some of them. It was powerful and moving in so many ways.
So, I’m working on following up with a 2022 version of this and hope to do that forever. It’s also great to have my kids come on that journey with me to come to these shows. I teach a music class once a month at my kids’ school, and they go to the School of Rock now. So, it’s cool to see that. When I was coming up, music lessons weren’t rad. I was in some drum shop at the back of an unmotivating room. It wasn’t a cool event where kids would want to come and hang out. But, this has been such a fun and inspiring event. I hope it inspires more artists to do stuff like this.
Do your kids want to follow in your footsteps and become drummers?
So far, it’s happening that way naturally. I mean, they’re just toddlers, but I tell them all the time, ‘I don’t care what you do as long as you’re passionate about it and stay on the path.’ But because our house is filled with musical instruments, and they’ve seen me perform all over the world, it’s become a part of their life. Going back to the workshops, I took my kids to a School of Rock one, and they were like, ‘We want to go here.’ So, it naturally happened. They are all over the board. They’re learning the guitar and piano, and they sing. That’s what’s cool about the school because they’re giving them lessons on all of those things. So, we’ll see which one takes. One is into the guitar right now, and the other is into the drums. So, it’s cool to see where it goes and to watch it happen naturally with them. I took them to my buddy Travis Mills’ show the other night, and they haven’t seen a live show since 2019. So, they were freaking out. Travis brought my 3-year-old on stage, and it was so cute to see how much they love music. Even my oldest, when he was about 4-years-old, I took him to see Twenty One Pilots, that’s his favorite band. In the middle of the show, he started crying. I was like, ‘What’s the matter?’ And, he said he wanted to go up on stage and play the drums. I’m like, ‘Dude. This isn’t daddy’s show.’ But that’s his reality. (laughs).
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
That’s been it, just staying and moving. I’ve gone deep into this pandemic to see how I can pivot, and I think it’s been a great thing to get off of this roller coaster and have this great family time. I’ve looked at other ways to up my health in different training that I’m doing with workouts. It’s been great in that way because we can control those things. We can’t control certain things. But it’s been a great challenge mentally to be like, ‘I can’t do this, but how can I still get this out as an artist?’ It’s been a brain-workout, in a sense, to get off the roller coaster and to dive deeper, which has been therapeutic in so many ways.