Story by Kelly King
Photos by Ekaterina Gorbacheva
In rejection of the naysayers who talk about musicians of the past (all respect to previous generations), we are increasingly witnessing drummers who can do it all. Previous delineations of touring, recording, teaching, and other facets of a professional drummer’s career are dissipating due to talent like Lang Zhao. In addition to breaking down these walls, Zhao is ushering in the era of drumming phenoms from China who are creating a strong presence in Western markets, both in terms of the artists they perform with and in creating their own Brand within the drumming world. Cultivating one’s own individual voice is where Zhao focuses his energy and it’s what he’s most passionate about helping others to achieve. His most recent work clearly displays this from touring with a Prog-Rock power trio led by guitarist Wes Thrailkill (formerly Mammoth, winner of Best Progressive Metal Album of 2016 from Sputnik Music for Deviation) across America, to his R&B/Funk/Fusion approach on the feature film Dude’s Manual, or accompanying a full orchestra on drum set for Bad Boy Symphony, Lang’s drumming is authentic and at ease in multiple settings. With his first book An Analytical Approach to Linear Application-Integrating Gospel Drumming into Your Grooves and Chops, Zhao took on the genre with a vastly different approach than nearly all others; he wanted to prove how to use this Gospel drumming lens to create rather than simply recreating the wildest licks. Released by Violet Anamnesis Publications, the book became number one on Amazon`s Music Technique Book category within 24 hours of its release. It also sparked a successful drum clinic and Master Class tour for Lang in China.
An Analytical Approach to Mind-Body Connection and Creative Phrasing is Lang’s follow up to An Analytical Approach to Linear Applications- Integrating Gospel Drumming into Your Grooves and Chops which dissected the tone, touch, feel, and linear approach of this drumming style and got into the headspace of Gospel drummers. This first book introduced the concept of sonic vocabulary and mind-body connection as well as demonstrated how they relate to phrasing using linear drumming. An Analytical Approach to Mind-Body Connection and Creative Phrasing takes a greater emphasis on the mind-body connection and utilizing this for individuality. This new book is as applicable to jazz, fusion, rock, metal, and a variety of styles because the focus here is on developing one’s own unique voice behind the kit. The book is divided into three parts (Part 1-Mind: Expanding your sonic vocabulary, Part 2-Body: Enhancing your mobility and balance, and Part 3-Mind-body connection: The Creative Phrasing System -CPS), the first two of which present ideas such as how to expand your sonic vocabulary and enhancing mobility and balance. The final third section takes these concepts and integrates them into original and creative ways of phrasing.
An endearing and impressive part of Lang’s process in his instructional books is his belief in the “community” part of the drum community. An Analytical Approach to Linear Applications- Integrating Gospel Drumming into Your Grooves and Chops featured video demonstrations by Henry McDaniel IV (of the George Duke/Stanley Clark band as well as Big Sean’s band for the Rihanna “Anti-World Tour”). For An Analytical Approach to Mind-Body Connection and Creative Phrasing, Zhao collaborated with David Myer Jr., drummer for two-time Grammy Award winning artist Frank Ocean and Grammy nominated rapper/singer 6lack) as a co-researcher and contributor to the content. Lang informs, “We are creating a series of related content around the new book. We will release two volumes of drum duet albums based on the concepts in these books. These duets will be delicate original compositions for pure drums/percussion arrangement. Our first composition ‘Golden Road’ will be featured in the new duet VFjams series from Vic Firth. We will also create sheet music for these duets for educational purposes. The second book of the series and its related content will also be part of the DRUM HOUR project I initiated with Henry McDaniel, my partner on the first book. Altogether we will create masterclasses based on content from both books, incorporating live performances, concerts, and other formats to bring this content to the world.”
While he is a constant advocate for education and the growth of other drummers, Lang is a constant on the modern music scene as a player as well. In 2019, Zhao teamed up with guitarist/ bassist Yas Nomura and released their self-titled debut album as The Resonance Project, for which Zhao wrote, orchestrated, and played drums. It quickly received praise from prog icons like Haken and Matt Garstka in addition to being covered by Prog Magazine and other media, becoming one of the most talked about prog albums of the year.