This Tuesday Tyler Zarzeka returns to the TLA for another headlining show after only slightly more than a month, although you likely won’t see his name on the South Street marquee… Tyler Zarzeka is a session drummer who grew up in SoCal’s emo/pop punk scene. He attended Musicians Institute in LA, before going on to tour with a number of pop and singer/songwriter acts. After that, he went on to work as a drum tech for the drummers for the likes of Usher, Jay Z, and Demi Lovato. However, since 2014, Zarzeka decided he wanted to be the one doing the on-stage drumming again, and since then he’s played with a plethora of acts, including Charlie Puth, Cher Lloyd, and AJ McLean. October 3rd had him playing the TLA with Noah Cyrus and this Tuesday, November 6th, he’ll be returning to the TLA as he drums for electropop songstress Kiiara. Yesterday I got a chance to chat with Tyler Zarzeka about what can be expected of his upcoming Philly appearance, his favorite kinds of drumming, and just what it’s like to live as a session musician.
Izzy Cihak: I hate to start with such a big question, but what have been some of the highlights of your musical career? I understand that you got into it a little later in life, but you’ve done a ton of really cool things as a drummer and drum tech. What are some of the things you’re most proud of?
Tyler Zarzeka: Great question, I have a lot that I’m super proud of actually. Performing at “Rock ‘n Rio” with Charlie Puth to 42,000 people was definitely the biggest show of my life so far. Traveling was a huge goal of mine as a teenager and now I’ve been to 6 continents and 46 countries. Getting endorsed by the companies I dreamed about getting endorsed by when I was younger was a great accomplishment. Definitely getting to fly my mom out to have her watch me perform on Ellen was also very rewarding. Ellen is her favorite show.
Izzy: In a general sense, what’s it like to be a session musician? I interview hundreds of musicians a year, but almost all of them are part of a band or singer/songwriters, where their careers are on a seemingly natural trajectory, but I imagine your life is a little more complicated, essentially starting a new job every few months, or even weeks.
Tyler: Being a session musician is very much like riding a rollercoaster, except you don’t know how long or short the ride is, you don’t know how much it will cost you, and you don’t know if it will be the greatest or worst ride of all-time. That being said, there’s something so challenging and fun for me to have to always learn new songs and genres every few months. It mentally and physically keeps me on my toes. It also helps me grow as a musician, with the ever-changing music industry.
Izzy: Who are some of your favorite musical artists, whether contemporary or just people you’ve always admired? I know you come from kind of a punk background but, in your professional career, you’ve worked primarily with mainstream pop artists. What bands and musicians most regularly soundtrack your downtime?
Tyler: I tend to listen to a lot of orchestral music and movie soundtracks. I was addicted to Hans Zimmer’s Live in Prague for quite a few months. His drummer, Satnam Ramgotra, is amazing and the arrangements of the songs are so much fun, especially fun to play along to. But another reason I listen to classical music is the lack of drum beats. Yes, there is percussion and timpani, but lacks actual grooves, most of the time, which is a nice change from the trap hat pop music that is very, very saturated these days. Other than that, some of my favorite artist/bands are David Gray, Tool, M83, Blink 182, Journey, and Elbow.
Izzy: On a related note, is there any song that you think has the definitive coolest drumming of all-time? Like, if you were able to say that you were the one responsible for the drums on any song ever written, what would it be?
Tyler: WOW, that might be the toughest question I’ve ever been asked. haha. I put that on par with, “If you were stuck on a desert island, what album would you bring?” A few songs that when I first heard made my jaw drop were: Led Zeppelin “The Ocean”, TesseracT “Of Mind – Nocturne”, Tower of Power “Soul Vaccination”, Boxcar Racer “I Feel So”, and anything Carter Beauford has done with Dave Matthews Band.
Izzy: I know you just kicked off a tour with Kiiara, which will be in Philly, or Philthy, Tuesday. How has that been going? How is your rapport, or working relationship, with her?
Tyler: Tour has been great so far! This is my second year with Kiiara, and we’ve been through a lot together. Kiiara is an artist that keeps on growing each time I work with her. She’s not a fan of “loud” drums, but I finally got her head-banging to one of my rock drum beats, so we’ve found a way that pleases both her, the band, and the audience.
Izzy: What can be expected of the live experience when you’re here at The TLA with Kiiara?
Tyler: This show is a train that doesn’t stop. I feel like every song we perform is like Kiiara’s greatest hits. Its non-stop dancing for an hour plus. Also, we have this amazing video wall with insane space content and effects.
Izzy: Finally, what’s next for you? I’m assuming that you have several things in the works for after these dates wrap, but is there anything that you can talk about that you’re especially excited about?
Tyler: Right now the only thing I’m planning is Christmas time with my family. It’s one of the only occasions that I’m usually not working and get to enjoy seeing my parents and siblings. Other than that, I’ll be excited to get into practice mode and looking forward to the next artist I tour with.