Adrian gave a new interview this afternoon with longtime friend/No Doubt ex-bandmate Eric Carpenter (who writes for the Orange County Register now), about the NAMM festival and what’s new with No Doubt. The interview is pretty long, but I posted it all for everyone who wanted to check it out. He’s pretty tight-lipped about the tour and such and mentions that the new album is still “a long way away,” whatever that means.
Adrian Young gets a lot of stares and head turns as he walks through the lobby of The NAMM Show with his green-plaid pants and bright-red mohawk.
Hey, that’s the drummer for No Doubt, I hear again and again as I walk next to Young. A few people stop to shake his hand, or ask for him to pose for a photo.
But his popularity isn’t enough to get him on the convention floor. Remember, this show, the music industry’s largest annual trade show, is closed to the public.
And Young forgot his wallet at home in Lakewood.
No photo identification. No entry. No exceptions.
First, we try the information desk. Then the security desk. Then the press office.
“I can’t believe this,” Young says, laughing. “I guess I’m out of here.”
But just then, a security manager who knows who he is shows up and offers to escort him to an autograph session and to the booth of the drum company he now co-owns.
Young, a Cypress native, is a NAMM veteran. In many ways, he can trace his rise from struggling musician to bona-fied rock star and business owner through his experiences over the years at this convention.
Young and I can trace our experiences at this convention back to the same era â€“ around 1990.
We were playing together in No Doubt. I was part of a three-man horn section playing saxophone at the time. He’d recently joined as the new drummer. At that point, few outside of Southern California knew of the band.
Back then, at NAMM, we were nothing. Just musicians looking at gear we couldn’t afford, dreaming of success. I left No Doubt in 1994, just before their meteoric rise, to pursue journalism. (Insert your own joke here. I’ve heard most, and eventually learned to laugh at them too.)
So Young agreed to hook up with me at NAMM again, nearly 20 years after our first experiences at this convention, to discuss how it has changed.
“I don’t think I ever went as myself back then,” he says. “I always had to borrow a badge to get in.”
Obviously, security has been tightened a bit since those days.
Vendors were overwhelmed by musicians wanting endorsements â€“ free drum gear, sticks, etc. â€“ and giving them band tapes and bios they never looked at, Young remembers.
“So I didn’t even try back then,” he says. “I just came to look at a bunch of drum equipment I had no money to buy.”
That changed somewhat in 1993 when an up-and-coming drum company called Orange County Drum & Percussion offered him a free snare, knowing that No Doubt was achieving some modest success.
“I still own that drum,” he says. “I’ve probably used it on a dozen No Doubt tours.”
But everything changed at the 1997 NAMM Show after the band had released “Tragic Kingdom,” an album that had already achieved multi-platinum success by then.
That year, when he walked the halls of the convention, fans swamped him, stopping him every few feet. Companies like Zyldjian cymbals extended offers for all the free equipment he could use.
That also meant countless hours at signings and appearances on behalf of the companies that endorsed him.
“It became more of a chore,” he says, then cringes. “I don’t want that to sound like I’m unappreciative, it’s just that a lot of young musicians want to get to know you, get a picture and it can get a little old.
“I definitely found that I’d spend a lot of time at the beer stand.”
Becoming a celebrity has its surreal moments, too. Like the time he was signing autographs at the booth for Remo drum heads when Latin percussionist superstar Sheila E. came up to him and said she’d always wanted to meet him.
Or one year when jazz icon Peter Erskine told Young he likes his playing.
“He’s telling me I like what you do?” he says incredulously. “I’m like, ‘I don’t even understand what you do.’ He’s that good.”
Reconnecting with No Doubt
Young has taken several years off from No Doubt, while lead singer Gwen Stefani pursues her solo career.
He has stayed busy recording with other performers such as Scott Weiland (of Stone Temple Pilots) and Unwritten Law, to name a few. And he spends a lot of time on the golf course, even competing semi-professionally.
He’s got a plus .5 handicap. A golf magazine recently named him the fourth best “celebrity golfer.”
“They had my handicap wrong,” he jokes. “I’m better than Kenny G.”
Young makes it clear that despite some gossip that seemed to suggest otherwise over the years, No Doubt never broke up.
He and bandmates Tony Kanal and Tom Dumont have recorded “tons” of backup tracks and have begun working in the studio again with Stefani. But a complete album is still “a long way away.”
He’s tight-lipped about any upcoming tour, other than to confirm that the band is playing the Bamboozle Festival in New Jersey this May. “And hopefully they’ll be some other dates in ’09,” he says, with a wry smile. (Knowing I have a pen in hand, he’s not free-flowing with the insider info.)
“It’s fun to be playing together again,” he says. “We’re lucky we all get along so well still. â€¦We are all having dinner tomorrow night.”
Could use a drink
Having worked out the security issues, we’re finally headed inside the convention hall.
He admits this is when he begins to feel a little overwhelmed by all the activity. He worries that without his wallet he’s got no money to buy a beer.
I offer to spot him some cash if he needs it.
We walk for about 100 yards without anybody stopping him.
“I actually wouldn’t be surprised if nobody stops me,” Young says. “That’s what happens when you haven’t been on TV for five years.”
But soon enough, you begin to feel a buzz. A woman, wearing a No Doubt tank top, follows him for about five minutes before finally working up the nerve â€“ or convincing herself that’s actually Adrian Young â€“ to ask for a photo.
Young pauses and is happy to oblige.
“Is that a Bloody Mary?” he asks the woman, who’s holding a drink in one hand as she shakes his hand with the other.
“Yeah, you can have it,” she says.
Young only wants a sip. And we’re on our way again.
Once we arrive at the Orange County Drum & Percussion booth, the scene changes.
This company that gave Young his first free drum 16 years ago is now one-third owned by him. He bought in after No Doubt achieved its massive success.
Helping run a company is not easy, Young admits, but it’s for a product that he loves.
Here at the booth, some people have heard he’s coming.
Audrey Ungaro, 21, a college student from Kentucky, has been waiting for a half-hour to get a photo with Young.
“No Doubt is my favorite band,” she says. “I was so excited he was coming.”
Young appreciates her waiting. He says these meet-and-greets, though he sometimes dreads the idea in advance, don’t feel so much like a chore once he meets people face-to-face.
He shakes a few more hands, signs some autographs, and poses for photos before remembering he needs to be on his way.
Tonight’s his ninth wedding anniversary, and he’s headed out to dinner with his wife and 7-year-old son, Mason, before a gig at the Hollywood Palladium, sitting in with the punk band Pennywise.
But first, he makes a quick stop at the Zyldjian booth for an autograph session with about 15 other drummers.
He pulls up a chair next to John Blackwell, who has played drums for Prince and Justin Timberlake among others.
Young’s got a Sharpie pen in one hand. And a Pacifico beer in the other.
“I’m all set,” he says.