An Interview With AJ Gillman: Drummer of Denver Band Greener Grounds
AJ Gillman is a Pennsylvania native who relocated to Denver a few years ago. He’s a very talented drummer who has worked vigorously at his craft. AJ knew that Denver would be the place to make his dreams of playing music professionally come true. Finally, the right opportunity dropped into his lap and he joined Greener Grounds, adding an extensive new element of knowledge and skill to the band. After bonding with the band and playing a number of shows, they have proven themselves to be on the rise in the Denver music scene. I believe that they have the ability to be one of the best young bands in Colorado, especially with AJ behind the kit. In the interview below; we spoke about the difference between Greener Grounds and his old bands, along with his move to Denver and his biggest influences as a drummer. See what he has to say about the future of Greener Grounds and don’t forget the name, you’ll be hearing it again someday soon.
ZF: What are Greener Grounds biggest influences?
AG: Our influences range anywhere from bluegrass to electronic music, and lots of styles in between. I hear lots of Lotus and STS9 in our songs, so I guess you could say those are some of our biggest.
ZF: What’re the major differences between Greener Grounds and other bands that you’ve played in?
AG: Greener Grounds is a very driven band with very driven members. We all work well as a team, and all take our work very seriously while still enjoying ourselves. It's not easy to have 5 guys all on the same page, and that's something we are able to do well.
ZF: Has becoming a professional musician always been your plan in life?
AG: Becoming a professional has always been a dream of mine for sure. It wasn't until I was 16 or 17 that I realized that I could make a career from my drumming though. Since then it has been an ultimate life goal of mine. At this point I can't imagine doing anything else.
ZF: Who are some of your biggest influences as a drummer?
AG: I have so many favorite drummers, but the ones I've been influenced by the most are the ones I've seen the most live. Drummers like Darren Shearer, Allen Aucoin, and Mike Greenfield have definitely been three of my biggest drumming influences throughout my time playing music.
ZF: In your opinion, is there any place better than Denver to make this dream into a reality? How big of a part does the Colorado lifestyle play into your passion?
AG: There is a reason I chose to leave my old band in Philly to pursue music in Denver. I had seen huge opportunity after my first visit here, which was to see the Disco Biscuits a few years ago. I was shocked to see how booming the jam scene was here, and I didn't feel the competitive vibe I had always felt back home. The music scene in Colorado feels more like a close-knit community than a competition to be the next big jam band or whatever. My passion for music and Greener Grounds is very often fueled by the Colorado lifestyle and what it brings. The mountains, legal weed, and the easy-going vibe definitely make for a better environment to make music in.
ZF: Thus far, what have been some of your biggest shows? What are some specific performances where you really felt that you reached new frontiers?
AG: Recently we were lucky enough to to share the stage with Jason Hann's "Rhythmatronix" which consisted of Jason Hann, Todd Stoops, Steve Kimock, Steve Molitz, and more. Another great one was last month with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and Juno What at The Gothic Theatre. We have some big things in the works for summer/fall right now too. Sonic Bloom was this past weekend, and we played main stage on Sunday right before ZILLA. That was an unforgettable experience. Also on July 10th we will be releasing a brand new full length EP titled "Photosynthesis" and we're having our EP release party at The 1up Colfax. This is our first headlining show at The 1up which is very exciting for us, and it's also free.
ZF: How does the Greener Grounds songwriting process usually go down? Are there specific songwriters in the band or do you guys write as a collective? Do you guys also play covers?
AG: Joe, our lead guitarist tends to bring a lot of material to the table for us to build off of in our rehearsals. Other times we will come up with songs or parts just by jamming out. Our secret weapon for songwriting is definitely a whiteboard and marker (laughs). Also we feel it's important that we constantly come up with new songs so we can ensure a different show each time we play.
ZF: What’s the title of your upcoming EP and how many songs will be on it?
AG: Photosynthesis, it will have 5 original songs.
ZF: Do you guys improvise a lot during live shows? In the future, do you plan on expanding the jams more?
AG: Almost half of our show consists of improvisation. When we have a long enough set time, or two sets, we definitely make an effort to extend the jams longer. As the band continues to evolve and get better we will be jamming longer and harder, that's for damn sure.
ZF: Where do you see Greener Grounds in one year from now?
AG: In one year, I see us conquering the Colorado mountain towns, throwing down huge hometown shows in Denver, and having our name on as many festival lineups as possible. We just became officially sponsored by Grassroots California and have a hat in the works which will be released this upcoming fall/winter. Most importantly, I see us on our way towards recording our first album. I see a bright future for us.