Sonic Rebel to Release New EP: Interview with Tammy Hurt

Atlanta drummer and music industry vet Tammy Hurt built an incredible career playing in multiple bands, founded Placement Music, and serves as Vice-Chair of the Recording Academy. Sonic Rebel is her newest project.

The first single from the upcoming EP We Made This With Our Hands, ‘Run,’ first released to public ears on September 24, 2020. Filmed at the iconic downtown Atlanta venue The Masquerade‘Run’ sheds light on the loss of the communal concert experience and the difficulty of those employed in the live music industry due to COVID-19.

The music video features Tammy delivering a high-energy performance alongside a raving light show created by director Kevin Johnson of Hometown Crew ATL.

The EP We Made This With Our Hands will release in early 2021. Sonic Rebel features Grouplove’s Dan Gleason and Ben Homola, engineer TJ Elias, and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Spencer.

“It’s a progressive, multidimensional collaboration fusing electronic, rock, glitch, dub-trap, and hip-hop elements and yielding hybrid tracks that can stand alone, be used for live mashup performances or remixed into other music.”

Tammy Hurt Sonic Rebel
Photo credit: @_rexway

Sonic Rebel recorded the EP at Big Trouble Recording in the heart of Atlanta. The tracks were mixed by GRAMMY®-Award winning mix engineer Miles Walker and mastered by GRAMMY-nominated mastering engineer Michael Romanowski.

Tammy was kind enough to give us an exclusive interview on Sonic Rebel and her life in the music industry. Listen below.


NC: Hi Tammy, this is Nick from Drumming Review.

TH: Hey Nick, how are you today?

NC: Doing pretty good. Good as can be, given the year.

TH: Where in the world are you today?

NC: I live in Wisconsin.

TH: Oh Wisconsin, is it winter there, yet?

NC: Not quite yet, though snow is in the forecast.

TH: No kidding. I saw that, I can’t believe you’re getting snow. I am in Atlanta. We’re supposed to have temperatures in the 40s tomorrow morning, so pretty excited about that. An actual season change here.

NC: That has to be not typical.

TH: It’s cool, but then next week, it’s back up to mid-70s and 80s. We’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

NC: Definitely. I’m glad we could make this work. When I got the email from Judi, I was pumped. Number one, I love talking to artists. And number two, I saw Ben Homola had worked with you on this project, and he’s an old friend from a tour we did back in 2017. 

TH: Do you play with a band regularly?

NC: Used to, I played with a band called Vinyl Theatre, and we called it quits. We were on a tour when he played with Dashboard Confessional.

TH: Ben is amazing. And such a gentle soul. He’s just an amazing human. He falls into that category.

NC: Absolutely. And now he’s with Grouplove! I love that band.

TH: He is. It was a little unnerving for me. Going back into the studio, knowing, “oh look, you’ve got the rhythm section of Grouplove!” These are guys who play on big stages around the world. They couldn’t have been nicer. It was a dream to work with them. And even at that point in time, Ben said, “I don’t have any interest in playing.” He had just taken a deep-dive into modular synths. Super cool. I’ve never worked with modular synths before, and he was immersed in it. Just a dream to work with them.

NC: Yeah, there is something to that hardware element. Where you play with the knobs. Modular synthesis is on another level when compared to just working off of a computer. Which is why I think ‘Run‘ came out the way it did. The synthesis is incredible. Mindbending.

TH: Thank you, I’ll take that as a big compliment. I can tell you. Ben is the reason this EP is named ‘We Made This With Our Hands.’ I was watching Ben when he was doing that experimental element of all of that. Also, the skill. It wasn’t like he didn’t know what he was doing. All of that is a little bit of trial and error. Man, he was into it. And the percussion, I was super stoked to get the release out for the ATMOS version of ‘Run’ today. Just the intricacies and nuances that he created that complimented the drum track, the melodies. Like I said, I was so lucky to be able to work with them. His masterful understanding of rhythm and percussion.. he thought of things I would have never thought of.

NC: Definitely. And the drive of the track, it just pumps me up. I’ve had it on my playlist now. There’s a section where the guitar kicks in and it hits me in a good way.

TH: Wow, that’s really great to hear. Thank you for that wonderful compliment. You hope that people really… when someone says they enjoy what you do, you know what that feels like. To be in the studio with those guys and to have a concept and an idea of knowing that I wanted to do something at least 170BPM, because the track is titled ‘Run.’ When you’re running, what’s driving? To be able to convey that with no words, I’m glad you felt what we were thinking.

NC: Oh yeah. It’s so exciting. I wondered if before you had gone into the studio if what you had envisioned is what it had turned into. Or if along the way, you changed how the track was going, or did it evolve? How did that work out?

TH: I will tell you that the entire project and specifically ‘Run,’ far exceeded any expectations I had. One of the things I wanted to convey in this music… I was really into drum and bass, I’m a mad consumer of music. The things that I was hearing were pretty bouncy, soft. I just wanted to create something with more of an edge. When the track developed, and it was like, “man, this is sounding incredible,” even all the way to the mix. We just wanted a little more distortion. A little more grit. This sounds good, we just need a little something.

The parts themselves were incredible, but I have to say, TJ Elias is a wizard behind the console. He was able to take what we did, and make it that much more edgy. To answer your question, this song, specifically, far exceeded anything I had ever imagined. They nailed it with me. This song we recorded in the second of the two sessions. The first session, we did two songs, and it was such a positive experience. Everyone was like, “yeah, this is good, let’s do it again.” The first session was in September, and the second, I think was in January. We recorded three songs, and ‘Run’ was the first of the three in the second batch. It was everything I wanted and more.

NC: Awesome. That’s really good to hear. I read I forget where, you said, “picture a DJ on stage. Rather than a dude with a laptop, there is a chick rocking an illuminated drum kit.” I love the idea of that, I really do. I would love to see that, I haven’t ever seen something like that.

TH: Have you seen the video?

NC: Absolutely, I mean live in person.

TH: Yes, I can’t wait. I will tell you that, the vision for this project, it was almost end point first. I always, from the beginning, had this vision. I’ve been a hired gun, a sideperson, a member of a band contributing, but to be able to go out and perform and not have to rely on a band is very freeing. I’m able to do that with my Roland SPD-SX to trigger tracks.

I always wanted to, as a female drummer, it’s always been a little, it never bothed me, but it seem to, for people to understand that I’m more Travis Barker or Tommy Lee than I am Karen Carpenter. People look at the package, “oh look, a girl.” You can also sometimes see it on people’s faces. “Hey, we have this person who wants to sit in.” You can see the guys, like, “eh, yeah, okay.” It usually took about three seconds for people to go, “oh, okay. I see now.”

In my vision for this project, it’s always about live. I knew I was re-establishing myself as an artist. In some cases, I’m a new artist in the world of DSPs and social media, which is kind of funny. In the world of digital platforms, I’m new. I knew I would have to work my way back up again to any sort of priority in the lineup. I always thought of being at a venue, show, or festival, and just crushing it.

Having music that I can play, these mashups that ultimately, these songs are great to stand alone, but you can see this and hear this full circle, when I can start playing these live. I always wanted to combine my love, my number one passion rock music, along with electronic, hip hop… to be able to show that all of these genres of music are interconnected. And it’s the blending of all these, so people would take notice.

Tammy Hurt Drumming

The chick on the stage rocking an illuminated drum kit hopefully will turn heads. People go, “holy crap, what is that?” If that happens, and when, I know that I’ve done my job. I’ve accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. It feels great to be back behind the drum kit, focused on the kit. It wasn’t that I stopped playing, I just wanted actively pushing forward a project. It feels amazing to be back behind the kit and releasing new music.

NC: Yep. To go back to the video (for ‘Run’), the video itself is incredible in terms of filmography, visuals, and everything going on. Just imagining seeing that live with the lights going, an insane show, I guarantee that will turn heads.

TH: I hope so. Nick, I pride myself on being different. This project debuted on Twitch. Front edge of technology with this ATMOS mix. Independent artists don’t always get to do that. This next video, which I’m shooting on Sunday, is going to be killer. It’s going to be done in the Round.

This next single will be released in the next few weeks. To me, it’s having an aggressive release schedule, even in a pandemic in this world, and being able to now, focus on the releases, as opposed to, having to release and perform. I’m focused on growing digitally. I have an opportunity. It’s turning this pandemic into something positive. This is my fuel and my therapy, and I’ve immersed myself in it. And I’m loving it.

NC: Right, and we’re very fortunate to have the tools to be able to do something like that. You can see all kinds of content creators building big artist careers off of YouTube and Twitch. Do you plan to do live gigs live on Twitch?

TH: 100%. We wanted to get this content out there. To establish that this project has some momentum. And the live streams… we’ve got a couple of things lined up for 2021. Being in Atlanta, it’s pretty cool. We’ve got a lot of unique infrastructure here.

I don’t know if you have seen the new platform, AXREXP? It’s Axis Replay Experience where Offset has invested in this platform, originally built for gaming, and now is allowing artists, especially big artists, to skip over promoters and agents, and things of that nature. Just go direct out to live stream. I’m looking forward to being able to perform on that network next year. They do have Twitch through Skillshot Media. Look for that coming in 2021.

NC: I was looking at Skillshot Media before this! Very cool.   

TH: They’re a great company based out of Atlanta.

NC: I hadn’t heard of them, I’m not too big into e sports, but I’m big into Twitch overall, it’s very fascinating to me.

TH: The whole thing is, all of that is very fascinating. You can get stuck on Twitch for a long time. Just exploring. Watching people watching people.

NC: Twitch IRL, there’s so many things.

TH: For this project, especially, what I’m most proud of, is it being multidimensional. Ideally, you can bridge that gap between music and gaming, music and film and TV, commercial branding.

NC: That’s another question. So you’re managing partner at Placement Music, so you do a lot of TV, film, all kinds of placements. This seems like it could merge both ways. I think it can work great in commercial, and as listening music, as well.

TH: Absolutely. I’m really lucky I can combine two passions here. I started out from the time I was four years old as a drummer. All through my life, that’s been my passion, my first love.

As necessity, I became a businesswoman, ten years ago, started Placement Music. And now have come back right around to the place I started behind the drum kit. I’m really fortunate. My performance is my first love, and chasing that dream. I get to continue to chase the dream. Also, I get an opportunity, both behind the drum kit and in my business, to be in the presence of really great talent and music.

I’m very fortunate in that I was able to combine these two passions. First and foremost, it’s music first. But sure, absolutely, from your mouth to God’s ears, about placement and licensing and all those things. We all have to sustain ourselves. Musicians make money primarily by touring, licensing, streams, and sales. If you’re fortunate enough to be an artist that has a big enough fanbase to make money off merchandising, then you’re really lucky. This project is very multidimensional.

I’m proud to say, along with the EP, we’ll be releasing the stems, sample packs, and drummer play-a-longs. This is meant to be a very collaborative project so people can take these and work with the tracks in their own music and also inspire drummers.

I’ve become a big fan of drummer play-a-longs. I admire a fella’ named Michael Schack. I don’t know if you’ve seen him on YouTube. He’s a master. I think at one point, he worked for Roland, or maybe he still does. He’s a hybrid drummer. The drummer play-a-longs are pretty fantastic. To be able to, again, if you’re a drummer, to not have to rely on somebody else to play with you. You can be self-sufficient. It’s great to be able to march to your own drums.

NC: We go back a little bit. You started drums at age four. Do you remember discovering drums when you were younger? Did you take lessons?

TH: Totally. If I could recreate it, first of all, my path to music was my mother. My mother played in an all-girl band when I was a kid. It was an all-girl-group of mothers who had small children. Of course, three and four-year-old, five-year-olds and musical equipment don’t necessarily match up. The kids were never allowed to come down to the rehearsal space, of the moms. Until that one fateful day.

If I could recreate it with Martin Scorsese directing, the drums are at the far end of the room, and the lights would come up from underneath, and voices would go, “ahhh.” You know, that was it. The first time I ever saw I drum kit, that was it for me. I started playing on everything: pots, pans, and pillows. I got my first drum kit when I was five or six, and continued playing through middle school. I didn’t have private lessons, but I was in band. I marched four years in the drumline in high school and concert band, jazz band. We had variations of different garage bands we played.

My first paying gig was with a band, we had covers… I grew up in the MTV age, where they actually played music videos. We were a product of our environment. The name of our band at the time was Generation of Energy. Perfect name for thirteen-year-old, fifteen-year-old, sixteen-year-old band members. I did go to school at a Presbyterian college in Clinton, SC, but I did spend a good deal of my time driving back to Atlanta. It’s about a three-hour drive. Playing in my cover bands and original bands. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I had to follow my dream.

I joined an amazing band here in Atlanta. They had some good notoriety regionally called the Scallion Sisters. We became Paper Dolls and got signed to Sky Records, toured. Then I was in my professional career in my early twenties just loving it. The next band I had was called She Said. The previous guitar player from Paper Dolls and I started that band. We were fortunate to work with an amazing, multi-GRAMMY-award-winning highly-regarded producer named Brendan O’Brien. Brendan produced big rock bands here in Atlanta: Bruce Springsteen, Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots.

Before Brendan had his meteoric rise, he produced a demo for us that sent us on our way. I’ve always been really lucky I’ve been surrounded by great musicians and amazingly-talented people. Working with Brendan ended up leading to Brendan’s engineer for many years, Nick DiDia. Nick is a dear friend and also my business partner at Placement Music. A quick overview of how this all worked out!

NC: Absolutely. It’s quite the career. I’m blown away. It’s kind of a similar story, for me. I dropped out of college, we started this band, we got lucky enough and got signed, and toured. Now we’re not touring, but here I am doing this gig, loving it. Getting to talk to artists.

TH: Do you still play?

NC: Oh yeah. Not with the band. The band is over as far as I’m concerned. We had some internal struggles.

TH: Just like bands do!

NC: This was interesting to me. You were a big help in the passage of the Georgia Music Investment Act. Now, this is something I’m not too familiar with since I’m not from the area, but it sounds like a great thing. I have no idea how it works or how it came to be.

TH: I can tell you, having started Placement Music ten years ago was right around the time the big film tax incentive in Georgia was just created. Georgia, I believe, is now the number one place in the nation, if not in the world, to film television and film projects. About the time that started, it was like, “wow, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could do the same thing for music?” You know, incentivize companies to come here and use our musicians to score the next Black Panther.

We have a 27 GRAMMY-award-winning symphony orchestra (the ASO). Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could build that bridge and open that door? Just like big film companies come here and hire local crew and staff. We did get that passed. Much like the film credit, it took three different pieces of legislation to get that to where it is. We’re still working on that for the music incentive.

I’ve straddled that line of two passions, and actually, I was going to school for business administration. I’m able to use that business acumen to start to understand what passing legislation means.

We just released a study in the non-profit I co-founded, Georgia Music Partners (behind the tax incentive), by Sound Diplomacy and Fulton County. If you haven’t seen that, it’s a pretty cool thing to measure what we have here, so we can continue to grow it.

I’m proud to say after a good deal of time, we recently were able to announce that we’d reached an agreement with the GRAMMY Museum Foundation to bring a GRAMMY museum to Atlanta. Where my focus is depends, but I’m pleased to say I was a part of all three of those things I really believe will help our community and create jobs—developing the next new talent coming out of Atlanta.

I look forward to working with all the public and private partnerships to continue to cultivate and grow our industry down here. That’s secondary to my first passion.

NC: Right, yeah. We’re going all of the places. I just wanted to get some of these points covered. I thought they were interesting and worth talking about.

TH: One of the things I have learned from this experience—being an independent artist self-releasing music in the 21st century is not easy. Social media follows, and streams are not easy to come by. However we can help support each other in our endeavors. I am real big into that. I will look ya up and follow along and, I look forward to following your progress and we’ll exchange info on techniques, fills, or whatever. I really am thrilled you’ve taken an interest in this and super appreciative. I always enjoy spending time chatting. Reach out anytime.

NC: Yep, sounds good! Last thing, let’s circle back to Sonic Rebel. What is to come in the future?

TH: It’s a five-song instrumental EP. The next track, ‘Reign’ will be released on November 5, 2020. The video will be the week following on the 12th. Just in time for Christmas, we will release the Dolby Atmos mix of ‘Reign.’ So you’ll have to two Dolby Atmos mixes to listen to on your, hopefully brand new, Dolby-enabled equipment over Christmas. Right after the first of the year, here come the live performances, live streams, and the EP in February. Along with that release in February will be the stems, sample packs, and play-a-longs.

Tammy Hurt Sonic Rebel Reign

NC: Alright Tammy, thank you for doing the interview. Have a great day. Hopefully we can chat soon again.

TH: Nick, thanks so much. I really appreciate your time. I’m looking forward to what’s next!

Follow Tammy and Sonic Rebel:

Nick Cesarz

Nick is a drummer, percussionist, and blogger from Milwaukee, WI. He toured extensively with Vinyl Theatre, opening up for acts like twenty one pilots, Panic! at the Disco, and more. Now no longer touring, his passion lies in gear and playing the kit as much as time allows.

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