Drum giant Antonio Sánchez on 'Birdman' tour after album with Trent Reznor, Dave Matthews and Pat Metheny

George Varga, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

"What you will hear," he said, "is my live drumming, the dialogue and some of the incidental (orchestral) music."

Sánchez's drums will be set up to the immediate right of the screen on which the film is shown. He will view the film on a monitor screen, the better to ensure his drumming is perfectly timed to the movie. But he won't perform exactly the same improvised drum parts as he did in the original film.

"I'm a little tucked away because I don't want to be the center of attention," he noted. "But I'm facing toward the center of the stage and you can definitely see me. In the beginning of doing these concerts, I tried to stay as close as possible to the original score because it was fresh in people's minds. Now, 10 years later, I don't think anybody remembers what the hell I did!

"It's a lot more fun now that I don't have to stick to anything in particular. Of course, I want to achieve the frantic intensity of drumming as when we did the film. But nobody cares if I play note for note what I did in the original score, so now I get to improvise a lot more.

"I've probably seen the film more than Iñárritu because I've been performing it live for 10 years. I have gotten to know it so intimately that there are a lot of spots I can contribute to that originally didn't have drums. I'm sort of ad-libbing in a lot more scenes. Because I know the story and dialogue so well, I can create more on the drums. For me, it's a lot more fun to do live than 10 years ago."

Born in 1971, Sánchez began drumming when he was 5 and grew up immersed in both rock and classical music. He enrolled in Mexico's National Conservatory of Music as a classical pianist but soon gravitated to jazz. His first epiphany came when a friend at the conservatory gave him a tape of a mid-1980s album by the Chick Corea Elektric Band, featuring Dave Weckl on drums.

"I was blown away," recalled Sánchez, whose 2007 album, "Migration," features Corea. "I'd listened to a little jazz, but I'd never heard music like this before. It was very hard hitting, complex, powerful and intricate.


"I had been into (Rush drummer) Neil Peart, who could play complex rhythms, but he didn't improvise. This album by Chick and his band was on a completely different level. And it really inspired me to keep studying and try to learn more about jazz, and to figure out what these people were doing!"

In 1993, Sánchez enrolled at Boston's Berklee College of Music, where he graduated magna cum laude in jazz studies. He soon was drumming for such notable jazz artists as Panamanian pianist Danilo Pérez and Cuban-born saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera. He became a member of Metheny's group in 2001. It was a dream gig that would tie together Sánchez's journey from his teen years in Mexico City to his work on "Birdman" and beyond.

"I did not know Iñárritu in Mexico City. But I knew of him because he was a DJ on a very popular radio station, 96.9, when I was growing up," Sánchez explained. "One night, he played this song that really intrigued me. It had a very lush harmony and wordless vocals, which was something I was not used to in rock 'n' roll. It was 'Last Train Home' by the Pat Metheny Group.

"I said: 'Oh, wow. I have to check this band out!' Fast forward and, years later, I ended up playing in the Pat Metheny Group and we played that song. In 2005, Iñárritu came to see our concert in Los Angeles, because he's a big fan of Pat's music. There was an after-party and Iñárritu started talking to me. I didn't know it was him.

"I said: 'What do you do?' He said: 'I direct films and commercials.' I asked if he'd done anything I'd seen. When he answered, I freaked out and apologized profusely. We became friends and stayed in touch. In 2013, he called me, out of nowhere, and asked me do the score for 'Birdman.' It was full circle."


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