VIC FIRTH ARTIST
Growing up in a small rural Texas community called Hebbronville, Walter, the eldest of three sons, was encouraged by his father to learn the family construction business and quality of work was instilled at a very young age. Walter’s father, albeit a businessman, had a passion for Tejano/Norteño music. At a young age, around 11 or so, Walter was influenced by this father and learned to play the bajo sexto (12 string Mexican guitar) to accompany him on the accordion on Mother’s Day serenades.
After watching Motley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, and various other drummers of the time, he decided to pursue drumming. Due to the family not being able to afford drums his father said “We can’t afford any drums, but if you really want to play, you’ll figure it out.” So he played on empty buckets and used saw blades for cymbals. A few months later they were able to buy some used drums from a friend and piece together a half decent kit. He played for three years in the high school marching band and at school concerts.
After high school, Walter put his drums to rest after being recommended to further his education in the auto collision and refinishing industry. (Knowledge of construction and auto collision and refinishing work later proved to be very helpful in order to “survive” in Los Angeles.)
|See what Walter's using:|
Oval tip. A favorite for jazz.
L = 16 1/4" | Dia. = .610" [enlarge photo]
Bio continued from above...
After his 5 year drumming hiatus, he moved to Austin, Texas and began playing in a three-piece blues band. Being in a cultural melting pot of Austin, he was exposed to a variety of styles of music, Tejano/Norteño, Salsa, Jazz, Pop and Rock. After 8 years in Austin playing with local acts, he felt the urge to take his expertise and skills to a new plateau and relocated to Los Angeles in January 2007.
Upon arriving in L.A., Walter played in a rock band and played all over the Sunset Strip, and other notable clubs like The Key Club, Hotel Café, etc. He also started to moonlight on the weekends at Chad Sextons Drum City in North Hollywood. The drum shop was a great avenue to meet people in the drumming scene, learn about different drums, cymbals and sticks, as well as give lessons to everyone from kids to adults. Walter being good with his hands, was in charge of performing most to the repairs, which helped to improve his knowledge of drums inside and out.
Making his way through the scene Walter played with countless artists, from jazz/fusion to singer-songwriters and of course various Latin genres.
One key gig was playing for a Russian surf-rock band called The Red Elvises. The schedule that this act required was insane to say the least. The last tour consisted of 54 shows in 58 days. The experience of driving cross-country and back through every type of weather possible was an amazing experience. This gig was special in the sense that it was answered through out of all things, a Craigslist ad.
During that time, Walter also played with Don Randi, who is one of the pianists from a group of musicians called The Wrecking Crew. They were responsible for 100’s of recordings in the 60s and 70s, including The Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher, to Elvis. This gig was amazing due to being able to play at The Baked Potato, the music and musicians, like Mike Miller and Jerry Watts, were very inspiring and kept you on your toes.
Walter was then recommended to a latin act called La Santa Cecilia. Consisting of a very knowledgeable and soulful group of people, who have been performing for many years in their own right. La Santa Cecilia has a very strong bond to immigration reform and wrote a song that went viral. So much so, that they were invited to play at The White House, and all the top international tv shows. They now have a Grammy and countless accolades to add to their name and currently tour the US and Mexico.
Walter was then recommended to audition for the L.A. group Ozomatli, having auditioned for them 5 years earlier, they were familiar with each other. 3 songs were played at the audition and Walter became the “Official Sub.” That basically meant, “We don’t know when we’ll call you, but when we do, BE READY.” A few weeks later, Walter was called upon to fill the drum chair. In addition to many great songs, Ozomatli is known for their touring schedule, and high energy shows. A few highlights of working with them was having several other artists “sit in” with the band. Artists like Jackson Brown, Stevie Wonder, Dave Stewart, Andy Garcia, and Chali 2na. Walter also performed Ozomatli song scores with 4 of the top symphonies in the country, Detroit, San Diego, Denver, and The San Francisco Symphony. A year has passed, many shows have been played, in the U.S. and Australia, miles traveled, but the journey continues…
Sidenote: Over the years, all the major gigs have come to fruition (1-5 years) after making initial contact with these artists. You never know who’s going to call you or when, so get familiar with them and their music, because you need to be ready when that call comes through.