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Drummer finds thrills in addition to playing with Stone Temple Pilots

Today’s rock star/travel guide is drummer Eric Kretz of Stone Temple Pilots. His latest foray: paragliding by parachute in Switzerland. He highly recommends it, if your heart can stand it.

Kretz got inaugurated into that extreme sport at the end of STP’s previous tour, when he took his family to Switzerland.

He and his wife went looking for last-minute excursions, and paragliding was simply available. As fans of extreme sports, they both signed up. But it didn’t come without anxiety.

"When you jump off that cliff, you’re going, ‘Oh, why did I do this?’ Then you realize how beautiful it is.

"You’re a good three-and-a-half-thousand feet above the buildings by the time you get to the top of the wind cycles. And then you start floating down."

There wasn’t much holding him in place, just a couple of cables connected to his parachute. His instructor told him to relax, but he kept squeezing the support handles really hard, until his powerful drummer’s hands cramped. He was weirded out seeing his feet dangling in the sky.

"You realize if you fall, you’re not going to get hurt at all. You’re going to die. That’s what goes through your brain — not, ‘I’m gonna get hurt or paralyzed,’ but ‘I’m going to die!’ "

The best part was floating above the town of Interlaken.

"When you’re flying over these ancient churches and the cobblestone streets, and you’re 100 or 200 feet above it, that’s when it’s absolutely amazing, because it’s more realistic. You can really see what’s going on down there.

"You’re buzzing over, you land in a park, and you scream a few ‘woo-hoos,’ " he says. "I didn’t crap my pants, so I held that one together."

Kretz also recommends Switzerland to luge in summer or simply to hike.

"I knew there’d be a lot of mountains and a lot of yodeling, but I wasn’t sure what else was going to be there," Kretz says.

"It turned out to be more beautiful than I could imagine. They have lakes there with really clear water, and a lot of things to do for kids and adults.

"I was really surprised, because you don’t hear about a lot of people going to Switzerland for vacation, unless they’re going for spas and nail treatments."

Kretz used to be more of a thrill junkie until he had kids and slowed down a little bit. But he plans to sign up for extreme sports in New Zealand when STP plays there soon.

"They have those boats that go 60 mph, and they’re doing 360s — an inch away from the cliffs and the rock formations. So I think I’m gonna try that one out."


One of the great debates rock fans get into, usually when they’re pounding beers in a bar, is: Who’s the greatest drummer of all time?

I enlisted Kretz to help stir the deliberations.

Kretz says it’s hard not to pick one of three obvious choices as the best of all time, especially Neil Peart of Rush; but also John Bonham of Led Zeppelin; and Bill Bruford of Yes, King Crimson and Genesis.

"Neil — he’s so great and precise. What is he, 60? He’s still doing a huge drum solo toward the end of (a Rush) set, after two hours.

"Bonham was the animal of animals — the melodic style, the flavor, his timing, and his ultimate power and presence. Nobody can pretty much match that.

"And my other favorite drummer is always Bruford — I always go back to him. It’s just his polyrhythm, his sense of time, his sense of turning things upside down in a complex way, but also having it work so well, and then bringing it back and inverting it. He’s so incredible that way and so smooth."

Kretz says it’s very difficult for rock drummers to establish their own style, because the ubiquity of two-four beats are basically the same in many rock songs.

So the challenge is: "How can you create things different with that?"

He says rock drummers are more than capable of mixing things up, at the very least by playing three-beat, waltz and false-waltz rhythms.

But to do that, drummers have to convince the rest of their rock band to agree.

"The whole band has to be involved to pull off those delicacies."

Doug Elfman’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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