INTERVIEW: Terry Harper on Music, Gambling, and His Favorite Kardashian!

For more than a decade, Terry Harper has been a juggernaut in the local metal scene, booking for local and nationals alike, all with what seems like an endless supply of energy. On top of that, Harper has played drums for all sorts of bands, first for SEN and later with bands like Flaw, Flatlyne, Tornacade, and Hot Action Cop to name a few. Currently, Harper is holding down the percussion end of things with Whitener and The Quinney Bros., and as always still booking shows like crazy. We caught up with him to ask him about the challenges of setting up shows, straightedge, and time travel capable Deloreans!

Never Nervous: What was your first band? For that matter what’s your musical resume?

Terry Harper: My first band I played in was called Unholy Alliance. We changed our name to Mental and finally settled on SEN. We were some reaaaaaaaal bad asses, ha.

NN: Have you always played drums? How have you evolved as a musician over the years?

TH: I’ve always played drums. Honestly when I first started playing it was definitely about being the fastest or going crazy on double bass, etc. I remember having some huge kit with like 6 toms and one million cymbals. My god what I was thinking? I’ve found out through the years it’s about playing what’s right for the groove of the song. What’s best to make the song great overall. Playing blast beats or crazy double bass doesn’t mean the song will be great, ha. I’m down to a 3 piece drum kit now. lol

“I’ve found out through the years it’s about playing what’s right for the groove of the song. What’s best to make the song great overall. Playing blast beats or crazy double bass doesn’t mean the song will be great, ha. I’m down to a 3 piece drum kit now.”

NN: What can you tell us about either Whitener or the Quinney Bros.? How would you describe either band? How did you get involved with either?

TH: Whitener is definitely rock but with hints of bluegrass and borderline country. It’s definitely a new direction for me. I’m digging it! The Quinney Bros have been on hiatus for a while now. We all just had crazy schedules and could never get on the same page to practice. But that band is very groovy with many different elements of music. Everything from rock to funk to heaviness!

NN: How do you compose music? Do you play to what other people bring in, or do you bring in riffs yourself? What do you see as your roll in that aspect of the band’s you’ve played with?

TH: I definitely don’t compose music, but help out with the creative direction when we are writing with any band. I would say it’s a little of both. I never minded playing stuff that people bring to the table. But anytime I can be creative I’m down to bust out some PHAAAAAAAAT beats yo, ha. I see myself as keeping everything groovy, solid, tight and making sure tempos aren’t out of control fluctuating. I like to simplify everything.

NN: Do you think your work as an industry professional has influenced how you play or who you play with?

TH: OH YEAH. Over the years the more shows I’ve booked or watched – the more it’s made me open my eyes to different styles of drumming. I’ve pretty much settled on the fact I like being a solid drummer that likes to entertain people. I’ve focused a lot more on entertaining people behind the kit if anything. I like making eye contact with people in the crowd and putting out good vibes or making heads bop up and down.

NN: How did you become a booking agent? What was the first show that you booked and how did it go?

TH: Booking tons of local shows with my own band got me on the radar with other local and regional acts. I started helping other bands get gigs and bothering my friends at Spotlight Productions. They booked all the national shows in town pretty much and kept bothering them until they allowed me to help out on a show. I showed them I work hard and eventually the guy who was in charge hired me. Made relationships with agents, managers and labels and when Spotlight folded branched out on my own. Well, I was booking local shows back in 1999. But my first real national show was with Morbid Angel at Headliners in 2000. Think I overpaid them, so I lost money, but the room looked good. I quickly found out I couldn’t fan boy over my favorite bands or they would charge me premium money to book them, ha.

NN: What have you learned from booking and working with musicians that you didn’t know prior to doing so?

TH: Booking: That 90% of the work is behind the scenes and I don’t plan on actually watching / enjoying the show. Working with musicians : That my musical taste and style of playing would change over time. I would never in a million years think I would be playing drums in a band that somewhat resembles bluegrass.

“90% of the work is behind the scenes and I don’t plan on actually watching / enjoying the show.”

NN: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced booking shows and how did you resolve them? What are your ideal conditions for booking?

TH: Booking an average of over 130 shows a year, it’s hard giving each show all of my time. Some shows get more love than others. I’m actually focusing on slowing down drastically in the near future. Think I’ve proved to everyone I could book a crazy amount of small, medium and large shows in a year. It’s time to put quality over quantity. The main thing I look for are artists that might have that ‘wow’ factor when someone sees their name being advertised coming to town. I live for that. So I guess you can say someone that either has a catalogue of hits or perhaps an artist that would never even entertain the idea of playing Louisville.

NN: Are there any bands that you haven’t had the chance to work with that you haven’t? If so, who?

TH: Dream Theater, Meshuggah, Die Antwoord, Marilyn Manson, Dimmu Borgir & Steel Panther to name a few.

NN: Do you remember your first show as a performer? How did it go? What was the turn out like? Were you anxious?

TH: Oh yeah. It was February of 1997 at Incarnation Church off Dixie Hwy with Pflanz, Truce and Dirt One. I think Snoit played too. I was so nervous. My cymbals and drums collapsed on me during the set. It was awesome, ha. I remember the show having about 75 – 100 people there.

NN: What is the best show you’ve ever played? Who was it with and how do you think it went? What about the worst? What constitutes a good or bad show and why?

TH: I would say when I played for a band called Of Sound Mind, we opened for Staind and Shinedown at a sold out Louisville Gardens (6,500 people). Just because it was a hometown show in front of lots of friends made it bittersweet. The video is on YouTube somewhere. We played great, sounded great and sold tons of CDS. Made tons of new fans that day too. I would say the worst show was in Lexington filling in for my cousin’s band 88 Sins. I had the flu and only got through a couple of songs before we had to stop the set. I was going to die, ha. I passed out and don’t even remember how I got home or who loaded out my drums. That show was pretty bad. One time when I was playing in Flaw we played a show in Hazard KY and my singer walked off stage during a song to go use the restroom. He had the mic on in the bathroom and we could hear everything. That was pretty embarrassing. The promoter didn’t pay us that night and rightfully so. Our set was terrible. I would say playing sloppy or not entertaining the crowd constitutes a bad show.

NN: I’ve noticed that you still put X’s up around your name, an indicator of some sort of association with straight edge. It’s safe to assume that you at least were straight-edge at some point, but are you currently still? What lead you down that path and how has it evolved over the years?

TH: I’ve actually never claimed straight edge or anything like that. Never cared. But I don’t drink, smoke or do any drugs. I’m totally clean. Some people think the X’s are representing that life style but it’s not. Honestly it’s just because terryharper@whatever email address was taken. So xterryharperx was born, ha! I’ve never been into drugs, drinking or smoking. It just never was appealing. My vice was gambling. I lost everything because of it. But I’ve learned my lesson and banned myself from the casino. Signed my paper and can’t ever go back. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

NN: What advice would you have to any aspiring musicians? What about anyone that wants to book shows or get involved in the music business?

TH: Musicians: Honestly this might sound lame, but please do it for fun. The days of getting signed or whatever are completely over. Just go out there, have a good time, entertain the crowd and practice, practice, practice! Better yourself with each performance and be able to take criticism. I love when people say, “Hey Terry, you over played. Hey Terry you fucking sucked tonight.” I will go home and think next time I’m going to push myself to fix those mistake and become better. Learn to take advice from others. Don’t take things so seriously.

“Musicians: Honestly this might sound lame, but please do it for fun. The days of getting signed or whatever are completely over. Just go out there, have a good time, entertain the crowd and practice, practice, practice!”

NN: Who is your favorite Kardashian and why?

TH: I fucking hate all of them. What a waste of space. They’re just really annoying. I don’t understand why they’re even famous?! What the fuck do they bring to the table? Most people will probably say their looks, but I know a lot of girls who I would say look way better. If you say fashion then I guess whatever. I don’t have any cool looks or follow fashion. So I guess that’s why I can’t relate.

NN: If you could have any fictional vehicle, like the light cycle from Tron, the Millenium Falcon, or Knight Rider, what would it be? Would you drive it to work or through the drive-thru at Taco Bell?

TH: I would want the car from Back To The Future. How sexy is that thang? You could pick up so many chicks in that car. We would just fly in the sky and skip the line in the drive-thru at Taco Bell, grab our food and get the hell out of there. If they fucked our order up we could go back in time and start over again!

NN: What non-musical things have you riled up lately and why? Read, watched, eaten, or drank anything worth mentioning?

TH: I’m a pizza fanatic. I’ve been on a little pizza tour and eating at all the new places around Louisville. Seems like so many are popping up left and right. I would say The Post in Germantown has my love at the moment. Their breadsticks are amazing. Pizza is solid. But no one will ever beat Bonnie N Clyde’s on Dixie Hwy!!!!!! Danny Mac’s was pretty good too. Jet’s Pizza is the shit. Annie’s gives me the shits.

NN: Last, but never ever least, what have you been listening to lately and why?

TH: I’m on a huge Steel Panther run right now. My god they’re hilarious and always put a smile on my face. Every song makes me laugh and the musicianship is over the top. If you don’t have a sense of humor and suck at life – don’t listen to them. Otherwise if you’re open minded – cool as fuck – want to act like that rock star lifestyle actually exists and don’t mind them degrading all of your morals in life – listen to Steel Panther and have some laughs. They’re awesome!