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Beat of His Own Drum: A Q&A With Dylan McKenna

McKenna sits at his drum set. (Photo via Nicholas Intrabartola)

by Nicholas Intrabartola

Dylan McKenna is currently a junior at SUNY Purchase. McKenna came to SUNY Purchase last year as a transfer student from Nassau Community College. He is both an aspiring musician and creative writer. McKenna is an avid drummer and is currently in a two-person band called Generic Rock Band Experience. The band plays gigs around Island Trees and Levittown. McKenna plans on becoming a writer after college but is not ruling out the possibility of doing music full time.

What is your major and why did you choose to enter your major of choice?

I transferred into this school with a declared creative writing major and decided to keep it as is. Writing creatively is my next passion next to music.

How does music influence your life and the choices you make?

In so many ways. I think of everything I do in life musically. I am always listening to music when I’m studying or relaxing. Music has been present across my life ever since I was a little kid.

Tell me one of your earliest musical memories?

As a little kid I grew up listening to a lot of nu-metal and Linkin Park with my older siblings. They gave me a lot of hand-me down CD’s but the bands that stood out were Slipknot and Disturbed.

Who is your musical idol and why?

Frank Zappa is my main one because he has spanned genres and stood up for what he believed. Zappa defended his music to the end. Zappa also held a tight hold on his band and managed a large group of musicians really well.

What bands, vocalists or musicians have inspired you to write and create music?

Just to name a few, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, Ringo Starr of the Beatles and Tim Herb Alexander of Primus. All drummers.

How important would you say music is in your life?

Music is extremely important, music lifts me through the rough times in my life. Music is the most consistent thing in my life. I always look to include music in my everyday life.

I know music is very important in your life but what do you like most about music itself?

What I like about music itself is the patterns and repetition of it. Also production is a huge factor. The production has to match the music an example would be the White Stripes first album called The White Stripes. It was badly produced and the lo-fi was in your face. Production matters. Sequencing is also a huge part of a piece of work consisting of other pieces with it.

Which drum kit do you use to play?

I use a PDP-X7 drum kit. It has 7 drums and it’s a hefty kit. To lighten the load for gigs, I minimize the kit to around 4 pieces.

Do you play any other instruments?

I play the bass guitar in my spare time outside of drumming. I also make some beats on my keyboard as well.

You told me you play in a band, what’s the name of your band and have you released any music to a bigger audience? Do you plan on doing so?

The name of my band is Generic Rock Band Experiment I came up with the name (laughs). We have recorded eight original song compositions but we’re in the process of finding a professional mixer to mix the tracks we have. But we’re just looking to get our music out there any way we can. Once it’s mixed we will show it to producers.

Do you have any advice for any aspiring musicians like yourself?

Practice and don’t stop playing that instrument. Play ALL the time and if music matters to you. Do it. If music is your hobby keep with it.

And finally what are your plans after graduating college?

I wish I could give you a better answer. I want to either write and play music or both. Part of my endgame is to have a writing/music studio. With that said, being able to write and make music as a career is my goal.



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