The Life of a China Born LA Session & Touring Drummer: Lang Zhao

For decades, Los Angeles has been THE destination for musicians who want to simultaneously conquer the studio and touring industry. Home to Capitol Records and Paramount Pictures literally within blocks of each other, LA has enabled generations of music artists to record in the most iconic studios whether for their own artistic statement or to collaborate with the great filmmakers of the day. This city finds the best of the best, which is a perfect way to describe drummer/composer/educator Lang Zhao. When not headlining his own drum clinic tour, Zhao is a prominent fixture in LA’s music scene. In addition to recording with Prog-Rock power trio led by guitarist Wes Thrailkill (formerly Mammoth, winner of Best Progressive Metal Album of 2016 from Sputnik Music for Deviation) across America, Lang is a “first call” session musician for feature films like Dude’s Manual and the recently released Bad Boy Symphony. Metronomic perfect time blended with all of the chops of the greats; it’s no wonder that bands, composers, and producers have invested so much into this phenomenal musician.

(Thrailkill at the Viper Room)

Thrailkill (formerly known as Mammoth) is an LA-based progressive metal power trio. Led by guitar virtuoso Wes Thrailkill, the group is known for pushing the musical limits of music among the prog-rock community. When the band required a new drummer for their 2017 US tour with British progressive metal band Haken, they turned to drummer extraordinaire Lang Zhao. The complexity of Thrailkill’s catalogue and brief one-month prep time meant only a master drummer was capable of this task. Zhao was cognizant of fans affinity for the original parts and recreated them for this American tour. When the band invited him to record their latest original album [Everything that is You], Lang was afforded the opportunity to bring his own musical identity to Thrailkill’s music. He explains, “For the new album, I brought my own unique and signature sound to the music. To some degree, this offered the project many new possibilities. My research over the years on gospel drumming, plus the phrasing and touch from fusion jazz music studies, really formed my very own unique sound and identity on the drums. It added a new element to the record but, of course the band has to retain its own sound to a certain degree; I had to figure out an ideal balance there. That very important when you are hired to participate a project; you can’t really pull the original music away too much but definitely must offer the best you can to give the music some extra stuff to make it better.” Everything that is You features the trio of Wes Thrailkill (guitar), Yasutaka Nomura (Bass), and Zhao (drums) and has been described as the group’s heaviest and most creative release thus far. Progressive Music Planet singles out the drumming on the record stating, “Plenty of rhythmic diversity and odd time signatures can be found on this CD and drummer Lang Zhao handles all the changes with ease.”

When not performing for enthusiastic fans in concerts across the country, Zhao finds himself in the creative solitude of the recording studio supplying the backbeat and percussive emphasis to international feature films. As one of the most versatile drummers of his generation, Lang’s ability to match his tone and touch authentically to a wide variety of musical genres makes him ideally suited to film scores and soundtracks. He relates, “Drums in modern film music serves and important role, reflecting not only the tempo of the film but also supplying the energy at certain locations. Film scores contain a vast variety of styles, including Jazz, Rock, RnB, Pop, etc.” For award winning film composer Solo Wang’s score to Bad Boy Symphony, Lang accompanies a full orchestra on drum set. The synergy of the final product gives no hint that his performance was recorded separately and yet sounds as if he was in the very same room with the ensemble. On the soundtrack to award-nominated director Kevin Ko’s Dude’s Manual, Lang’s R&B/Funk/Fusion playing projects this modern romance film to an energetic and contemporary atmosphere. Both films are Chinese productions directed by Taiwanese directors with film scores recorded in Los Angeles. This prominently displays how the arts and entertainment industries are becoming globally integrated. The wave of the present and future is creative professionals collaborating from all across the planet; Lang Zhao is at the forefront of musicians leading this direction. As the drummer prepares to embark on his first international drum clinic tour in support of latest educational book, more of the world will be taking notice of this incredible talent.

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An LA based writer with more than a decade as a staff writer for NYC based Drumhead magazine, Kelly is also a contributor to a number of outlets.

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Kelly King

Kelly King

An LA based writer with more than a decade as a staff writer for NYC based Drumhead magazine, Kelly is also a contributor to a number of outlets.

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