Today we’d like to introduce you to Gregory “ThisIsTorch” Sgrulloni.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Gregory “ThisIsTorch”. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Going back to the very beginning, I had a pretty typical start as a music student during my high school years. I was in the concert band, marching band and took all the music classes I could get my hands on. I was extremely fortunate to have amazing teachers who recognized my passion and helped to nurture my talents. I’ll never forget my teacher, Mr. Bresnahan, who would allow me to practice after school hours (sometimes until around 10pm on some nights) in the school auditorium. I basically lived there. Also, he would record selections from his record collection onto blank cassette tapes that I would bring to him. He opened me up to a ton of great music that would later shape me into the musician I am today. Mr. B, as we called him, was a major influence on me in my high school years and helped to instill the confidence and drive I would need in order to pursue a professional career in music.
After high school, I attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. Berklee is where I met many of my lifelong friends and colleagues. In fact, one of my main groups of several years, Sistine Criminals, was also formed there. Those years in Boston ended up being some of the most crucial years for me in terms of discovering myself as a musician. Up until this point, I had gone through a very necessary phase of imitating my drumming heroes like Jeff “Tain” Watts, Elvin Jones and Billy Cobham to moving onto the next phase of self-discovery. Ultimately, I found my musical direction in the world of electronic music through the work I had done with my group Sistine Criminals. Once finished at Berklee, a bandmate and I decided it was time to move to New York City to further our careers. My group, Sistine Criminals, continued to perform and hit the ground running almost as soon as we had arrived in NYC. Quickly becoming a staple in the NYC underground music scene, we performed our live electronic sets at everything from secret ‘Burning Man’ boat parties, warehouse events and rooftop raves to impromptu raves in the subways, streets and parks of NYC. You can find videos of these subway raves on YouTube if you do a search! Needless to say, it was a privilege to be a part of such a crazy and intense but thriving scene. Those times were absolutely electric.
Fast forward a few years…and I began to develop my artistry under the artist moniker, ThisIsTorch, which now doubles as the name for my brand. Although Sistine Criminals was (and still is) a big part of what I do, at some point I felt the need to branch out and explore my own artistry on a deeper level. It all started by essentially becoming a YouTuber (before it was called that). I was looking for a way that enabled me to put myself and my talents out there in a way that I hadn’t done previously. I decided to make the best drum videos I possibly could that would be representative of what I do while attempting to reach a bigger online audience. I chose to do live drum remixes of my favorite electronic tracks. The one video that has followed me ever since is my cover of Squarepusher’s “A Journey To Reedham”. I was about four videos and 3-4 months in until my videos caught the attention of renowned drummer and now a good friend of mine, Adam Deitch (Pretty Lights, Lauren Hill, Lettuce). Through Adam Deitch, my videos were then shared with a Philly based group called “Conspirator”. “Conspirator” was a side project of the well known jamtronica band, “The Disco Biscuits”. Long story short, through the making of my drum videos to the off-chance that they would be shared by Adam Deitch to the guys in “Conspirator”, I ended up going on tour with “Conspirator” for the next two years for what would end up being a major career milestone.
Once touring came to a close, my next major project was to write a drum method book and get it published by Hudson Music/Hal Leonard, my favorite publisher of drum literature and videos. However, I didn’t want to write just any drum book. It had to be a book that not only delved into something that I was passionate about but also a book about something that had never been written before…TRAP BEATS. One of my major goals in life has been to make some sort of contribution to the drumming community, and hopefully music as a whole. I know it’s a tall order but one can dream. I felt that all the heroes of mine that I had looked up to, respected and admired had in some way shape or form, made their mark and contributed something of value that left their communities in a better place. After spending several years working out my ideas and concepts under the radar for how to play trap style beats, I spent the following 4-5 years actually crafting the book that I would entitle “Trap Style Drumming for the Acoustic and Hybrid Drumset.”
Interestingly enough, during the time I was moving to LA from NYC, I was able to fulfill my dream of not only writing this book but also getting it published by my first choice publisher, Hudson Music/Hal Leonard. What an amazing way to usher in my new life as an LA resident! Following the release of my book, it was then later nominated for best educational product in the Modern Drummer Readers Poll the following year to my shock and amazement. Today, “Trap Style Drumming for the Acoustic and Hybrid Drumset” is credited as being the first-ever drum method book that exclusively covers the popular music style and beats of TRAP. If you are interested in picking up a copy for yourself, this book is available at Hudson Music/Hal Leonard as well as other retailers like your local Guitar Center or online at places like Amazon.com or even my website www.ThisIsTorch.com.
Has it been a smooth road?
It seems that every new place has its way of welcoming you or…more aptly put, ‘initiating’ you (I can laugh about it now!). It hasn’t been a smooth road by any means as I’m sure is the case with many creatives. In NYC for example, my warm welcome was when I had the majority of my drum gear stolen from me by a ‘gypsy cab’ driver in a literal blink of an eye. It all happened so fast. I learned the hard way. For those who aren’t familiar, a gypsy cab in NYC is an unmarked taxi driver who works independently. I didn’t know any better and of course, this was before Uber or Lyft entered the picture. I had arrived home after a late night gig, exited the cab and the driver sped off with everything. I was devastated. One of the items stolen was a vintage red sparkle ‘Leedy’ snare drum that my high school band director, Mr. B, had passed on to me as a graduation gift. It was my favorite drum and I never saw it again.
As luck would have it, this event took place while I had an amazing opportunity to work with a group based out of Canada called “Let’s Go To War”. They had had some success placing a song with Britney Spears at the time and were up and coming. They were gearing up for some major touring and I was on board…except now I had no drums or cymbals to rehearse with. It was rough and I felt discouraged. I really enjoyed the opportunity to work with those guys and was looking forward to a potential future with them. But eventually, for reasons unknown to me, things fizzled out with “Let’s Go To War” and life for me went back to normal. At this point, I still had no drums to play.
In LA, I’d say the biggest struggle for me was coming to terms with the fact that I had left behind everything I had established on the East Coast over the past ten years. Friends, connections, the scene and even fans…I left it all behind. It’s a very daunting feeling to know that you have to start from scratch all over again in a new place with all new people and no one knows who you are or what you do.
Suddenly, I felt the need to prove myself all over again. Since I’m still relatively new here in LA, the search for my tribe still continues although I have enjoyed working with so many great and talented people. Living and working in LA has been a real test of my confidence and skill. Simply put, the best of the best in the entertainment realm are right here in LA. You are competing with the top people in their industry and you have to rise to the occasion if you’re going to be able to compete and survive here. So, although the struggle has been real, the silver lining has been that LA and the professionals that live and work here have really pushed me to raise my standards as high as possible. I am better off having moved here and that is a fact.
Can you give our readers some background on your music?
My artist moniker which doubles as my brand is called, ThisIsTorch. I have to wear many hats as I think is typical of most creatives these days. In a nutshell, the services I provide to others are as a drummer, musical director, producer, composer and educator. Of course, when I’m not doing work for hires, I’m working on my artistry as ThisIsTorch, on projects like Sistine Criminals and also with organizations such as Fiera Music.
What I specialize in and what I’m probably best known for is as a drummer who plays a multitude of electronic music styles; the primary styles being Jungle/Drum N’ Bass and Trap. I’m often using a hybrid setup that consists of acoustic drums and cymbals augmented by electronics and a laptop. This type of hybrid drum setup is now becoming more commonplace as live drummers increasingly feel the need to meet the sonic nature of today’s music. The goal in using a setup like the one I have is to help with reproducing or ‘reverse engineering’ an electronic style such as trap, etc. Since being in LA, I have not only kept busy as a producer and composer but as a drummer and musical director I have also helped artists ‘close the gap’ between their recorded music and their live show by implementing live production techniques and drum programming; essentially bringing their pre-recorded music to life on the live stage. You can see many examples of my ever-evolving hybrid drum set up on my YouTube channel which goes by the same name, ThisIsTorch.
Other than writing my book “Trap Style Drumming”, I’d like to think that what sets me apart from others is that I have a unique and personal style on my instrument and that I’ve chosen to specialize in genres that are still relatively new to the live musician. However, I would rather let the readers of Voyage LA be the judge of that :).
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Briefly touching on this in the last question, I believe as new technologies are continually introduced into the music industry, the way music is being made is changing all the time and in turn is evolving the sound of music. A live musician for example can essentially become a ‘1-man band’ using live instruments and electronics. I’m also seeing advances in MIDI technology. For example, you can now use software that translates the human voice into MIDI signals allowing music producers to compose pieces of music by singing or beatboxing. Every year or so, it seems there are more groundbreaking technological innovations coming out for musicians that for sure will shape the future of music. I can’t wait to hear the future.
- “Trap Style Drumming for the Acoustic & Hybrid Drumset” book — $19.99
- Website: www.ThisIsTorch.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: www.Instagram.com/ThisIsTorch
- Facebook: www.Facebook.com/ThisIsTorch
- Twitter: www.Twitter.com/ThisIsTorch
- Other: www.YouTube.com/ThisIsTorch
Andrew Scott Blackstein, Chris Monoghan, Greg Horowitz