Talking Deep Ellum Firsts With John Clardy, Tera Melos’ North Texas-Based Drummer.
Since he joined the progressive and math-y Sacramento-based rock band Tera Melos in 2007, North Texas native John Clardy has had the pleasure of touring alongside some of the headiest acts in the music business, among them The Dillinger Escape Plan and Pinback.
From his perch behind that band’s kit, he’s had the pleasure of playing Trees, his favorite hometown venue, a number of times, too. But this week, as his band headlines a Red Bull Sound Select showcase also featuring Nasvhille’s Basecamp and Dallas’ own Power Trip on Thursday night, it will be his first time taking part in a headlining performance at the club.
And, as we learned in a recent phone call with Clardy, he’s stoked about the chance. He’s stoked about a lot of things, actually: Over the course of our conversation, we discussed some other collaborations he’s working on at the moment, how his time coming up in the Dallas music scene shaped him into the musician he is today and why he makes a point to catch some local shows whenever he’s in town.
Check out our conversation in full below. Oh, and to RSVP a $3 ticket to Thursday’s show, be sure to head here. Then brace yourself, as this show should be a wild ride.
So you’re playing Trees this week — and it’s your first time headlining there! What are you most excited about with this performance?
Trees is my spot. I always look forward going to shows there. I think the first show I went to there was, I wanna say, a Hagfish show when I was 15. It was actually 17-and-up, so my mom came with me and says, “Oh, he’s 17 and lost his ID.” They begrudgingly accepted my student ID, which didn’t have any kind of age identifier on it. So the door guy just drew some big huge Xs on my hands and let me in. Even at that time, I knew it was a big deal — y’know, for Dallas music. It’s the spot where Kurt Cobain got punched by Turner [Van Blarcum]! That was a long time ago, but even then I knew it was kind of a big deal. And I’ve seen a lot of shows there. I always thought, “It’d be so cool to play here!” And so, the first time I did, I was actually in this Denton band and it was our last show; it was part of a Spune-booked thing and there were 15 people there. It was like, “Well, I played there…” I don’t think I played Trees again until after I joined Tera Melos. I guess it was that show with Dillinger Escape Plan playing there that was my first time. I came back with Pinback, too. I’ve been there so many times. Even just the people I’ve met there were just… I remember going to see the Dillinger Escape Plan with The Locust in 2004. That was an incredible show. I met Gabe Serbian, the drummer from The Locust through Friendster not too long before, and I said, “Hey, I’m a friend of Zach Hill, and I’m a big fan of your drumming…” I bumped into him before the show and, because no one knew what he looked like, long story short, he actually pulled me on stage right before they started playing and he let me watch from the side. He knew I was a drummer — and that was really huge for me, watching that dude play. Then he introduced me to the Dillinger Escape Plan guys. Liam [Wilson] from Dillinger and I go back to that. That all happened there. So a lot of mind-opening bands played there and I made a lot of strong, long-lasting friendships there.
You already mentioned Dillinger and Pinback. With Tera Melos, you’ve toured with some great bands. Any favorites?
I don’t know. We’ve been really fortunate and played with a lot of amazing bands. Dillinger and Pinback happened within the same year — within the same six months, really. Those were bands we wanted to tour with, y’know, since Tera Melos started. So that was really huge. Melt-Banana was definitely one. We hit it off with them so well as a band and as people. They’re really incredible people. But, really, every band we’ve toured with has been great. Our friends’ band, this band called Lite, they’re another one of our favorites. We’ve actually gotten to play with them on other continents, in Europe and Asia. That’s pretty much what we’ve been up to.
Before joining Tera Melos, you were closely affiliated with Man Factory, the Arlington band known for writing a Street Fighter rock opera. What’s your relationship with those guys?
They’re one of my favorite local bands of all time. It’s kind of funny, I’ve always loved that band as people and stuff. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really until the end of their run that I got to do anything with them. I did a live drum track for their song “Balrog 24/7,” which was with programmed drums on the original. I played drums on one song on Round Three with them. I mean, it was really bittersweet to work with them finally — and then stop being a band. That’s an unfortunate symptom with a lot of rad bands. Its almost like mom-and-pop shops, in a way. Definitely a bummer with a lot of great bands.
You still live here, right?
Yeah. I’m from Fort Worth. I mean, I was born and raised in this area. Like I was saying with Trees, I grew up going to shows in Deep Ellum and all that stuff. When the band’s not on the road, I’m around and trying to make it out to a lot of shows. I try to support the scene, for sure.
How is Tera Melos able to work as a band when you’re all so far apart?
In this day and age, I’m sure it’s not near as hard as it was 10 years ago, even. It’s just one of those things: When I first joined, it sort of set the template in which we’d do things. I’ve always been known to practice by myself a lot in regards to whatever band I was playing in. I try to stay “in shape.” Then, when it’s time to write, Nick [Reinhart] will record his guitar ideas and Nathan and I will write our stuff kind of separately, and we’ll convene and make it work. It’s really funny, too: Just recently, I saw this video about that band Battles that Ableton, the software company, has uploaded, saying that they had composed [their stuff] the exact same way. So they’ll come up with with all the parts and then send each other the stuff to work on. Sometimes you’re really fortunate and when you get in [the studio], everything works perfect and seamless. Sometimes, it’s like “Well, this is what I had for this,” and the other guy is “Wait, how did you come up with this?” and then it’s back to the drawing board. Each member is going to have that experience — so that was interesting thing for me to see. I would say Battles operates in the same prog arena as us, but, honestly, that band sounds really different from us. I don’t know, I think it was really cool to see another band in the same way make really cool, interesting music as us. Battles is kind of a band we would like to tour with. They’re definitely on a list of bands we really, really want to tour with. Hopefully one day.
How often do you guys end up seeing one another?
I mean, normally the band is really active. This year has kind of been an anomaly. The last time I was in the same room as those guys was last November when we were on a tour with Circa Survive. We text a lot and all kinds of stuff like that. Whatever emails and stuff we tend to. We’re all good friends.
How much of your time, currently, is devoted to Tera Melos then?
It’s tough to say. Mentally, we’ve all been always thinking about stuff — even if we’re not talking or recording or whatever. So a lot of time. Some of it;s just mental and physical too. Like, practicing things. It just kind of depends. But we haven’t taken this much time off since I’ve been in the band — like seven years now.
Aside from Tera Melos, what are you up to these days?
There’s a guy from Slovakia. His name’s David Kollar. He’s an experimental guitar player. I had first heard about him through this band he has with Pat Mastelotto, who is one of the drummers of King Crimson. It’s actually funny because Pat lives in Round Rock; I just found out within the last year. My girlfriend’s from Slovakia, the Eastern region where David Kollar is also from. I had just written to him online: “I like what you do; we should try and work together sometime.” So I was over there for the holidays and we went and met him at a bar one night and talked. He and I have been talking about that. I’m actually going to Europe next month and [working more with him] is on my list. It’s a really high priority of mine to get up there and record some improvised stuff. Aside from that, I’ve been sending a handful of drum tracks to this rapper P.O.S., who’s part of the Doomtree Collective. He’s an awesome guy. We played a festival with him in Sacramento and knew about him through Astronautalis. I just asked him, “Hey, man, let me know if you’d ever need any drum tracks or anything.” He’s like, “Oh yeah, I’m always looking for stuff like that.” So I’ve been talking to him over the years, but that hasn’t been until pretty recently. So hopefully those will see the light of day. I don’t know what, but I know he’s working on something new right now. Beyond that, besides that thing with Kollar, actually my biggest goal, Dallas-related. is do something with Annie Clark. I think the problem with that is everyone in the world wants to work with her and I don’t know her personally. I’m sure we have mutual friends. I would really love to do some kind of side project with her. She’s such a talented musician.
Do you do anything aside from playing drums?
As, like, a job? Not really. I sometimes teach at a couple School of Rocks. That’s actually really fun. Honestly, I never would have imagined that I would teach in any way shape or form because I never took lessons or anything. Some of it is kind of a music appreciation school. I like that they teach kids why bands like Led Zeppelin and The Who and Black Sabbath are really important, and you’re learning their songs and stuff that’s going on with them. I really like that approach. I think that’s really important. I’ve had a really good time working there. I’ve met kids that are Tera Melos fans, so that’s been surprising for me. Like 15-year-olds going, “I love your band!” Which is really flattering. It’s one of the most rewarding things for me. I just play music because I love doing it. When you’ve inspired someone to do something creative, that’s definitely one of the most rewarding things for me. I think that way it comes full circle. I try to help inspire other people.
Tera Melos performs alongside Power Trip and Basecamp on Thursday, August 20, at Trees as part of August’s Red Bull Sound Select showcase. RSVP for $3 tickets right here.