Eric Holmquist The Wizard of Kansas!

By Mark Schierholz

Eric Holmquist is an accomplished drummer, and the current drum tech for the band Kansas. Eric is a respected drummer throughout the music community; he is a huge asset to the band, and a very talented musician. Phil Ehart may be the man behind the kit, but Eric makes sure that when Phil sits down all goes just as it should.  One could say he will ‘Carry on’ and makes sure nothing gets past the point of no return!  It was interesting to get Eric’s take on the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.  He feels he is living the dream, and by the looks of it… he’s right!

Mark: For our readers, you are the drum tech for Kansas… how did you come across that opportunity? And how long have you been with the band?

Eric: I was a huge Kansas fan as a kid so I would go to 40 or 50 shows per year. Over the years, I became great friends with the crew guys as well as the band's guys so when Phil's old tech JT retired, I got the call. Here we are 15 years later...

M: You are not just a drum tech, you are an accomplished drummer, even filling in for Phil, for five full shows in 2016. You not only know the music, but the drumming, like very few could. Tell us a little about what you've done over the years, and how it felt to not only get that opportunity, but pull off something like that as you did…

E: I had 24 hours’ notice when I had to fill in. Phil had emailed me the day before saying he had kidney stones, something I know an awful lot about (I've had 11). I immediately went down to my drum set and started going thru some tunes in the set list. Since I was about five, I have been playing along to Kansas CDs, so it felt normal to me.

M: How is your relationship with the band members and crew of Kansas? It's a pretty tight family, from what I've seen; everyone is very good at their job… that is hard to find in this business, let's not kid anyone… most musicians want to be a superstar…

E: The Kansas Crew has been pretty much the same for the past 10 years so those guys are my brothers. We get along most of the time, and sometimes we don't, but that's what family does.

M: Do you currently, or have you in the past played in a band?

E: As many gigs as we do, I don't have the time to be in a band. I was in a few bands in my teens but I got the call from Kansas at age 22 so that's what I've been doing since. I will be a drummer in a band again soon, though.

M: What was your first drum kit, and how did you learn to play?

E: I got my first real drum set when I was 4 years old. I took lessons as a kid but also learned a lot watching my Dad play. Over the years, I've watched and studied tons of videos, which also helps.

M: I was at a sound check once, when you went to the keyboards and started to play. It takes a musician to do what you were doing. I looked away, and it was perfect. Now, most drum techs are not able to do that or don’t get involved with other instruments… what started you doing that?

E: Drums are my main instrument but I noodle around on the keys. I've never learned scales or how to read piano music so it's all ‘by ear’. I also watched Steve Walsh play for 15 years so I picked up a few things, but nothing that would call me a Keyboardist.

M: Tour life can take its toll on band members… how do you deal with a tour that consistently has 100 shows a year?  How hard was it to adapt to a whole new show, as you've had to do with the Leftoverture tour? Everything is new… all new drum kit, sound, lights, and the set is over two hours long…

E: The road can really take a toll on your life if you let it. I'm single with no kids so it's a bit easier for me to tour, but at the same time it's very hard as well. Early mornings, very little sleep, delayed and cancelled flights, late nights and just the travel in general can really kick your butt. Touring is not for everybody, but if you can get past all the travel, no sleep et cetera, it's an unbelievable experience. The new Leftoverture shows are a special thing that the band started doing and a lot of hard work was put into it by everybody. It's all about pleasing the fans and judging from the reviews, it worked.

M: As someone who has watched you during a show, I know you are 100% committed to your drummer... I also see you drumming every single beat, as the show goes on… do you practice outside of the tour? What is your practice regimen, and what was your warm up routine for the shows you played?

E: Drums are my passion, my love and my escape. I try to play every day that I'm off, whether I sit at a drum kit or just bang on a practice pad. When I played with Kansas last year for 3 shows, I would start slow on a pad and build it up doing different rudiments. The other thing I tried to do was relax and not let it get into my head. All 3 gigs were fantastic and it's something that I will never ever forget.

M: You have something else you love to do, when not on the road: fishing.  Do you do boat fishing as well as from on shore? What is the coolest fish you've ever caught?

E: Fishing has been another major part of my life since I was a kid. I fell in love with not just fishing but just being on the water. I rarely fish from a boat as I usually have better luck on shore, plus being seasick sucks. The band and crew did a charter in Hawaii in 2009 and I had a fish that I fought for 30 minutes plus before it broke my line and heart [laughs].

M: Do you have any other hobbies?

E: I played basketball in High School and was really good. Once I realized that I would never make the NBA, I focused more on music. I enjoy reading different books on History, Music, and Entertainment in general. I know it sounds weird too, but I really enjoy my privacy. I like to sit and reflect on different times and memories; it's good for the soul.

M: What is your personal drum kit which you use? Do you have more than one set?

E: My personal kit is a Pearl Reference in Blue Sparkle: 22” kick, 8,10,12” rack toms, 14,16” floor toms, 5x14 snare. I also have 2 kits made by Jim Zumbrock of Crook Custom Drums that are just incredible. Over the years, I've probably had 200 drum kits, no joke...

M: Do you have any endorsements from drum companies?

E: I endorse Groove Juice Cymbal Cleaner, Crook Custom Drums, Beat Boogie Drums and Xcel Drumsticks.

M: Who are your favorite drummer/drummers of all time?

E: There are numerous drummers who have really influenced me over the years. Bozzio, Colaiuta, Chambers, Weckl, Ehart etc. Todd Sucherman, to me, is the Top Drummer out there now. Great feel, very educated, extremely versatile BUT his best quality is his personality, devoted family man and just an all-around sweetheart.

M: You have met some of the best bands, and musicians in the world… who do you most like to see play live? Band, drummer, or musician?

E: I've been lucky enough to meet many of my heroes. Journey, Styx, YES, Toto, Foreigner, ZZ Top, Blue Oyster Cult, Foghat, Kings X, on and on and on. It’s cool to see all those guys from time to time, but it's really neat when somebody like Tommy Shaw or Buck Dharma comes up and gives you a big hug and texts you once in a while... nothing but respect for those bands.

M: Technology has come a long way over the years- do you see anything that could make the music industry better, or anything that is hurting it?

E: The Music Industry is dead. It's all about looks as opposed to talent now, and with all the computer stuff and Auto Tune out there now, it's silly.

M: Kansas has managed to be a band for over 40 years, with some founding members still going… how do you think they managed such a feat?

E: Kansas has stayed together for this long because of a few things. The fans are the ones who are really keeping this band alive if you think about it. Our main income is touring and without fans, we wouldn't be able to do that. On a business side, Phil Ehart is the main reason why we are still working. He has managed the band since the early 90s and has a say in EVERYTHING related to Kansas and after that, he has to play the show, too. I go out when Kansas is off the road to Tour Manage a great band from Chicago called District 97. It's a breath of fresh air when I go out with them, mainly because I'm doing something completely different than drums, but also I get to learn a different side of the business. Phil Ehart has helped me with Management in more ways than he knows.

M: As an accomplished musician as you are, where do you see yourself in 5 years? What are your goals? No disrespect to your current position... you are an amazing drummer, something a lot of folks would love to accomplish.

E: Well, ultimately my goal is to hopefully play in Kansas someday. If Phil ever decides to retire and wants to continue the Kansas name, I hope I'm first in line. In five years, I hope to be playing drums with somebody on a National Level. But things usually don't happen that way, so ‘Tour Management’ is another position I'm trying to dive into. Always need a backup plan!

M: Here’s one from left field: What kind of food do you enjoy?

E: Not sure about a favorite food but sushi, oysters and gyros are all winners in my book.

M: Anything you’d like to add?

E: My life has felt like one long dream. Since the age of 5, Kansas has been my FAVORITE band, so for me it’s surreal. At 22 years old, I got a call to work, not just for a band that I've seen over 300 times but to work with some of my best friends in the world. This band has taken me all over the world, places I never knew existed, places I thought I would never ever see and for that, I'm eternally grateful. I even got to play drums with Kansas so my dreams have come true!