Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz has been drumming now for fifty-one years, thirty-six of them with Weird Al Yankovic. Jon has a passion for vintage instruments and is quite a collector, with a lot of rare drums and cymbals in his collection. Those who know Jon also recognize his particular fondness for Ludwig drums. Among them are Vistalites, huge concert-tom kits, and wooden kits in multiple configurations. He’s also a Ludwig artist whose real-world input is highly-prized at the factory. I caught up with Jon currently on tour with Weird Al in the states.
*You’ve been known to hit pawn shops while on the road. What is your favorite pawn shop find?
Cymbals are always the primary goal, but a few years ago in Phoenix, I found a pre-serial 5” COB Ludwig Supra with its original brass hoops, super clean but with a school ID etched into the shell, with a Gladstone pad, 1400 stand, and case - $105.
*Name the three drummers who inspired you most, and why.
Ringo, and Hal Blaine, because they’re the drummers I heard most during my formative drumming years. Also, Dennis St. John, who I had the good fortune to know, and who was solid and tasteful a la Ringo and Hal. Dennis helped instill those qualities when I was starting to play with other musicians, and like Hal, was especially creative with his concert tom work. I still borrow from each, and it gets me through 99% of the work I do.
*What’s a typical gig scenario when you’re not touring with Weird Al?
I’m in the trenches like most drummers, playing with multiple bands in bars, clubs, and occasionally opening for mid-level artists. No clicks, no wardrobe, typically no monitors, and of course not much money.
*What was the worst and/or funniest gig you ever played?
Happily, I’ve never done a gig that I would consider ‘the worst’, but I did have a particularly fun gig with Al, where the wardrobe was changed-up for each song. Even our crew didn’t know what would be next, and the audience loved it! And of course I have a video of the whole thing.
*What do you suppose you’d do for work if you weren’t a professional musician?
I’ve had management experience at the retail and corporate, so I’d probably be working for a large company or a chain store at the corporate level.
*Is there a pre-gig ritual that you do without fail?
I always set-up my drums prior to the band setting up. It’s become the most important part of every gig.
*What advice would you give drummers aspiring to play professionally?
Play the song, not the drums… nice guys finish first… learn all you can but accept that you’ll actually make money for just a small portion of what you’re able to do (that part becomes more evident with every trip to the bank.)
*Name 3 of your favorite places to eat while you’re on the road (not a chain).
Loveless Café in Nashville, Durbar Tandoori in London UK, and Grimaldi’s in Scottsdale AZ (ok, so they’re a small chain but that location is best!)
*What is your proudest accomplishment musically?
With Al’s parody agenda of copying hit recordings with cutting edge sounds and production, I think just being able to keep up is an accomplishment! I’ve learned a lot, and that’s been invaluable.
*What is your favorite post gig adult beverage?
I may have a glass of wine or a vodka drink (or four) as long as I’m not driving.