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20 Questions with Phanie Diaz of Girl In a Coma

Phanie Diaz began playing drums in junior high when she and her best homegirl, Jenn Alva, decided to start a band. Phanie’s 12 year old little sister, Nina, joined shortly after. Ten years of steady gigging gave them the time to develop their sound when Joan Jett “discovered”them and immediately signed them to her Blackheart label.

FLABmag had the opportunity to catch GIAC live when they opened for Detroit Cobras in Sacramento, CA a few weeks back. And since we are supporters of chicks in bands, especially chicks who play drums, we asked Phanie to answer our 20 Questions drummer questionaire. You can read her answers below then visit FLABmag Special Edition to read what drummers as wide ranging as Cindy Blackman Santana and Sebastian Thompson, had to say.

FLABmag: When and why did you start playing drums?

Phanie Diaz: I started in 2000 when GIAC formed. I was to ay guitar but we could not find a drummer. Jenn insisted I play since I could “keep a beat”.

FLABmag: What, if anything, transpired to keep you playing all these years?

PD: The love for it.

FLABmag: What was your first kit and how did you pay for it?

PD: It was a CB. We traded a fender squire for it.

FLABmag: Spec out the kit(s) you are currently playing on – if there is significance to the set-up, in terms of sound or the genre of music you are currently making, please note it as well.

PD: It’s a Gretsh catalina. Teal. 14 snare,12 rack,16 floor. Highats, crash and ride.

FLABmag: What are your thoughts (philosophies or opinions) on the “natural ability” vs. “practiced player” discourse surrounding percussion?

PD: I think you need to have both. You have to learn the basics of drumming but also had some kind natural ability and passion for it. Ifu don’t you sound like a drums machine and were is the love in that?

FLABmag: I’ve heard many stories from musicians who have said they were “spiritually called” to play their instrument. Playing along with this idea, do you believe you were called to play drums? If so, was this something that happened early in your career or later?

PD: My father is a drummer and my grandfather was a drummer in the 50s. I had no intention to play drums…but I was definitley lead there.

FLABmag: Can someone who didn’t have the hand of god reach down and move them to play drums develop the skills of Tony Williams or Neil Peart? Or did these players posses something innate (pre-ordained by some god) that cannot be learned?

PD: I believe you either have it or you don’t. The key is passion for it. If you have that, there is no stopping yr skill level.

FLABmag: What makes a player a “legend” or “great”?

PD: There really is no answer. If we knew it we would all be legends. Paying your dues and doing it for years def helps in reaching that stature though.

FLABmag: Can a woman ever be as great a player as a man? Name one female player who is, or isn’t, destined for greatness (Please don’t say Meg White!).

PD: Haha. Of course a woman can be as great as a man! Janet Weiss of Sleater Kinney and Tobi Vail of Bikini Kill are pretty damn amazing.

FLABmag: What kind of drummer do you aspire to be?

PD: Well, we always say we want to be around as long as Sonic Youth…i just wanna be around making records.

FLABmag: How often do you practice? If you don’t, why? If you do, what aspects of drumming do you practice the most often?

PD: We practice 3 days a week. I’ll usually warm up at home. I do the standard warmups. Trying to increase my speed and be tighter.

FLABmag: Do you rent rehearsal space or are you the neighborly nuisance?

PD: Neither. We practice in the living room of my mothers. We love it. So does she and the neighborhood.

FLABmag: Even at this stage in your career, do you occasionally take lessons with a professional instructor?

PD: Yup. I’m actually looking for an instructor in San Antonio now.

FLABmag: Have you had, or currently have, any physical difficulties from playing and what have you done to alleviate them?

PD: I haven’t really. It’s important to stretch and warmup though to avoid future problems.

FLABmag: Given the instrument is physically taxing do you have a health regimen you employ to maintain stamina and strength?

PD: Vitamins and sleep.

FLABmag: What was the first instance in which you managed to play a song in its entirety without missing a note? What song was it?

PD: Hmmm…it would have to be a gig of our own were I finally played throug without missing a beat! I learned to play drums on stage and watching other drummers!

FLABmag: Was there ever an instance onstage you knew you were going to be sick or were feeling extremely fatigued? What did you do about it? Did you leave the stage or keep playing?

PD: I’ve had strep throat,flu on stage. All you can do is sweat it out and play

FLABmag:Is it true drummers have superiority complexes specifically derived from being in much better shape than most people, especially fellow band members?

PD: Lol not at all. Nina’s in better shape than me.

FLABmag: How often do you glance in the mirror and say, “Damn I have great __________!”

PD: Lol…I don’t really do that, but I like having big brown eyes. Got it from my momma.

FLABmag: After all these years: How’s your hearing?

PD: Not great! After 10 yrs of not wearing ear plugs that will happen. Time to invest!