Born in New York it was when she was 14 that here family relocated to Minnesota. She is the drummer/singer for both punk bands Bruise Violet and the Scrunchies.
She’s a hard-hitting drummer that is making a name for herself in the Minnesota music scene which is why we feel you need to “Get To Know” Danielle Cusack!
MND: How did you end up in the Minnesota music scene? Are you from here?
Danielle: I am not from here! I’m from New York, born and raised. My family relocated to Minnesota when I was 14 years old & soon after that was when I started playing drums. I got involved in the MN music scene through my first band Bruise Violet. We just started gigging with friends first, and then slowly but surely, we kept getting more and more gigs.
MND: What are some of the artists you have worked with that we may know?
Danielle: My drum teacher was Derek Abrams, who is currently the drummer for Ministry! On top of that, my bands have played shows with Babes In Toyland, Soul Asylum, The Revolution, Doomtree, Lizzo, Bad Bad Hats, Tommy Stinson, and several other MN based acts that I have felt honored to be associated with.
MND: What is your drumming education? Self-taught, music school, teacher?
Danielle: As I said, I took lessons from ages 14-18 at an after-school program. Derek was my long-term teacher, and I learned so much from him that I still keep as gospel to this day. A lot of people comment on how hard I hit, and I completely attribute that to Derek really ingraining that into me. Also, I was one of the very few female drummers in that program, and Derek was someone who never doubted me and just treated me like all of his other students. It’s been amazing to see him so successful with Ministry!
MND: Who are your top 3 influences and why?
Danielle: My number one influence is Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney. Literally my mind was blown from hearing Dig Me Out for the first time. She just has this amazing talent of writing drum parts that accompany the other instruments in her band. Even with the most chaotic guitar parts, she lays down such a solid foundation. Also she has written some of the coolest drum parts I have ever heard.
My 2nd influence would be Dave Grohl. His parts in Nirvana and Queens of the Stone Age are so iconic (like EVERYONE knows the In Bloom fill). His drum part in Song for the Deaf is something every drummer should try to learn at some point.
And I would say my 3rd is Sheila E. When I used to teach, I would always reference her talk with Stewart Copeland where she talks about the way she approaches writing drum parts, and the big take away was “less is more, it’s when not to play”. I think that is such an important concept & one I always bring to whenever I write drum parts, and she truly is one of the greatest to ever do it.
MND: Where are you playing? Where can we see you locally?
Danielle: Right now, my most active band is called Scrunchies. It’s led by Laura Larson from Kitten Forever and has Matt Castore from Condominium playing with us as well. Our February 15th show at Moon Palace Books was with Kitten Forever, Partition, Hype Ma’am (fka Last Import), and Rigby. This was actually a really exciting gig for me because Rigby are past students of mine, and I have always believed they were gonna do something great with their talents & I’m so excited to play with them!
MND: Are you a teacher? How do people get in touch with you for lessons?
Danielle: I used to be a teacher, but within the last year have sort of taken a break. I do miss teaching for sure! I always offer it up to people, especially non-men & QTPOC because they tend to be pushed away by the mainstream music industry & I want to be able to give them that chance to learn in a space of no judgment. I always get so excited whenever I play shows with other non-male drummers because it is so rare, and I’d love to see more. If you’re interested in taking lessons with me, my email is email@example.com
MND: What are you using for gear? What is your set up?
Danielle: I have a 4-piece Pearl Vision kit I’ve been using since I was 16. Derek has this skill of finding really amazing drumsets for a good deal on Craigslist, and he literally found this one for me within 10 minutes of asking him. It’s a really great sounding kit, and it is LARGE. As I said, I’m a hard hitter & I play in punk bands so I really want that deep, rich tone. For cymbals, I use a Sabian SBR hi hat, Sabian AAX Stage Crash, and a Zildjian 20 in SCIMITAR ride. The SBRs I’ve had forever, but I’ve kind of changed it up with my crash and ride a lot because I’m constantly looking for the perfect sound. So far, these current ones are some of my favorites. Especially with the ride, it gives really great ping and wash sounds.
MND: What style of music do you like to play the most?
Danielle: Fast and heavy! Whether it’s rock, punk, metal, hardcore, etc.
MND: Are you a versatile drummer? How do you define your style?
Danielle: I would like to think so hahah. Although I do mostly play rock, I am able to play other styles & whenever I taught, I made sure that my students weren’t one trick ponies. It’s important to be versatile!
MND: What other drummers inside and outside of our scene should we know about?
Danielle: The coolest drummer I’ve seen in a long time is Abby Black. She’s based in Chicago and plays with this band Lala Lala, and also used to be in a band called Date Stuff. My band Scrunchies was playing the First Avenue mainroom one night & Lala Lala was playing in the entry, and I walked over to watch their set and was just BLOWN away by her skills. She writes some of the most interesting drum parts & I lowkey have the biggest drummer crush on her. Within this scene, I would say Jeff Truckenmiller (MURF/Naïve Sense), Nadirah McGill (Gully Boys), Mike Wilson (Constant Insult), Katharine Seggerman (Lunch Duchess), and Nikki Eskola (Teenage Moods).
MND: What recordings (Discography, if any) can we find some of your work on?
Danielle: Bruise Violet has 2 EPs out (Survival of the Prettiest & Trophy Wife), Scrunchies has our album Stunner out, and I was in a hardcore band for a very short period of time called Contentious that has an EP out. I didn’t play on the recordings, but I did play those parts live!
MND: What is your best musical experience? What is your favorite drumming experience?
Danielle: Literally the coolest thing I’ve done was play Rock The Garden on my 21st birthday in 2017. I’m pretty shy in real life, but I love playing in front of large crowds because I take that energy and put it into my drumming. I would say my favorite drumming experience is every time I’m able to play live. Cheesy I know! There really is nothing quite like it, I feel myself go into another world and be able to take out all of my feelings on the stage.
Danielle Cusack on the web: www.facebook.com/danielle.cusack.5