Ian Prince has been making a name for himself around the Twin cities for over two decades. His unique style and fresh approach to writing have established him a stand-out drummer who is constantly in demand. Ian has worked with many bands over the years, including several bigger names around town. These days he can be seen as part of the power trio Porcupine. Their melodic yet angular sound is the perfect complement to his nonconformist playing. At times unconventional, but always supplying a listenable groove, Ian Prince is definitely a drummer you should get to know.
By: Mike Jueneman
MND: How did you end up in the Minnesota music scene?
Ian: My older brother first moved here from Michigan to go to music school. A few years later in 1995, his band needed a drummer and I jumped at the chance even though I was still in high school at the time. It was my senior year and I already planned on moving here after graduation. That was my big break, ha!
MND: What is your drumming education background?
Ian: I’m completely self-taught. Although I should say both my Dad and one of my uncles are drummers and they were no doubt indirect teachers in some way. Plus there was a drum kit at my house AND at my grandma’s house.
MND: Who are your top three influences and why?
Ian: Only three? That’s an impossible question.
#1. I always say it’s a toss-up between Ringo and Mitch Mitchell. Even though they’re so completely different, I like them for the same reason which is that they ALWAYS played the perfect thing for the song. Ringo’s parts were simpler (not easy, btw) and for Mitch the parts were from outer space (also not easy). Both played so well and were always super musical.
#2. Zach Barocas. Easy. When I first heard his playing it truly blew me away. It was so super interesting and played to perfection. Context also has a lot to do with it. His band Jawbox was/is incredible. It’s a fact that you can’t have a good band without a good drummer and Jawbox is that to the nth degree. As if the songs weren’t already amazing in every way, the drumming not only supported that but was a major feature. Those Jawbox records are 20+ years old and still feel vital as ever. And Zach’s had other fantastic groups since such as “The Up On In” and “Bells”.
#3. Bjork. Not a drummer, I know, but did she have a musical impact on me. Also, DJ Shadow who’s a close second to Bjork. Both really changed how I thought about rhythm/songs/music. They think differently than most drummers would in terms of composition and dynamics, for sure.
#4. I can’t not mention a few others! Mike Bordin, William Goldsmith, Brendan Canty and Matt Cameron. I am hugely inspired by these guys.
MND: Who are some artists/groups you’ve worked with in the past?
Ian: Houston, Story of the Sea, Kid Dakota, Porcupine, Soul Asylum, Cloud Cult, The Hopefuls, Alva Star, Communist Daughter, The Dames, Tapes and Tapes, Ice Palace, Purple Hearse, and Harvest.
MND: Are you a teacher? How do our readers contact you for lessons?
Ian: Not professionally but I’ve given some lessons. It’s something I’ve thought about doing more of but being self-taught I don’t always have a clear sense of curriculum. I figure it out based on the student. I kind of feel there’s no absolute right or wrong way to approach this instrument. Well, I did see a guy once who was definitely doing it wrong. Just don’t ever play traditional grip reversed. It makes no sense. If anyone wants to talk drums with me they can find me on Facebook.
MND: How would you describe your style?
Ian: An even more impossible question! Someone told me I was one of the most “convicted” drummers they had seen and I kind of liked that. When I’m playing live it’s the one time I’m 100% sure about anything.
MND: What style of music do you enjoy playing the most?
Ian: Angular rock? Ha, I guess that’s right. Although it’s kind of like asking, “What music do you enjoy listening to”? If the music is good, I love it.
MND: What are you using for gear? What is your current set up?
Ian: Green Ludwig Vistalites (24” bass drum (b), 13” (c) and 16” toms (d), and an 8” x 14” Mapex Black Panther snare (a). Otherwise I use a 5” x 14” Ludwig Supraphonic. I have a combination of old Zildjian and newer Meinl cymbals (16” hi-hats (A), 20”crash (B), and a 22” ride (C)). I also use a Roland SPD-SX (1). At home I play my Roland TD 25 V-Drums quite a bit.
MND: Who are some other drummers inside and outside of our scene that you feel people should know about?
Ian: JT Bates, Nick Larson, Todd Trainer, Martin Dosh, Dave Jarnstrom, James Irving, Granny Bottoms (legendary), Peter Anderson, Noah Levy, Christopher McGuire, Ben Johnston, Shawn Walker, Joe Gaskill, Lance Reed, Michael Bland (but of course), Gordy Knudtson (duh) and Dave King (no, he’s actually really good you guys).
MND: Porcupine had the opportunity to record at Electrical Audio with Steve Albini. What are some of the more unique aspects you remember from that experience compared to other recording situations?
Ian: Well, we only had 48 hours to do the whole thing start to finish and the studio is entirely analog, so the pressure was on to get the best takes you could on the double. It was a bit stressful but Steve was great to work with. He’s a very funny and smart dude and has a way of putting you at ease. You know you’re in good hands.
MND: As a trio, everyone in the band has to shoulder a larger portion of the sound. When Greg Norton came aboard, did you notice any changes to your playing or your approach to writing?
Ian: Not really. You know, we’ve been gigging a ton more than we used to, so we’re kind of always in “show mode” which has made it tough to focus on new material. It’s coming along though.
MND: Where can our readers see you perform locally?
Ian: With Porcupine it’s mostly out of town stuff for us. I’ll be starting to gig out with a new band called Bird Hands, which is a two-piece I’ve got with my buddy Allen Epley. We’re just finishing a record that I’m excited about. So, look for that.
The Jinkies – (Self-titled) 1997
Harvest – Transitions 1998
Houston – Overhead 1999
Houston – Head Like A Road Map 2000
Houston – Live on Fish Island 2001
Houston – Bottom of the Curve 2003
The Hopefuls – Fuses Refuse to Burn 2004
Alva Star – Escalator 2004
Story of the Sea – Enjoying Fire 2006
Kid Dakota – A Winners Shadow 2007
Story of the Sea – Lunar Co. 2009
Bella Koshka – Slow Dancing on the Ocean Floor 2008
Communist Daughter – The Speed of Sound 2010
Skittish – The Perfect Shade of Green 2010
Story of the Sea – (Self-titled) 2012
Skittish – The Five Stages EP 2012
Communist Daughter – Lions and Lambs 2012
Pill Hill – (Self-titled) 2012
Porcupine – I See Sound 2014
Porcupine – Carrier Wave 2015
Porcupine – What You’ve Heard isn’t Real 2018
The Dames – Detritus 2019