Cliff Albert hit the road at 18 and hasn’t looked back since
Scan this photo with the Prindeo app for a video of touring drummer Cliff Albert running through a few riffs. KAREN CIMMS/TIMES NEWS
When your father is a professional drummer in a hair metal rock band, it’s probably not all that unusual to follow in his footsteps.
Cliff Albert was 12 when he picked up his first set of drumsticks. He then proceeded to use them on his father’s $10,000 drum kit. And other than a few tips from dad here and there, he primarily learned on his own.
“I taught myself through listening to punk music,” said the 27-year-old Parryville resident. “When I felt stagnant with my playing, I’d go study with somebody.”
Those instructors include professional drummers and performers Scott Williams, owner of DrumWorks in Allentown, and Kevin Soffera, former drummer for Breaking Benjamin and Seether and owner of Hybrid Studios in Nazareth.
“When I feel stagnant, I want to freshen up, learn something new,” he added.
“I started playing shows when I was 14 — hard-core punk. There was a great punk scene in NEPA. It was a great time.”
One of his favorite places to play was Cafe Metropolis, an all-ages venue in Wilkes-Barre.
“It was like CBGB’s in New York. Or we’d play in our parents’ basements.”
Albert said his top three favorite bands and influences are Sweet, a British glam rock band that began in the late ’60s; Propagandhi, a Canadian punk-progressive band with a “political style of writing and a lot of depth to their lyrical content;” and MGMT, an American rock and psychedelic pop band that’s “weird and wacky.”
“Punk rock, glam, psychedelic music has always influenced my playing,” said Albert. “With me being a drummer for the song and not the solo, that’s why I’m a hired gun.”
While he may not be banging out sustained solos on the drums, Albert is definitely impressive to watch.
“I dress crazy, look crazy. I look like I get whiplash when I play. I stand out when I play, but within the song’s dynamics. I’ve been told I look like John Bonham (the late Led Zeppelin drummer) when I play.”
Albert said he’s developed his own distinctive style of drumming, the result of the fusing together of different kinds of playing over the years and how it came out to have a ’60s and ’70s feel to it.
“When you hear me play, you know it’s me,” he said.
Albert is touring this summer with The Stargazer Lilies, providing the beat for the husband and wife duo of John Cep and Kim Field. The band, which is on break until Aug. 10, is opening for Black Moth Super Rainbow through October, which will include performances from Pittsburgh to the West Coast and back.
The tour is in support of Black Moth Super Rainbow’s new album, “Panic Blooms,” and is regularly selling out venues of between 500 and 1,200 fans.
While Black Moth Super Rainbow’s music is classified psychedelic and pop, The Stargazer Lilies are a combination of heavy ’60s psychedelic and shoegaze, a genre coined for the often motionless style of the way musicians performed in the ’80s and ’90s.
Albert has been touring in some form or another since he turned 18 and graduated from Palmerton Area High School.
And while he’s done some solo work for “a hot second,” the camaraderie and connections of performing in a band is preferable.
“I’ve helped out with arrangements with prior bands and have helped write the drum parts. Usually they’ve let me throw in my own style.”
Albert got to play with The Stargazer Lilies at one of his favorite places to see bands in Philadelphia — Union Transfer.
“I always wanted to play there. It was a sold-out show, and I was so nervous. I never get nervous, but I went to the bathroom and I dry heaved. And then I cried. I looked out at the crowd, and it was the biggest crowd I ever played for.”
Another memorable moment on the tour was when he played at the Metro in Chicago and there was a green room for the band.
“I never had that before.”
Despite being the “baby” out of both bands, Albert is having a great time.
“It’s been awesome being on the road with them. Black Moth Super Rainbow has a beautiful setup. They’re sweet people, older and more professional,” Albert said. “It’s a great learning experience.
For now, Albert is having a ball on tour, playing music and getting to indulge in one of his other passions — playing pinball. He even has an app on his phone that will direct him to the nearest place to play pinball wherever he’s performing.
“I’m a huge pinball player. I get to play before and after the show.”
So does he have any advice for up-and-coming rockers?
“Definitely. Listen to punk rock and play pinball.”
Probably wouldn’t hurt to have a massive amount of talent as well.