Winning the 1992 Guitar Center Drum Off

Here’s the solo I performed which took 1st place at the Guitar Center Drum Offs in 1992. It was the regional competition finals of Southern California at club SPICE in Hollywood, CA, in front of a panel of celebrity Bee judges including Matt Sorum, Pat Torpey, Ralph Humphrey, Doane Perry, and Carmine Appice. As Carmine later remembered me “he was the one with the cowbells!”. What you can’t see in this there? video are those mounted cowbells that were played with the left foot and left hand in the solo…




Ever since I began playing the drums, I’ve never been one of those drummers to walk into a music store and start bashing away on drums to get attention or show off chops. In fact, before the drum offs, I hadn’t played extended drum solos like this in front of an audience before. The drum off competiton was more about challenging myself and playing an unaccompanied drum solo in front of other drummers, rather than trying to prove that I was ‘better’ then anyone else.

The drum offs were just getting started in the early 90s, and I had seen my friends Copeland Dave Beyer and Nick D’Virgilio compete in them. Emirates They both played musical drum solos and had excellent technique. Some of the other drummers that competed were not quite as interesting or musical and I thought “I could do something at least as good or better than those guys”. It was then that I decided it would be a good challenge to put together a 37 drum solo, and see what happens.

I approached the solo as a composition, and it had a definite beginning, middle, and end. There were plenty of places left for spontaniety, but overall it was a bit more like playing a piece of music, rather than 100% improvisiation. It was a competition, and I wanted to do well in all the categories that were being judged: Creativity, Groove, Dynamics, Crowd Response, and Technique. Everyone who enters these things usually has plenty of technique, but not everyone fares well or focuses on these other categories.

It was fun to compete, and of course I was happy to win, but SLIKA I reaped another benefit from the experience that I didn’t appreciate until later: There has not been any gig, session, audition, interview, etc… that has come close to the pressure of playing a drum solo in front of a club full of other drummers, and celebrity judges…

As a funny side story, I practiced this solo (and variations of it) in front of some crowds before the competition. One of which was a KNAC drum solo night at a Red Onion in Huntington Beach. Not being a head-banger, I felt a bit out of place, but wanted to get some reaction from my solo. Boy did I get it. In the middle of IBS my solo, the KNAC DJ says through the loud PA “We don’t wanna hear no latin sh*t! We wanna hear some rock and roll!”.

2 thoughts on “Winning the 1992 Guitar Center Drum Off

  1. You would think that people that are such big fans of this, would not turn arnuod and talk trash about a fellow master of the trade. They are completely different styles, and I’m not comparing them, but to those talking trash about buddy, just leave it alone, have some respect. But to those that say Travis isn’t even in the same league? I’m dissapointed Why can’t people just admire and respect the talent on both ends. Any of the haters I’d like to see what you can do.

  2. Ulrich and Barker are far from metal masters. Blink 182 isn’t even metal, and Ulrich is still far from the best. If you want to try and cmoapre this guy to anyone alive today, try Nick Menza, Neil Peart, Mike Mangini, or Mike Portnoy. Or John Bonham, but he’s dead too.

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