At his high school reunion, Aaron Mlasko won the award for Most Unusual Career, although he’s not sure most people understand what he does. They just hear he’s toured with Adam Lambert or Pearl Jam or the Wallflowers and assume it’s awesome.For Mlasko, a 1990 graduate of Lewiston High School, a day at the office is often stage left, behind the scenes at huge rock concerts next to the monitor and about 10-feet from the drummer, where he can attend to any musical need that arises. Working as a drum technician has taken him to nearly every continent on the planet.
“I show up and make a very expensive rock show happen out of drums you may or may not give to your 12-year-old,” Mlasko says of one of his jobs on tour this spring with Lambert.
The tour crossed China, Indonesia and Russia and Mlasko was tasked with finding drums for each night’s show. Using specs from the drummer, he’d locate two or three choices, “which may or may not be close” to what was asked for “or may not be what shows up.”
Asia can be tough that way, he says.
Mlasko lives in Seattle where he owns the custom drum building business Mlasko Drums. He plays with the Roy Kay Combo, which he describes as “traditional ’50s rockabilly — the polar opposite of what I do for Adam.” The band played Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend in April. The annual event is billed as the world’s biggest rockabilly party.
“It’s a neat band. It’s pretty geeky,” says Mlasko, 40.
Mlasko’s first encounter with drums was in fourth grade where music options included a snare drum class. “My parents didn’t know about it until there was a talent show,” he says.
His parents did not want drums in the house. He took up guitar, but the urge to drum did not go away. He got a newspaper route and saved money. When his parents split up his mom OK’d the purchase.
After high school, Mlasko’s education continued at Keeney Bros. Music in Moscow where he learned to fix drum sets. He moved to Seattle around 1993 in search of more music outlets. He worked at music stores fixing drums where he “gradually realized it was easier to make drums from scratch then to fix really broken ones.” He started his own company in 1994 and enjoys building vintage-style reproductions.
Mlasko’s first tour as a drum technician was with Liz Phair. Others followed — Tori Amos, Yes, the Wallflowers, Pearl Jam, Candlebox, the Presidents of the United States of America.
If you’re good at what you do word, gets around, he explains. Every tour is different.
“Big bus touring is more isolated. You don’t see anything but a big cement building every day,” he says.
When club touring, everybody goes out drinking after the show. “It’s more fun, but less money.”
“This last one was the most like a family of any that I’ve done,” he says. “Sometimes it’s just all business, no social outlet at all. You’re in your room alone.”
During the Russian leg of Lambert’s tour the U.S. Department of State issued a warning to Americans planning to attend the St. Petersburg concert because of a threat of physical violence against spectators and performers. The threat came from anti-gay factions in Russia, Mlasko says.
“That was a little scary.”
As he gets older Mlasko says he’d like to focus more on his Seattle business but he can’t predict what might lie ahead.
“The phone just usually rings, especially in the springtime.”