JASON HARTLESS has been professionally performing since the age of 5 years old, where soon after, his talents were discovered by Richie Scarlet (Ace Frehely Band) and drumming legend Corky Laing (Mountain/West, Bruce and Laing). After recording his debut record with Laing in the producers’ seat, Hartless’ career and life path was set. However, it was not handed to him on a silver drum, it took years of hard work, dedication and smart life choices for Hartless to propel himself into becoming the nationally recognized and respected drummer that he has become. Over the past couple years, he has earned the drummer’s seat for rock icons such as Joe Lynn Turner (Deep Purple/Rainbow)and currently guitar legend Ted Nugent.
When not touring or in recording sessions, Jason is a music business management student at the Berklee Collage of Music in Boston MA and is also hard at work as a Managing Partner of Prudential Music Group, which is a music conglomerate based out of Detroit. The labels and affiliates include: Prudential Records, Rouge Records and Prudential Publishing. Prudential Music Group and its affiliates are distributed though Sony Orchard Distribution.
Jason certainly seems like a driven and hard working person, who comes across as a really lovely person. He is definitely someone to keep an eye on as he is sure to go far.
You started drumng at a very young age, what inspired you?
It’s really hard to say what the exact reason was, I just always gravitated to the drums. My dad was a professional drummer before I was born, so the drums where always in the house. When I was about 6 months old, I started banging on the drums and crawling with drumsticks in my hands. By the time I was 3 years old, I began playing the full kit. But as I got to be about 4 or 5, I began to look up to various drummers such as Corky Laing and Eric Singer; watching videos of them began to inspire me to play more and better.
Did you ever have any moments when you felt like throwing in the towel and giving up? What kept you going if you did?
Absolutely, I feel that us as humans at one point in our lives second guess what path we are on at least once. The moment when I second guessed my path was in 2015 while I was touring with a band called Pistol Day Parade. We had a lot of financial and industry support behind the marketing of our debut album. The band was thought to be the next big band in the Active Rock market. We had released the first single with very little support behind it to kind of gauge how we would do, and I ended up peaking at #39 on the Active Rock charts with no real radio campaign. So, in 2014, we were going to drop our lead single called “Rockstar’s Girlfriend” with a large radio campaign and marketing put behind it. As part of the single release we got a tour opening for Ted Nugent to go along with the single release. Well the single rose very fast and was projected to hit #1 by the end of 2014. However, after we got off the road with Ted, the band ended up breaking up due to band member disputes. So once all of this kind of exploded, it really hit me hard and I began to second guess my career path because I was on the verge of breaking with an original band, to only get it taken up from under me. After that I didn’t want to play music for a little bit, but after sitting down and really thinking my career over, I then made the decision to begin my college degree at Berklee in Music Business and 2 months after I started my degree and I got the call to join Ted Nugent’s band. I always compare this story to the movie, “That Thing You Do” because there are so many similarities to my time with Pistol Day Parade, but the biggest thing that I have taken away from that whole situation was that you should never give up because you never know what new opportunity is right around the corner.
Who have you most enjoyed playing with and why?
Honestly, I have enjoyed playing with every artist I have toured with and every client that has hired me for session work. I just love playing, and getting paid to do what I love for a living is just a perk to the job.
What have been the most memorable experiences you have had so far?
Every gig and every session is memorable.
If you could play with anyone alive or dead who would you choose and why?:
My dream gigs are to play with The Who and Toto. Not only are they both my favorite bands of all time, but I would love to be able to play the unbelievable grooves that Keith Moon and Jeff Porcaro created for all of those classic songs.
Who has been your inspiration?
I have so many different musicians that I have been inspired and influenced by such as: Corky Laing, Jeff Porcaro, Buddy Rich, Todd Sucherman, Keith Moon, Zak Starkey, Bernie Dresel, Anton Fig, Eric Singer, Stewart Copeland, Mick Tucker, Steve Smith, and Vinnie Colaiuta. I have always had the outlook that you should be influenced by a ton of people, because you end up building a melting pot of styles to pull from in different situations. I have been lucky to have been able to been personally mentored by Corky Laing, Eric Singer, Tommy Clufetos, Anton Fig and Todd Sucherman.
How often do you practice?
Every time I play drums, I look at it that I am practicing and striving to be the best I can be. I usually don’t sit behind the kit and play along to songs unless it is something that I have to learn for a session or tour. However, I am always listening to music to learn and pick up different grooves and styles to implement into my playing.
I love the messages that you give out to young people and parents, what kind of reaction do you get and how do you stay so positive?
It is always a positive reaction because people are aware of the effect of drugs and alcohol in the music industry, so hearing it from a young guy in the business really helps influence young up and coming musicians to stay sober as well.
There must be loads of stories about the young people you have helped, can you share any?
I try to help as many young musicians as possible. I get emails all the time from other drummer friends or even strangers asking to meet a young inspiring musician, I always make sure to take time a say hello and spread some advice.
What do you think makes a great drummer?
Someone that can hold down 2 and 4 extremely well and listens to the other musicians around them.
What aspirations have you for your record label?
Being a managing partner for Prudential Music Group has been such a great opportunity for my career as an industry executive because I have been given a lot of creative and business responsibility for the company. For the past 2 years, I have been working towards my Master’s degree in Music Business at Berklee College of Music, so being able to run a company, while I am studying the field, works out great for being able to use my current business situations in my class work. When I was named a partner, the company was only Prudential Records, since then we have built the company into Prudential Music Group and founded a vinyl focused label called, Rouge Records and also created Prudential Publishing to house the Prudential and Rouge publishing catalog. Rouge Records has really taken off quickly. Since we founded the brand in fall of 2017, we have already released 7 releases and have 4 pending projects. The Rouge brand mainly focus’ on vinyl re-issues of music from 60s, 70s and 80s, and have recently started to sign a few local Detroit acts to give them a jump start with a vinyl product. Prudential Music Group is lucky to be headquartered in Detroit, where Jack White just opened his Third Man Pressing plant. We were able to get our foot in the door quick and were one of the first 3rd party clients that Third Man Pressing took on. For Record Store Day 2018, we released a very special album called “The Secret Sessions” by Pompeii, the album was a super group of musicians the Corky Laing put together and recorded some material between 1976 and 1978. The album featured Corky Laing (Mountain), Ian Hunter (Mott The Hoople), Mick Ronson (David Bowie), Felix Pappalardi (Mountain/Cream’s Producer), Dickey Betts (Allman Brothers), Leslie West (Mountain), Todd Rundgren, John Sebastian (The Lovin’ Spoonful) and Eric Clapton (Cream). This project was special for me because on top of releasing an album with so many iconic musicians, it also was great to start a new project with my longtime mentor, Corky Laing, but this time, I was behind the producer chair. On top of the Pompeii release, we recently released The Sweet “Level Headed Tour Rehearsals” and reissued both The Rationals and Seduce debut LPs. At the end of 2018, we will be releasing a live record from 1970 featuring all four Quatro sisters, before Suzi Quatro’s career hit big.
You sound like a very grounded person, what do you do to stay this way?
Nothing really, I just know my place in this business. I get asked all the time “What’s it like being famous”, I tell them that “I am not famous, I just play for people that are famous” hahaha!
What do you like to do to chill out?
Watching and following Hockey. My ideal Saturday night is staying home watching a Red Wings or Maple Leafs game on Hockey Night in Canada.
Are there any particular drumming techniques that you love to do? if so what are they and why?
That’s a tough one because there are so many, but I love playing half time shuffles, ala Jeff Porcaro style.
It sounds as though you have a lot on your plate with the drumming, record business, school etc, how do you prioritize?
It’s tough but being able to multitask is key.
What do you save til last – the thing that you like doing best or the worst job?
Honestly, I never really think about it. I just begin to work on what I need to do.
What is tour life like?
It’s the best job in the world. I really look at it as I get paid to travel the world, and then play drums for an hour and a half.
What would you like people to say about you?
I want to be able to be looked at as a drummer’s drummer, meaning a guy that other drummers look up to and admire to play like. Anytime I can pass along advice and techniques I have
What information would you pass on to young people aiming to get into the music business?
Never limit yourself to only being able to play an instrument, learn every aspect of this industry.