Rollo & Grady Interview with Stella Mozgawa

Rollo & Grady Interview with Stella Mozgawa

To The Beat Of Her Own Drum

I‘ve been a fan of the Los Angeles-based band Warpaint since I first heard their single, “Billie Holiday.” I would go so far as to say it’s one of the best songs in the past decade.

Since forming in 2004, the band has had trouble holding on to a full-time drummer. The first drummer was actress/musician, Shannyn Sossamon, sister of current Warpaint bassist, Jenny Lee Lindberg; Red Hot Chili Pepper, Josh Klinghoffer, also spent some on drums. It wasn’t until last year that they found a full-time drummer, Stella Mozgawa.

As a teenager, Stella grew up in Sydney, Australia, listening to Tool, Quiet Riot, and Primus for her drumming inspiration. As she matured as a drummer she moved on to Levon Helm, Keith Moon, and John Bonham. She began her career with the band Mink. The group was fortunate enough to tour as the opener for Perry Farrell’s solo project, Satellite Party. Since she relocated to Los Angeles, she has been a session drummer for about a dozen bands and has shared the stage with Flea, Tom Morello, and John Frusciante. In addition to being a member of Warpaint, Stella is a full-time member in Australian madman Andy Clockwise’s band.

I’ve had the pleasure to meet Stella several times. She is a charming and sweet person, and I consider her the best drummer in Los Angeles.

Photos by Brent Lewis, Mike Rich and Tim Harrison

R&G: When did you start playing the drums originally?

Stella: Originally I started playing when I was about 13. That’s when I started taking lessons, but I was interested in the drums before that. I’d played quite a lot of other instruments: some that my parents kind of forced me into, like piano, and then others like guitar and bass that I had an enthusiasm for. These weren’t forbidden fruits like drums were for me. Drums always seemed like the most prized instrument to be learning, especially when you’re just starting high school.

R&G: Where did you keep your drum set?

Stella: In my room. I had one of those IKEA style bunk beds, but instead of two beds underneath there was a little desk area for doing homework. My bed was a little nest at the top so I could fit my drum kit in my tiny room.

R&G: Did you have certain hours that you were allowed to play?

Stella: Yeah, mostly on weekends. The curfew was pretty much when my mom got home from work, which was about 6:00, so when I got home from school it was like 4 til 6 everyday, pretty much.

R&G: Who were your favorite drummers or influences while you were growing up?

I guess when I was first starting to play drums, I was really into the band Tool so I listened to a lot of Danny Carey drumming and I loved him. Also, Tim Alexander from Primus.

R&G: Nice.

Stella: So really dorky proggy stuff, like mid to late ‘90s LA rock music basically.

R&G: What about John Bonham or Neil Peart?

jon bon 1

Stella: Later on. Those were kind of my initial ones when I was playing in shitty little bands in high school. I was listening to a lot of Zeppelin albums and the Who and a lot of Levon Helm as well.

Rollo & Grady Interview with Stella Mozgawa

R&G: How did you hook up with Andy [Clockwise]?

Stella: That’s an interesting story. Andy and I met when I think I was about 19. It was one of the first two tours that I went on in Australia and I was touring with a girl called Laura Imbruglia. She was supporting Andy on his first Australian tour that was coming off the release of his album. He released his double album and it was an indie success in Australia, so I was playing with her. He was the headlining act on that tour and he was a little bit older. We actually really really disliked each other – not like aggressively but just secretly disliked each other when we first met. I thought he was a womanizing alcoholic character and he thought I was this young, socially inept girl. Still, we both really liked each other’s music. He asked me maybe a year or so after that to play a show with him and it was kind of like the first – sounds really cheesy, but it was like the first day of my new life as a drummer. He would scream at me on stage and tell me to play louder and harder and I’d never really had that before. Before, it was always, “Can you play a little bit softer because I can’t really hear the vocals or the guitar?” That’s the common story, so it was such a relief and so refreshing to play with someone who was actually upset with me for not playing like an obnoxious musician.

Rollo & Grady Interview with Stella Mozgawa

R&G: How did you get your start with Warpaint?

Stella: We have a few mutual friends. I met Emily [Kokal] at a Metallica show, which was a benefit for a Conservatory Of Music. We were hanging out with friends of ours. A mutual friend had mentioned that this band Warpaint that he liked – friends of his – were looking for a drummer. My friend mentioned also that the drummer was always the kind of transient position in the band; there was never anyone who was really their drummer. They started out with Shannyn [Sossamon], who’s Jenny’s sister, and then after that it was a bit in and out – mind the innuendo. We met at that point and then saw each other around town and then played a few shows in common. I really liked them. I would always go and see them whenever I had the chance, whenever I was in town. Later last year we went to a party – we were all there together – and I guess they’d been talking about maybe playing with me because they had a drummer that was filling in and they wanted someone to play on the album. They called me while I was on tour later last year and just flat out asked, “Do you want to record our album with us?” That was kind of the beginning. It wasn’t initially like, “Do you want to join the band for good? Do you want to commit right now and sign your name in blood?” It was just this creative prospect of, “Do you want to be in the band for at least this period of time and be creative with us?” That seemed like the perfect thing.

Rollo & Grady Interview with Stella Mozgawa

R&G: And you are now a full-time member of Warpaint.

Stella: Yes.

R&G: How does that work with Andy?

Stella: Andy still hasn’t released anything officially like an album or anything in the States, so he hasn’t really had the opportunity to tour as often as Warpaint has had. When I joined them they were already starting up and starting to tour. Since the record came out, we’ve been touring pretty much consistently so it’s more of a convenient schedule at present. I don’t know how it’s going to work out later. I try to make everyone happy because I love both of them equally and I feel an affinity with both in equal measure, but obviously there are moments when I can’t play with Andy if I’m on tour. I guess lately Warpaint takes up most of my time, so everything in between has seemed to work out pretty nicely with Andy when I’m in town or when I have a month off or something and when he has a lot of gigs going.

R&G: You’ve also played with Flea and John Frusciante.

john Flea

Stella: Yeah. I met Flea at the end of 2007 where we were both playing this benefit show that Tom Morello had done – the Axis of Justice charity shows at the Hotel Café. Actually, the band that I played with for a while that I came over to America with had supported Perry Farrell from Jane’s Addiction on his Satellite Party tour. When I came to LA, he asked me to play a few songs with him at this benefit, so I did that and somehow found myself onstage with Flea at the same time. It was just a revolving cast of musicians that night. We played together and he just said, “Do you want to play some music when you can?” He had some material that he was working on as well and I guess he was taking a break from the Chili Peppers. I thought that it was a big hoax, so I said, “Yeah sure,” and “Here are my contacts. I’m sure I’ll hear from you soon,” but I didn’t think it was a reality. Then, when I came home back to Australia for Christmas, we kept in touch. Then when I was ready to move back to LA, we made some music together and then he asked me to do that show. Actually Warpaint played at that show as well and that night was the first time I met Jenny.

R&G: Were you blown away to be playing with those guys?

Stella: Yeah, I guess I was pretty numb to it for the most part, because the only thing that I was actively seeking out in my life was to play as much music as possible when I came to America. Getting to play with that caliber of musicians is just a huge huge honor and something that was unexpected but I tried to make the most of it and learn as much as I could from them. They have a wealth of experience technically and experientially as well. Yeah. My pithy little mind was blown for sure.

Rollo & Grady Interview with Stella Mozgawa

Warpaint – Bees
Warpaint – Billie Holiday

Warpaint – The Fool (iTunes)
Warpaint – Exquisite Corpse (iTunes)

Related Posts:
Rollo & Grady Interview with Emily Kokal of Warpaint (Click Here)