Brett was born surrounded by a drum kit. His mom said, "Wow, what a hard birth, and now I have a drummer on my hands."
Brett

 
Brett Chassen is a well-respected session drummer who's in Velvet Chain because he's in the mood. He plays with heavyweight jazz guys, he records his own, completely sick, crazy-ass jazz-fusion-funk music that can be only be understood by complete jazz freaks, then, he also plays heavy metal-type music with Brett Michaels from Poison, and in another total hard rock band called Black on Blonde. At the same time, he's in Velvet Chain. Go figure.

Brett is from the East Coast and has a classic New York accent. He was a drumming prodigy at the age of 5, and is now an absolute drum technician. He has a photographic memory with songs, and if he plays it once, he never forgets it. He is truly a pleasure to work with, and luckily, always seems to be in the mood to play Velvet Chain.

Here's some people Brett has played with: Buddy Rich (from age 2 to 7). Carlos Santana (when he was 12), Jaco Pastorius (once when he was 15 at a jam session), Erskine Hawkins (gigs), Joe Vitale (gigs), Frank Gambale (studio and gigs), Dave Carpenter (studio), Alphonzo Johnson (studio), Michael Monroe (gigs), Steve Stephens (gigs), Stanley Clark (studio).

Brett actually started playing drums when he was 2. His father ran a resort hotel in the Catskills mountains of upstate New York, and baby Brett spent a lot of time there. This hotel had a pretty well-known jazz bar. On one occasion Brett crawled over to the drum kit and started banging on the kick drum with his hand. The band had just set up and completed a quick sound check. The drummer got a kick out of baby Brett banging on the drum, and went over and picked him up. He then sat down behind the kit, gave the kid a drumstick, and held him over the snare. Baby Brett hit the snare three times. Then he held him over the rack toms and the kid hit each of them three times each. Very methodical. Same thing with the floor tom and then each of the cymbals - three hits each, except for the ride, which he hit three extra times.

The jazz guy thought this was pretty interesting and took the drumstick from baby Brett and played a simple pattern on the snare drum, and gave the drumstick back to the kid. Baby Brett repeated the pattern (meanwhile, the kid is 2 years old and can't even walk yet). Now, the jazz guy calls over the rest of the band and says, "Check this out." The kid could repeat practically any pattern that was not too long, regardless of time signature. The jazz guy told Brett's dad, "I think you have a drummer here." The "jazz guy" was Buddy Rich.

By the time Brett was 5 he was playing straight-ahead jazz, and by the time he was 7 or 8 he was diving into the more modern, complicated styles of Billy Cobham and Lenny White. Because of the situation with his dad and the resort hotel, Brett spent a lot of time around jazz musicians and jazz music. From time to time Buddy Rich would play and stay at the resort, and Brett credits Buddy Rich as the single greatest influence on him musically. It was Buddy Rich who showed him how to play the drums and what they were all about. Buddy freakin' Rich.

The first non-jazz music Brett remembers liking was "Play that Funky Music White Boy," by Wild Cherry. He was 4 at the time.

Brett was born in Brooklyn NY, and spent most of his childhood in the New York suburb of Rockland County. He didn't care much for school, and only remembers smoking in the hall and talking to girls. His least hated subject was Social Studies. The only "sports" he ever liked were dirt bikes and martial arts.

Brett was in the school band and the jazz band, but not the marching band. He refused to wear the funny hat. They threatened to throw him out of jazz band because he was required to be in the marching band in order to be in the jazz band. Brett didn't care, and refused. So the instructor told him that he would, "No longer be able to be in the jazz band." Brett told him, "Look, I AM the jazz band." They didn't throw him out.

Oddly enough, the most eccentric thing about Brett when he was a kid was that he got pretty experimental with clothes. He got stuck right in the middle of that 80's glam-rock phase and did the whole spandex thing and the rest of it. Apparently, it was pretty bad. He wouldn't wear that marching band hat though.

Brett graduated from Clarkstown North High School, and moved, almost immediately, to the East side of Manhattan, where he played Jazz, Rock, Latin and practically every other type of music you can think of. Three years later, he moved to Los Angeles (1992).




When asked what was the most significant event of his youth, Brett replies without hesitation, "Playing with Santana when I was 12 - It changed my life." Carlos was in upstate New York for some kind of festival gig and was staying at the resort. Brett asked Carlos to jam with him. Now apparently, Carlos likes kids, and being the supportive, soulful cat that he is, he obliged Brett and played with him down in the jazz bar (which was empty in the mornings). Carlos ended up hanging out quite awhile and showed Brett all kinds of Latin stuff that Brett immediately got into and nailed.

The next thing Brett knew, he was making a guest appearance with Carlos Santana at a festival gig in front of 5,000 people. The impact of this experience had a huge effect on Brett. It was not so much the impact of the gig or the audience, but the musical impact of playing with these musicians. It deeply affected him, and to this day is responsible for the Latin influence in Brett's playing.

As far as rock music goes, after high school he got into Guns and Roses and that type of stuff. He was okay with the 80's "New Wave" type music, but gravitated more towards, the harder-edged stuff.

 

Of the modern bands, Brett has no big favorites. He likes a band called Lit. He also thinks the Goo Goo Dolls are okay, and he likes Everclear. He also likes the some of the new swing-based stuff, because it's fun. He's heard the Portishead record and remembers thinking it was very cool, but he didn't go out and buy it or anything. He doesn't really know that much about "trip-hop," except that it means he's probably going to be playing a slowed-down hip-hop beat under some spacy vibed-out music.

Brett's primary motivation at this time in his life is success in music. This is probably one of the main reasons Brett is in Velvet Chain. Even though the band is not entirely mainstream, he feels it has success written all over it. When asked what it was about Velvet Chain that attracted him, he says they were the first band to come along that truly had their own vibe. Also, the music is diverse enough to keep things interesting for him, using his drumming skills in various styles. On a personal level, he had almost instant chemistry with the other players; and if you've been in a lot of bands, you learn that chemistry is everything.


Brett currently plays in Velvet Chain, and is involved in a few other Jazz and Rock projects. He is a session player, a drum teacher, and is working on his second jazz-fusion album.