This is What the Best Rock Drummer in OC Looks Like

aric improta.jpg
Aric Improta elevating his craft

For about five hours a day, the view inside Aric Improta's bedroom window is one of complete insanity. As the last streaks of sunlight sink behind the hills in his native Fullerton, the 23-year-old drummer morphs into a tornado of sticks, long hair and screams. Occasionally, he'll decide to jump several feet in the air, body slamming the beat with the intensity of a pro wrestler. Meanwhile, the explosions from his drum kit echo through his parent's suburban home, like the boom from cannon fire at the Battle of Normandy. It's loud as shit in here.

Inside his bedroom-turned-practice space, dim light from a single ceiling fan shines feebly on a walls plastered with faded metal and prog rock band posters. In the final stretch of his whirling, five-minute drum routine, his body spazzes wildly to complete one more thunderous fill before he finally exhales and stops pounding. "Okay," he says breathlessly. "Only have to do that 15 more times."

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The night before his competition for Guitar Center's National Drum-Off Semi-Finals, he's committed to one last gasp of routine training. Having been to the competition now five years in a row, he's hoping today's competition at the store's Hollywood location will be his ticket to finally winning the damn thing. He's the only drummer from OC still alive in the competition. Twenty-five drummers from across the country are competing at different stores nation-wide today for a chance to advance to the finals on Jan. 19. The prize, valued at nearly $50,000 includes a cash award, free drum gear and some career-altering endorsement deals. They will each get five minutes to show a panel of expert judges what they've got. This is his second year making it to the semi finals.

The chance at all that glory feels light years away from where Improta started during his first several years playing drums in bands in junior high and high school where he claims he was always the weak link.

"It was always a situation where everyone I surrounded myself at the time with was better than me. I just figured I had to get better or else they wouldn't want me."

Naturally lured to the instrument by the rocket-fueled freak out performances of At the Drive-In, Tool, Opeth and Deftones, the longtime gymnast and skateboarder eventually started taking things more seriously, gradually becoming obsessed with drums and being in bands. His style blends the ferocity of metal with jazz dynamics and an impeccable understanding of the four-on-the-floor rock groove.

By the time he hit college, his parents (both musicians themselves) encouraged him to enter one of the Guitar Center competitions. He wasn't really excited about the idea at first. He'd even tried to get disqualified by doing back flips during the competition and bringing extra instruments on stage. Somehow he still managed to advance to the quarter finals on his first try before getting eliminated. "I was scared of the reality of being told I wasn't that good, but I ended up moving on anyway."

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