Tim Yokley is a pro behind a drum set, playing for thousands of music fans across the country and in town as drummer for For the Love, The Wednesday Machine, and Weird Is the New Cool. Yokley is also a tour manager and recently completed a summer tour with big names including Katastro, Dirty Heads, Pepper, and Aer. He heads back out with Katastro, Ballyhoo!, and Pepper this fall for a U.S. tour — find dates here.
The 30-year-old Phoenix resident had a career in real estate for 10 years before leaving to pursue music full-time a couple years ago, and he also plays with cover bands throughout the Valley. Yokley talks about what it’s like to be a professional musician and why he’s so passionate about the industry, and you can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.
What brought you to Arizona?
I’ve lived here my whole life. I was born in Phoenix and went to Camelback High School. I went to school for Microsoft networking and A+ certification and went to Glendale Community College for business. Just one of the reasons why I love living here and have stayed is because I’m a huge bass fisherman, and Arizona has some great lakes and tournaments.
How would you describe the music projects you’re in to someone who has never seen them?
Weird Is the New Cool is a hip-hop/pop band I play drums in and manage.
I play drums and manage The Wednesday Machine, which is two very talented DJs/producers — DJ Bluecollar Prophet, who was the original drummer for Authority Zero, and DJ Switch, the resident DJ at Dos Gringos — who battle back and forth. I layer drums and new beats over the mix live. We just played The Bank Las Vegas nightclub in The Bellagio, and we played in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. We have a couple more Vegas dates coming up and have played in Colorado and the Pacific Northwest.
For the Love is a hip-hop/soul project, sort of like Atmosphere meets Nat King Cole. It has thoughtful rapping in it, and I drum in it.
I’m also drumming for DJ Soulman from The Phunk Junkeez on a new project with a guitarist and percussionist that’s going to be launching this fall. We’re going to be playing some big events in the fall.
What’s your earliest memory of being interested in music?
I’ve loved it for as early as I can remember. My dad, also named Tim, was a bass player in a band called Jukin’ and another called Full Force that was signed, but when my sister and I were born, he quit touring and playing the bass out. He would still play the bass for us every night before we went to sleep.
As of recently, I’ve been talking to him about getting back into playing, since he’s one of the best bass players I’ve ever met, and he agreed to do an album with me. I’m looking for some players and a vocalist, my dad is going to do a lot of the writing, and we’re going to produce an album together.
What’s your musical training like?
I played drums and percussion starting in elementary school and played through high school, including marching band. I studied drums under Bobby Hamilton of Hollywood Yates, Jim Wilcox of Authority Zero, and Brett Fredrickson of Megadeth locally.
My first project was with my good friend Josh Sethman, who has sadly passed away, and we started doing covers of Green Day and bands like that. I was probably about 14 years old.
I got out of music because I dreamed of becoming a professional skateboarder, and then I tore my ACL, so I started playing drums again.
I play a little bit of piano and am teaching myself because I want to get more involved in the production end. It’s definitely a learning curve for me because I don’t know complete music theory, but now I can at least go into practice and say, “That’s the wrong note.”
What do you attribute to your passion for music?
The support of my family. My mom doesn’t play any instruments, but she’s a huge music lover. She’ll show you ticket stubs from the ’70s up until now and keeps them all. She really pushed me to pursue music when I decided I needed to devote my time either to real estate or music full time. Without her passion for music, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing.
I love being able to give back to everyone else, play shows, and put smiles on people’s faces. I help out with a lot of the writing, too, so being able to explain stories in songs is really important to me.
And, obviously, the perk of the job is being able to travel. I’ve wrapped around the U.S. probably three or four times now.
How would you describe your songwriting process?
I surround myself with people who are better than me, and I try to learn from those people and put in my two cents when it comes to songwriting. A lot of drummers don’t usually get that opportunity a lot, but I draw from my own experiences to give input. My process is different with every person I work with, too, and what the situation the band is going through.
With For the Love, we all get in a room, and we bounce ideas off each other, which is a group effort more than any other time I’ve been in a band.
How do you think adding live instrumentation to a DJ set affects a performance?
I think it’s huge. There are so many freaking DJs out there who are doing the same set. The electronics now have come a long way where there are some DJs out there who are taking advantage of that, dropping samples a certain way or remixing live, but it’s still not a live set in terms of instrumentation. There’s something about being in front of a stage and watching people jam out to live music with instruments. It adds so much more to that live aspect.
The Wednesday Machine just played in Colorado, and the kids were losing it. They’d never seen anything like it. We were in a pretty big venue called Lodo’s in downtown Denver, and it’s always kind of weird going into new markets, not knowing how people are going to take it, but they absolutely loved it.
We work on the basic fundamentals concerning whether or not people can consume the set in a room, because you don’t want it to be overbearing. We sit back before each show and measure the room to figure out what kind of equipment we want to use to make it more palatable, such as lighter cymbals or an electric kit.
How do you stand out as a drummer?
I definitely play every show with passion, and I think that’s all you can do. If you get out to a gig, and you’re not playing with passion, you’re not going to connect with people. I try to do that no matter what.
What’s your favorite venue in the Valley to play?
Right now, it’s Marquee Theatre. I love that room.
There are some other new venues, though, that are coming up that I really want to play, like LiveWire in Scottsdale.
How would you characterize the Valley’s music scene?
It’s changed a lot in the past few years, for the better. I’m doing a lot of cover gigs now, which I never did before.
if anything could be improved, I miss the kids who were killing it right out of high school, like Authority Zero and The Phunk Junkeez. I don’t see that as much now, at least in the genres I’m paying attention to, but I do think the music scene as a whole is growing.
We have a downtown Phoenix scene that is popping. Years ago, people would be scared to go downtown, and now it’s a happening place.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Locally, some of my favorite drummers are Jason Wiedman and Nick Ramirez. Nick plays with passion, and I relate to him on that level. I’ve never seen him in a show where he’s not playing his heart out, and I love that.
What are your goals?
My goals are to continue touring, keep busy, get the gig, and book shows. It’s fun to wear so many different hats.
I want to stay in music the rest of my life, although I do plan to start my own company in the next year and run it while I’m touring.
What advice would you have for someone who wants to make music their career?
You’ve got to go 100 percent. It has to be all or nothing. If you’re not out networking and practicing your craft and supporting other people, you will not make it. You need to do that every single day. It’s worked for me for the past two and a half years.
What kind of gear do you like?
Why would you encourage someone to see you live?
I work with some of the best artists in the industry. It’s not just me — it’s the people I’m blessed to work with, all these really talented musicians I’m lucky to call friends. Every show is top-notch because of the people I surround myself with. Just some of the solo artists I play with locally are Sincerely Collins, Justin Stewart, Mike Maleckar, Tyler Nielson, Levi Waskom, Joanna Joy, Gabo Fayuca, Cameron Degurski, Jared Dieckhoff, and Justin Strickland.
Learn about other Phoenix musicians:
Learn more about Harper and the Moths singer Harper Lines here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about Elvis Before Noon bassist Mr. P-Body here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about Scattered Melodies drummer Josh Montag here on Phoenix People.