Interview with Jason Willerby Ohger
This is an interview to fill in the details on the life and times of Jason Willer. Jason has been the drummer for such righteous bands as the U.K. Subs, Nik Turner and Jello Biafra to name but a few.
First off Jason, thanks for agreeing to this interview!
First Things First
I'd like you to jump in the wayback machine and provide your story from the beginning....
Where were you born?
What was the date?
What was the name of your mother and father?
What was the occupation of your mother and father?
How about your siblings? I managed to identify your sisters Nina and Rachel as for certain. Any others and where did you fit into that mix?
Born September 19th 1978, Kaiser Hopital Vallejo California
Father: Jeffrey Robert Willer, Computer Programmer last job Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Now retired
Mother: Melanie Hansen Divorced Jeff Willer 1983. Married Richard Silvester that same year. Stay at home mother
Siblings: Brother: Jeremy Willer (His wife is Rachel Willer) Sister: April Willer Waltz (Husband Paul Kremer, they live in Berlin Germany)
Stepmother: Dory Willer
Stepfather: Richard Silvester Tax Attorney, now retired
Step Siblings: Jonathan Silvester, Amanda Silvester Williams, Jennifer Silvester Nebeker
Half Brother: Neal Silvester
Ex Wife: Nina Willer Married in Bremen Germany September 8, 2005 - Divorced 2011 in CA
Although I was born in Vallejo, I grew up in the town of Clayton California
Let's keep crawling around in the weeds of your youth for a bit and talk schools.
What elementary, middle and high schools did you attend?
And importantly, were there any teachers, musical or otherwise that had an influence on the young Jason?
Mt Diablo Elementary School Clayton CA 1984-1989,
HIghland Elememtary School Concord CA ( half of 6th grade) 1989
Pine Hollow Middle School Concord CA 1990-1993
Clayton Valley High School Concord CA 1993- 1997
CVHS Marching Band Drum Instructor: Scott Johnson
I read an article in the East Bay Express by Caty St Clair that you were raised in a devoutly Mormon family. Did you attend the amazing Mormon temple in Oakland? I always wanted to go in there but they wouldn't let me in. Granted, I was pretty scruffy back in my Oakland days.
How was it to be raised Mormon? Did you sing in the choir or participate in any of their amazing musical traditions? Do you still practice the faith?
I was brought up in the Mormon church. From a very early age saw the hypocrisy and BS. I received my patriarchal blessing at age 14. Thats when the Stake Patriarch puts his hands on your head and says god is speaking through him while giving the churches version of a fortune telling. I remember getting into the car with my mother after the blessing saying "He didn't say anything about me being a drummer or anything at all about music". That for me was the last straw. I started sleeping in on Sundays instead of going to church as well as skipping all other church activities. I started going to 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley every Friday and Saturday, music has been my religion ever since. Other than that I'm an atheist.
I was listening to BODS Mayhem Hour with John 'The Bod' in which you mention that at age nine you had Iron Maiden in heavy rotation on your play list. At age nine I was pretty obsessed with Miles Davis, but those were different times. I do distinctly remember who handed over Sorcerer to me and told me to get schooled on it.
How did did you get introduced to Iron Maiden? And were there other bands you were listening to?
I was always enchanted by heavy music and the look of it. My dad would always be listening to the radio when we'd visit him. I'd always be paying attention to anything rebellious and intriguing on TV or in movies. We were not aloud to watch MTV but I'd always sneak out to watch it late at night. I remember being in the first grade 1985 or so, when kids at school who had older brothers who were into punk would talk about the Misfits or the Ramones. I was always looking to get at this world of music I knew was out there but was just out of my reach.
We had a local radio station at the High School I ended up going to called KVHS the only real rock. They would play Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and Motorhead as well as other heavy rock of the day. From 10 to midnight they'd have specialty shows where they would play Thrash and Death Metal. It showed me there was a whole other world than Mormons, rednecks and Jocks that all wanted me dead.
My son's a drummer and he almost drove me mad asking over and over for his first kit. I finally relented and went and bought him a cheap kit that I figured he'd at least be able to sell when he discovered that drumming is like having nine brains. Turns out he did have nine brains, so go figure.
When did you get your first kit and what brand was it? Did you just naturally pick it up or did you need some lessons? If you got lessons, who was your teacher?
When we lived in our house in Vacaville CA before my parents divorced, my father played guitar and sang for a wedding band. The band would rehearse in our living room leaving the gear set up after the'd rehearse. I'd always run to the drum set. It looked like some sort of enchanted castle that you were aloud to bang on. My mother tried to make me play piano, cello and violin. I knew I was a drummer and would bang on pots and pans.
I had a friend in kindergarden named Montoya Williams who played the drums. He had been playing since he was three and was already drumming with the Concord Blue Devils. finally at age 10 I made my mother buy me a pair of drum sticks.
Mormons have a year supply of food on hand at all times in preperation for the second coming. My mother would have buckets of wheat and grind flour for homemade bread. I started banging on the empty buckets driving my siblings and the neighbors crazy.
There was a neighbor two houses down named Edgar. He owned a small country music record label called Roll On Records. Edgar had a student model Blue sparkle CB 700 kit someone had left at his place he said I could have. And I started to try to teach myself how to play.
In 1989 I had to switch Schools half way through the year due to violence. At age 13 I started taking drum lessons at Countrywood music in Concord with a teacher named Larry Schultz. I was not able to be a very good student due to not being able to focus well at the time.
Let's talk GEAR!!
For all the gear-heads out there I think it's incumbent upon me to ask about your equipment.
Most drummers will use a different set up for different bands, so feel free to get as granual as you see fit here. If you want to just list the equipment you use in general, that would be great. If you want to list the gear you've used for individual bands, by all means go for it!
As of 2016 I've been lucky to endorse Brooks Drums who are a Bay Area drum company that specialize in high quality hand crafted custom drums. The I use an eight piece kit for Charger which consists of two 22" Bass drums, 10"' 12", 13", 16" 18" Toms and a 7x14 Cast Aluminum Snare drum. I am a gear nerd and have a large collection of modern and vintage snare drums as well as three vintage Ludwig kits I use for teaching.
In 2017 I became one of those drummers lucky enough to endorse Paiste Cymbals which I believe to be the best cymbals out there period.
My Paiste Cymbal set up consists of 15" Sound Edge Hi Hats, 17" Full Signiture Crash, 18" Reflector Heavy Crash, 19" Giant Beat, 22" Rude Reign Power Ride, 20" Rude Novo China, 18" Rude China. I play Tama Hardware