By Noe Gutierrez
Adroit drummer Nick Willman was born and raised in “The City of Festivals” Indio, California. The 17-year-old musician is currently the drummer for three of the desert’s most promising and talented original Rock bands Pescaterritory, Silver Sky and Instigator. Recently graduating from La Quinta High School, Willman is primed to take his skills to the next level and become THE preeminent professional musician. The kid has been bashing the skins since age 3!
Along with his bandmates in Pescaterritory, Willman won the 2019 Coachella Valley Music Award for ‘Best Youth Band’ and was nominated in 2017 and 2018 as a member of the band D-Tension.
He has already performed in such celebrated venues such as The World Famous Whisky A Go-Go, Pappy and Harriets, Indian Wells Tennis Garden (Wedbush Garden Jam Music Festival), Big Rock Pub, The Hood Bar and Pizza, Joshua Tree Saloon, Tack Room Tavern at the Empire Polo Grounds, Date Shed and Gadi’s Bar and Grill as well as a string of performances at Stagecoach Festival, Indio International Tamale Festival and the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival.
Willman has also had the honor of performing on bills with the likes of Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, Buddy Guy, Los Lobos, Jimmie Vaughan, Lucie Silvas and Black Sabbitch and has recorded in professional studios with Don Hoeber (Will Donato) at JEM Productions in Palm Desert, California, with Arthur Seay (House Of Broken Promises) at Bittersand Studios in Indio, California and at Sondy Studios with budding producer and Silver Sky bandmate Jake Sonderman.
He rehearses regularly with each of his bands and works intensely on his craft on a daily basis. With the influences of John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Dave Grohl (Nirvana), Neil Peart (Rush), Alex Van Halen (Van Halen) and Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), he has developed a sound and style all his own that is entirely recognizable.
He began playing drums in a band setting at the youthful age of 9 as the drummer for Y2BD (Yet To Be Determined), which some say is a band that seemingly ignited and influenced the firestorm of young bands that we see today from across the Coachella Valley.
In 2015, Willman auditioned and was accepted to participate in the first year of the Academy of Music Performance (AMP), a contemporary music education program. With three years of seed-funding from Goldenvoice, AMP built the foundation for year-round programs that serve students from all over the Coachella Valley. He practiced daily and attended classes in music theory, songwriting, promotion and production. As a result of AMP, that same year he began performing in power trio D-Tension (now Silver Sky). Spending several formative years in AMP, he views his time there as significant as he met his bandmates in Pescaterritory and Silver Sky during his tenure.
In 2018 Willman and his bandmates formed the Blues-Melodic-Rock band Pescaterritory. Their first singles were played on-air by Barry Tomes of US10 Radio Show in Birmingham, England to thousands of music fans. Tomes shared, “Nick Willman…‘The American Bonzo’! Led Zeppelin drummer John Henry ‘Bonzo’ Bonham will be looking down thinking he has been reborn in Nick. A future Rock God!”
In early 2020, opportunity knocked and he joined well established Desert Thrash Metal band Instigator and grasped the extreme and rapid fire drumming technique of Thrash Metal with little difficulty. Willman shared of his experience, “I really like hanging out with Mark, Garrison, and Jaxson and it’s killer jamming with them. It’s another genre of music I’m looking forward to playing and we’ll see what the future holds.”
With songs like “King Street” and “Better Off Dead” by Pescaterritory, “Brain Blind” and “Runaway Eyes” by Silver Sky and his live performances with Instigator, Willman has demonstrated professional drumming abilities that allow him to participate in a wide range of music projects and successfully play in different genres. He is also proficient on the guitar which gives him the flexibility to write songs and understand music from a more bird’s-eye perspective. CV Weekly looks forward to seeing Willman in the ‘Best Drummer’ category at the CVMAs for a long time to come.
CV Weekly spoke with some of Willman’s bandmates and Academy of Musical Performance Director Will Sturgeon to learn more about “Kid Crush.”
Jake Sonderman (Silver Sky, Owner and Operator of Sondy Studios)
“Nick’s a rock live and in the studio. He’s totally the backbone of every band he’s in. I try to work with him whenever I can. I’m currently producing Pescaterritory’s new album at Sondy Studios”.
Mark Wadlund (Instigator)
“I love Nick! That kid is a 100% certified badass! Nick Willman is the epitome of what a great Rock/Metal drummer should be. His playing style is focused and controlled, and his attitude is always super-inspiring to everyone around. Jamming with him is always a good time and I appreciate his presence on stage immensely. I hope he can continue to pursue Instigator with us for as long as possible.”
Gavin Lopez (Pescaterritory)
“Nick is an extremely dedicated musician. He works hard and puts thought into his musicianship. He is very talented, not only is he killer on drums, he plays guitar, bass, and piano as well! Aside from being a great bandmate, he is one of my best friends. He is fun to be around and he lightens up a dull crowd. I’m glad that I met him.”
Noah Arujo (Silver Sky)
“Well Nick is a very interesting individual. He’s a great drummer, a good bandmate…when he wants to be…and yeah, he’s an alright cousin, haha! Overall he’s a really cool guy and fits our band perfectly.”
Jason Zembo (Pescaterritory)
“As a drummer, Nick is as professional as they come. The skill and proficiency that Nick demonstrates, not only in the studio but live, is incredible. Never have I had the pleasure to play alongside such a talented drummer, a drummer who can switch tempos on a dime in an improv, a drummer who can add exactly what the song needs, and a drummer who can play the most impressive fills in the weirdest time signatures and still keep the song’s backbone sturdy. He is truly an incredible drummer who I trust can pull off any challenge thrown to him.”
Aiden Schaeffer (Pescaterritory)
“Nick is a talented musician. We were jamming to System Of A Down back in the 7th grade. He is a reliable bandmate. He always learns his songs and provides good input in band discussions. He is one of my oldest friends and we have always gotten along pretty well. He is a cool person to know.”
Will Sturgeon (AMP Executive Director)
“I’ve known Nick since he was 12 and he was a monster drummer even then. He’s only gotten better (though no less quiet, to AMP Band Coaches’ chagrin) and is one of the best drummers out here in the valley. He’s a musical drummer, which he probably picked up from knowing how to play guitar, bass, and sing, and is definitely an important part of the next generation of Coachella Valley musicians. AMP is proud to have played a part in many of the great bands Nick is a part of and I can’t wait to hear the music he’ll make in the next few years.”
Nick Willman proudly plays Zildjian Cymbals, Pearl Drums and Vic Firth drumsticks.
Nick Willman Links
Pescaterritory on YouTube: