Taking Sensory Percussion to the Streets: An Interview with Travis Siegfried

Travis Siegfried (aka Imageoverbeing) is a very unique Sensory Percussion user. While most people use Sensory Percussion in their home studios, Travis brings his laptop and sensors out into the world with him, whether it be the city streets, a beach at sunset, or on top of a frozen lake in the middle of winter. We talked to Travis about his experiences busking (playing on the street for tips) with Sensory Percussion and got some great stories of his wild times taking Sensory Percussion to the streets!

What was your musical background before Sensory Percussion?

It has been mainly focused on drumset for years, then onto some hand drums, as well as other instruments like guitar and piano. Mostly playing in two piece instrumental bands or doing solo or group improvisation as Image Over Being for the last 15 years.

How did you first start busking?

I first started street drumming with hand drums a few times in Detroit with this older guy named King David who lived in the apartments next to a loft. We played, practiced and had shows around 2009. I asked him if he ever listened to Sun Ra and he said he used to jam with those cats back in the day, as well as Alice Coltrane. After seeing that you can just drum on a city street, I ended up playing in different areas looking for different acoustics. A big learning point came years later, though, in 2015, when I had to busk as my main means of income in Cincinnati. I drummed at the Cincinnati Reds stadium a lot, so that was when I first experienced some major busking hours.

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Pedestrians showing some love for Travis while he uses Sensory Percussion on a Detroit street corner.

How did you get started with Sensory Percussion, and how has it affected the way you play and/or your physical setup?

I started with one sensor, figuring out where the drum would be placed and getting used to it. I had a mesh head at first to hear everything without other sound overlapping, then moved it to an acoustic head shortly thereafter. I've almost always had changing setups made of different cymbals, drums, and street pieces. It's constantly changing and mixing with hand drums and pedals, so Sensory Percussion really fits right in and seems like something I've been waiting for for years. It adds so much to improvisational, free form sound creation and offers an abundance of new ways to create music and songs from the drums! It really is crazy; I keep calling it the infinity drum!

A photo of one of Travis' unique setups featuring two sensors, a pancake kick, and a metal sheet tied to a lamppost on the street
One of Travis' unique street setups featuring two sensors, a pancake kick, and a metal sheet
Sensory Percussion adds so much to improvisational drumming! It really is crazy; I keep calling it the infinity drum!

You've played Sensory Percussion in a lot of unusual locations. What's your favorite spot that you've played?

Maybe Sacramento because it's the most memorable probably. I played down there for over a year and saw all the seasons change, met a ton of different people, made friends, played and recorded almost every day for 4-8 hours. I ended up living bard-style for awhile at the end of it, sleeping in the woods at night with the gear and a small beach tent. I'd wake up, get food, bus downtown, and set up around noon. Then I'd play for 8+ hours and then get a meal and bus back, walk to the woods, put the gear away, ice injuries, and sleep.

Seeing people's reactions is always interesting, especially from kids who really get into it. Other good memories are playing at different music festivals, busking with Sunhouse on the trails. It was really neat seeing all the people that connected and came up and did improvisation on the spot. Also playing shows with Sunhouse is always really nice. The coldest spot was on a frozen lake Huron in the middle of winter, playing with no shoes on.

A photo of a drum kit outside in the snow with a Sensory Percussion sensor on the snare.
Travis' wintery Sensory Percussion setup!

What kinds of sounds do you assign to your drums when you busk? Preset kits or your own

Some preset samples, usually cut and pitch-shifted, mixed with original sounds and samples like voice, guitar, piano, birds, flute, or whatever else that comes to be.

Any interesting encounters/reactions from people while busking?

Sometimes people get into dancing with the drumming, which is always fun. Kids zoning in and learning and connecting on the spot, watching them see and hear drums for the first time is something really special, too. Just the curiosity and connection to the drumming and sounds from people as well. This homeless drummer would get on my street setup with Sunhouse and we would collab for awhile and get some really interesting stuff going.

Travis improvising on the street with Sensory Percussion.

Do you notice a different reaction busking with Sensory Percussion vs. with a regular acoustic kit?

Sometimes, when people ask how all the sound is being made and I tell them about the Sunhouse sensors, they can't believe it. Other than some people's curiosity and connection to the sounds, it's mainly just the overall environment being changed and shaped sonically with different sounds available. With Sensory Percussion, I'm changing the atmosphere more dynamically more often.

When I'm drumming with limited voices on just drums with no sensor for 5+ hours, I really get to a place where some super special drum stuff is happening. So I really like both, but love how Sunhouse can bring in so many new ways to play and sounds to keep creating with.

Have you ever run into trouble with authorities asking you for a permit, etc.?

Not really any trouble with police, although one time we got drumming banned in this long tunnel in Sacramento. There were different homeless people that started drumming with me and even started bucket drumming themselves in that tunnel and the cops said we couldn't drum there anymore. So ended up moving to the end of it and still getting some of the echo and acoustics that were really awesome down there. A bucket hit sounded like a cannon bass drum mic'd in a small arena!

Advice for people who want to busk with SP or even just play it outside?

Definitely bring something to provide shade for your laptop so it doesn't overheat or stress, bring a plastic bag for your laptop if it's raining, and don't forget to bring your portable speaker!

It's nice outside, get outside and drum! Have fun, spread the positive vibes!

Check out Travis' 'Street Music, Vol. 3' made with Sensory Percussion on Bandcamp:

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