by Zach Fraley
Longevity is one of the hardest feats to achieve in the music industry. Staying relevant is a difficult task when so many artists all dream of selling out shows for years to come. Yet somehow, David Uosikkinen has used three and a half decades of his life to successfully do just that.
Originally the drummer of The Hooters, a local band that went international with its success, Uosikkinen has returned to Philadelphia to celebrate the long and storied history of the largest city in Pennsylvania. With the help of music contacts he has exchanged over his 35-year tenure with The Hooters, Uosikkinen formed In The Pocket, a new venture that focuses on covering the songs he feels make up a fitting legacy for Philadelphia.
“The Hooters had a long history- 35 years of getting to know great musicians in this city,” he says. “All the venues and people that make it happen gave me a nice network to reach out to. I love Philly, and I thought paying tribute to the amazing musicians in this city was a cool thing. My relationship with other bands, studios, and musicians let me reach out to them and let me form [In The Pocket].”
As many artists decide to do, Uosikkinen moved to California in the late ’80s to pursue his passion. During his frequent trips back to Philadelphia, he began noticing subtle changes to the place he still called home. “It was probably the year after the Phillies won the World Series. There was a major change in the vibe of the city. It felt like a stepchild of New York City. There were restaurants with tables outside, and it wasn’t that way when I left in 1989. It struck me when I came back that the city had such an upbeat vibe that I wanted to honor it.”
In The Pocket most recently covered Tommy Conwell’s “Walkin’ On The Water,” an upbeat, easy to follow song about the highs and lows of being a musician. Uosikkinen’s decision to cover the tune stems both from adoration and jumping at the chance to pay homage to one of his favorite Philadelphia musicians. “Tommy’s been involved with In The Pocket from the beginning. I admire him so much. I’ve never seen anyone give so much to his audience. If you look back at his history, Rolling Stone gave him the ‘kiss of death’ by calling him the next Bruce Springsteen, and it was really unfair. They put this incredible pressure on him. He is my favorite rocker in this city, and it took me a long time to get back to Philly.”
Already on their 13th cover as a group, In The Pocket continues to gain traction since forming after Uosikkinen’s return to Philly. Having to start almost from scratch was a daunting task for him, but that has changed rapidly over time. “I got fearful today because we’re going to open up for The Doobie Brothers and Steve Miller soon. At our first gig, we played for maybe 100 people in a little bar. But now we’re going to open up for two huge acts, so managing that is a real challenge. Another challenge is that we’re playing for 40 minutes for that show. On September 19th, however, we’re playing for almost three hours, so everyone will get on stage. For me, to even be asked to do that show is an honor.”
When he isn’t recording songs for In The Pocket or performing live, Uosikkinen enjoys imparting his decades of experiences onto a new generation of drummers. His teaching style focuses on having his students learn not only from himself, but from those he absorbed knowledge from as well. “I teach out of a Buddy Rick book and teach what [dummer] Joe Cusatis taught me. I had some great teachers when I was young, and I learned a lot growing up in Philly. Joe had a drum shop, and I would take a lesson with him every Saturday. He had a technique and helped me develop my hands. My method mostly concentrates on reading. I don’t do it as much as I’d like because of my schedule, but I really enjoy it.”
On top of an already booked schedule, Uosikkinen has gathered an abundance of knowledge about technology, website development, and computers. Because he began digesting these topics when the technology first got going, Uosikkinen has built websites that allow him access to fans and customers around the world. “I was really lucky. When I lived in San Diego, I was into what they were into at Silicon Valley in 1997. I happened to do a recording session for someone at MP3.com, and they didn’t have any music people. I didn’t know anything about technology, but they asked me to come on board to help with the music side. As I developed relationships with guys in that field, I learned more about that technology. Dave U Drums allows me to make tracks for people across the world. I was also involved with marketing and promotion, and even worked for a company that dealt with Linux. It was more about being at the right place at the right time. I loved it because I like learning and I like to read, so at that time it was awesome.”
In The Pocket will be gracing the stage at the Ardmore Music Hall this Saturday. That date has special meaning to Uosikkinen, who will take special care in ensuring the show is a rousing success. “My father’s birthday is that day, and he loved music. He took me to see Buddy Rich, and was someone who was inspired by music. It also lets me honor Tommy Conwell. Playing Ardmore, my old stomping grounds, is always fun. People should come out to have a good time and honor Tommy.”
With an incredible wealth of knowledge about the music industry and music in general, Uosikkinen has sound advice for anyone looking to make their mark on the world with their creations. “People care. Show up on time. Work hard. But so much of it is how you network with people. You could be the greatest musician in the world, but if you don’t get along with people, then you’re not going to land a lot of gigs. You need to be able to have a conversation and transfer ideas without giving them the fear of making them feel stupid. It’s really important to stay open minded, and that’s a key philosophy for me.”