Sam McCool joined the Nation full-time in June as an information security analyst, promoted from his internship serving in the information technology department.

“My job mostly consists of securing the information technology infrastructure.” He simplified a complex definition into three words: digital data security.

He wrapped up his last semester at the Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology in December. McCool grew up around computers, as his father is a longtime networking and information technology specialist for Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.

“We’ve always had computer stuff and networking equipment lying around the house,” McCool said. “When I was younger, I would always like to mess around with it and try and set up networks and that kind of thing; configure computers.

“It’s the backbone of the world at large, you know, this is how we communicate across continents and that kind of thing. I was just really impressed — I was always fascinated by it.”

Even so, McCool admits that IT isn’t his favorite thing to do — it’s his second-favorite.

In his free time — when he finds it — he’s a musician in two Oklahoma rock acts, Dresden Bombers and Sunphaser.

“Right now, I spend a lot of time here working (at CPN headquarters), and then I go home and I do a whole bunch of homework related to IT. I spend a huge chunk of my time in that world,” he explained. “Music is definitely my escape from that. It’s how I how I take a break from all the IT stuff that I do.

“I think once I get out of school, IT will be less of a job for me and more of something I can actually enjoy because I won’t just be immersed in it all the time.”

‘Loud and fast’

One of McCool’s bands is Norman, Oklahoma, based psychedelic rock trio Sunphaser, which is somewhat of a family act.

“Sunphaser started as my little brother nagging me to play with him,” he said of his sibling Aidan. “He just really wanted to be in a band with me — which is super sweet — and he’s a phenomenal bass player, so I couldn’t say no, really.”

The brothers are also Citizen Potawatomi Nation tribal members and Slavin family descendants.

McCool plays drums and Suzannah Masura rounds out the band as its vocalist. They formed their Royal Blood and Queens of the Stone Age-inspired alternative rock act in 2016 and gig at local bars and clubs throughout the college town.

Sunphaser also performed at the 10th annual Norman Music Festival in 2017. McCool was part of the three-day lineup with Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen-inspired post-punk quartet Dresden Bombers, which he joined as its drummer in 2016. His bandmates are Mike Burnett on bass and vocals, Kim Means on keyboard and vocals and John Means on guitar and vocals.

“I started playing the drums when I was 12,” he said. “I haven’t stopped since.”

His parents enrolled him in piano lessons when he was in grade school, which he reluctantly participated in for several years before picking up the trumpet, then guitar, before trying drums.

His own musical influences span Led Zeppelin to Megadeth, Green Day to Rush, Blink 182 to Deep Purple, Queens of the Stone Age to Pearl Jam. The first song he learned on his new kit was Smash Mouth’s “I’m a Believer.”

He wasn’t even a big fan of post-punk bands like Bauhaus and Joy Division until he joined Dresden Bombers.

“I just want to play loud and fast,” he said, then laughed.

And he does — as often as possible.

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