“I grew up in a small, working class town in a somewhat stressful household,” says drummer Brian Viglione. “I had a lot of pent up aggression and anger, but I found the drums to be an excellent emotional release for a lot of stuff going on inside me. My hometown didn’t offer many opportunities and it can be really easy to succumb to that kind of suffocating feeling. Music was my vehicle out of that.” Playing since age ten, Brian currently drums for The Dresden Dolls; a theatrical rock duo whose signature blend of dark cabaret and punk has earned them a global buzz. The group’s self-titled, 2004 debut so impressed Nine Inch Nails’ front man Trent Reznor that he took the Dolls – which also includes vocalist/pianist and chief songwriter Amanda Palmer – on the road as NIN’s 2005 support act. The duo’s sophomore release, Yes, Virginia (Roadrunner) was released this past spring. Brian recently spoke to Metal Edge about his influences, how his playing has evolved and what opening for Nine Inch Nails was really like.
Metal Edge: Dresden Dolls has such an unorthodox approach to rock music, does that style come from a diverse mix of influences?
Brian Viglione: Yes. I grew up in the late 80s and was into music on a grand level from a very young age. My father played drums and was always playing me records by Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. My Mom introduced me to folk and classical music – like Mozart and Beethoven – and the kids in my circle listened to a lot of heavy metal. Older kids and babysitters introduced me to Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, which completely turned me on.
Metal Edge: Did your father teach you to play?
Brian Viglione: Well, he didn’t give me daily lessons, but he informed my musical development greater than any other person possibly could have. He gave me strong emotional support along with helping me buy the equipment, passing his drumkit down to me, and stuff like that. He told me to always keep learning from those around me. He’d also take me to concerts and play me tracks like “Toad” by Cream so I could hear Ginger Baker’s playing. He encouraged me to keep my mind open to learning and developing and told me, “Try to develop your voice and really speak through your instrument.”
Metal Edge: How has your playing changed since the first Dresden Dolls album?
Brian Viglione: On our first record, the drums are almost in the background compared to what the new record represents. I think I’ve learned to be a bit more discriminating and deliberate in my playing and know how to better exercise dynamics. Over the past few years, I’ve found that the most useful tool for me in moving forward in my playing is when I’ve listened back to live recordings. [It’s so helpful] to listen with a critical ear and go, ‘Ah! That’s actually how that sounds’ or ‘I’m playing way too much for this particular song. I should really take it back to make it more effective when I do something [flashy].’
Metal Edge: What was it like touring with Nine Inch Nails?
Brian Viglione: At first we were very intimidated by the audience, but once we got out there we found that the crowd was really open to what we were doing. We went out for blood, essentially, every night and played as crushing of a set as we could possibly execute. That felt great, considering we had a short, 35-minute set for a really impatient audience that was just there to see Nine Inch Nails. There was one guy at a show in California who repeatedly yelled out, “You suck!” while we were playing. During NINs’ set, Trent said, “To that guy who was yelling out ‘You suck’ to the Dresden Dolls, fuck off and stay home next time” (laughs). It was nice to know that we weren’t being thrown to the lions.
Metal Edge: What surprises you most about your success with Dresden Dolls?
Brian: I’m surprised at how normal daily life still feels. When I was younger I had visions of grandeur of what it would be like to be where I am now. But we’ve managed to sculpt a very comfortable flow in day-to-day existence, despite relentless touring or massive amounts of press that we have to do. Amanda and I have a strong friendship and foundation and we love being able to connect with such a devoted and loving fan base. Our attitude about our music is, ‘This is a free-for-all and everyone is invited,’ as opposed to it being meant for a specific clique. The response from our fans has been incredibly overwhelming and wonderful.
Drums: Yamaha Oak Custom (with die-cast hoops)
Sizes: 12 x 9” rack tom, 15” & 14” floor toms, 22” kick drum, 6 1/2 x 14” Black Beauty snare drum
Heads: Kick: Aquarian Super Kick II; Snare and Toms: REMO
Sticks: Vic Firth American Sound 5A
Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/brianviglionemusic/
This article was originally written for Metal Edge Magazine as part of a monthly column by Gail Worley (under the pen name Jayne Rollins). With the magazines’ dissolution, the article has been added to the content base of The Worley Gig for our readers’ enjoyment.