Martin Axenrot knew he had big shoes to fill when he was called on to sit in for Opeth’s long time drummer Martin Lopez, who had become ill and was unable to tour with the group. After completing five tours with the titans of Swedish metal, Axenrot became a full member of Opeth in the spring of 2006. Being a fan of many styles of music, Martin never had any difficulty adapting his playing style to authentically replicate Opeth’s music live, but he did feel challenged when it came time to enter the studio to record the band’s latest masterpiece, Watershed. But judging by his fantastic performance – a brilliant mix of blast beats and precise double bass offset by impressive prog rock chops – captured on what everyone from the band’s rabid fans to Opeth founder, singer/guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt is calling the group’s best effort, Axenrot had no need to worry.
While Axenrot appreciates the creative freedom that Opeth gives him to play in a more wide-open style, he’s also able to pursue his other, more extreme metal projects when the band is not on the road. “When we’re touring the only thing I have time for is Opeth,” the drummer admits, “but when I’m home I might I have time to record an album with Witchery or Bloodbath. I recorded a new Bloodbath album just before this tour, actually. That will be released maybe at the end of the summer.” Martin spoke with Metal Edge about his gear preferences on Opeth’s current Progressive Nation tour with Dream Theater.
Metal Edge: Let’s talk about your gear. What kind of kit are you playing for this gig?
Martin Axenrot: I’m playing the DW Collector’s series kit in a pearl white finish. I have two 24-inch kick drums, three rack toms that are 8, 10 and 12-inches, and 16 and 18-inch floor toms. I usually prefer using a wooden snare, but on this tour with Dream Theater we play larger venues, so I have two different snares – a brass 6-inch snare drum and a wooden 6 ½-inch snare – that I switch between for different venues, depending how it sounds on stage. Sometimes the sound can disappear in the stage sound when it’s a very large venue. That’s why I usually play the brass snare for those situations, because that drum cuts through more.
Metal Edge: For many of your peers in the metal genre, the double kick is where their sound takes off. Is there any one part of your kit that you consider to be the center of your sound?
Martin Axenrot: I think I like the snare best on my drumkit, or maybe the ride cymbal. Having double bass drums is like [the standard set up in this genre]. It can make the music more interesting at certain times, but if you use it too much it can get quite boring. The same goes for the blast beats; I think if you play fast all the time everyone gets the point, but if you go from a slower rhythm and then add the blast beats it’s a shock, as you say. It’s more effective to just use it sparingly.
Metal Edge: Do you by chance use the Buttkicker sonic throne shaker?
Martin Axenrot: I don’t right now but I’m going to look into getting one of those, because I started with in-ears (monitors) on this tour. It’s my first time playing with them and as I get more used to playing with in-ears I think that having something that helps you feel the beat more would be great.
Metal Edge: What kind of pedals are you using and how do you set them to get the best action on your kicks?
Martin Axenrot: I’m using DW pedals as well and they’re not very tight, actually. I used to have them tighter but I loosened them up a bit so it’s not as tight as most guys playing extreme metal would have them.
Metal Edge: What’s your practice routine like?
Martin Axenrot: At home I have a practice kit in my apartment that I use a lot. But on tour I don’t really have a practice routine rather than to warm up at the sound check. On this tour though I have started lifting weights. It helps with stamina because the last time we toured we were out for two years straight and my back hurt from that as well as my shoulders. On this tour I’m doing weights and getting massaged and that helps. You have to stay in shape because drumming is so physically demanding.
Martin Also Plays:
Sabian Cymbals, Promark Sticks and Evans Heads
Official Website: http://www.opeth.com/
Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Martin-Axenrot-182808071815563/
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.