Tag Archive | drummer interviews

An Interview with Travis Smith of Trivium

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When Florida’s premier Thrash/Metalcore band, Trivium, released The Crusade in 2006, drummer Travis Smith felt he’d “broken out of the box” – surpassing his previous recorded performances exponentially. With the release of the band’s fourth CD, Shogun, however, he thinks he may have “jumped the gun” with that claim. “That quote would apply 100 percent right now,” says the drummer. “This record really has the Travis Smith stamp on it. It shows my true identity behind the kit. I did some really cool stuff on Shogun that I’ve never done on any previous record; cool little tricks that you can’t plan. I was in the right headspace and the right environment, working with the right people. I felt good about going in there and laying down my drum tracks. Among our other records, this record totally stands out. Shogun will be the challenge for me to out-do myself for the next record.” Catch Travis and Trivium on tour now with Slipknot and Coheed & Cambria.

Metal Edge: The drums on Shogun sound great. Did you use any special studio micing?

Travis Smith: There were mics everywhere (laughs). I recorded drums in a 3,000 square foot room at The Sound Kitchen Studios in Nashville. Nick Raskulinecz, who produced the record, has interesting micing techniques. He had about seventy mics on the drums and ten room mics alone. We had two mics for every tom, top and bottom, three mics on the snare, and four mics in each kick drum. All the cymbals had their own mics. There were mics behind me and in the ceiling; you name the place and there was a mic. The drums are so full because he literally captured every sound.

Metal Edge: Do you have a favorite part of your kit?

Travis Smith: My favorite drum is always the snare drum. There’s something about the snare: I can tune them and they just make me smile. I guess it’s how loud they are; like a gun blast. When choosing snares I’m very picky about them and the way they’re tuned. I’m a drummer that tunes the snare differently in the studio than I do live. For Shogun, I tuned it a little lower than I usually do, so it’s got more body, which is what I was going for. So the main difference between my recording snares and my live snares is that I lose the body live and go for more ear-piercing attack. The snare drum [sound] on Shogun is way different than any snare drum that I’ve used on other recordings. I wanted it to have a punch and to rattle your speakers whenever I hit it!

Metal Edge: Did you record with the DW snare?

Travis Smith: For Shogun, I actually used a TAMA Bell Brass snare. Sometimes I try using different rims because often you can get different sounds just by swapping out the rim. I tried several different rims on the snare but I ended up using the factory rim that came with it, which is really fat and heavy duty. When it comes to my snare drum I’m a super heavy hitter. I hit the snare differently than I do any other drum and I have my own technique, which consists of [hitting] half rim and half head. It’s a technique that I’ve picked up over the years of playing so much and it’s what I think hitting the snare drum should sound like. I just detune the top head a little bit and wail the f*ck out of it (laughs).

Metal Edge: The Slipknot tour includes dates at huge places like Madison Square Garden. Have you yet played a venue of that size in the States?

Travis Smith: We haven’t done a tour like this in the States ever, and we are so looking forward to it. Growing up, you dream of playing [at MSG] and now we’re getting that opportunity to show people what Trivium is all about. That’s what we live for – to play live and be out there on that stage. We’ve played arenas with Slayer on the Unholy Alliance tour over in Europe, but now Slipknot is giving us that opportunity to really try to win over new fans here. We have a thirty-five minute set, which will be thirty-five minutes of complete chaos. We’re going out there to kill.

Travis’s Gear:
Drums: DW
Sizes: 8, 9, 10 and 12-inch Rack Toms, (2) 16×18-inch Floor Toms, 21-inch Gong Drum (used as additional Floor Tom), 7×14-inch Snare, 20×24-inch Kick
Cymbals: Sabian
Heads: Aquarian
Sticks: Ahead Travis Smith Signature Sticks

Official Website: https://www.trivium.org/

Travis Smith of Trivium

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.

An Interview with Jimmy DeGrasso of F5

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In a career spanning over twenty years, drummer Jimmy DeGrasso has toured and recorded with some of the biggest acts in classic hard rock and metal, including Ozzy, Megadeth, David Lee Roth and Alice Cooper. So when his former Megadeth rhythm section partner, David Ellefson needed a drummer to record the sophomore album by his band F5, DeGrasso was his only choice. While Jimmy lays down some brutal double bass on The Reckoning he resists being labeled a “metal drummer” and reveals that the direction of his career was somewhat of a lucky accident. “When I moved to LA twenty-five years ago I wanted to be a fusion jazz drummer,” Jimmy admits. “But when I got the gig doing sessions for Ozzy I thought, ‘Oh, cool! I’ll try that too!’ Suddenly I was pigeonholed as a rock drummer, then a metal drummer, a thrash drummer, and now I’m back to being a ‘classic rock’ guy. I always laugh because you know what? I’m a musician. I like to play different things and I just try to keep my options open.”

Metal Edge: Speaking about the evolution of your playing, one interviewer recently remarked that you’ve moved on to what he called “The Morgan Rose Style” of playing. What are your thoughts on that?

Jimmy DeGrasso: That’s cool, because Morgan is a great drummer and a nice guy. But the funny thing is, my work on The Reckoning is more reminiscent of the Suicidal Tendencies record I made in 1994. It was about me stepping back in time and taking the same approach I did then, because that’s what the music dictated. When I played with Megadeth there was really nothing reminiscent of Suicidal Tendencies, and when I play with Alice Cooper there’s nothing similar to either of those bands. And David Lee Roth, that’s a totally different approach. I just want to create the best track and the best song. If the song works, then my job is done.

Metal Edge: I like your tom patterns on “Love is Dead.” What exactly is going on between your toms and your double bass work?

Jimmy DeGrasso: Most of the fills on that particular song were what I call a press quad, which is almost like a triplet, because everything is a swing or a triplet pattern. Most of them are where your hands and your feet counter each other, where you play something with your hands and then match it with your feet and go back and forth – hands feet, hands feet, hands feet. So, it’s like a flam, and then a triplet on the left and right bass drum.

Metal Edge: You co-own and operate a drum shop, San Jose Pro Drums. Has selling many different manufacturers influenced the type of drums you want to play yourself?

Jimmy DeGrasso: Whether you get a DW, Pearl, Tama, Gretsch or whatever, most of the companies make a good quality product and drums do sound different. It’s like the difference between a Fender and a Gibson guitar. There are different tones and sonic qualities. It takes years to understand, but when you hear little nuances here and there, that’s what draws you to an instrument. I’ve been playing Pearl drums for years because they have the certain ring, tone and warmth that I like to hear in a drum. It’s a very balanced sound. I have a lot of different kits for different situations and I often record with a Pearl mahogany kit that I got ten years ago. Pearl is actually the only company that makes a mahogany shell. It’s not a real popular shell, but the people in the know have them because it’s such a good sounding drum.

Metal Edge: Your drums are very prominent in the mix on The Reckoning. Did you have any input on that?

Jimmy DeGrasso: Our producer Ryan Greene is also a drummer and that was all his doing. He mixed it how he thought it was appropriate, but with this type of music the drums are a prominent instrument. I’ve always been a bit put off when, considering the drums are your foundation, some producers tend to mix the drums way back and you can barely hear the toms. I don’t understand that. If you’re going to play it, you’d better be able hear it. I’ve done records where you hear the rough mixes at the end of the day and go, ‘wow this is killer!’ Then it gets mixed, remixed and mastered for radio where it’s all squashed together. The drums are very soft and compressed and you’re like, ‘Man, the rough mixes sound way better than the final mixes!’

Jimmy’s Gear:
Drums: Pearl
Sizes: (2) 18” x 22” Kick Drums, 10”, 12” and 13” Rack Toms, 14” and 16” Floor Toms, 14” x 5 ½” Jimmy DeGrasso Signature Brass Snare.
Cymbals: Sabian
Sticks: Promark Jimmy DeGrasso Model
Heads: Evans

Jimmy DeGrasso

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.

An Interview with Shawn Drover of Megadeth

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Shawn Drover had been drumming professionally for over ten years when was invited to sit behind the drum throne in Dave Mustaine’s 2004 resurrection of the mighty Megadeth, a band he’d been a fan of since 1985’s Killing is My Business. With his experience and knowledge of Megadeth’s catalog, Shawn was a perfect fit, and the drummer admits he added a very important tool to his drumming arsenal shortly after joining the band. “One thing that Dave taught me early on is to play for and stay true to the song,” he offers. “That’s the approach we took for the latest studio album, United Abominations.” Shawn says Mustaine’s advice really took hold in his three years of touring with Megadeth prior to recording United Abominations. “I could understand the tendency to want to really cut loose and think, ‘this is my first big Megadeth record and I’m going to show you people all of my chops,” he explains. “But I learned to sit back, listen and recognize what might be self indulgent and not really not suiting the song that well. I didn’t cut loose as much as I probably would have if we’d recorded the disc in 2004, when I joined, so it worked out really well to have that live experience before we cut our first studio album together. I learned so much in that time that it didn’t freak me out going into the studio. Like ‘Oh my god, I’m making a Megadeth record!’ I was completely calm about it.”

Metal Edge: What’s your favorite story from the recording sessions for United Abominations?

Shawn Drover: One of the coolest things was that we recorded all of my drum tracks in (Pink Floyd guitarist) David Gilmour’s old house in the middle of nowhere in England. It’s a fifteenth century mansion with a studio detached from it. When we got there I had my kit set up in the studio, but then Dave says, ‘I’ve got a little surprise for you. We’ve got another kit.’ It was one of John Bonham’s old Ludwig kits; the only kit that his estate allows to be rented for sessions. It was a 1975 standard four-piece Ludwig kit with a black and white pinstripe finish – one rack tom, one 20-inch floor tom that I used for the whole record, the snare and a monstrous 26-inch bass drum. I said, ‘I’m using this thing as much as possible!’ I incorporated Bonham’s kit into the kit that I had and played it on quite a few parts on the record; it was fantastic sounding. Thinking back now, that whole experience was extremely positive and fun, so I really enjoyed it.

Metal Edge: In your playing, the role of each hand is reversed in that you keep time with your left and use your right hand for the snare. Do you think this technique helps your drumming stand out as unique among your peers?

Shawn Drover: It’s definitely something I do that an extremely high percentage of drummers don’t, because most drummers play cross-handed. I learned the way I did because kits I learned on when I started playing were set up for right handed drummers, and I’m left handed. It does have some advantages, because there’s nothing keeping me from hitting the snare with full force. With the restriction of the right hand crossing over the left, your mobility is not as open as it is playing openhanded, like I do. It also has disadvantages but I’ve been doing it for so long that I just make it work for me. I figure if Simon Phillips can do it, I shouldn’t have a problem either!

Metal Edge: Your drums are set up on a replica of the Voelker Rack System previously used by Nick Menza. What do you like about that rack?

Shawn Drover: It was actually Dave’s idea, when he resurrected the band, to make an upgraded version of that. Of course, I was all about it! A fabricator in Tempe, Arizona put it together based off the old design and I think it’s fantastic! It’s hydraulic driven and it’s all cranked up. My tech loves it because it’s easy to break apart and assemble. It splits right in the middle and the drums stay on the riser for the entire tour. Every night when I walk onstage I know my drums are exactly the same because they’re all in position and held there. It’s visually very cool and very dependable. It was quite costly but it’s an investment: I’ve had it for almost four years now and it should last for fifteen to twenty, easy.

Shawn’s Gear:
Drums: Ddrum
Sizes: (2) 22” x 20” Bass Drums, 10”, 12”, 13” and 14” Rack Toms, 16” and 18” Floor Toms, 14” x 7” Snare
Cymbals: Sabian
Sticks: Vic Firth
Heads: Remo Black Suede

Official Website: http://www.megadeth.com

shawn drover megadeth
Image Courtesy of Shawn’s Facebook Page

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.

An Interview with Gil Sharone of Stolen Babies

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When drummer Chris Pennie left Dillinger Escape Plan to join Coheed and Cambria, both Dillinger and its fans were overjoyed with Pennie’s replacement, Gil Sharone of LA’s Stolen Babies. Says Gil, “I was thrilled to play on Dillinger’s Ire Works CD and to do the tour. We had this ridiculous chemistry that was both personal and musical. When we played together for the first time, the room lit up.” Towards the end of the touring cycle however, the drummer reveals that, “it got to the point where Dillinger was becoming my life, and my first commitment has always been to Stolen Babies, because that’s my band. Stolen Babies kept getting offers for things that I wanted us to do and I had to choose one or the other. I really couldn’t give Dillinger the level of commitment they needed, so I had to step down as their drummer. There’s definitely no bad blood, though” he continues. “My departure was just about timing and commitments. Working with Dillinger was an amazing experience and the door is definitely open to do something again in the future.”

Gil is currently working on an instructional DVD covering the history and fundamentals of Reggae drumming, a style that he admits, “turned me into the kind of player I am.” He’ll complete production on the DVD around Stolen Babies’ tour schedule. Gil and his twin brother, Rani (Stolen Babies’ bassist) are also gearing up to record and tour with Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan’s Puscifer project.

Metal Edge: Regarding how you adapt to different gigs, what’s the best way for a drummer to approach music that has a lot of meter and tempo changes?

Gil Sharone: With styles comparable to Dillinger – very fast and intense – it’s important to not get overwhelmed with where you want to take it. It’s music, it’s not an Olympic event. I’m not trying to play this extreme music with Dillinger to see how many BPM I can squeeze out of a blast beat. I approach things in a musical way. If I’m writing from the ground up and something happens to be a weird meter, it’s because that’s how I want to express it. Some people like to count and others write things down. I say there are no rules. Whatever you need to do to learn something, that’s what you’re going to do. If you try different avenues, you’ll see what kind of groove suits you the best. Luckily, I have a good ear and a good memory, so I hear things and they start to soak in. Then it’s just like – boom, I’m programmed!

Metal Edge: How did your set up change between Dillinger and Stolen Babies?

Gil Sharone: For Dillinger I kept the traditional set up that Chris used: a four-piece kit with just one rack tom, which is rare for me. I keep a very traditional ’50 or ‘60s type of set up, but I’ve always had at least two rack and two floor toms. I’d do fills and I’d miss the really big bottom end when I got to the end of a fill, so I added a second floor tom. With Stolen Babies I’ll play a five-piece kit because it’s simple to take with me, but ideally I’ll add a gong bass drum and another floor tom. It’s dependent on how much room there is on the stage and if I have a tech or not (laughs). I just decide musically what I need, rather than what I can do to be like Neil Peart. I think of what I need musically to get through all of the songs, and what makes sense to bring with me.

Metal Edge: How is a Gong Bass different from a traditional Bass Drum?

Gil Sharone: A gong drum is usually the size of a bass drum – say, 20 or 22-inches – but instead of having both a front and batter head with hoops on both sides, it’s just got one head. It’s open on the bottom and unlike a traditional kick it’s usually not very deep. You can strike it with your hand instead of a foot pedal, or hit it with the stick. It has a very powerful low end like a floor tom but it also sounds very tight and fast like a bass drum.

Gil’s Gear:
Drums: Orange County
Sizes: 8×10” and 9×12” Rack Toms, 14×16” Floor Tom, 20×22” Kick Drum, 7×13” Snare, 13×20” custom Gong Bass Drum
Heads: Remo
Cymbals: Zildjian
Sticks: Promark

Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stolenbabiesofficial/
Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GilSharone/

gil sharone drummer

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.

An Interview with Blake Richardson of Between the Buried and Me

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Since the 2007 release of its fourth album, Colors, North Carolina’s Between the Buried and Me (BTBAM) have toured relentlessly, blowing metal fans away with its exciting and challenging contribution to the Progressive Metalcore genre. As part of a highly adventurous quintet that mixes epic elements of Pink Floyd and King Crimson with the thunder of modern heavyweights like Tool and Mastodon, drummer Blake Richardson is determined to bring the groove back to extreme metal drumming.

As Richardson explains, “Will (Goodyear), the band’s first drummer, was very groove oriented. Mark (Castillo, who replaced Will) was a powerhouse who played a lot of blast beats and double bass. When I joined I wanted to tone it down a bit. There are some blasts on Colors, but I tried to compliment the riffs. If that required just straight grooving on the track, then that’s what I did. I didn’t say, ‘Okay, this needs to be as fast – and have as much double bass – as possible.’ Blasting wasn’t really a big issue for me on Colors.”

“I’ve been into death metal as far back as I can remember,” the drummer continues. “So I’ll do the occasional blast, but grooving is where it’s at for me right now. It’s kind of a shame to see players relying so much on speed and blast beats, because many kids just learning drums will get their first kit, and all they do is practice double bass and blasting. When they’re asked to play a Latin beat or groove, they have no idea what you’re talking about.” Between the Buried and Me releases its first Live Concert DVD, also entitled Colors, in late summer 2008.

Metal Edge: Who are your primary drumming influences and how do aspects of those players’ styles show up in your own playing?

Blake Richardson: The first clinic I ever went to was Terry Bozzio and that totally changed my whole outlook. As soon as I saw him play I knew that this was what I wanted to do. Dennis Chambers is also up there. I really like how he keeps it controlled, but when he wants to he can definitely release the energy. That’s what I try to do, because our music is very controlled but you also want to let the lion out of the cage whenever possible (laughs). Matt Cameron of Soundgarden is one of those players whose influence crept up on me. He’s all about the toms and it’s almost like he tries to avoid using his cymbals as much as possible. Matt’s playing inspires my tribal feels.

Metal Edge: Speaking of Tribal drum feels, the tom parts that you play at the end of “Informal Gluttony” are just insane. How did those develop?

Blake Richardson: Tommy (Rogers, vocalist) and me are big suckers for percussion. We were like, man, we’ve got to add some sort of tribal part on the record, because it’s a very percussive record to begin with. Creating that part at the end of “Informal Gluttony” just fit when we were together writing all of the songs. That song also leads into “Sun of Nothing” and when we needed a way to bridge the two songs together, it just came to us; we had the idea of doing a percussion part and it matched up tempo-wise and everything. It really worked out great.

Metal Edge: I’ve read some BTBAM fan forums where drummers discussed having issues with your snare sounding too muffled or not resonant enough. How do you address those kinds of concerns?

Blake Richardson: In the studio we just have to go for what sounds best be with the music. When we tuned the snares in the studio this time we went a little higher and with a bit more of a dry sound. Therefore it probably doesn’t have as much ring. I keep the drumhead tight and the snare wires pretty loose, just so they’re as responsive as possible. It’s definitely a bit more of a processed sound but I dig it.

Metal Edge: Are you using any electronics or triggers?

Blake Richardson: I used triggers for Ozzfest, because it was an outdoor gig and triggering was almost necessary, because it cuts through way better than regularly mic’d kicks. But since then I haven’t used them. We all have an in-ear [monitor] system and I just use this little cowbell sound sample that I have triggered in time with the record. That’s my click and whenever I’m not playing, but I still need to keep time, I’ll just hit that pad. Other than that, our sh*t’s all raw (laughs)!

Blake’s Gear:
Drums: Tama Superstar
Sizes: (2) 20-inch Bass drums, 10”, 12” and 13” Rack Toms and 16” Floor Tom, 14”x6” Snare.
Cymbals: Sabian
Sticks: Vater
Heads: Evans

Official Website: https://www.betweentheburiedandme.com/
Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BlakeRichardsonOFFICIAL/

blake richardson drummer

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.

An Interview with Vinny Appice of Heaven and Hell

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Not many families can boast having two sons that are both rock music legends, but that’s the case with the Appice family. First inspired by seeing his older brother Carmine drum with classic ‘60s group The Vanilla Fudge, Vinny Appice picked up a pair of drum sticks himself at age eleven. Vinny recorded his first album with guitarist Rick Derringer while still a teenager, and he hasn’t slowed down since. Thirty years into his impressive career, Vinny is currently best known for providing the metal thunder with Ronnie James Dio, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi in Black Sabbath and its offshoot, Heaven & Hell. Currently touring with Heaven & Hell on a must-see line up featuring Judas Priest, Motorhead and Testament, Vinny and the group will be entering the studio in early fall to record the first full-length album of original material by Heaven & in sixteen years.

Metal Edge: When you’re playing the classic Black Sabbath songs on tour, how do you approach playing Bill Ward’s drum parts?

Vinny Appice: The main parts are there, but I like to embellish them somewhat. I just hear things differently, and as I play these songs, parts develop on their own as to what I’m comfortable with and what I hear. Tony and Geezer have been playing those songs for so long with Bill – especially the old songs – that if I’m playing anything that’s a little too far to the left or right then they’ll mention it. I can tell by their faces and then they’ll just say (in British accent), ‘It doesn’t feel right.’ Then I know that I need to bring it back to more of the original stuff.

Metal Edge: Why do you prefer a single bass set up over a double kick?

Vinny Appice: Both Carmine and I started with a single bass. Then he moved over to double bass, so I thought I’d see if it was for me. It didn’t blow me away, so I just kept the single bass. I never used a double pedal either, so I’m known as “Mr. Single Bass.” The good thing is that with a double bass your foot can’t get lazy, so I’ve got a lot of power with one foot and it’s fairly fast from playing with one just bass drum.

Metal Edge: Have your needs or preferences changed much over the years as far as going up or down in the size of your kit?

Vinny Appice: What has changed is the fact that I used to use single-head toms – concert toms – when I started with Dio and Black Sabbath back in the ‘80s. A lot of the Dio stuff uses more concert toms. Now, by comparison I’m using all double heads, and I’ve gotten used to the roundness of the sound from those. The toms were also bigger: I used to use 12,13, 14, 16 and 18-inch instead of starting with a 10-inch, so I’ve scaled down a bit to smaller drums. That’s due in part to the vertical grain wood that DW came out with, because that grain lets you get a lot of bottom end out of a smaller drum. I also like to play quick – a lot of fast things – and smaller drums, especially toms, allow you to play faster than on larger sized drums.

Metal Edge: Have you experienced the need to incorporate more electronics into your kit?

Vinny Appice: No. I never used electronics live and I’ve never triggered anything. Drums have a nice, natural sound and if you know how to tune and play them you should be able to get a good sound. Why do you have to trigger them? Certain sound guys might force players to use triggers, but I never did it. I do have an electronic Roland V drum kit set up in my home studio they work really well here without making a racket. I ca go in and edit these things and tweak every little thing to make them sound as real as possible. They’re pretty good until you play a couple of fast things. Then you can hear that it’s just a little too even.

Vinny’s Gear:
Drums: DW
Sizes: 10, 12 and 13-inch Rack Toms, (2) 16-inch and (1) 18-inch Floor Toms, (2) 14-inch and (2) 15-inch vertically mounted Toms, 5X14-Inch Snare, 24X16-Inch Kick
Cymbals: Sabian, Metal Factory Percussion Crosses
Sticks: Vic Firth
Heads: Aquarian

Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AppiceBrothers/

Vinny Appice

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.

An Interview with Martin Axenrot of Opeth

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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/

martin axenrot of opeth

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.

An Interview with Paul Bostaph of Testament

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This month, drummer Paul Bostaph – the guy who “took a lot of shit from Slayer fans for committing the cardinal sin of replacing Dave Lombardo” – talks to Metal Edge about his return to the drum throne of Bay Area thrash stalwarts, Testament on their latest critically acclaimed CD, Formation of Damnation. Enjoy!

Metal Edge: Since forming, Testament has had maybe ten different drummers, including you. How do you think the ongoing change in drummers has affected the band’s sound?

Paul Bostaph: Testament is definitely a band that’s been able to work well with many different drummers. Louie Clemente (1987 – 1992), who I respect immensely, is a really good drummer, and he was the best drummer for the band at that time. The argument has been raised that if they’d had a different drummer, maybe they could have been bigger. However, I actually don’t think so, because Louie’s simple style allowed all of the other musicians to shine. The guitar players could play better riffs because they had a simple drum beat behind them. Everything else could be busy because the drums weren’t. When Louie left, I toured with Testament and they were like, ‘Wow, with this kind of a drummer we can do this.’ They invited different people in over the years for the flexibility it gives the band.

Metal Edge: You’ve said that you primarily left Slayer because you wanted to become a more eclectic drummer. What does eclectic mean to you in terms of developing your drumming?

Paul Bostaph: I love lots of different styles of music, and I’ve tried to find that teacher who can open up my brain to learn stuff that’s really challenging for me. I’m not saying that metal is easy, but for me to become a more eclectic drummer I would love to, say, be able to sit in authentically with a jazz fusion band. I’ve tried playing other styles and, by stretching out, I’ve realized where my limitations are as a player in those styles. Coming back to metal now, especially on Formation of Damnation, I’ve drawn on the successes and failures of all of those experiences. It’s easy to stay within something that you’re really good at, but it’s really hard to take a chance, jump without a safety net and [know that] whether or not it works, you’re doing it for the experience. If you do that, sometimes the benefit is that you see more of who you are.

Metal Edge: Years ago you toured extensively with Testament and recorded the live EP, Return to the Apocalyptic City (1993). After spending time in Slayer, Exodus and all of your other projects, how does Formation of Damnation show your growth as a drummer in relationship to Testament’s music?

Paul Bostaph: Let me backtrack a bit. Originally I came from Forbidden, which was my own band. When I first toured with Testament I was actually in Slayer, but hadn’t recorded the first record yet. I knew Testament’s music because I had toured with them, so I knew their old style and lot of their old songs. So, in doing that first tour with Testament and then going to Slayer, I learned a lot about extreme metal drumming and it took my playing to another level. Coming out of Slayer I did a project called Truth About Seafood, which showed my experimental side. Then I came back to Slayer again and did Diabolus in Musica (1998). When I left Slayer after recording God Hates Us All in 2001, I recorded Pleasure to Burn with the rock band Systematic.

Testament took two and a half months to do pre-production with this new record. I had ten days to record, so we took our time and did it right. But I drew on my experience with the Systematic record, where Josh Freese replaced me on half the tracks. Likewise, I incorporated the improvisational skills from Truth About Seafood and the extreme drumming from Slayer. Also, in my touring experience with Exodus, we had many death metal bands open for us, so I was inspired by their amazing drummers: guys like Horg from Immortal. He was playing with a band called Hypocrisy at the time and –oh my god! – this guy is just a machine; he’s amazing! So, getting a chance to see all of these death metal drummers play on tour, doing the rock thing with Systematic, and taking into account that I’d played all of the old Testament stuff live before, as well as having seen them in the clubs when we grew up together – I knew exactly what Testament was. Chuck [Billy, vocalist] wanted me to come in and do what I did on the Exodus record Shovel Headed Kill Machine, which was just to be myself without overplaying. All of my previous gigs, along with learning how to be a team player, culminated in my performance on this record.

Paul’s Gear:
Drums: Pacific Drums, LX Model with Maple Shells
Sizes: 10”, 12”, 14” Rack Toms, 16” and 18” Floor Toms, (2) 22”x18” Kick Drums, 14”x5” Edge Snare Drum by DW
Cymbals: Paiste
Sticks: Vater Wooden Sticks, Power Wrist Builder Aluminum Sticks
Heads: Remo

Official Website: http://www.testamentlegions.com/
Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PaulBostaphDrumsOfficial/

paul bostaph drummer

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.

An Interview with Jade Simonetto from Hate Eternal

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When Hate Eternal frontman Erik Rutan decided to take the band’s new line-up from a trio to a quartet, he enlisted death metal veterans Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse) on bass and guitarist Shaune Kelley (Ripping Corpse) as well as a sick young drummer from Montreal, Jade Simonetto (of metalcore sensations, Camilla Rhodes) whose furious skin bashing provides a scorching backdrop for Fury & Flames, Hate Eternal’s fourth studio album. Rutan comments that Jade’s “dedication to extreme drumming and groove has made him the perfect drummer for Hate Eternal.” Jade adds that he’s an ideal fit for the band, since former Hate Eternal drummer Derek Roddy has been his main influence for most of his drumming career. “I’m a big fan of Hate Eternal since Conquering The Throne,” Jade admits, “and I’ve listened to everything Derek’s put out. I’m a big fan of Morbid Angel as well and I’ve followed Erik’s career since he separated from that band. So, it all spawned from me being a huge fan who’s also into fast metal and fast drumming. When I found out that Hate Eternal needed a drummer, I pounced at the opportunity.” Jade says he plans on having a long future with Hate Eternal, “touring and making albums for as long as I can.”

Metal Edge: Do you feel that being a good drummer in an extreme metal band mostly means you are very good at playing fast? Likewise do you think some drummers are recognized as masters of their instrument when they are only capable of playing a few different beats?

Jade Simonetto: To me, being a good drummer is [playing] what works for the song and the band. Guys like George Kollias (Nile) is an incredible drummer who has a lot of groove, but he’s really more of a precision guy. I don’t know if you would consider Rage Against the Machine to be a metal band, and it’s not very complex drumming, but it just works so well with the band’s music that it’s great drumming. I don’t really want to criticize drummers on their technical ability because it’s more about their musicality and what they have to bring to the song. Whether you’re playing an AC/DC beat or 250 BPM double bass, whatever works for the song is what counts.

Metal Edge: Some people say that the drums in extreme metal have become distracting: that fans focus too much on the speed and stamina of the drummer and barely pay attention to the song as a whole. Do you agree?

Jade Simonetto: A lot of guys who aren’t experienced in extreme metal will ask me, ‘what’s up with the crazy drums?’ Looking back to the ‘80s, extravagant guitar solos and guitar playing were the norm for metal. But nowadays it seems like drummers have become the solo artists for metal. It’s all about the drumming. Having everybody concentrating on how good the drummer is puts a lot of pressure on drummers, especially me. Just coming in to Hate Eternal and replacing Derek, you know there are a lot of guys out there watching for any mistake I might make. I try not to pay attention to that, but of course it adds an extra level of stress. Going back to the philosophy of playing for the song, if a drummer is not a clinician or a solo artist, you shouldn’t really be focusing on how technical he is. Just look at how what he’s playing serves the song.

Metal Edge: How are your drum tracks recorded? Is there much editing or Protooling involved?

Jade Simonetto: Actually, it was the total opposite. I spent a month and a half recording in Florida, because Erik has the old school approach of nailing everything in one take. When I’ve recorded with my other band, Camilla Rhodes, we have a very different approach, where we work on the song section by section. That method is a lot easier on my stamina and recording that way does make it a lot tighter in terms of speed, but it can lack groove or soul. With Erik wanting to make sure I nail the song from A to Z in one take it will sometimes take me an entire day to get one song. There was one song where I did seventy takes and he picked the best one out of all of them!

Jade’s Gear:
Drums: Pearl
Sizes: 12” and 14” Rack Toms, 16” and 18” Floor Toms, (2) 22” Kicks, (1) 14” Snare and (1) 13” Snare
Cymbals: Sabian
Sticks: Vater
Heads: Evans

Jade’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jadewilliamsimonetto/

Official Band Website: https://www.facebook.com/Hate.Eternal/

Jade Simonetto Hate Eternal

 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.

An Interview with Gene Hoglan

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Since Strapping Young Lad disbanded in 2007, Gene Hoglan hasn’t exactly sat on his drum throne waiting for the phone to ring. In the past year, the drummer of such revered thrash/death metal bands as Dark Angel and Death – who’s also sat in for the drummers in Slayer and Opeth – has continued to add impressive projects to his resume. Before the holidays, Hoglan played a handful of European dates with Swedish metal trio Meldrum and laid down two albums worth of drum tracks for the group. He’s also got his first instructional DVD, The Atomic Clock due for imminent release, which he managed to complete between recording with one of his new bands, Mechanism, and playing drums on the new album by comedic punk band, Mr. Plow. But perhaps the project Gene’s most proud of having been a part of is recording an album and touring with Dethklok, the fictional death metal band of the popular Adult Swim cartoon, Metalocalypse. The small-scale tour was a huge success, signaling that another tour may be on deck for this year. “The live show was pretty entertaining,” says Gene. “I would definitely suggest that all metal heads come and check it out. We play some pretty decent metal and rip the hell out of it!”

Metal Edge: As a drummer who uses triggers, do you think fans often assume that means you are not actually playing the parts?

Gene Hoglan: Yes. A lot of people rag on drummers who use triggers because they don’t understand what triggers actually do. Granted, you can set the sensitivity of your triggers to [the point] where you breathe on them and they make tones. But they also tend to double trigger when you do that. I back my triggers way off the sensitivity. I’m at about fifty percent now, because I want to kick the sh*t out of the drums to make them [perform]. Drummers who play live with triggers aren’t doing themselves any favors if they’re not tight. The kicks will be all over the place and people will be able to tell. If you have modern technology at your disposal you might as well use it; just don’t rely on it completely. I like a human feel, when not every single thing is so precise. But I appreciate a performance if a drummer is actually playing it.

Metal Edge: You are constantly in demand as a touring and session drummer. Why do people want to hire Gene Hoglan over some other drummer?

Gene Hoglan: It might be due to my background of not sticking to just one style. I’ve always tried to bring an identifiable sound to each band. On the Testament album I did, for instance, they weren’t looking for Death-type drums and Strapping needs to be way more precise, machine like, chaotic and crazy. Across the board with all those bands…I try to serve the song, really, and to bring an identifiable sound. Here’s a great example of that. I wish that I had seen more episodes of Dethklok when I recorded the album, because I really wanted to give Pickles his own drum personae. I think a lot of it came out a little too Gene Hoglan-esque.

Metal Edge: Tell me about the challenge of playing drum parts that Devin (Townsend, SYL) programs that initially sound as if they are “unplayable” by a human drummer.

Gene Hoglan: Devin always tries to program things that he thinks I can’t play. He’s always like, ‘Ah, you’ve foiled me again!’ (laughs). It’s fun to challenge yourself and go the extra step. You could do your version of it, which would probably not be as challenging and something you could pull off easier. But I say screw it; throw caution to the wind and play the super technical part that was programmed and try to do it just like the drum machine. Maybe you didn’t create it, but you played it, so you end up getting the credit anyway (laughs)! If you give me that kind of a part to go off on then, hell yeah, I’ll play it! If you’ve taken the brainwork to program something really nutty and psychotic sounding, then that must be your vision. It’s up to me to see your vision through.

Metal Edge: Many respected metal drummers often cite you as an influence. Do you consider yourself to be a pioneer on double bass or in the thrash/death metal genre?

Gene Hoglan: I just play drums. I’ve always tried to be as good as I could be, but I’ve never really set out to [be a pioneer]. It’s just been a matter of thinking that, ‘This drum part works here.’ If my playing is something that stands the test of time and people enjoy it, what can I tell you? I am so influenced by the guys that were my pioneers that you can step back a generation before me to find out where I take my influences from. So, do I consider myself to be a pioneer? Not really. If people think so, it’s very nice of them, but I just play drums.

Gene’s Gear:
Drums: Pearl SRX Series
Sizes: (2) 24” Kicks, 13” and 15” Rack Toms, 18” Floor Tom, 14” x 8” Brass Free-floating Snare.
Cymbals: Sabian
Sticks: Promark
Heads: Evans
Electronics: Alesis D5 Brain, Roland Triggers

Official Website: https://www.hoglanindustries.com/

Gene Hoglan Drumkit

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.