Tag Archives: 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.