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An Interview with Rick Allen of Def Leppard

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“Every five years or so, Joe [Elliott] would say, ‘We need to do a covers album!’” explains Def Leppard drummer, Rick Allen. “Finally we just recorded it and told everybody after the fact. We made this album to really give people an idea of where we came from musically and what inspired us growing up.” The album in question is Yeah, Def Leppard’s brilliant collection of ‘70s rock classics that includes such hidden gems as David Bowie’s “Drive in Saturday,” Badfinger’s “No Matter What” and “Street Life” by Roxy Music. “The idea was to choose songs that inspired us prior to being signed to a record deal,” Rick continues, “but we didn’t want to pick anything that was too obvious, such as Stones or Beatles songs. Interestingly enough, we all came up with similar song lists!”

Allen confesses that playing the drum parts on these songs gave him pause to consider certain aspects of drumming that have become something of a lost art. “These days, I think a lot of people work out songs using drum machines, and that’s sometimes reflected in the simplicity of the songs,” says the drummer. “Back then there was no such thing as a drum machine. Once you play a song live that’s when you figure out what the song really means and wants to be. It’s nice playing the new songs, but some of the old favorites – let’s face it – are the soundtracks to people’s lives. As soon as that [recognition] occurs, the songs really do take on their own personality, every night.” Catch Rick on tour with Def Leppard supporting Yeah through the end of 2006.

Metal Edge: As you become more comfortable with and adaptable to your physical situation (Note: Rick lost his left arm in a car accident twenty years ago), how does your set-up change?

Rick Allen: Over the years we’ve simplified things; with fewer moving parts fewer things can go wrong. Just the other day somebody asked the question, ‘How long did it take you to relearn?’ Basically, I think that the human spirit is the strongest thing I know. If you can tap into that, then what happens is that your brain rewires itself. I saw things change without me even really trying. I was able to do more things with my right hand than I’d ever done in the past, and what I can’t play cleanly with my right hand I’ll substitute for beats with my left foot. My left leg got more dexterous as time went on as well.

Metal Edge: Are you playing on all pads or are there acoustic drums in your set-up?

Rick Allen: Right now I’m using an acoustic kick and snare, and three pads. Everything that I used to play with my left arm I now play with my left foot using foot pedals on the floor. That set-up changes when I’m back at home, and in the studio I’ll probably be using more acoustic drums.

Metal Edge: When you guys play “Rocket” it really sounds like you’re doing a bass drum shuffle. How are you getting that sound?

Rick Allen: What I do for that is I use a four beat loop that I play on the up beat. A nice thing about the electronics is I can take elements from the record and actually use them in a way that fits in with how I want the song to sound live.

Metal Edge: When I saw Def Leppard recently, I especially loved the intro to “Rock On,” which starts with Rick Savage doing a bass solo and then you come in and the two of you just lock. What’s your dynamic with Sav like?

Rick Allen: I did an interview recently all about Sav’s and my relationship. I think that intuition really comes into play with that, where we anticipate what the other will do. At a certain point you don’t literally need to communicate that in a normal way. I know he’s going to do exactly what’s expected of him. It’s nice because I can relax and I rely on his timing sometimes, where if something is a little challenging he’ll be right there with me.

Metal Edge: Do you meet many disabled drummers who say they’ve been inspired by your story?

Rick Allen: Not just drummers but musicians in general. Yesterday, for instance, I was at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. One guy there was talking about how he’d loved playing guitar before he’d lost one of his limbs. I told him ways our guitar player Phil [Collen] had explained to me that people could play [guitar] without using both hands. It’s been interesting to share that, but it’s a two way street. I’m so inspired by people I meet, to the point where I realize it’s not about me giving somebody a wonderful experience and blah blah blah. It’s about my recovery and my development as well. I figure that I’m in a great position to make a difference if I can.”

Rick’s Gear:
Drums: DW acoustic drums
Sizes: 22″ Kick, 12″ Snare (with ddrum triggers)
Pads: (3) 8″electronic pads by Hart Dynamics
Hardware/Pedals/Electronics: DW hardware, custom pedals by Axis Percussion, (2) Akai Z8 Samplers, (2) Roland TD-20’s, (2) Grace Design headphone amplifiers, custom switcher by Whirlwind
Cymbals: Zildjian
Sticks: Ahead
Heads: Remo

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

Rick Allen Drums

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 Kevin Taylor of Crash Kelly

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Kevin Taylor had a steady gig playing drums with Canadian glam punk band, Robin Black when he started sitting in on drums for Crash Kelly; a group of dynamic, ‘70s-influenced rockers lead by his friend, guitarist Sean Kelly. “I played with Sean for about a year when Robin Black wasn’t on the road or recording,” the drummer explains. “Things got busy with Robin again, but I kept going to see Crash Kelly shows and I realized Sean had something really good going on.” Less than a year later, Kevin was back behind Crash Kelly’s drum kit fulltime.

As a drummer who’s passionate about 70s and 80s rock, Kevin feels Crash Kelly is the perfect band for him. “Robin Black’s music only needed very straightforward punk/pop drumming,” Kevin offers. “Joining Crash Kelly allowed me way more flexibility in my playing, because I wasn’t just laying down a straight 1-and-2-and-3-and-4 beat. There’s lots of room to do interesting things, which I really love.” Flaunting songs that pay homage to the finest aspects of the Alice Cooper Group’s vintage, gritty glam and Cheap Trick’s classic power pop, Crash Kelly have toured non-stop with kindred spirits like Backyard Babies, The Black Halos and The Illuminati in support of its critically acclaimed 2005 debut, Penny Pills. The band recently released its amazing sophomore CD, Electric Satisfaction, which was produced by former GNR axeman Gilby Clarke. Kevin talked drums with Metal Edge during much needed break from the road.

Metal Edge: In the studio, how did you approach your drum parts for Electric Satisfaction?

Kevin Taylor: Because of time and budget constraints, we couldn’t do any pre-production. What we did was choose the six songs we thought were the strongest and rehearse those to death. That way, those songs were very structured and everything was set when we went into the studio. Then we just banged them out with maybe a few minor changes. With the other six songs that we didn’t have a chance to work on, we learned their structure and, basically, when we got into the studio we just went with what felt good that day. I’d do two consecutive takes and end up with two completely different drumbeats. When I listened back to the tape, I realized it was a good idea to have done that because I came up with fresh, innovative ideas in the studio rather than having my parts already planned. From doing records in the past and listening to them two months later, I’ll often wish I had played something different than what made the record. This approach was great because it was a spur of the moment decision based on what felt right.

Metal Edge: How did Gilby Clarke influence you in the studio, if at all?

Kevin Taylor: We made some major drum part changes on two songs, thanks to Gilby: “Turn It Around” and “…Shock In My Rock & Roll.” The changes weren’t anything really complicated, but were just suggestions to make the songs more unique. In “Turn It Around” I originally had 8th notes on the hi-hat going through the verses. Gilby suggested I do the 8ths on the snare instead, which gives it that marching cadence you hear. I don’t have an ego and I’ve never been a producer. As soon as he said, “Let’s do this,” I was like, “you know better than I do.” He was in Guns ‘n’ Roses, so who am I to not trust his judgment (laughs)?

Metal Edge: When Crash Kelly toured with Alice Cooper, what did you think of Eric Singer’s playing?

Kevin Taylor: I knew Eric Singer from Badlands and the live Kiss DVD, but I had no idea that he was such good drummer until I saw him live with Alice Cooper. Every night that I watched him was just like a clinic; he’s solid but stylish and the tricks he has are so amazing. I always like a bit of showmanship in drumming, though never at the expense of playing. If you can pull it off live and do it well, then I say go for it. Eric was great.

Metal Edge: Crash Kelly has played with so many great new rock and roll bands that all share a kind of ‘70s rock or garage rock spirit. How does it feel to hear that kind of music enjoying a rebirth?

Kevin Taylor: The best thing is when I walk down the street and see a ten-year-old kid with long hair wearing a Led Zeppelin T-shirt. I just feel warm that kids get it. It goes to show you that a Led Zeppelin record is timeless, but in 30 years no one will even remember who Limp Bizkit was.

Kevin’s Gear:
Drums: Pearl BLX White four-piece
Sizes: 22” x 18” Kick, 12” x 10” Mounted Tom, 16” x 16” Floor Tom, 14” x 6.5” free floating Snare with metal shell.
Cymbals: Sabian
Heads: Remo ambassador coated heads on toms and snare, Remo pinstripe on kick.
Sticks: Rimshot 5A’s with wood tip

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

Kevin Taylor Crash Kelly

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 Brian Viglione of Dresden Dolls

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“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.

Brian’s Gear:
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
Cymbals: Zildjian
Heads: Kick: Aquarian Super Kick II; Snare and Toms: REMO
Sticks: Vic Firth American Sound 5A

Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/brianviglionemusic/

brian viglione dresden dolls
Image Source

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 John Tempesta of Helmet

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As one of the most popular and well-respected drummers in metal today, Helmet’s John Tempesta is a star on the rise. John started his career as the drum tech for Anthrax’s Charlie Benante, but he soon took the drum throne behind thrash metal legends, Exodus. John recorded three albums with Exodus before jumping ship to join Testament. But the gig that made him a household name was his tenure with Rob Zombie; first with White Zombie and, later, Zombie’s solo band. In 2004, John joined up with guitarist/ vocalist Page Hamilton to reform Helmet, one of the most highly influential metal groups of the ‘90s. Helmet’s comeback CD, Size Matters, was released in late 2004 and the group has been touring the globe ever since. A new Helmet CD is planned for release in spring 2006. Metal Edge was lucky to catch up with John between tour stops for some serious drum talk.

Metal Edge: The new Helmet music is very different from the high-speed thrash metal you played with Exodus or Testament or the programming- heavy Rob Zombie records. Did you apply any new techniques for this gig?

John Tempesta: Actually, I went back to one bass drum and a single pedal and simplified my whole kit. Recently, I’ve been very influenced by John Bonham. He just has the whole package: power, dynamic, sound and technique. I started listening to him a lot when the How The West Was Won CD and DVD came out. When I did the demos with Helmet, I brought out my John Bonham-sized kit with a 26” bass drum. I wanted to get away from all the electronics and click tracks and just be raw and organic.

Metal Edge: You’re a bit of a drum collector, aren’t you?

John Tempesta: I’m a bit of a drum freak (laughs). I’ve got drums all over my house. I have one of my (TAMA) Bubinga wood kits in the living room and right now I’m looking at my John Bonham amber Ludwigs that they’ve reissued. I also have a blue Vistalite kit that Mike Piazza gave to me – which is amazing – and a Sonor Vistalite kit, like the one Phil Rudd from AC/D used to play. Finally, I have half of Cozy Powell’s drum kit, which is like a shrine to me.

Metal Edge: What are your feelings on the prevalence of recording software?

John Tempesta: Protools does save time and speeds up the recording process, but I love the analog sound tape. I love to listen to old vinyl by Queen or Zeppelin. Tape is just much more organic and fat sounding, but the sound of Protools is definitely improving. I do think maybe some of the artistry of playing the part yourself might be lost though. I listen to stuff these days and it all sounds the same to me. It’s kind of sad in a way.

Metal Edge: What is a ‘normal’ practice schedule for you?

John: The studio where the band rehearses is two minutes from my house. I try to go there every day, maybe for an hour or two and just jam out. I’ll work on my chops or my time or whatever, but there’s nothing specific that I practice. It’s cool though because the guy who taught me to play double bass when I was in New York, Pat Nestor, lives in Vegas now. Pat was a student of (famous studio drummer and educator) Gary Chester I’ve been trying to get together with him out in Vegas every so often and also get back into my reading, which I never finished. The books he’s turned me onto include Haskell Harr’s Drum Method and New Breed by Gary Chester.

Metal Edge: Tell me about playing on Tony Iommi’s solo album.

John Tempesta: That was a big thrill of my life. When Zombie was on the Ozzfest tour in 1999, we would go on before Black Sabbath. I would watch Bill Ward every night and just think, “This is just too amazing.” When Tony was putting together this record he’d been working on for a while, he was gathering singers and different musicians and I guess he liked the way I played. He asked if I could do a couple tracks and I was like, “Are you kidding me? Hell yeah!” We had a few days off and we went to Massachusetts to record at this studio called Longview Farm. I wrote a song called “Skin” in the studio and recorded it right there. I’m really proud of that track and the production – they got this massive drum sound. But it was just a great thrill riding on Tony’s tour bus and hanging out with him.

John’s Gear:
Drums: TAMA StarClassic, African bubinga wood shells in piano black finish
Sizes: 24”Bass Drum, 10” & 13” Rack Toms; 16” & 18” Floor Toms, 7”x14” Snare
Hardware: TAMA hardware
Cymbals: Zildjian
Sticks: Zildjian John Tempesta model
Heads: Remo
Microphones and Monitors: Shure

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

(Note: John Currently plays with The Cult)

john tempesta drummer
John Tempesta Wall of Snares Photo Courtesy of John Tempesta Dot Com

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 Rob Zgaljic of The Black Halos

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One of rock’s most welcome reunions of 2005 was the triumphant return of Vancouver’s notorious, leather-clad quintet, The Black Halos. With two new members, guitarist Adam Becvare and bassist Denyss McKnight joining the core trio of vocalist Billy Hopeless, guitarist Jay Millette and drummer Rob Zgaljic, The Halos stayed true to their explosive amalgam of metal, punk, glam and vintage, guitar-fueled garage rock with the release of their third album, Alive Without Control. A series of worldwide tours kept the band on the road for most of the year, but Rob Zgaljic stepped away from his kit long enough to answer a few questions for Metal Edge.

Metal Edge: You’ve said that the way you learned to play drums was “more about feel instead of all theory.” Can you elaborate on that?

Rob Zgaljic: I can read music and I know my rudiments so I can play just about anything, but approaching drums based on musical theory is a little foreign to me, because I never really studied that way. Now I want to go back and take lessons because I feel like I’m at a point where I can’t really teach myself anymore. I’m a rock drummer and I want to be able to expand the way I play. I’d like to learn a jazz approach in order to incorporate other feels into my playing. Then again it’s like going back to school: the thought of it scares me. I see all of these guys who are such amazing drummers and I get a little intimidated by them.

Metal Edge: You spent a few years playing with the band Sparkmarker. Did you have to change your drumming approach to play with The Black Halos?

Rob Zgaljic: For The Black Halos I had to change my style and concentrate on accenting the song instead of throwing in lots of fills. Sparkmarker was a hardcore band so I was a much ‘busier’ drummer, since that music was more technical. For a while, it was hard for me to adjust because I find that playing a straight four/four beat is harder than it sounds. Going from playing all of this off time to playing straight ahead was an adjustment for me.

Metal Edge: What impresses you when you listen to other drummers?

Rob Zgaljic: I listen to lots of new death metal bands and the drumming on those records blows me away. It’s awesome, but I can’t understand how guys play like that (laughs). It sounds like a machine to me. But I love listening to drums – from metal to jazz. Even if I don’t care to play in that style, when I listen I get inspired to be the best player that I can be. When I see a band with a drummer who tends to overplay, it’s frustrating for me. I know that sometimes drummers feel they’re in the background and they want to be more in the spotlight, but I don’t think that drums should be like the lead guitar. Drums and bass are the backbone of the music and…you couldn’t have music without them. I love players who are solid and throw in the right fills. That brings a band together.

Metal Edge: The Black Halos are known for touring almost non-stop. How has touring so much made you a better player?

Rob Zgaljic: If you don’t become better from playing night after night, then there’s something wrong (laughs). I can play these songs now with my eyes closed and the way we feed off each other, it’s like clockwork. I don’t even have to have a monitor. I know exactly what everyone’s playing and exactly where I should be. You don’t need to have all that fancy gear; you should just know the songs. We play twenty nights in a row without a day off, so you just get to know the songs like the back of your hand.

Metal Edge: What’s your main strength as a drummer?

Rob Zgaljic: The most important thing for me is keeping it locked down and just being a rock behind the kit. I really concentrate on keeping that tightness. I get the most compliments from fans along the lines of how tight my playing is, and I pride myself on that because I can’t handle hearing other drummers being sloppy. It doesn’t work for me.

Rob’s Gear:
Drums: Ludwig
Sizes: 16”X24” Kick drum, 12”X14” Rack Tom, 16”X18” Floor Tom, 14”x4” Pearl Marching Snare
Hardware: Pearl Hardware, DW 5000 Drum Pedal
Cymbals: Zildjian
Sticks: Vic Firth American Classic Rock
Heads: Aquarian

Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/TheBlackHalos/

Rob Zgaljic Black Halos

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.