Posted: Monday, 12 February 2007 01:06
Well, what is this then? Well, as I've come to realize that there's a lot of drummers reading the blog and visiting the Nasum website I've decided to put a little bit of more focus on that subject. I started the "Drums" category in this blog to talk about my drumming and now I've started this new interview series where other drummers talk about their approach to drumming. It's drum-nerd-o-rama for sure, but I think it's a pretty interesting subject. When it comes to death metal and grindcore the band has to rely on a steady drummer. A drummer in these genrers can't cut any corners as opposed to drummers doing more straight on music. Why not put the drummers in the spotlight for a change?
I don't know how many parts of this series I will do, but I know that I will speak to four drummers (all Swedish) as a start and then we'll see what happens. First off is Tobias (Tobben) Gustafsson of death metal killers Vomitory, soon to release their new album "Terrorize Brutalize Sodomize". This is a great interview, I hope you'll enjoy it!
Vomitory will soon release a new album. In your studio diary over at the Global Domination forum you wrote that you managed to record all the drums in one day LESS than expected. What do you see was the reason for this rapid recording? Did you prepare yourself more than before regarding rehearsals or was just a matter of being in a good mood?
- I guess it was a combination of both. Obviously, I was in very good drumming shape when we began the recordings and we had rehearsed all the songs quite a lot before we entered the studio. There were never really any “critical” parts in any of the songs, so overall, everything went very smooth.
How much editing is involved in the drum recordings? (No editing is mentioned in the studio diary.) Do you aim to put down the song in its entirety or do you repair little mistakes and such stuff if most part of the take is great? What's your general opinion about editing?
- Man, this is a very sensitive subject for drummers… I always aim to put down every song in its entirety, of course, and sometimes I manage to do so and sometimes I don’t. When I don’t, I repair the little mistakes if the rest of the take is really good. Or if the first half of a take is killer and the other half isn’t as good, we punch-in the drums from there and I make a killer second half of that track.
- I’m not the one who, at any cost, has to put down every song flawlessly in one take. Fuck that. Have you ever seen or heard of a guitarist that puts down his guitar tracks without punch-ins, cutting, editing etc? Every guitarist does it, so why can’t drummers do it as well? Or vocalists, or bassists, or keyboard players etc…?
- When you’re in the studio doing an album, you’re there doing an album. It’s not live, ‘cause that is something totally different. Where does one draw the line when it comes to recording? If you look at it from a very strict perspective, the whole way of recording in a studio is cheating. No band on earth sounds like they do in the studio when they play live.
- My view on editing and computer recording has changed during the last, say, five years. When the computers made its entrance into the world of recording for real, I was really sceptical about everything about it, not to mention that one also was able to edit the drums, cut and paste as much as one liked! What the fuck was that all about!!?? But now I see everything as very helpful, time- and money-saving tools.
- You can’t deny that the technology constantly develops, so instead of being a stubborn bullhead, I am open to the possibilities of utilizing the advantages of what today’s recording technology has to offer. That’s what they’re designed for. But of course it has to be used with certain moderation. It should definitely not cover up the fact that one can’t play for shit!
Vomitory has been around for quite a long time now. How has your style developed over the last, let's say 10 years, and what do you feel that you still can work on for future development?
- I am definitely a more solid drummer now than I was ten years ago. I hit harder, more consistent and more distinct. I am also much more aware of what I am playing. Earlier I used to tend to play just a little above my ability limit but I think I’ve managed to play just under that limit instead nowadays. That limit, however, is a lot higher these days.
- My hand technique has improved a lot but I haven’t quite kept up with my feet though. My foot work has always been my main issue when it comes to death metal drumming. During certain periods I play better with my feet than I’ve ever done before, but maybe half a year later I totally suck.
- For example, during the period when we rehearsed the songs and recorded our previous album “Primal Massacre”, I played double bass really fucken good, but just a few months later when we got out on tour I wasn’t even close to what I could do with my feet when we recorded the album. But as far as I’m concerned, I’m not the only drummer with this problem. The drumming-shape comes and goes.
- The thing is that I suck at practicing. I don’t practice as much as I should or want to but I think it’s difficult to find the time. I also miss the kind of self-discipline one need to practice on a constant level. Right now I play really good (for being me) so it’s really fun to play drums now!
- What I need to work on for my future development is definitely my double bass technique – the consistency and endurance. I have no intention to become as hyper-fast as Derek Roddy, Inferno, Daray, Pete Sandoval and those guys (only “fast” will do it for me), but I want to be able to pull off my own stuff flawlessly every time without hesitation or getting the cramps.
- I’ve never been a tech-freak when it comes to fills etc, but it would be nice to develop that side of my drumming as well. I try to come up with new ideas that I can bring into my drumming but it’s difficult. But I guess that’s also why it’s fun!
Are you self-taught or did you go to the infamous Swedish "Musikskolan" or something similar? How much effort do you put on using good techniques, ergonomics and such?
- I am completely self-taught from the beginning. I got my first drum kit when I had just turned 13 and I almost instantly began playing with a friend of mine who was playing the guitar. I also practiced a lot by playing along to my favourite bands and that has taught me a lot of how to play and how to write music.
- I played for three years before I actually did go to “Musikskolan” to learn drum-notes. I learned a little, but I knew pretty much right away that sight-reading wasn’t for me. I was a metal drummer for fucks sake and I was going to be a rock star with my band! No need for drum-notes there. But that’s something I kind of regret today. It would be great to be able to play after notes. I played in a couple of marching bands during these years too and that was quite cool and interesting. That was so totally different from what I used to do but it was still drumming.
- Once I joined my first band, I almost never practiced by myself. I was mostly playing in several bands so I got my fair share of drumming anyway. I never thought of improving my technique or ergonomics especially much. That’s something that I’ve become more aware of during the last years. Especially since I started to feel pain in my left wrist, which was sometime around 1998-99. I also had some back problems a couple of years ago. I mounted a backrest on my drum throne and that improved my posture instantly and now I almost never have any problems with my back when I’m drumming. The backrest kind of “forces” you to sit more straight, which is a very good thing in every aspect of drumming.
- Unfortunately, I don’t spend as much time practicing as I wish I should. I’m a bit lazy and I’m not enough disciplined when it comes to that. But of course there are periods when I’m pretty good at practicing. The only bad thing is that they mostly don’t last so long…
What drummers would you say have had the most impact on you, either as a general source of inspiration or as a direct defining influence of your sound? What drummers are pushing death metal drumming forwards these days?
- Some of my favourite drummers are Nicko McBrain, Mikkey Dee, Ian Paice, Doc, Dave Lombardo, Nicke Andersson, Nicke Sigevall and Kai Hahto and these have influenced me my drumming a lot, in one way or another. I especially want to hold Doc very high, ‘cause when I discovered Vader, I was totally blown away by Doc’s drumming! I think one can hear quite clearly the impact he had on my drumming when you compare the Vomitory albums “Redemption” and “Revelation Nausea”. May he rest in peace…
- Kai Hahto’s drumming in Rotten Sound has also influenced me quite a lot. His innovative style is sweet ear-candy for any death metal –and grindcore drummer. It is because of him I started using splash cymbals in my setup!
- I am not into those hyper-fast drummers that much actually. Of course it’s impressive to see and hear those guys blast away double bass at 250 bpm, but I think that most of those drummers tend to sound very stiff and monotonous. That simply doesn’t do it for me. Give me Nicke Andersson instead! That guy plays death metal with a swing! And that’s something that most of those guys probably couldn’t do!
- I think we have reached the point where the speed has become more of a sport than a musical ingredient. If it goes too fast, it just sounds ridiculous. It’s not musical, you know, nor brutal. Death metal has taken the speed thing to its limit, more or less, so I think what the genre calls for now is more diversity and feel. I won’t be the one taking the lead there though! I just want to play D-takt all night long, haha!
- Some drummers that definitely have meant a lot to the development of modern death metal drumming are (of course) Derek Roddy, who not only is hyper-fast, but also talks a lot about other aspects of drumming, which I think is really cool ‘cause I think a lot of young drummers don’t think those things are important. They just stare themselves blind on achieving the same speed as Derek can play, so I think what he does is great. Flo Mounier is another name that automatically comes up in my head when thinking of this. I’m honestly not into Cryptopsy that much – not at all in fact – but I know for sure that Flo is a killer drummer.
What's your current set up and how did you end up with this particular set up?
- My current kit is a brand new Tama Starclassic Performer Birch/Bubinga in Dark Mocha Fade. I’ve just had it for two months now and I absolutely love it! It sounds and looks just awesome! I’ve played Tama for almost 20 years now. I don’t have an endorsement though, but I just think Tama is the shit!
- The specs are:
18”x22” kick drums (x2)
8”x10”, 9”x12”, 10”x13” rack toms
14”x16” floor tom
My main snare, though, is a Tama Starclassic Maple 5½”x14”. I also have a Pearl Free floating Brass 5”x14” which I use at live shows.
- My cymbals are (L to R, from “drivers seat”):
14" Paiste 2002 Sound Edge Hi-hat
10" Wuhan splash
14" Wuhan china
17" Zildjian A Custom Fast crash
10" Meinl Classics splash
18" Paiste 2002 Crash
18" Zildjian A Custom Crash
20" Paiste Signature Dry heavy Ride
20" Paiste Signature Thin China
- Hardware etc:
Tama Camco pedals
Tama Iron Cobra hi-hat stand
Tama cymbal arms and tom holders
Gibraltar snare stand
Tama drum throne
ddrum trig mikes for the kickdrums
Alesis D4 sound module
- Before I got my first decent kit in 1989 (which was a Tama Rockstar Pro), I always dreamed of a huge metal kit with double bass drums and four rack toms and shitloads of cymbals. And when I got that Tama Rockstar Pro with two kicks and four rack toms, I just felt that it was right. But after time I took away the 14” tom from that particular kit, partly because it always sounded dead and I never managed to tune it properly and partly because I thought that 14” was a little too big for a rack tom.
- Once I did that, I felt a lot more comfortable with only three toms in front of me. Less clumsy. That way I could also position the cymbals a lot better than I could with four toms. Since I’m a bit of an equipment nerd, I could easily have created a huge monster kit over the years with lots and lots of toms, double or triple floor toms, 50 splash cymbals, auxiliary snares, gongs, octabans, electronics etc, but for practical (and partly economical) reasons I have chosen not to.
- I am playing live on a somewhat regular basis and every time it’s a different drum kit, since I almost never bring my own kit due to financial and practical reasons. If I had that huge monster kit and had created my drum parts on that kit, it would be pretty fucken difficult to play everything on a quite “normal” metal drum kit setup, with two kicks, two or three rack toms, one floor tom and four cymbal stands, which is mostly what it looks like when we go on tour, play festivals or one-off shows. So that’s why my setup looks like it does. I have two splash cymbals and a small china beside the regular crashes, ride and china in my setup now, and sometimes I feel even that is too much!
What are your rituals before a show or a rehearsal? Do you do any warm up exercises and if so what do you do?
- I always warm up in one way or another before a show and at rehearsals. I have had some problems with my left wrist for a number of years now, and if I begin playing without warming up I feel pain in my wrist after only a few songs. Not to mention how the pain is after the show/rehearsal. I have to warm up before or else I cannot play properly throughout a whole show. It’s difficult already as it is!
- Well, what do I do then? Nothing fancy at all, I just take my sticks and I put a folded towel on my knee and just play single strokes at a slow tempo first and then increase the speed as I feel my limbs get warmer and more relaxed. With my feet, I just keep them going on the floor to get them warm and to loosen up. I don’t play any special rudiments or exercises, just anything that crosses my mind.
- I do this for at least 20-30 minutes before a show or rehearsal. It’s not much but it definitely makes a world of difference for me.
Ever since I was a little dude and started looking at song credits at albums I have been fascinated with the often quite big part in the song writing drummers have, whether it be lyrics or music. How large part of the song writing do you have in Vomitory?
- I am actually the main composer in Vomitory. I write like 95% of the music. I also play the guitar beside the drums so I guess it comes quite naturally for me. I wouldn’t call myself a guitarist, but I can play pretty decent and good enough to write and play my own songs and a few metal classics if the situation calls for it, haha.
- It’s a great advantage of being able to play both drums and guitar since I quite often come up with riffs when I’m playing the drums, just fooling around. That’s when it’s very handy to have my guitar next to the kit so I instantly can work the riff out on the guitar. I usually finish a song completely with arrangements and everything before I play it to the other guys. If they like it, it’s cool. If they don’t or if there is a special part that someone doesn’t like, we’ll work it out together. Then when it’s finished, Erik (Rundqvist – bass & vocals) starts working on the lyrics.
- On the new album though, our new guitar player, Peter Östlund, has contributed with three songs – one of them both music and lyrics - which is great since it takes a lot of pressure off my shoulders. I’ve also written my first Vomitory lyric ever for the new album, the title track “Terrorize Brutalize Sodomize”.
Although there are a lot of kids growing up inspired by these insane blasters in the metal world today and rarely need any advice how to do it, what would your best word of advice for a brand new drummer be?
- Don’t go for speed – go for power and consistency first. Listen to Mikkey Dee, Ed Warby, Nicke Andersson and Dave Lombardo and listen to how they do it before you listen to all the speedfreaks out there. If you don’t, it can seriously fuck up your drumming for life! And practice, practice, practice with patience, patience, patience.
Thanks for the killer answers, Tobben! Next time you'll read about a completely different drummer, but still a masterblaster...