TAMA :Let's start from the beginning. When did you start playing drums? Did you take any lessons?
Dirk : Ever since my childhood days, I was into rhythms and tapping on whatever I could lay my fingers on. When that interest finally turned into some sort of an addiction, my parents bought me a second hand kit. I was around 16 at the time and started practicing daily on my own, as well as occasionally playing with friends. It wasn't until I finished high school in 1993 that I decided to become a full-time drummer. I moved from Paris to Nancy (in the North-East of France) and took an 18-month professional music course at the Music Academy International.
TAMA : Were you always interested in heavier music?
Dirk : In fact, I was mainly attracted to melody. The radio was always playing and I remember "Lola" by The Kinks as being one of my childhood favorites. At around age 11, I fell in love with hip-hop such as The Beastie Boys, Run-DMC and Public Enemy. Extreme metal followed a few years later. My interest for heavy music pretty much coincided with my "rebel years"... It all makes sense!
TAMA : What did you work on to develop your impressive speed and dexterity on the kit?
Dirk : Being fast was my initial mission as a drummer. I tried to play along to my favorite tracks by bands like Napalm Death, Slayer, Metallica, Suffocation, Terrorizer, etc. I didn't know anything about technique so I guess my playing just kind of fell into place. But after a while I became interested in more technical bands like Atheist and Death. That's when I realized I was stuck in my own routines and desperately needed some outside input; hence the music course.
TAMA : Which drummers influenced you the most growing up?
Dirk : In the very beginning, my two main influences were Slayer's Dave Lombardo and Napalm Death's Mick Harris. They really ignited the fire. A few years later, Sean Reinert (of Death and Cynic) had a huge impact on my way of perceiving metal drumming. He was one of the first to enrich death/thrash beats with distinct jazz/fusion elements. People like Gene Hoglan, Tomas Haake, Steve Flynn, Pete Sandoval, Morgan Agren, Tony Laureano and Chad Smith, to name but a few, also influenced me a lot.
TAMA : Who are some current drummers that you've been impressed by?
Dirk : Recently I've been listening a lot to Elvin Jones. His playing is so organic and intuitive. On the metal front, besides the classic drummers listed above, I'm a huge fan of Mario Duplantier (Gojira), Per Möller Jensen (The Haunted), Ed Warby (Gorefest, Hail Of Bullets), Kai Hahto (Wintersun) and Henry Ranta (ex-Soilwork). I'm pretty sure I forgot a zillion other greats. Oh and I'm also into electronic music a lot; acts like Squarepusher, Black Lung and Autechre construct very unique rhythms.
TAMA : Prior to Soilwork were you in any other bands?
Dirk : I formed my own band Scarve in 1993 and have been working with them until now. But it's getting more and more difficult to combine with the busy-as-hell Soilwork schedule. Besides Scarve, I've played with solo guitarist Manu Livertout since 1995, and I've been a permanent or replacement drummer for close to twenty different bands on various ends of the metal spectrum. Some of my most recent work includes the latest albums by (Nevermore vocalist) Warrel Dane, Sybreed and One-Way Mirror, as well as the Nuclear Blast Allstars album "Out Of The Dark".
TAMA : What made you choose Tama drums?
Dirk : The music school I attended was equipped with Tama drums. They sounded great, and I remember being impressed by the sturdiness and smart design of the hardware. When I started looking for an endorser, my first choice was obvious. One of my teachers, Alain Gozzo, happened to work for Tama and I owe him my integration in the team. Since then, the equipment hasn't stopped improving and I'm still very happy and proud to be a part of Tama alongside drummers such as my all-time hero Dave Lombardo!
TAMA : Can you walk us through your current kit setup? Are those the drums you used on the newest album?
Dirk : My kit is a Violet Shade Starclassic Maple with 22" kick drum, 12" and 13" tom-toms and 16" and 18" floor toms. I have a 14x4" Starclassic Premium Maple snare that I bring with me everywhere; it's perfect for combining speed and groove. My double pedal is an Iron Cobra Power Glide with plastic beaters, and all my hardware is Tama as well, including my own model of signature sticks based on the 216B in Japanese Oak. Since Soilwork travel all around the world a lot, I often have to use loaner kits. This being said, I did use a very similar kit for the recording of "Sworn To A Great Divide", except that some of the toms were birch instead of maple.
TAMA : Do you have a warm up you do prior to live shows? Can you break that down for us?
Dirk : I usually play all kinds of rudiments on a little practice pad. That includes flam rolls, single and double stroke rolls, paradiddles and the like. Just before going on stage, I warm up my hands, shoulders, arms, wrists and ankles. In the past I've had some issues with my right arm and shoulder, so it's important for me to do a proper warm-up routine, especially when I haven't played live for a while. Then again, I think a lot of it has to do with being comfortable on stage, and playing around 200 shows a year with Soilwork definitely makes it easier.
TAMA : Do you have any advice for other drummers?
Dirk : My most important advice would be to work your ass off if you really want to be a professional drummer. It takes a lot of sacrifices and hard work to do this job, which isn't always as glorious as it seems. Retrospectively, I'm very blessed and lucky to have had the chance to study drums and spend a lot of time immersed in different styles of music. I still benefit from that every single day. Keeping an open mind towards music would be my other advice, as there is so much to learn from different genres.
TAMA : What is up next for you & your band?
Dirk : Soilwork will be on the road worldwide supporting "Sworn To A Great Divide" well into 2009. As I'm writing this, we're rounding up a headlining tour in Australia and heading to Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia. We also have a DVD in the works. On a personal level, I'm working on different projects which I can't reveal much about yet... Let's just say there will be a lot of creative drumming going on!