Oct. 23 2006

Slayer / Fantomas

TAMA :First of all, how does it feel to be back playing with Slayer?

: It feels real good. It feels like there was no time lost, although there was 10 years. But actually there was no time lost in regards to performing and everything like that. It’s great… it’s great.

TAMA : How did your drumming change in the time you were away from the band?

: Well, I was involved with a lot of different bands that were more, not only avant-garde, but gave me the opportunity to move in different directions and experiment a lot. So when I came back into Slayer, I was full of all these ideas and stuff that totally changed my view and approach to Slayer’s music. I was able to approach it differently. Whereas before maybe I had a more basic understanding of music, now it’s a little bit more – I don’t know if advanced is the right word – but I just have a whole different view on how to perceive the music.

TAMA : Backing up to your roots, did you ever have any lessons or formal training?

: Very, very little. In fourth grade, I was in the marching band at school, and that was very brief. I went to private lessons maybe for a couple or few weeks at most. And I was really bored. I felt like I was learning more from listening to records and mimicking and playing along to records than having somebody sit there and make me do LRLRLLLR. I think at that age, maybe I knew a little bit more about drums than I thought. It didn’t have to do with reading notes and reading music, or learning paradiddles or whatever, but I was able to play a song from the beginning to end, and play along with a record. So if a kid came over that knew how to play guitar and knew a particular song, I’d be like, “hey I know that one too.” And I could play along from beginning to end with him. But going to music school didn’t really teach me that at that time, it was too basic.

TAMA : What did you work on to develop your blinding hand and foot speed?

: (pauses) Ummm. Every time this question is asked, I have this kinda loss for words. I don’t know how it developed. Maybe it was just… you keep pushing that envelope where you just can’t go any more, but then you work at it, and you just move it up a little bit more, and you get faster. And then it goes a little further, and a little further. You know, I was doing singles, practicing before I had to go to the venue. I was sitting in my room just practicing a little bit. And I was noticing that I’m getting faster… the more I do this, the faster I get. Then live, I was applying it, and the rolls were getting faster. But you can only get so fast, to a point where it doesn’t make sense anymore. Then it’s like, let’s color it up a little bit, let’s stagger the roll. So what I think happened was the mixture between punk rock and metal, which I attribute Slayer for that blend right there, because that’s what we were listening to at the time. You know, we would listen to Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, all these bands… but then Jeff would come over and bring all the punk music, from Dead Kennedy’s to Germs to Circle Jerks. And all this music was fast. So listening to that and playing that, and then growing up and growing with the music, I think that it just developed from there… it was a very natural development.

TAMA : Did you practice to a metronome a lot?

: No, I didn’t. I did not have a metronome until probably 1990 or 1991. None of the early records that I did with Slayer were done with a metronome. So, all the stuff that I recorded was no metronome and no computer. Now you get a click track, you get a computer. It’s so much easier now, to a point where it’s dangerous… to where I think musicians could cheat a lot. They can sound so great on the record, but then they play live and can’t deliver. So there’s going to be a lot of trials for up-and-coming drummers to see if they can deliver.

TAMA : Let’s talk about the new Slayer record, Christ Illusion, your first studio recording with the band since 1992’s Seasons of the Abyss. What are some of your favorite tracks on the record and why?

: Well, “Jihad,” because number one it’s modern… it’s like, wow, it’s happening right now. And also, it’s got this vocal groove, where the singer is singing one word after the other. And the beat… it’s one of those beats where I took out some of the bass drum hits. So it’s not just straight punk, it kinda goes with the riff. And of course it’s got that little intro with the hi-hats. And then the ending is really intense because I gave it that military feel, since it’s about the war and everything. So the ending has a military kind of thing, with the double bass going and toms singing over it.

Let’s see… “Supremist,” where I use the drum beat that was developed after Slayer made their mark, which is a blast beat. I think one of those grind-core bands of the early or mid 90’s developed that. And so I’m kinda proud I used it, because I’ve been in a sense ripped off so many times, my style kind of mimicked so much, that it didn’t hurt me to use that. “Eyes of the Insane” is good… a lot of tom parts, a lot of tom hits. Those probably are my favorites.

TAMA : TAMA: What was the process for recording your drum tracks?

: Well, I go in first, with Kerry, Jeff, and Tom, and we all play together. So we sit in the studio, and we lay down the basic tracks, which is my drum tracks. That’s the foundation of the song. And they just play scratch tracks. And then they get their guitar sounds, and they overdub and then layer on top of that. But you have to have a good foundation.

It’s weird because you’ll have something recorded but then you go on tour and play it live, and as time goes on, you’ll start finding new ideas and new rolls or new beats for this song that you already recorded. But it’s too late. Sometimes I wish you could go out and perform the songs live for a period, a year or whatever, and then come back and record them. Because then you have soaked them in and you know exactly what they’re supposed to be. So that’s one of the things that you to always remember, to try to find out what’s the most you can do with your songs before you record them, because once they’re recorded you can’t go back and change them.

TAMA : When that happens, and you find other ideas for songs that you’ve already recorded, do you then change them up live, or do you feel obligated to stick to the parts from the record?

: No, I change it up live. I can’t help it. I mean, the old songs that we do, you know like from the first 3 or 4 records, it’s almost like not the same song to me. If I would play it live the way I recorded it 15 years ago, it would get really frustrating for me… because I’m at a different level right now than I was then. And I play things differently now than I did then. Back then, I was just like so basic. So yeah, I change things up. I mean, some rolls, some of the classic rolls, have to be played because the kids expect it. You know, these intro rolls coming into these songs… I can’t change those. But the rolls within the songs that aren’t as important, those I color up and change and mess around with.

TAMA : Getting back to the record, did you use a click on this one?

: Some songs I used a click and some songs I didn’t, because they lose their feel. Slayer’s music has almost a – not a reckless feel – but it’s like on this edge of almost collapsing. And when you have the click, it just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t have that edge. So for some of the parts, we stop the click. Maybe in the beginning of the song we used the click up to x point, and then after that we shut off the click and just took off from there. Because it kinda restricts it… sometimes it becomes too machine-like and it doesn’t have that human element when it follows the click.

TAMA : You are also a part of the musical super-group Fantomas, featuring Mike Patton [Faith No More], Buzz Osbourne [Melvins], and Trevor Dunn [Mr. Bungle]. What does that gig require of you from a drumming standpoint?

: Wow, that’s so much… when I’m in Slayer, I’m like on cruise control. I don’t even have to think about the music, because I know it like the back of my hand. With Fantomas, I know the music, but it takes so much concentration. There’s so many little breaks… little, very subtle breaks… that require this full attention. I cannot be playing and start thinking about other things. I have to be there at all times. In Slayer, I’m behind my throne and I’m playing, but every now and then my mind will venture off because I know the songs so well, and the next thing you know I’ll come back and the song’s done. But in Fantomas… it’s just some of the most amazing music that I’ve ever had any part of. I love that music, it’s awesome. Patton’s a genius. He’s a genius, man.

TAMA : Can you tell us about the Fantomas Melvins Big Band?

: Yeah, two drummers, two guitar players, two bass players, and Patton on vocals and his keyboard, which has all kind of samples and stuff. What we do is we play some Melvins songs, beginning to end, and then some Fantomas songs, and then some of them we blend together. You know, run them together, and then we do these drum sections where me and Dale Crover will start a drum beat, and we’ll start jamming on this drum beat and then the guitars will come in. It’s very well-orchestrated… it’s really cool the way they did it. And I think that we should do more shows more often, cause it’s pretty cool. Especially just the idea of two drummers, two guitar players, and you know, two of everything, and Patton conducting almost. And some of the patterns Dale comes up with – the Melvins in general – they’re so complicated at first, but then after time you learn it and it all makes sense. Then it’s like wow, this is an amazing beat.

TAMA : Have you played along with another drummer before?

: No, this is the first time.

TAMA : Was that a big adjustment for you? How did it feel?

: Well, you have to realize that you are not there alone. You are not the single backbone. So there are times when, say for example in the Fantomas songs, I take the bull by the horns, and he follows me. But then on the Melvins songs, I’ll lay back a little bit and I let him. I’ll play along, but I won’t play as much. So I think it’s a give and take… you can’t be a hog. You have to work it out, you have to make it sound like it’s one drum.

TAMA : What other projects have you been involved with recently?

: I did a song with a band called Van Nuys, which is Jason Lee from the show “My Name is Earl,” and Giovanni Ribici, who’s an actor that plays guitar, and Jason, the bass player for Beck. And we did “99 Luftballoons” for the first season soundtrack [of My Name is Earl], which was really fun. That was so fun to do. We punked it up, you know just total punk, and sped it up, and it sounds great. I think that was one of the most fun things I’ve done recently. Let’s see, what else… I recently did a tour with the Fantomas Melvins Big Band. And ah… you know all this time, probably within the last 9 months, I’ve mainly been focusing on Slayer.

TAMA : How long have you been playing TAMA drums?

: Forever. Seriously, forever. Let me see… yeah, since I was 14, and I’m 41 now… so I guess 27 years.

TAMA : What drew you to the brand?

: There was a drumset/cymbal package being sold at Guitar Center, and I asked my dad please, and I had a little job at the time. I had an old drumset before that – I mean, not an old one, but it was Maxwin by Pearl, that was my 5-piece. But I was like, dad I need a bigger one, a real drumset. So I sold that one for $300 or $400, and I put that down on a TAMA Swingstar, probably a 1978 or 1979, with a Paiste cymbal package, and I loved it. And I loved Paiste from then on, and TAMA of course… I was like, man, these are great drums. And they were synonymous with me, because I recorded my first record with that drumset, which is on the back of Show No Mercy… you see that drumset.

TAMA : Can you walk us through your current Slayer kit?

: It’s a TAMA Starclassic Maple, with 18x24 kick drums, 6”, 8”, 10”, 12”, 14”, 15” rack toms, and 18” and 20” floor toms.

TAMA : What kind of snare are you using?

: A 5.5”x14” hammered bronze snare, which is my favorite.

TAMA : You keep your toms angled forward quite a bit… do you find it easier to play fast patterns this way, or is it more a result of accommodating large toms over 24” kick drums?

: It’s the way I play. You see, the toms… okay, I’ve noticed how some drummers lay their drums just flat, and they try to do a roll like that. I try to set up my drums so there is no resistance to flow… to my energy flow from one tom to another. So let’s say I’m doing a single stroke roll on the snare… every tom should be at reaching point of that roll. If you’re doing a really fast single stroke roll and alternating toms, they should be at an accessible point. There should be in no way anything that is obstructing your roll, it should be just a quick snap of the wrist from the snare to the tom. So that’s why the angle is there. It’s just a comfortable angle. If you angle it a different way, you’ll hit maybe the rim… or if you angle it too much toward you, you don’t get enough attack. You won’t get that snap.

And TAMA’s done a great job in the angling and the positioning of their toms. You know how you have that tom mount that slides on the bass drum? I have it pushed all the way toward the front [resonant side]. I don’t have it that close to me. To somebody else, my drums might seem very far away. But to me, the way I kinda lean and hover over them when I play, they’re not that far.

TAMA : Which kick drum pedals do you use?

: The HP900P’s, the Power Glides. Those things are amazing. Actually, I use the Chrome ones now.

TAMA : And how do you like them set up?

: I have my footboard raised and the angle of my beater is almost flat back. So you bring the beater all the way back, until it’s almost flat. And the tension… in the beginning of a tour, maybe I don’t need that much tension. But as my legs get stronger from doing this every night, I have to increase the tension. I use the chrome springs… the heavier ones. Also, I use that little counterweight… not up at the top, at the bottom. I don’t know if it does any good, but it feels better for me.

TAMA : Slayer was obviously an extremely influential band, a true pioneer of speed and thrash metal. What do you think of the state of metal music today and where do you see it headed?

: I can’t really speak for other bands, all I know is right now it seems like Slayer is on like a second movement. You know, there’s something about Slayer right now… everybody knows about Slayer, everybody knows who Slayer is, the shows are packed, there’s always tons of people everywhere in the world… it seems like the band is getting another wind. So for us, it’s going well.