One of the great things about being on a production team, (other than being in a tight nit group of fantastic people working together and making crazy shit happen behind the scenes), is working with artists.
This was the Saturday night lineup at Lincoln Theatre for Hopscotch Music Festival. I knew it was going to be an amazing show, not only from the bill of bands, but also the setting. Perfectly gloomy overcast skies all day with light patches of mist scattered here and there every few hours or so. I had recently hit up Chelsea Wolfe’s drummer Dylan on Instagram the day before, asking him if he would be willing to talk about his set up at the Saturday show, and he kindly agreed.
The load in that day was fairly easy. Around 4 pm we were to bring some back line gear for Godflesh. Two Ampeg 8×10 bass cabs and two Marshal 4x12s. I forget what heads we provided. Godflesh, (only consisting of two guitarists and a drum machine and being the headliner) merely needed to line check before they went on, so most of our work wouldn’t come until the other bands started to arrive around 5 pm.
Once the bands showed up and got their gear inside, Chelsea Wolfe set up for their soundcheck while Woven Hand and Black Clouds prepared their gear to be put on stage after they finished up. I heard from their sound guy Chris that the Chelsea Wolfe crew had been smoking out of a ginger root.(I approached him earlier at soundcheck about whether or not the band smokes herb, as to not embarrass myself when I met all of them later). It being the last show on the last day of Hopscotch, and since it seemed I wasn’t needed elsewhere until load out after the show was over, I was considering marking the occasion with a modest smoke session. I will admit I was a bit nervous being in the company of some of my favorite musicians, and in the context of the interview I thought smoking some grass would help break the ice a little bit.
So there I was, sitting behind the loading area out back after soundcheck, checking my messages for any more load ins/outs or little fires that needed to be put out anywhere at the festival. In the clear. Dylan gets back from eating and we decide to go out to the Chelsea Wolfe van and get settled in to talk about some drums and catch a buzz for the show.
Click here to stream the interview–>>Drum Chat with Dylan Fujioka <<–
– I will admit its not the most formal interview, and sure…I had more questions, but I didn’t want to take up too much of his time or impose in any way.
I would like to thank Dylan for talking with me, as well as Chelsea Wolfe, Woven Hand, Black Clouds, and Godflesh for playing the festival and generally being cool people. Good hangs.
Dylan Fujioka plays Spaun drums, Istanbul Cymbals, Evans drum heads, Pro-mark 5b sticks, and Low Boy kick drum beaters.
For real time updates, follow me on Facebook and Instagram! >>@drumityourself<<
Kevin McClain of American Aquarium
Read below and check out all the links!
You can also listen to the interview in its entirety here.
I’m Here with my good buddy Kevin in the drum lab…or whatever I end up calling it haha.
So, you just got back from…?
We were in Valdosta and Savannah GA , Birmingham Alabama and Chattanooga TN.
The guys in American Aquarium are always busy, how often would you say youre on the road these days?
At the end of this year Bands in Town the app gave us an acknowledgment that we did 208 shows last year. Which made us number one out of all the bands using that app. We’ve toured more back in the day which is ridiculous to think about…but we are on the road very often.
As we are getting older we would like to be home more, especially as we get significant others and what not. It is definitely a privilege and a pleasure, we certainly aren’t complaining…but it will be nice to slow down eventually.
Im sure it gets tiresome, especially having to load in and out all the time. Speaking of which, do you have a drum tech?
Oh hell no, haha. I’m so anal about that stuff I’d rather do it all myself anyway.
(Kevin and I used to work together at a music store that I wont name but)…..Kevin you were actually the first person ever to show me the shuffle. When I came into the drum department I was all about playing hard and fast and all that. I liked other styles of drumming but they all seemed very unattainable, and you busted out the 6 stroke roll ( I mistakenly said 7 in the recording ) which opened the flood gates for me, but then you busted out the purdie shuffle(which i have touched on in my Crucial Drumming Concepts article) or your variation of it that I like to call the McClain shuffle.
Here is some footage of us drumming together from back in the day!
Haha, mines not nearly as good as the purdie shuffle.
No, its great! I’ve been meaning to ask you, what was your first experience with the shuffle?
Thats a great question, I remember when I was first starting to take drumming very seriously I was looking on drummerworld.com and I forget where exactly I saw it on the site, it might have been Bernard Purdie, but it was very infectious. It might have been foolin in the rain or whatever too, but just having the avenue through drummerworld was how I learned it.
So, lets talk about the new album WOLVES. First of all, how has the tour been with that so far?
Actually, for lack of being more creative, its been remarkable. To see the growth that we had prior to the release of it, like leading up to the end of last year and the beginnning of this one and then the beginning of february when we released the album, that month before we saw fairly significant growth in the few markets we did get to play and since then even in a smaller tertiary market like Valdosta or Chattanooga. They’ve all grown and people have been very receptive. Even before the album was released people would come to shows knowing the words so its been very humbling and pretty fucking awesome.
Even before wolves you guys have always packed out, pretty much every show I’ve seen you at its been packed to the brim. You have VERY loyal fans and thats hard to come by these days.
I think its because we are always out in the crowd shaking hands and kissing babies and thats the way to do it if youre going to build your business on your lonesome as a band.
So whats your practice routine, do you have one?
I do not practice at all now actually, in the van was the first time in a while I pulled out my drum pad and started messing with stuff…which is bad. I do need to start practicing again. I have a storage unit, we just havent had enough consistent time off to mess with it and we just got done releasing the new album…so now is the time to do that stuff and get better for the next album, I just havent had time to do that stuff.
That being said, one thing ive always focused on: You’re always praciticing even while youre playing. I try to focus on some facet of drumming while I’m playing to get better at so I’m not just completely useless. Have I learned anything cool like if we set up drum sets? I would just show you the same old shit that I did years ago…I got nothing.You’re probably light years ahead of me. You were light years ahead of me back in the day.
Haha! Oh no, no not at all. I was just trying to play at lightspeed back in those days.
Which is cool because I cant do it, haha.
I mean I cant really do it either you know, thats not my thing. When we were still working together I was in a desert rock band called Estocada. It was a weird but fun time especially for drumming. I was still into metal but wanted to do something different which is why your style caught my eye as a youngster. I was feeling it out and you came along and showed me all of this stuff and I was just like damn now I have to approach this completely differently ( as opposed to just hitting hard and fast ) and ive actually taken that approach and now that im not doing that kind of stuff anymore, I’m in two metal bands and even though they are on different sides of the metal spectrum I still find myself incorporating shuffles and different feels that if it not for you I probably wouldn’t have messed with in the first place.
Well im glad I showed you the few things that I did know and that they are still paying off. Thats what I love about doing that, just getting together with other drummers and talking shop. You know, you learn a lot from doing it.
Yes, its a great past time for sure. Thats why I started doing this to try and bring some sort of platform together to where we could all still talk and exchange ideas even though we arent necessarily in the same room or we can’t meet up and play together but we can still share our stories and explain different things that we are doing and pass the word on.
Hell yea, thats fucking awesome. I’m glad you have taken this on its very very cool, I love this stuff. Just keep doing it and it will go as far as you want it to really.
So, You got new drums is that right?
Yes it is.
You were playing Tama Superstars was it?
Yes, I remember you having a very similar gold sparkle finish that Coady Willis from Big Business/Melvins had on his kit. I saw them at kings a while back and talked to him about it. I noticed he was using a different snare and when I asked him he said he always uses Gretsch snares. (Gretsch is what I play when im not behind the beautiful Grohg Mapex kit, so naturally I was excited to hear this)
What snare are you using, is it still the hand hammered Mapex Black Panther?
Yep, I still use it to this day. I love it
That thing is awesome. Now that I’ve been playing Will Goodyear’s kit I thought about getting one. I used to have my eyes on this Gretsch hand hammered brass 14×8. Didn’t you try one out back in the old drum shop days?
Yea that thing was just too deep with whatever tone it was spitting out for me, but it was a sweet snare for sure.
So you went from Tama Starclassics to Ludwigs, what kind of Ludwigs do you have?
They are kind of a throw back Keystone badge. Its 5 plys I think 3 are maple and the other two are american red oak something like that.
So its very warm
Yes, I wanted a pure maple kit but I’m still very glad I got this one for the price I did. I have on multiple occasions actually hugged my drumset, because I fucking love them.
Haha nice! What sizes are you working with now?
I kinda went with a more rock size set up even though we arent a full on rock band and im not a full on rock drummer.
9×13 rack 16×16 floor and 24×14 kick
oh yes 24’s are where its at
I was used to the standard 22×18 kick drums and loved the punchyness but now that im playing two 24×18’s I cant go back. Those things push a lot of air and I love the tone you can get from them. I play with naked kick drums (no dampening inside) and man 24’s are the way to go.
I agree I really am loving it thus far. I actually hated my old kick I just couldnt get the sound that I wanted out of it.
Do you still have your old kit?
Oh yea its in my practice space that I never use haha.
Oh ok gotcha, haha. So what kind of sticks are you using? Are you still “sticking” to with Vater los angeles 5A’s
yes, I just love those
They should re-name them the McClains!
Oh whatever, whats the name of that guy who drums for everyone?
Yea thats him, his signature sticks are just a slightly bigger version of the LA 5A’s and they are bad ass. We talked about this a while back but I just never got them because signature sticks are hard to come by.
Thats true, a lot of the newer guys that are getting endorsed are coming out with their own sticks, but then those bands don’t really stick around that long sometimes and then, neither do the sticks. I’ve had that experience with the Chris Pennie Fight Mannequins sticks. Love em, they feel great…but I can’t get them anywhere.
However, with a guy like Josh Freese I feel like those signature sticks are going to be around for a while.
Yea he isn’t going anywhere
I like that we are both Vater guys.
What do you use for pedals do you still have DW stuff?
Yea I have a 5000 hi hat and 9000 foot pedal but the hi hat is shitting the bed…some how I just break hi hat stands. Not from playing just from lugging them around or whatever haha.
Ludwig has actually come out with some awesome new pedals, have you tried those? I’ve been going to 2112 a lot lately, because I hate going to the places where we used to work, and they have a ton of Ludwig Items there. Pedals, thrones, badges, all sorts of stuff.(Ludwig is made in North Carolina, and 2112 is our local “mom and pop drum shop” ) Its always good to support the local economy. Anyway, LUDWIG PEDALS….they are coming back! We have all (maybe) had some experience with the famous Speed King pedal, or at least dealt with the phantom squeak that has even come through on some Zeppelin recordings. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) the speed king is now very low tech compared to current kick pedals on the market.
Thanks for the heads up I’m going to have to check that out. I’ll be looking for a new hi hat stand.
Back to American Aquarium…
I heard that before WOLVES was recorded you guys were on the verge of breaking up?
Yes, it was more right before burn flicker die was recorded we almost legit broke up. Since tensions were still high and we decided to stay together, we figured lets do this new album and if it doesn’t do well lets just call it. Just because we were touring so hard and personalities and everyone sucks when youre in a van together going through hard times ya know?
As soon as we recorded it though we thought, well we aren’t going anywhere (as in not breaking up). It was a great time recording with Jason Isbell in Sheffield Alabama at the Nut House run by Jimmy Nut. Ever since then things have just always steadily grown for us.
I’m glad you guys didn’t throw in the towel
Me too, it would have been a waste of all the years that sucked really bad haha.
I feel like this album has had a much bigger reception.
Yea, we crowd funded Burn Flicker Die and we did that as well with WOLVES. It was a nice motivating factor both times. We had this fan base that we tended to forget about sometimes that really believed in us.
You guys have the most fun crowd, they are very rowdy haha.
Haha, thats one way of putting it.
You’re singing now too, I remember seeing you doing back up vocals.
Yes. Finally one of our other guys stepped up and is starting to sing, but it popped up because we needed someone to sing and I could always sort of sing like I would do it in my car and what not. I still do it and I try to do it for as many songs as I can. Its a neat challenge when youre usuing all 4 limbs and the lyrics come in on different rythms.
Yea thats tough. I try to stay away from it, haha.
Do you have any current favorite drummers? Whats been inspiring you lately?
Thats an excellent question. I remember an influence for the record and I drew the simplest influence from it just because the drumer is too fucking good. Theres this drummer in a band called White Denim who is nasty. He is phenomenal, but beyond that maybe just friends still.
Drummers that I’ve met that are just super cool like Chad Campbell, Gabe Pierson from Turnpike Troubadours, a guy named Travis from another band we are friends with called Dirty River Boys. And if I was a better friend certainly you of course, I love watching you play. But as far as being hung up on one drummer in particular, no.
What would you say is your biggest drumming influence?
Definitely my family, they have always been very supportive. That and a ton of drummers. Getting on drummerworld.com changed my life. I discovered it in college and I didnt have a lot of drum friends at the time so it was great for me.
Any advice for an up and coming drummer?
Well, I feel like if you are really invested in music you have to really want to do whatever it takes….and that doesnt mean bugging the shit out of people. It means working hard and sleeping on couches and floors if you have to. Be yourself and try to connect with people genuinely like you and I, and if you really believe in it never give up on the dream of playing. Be humble, keep practicing, and have a great work ethic. Thats a lot of what it takes, and some luck.
Thanks for meeting with me Kevin, its been really nice to see you and I appreciate you giving drumityourself some of your valuable time! Its been a pleasure, I would love to have you again sometime!
Thank you for having me, I’d love to come back any time.
Thank you to the readers out there! Please check out American Aquariums new album WOLVES and don’t forget to like the face book page and spread the word!
You can listen to the recorded interview here.
Scott Bartley from Unsacred was nice enough to answer a few questions about his life behind the kit and with his crushingly evil and extremely awesome band. You canvcheck out their new release False Light on forcefield records, as well as the Vice write up, here > noisey.vice.com/blog/unsacred-album-stream
First things first Scott, How long have you been playing drums?
I’ve been playing for about six years now.
What got you started?
I wanted to play since I was 5 years old and I used to go play my cousin’s drumset.
Did you play metal at first, what would you say your drumming roots would be?
My drumming roots were playing drums in church. I then moved into punk music and found my love for metal. I do my best to incorporate jazz/fusion grooves into my playing in Unsacred.
Hell yea! its all about incorporating things that you wouldn’t think fit together very well.
thats how you get some awesome fills and parts that stand out.
Church drumming definitely helped me with staying in pocket and playing for the song instead of for myself
Man, a LOT of drummers out there have no idea about what you just said. That is some hard truth. On the flipside though, there are a lot of church drummers who don’t stay in the pocket. What do you think about linear drumming, like the crazy gospel fills and stuff?
Ohhh I’m into it hahaha
Gotta ask…What was your first kit?
My first kit was a Pearl Forum
So, whats your set up these days? I haven’t seen you guys since last time you were in raleigh I think at the old danger room.I still have a couple stickers from that show. had to Put one on my cowbell
Hell yeah! My setup now is a maple Ludwig Rocker with a 13 inch rack, 16 inch floor, and 22 inch bass drum. I use a 13×7 pearl sensitone brass snare that I rebuilt with ddrum hardware. Also recently switched to a single iron cobra pedal
Using a z custom mega bell ride, Zildjian 23 inch sweet ride, a Zildjian 22 inch ride in front of the hi hats. I use a z3 bottom hi hat on top and an A custom mastersound on bottom
Also Evans ec2 reverse dot on the snare and Remo ambassador clears on the toms
Haha I’ve never explained my whole setup
Thats a pretty sick set up man. gotta love the cobras!
What is the chemistry like in Unsacred? Do you all contribute equally when it comes to writing, or does everyone have their own specific place in the band that they’ve mapped out and stick to?
I do most of the business side of the band. Writing wise, we are a three piece so each person contribute fairly equally. It’s a good dynamic.
A lot of drummers tend to end up managing the business side haha I wonder why that is?
Hah I have no idea. It’s not like I had any previous knowledge either about it.
Maybe it’s because we are already holding everything together musically, so that translates out from behind the kit
Or we don’t contribute enough since we are drummers so we have to put in more work elsewhere, haha.
Do you have a warm up routine? And, does it differ from a live setting to a studio setting?
well, we record everything live so it’s about the same. My routine is usually doing countdowns (8L 8R, 7L 7R… and back up), single stroke rolls, and paradiddles. I do a lot of stretches as well
What about other lifestyle changes and such to improve over all drum capabilities such as yoga, or meditation, any of that?
I do some sort of rudimentary meditation before and after Unsacred sets. I usually just go for a walk on my own and try to get my head and body in the same place. To me, most of drumming is head games with yourself.
I agree 100% with you on that one
keeping your head in the game or sometimes just out of the way is crucial
you’ve gotta be in the right state of mind. I can’t play drums if i’m angry or upset.
So you have to calm your mental ocean so to speak, to get anything done drum wise?
Thats pretty cool. I haven’t tried to force myself to be neutral, at least mentally, before I get behind the kit. I sort of just let whatever i’m feeling come out, but i have less control over the outcome that way because if i’m in my head too much about something I won’t get in the zone and then i’ll start hating everything i play. I’ll be trying out your calming technique soon for sure.
How long have the guys in unsacred known each other? Any lineup changes?
i‘ve known our current bass player/singer for about 5 years now. I met the guitarist when the band started. We parted ways with our original singer almost a year ago and are now a 3-piece.
Are you planning a tour for false light?
yeah I’m working on it now for the end of march into april
Any advice for upcoming metal drummers or just drummers in general?
My advice to any up and coming drummers would be to practice as much as you can, play with as many people as you can, and refuse to pigeon hole yourself into one style of playing. I’m constantly trying to push myself and a lot of times it just means playing along to church music or something with a very simple beat for the entire song.
Great advice Scott, thanks for your time! And thank you to all the readers out there.
Don’t forget to check in every month to see who’s in the next interview!