When and how did you discover your passion for music?
I grew up in a musical household. My mom played piano, my dad played guitar and they both sang. They always had records or the radio on. Some of my favorites were “The Loco-Motion” by Little Eva and “Lola” by The Kinks which I once requested on national radio. I must have been 5 or 6 years old… My dad has a recording of that somewhere, funny stuff! And I didn’t have the slightest idea what that song’s about, haha! My parents had one of those twin tape decks and I would record Top 40 songs as they aired. I’d create “remixes” by reconstructing and assembling bits and pieces of songs. On those old decks you could tweak the playback speed by adjusting the pressure on the play button. I picked up the violin at age 7 but classical music wasn’t really my thing back then. In 1984 I bought the Purple Rain vinyl. Prince is still one of my all-time favorites. His talent is on another level altogether.
Was it always obvious that you were going to play metal and that you were going to be a drummer?
It started to become obvious when I got into dance music and especially rap and hip-hop. Early Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, Public Enemy and LL Cool J albums have some of the most inventive beats and arrangements of that era. Their DJs- Jam Master Jay, the Dust Brothers, Terminator X and Rick Rubin- they were absolute geniuses. This was before samples were copyrighted, which is why you’ll never again hear albums as insane as Paul’s Boutique or Fear of a Black Planet. A few years later, I heard Dave Lombardo’s inhuman drumming on Slayer’s Reign in Blood. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! That album really made me want to play drums. The feeling became even stronger after I bought Scum by Napalm Death with Mick Harris’ insane grind. I didn’t know they were called blastbeats… Actually I think the first thing I ever attempted to play was a blastbeat. Talk about biting off more than you can chew, haha! I was using wooden rulers as sticks and wooden crates as drums. Imagine those blisters!
You’re originally from Belgium. What was it like growing up there and starting some of your first bands like Scarve?
The primary sources of music back then were radio shows and whatever vinyl or cassette I could get my hands on, which wasn’t a whole lot. Belgium’s a tiny country. If there was any sort of music scene, I was too young to be a part of it anyway. In 1987 we moved to Paris, France. I started tapetrading and discovered thrash, death metal and grindcore. Within weeks, extreme music became all I lived for. Well, skateboarding and videogames too. One of the first shows I went to was the Clash of the Titans in 1990 with Megadeth, Slayer, Testament and Suicidal Tendencies. My first time seeing Megadeth- little did I know! I caught a ton of underground tours, too. All the really extreme bands were playing at Gibus and Espace Ornano. So many amazing line-ups… What a great period for the underground that was. The French scene was small but extremely dedicated. Bands like Loudblast, Massacra, Supuration, Mortuary, No Return, Crusher and Agressor were an important part of my musical upbringing. I’d been drumming for a few years and jamming with some high school friends, but after I graduated I moved to a city in the North-East called Nancy to attend a professional music school. A fellow student named Patrick Martin was into bands like Coroner and Loudblast, like myself, so we decided to form Scarve. We were an active band for 14 years. It was quite a struggle to get anywhere because metal wasn’t happening in France at nearly the same level as in the US, the UK, Scandinavia or Germany. It still isn’t. But our passion was strong and we persisted. We ended up recording four albums, touring Europe opening for Nile and Meshuggah, and playing some huge festivals.
Since then you obviously went on to join Soilwork with whom you played more than a decade. From there you landed the gig in Megadeth. Talk about how this all came about and what it meant for you on a professional and personal level to become the drummer for one of the premier metal acts of our time.
I got the call to fill in for Soilwork just as Scarve was about to release our third album “Irradiant”. I toured for almost two years with both bands simultaneously. The biggest difference was that Soilwork was on a level where we could actually make a living playing and recording music, although it was extremely tough at times to make ends meet. Scarve and Soilwork represent 23 years of my life and I’m very proud of everything we did together. I recall sitting in a hotel room with my good friend and drum tech Jimmy when I got a call from Megadeth’s manager. Chris Adler, who was their drummer at the time, had reached out to me prior. But talking to Dave Mustaine on the phone was surreal. The man is a metal legend. Chris had a conflicting schedule with Lamb of God and I was asked to fill in for him. A few weeks in, the band offered me the job full-time. Playing with such legends is not easy to put into words. I feel extremely fortunate and I’m eternally thankful to all the people who helped me persevere for all these years. Even in my wildest childhood dreams I couldn’t have imagined playing in one of the biggest and baddest metal bands of all time!
Megadeth has had a long line of great drummers preceding you. How was it auditioning for the band? Any nerves? How did it all come about?
There was no audition. I came home from the Soilwork tour with about ten days to learn 18 songs. We rehearsed once the day before the first show. That was Rock on the Range in Columbus, OH in front of 40,000 people. So yeah, there were some nerves for sure, haha! But I came prepared, and I’m confident in my capabilities. Plus, Megadeth has an amazing crew who make life a breeze on the road. That includes my drum tech Tony Laureano, who I actually toured with in 2002 when Scarve opened for Nile. An amazing drummer and tech! The most difficult but also most interesting aspect of playing in Megadeth is assimilating and interpreting the style of vastly different drummers – Gar Samuelson, Nick Menza, Chuck Behler and Chris Adler – while adding my own touches. Each one of them is amazing in a unique way and it’s been a blast studying their work and bringing it to life on stage.
You’re just now going into pre-production mode for the new Megadeth album and since we keep our ear to the ground, we know that Superior Drummer 3 and possibly EZmix 2 will play a creative role in this endeavor.
Yes, we’ve started putting ideas together and sharing them. With Superior Drummer 3 it’s so easy to record sick sounding drums, we’d be fools not to use it! Dave, David and Kiko send me their ideas and I shoot ‘em right back with beats and fills thrown in. SD3 is a huge improvement from the previous version both in sound and ease of use. I’m still discovering all the new features. It’s vast but very clear, and I couldn’t recommend it enough to anyone who works with music on a regular basis. Since I also play guitar, EZmix 2 comes in very handy to build solid guitar/bass tones and to give the demos that extra kick.
You’re actually one of Toontrack’s longest running metal artists and collaborators, with products dating back almost a decade. Talk about how and why you got in touch with the company and how our gear has helped you over the years.
That’s awesome! It was my pal Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah who put me in touch with the company. I’d heard about Drumkit From Hell and EZDrummer but never tried them. When I went to the studio to record MIDI for what would become The Metal Foundry, I was blown away by how amazing the concept behind Toontrack software is. I understood the possibilities and started digging in. Not long after, I was doing session work out of my home studio using Superior Drummer- which I still do to this day. Budget is often an issue when it comes to using an acoustic studio, especially for aspiring artists. Superior Drummer and EZdrummer offer an alternate solution without compromising on the quality of the end result. I also had this idea of creating a well-organized library of metal MIDI beats and fills for people to use. That became the Library of the Extreme series.I’m stoked that Toontrack went along with this idea, especially because it became a bit of a hit among producers and musicians alike, which is pretty cool!
What’s your go-to Toontrack setup?
Superior Drummer 3 with a custom kit built in Andy Sneap’s Metal Machinery SDX, plus some additional elements from various other kits. I’m constantly tweaking my setup and trying out new stuff. There are so many amazing sounds and unique combinations at your fingertips with this software. It still blows my mind having an entire range of classic snare drums in a simple dropdown menu! That’s really a dream come true for any drummer. When it comes to guitar and bass, I often go to Fredrik Thordendal and Devin Townsend’s presets in EZmix 2, which is killer for mastering purposes as well.
You’ve also been passionate about teaching drums. Is this something you’ll continue to do moving forward or does Megadeth take up all of your time now?
I’ll always be teaching drums. Megadeth does take up a lot of time, but I’m a bit of a workaholic, haha! There’s nothing quite as gratifying as sharing my passion for music and drums with others. I’m fortunate to have some dedicated, hard-working drum students who always keep me on my toes. They teach me to translate what I’ve learned into working methods adapted to their individual personalities. I do everything I can to help them achieve their goals as musicians. Anyone interested in drum lessons, feel free to reach out through my website!
Best studio moment ever?
Man, it’s tough to pick just one! The most fun was definitely recording with Devin Townsend Project. “Deconstruction” is one of the most over-the-top albums imaginable. Most of it was recorded in just five days and yet we still found time to improvise some hip-hop, some grind, and really laugh our asses off at every turn. Being in the studio with Danzig at the legendary East-West Studio in LA was magical. The same goes for working with Fredrik Thordendal on his hopefully soon-to-be-completed second solo album. I have no doubt that recording the new Megadeth album will be pretty epic as well!
What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you on stage?
Besides the typical “falling off the drum riser” which I successfully pulled off a couple of times, I remember playing with Soilwork at the old Emo’s in Austin. The show was outside, it was something like 42 degrees and humid as hell. Three songs in, I thought I was going to pass out from heat exhaustion. It was brutal – there was just no oxygen. My feet were slipping off the pedals and the guys could barely hold on to their guitar picks. Then suddenly, saving grace: the power goes out and the local crew can’t find a quick fix. We get to go out back and wring out our stage shirts to see who sweated the most, haha! I think our bass player Flink won.
To top off, what does a typical “day in the life of” Dirk Verbeuren in 2018 entail?
On the road, it’s pretty much work out, eat, rehearse, play, sleep and repeat. At home, besides the working out part, things can vary wildly from day to day. I always find time for the good things in life: hanging out with my awesome wife, cooking some vegan food, taking a walk with my dogs, throwing on some killer vinyl or watching a movie, and playing Dark Souls late at night. And of course…endless amounts of drumming!
GET DIRK’S GROOVES ON YOUR NEXT SONG.
Dirk is the creative mind behind several Toontrack MIDI packs. Listen to grooves and read more by clicking each link below.