What sparked your interest in music?
Originally, my mom and dad would play music on our stereo in the living room. Anything from Madonna to Melissa Etheridge and oldies tunes. That began my interest in music and also playing the drums at around age five.
How come you ended up behind a drum kit? Were you always drawn to drums and was it your first and only alternative?
I was certainly always drawn to the drums. I taught myself to play by watching MTV music videos and studying the drummers. It was kind of the beginning of how today’s generation watches YouTube videos to learn things. I honestly never even thought of playing another instrument. The rhythm and groove of the drums always attracted me.
To you, what defines a great drummer? Name a few that you think stand out in today’s scene (regardless of genre) and some that helped shape you as a drummer growing up and learning the instrument.
I think a great drummer can be defined in a few adjectives. I would say a solid groove, time keeping, consistency, looking/acting the part and having fun are up there for me. In today’s scene, at least for metal, some of my favorites are Eloy Casagrande, Joey Jordison, Gene Hoglan, Josean Orta, Mario Duplantier, Carlos Cruz, Jaska Raatikainen, Trey Williams, Kevin Talley to name a few. Alternate to the metal scene I enjoy Neil Peart, Dave Abbruzzese, Dave Grohl, Mike Portnoy, Mike Mangini, Ben Gillies and many others.
You’re coming up on ten years with the band. Looking back on this decade, what are some of your biggest and brightest memories – things you’ll remember and cherish when you get grey and old!
There’s a bunch of awesome memories we have shared in these past ten years! Seeing albums recorded in a basement turn into monster records after mixing and mastering. Playing shows all over the world. Traveling to awesome foreign destinations, eating the local food, meeting the people and feeling their culture. Playing shows with my best buds and being there for each other. I would say one of our coolest shows ever was Rock Al Parque in 2013 in Bogota, Colombia. We played to 35,000 people with huge jumbo screens on stage. It was amazing. Multiple circle pits at once. Check it out on YouTube, everyone! So awesome! Never forget it!
The resurgence of classic thrash metal in today’s scene is obvious. From a band’s perspective, what’s the scene like today compared to when you started out?
I think there were a lot more underground thrash bands when I first joined Havok. Some of them fell off the wagon and kind of gave up or whatever the reason was or is. But there a few standouts still that stick it out. I think the ones that have stuck it out have some more originality to them than some of the less original. Some of our best buds in the industry like Warbringer, Exmortus and Revocation for example.
If you weren’t playing music and being in a band, what would you do for a career, you think?
Just before I joined Havok, I was very close to going to work as a pharmacy tech at the hospital my mom use to work at in Bedford, Massachusetts. Phew!!!
What drum kit do you use for live shows and the studio?
My sponsor is Pearl Drums! They’re amazing! I have had a few kits throughout the years. It started with a Pearl Export. Then I got my first really nice kit which was a Masters Maple MCX lime green to sparkle fade. The next kit I got was a Reference in White finish with black hardware. Unfortunately, a thief stole half of that drum kit from our trailer. To replace that kit, which I now am using is a Session Studio Select in black finish. It sounds amazing! I believe it sounds better than all the other kits I have owned so far! Its very musical!
What Toontrack products do you use and what role do they play in your creative process?
We use EZdrummer 2 for the most part. It is very user friendly. We are able to use it on our Roland e-ddrum kit and record MIDI into Pro Tools and easily manipulate or edit parts for pre-production. It saves a lot of time and we are grateful to be able to use these products!
FIVE MUST-HAVE ALBUMS.
If you like heavy metal this album has all of it! Tons of killer drumming by Gene Hoglan! Insane song writing by Chuck Schuldiner! Ear-piercing vocals! It is a top metal album for me!
Metallica “…And Justice For All”
This for me is Metallica’s greatest album. The production is much better than previous albums (maybe not bass)! The kick drums absolutely pound you to the floor! It is one of the first double bass moments I remember hearing as a young kid! Hetfield’s vocals are my favorite on this album as well as the song writing is genius! SO HEAVY!
Nirvana is a band that got me into hard-hitting drums. When I would watch Dave Grohl play on MTV videos with long head banging hair and hard-hitting style, I had to play like that! It’s what got me into more heavy style of music and playing! I even started growing my hair long at ten years old because of it!
Ozzy Osbourne “No More Tears”
If you like you some Ozzy Osbourne, this is the best one! Especially the title track is so simple yet so rewarding. Small intricacies in the drums make it stand out even though not being difficult to play particularly. Ripping guitar solos galore on this album! I have seen Ozzy many times going to Ozzfest starting at 13 years old in Massachusetts. He is easily one of the best performers in the metal world!
This album is really special for me! It is a collaboration of Roadrunner Records musicians including guys like Joey Jordison, Andols Herrick, Howard Jones, Robb Flynn and many, many others. There is some really awesome songwriting and it has many different styles of metal like black, hardcore, thrash and death. Check it out if you haven’t! In my opinion some of Joey Jordison’s coolest song writing and drum parts he ever wrote. I listen to all the time still to this day!
QUICK Q SHOOTOUT.
Double-pedal or double bass drums?
I honestly have been playing double-kick pedal on two kick drums for a number of years now. It is a pretty common circumstance in metal if you don’t use triggers. Micing two kick drums takes up two more channels on the sound board and it’s not the easiest to tune two kick drums exactly the same. That is why I have stuck to this set up for a long time. Sound check is easier too. Maybe one day we will mic up the second one. Just not a lot of time at the present time when you usually have minimal time to set up on stage.
Click track or no click track in your headphones live?
We have been using a Pro Tools tempo mapped click track live because I start the intros for songs and it helps us to keep consistent. Also with our headlining tour next March 2020, we will have a programmed light show and we will have to be on a click for that to line up right! So we just thought we would get ahead of ourselves and start with the click live.
You can only keep one cymbal on your kit – which one?
Hi-hats! You can do a lot with just the hi hats. Plus technically, it’s two cymbals so you have an advantage already there!
Club gig or festival – what do you prefer?
Festivals for me are more relaxed because usually my kit is set off to the side on a rolling riser, so I have time to relax and get ready for the show. Club shows can be a little more hectic with a lot of drum kit changing and not a lot space to move the stuff around. But for the crowd, I have noticed that club shows are a little more intimate!
Dream team band (with you on the drums!):
Chuck Schuldiner on rhythm guitar and backup vocals
Rob Trujillo on bass guitar
Zakk Wylde on lead guitar
Tim Ripper Owens on lead vocals
HAVOK FEAT. THE DEATH METAL EZX.
Listen to “Peace is in Pieces” by Havok featuring the Death Metal EZX. This version of the song was mixed using the original mix stems from the recording session. The drums were converted using Tracker, the drum audio to MIDI conversion tool in Superior Drummer 3, and then mixed using the drum sounds from the Death Metal EZX.