Meet Dave McGraw, drummer in Cattle Decapitation and the latest artist to join the ranks of our ever-growing line drum MIDI. More about his Death Metal MIDI pack here: Death Metal MIDI
Name: Dave McGraw
Location: Seattle, WA
When did you realize you had a passion for music?
I noticed I had a passion for music when my uncle played Joe Satriani’s “The Extremist” album for me when I was around nine or ten. I just could not stop air guitar playing and drumming, even though I had no idea what I was doing.
How come you ended up behind the drums?
When I was thirteen years old, my neighborhood friends and I decided one day while listening to “…And Justice For All”, that we were going to start a band. Everyone was already playing guitar or bass, so I stepped up to the drummer role.
Starting out, who were some of your heroes and who shaped you as a drummer?
At the very beginning, I was learning to play drums to Deep Purple and Black Sabbath because I was definitely not ready to jump straight into Metallica and Sepultura haha. So drummers like Ian Pace were (and still are) a huge influence. Then later on drummers like Lars Ulrich, Nick Menza, Igor Cavalera, Ingo Schwichtenberg, Dennis Chambers, Simon Phillips, Dave Weckl and many more helped shape my style and versatility.
As far as this MIDI pack, what did you try to cover and what do you hope the end-user takes away from it?
Coming into this project, I wanted to cover as many beats and rhythm variations, in as many different styles, feels and grooves as possible, so that way the end-user would have more to work with and not feel limited in their creativity. I think that the end-users of this MIDI pack will be pleasantly surprised with what we did and I hope that it allows them to take their songwriting and creativity to the next level.
Comparing death metal from when it was “new” in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s through to today, a lot has changed – especially when it comes to speed and technicality. Why do you think it is that the overall level of musicianship has gone up?
I think that death metal, and Metal in general, have basically experienced what jazz did as far as evolution of the genre and evolution of musicians. Metal musicians tend to always work hard to perfect their craft, and with the internet and social media coming into the scene, it’s allowed people to connect and discover newer levels of musicianship which almost (in my opinion) helps to fast track someone into higher standards of technical capability. When I got into the metal scene, there was no YouTube videos of seasoned metal musicians that showed you how learn a particular technique, you had to learn it by ear, or go to the show and talk to that individual in person. So I think we’re in the beginning (or midst) of a sort of musical golden age, there are so many good players out there now, and I think that having a tool like Superior Drummer has also been a huge part in allowing end-users to create music at a much more comfortable and faster pace.
The music you play with Cattle Decapitation is beyond intense, particularly drum-wise. Is it extremely exhausting to play a full show or is performing blast beats and double bass drums in 260 BPM for hours on end something you learn to master, like a long distance runner type of thing?
For me personally, it all comes down to technique. Granted, that playing this kind of music does make you use everything you’ve got, every time. While on tour though, after a couple of nights your body will adjust, and it becomes more routine. I do, however, enjoy working out at the gym as much as possible, because this is definitely a high-intensity style that requires some physical conditioning, as well as focus. Only when I’m focused and feeling good is when technique will come into play and do the rest. Some nights I may be more tired than others, I haven’t fainted… yet!
The band formed way back in 1996 and you joined almost ten years ago. How has the last decade been and what’s the best part of being in Cattle Decapitation?
It’s been quite an amazing journey thus far. My favorite thing about being in a band like Cattle Decapitation, is the dedication to the art of what we do. Obviously I love the traveling, writing music, and all the positive things the band and its members have brought to my life. I look forward to many more years of releasing our music, and hopefully people dig it.
If you weren’t playing death metal, what would you do?
I actually play several different styles of music, it’s just that I’m known more for being a death metal drummer. If I wasn’t touring for death metal bands, I would probably be doing another style, whatever it may be.
What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you on stage or in the studio?
The worst thing I’ve experienced, and still do sometimes, is an indescribable anxiety that keeps me from feeling comfortable and able to relax, which affects my playing from time to time. Pretty common amongst musicians, but for me it started happening the last few years. That’s the worst thing for me. I can handle pretty much anything else. I’ve played shows literally right after having general surgery on tour in Berlin, and also played festivals on the worst possible gear, but you always make the best of it, and try your hardest to put on a great performance.
Seeing as you’re a drummer, what’s your take on software such as Superior Drummer 3 and how do you use it in your own or your band’s creative processes?
I think that Superior Drummer is an essential tool for all musicians who want to produce music at their own pace, with human-like realistic dynamics and control. I’ve been very fortunate to be around phenomenal musicians and songwriters my whole life, and I remember how much we used to hate having to use older software and technology to write drum parts. But ever since Toontrack started releasing its drummer software products, it’s been a breeze. I like to use Superior Drummer to expedite my creative process when it comes down to writing drum parts. I’ll have an idea for a section, and start working with that by finding a groove or beat that’s similar to what I have in mind, and then go from there, this way it’s much easier to write music and share ideas with my bandmates, and the high quality of the samples really helps with the “end-product-vision”. I have my Roland TD-30 kit setup with Superior Drummer as well, so a lot of time I’ll lay down a part and then mess around with different sounds, or use the beats in the library in combination with my personal track to save some time. I love Superior Drummer!