Name: Riley Breckenridge
Location: Irvine, CA
When and how did you realize you were destined to pursue a path in music?
I can’t say I’ve ever felt like I’ve been “destined” to to pursue music, but I feel like a ton of twists and turns and hard work and lucky breaks and persistence and foolishness and stubbornness and desire and hope have convinced me that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. I’ll spare you all the details, because I’m not trying to write a memoir here, but fate and coincidence are crazy things.
How come you ended up behind the drums?
I was a multi-sport athlete in high school, and tore three ligaments in my knee during the summer going into my senior year. With sports out of the equation for almost a year, I needed something slightly physical to keep me from losing my mind as I rehabbed my knee. Drums ended up being that outlet. My folks bought me a crummy $200 kit out of the local classifieds and I started playing as soon as I could.
Who were some of your drum heroes growing up…and now?
Early on, it was guys like Neil Peart (Rush), Vinnie Paul (Pantera), Igor Cavalera (Sepultura), Lars Ulrich (Metallica) Jordan Burns, (Strung Out), Bobby Scheyer (Bad Religion), Josh Freese (Vandals). Now my influences are all over the place, but if I had to list a top five most influential over the past decade or so, I’d say Jon Theodore (Queens of the Stone Age), Dave Grohl (Nirvana, QOTSA, etc), JR Conners (Cave In), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), and Phil Selway (Radiohead).
Thrice has made quite a journey since the band was formed – you’re coming up on 20 years as a band. If were to list a few stand-out events along the path, what would you mention?
Oh man, there are so many… because I didn’t really think any of this was actually gonna happen … like *any* of it. So, some favorites: playing sold out hometown shows at venues ranging from 250 to 5000 capacity over the past 20 years, playing main stage at Reading & Leeds Festival in the UK, hearing a song of ours on the radio, playing a few late night TV shows, recording at the historic Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, NY, coming back from a three-year hiatus and having things be better than when we took a break, there are so many others …
What’s the best part of being in a touring band and being a professional musician?
Being able to be creative on a daily basis and call it “work”, being able to travel/see the world and play music (which a double-edged sword, because it’s awfully tough to be away from home when you’ve got a wife and kids), having a job where three to four to six months at home is “normal”.
What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you on stage?
I won’t go too far into details, but we played a KROQ Acoustic Christmas that was in front of probably 6500 people live-streamed to millions of people, and we played an “acoustic” song with an acoustic guitar that didn’t work, a song with a strong quartet that was out of tune, and a song that was a collab with Chino from Deftones and he couldn’t hear what he was signing to. It was an anxiety dream come to life, and no matter how terrible a show feels like it’s going now, it’ll never be as bad as that one was. It’s nice to have that as a “bottom”.
…and in the studio?
Nothing specifically. I mean, there are times where you chase a snare sound for hours and it completely burns everyone out, or the times where you get hung up on a fill or a groove and just keep brainfarting it once “record” has been pressed, but it’s kinda part of the process I guess. Or my process anyway. “Enjoy the struggle”, as they say.
In the past decade or so, it seems the different sub genres of heavy music have come closer together, blurring the lines between styles. How come, do you think?
Not sure, really. Maybe people are running out of ways to rehash old stuff without feeling like it’s a tired third or fourth generation knockoff of something? Shorter attention spans? It’s only bound to get weirder from here out.
Each album released by the band has had a portion of its sales proceeds donated to a new charity. How was this idea born and how do you feel you’re making a difference?
We actually stopped doing that on the last record because record sales are down, streaming is taking over despite not paying like it should, and label/charity accounting got a little weird at times. At this point, we feel like it’s best to focus our charitable donations a bit more than just a percentage of album sales, whether it be donating proceeds of a single to hurricane victims, or donating a lump sum to a clean water or climate change charity we have faith in, or bringing certain groups out on tour to share literature. I feel like it’s a little safer and more effective to contribute in that way.
What would you encourage us all to contribute with, if we can?
Time, money, skills, whatever you have that can help someone else. We need to take care of each other. There’s way too much “me first” in the world right now and it seems like it’s getting worse much more rapidly than it used to.
How did you cross paths with Toontrack and how do our products help in your creative process?
I was actually turned on to Toontrack by Ben from Cloudkicker. I was a fan at first, and found out he was a fan of some early Thrice material after I’d reached out to tell him how amazing I thought his music was. From there, we got into some “tools of the trade” talk, and he connected me with Toontrack. It’s been awesome to be able to use their stuff in a variety of projects, whether it’s Thrice demos, or my solo stuff, or my goofy baseball-themed metal band called Puig Destroyer, and the staff could not be any nicer or more attentive to me. I’m really thankful to be a part of the family.
On a side note, you’re the host of one of the highest rated baseball podcasts on iTunes and you actually had a career in the game before you ventured into music. Where did the baseball interest come from?
“Highest rated” is a stretch (don’t believe everything you read on the internet), and it’s been over a year since we’ve recorded an episode, but we’re planning on reviving it next season. I grew up a baseball fan. My dad had me watching games when I was 2 years old, I started playing when I was 5, played through high school and college, and still play on a men’s league team on weekends when I’m home. It’s my first love, and it’ll never go away.
5 Q SHOOTOUT.
Dugout seats at the seventh game of the World Series with your favorite team…or headlining Coachella with Thrice?
Eh. That’s tough, but I’m gonna go with Coachella. I’d probably crap my pants in either scenario though.
Singe or double-pedal?
I play a double, but I wish I’d just learned to rip on a single from day one.
Best ever metal album?
Ugh. Way too tough, especially because “metal” has come to mean so many different things. Instead of saying “best”, I’ll just say Master of Puppets was a total game changer for me. A gateway drug to a genre I’m still very very into.
Best ever non-metal album?
Also too tough, but I’ll say that Radiohead’s Kid A was another game changer in the non-metal category. Flipped my head upside down.
Dream team band (with you on the drums!):
Too tough to answer, but I’d be pretty fascinated by what might come out of the five drummers I listed earlier in the interview, if we had some studio time and a slew of instruments at our disposal.