Drum grooves and fills for progressive rock and fusion – with an edge!
In some genres, a repetitive and sturdy backbeat is all a song calls for. In others, quite the opposite is what’s required. Much like jazz, both progressive rock and fusion definitely belong to that latter category. It has the drummer in the driver’s seat, steering the entire band at breakneck speed through the tricky passages, hairpin bends and serpentine roads that often make up the songs. This collection of MIDI is a homage not only to the music but also the bands, the drummers and the dedication that goes into perfecting the craft of playing at the very apex of what’s humanly possible – and still make every note count and be there for a reason.
“In this MIDI pack, I tried to cover more of an aggressive side of the fusion genre,” says drummer Luke Oswald. “I pulled ideas from drummers whose styles fit within the fusion label but who also have more of a progressive temperament to their playing. You’ll get all the fusion elements, such as linear- and rudimental-based playing, but you’ll find everything has more edge to it. I even introduced some double bass drum work, which is new compared to the earlier MIDI packs I’ve done.”
The Progressive Fusion MIDI pack is the third title in Luke Oswald’s series of fusion MIDI packs and presents a logic continuation down the path of this tricky genre. Expect a broad palette of grooves and fills inspired by some of the greatest drummers in the field: Vinnie Colaiuta, Gavin Harrison, Billy Cobham and Simon Phillips – to name but a few. If you’re in the market for complex rhythms riddled with syncopations, rudiments, ostinato patterns, punctuations and whatever else that may fit within the confines of eight bars of drums, you’re in for a treat. In simpler terms: this is drum MIDI – as busy as can be. Let the ghost note galore begin!
When and how did you realize your passion for music?
I started on piano and moved to trumpet in fifth grade, but it wasn’t until I started playing the drums at the age of twelve that I really got excited about music. I started playing in church during junior high and really enjoyed the experience of playing in a band. Any spare time was spent practicing – and the rest is history. I’ve been playing in bands and working on my craft ever since.
How come you ended up behind the kit?
When I was twelve, some family friends moved back into town and didn’t have room for their drum set while they were getting settled. Aware of my interest in drums, they asked if they could store the kit in my parents’ basement for a summer. I was playing trumpet at the time, but all of my interest moved to the drums that summer. I played that kit non-stop. My parents eventually purchased a kit for me after seeing how interested I was and how much I was practicing. As stated above, I started playing in the church band a few months later which was a great (and scary) experience for me at that age. Although I continued to play trumpet in school for the next two years, I switched to the drums exclusively in the ninth grade, studied in college and have continued to practice and study to this day.
Growing up, what style did you start out aspiring to play?
As a novice, I basically played a lot of pop/rock. I wasn’t into jazz when I was younger, so I practiced anything that was popular at the time, which was a lot of ’90s pop and alternative. I started listening to jazz in high school and eventually started listening to busier drumming styles like fusion in college.
How come you gravitated towards fusion, and why does this genre appeal to you as a musician?
This was quite a journey, but it started when I was a junior in high school and my band instructor (who was a drummer) gave me a tape of Buddy Rich to listen to. I reluctantly took it because I knew it was jazz and I wasn’t really interested. Of course, when I listened to it, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. For the next couple years, it was a Buddy Rich obsession where I had to have every Buddy Rich CD I could find. I barely listened to anything else. I even purchased the “Jazz Legends” VHS series with video performances of Buddy Rich. Seeing him perform on video for the first time was truly inspiring. The same thing happened my freshman year of college when someone introduced me to Dave Weckl’s “Back to Basics” VHS video. It was the same experience of hearing/seeing Buddy Rich for the first time. I didn’t know drumming like this existed. So for almost all of college, the majority of my studies centered around Dave Weckl. I listened to every CD I could get my hands on and transcribed everything I could. My study of Dave Weckl led me to other greats, including Vinnie Colaiuta, Dennis Chambers and Will Kennedy, and they in turn led to other influences as well. Interesting side note, when I was only 14, my father took me to a Yamaha-sponsored drum clinic at the high school I would later attend. Neither of us knew anything about the clinician or whether the clinic would be any good. The clinician was Dave Weckl and of course it was great. The content was a bit over my head at the time and I wish I could go back and experience it again knowing what I know now. It’s still interesting that only a few years later, Dave Weckl would become one of my biggest influences.
You already did the Fusion Grooves MIDI pack. How does the Progressive Fusion MIDI differ differ from the previous one?
The original Fusion Grooves MIDI pack was centered around the traditional “fusion” style of drumming. It was very much inspired by my favorite Dave Weckl grooves and fills, among other great drummers. The Progressive Fusion MIDI pack, on the other hand, is a more aggressive side of the fusion genre. In this MIDI pack I wanted to branch out and explore what the fusion style would sound like with a more progressive spin on it. This translated into an edgier sound – think more of a prog/rock vibe with all of the great attributes of fusion, including the ghost notes and hand/foot combinations. Another difference within the Progressive Fusion MIDI pack is that I explored a variety of different time signatures including 7/8 and 5/4, with both straight and swung feels, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. This MIDI pack also features the use of double pedals, which sparked some creative new ideas that I’ve never played anywhere else. My approach to double pedals is very much inspired by fusion drumming already, so being able to incorporate that into a MIDI pack along with this progressive style of fusion was a fun challenge. You can expect to find a lot of variety in this MIDI pack with a wealth of creative grooves and fills that can be used in many different styles of music, even beyond the fusion genre.
Fusion is a style that has something of a “no rules apply” philosophy attached to it. Was it hard to harness yourself and deliver something that would be usable in the context of a MIDI pack and intended for songwriting in general?
For the Progressive Fusion MIDI pack, my goal was to explore the more aggressive side of the fusion genre. I spent a lot of time listening to a variety of drummers to pull together my vision for this MIDI pack, including Vinnie Colaiuta, Gavin Harrison, Simon Phillips and Billy Cobham. They each have a unique style of drumming and have a great approach to high-energy performances. For each song within the MIDI pack, the energy builds as you move from intro to verse, verse to pre-chorus and so on. The bridge is typically the highest energy section in this MIDI pack. My double bass integration gets more complex as you progress through the song sections as well. The MIDI pack features a variety of drum fills as well, with a range of complexity and applications of the double pedals. As with my previous MIDI packs, the grooves and fills will be useful for music styles beyond just fusion, and will be a perfect fit for anything that requires a more aggressive touch.
Fusion has brought forth numerous iconic drummers. Who in your mind have been the most important looking back, and today?
I believe Dave Weckl has had one of the biggest impacts on the drumming community at large, not just for the fusion genre but for any genre. His name comes to my mind because I rarely hear a well-known drummer who doesn’t reference Dave Weckl as a major influence. Another drummer who comes to mind is Vinnie Colaiuta. His style of playing definitely fits within the fusion genre. Vinnie’s linear and rudimental style of playing in the ’80s and early ’90s is still something that amazes me every time I watch him play. You can’t help but be inspired after watching or listening to him. Vinnie is also referenced by many of the drumming greats as being a major influence, and he’s someone I’ve spent a great deal of time studying and transcribing as well. As for today’s drummers, I’d have to say Chris Coleman is one of the best. His chops are ridiculous, his rudimental playing style is something that intrigues me and his hand-foot combinations are incredible. He’s another drummer who inspires me every time I watch or listen to him play.
What do you hope users will take away from this collection?
I hope songwriters of all types will appreciate the unique set of grooves and fills they’ll find in the Progressive Fusion MIDI pack, and find them useful for any track they’re needing to produce. The MIDI contained in this pack is versatile and although more on the aggressive side, still has plenty of variation and a range of complexities to please any producer. Drummers will also appreciate the MIDI pack as a means to spark creative new ideas.
You are also an avid e-drummer and longtime user of many Toontrack products. Which ones and how do they help you?
I discovered Superior Drummer 2 in December of 2008. I remember distinctly because it was another one of those moments, like when I first discovered Buddy Rich or Dave Weckl; it was truly an epiphany for me. I sincerely mean that. I saw the potential of what you could do with this software right away. I couldn’t believe this kind of technology existed, and I immediately started on a path to acquire the knowledge and equipment to use it. Fast forward to today, and I’m very excited to introduce my fourth Toontrack MIDI pack, and the third in the Fusion series that I’ve been a part of. Superior Drummer 3 continues to be at the heart of everything I do, whether I’m filming a video for my YouTube channel, recording a track for my band or looking for creative new sounds to use in a new project. Superior Drummer 3 is so extensive and versatile, I’m still amazed at its depth and find new exciting ways to use it every time I open the application. As an e-drummer, it’s a vital tool for me to create an ultra-realistic performance, whether I’m using the core library or any of the expansion libraries. I love the built-in mixer effects and the ability to tweak the configuration and response of each and every articulation. The level of detail that Toontrack goes to in order to provide these kinds of products is nothing less than amazing. I also enjoy using their other creative tools such as EZkeys, EZmix 2 and the new EZbass. Combining all of Toontrack’s products gives you a powerhouse of production tools that can take your ideas to the next level and give you endless creative possibilities.
How would you describe your own style of drumming?
I thoroughly enjoy playing and practicing rudimental grooves and linear grooves with lots of ghost notes and rudimental hand/foot combinations. It’s always a fun challenge to see what kinds of new grooves and combinations you can come up with. I’m definitely a “double-stroke” drummer as well. I use double-strokes in much of my playing, both with my hands and foot. Rudimental combinations with double-strokes are an integral part of my overall style.
Our very own Rikk Currence gives you three reasons why your songs will thank you for using Toontrack drum MIDI.