The world of metal places strong emphasis on the instruments that are involved in the creation of the music – be it guitars, bass, drums or keyboards. In this series, we talk to a number of drummers to have them share with us their experiences and their views on matters pertaining to their craft.
This week, we talk to Gene, drummer of Truth Be Known and Bhelliom.
HMT: Hi Gene! Thank you for being a part of our new column of Heavy Metal Tribune! To start this off, perhaps you could introduce yourself and the bands that you have been involved in, and are currently involved in?
Hello Tribuninites and thank you for letting me a part of your new column. I’m Gene and I currently play drums in Bhelliom and Truth Be Known. My first foray into the local metal scene was with a band called Hazargaddah. It’s a mouthful, I know, but unique as hell. Life got in the way of the progress of that band. After that, I played in Narasimha (try saying that fast 10 times) for a gig and recorded a song with them. Around this time, TBK was borned. Then somewhere after that, I played drums for Deus Ex Machina on their debut album. Somewhere in between there, I joined Bhelliom. Can’t remember the exact chronology…Old already lah.
Would you like to share more about your personal musical history? Did you start off your musical journey as a drummer? What was it that made you decide to pick up drums?
Well, I started with piano lessons when I was around 12. Hated it but hated my teacher more and soon lost interest. Good thing was that at least now I had some knowledge of music theory. I took up the drums when I was 15 or 16 cause they looked helluva fun and you get to sit down at the back. I’m a shy guy, so twanging my wang in front of a crowd like Damien (Bhelliom/TBK Guitarist) was not for me. Neither was belly dancing like Subash (TBK Vocalist) anywhere near my cup of tea. Of course, I was also inspired by the likes of Dave Grohl and Lars Ulrich, who were my heroes back then.
Were you self-taught, or did you have formal training on the drums?
I got some formal training at Contempo Music where I learned the basics like rudiments and stick control. As for metal drumming, I guess that was pretty much self-taught. You kids have it easy these days with your Youtube and internet. Back then, we had to listen to the song multiple times and trial and error to find out what works.
Who are some of the drummers that have had huge influence on your playing style?
I wouldn’t recommend my playing style to anyone. It’s a very lazy, “Don’t think, just do” style. The influences I have, I try to emulate, but fail miserably. One of my biggest influences is Gene Hoglan. That guy is improving constantly and I hear he’s super nice….plus we share the same first name haha. I love playing the songs on “Symbolic”. Another one is Danny Carey, I just love his work with Tool and his progressive style. Lately, I’ve been trying to incorporate the styles of Brann Dailor and Dirk Verbeuren. These guys are simply amazing. Of course, if you don’t hear any of these influences….as I said…I fail.
Being one of the more respected drummers in the Singapore metal scene, what do you think are some of the difficulties that most drummers in Singapore face?
Wah really? Respected? You sure you got the right drummer? Anyway, one of the biggest difficulties is convincing your neighbour that you’re actually playing music. It’s even tougher for us metal drummers. We just can’t lower our volumes or wear headphones. You could try practice pads…but what fun are those? Try hitting all your Chinas and Crashes together and soon your neighbour to come to your door knocking at 300bpm. Free metronome, time to blast beat. Another thing is most of us can’t afford to have a really nice big setup because of lack of space or funds.
What are some of the most common misconceptions about being a drummer?
That we’re all sexual beasts in the bed because of all the intense drumming we do. This is true. Wait…what’s the question again?
It seems that in most music scenes, it is much harder to find available drummers compared to other instrumentalists, such as guitarists or bassists. Often the drummers in the band are featured in numerous projects. What do you think is the reason for this?
Well, I would say the difficulties faced by drummers in Singapore contribute to the small number of us. Personally I don’t think there are as many drummers as there are guitar players in Singapore. Another thing, I think could be a lack of proper communication channels. Soft.com is pretty good but I don’t think it’s enough. I dunno, maybe a lot of the aspiring musicians out there spend too much time learning their instruments in their bedroom with their Youtube and internet. You need to get out people and come to shows and mingle! Sadly though, most won’t see this message.
Playing in both Bhelliom and Truth Be Known, both bands having different styles of music, which do you think is more challenging or fun for you? Do you have a preference for playing longer melodic songs, or faster and short in-your-face songs?
I broke my cherry playing melodic death so that style always has a place in my heart and therefore I’m more comfortable playing in Bhelliom. Truth Be Known, I would say, has become the more challenging of the 2 bands nowadays. Mostly because I haven’t utilized blast beats before TBK. I’ve grown fonder of blasting since then however. I have fun just playing drums. As for the preference between longer melodic songs and faster in-your-face songs…it depends. If I’m tired, I prefer the faster, short songs…just to get over with it …..Old already lah.
How do you come up with drum patterns? Do you think of how they sound like before laying them down or do they come as you jam? I like how some songs start off such as the intro to Just Another Lamb.
My motto is “Don’t think, just do” and so I don’t think of how they sound like before I play. I once told Joshua (TBK bassist) that my drumfills are like ice sculptures, they’re awesome when I do it then, but will melt away and be forgotten by the next jam session haha. Usually I’ll ask the songwriter what kind of style they’re looking for and to recommend me some bands they’d like to song to sound like. I’ll go listen to those bands to get some inspiration and so far it seems to work. As for the intro to “Just Another Lamb”, I think it started a joke. I just wanted to make it sound cheesy, but it worked and so we stuck with it.
Do you have a favourite/dream setup?
This tends to change with the times. Currently I’d like to have just a left tom and 2 floor toms. Cymbals wise, would be 2 crashes, 1 china, 1 ride and maybe a splash or cowbell, all Sabians AAX or HHX. And I’d love to try out the Demon Drive pedals by Pearl.
Finally, what are some of the tips that you can give to aspiring drummers, and those who wish to pick up drums in the future?
Practice, practice and practice. Nothing sucks more than a drummer who’s sloppy and can’t keep time. Regardless of what I said earlier about practice pads, do invest in one if you can (or an actual drumset). Or you can do it old school and just grab a couple of phone books (For practicing rudiments). But make sure, you play on an actual kit once in a while and always ALWAYS have fun!
The Gene hath spoken.
Thank you once again! m/
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