Andrew Forsman: Young Prog Warrior

Sitting in a Mexican dive in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, Andrew Forsman vividly recalls the day in seventh grade when his parents told him he had to stop taking drum lessons because money was tight. The 24-year-old Fall Of Troy drummer brings up this anecdote not to reveal the rough and tumble nature of his upbringing, but to demonstrate his incredible luck. The instructor, Rick Stenslan, had so much faith in his student’s potential that he continued to give Forsman lessons for free. “He’s like one of the best jazz players I’ve ever seen,” he recalls between bites of chips and salsa. “He had a signed Hole poster [from Patty Schemel], like, ‘Rick, I never could have done it without you.’”

It wasn’t the rock star connections that impressed the teenaged Forsman, but the nuggets of wisdom he picked up. Alas, proper grip wasn’t one of them. “My drum teacher always said it should form a straight line,” he says, tracing a finger along his forearm to the knuckle of his index finger. “I guess it works, but I just can’t do it — it’s not rock and roll.”

Neither is high school marching band, where Forsman (he was fourth bass drum) bonded with future Fall Of Troy singer/guitarist Thomas Erak, who played one-off-center snare and is, according to Forsman, a great drummer. The two became fast friends and formed Thirty Years War, soon changing their name to Fall Of Troy. Even in its earliest stages, the band’s experimental zeal and technical rigor made Forsman step up his playing. “Thomas is so weird that I had to change how I played, and I think that helped a lot,” he explains. “I was doing things I didn’t know I could do until he made me do them.”

And just what might those things be? Speed, for one. More complex time signatures, for another. Thirdly, and most crucially, strength. Erak plays so deafeningly loud through the Marshall stack that Forsman found himself beating the drums senseless, just to be even with the guitars. “It kind of messed up my playing for a while,” he says. “I used to be so clenched, even when we were playing on big sound systems. It sounds a lot better and a lot cleaner if I let the P.A. do a little of the work instead of thinking I have to play as loud as possible all the time.”

But even though he lets the soundman carry some of the burden when it comes to getting tones, Forsman chooses not to trigger his double-pedal/single-bass-drum setup, meaning he has to, you know, actually hit the drum. Guess that’s why “Battleship Graveyard” — the prog-core marathon from the band’s new album In The Unlikely Event — numbers among the album’s most difficult tracks. “It’s long and there’s lots of weird double kick in it, and I hate playing double kick.”

Excuse us? This from the guy who drops blistering sixteenths and sextuplet fills throughout the record? “If I could get rid of it I would, but that’s just not an option,” he explains. “The logic for me is that you can hit every other part of the drum set with two different [limbs] so I have to have equality for my bass drum.” He also hates in-ears, which is why the monitor to his left, with a bit of Frank Ene’s bass in it, is plenty to work off of live. “It’s hard to focus on what I’m doing when somebody’s either screaming or wailing [on guitar] in my ear. Usually the monitors at the front of the stage are turned up so loud I can hear him anyways. [laughs] Don’t even get Forsman started on tuning, a practice about which he readily admits to being lazy. “If you play stuff right, it doesn’t matter what the kit sounds like — it’s going to sound good,” he says, polishing off his margarita. “As long as nothing’s buzzing and there’s not too many weird overtones, I’m pretty happy.”

Such indifference simply didn’t fly when Forsman began tracking drums for Unlikely at Stone Gossard’s Studio Litho, in Seattle’s trendy Fremont neighborhood, with producer Terry Date. Among other things, Date pulled a virtual rabbit out of his hat by getting Forsman to reconsider his former aversion to the click track. “He’s like, ‘Don’t look at it like it’s the absolute time, act like it’s just a member of your band. You’re just rocking with the click.’” And everything else.

Vitals
BAND The Fall Of Troy
CURRENT RELEASE In The Unlikely Event
AGE 24
BIRTHPLACE Berkeley, California
INFLUENCES Billy Cobham, John Bonham, Mitch Mitchell, Nick DeWitt, Mark Gajadhar
WEB SITE thefalloftroy.com

Gear
DRUMS Creation, Ddrum
CYMBALS Zildjian, Paiste
STICKS Pro-Mark
HEADS Remo
HARDWARE Tama