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Blake Richardson Of Between The Buried And Me

Blake Richardson

Backstage at a club in Lubbock, Texas, Blake Richardson sounds like an old codger sittin’ ’round the cracker barrel. He’s got that easy Southern manner that could make anybody slow their roll. Once the Between The Buried And Me drummer gets behind the kit, however, he transforms into a monster of technical rigor and airtight precision.

If Colors, the previous record from the North Carolina prog-death band dabbled in weird song architectures, new release The Great Misdirect ups the prog quotient, nowhere more so than in the drums. Most startling of all is a newfound improvisational vibe that would be more at home with MMW or Phish, especially on album opener “Mirrors.” “It’s jamming, but there’s still some basic structure behind it,” Richardson explains. “It’s not jamming that goes nowhere. We want it to build up into something.”

Whether it’s modulated sixteenths, triplets between snare and his right and left Chinas, or shifting time signatures, The Great Misdirect puts brains on equal footing with brutality. In addition, blastbeats have multiplied but, he says, are deployed sparingly. “When you do double-kick stuff [on] the whole record, it doesn’t really make it all that impressive.”

The vamps, tasty hat work, and tricky accents sprinkled throughout the marathon-length songs can be attributed to Richardson’s concerted effort to involve his upper limbs. “Most drummers in the metal scene now, it’s pretty much all feet, doing nothing cool up top. I didn’t want to end up being like that. I wanted to develop my hands a lot more, feeling out riffs rather than just going by the numbers. It’s kind of cool, because I started to apply a lot of stuff that I learned in symphonic orchestra and taking lessons from people here and there.”

One of those people was Winston-Salem Symphony Orchestra percussionist Robert Crutchfield, who taught Richardson while he was in middle school. “What I liked about him was that he showed me the basics of as many styles as possible – jazz, salsa, funk, anything – and from there I learned you can apply that to some heavy stuff.”

Seems like Richardson’s career has been blessed from the get-go. His starter kit was a drool-worthy 1966 Ludwig, a Christmas gift from his uncle. In high school, while drumming for local hardcore band Glass Casket, his speed and finesse got noticed by Between The Buried And Me singer Tommy Rogers, who invited him to go on tour after things began to sour with their original drummer. Richardson declined: “I was, ’Man, I can’t drop out of high school.’”

Fast forward to his sophomore year at North Carolina State, when Richardson learned that guitarist Dustie Waring, also from Glass Casket, had joined Between The Buried And Me and was having the time of his life. Waring then started to work on Richardson, hounding his former and future bandmate like a Tar Heels football recruiter. “He was, ’They really want you!” Richardson recalls. “Just totally sweating me.”

Opportunity rarely knocks twice, so when Rogers made the offer again, Richardson went for it, and he’s been a primary mover of the band ever since. “They pretty much give me 100 percent freedom to do what I want with it, and what’s cool too is I’ll throw some beat on it that’ll kind of change it up, and they’re, ’Oh, then we can go into this section and develop this riff more because you put it in 3/4 feel now rather than a 4/4.’” A perfect example of this implied time would be that loping Hakkeesque pulse heard midway thru “Disease, Injury, Madness” that sounds straight-ahead but has a temporal wrinkle to it. “If they have something crazy going on guitar, it makes more sense to put [in] something a little bit more basic. That way you know what’s going on and doesn’t make the riff so intense you can’t even tell what going on with the guitars or the drums.”

No matter how subtle his approach gets, the sheer physicality of his craft is never far from Richardson’s thoughts, especially on “Swim To The Moon,” which requires as much brawn as it does brains. “It pretty much hammers you for the full 17 minutes. You got to kind of get your stamina up for that one.”

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