Elias Mallin of Kill Hannah
Name: Elias Mallin
Hometown: Phoenix, Az
Previous Bands: My Darling Murder, Opiate For the Masses.
Drums: Tama Starclassic Cymbals: Paiste Alphas
Sticks: Vic Firth
Kill Hannah was formed by singer-songwriter Mat Devine in 1994. In case you are wondering, and we're sure you are, the band is named for Devine's ex-girlfriend. In 2002 the group signed with Atlantic Records and recorded their debut album For Never & Ever with producer Sean Beavan.
In the years between 2003 and 2007, Kill Hannah performed with numerous acts like Chevelle, Papa Roach, AFI and Dashboard Confessional along with releasing their second album Until There's Nothing Left of Us. Having changed record labels to Roadrunner Records, Kill Hannah canceled their Spring 2009 United Kingdom tour and instead spent the time recording their most recent album, Wake Up The Sleepers. We talked with Elias about the recording.
What's the greatest thing going on for the band right now?
So many things, it would be impossible to pick just one. First off, we have a brand new record coming out on September 29 that we are thrilled about. Our new label (Original Signal/Universal) is amazing and really treating us so well. Being back on tour right now and seeing the way our fans are reacting to the new songs is very rewarding.
What's the name of the new album?
Wake Up The Sleepers
How would you describe the feel of the new album?
Well, its really all over the place - in a good way. Some songs are very dance-oriented, some are upbeat heavier rock and then there is some very experimental stuff. This record overall is very dark and moody, something Kill Hannah was known for when it started but the last few records seemed to have much more of a pop sense about them. Not to say these songs aren't cohesive. We really stepped out on this record and took some chances.
How long did it take to track your drum parts?
A day and a half for 14 songs. Even though I find the studio to be incredibly easy, I made it a mission to keep ahead of schedule and nail everything out. My feeling is you have only one shot each night to play it perfectly live. Why shouldn't it be the same way in the studio. Drumming to me at times is very black and white, the part either sounds right or it doesn't. As long as u go in there with confidence in your playing the drums get tracked very quickly.
Did you record to a click track?
Yes, in KH you have to. There are a lot of loops and synths involved and everything has to be dead on.
What do you like or hate most about touring?
I love traveling and constantly moving around. I hate it when I don't have a million things going on at once and touring definitely lends itself to that. I love the camaraderie you get with your bandmates and crew and of course playing a show every night. The part I hate is the fact that I never have time to really practice. After our last tour cycle I went to LA to see my drummer friend Dave Elitch. I hung out with him and we shedded for a bit and he just ripped me to shreds. I could barely play in front of him because all I was doing was playing the same parts night after night for three years. I was like "Where did all my chops go? I can't even improve right now!" [Laughs] I immediately went back to Phoenix and start working and practicing for as long as I could everyday.
Do you approach your drum parts onstage exactly the same way that you recorded them?
Not exactly. My overall theory on this is (and everyone hates me for saying this) play as much as you possibly can without interrupting the song. When I first approach a song that Mat Devine (singer) will write, I’ll use his drum programming as a skeleton of what my drum part will be. From there I add on bells and whistles and drum fills. My main drumming influences are Danny Carey and Carter Beauford, so I naturally want to play bigger, around-the-toms type fills. There are so many times I hear guys say, "less is more" and sometimes it is, but so many people use that as an excuse to not be creative and sit back. Ninety percent of the drum parts were created in the studio. I did a certain amount of improvisation such as the bridge drum solo on a track called "Acid Rain".
I change it up every night on tour by just messing around with groups of 5s and some Danny Carey-type stuff. There's also a track called "Escape Artistry" where I incorporated an Afro-Cuban bell pattern at the end. I really tried to be clever as well with making the drumming sound easy at times but switch up the sticking to make it a little odd. The drumming in this band can be very deceiving as far as the technical side of things because there is a lot going on musically, so unless you really know the patterns, sticking it can sound easier than it is. After I tracked my drums there was a significant amount of drum comping. We look at every phase of the recording as another chance to enhance the songs, so comping and editing for me was another chance to make some bold creative choices, like literally reversing a fill I had played. It became very interesting to hear the finished product because I had to kind of re-learn the songs. Now getting to play them live is ever evolving. Depending on how I'm feeling that night I'll throw way more stuff in. I'll even listen to the recording now and go "I should have done a crazier fill there!" or something like that. Playing live is my chance to do that and continue the creative process.
How often do you change heads?
Hmm ... depends. In the studio I can change every couple hours Haha. But live I'll keep 'em on for a week or so. On tour, unless the head sounds completely dead, I won't usually change it.
Do you use the same setup on stage and in the studio?
Yes actually. When I went in to track nothing sounded remotely as good to me, or the engineer, as the Tama B/B kit and Paistes. Early on it was just like "Why mess around when we already know what we like?" I would like my set up to grow more over time though. I have been thinking about adding a fourth tom and a few more cymbals.
What's the best piece of advice you ever got, musical or otherwise?
Keep your eye on the prize and practice, practice, practice. Being in any sort of business like this, it’s easy to lose focus. You must not let yourself get distracted and constantly work to become a better player. Just because your band got signed and you’re on tour doesn't mean you’re a great drummer so to speak. You have to have the skills to be a working musician for the rest of your life. Oh ... and have fun!