Having powered such bands as Chimaira, Dying Fetus, Suffocation, Misery Index, The Black Dahlia Murder, Six Feet Under, Hate Eternal, and Daath, Kevin Talley’s bio reads like a virtual history of extreme metal drumming. Now you can hear Talley’s ferocity on Decadence, the latest album by the Maldivian melodic progressive metal outfit Nothnegal, which is scheduled for a February 28 release in the U.S. Here’s what Talley had to say about his latest recording.
Did you change your drum parts much throughout the recording process?
Over the years I’ve done around 600 songs in the studio, so I am usually pretty good about writing exactly what I want the first time. I might change a fill here and there, but generally I know exactly the beats I want to use as soon as I hear the guitar riff.
How prepared were you before going into the studio?
With Nothnegal I listened to the songs with the drum machine quite a bit before entering the studio. I had a really good idea of the parts I wanted to lay down but definitely improved a few fills here and there. And this is how I do most of my recordings for Daath, Six Feet Under, Chimaira. I know about 90 percent of what I want to do and improve the rest.
How long did it take to track your drum parts?
Ten years ago when I was in Dying Fetus, I didn’t do multiple playlists so I was able to track an entire album, Destroy The Opposition for example, all in one day. In the last eight years or so, I usually spend about one hour per song tracking and two hours editing fills and playlists. I do many playlists in Pro Tools so I can decide later on in the editing process the fills, beats, and performances I like the best. So now I take my time with recording.
Did you record to a click track? How well did that work?
Yes, I started tracking to a click in 2005 when I was in Chimaira but really do not like it. Metallica, Pantera, Slayer, Sepultura, and Slipknot never use a click in the studio because it’s much better to keep human feel. But most bands don’t have a huge budget and are forced to use a click track to save time and money. I don’t like using it because it dehumanizes the music and makes it all too mechanical – especially if the drums are completely quantized to sound like a drum machine. So that’s why I love editing my own drums because I like to maintain as much of the natural feel as possible. I never used a click in Dying Fetus or Misery Index. But now it is a necessary evil that I will hopefully escape in the next few years.
Did you record your tracks with the entire band or alone?
The band tracked all the music in Maldives and sent it over to me and I tracked drums in the United States. This is very normal thing to do these days, as I just did this with Six Feet Under.
Do you play to a click or samples on stage?
With Daath I always play along to a click with samples in my Macbook Pro, because we don’t have a keyboard/sample player. With Nothnegal I play with only the click because we have Marco Sneck playing all the keyboard and sample parts. With Six Feet Under we don’t play to a click.
What’s your favorite thing about touring?
My favorite aspect of touring is talking and hanging out with fans. I love talking to them about their own country, and also their perception of the USA. And, of course, raging and drinking beers!
Do you wear earplugs, in-ears, or monitors with no earplugs?
I always use in-ears because it is so much easier to hear everything. And it is a great way to save your hearing. But be careful to keep your ear buds at a very low volume – as low as possible. I started using in-ears in 2005 with Chimaira and love it!
Do you play your drum parts onstage exactly the same way that you recorded them?
Usually I stick very close to the album drum parts and play very consistently on stage. This way I don’t surprise my bandmembers and throw them off. I try to keep everyone as comfortable as possible so that we can play extremely tight [and] sound great out front. This is especially important in large venues. If two guitar players are not perfectly together on a large P.A., the sound will be a complete mess.
How do you stay healthy while you're on the road?
Aside from the alcohol consumption, I am a relatively healthy person. No drugs or pills. I exercise and stretch daily and try to get in a good hand warm up before shows. This way I am less likely to injure myself. I also do lots of shoulder, leg, arm, wrist, and finger stretches before every show.
Describe the worst injury you've sustained from drumming.
Just before a Chimaira tour in 2004 I blew out my left wrist – snare hand – and pulled a muscle very, very badly. It hurt like hell and we left for tour the next day. Unfortunately we had two weeks of shows without a single day off so it never even healed. I could barely hit my snare and my fills were very weird because I had to lighten my good hand. It was bad and hurt like hell. This is why I stretch a lot before shows now. I never want this to happen again.
Do you mute your drums or tune them wide open?
I always leave my drums wide open. No muffling on the toms at all and one Moon Gel on the snare very close to the rim. This is how both my live sound man and producer like my kit. I also tune my toms very low.
Do you feel perfect time is mandatory in creating a groove?
Absolutely not. Years of experience is mandatory for creating a groove. In fact, some of the greatest grooves ever are on the Jimi Hendrix Are You Experienced album by drummer Mitch Mitchell. And his timing on the album is technically horrible if you compare it to a click track, but his groove is so unbelievable and perfect for that album. Imagine if a producer grided out and sampled his kit without dynamics. It would sound so stupid. But unfortunately, this happens on a daily basis in today’s world. That’s why we need to put an end to click tracks and drum sampling.