Mind Over Matter: Billy Rymer
Pacing back and forth while trying to seem mellow, Billy Rymer can scarcely hide his disappointment that DRUM! already has a copy of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s new record, One Of Us Is The Killer.
The 28-year-old drummer was hoping it hadn’t been kicked out into the wider world just yet. Like a new parent, Rymer wasn’t quire ready to let go of this baby. “I’m my own harshest critic,” he says from his pad in the Washington, D.C. area, where he just moved with a girlfriend. “You can critique yourself until you go off the deep end.”
To prep for Dillinger’s upcoming tour, he has been playing along solo to all the stems from Killer several times a day during the last ten days or so. It seems like overkill. Having already committed 11 studio-caliber takes to pixels, how much more airtight can he get them? For the band’s resident mathochist, committing drum parts to memory is only half the battle. “There are things I want to change,” he says. “Stuff I already know I’m going to do differently. Like, I could have had some flair here or done this fill differently. I already know the song, now it’s just getting that intensity all the way through.
“Plus, there’s concepts I want to pursue that I should have gotten down with years ago,” he continues. “Like that whole Mike Mangini “ladder climb” four-way drumming, where it’s left hand/right foot, right hand/left foot, and played with accents in either triplets or fives or fours and just get fluid and comfortable with it. It really makes my mind tingle to do that exercise. Who knows where I’ll be with that in two months but hopefully I can apply it somewhere. Having said that my motivation now is practicing the s__t out of these songs so they crush live.”
Touring the world leaves scant time for anything else, but Rymer refuses to be intimidated by a busy schedule: The more drum-related things he can cram into his daily existence, the better. He just started giving drum lessons via Bandhappy, the online platform recently started by a buddy, Periphery drummer Matt Halpern. Rymer is bringing two kits out on tour, one for the gig and another he can put dampening heads on to play in the trailer or somewhere in the venue. Lessons are paid for in advance through the website, and he can teach five or six students at once. It’s harnessing the power of the Internet but keeping the face-to-face model of instruction intact. “I’m really looking forward to teaching in person on tour,” he says. “I think [Bandhappy] is a great, organized service. It doesn’t create any awkwardness with money; that’s already sorted out for you. They do a direct deposit in your account.
“It’s well deserving of their cut,” he continues. “They’re putting a lot of time and money into this to make it the ultimate online music service that’s probably going to get pretty massive in the next ten years.”
We saw this coming. Rymer was giving lessons at the DRUM! booth on a Warped Tour stop a few years ago not long after we profiled him for the April 2010 issue. Sweaty and exhausted after Dillinger’s set, the drummer braved the scorching sun to deliver a scintillating demo of chops and trigonometric beats to passers-by and offering tips. But the impromptu lesson wasn’t just him doing us a solid – this is what he likes to do.
Parlaying downtime on the road into an educational and moneymaking opportunity is one thing, but Rymer is after something simpler: working with friends in a family-run business. When Dillinger shared the stage with Periphery during the band’s previous tour cycle, Rymer and Halpern hit it off, hanging in each other’s hotel rooms, swapping licks, and trying to out do each other. You’ve heard stories like this before, but what started out as a casual bro-down became a business model. “The cool thing about that whole time was that I have never been more warmed up before going on stage because we would just nerd out on pads. ’Check out this flam-a-macue.’ It’s exciting when you vibe with people like that.”
Then there are Rymer’s drum clinics, which have been more frequent in Europe than in the U.S., but that’s hopefully about to change with the help of a booking agent he recently tapped to help gin up steady work. Even so, clinics have to turn on a dime, taking place during a Dillinger tour on the day when the band is in town, preferably in the mid afternoon when kids are getting out of school and would be able to attend, yet leaving enough time for sound check later. Logistical nightmares that they sometimes are, Rymer is hooked. “I’ve learned more from [clinics] than most drum lessons I’ve had,” he says. “Hanging out and shedding, sharing ideas. I’m constantly like, ’Dude, what was that fill you just did? Hold on, I’m pulling up my iPhone. I got to get that.’
Crowd-sourcing the next drum phenom has been the paradigm for a few years now, but it’s also turning the education industry on its head, a development that Rymer finds it inspiring. He cites 23-year-old Matt Garstka and his YouTube video on beat displacement as one example of how the learning curve has gotten shorter and shorter. “That made me love that kid even more because at the time when I saw that video, I had been on beat displacement for maybe a month, and then I see him basically going through the exact examples I was.”