Freeze! Keep your hands where we can see them and don’t move!”
Tim Yeung had to ask himself a question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, not today. On the road during the Divine Heresy/Moonspell tour of late 2009 (to support DH’s Bringer Of Plagues), he and the other members of the band were suddenly surrounded by five Oregon State Police cars. With guns drawn and barrels aimed at their skulls, Divine Heresy took a collective deep breath. Apparently a suspicious clerk at a local rental agency called the cops when something didn’t smell right.
“Our trailer broke down,” Yeung recalls from L.A. “So we had to get a replacement trailer. We stopped at U-Haul, and as we were trying to get back on the highway we were pulled over by five cops with guns drawn, pointing at our heads. ‘Get out of the van!’ It was like a movie. They thought that Dino [Cazares, guitarist] was a wanted felon on the run. Their patrol cars blocked us from getting to the onramp. CSI: Miami–style! We all had to show ID. Dino had his passport so it was cool. They apologized later. ‘Have a good day!’ Hey, buddy, it’s all good. I just had a 45 pulled on me!”
A day in the life of your average metal drummer? Could be. Tim Yeung has certainly seen it all, the good and bad sides of the music business. Renowned for his blistering drumming with Divine Heresy, Hate Eternal, Vile Remains, All That Remains, Nile, Decrepit Birth, and most recently, World Under Blood and Morbid Angel, Yeung is in constant motion. Extremely ambitious, to the point of denying fate to dictate his own destiny, he has always been committed to success through any means necessary. Even when gigs were in short supply and he had to take a day gig at an auto parts store, even when he was living out of his van and surviving on SpaghettiOs, Yeung believed in himself and his talents.
“Never let anything permanently discourage you,” he advises, relaxing in between dates for Morbid Angel’s ongoing tour in support of Illud Divinum Insanus. “Never give up a fight. In the entertainment industry you have to take what’s yours. You have to take what you want. Nothing is handed to you. It’s very tough. No matter what you do there are 1,000 people behind you who want to do the same thing. Get out there and persevere.”
Today, Tim Yeung is where he wants to be, at least for now. His work on Illud Divinum Insanus ranks as some of his finest, most ferocious drumming since Bringer Of Plagues, that album raising the bar not only for blast drumming, but for speed, power, clarity, articulation, and precision in the drumming category. World Under Blood’s as-yet unreleased album stokes his drumming fire to even greater degrees. Other drummers may play more varied styles of blastbeats, and there are faster players (even though Yeung won NAMM’s Fastest Feet competition in 2006, scoring 872 single stroke strikes on the Drumometer). But Tim Yeung brings more than just speed — tone, versatility, groove, desire, these are the keys that have unlocked his path to move beyond death metal’s often regimented borders.
Why is Tim Yeung one of the busiest drummers alive and you’re not?
“Why?” Yeung responds. “I think people hired me initially because I was young, I had a lot of energy, and I was ready to work. I learned 14 Nile songs in ten days. I was reliable. Being dependable is important if you want to do sessions. A likeable personality is a plus. It’s not based entirely on playing well. You can play like Dave Weckl [a Yeung favorite] but if you’re a flake no one wants to deal with that. Take it seriously. I was always networking, always hustling and schmoozing and putting the word out. I was plugging myself in any way I could. If no one knows about you they won’t call you. You have to get out and play the field.”
Raised In Rochester, New York, to a folk music–playing mother and an artistic father (who once painted a scene depicting a queen demanding a servant’s head on a silver platter), Yeung was an avid model-car builder and a lover of all things rock and roll. Then he discovered the drums.
“I just gravitated toward music and particularly drums,” he recalls. “I remember hearing Keith Moon on the radio. I loved The Who, Jimi Hendrix with Mitch Mitchell. I gravitated toward the sound of drums within a song. I could always feel a beat and tap to it.”
By age nine Yeung was playing snare and bass drum in concert band; by junior high he was jamming with his friends on a black 5-piece 1980s-era Pearl kit. He practiced the Alfred Drum Method and “basic rock drum beats and double bass patterns” with a local drummer.