Hometown: Roanoke, Virginia
Previous Bands: Ultimate Dragons, Black Emmanuelle, Funeralizer
The Sword is an American heavy metal band that formed in Austin, Texas in 2003. Signed to New York-based label Kemado Records, the band released its second album, God Of The Earth, on April 1, 2008. Much more of a collaborative writing effort than its predecessor, the album provided the band with its first chart success when it reached number 102 on the Billboard 200 chart. In support of the album, the band completed a tour with acts including Machine Head, Lamb Of God, and Clutch. The quartet also supported heavy metal veterans Metallica on their 2008 European Vacation Tour in July and returned as opening acts on a number of legs on their World Magnetic Tour, which continued through the opening months of 2009. A two-disc box set containing Age Of Winters and Gods Of The Earth was released on November 25.
How would you describe the feel of the new album?
God's Of The Earth is definitely texturally more complex than its predecessor, Age Of Winters. There's certainly a sense of being more evolved. Sonically it's very open and airy. Song-wise, it's more massive. Performance-wise, it feels like something photographed in a state of transformation.
What is your favorite drum part on the new album?
My favorite parts are the tracks we recorded the day after we returned from our December '07 tour. We were hot off a run of killer shows and really jamming the songs out hard. I think those tracks succeeded in capturing the essence of my drumming. Of all the recordings we've done, these are some of my favorites.
Did you change your drum parts much throughout the recording
I made only minimal changes in the studio. The songs were very new and I was trying to hone in very quickly on the best-feeling chops for the tracks. The thing is, you can't rush the spontaneous mutations that songs undergo live. It's almost always the case that the songs get better and better, the parts evolve closer to perfection once you've toured on the material for a little while. There always tend to be moments on tour where you suddenly and for no reason play something differently than had ever occurred to you before, and you realize right then that that was how you should have done it all along, and you make the change then and there.
How prepared were you before going into the studio?
Hardly. We wrote the songs in kind of a rush, but without making any sacrifices as far as quality was concerned. I think that actually made some of the tracking more exciting and fresh kind of like in the way Miles Davis would never show arrangements to players before they showed up in the studio so they wouldn't over-think the parts. Time and the thoughts that waiting produces can be very bad things.
Did you record to a click track? How well did that work?
For the first time ever, I used a click track to record a song and I feel like it sucked all of the groove out of it. That's a regret for me. Since that happened I can totally tell on records whether a click track is used or not. It's not always bad -- in fact it works beautifully for a lot of recordings -- but there are definitely songs and styles of playing that do not lend themselves to being boxed-in in time like that.
Did you record your tracks with the entire band or alone?
A little bit of both. This record was highly experimental for us as far as the recording was concerned. I can say unequivocally that the tracks we recorded as a band feel better than the ones I recorded alone. I wish I had done them all with the band. Drums are part of the band, not a standalone thing, so it makes sense that when you have a dynamic where people are playing to and responding to each other, even if they don't realize it, when you start subtracting elements everyone suffers. Things begin to feel disconnected and inorganic. Organic is always best in my opinion. Everyone needs to fall in together and play from the gut. When you start dissecting the songs, segmenting them, you fracture the cohesion of your band. You don't want to do do that.
Describe your favorite aspect of touring.
Any time we have an off day in a rad city and can explore, that's always a treat. The greatest joy I ever derive from touring is meeting and hanging out with really rad people that are also inspiring musicians like Year Long Disaster or Stinking Lizaveta or Torche or Priestbird.
Describe the worst gig you've ever played.
We opened for Danzig on the Blackest Of The Black tour for just one show in Houston. We had our stuff set up and were standing by the stage waiting to go on when some asshole yells at us to get on stage immediately and that we've been using up our set time standing there. So we get on stage and play two songs before our bass player breaks a string. For whatever reason, he hadn't brought a backup bass or strings. No other band would let us use a bass, so that was the end of our set. Total asshole circus.
How much room do you have to improvise on stage?
A good bit, really. Quite a few of our songs have room for that and I try to keep it real. I always love those live Zeppelin recordings where you get treated to some cool unanticipated beats or fills that are often more inspiring than the records. Also, I think if I played the songs the same way every day I'd get so bored I'd have to hang myself.
Do you warm up before going on stage?
Funny enough, through recent experimentation and observing the results of my own various pre-show rituals, I've come to the conclusion that warming up doesn't really make a difference for me. A little light stretching can be okay, but if you overdo it I think it makes your body feel weird. Air drumming is the best warm up for me but I don't really consider it a warm up because I do it all the time whether I think about it or not. I think it's called being a drummer.
Describe the worst injury you've sustained from drumming.
I tore my rotator cuff under my shoulder blade. I was completely zonked on painkillers and alcohol for a week, during which time I watched the entire Twin Peaks mini-series. When the majority of the pain passed, I was left with aches and back spasms that have tortured me ever since. They have gotten much better in the last year or two since I started going to a chiropractor, and I am now able go to sleep without sedatives and booze, and that's a big change. My advice to drummers is: If you damage your body, stop what you're doing, go to a chiropractor or physical therapist immediately, take some time off and do your best to heal. Don't mess yourself up worse by playing in pain.
Do you do your own tuning?
I do. Want to know what I go for? I tune the top heads to where they have just the right bounce to feel really good when I hit them. Not pitch, but feel is important at this stage. Then I take the bottom heads up higher to where, when you hit the drum, a third note is produced. The tighter bottom head really gives you that extra thwack and makes the drums cut.
Do you feel perfect time is mandatory in creating a groove?
Absolutely not. Sometimes what gives a part its distinct character is a little bit of push and pull. What does "perfect" mean anyway? "Machine" perfect" or "perfect feel?" All I care about is the feel. Try to find a straight line in nature … oh, there aren't any! Space is curved dudes. Time is relative. You don't have to be Albert Einstein to figure that out.