By Andy Doerschuk Published July 29, 2009
Hometown: Whitehouse Station, NJ
Thursday has always been difficult to categorize. Although the band famously rose out of New Brunswick, New Jersey’s basement culture, they’ve always been far too cerebral to be considered a traditional hardcore band. Over their 11-year career they’ve toured with everyone from The Cure to Cursive, but have retained an inherent aggressiveness that can only come from being weaned on similarly independent '90s acts like Ink And Dagger and Lifetime. However, all of these references to other bands only serve as guidelines, which give hints about the sound of Thursday's new release, Common Existence.
How would you describe the feel of the new album?
The new record has a lot of tension and release. There are some parts that are super-chaotic and then some parts are really lush and melodic. This is by far my favorite Thursday record. It feels really exciting and new but also really comfortable and familiar at the same time.
What is your favorite drum part on the new album?
We have a song called "You Were The Cancer" that has a crazy fill at the end that lasts about 20 seconds. It involves the snare with alternate cymbal patterns -- the music gets super chaotic then leads to a heavy breakdown. I feel that the breakdown after the fill serves as one of the heaviest moments on the record.
Did you change your drum parts much throughout the recording process?
Absolutely, it took us over a year to write this record. For me, all that time can be your best friend or worst enemy. The more time you have the better you can plan out your parts. On the other hand, all that time can really make you second-guess yourself. By the time we got into the studio, I was pretty prepared with all the songs. I would always change fills at the last minute to super serve the songs based on critique.
What was it like working with your producer, Dave Fridmann?
Working with Dave is an amazing experience. He serves both as the producer and engineer, which is amazing because it was just the six of us and him. He has a total knack of dialing in the perfect headphone mix and getting the drum sounds you want. He's always reminding us that records should sound like humans playing music, not machines. As a drummer, that really allowed me to concentrate on feel and execution rather than marrying the click track. This our second record working with Fridmann, he's the bomb.
How long did it take to track your drum parts?
We would do about three songs at a time. I would get three songs done, and then bass would re-track, then guitars, and so on. The way Fridmann records is two weeks on then a month off, totaling about six weeks of recording with two months in between. I got most of my tracks done in the first two weeks.
Did you record to a click track?
There were three songs recorded to a click on this record, "Love Has Led Us Astray," "Last Call," and "Time's Arrow." That worked out really well, because those songs are pretty much the only one-tempo jams on the record.
Did you record your tracks with the entire band or on your own?
I've done a lot of recording in the past without the band but on A City By The Light Divided and Common Existence, we wanted to capture more of a live sound. There is a certain quality when the whole band records together that you can't duplicate when everything is separate.
Do you play to a click or samples on stage?
I've played only one Thursday song to a click live and that was "War All The Time." I did a month-long stint last year with My Chemical Romance filling in for Bob Bryar, and played the whole set to a tempo-mapped click track. Click tracks live take a lot of the guesswork out of the nervous energy. With Thursday, we like speeding the songs up live. There is a real energetic quality of pulling back on a verse and speeding up a chorus -- it makes every show feel different.
What do you like most about touring?
I just love playing drums. I love hearing my drums through a really great monitor mix. I love feeling the energy from the crowd and feeling connected to my bandmembers to create a moment that everyone in the room can feel. I really thrive off the nervousness I get before I step on stage, it's a feeling like no other and when I'm on tour, it happens every day.
Do you wear earplugs, in-ears, or monitors with no earplugs?
I wear in-ear monitors at all times, even at practice and in the studio. I got really used to them and grew to love them. I've used them for about six years now and know what to ask the monitor engineer for when dialing in my mix.
Do you play your drum parts onstage exactly the same way that you recorded them?
A lot of the backbeats stay pretty much the same but the fills change every day. I love to challenge myself to keep things interesting and come up with things on the spot. It’s easy to get into a rut on tour where you're playing the same songs every day and not challenging yourself. Improvising makes me feel like I'm learning something new everyday -- almost like I'm being taught by the music.
How do you stay healthy while you're on the road?
I drink a ton of water, stretch, warm up ,and make sure I get about seven or eight hours of sleep. I also try and keep a healthy diet. I always use touring to get me in shape. Lately I've been using heavy marching sticks to warm up for an hour before each show.
Do you warm up before going on stage?
Generally I stretch and hit anything I can find with marching sticks for an hour before set time. When I'm at home I try to hit the drum pad for an hour a day, but on the road, I like to play on pillows or any surface without rebound.
Describe the worst injury you've sustained from drumming.
I actually have the injury right now on my left thumb -- I've basically rubbed the thumbprint right off. It’s super painful to play with. I have to wrap the thumb with gaffer's tape to reduce the friction on the wound. It’s really hard to play with it on because it has no grip but it makes the show go on.
Do you mute your drums or tune them wide open?
The only drums that I muffle are my kick and snare. It’s a huge 14" x 10" drum that has tons of overtones because of its size. I use three pieces of Moongel and tune it really low, like 70's style low, so it sounds super fat. In the kick, I use a towel and Evans kick pad leaning against the batter head with a Falam Slam pad where the beater hits. The rack and both floors are tuned wide open and pretty low.
How often do you change heads?
I generally change the snare batter every two to three shows. The toms get changed once every week or two depending on how bad they start to sound. I try to run the same kick head for as long as possible, I think they sound better the older they are.
Do you use the same setup on stage and in the studio?
I do use the same setup for the most part. For Common Existence recording sessions, I added another floor tom to my left side and two resonating kick drums to the front of my main kick to bring out some killer low end. None of that stuff comes out with me live.
What techniques have you learned by listening to or watching other drummers?
I go on YouTube a lot and started to practice the Moeller technique, which is making my hands a lot faster and stronger. I'm always watching other drummers play, especially on tour -- I'm usually posted up right behind their risers taking some mental notes. I also like to watch other drummers warm up on a pad. It helps me to find new and more interesting ways to practice.
Do you feel perfect time is mandatory in creating a groove?
I don't think perfect time is mandatory for every situation, unless you're in NIN. I feel that playing around the beat is what I gravitate towards. I think that whatever feels best in any given situation is most important thing for the music.