Buckcherry’s Xavier Muriel: Project & Serve
“And it’s weird because playing smaller drums like that makes you play differently,” he continues. “You don’t play with as much bombastic force as you normally would if you were playing a 26-14-16-18 because you don’t have to hit the drum as hard for it to project. When you’re talking about a 26" kick drum, you’re talking about a big drum, so if you’ve got a weak leg, forget it. It’s not going to work. So having smaller drums made me play a lot more fluidly, there was a lot more finesse to it. Because the drums are smaller, if you hit them too hard you choke them. I found myself playing not as ape-ish or as like Arrrgh! It was weird, but it was great because I didn’t overexert myself.”
Low-tech or resourceful? Whatever you call it, it’s a way to get different tones without a new snare one every track. “I’m not into that,” he affirms. “Once I find the drum that I like, that sounds naturally great shell-wise, then I’ll spend hours with different head composition and tunings. A lot of guys will have a drum doctor in the studio the whole time, holding their hand, ’Oh, let’s use this snare here. Oh, let me adjust that.’ No, I did everything myself.”
Push It To The Limit
Hard-smacking clean drums are a Muriel signature. Maybe it’s an age thing or maybe it’s where he comes from (his mother, also was a drummer, was into Ted, Nugent, and Kansas and Fog Hat. At the same time, Latin music was always pumping in the home in Texas growing up. He later was influeced by the simple great feel, the pure pocket of drummers like the ones from Chic, Michael Jackson, and The Babys — that guy was ridiculous, and he never got any credit. Mitch Mitchell and Bonum and Ginger Backer and all of that stuff, that was one realm. An entire other realm was disco and funk music, and I don’t mean disco music that was like a machine but true funk drummers. You hear that and you cannot help but move. And if you don’t move, then you’re dead.”
Muriels’s style is in the sweet spot between supportive and flashy – a sexy line he expertly walks. That’s not the same thing as being a risk-averse trad rocker, such as the stuttering foot of “Seven Ways To Die,” a track that delivers on the band’s so-called punk influences that Todd is always touting but which were never convincingly on the records. “That is all right foot I’m proud to say. When Keith wrote the riff he requested a punk type of feel, which we’d never had. So he was ’I want you to do whatever you want to do that’s going to make it a little edgier or angrier.’ So that was the template for me and then I just kind of went with it from there. If you listen to the whole opening part of it and even the turn-around before the verses, it’s all really simple, just flams with kick drums on quarters. But it’s so powerful that it fits that song. If you were to go and try to do something more technical you would lose the essence of what that song is about. I feel sad for a lot of the audience today because they don’t know what it’s really like to go and listen to what a great drum track is anymore, like the on “Toys In The Attic” or “Shoot To Thrill” off Back In Black. Those [kinds of] songs are where it’s really important.
“So is [’Seven Ways To Die’] simplistic in the verses? Maybe, but when it gets to that galloping part, that’s when I’m kind of like ’Now I can add a little gas to the fire. Let’s turn it up!’
And as any powerful kicker knows, d-beats are a gateway drug for double bass. In theory and practice, he hates the twin pedals but is smart enough to understand their occasional benefits, and so he reintegrated them into his studio setup after a lengthy absence. It wasn’t till a year and a half ago, touring behind All Night Long (the Nickelback tour as he recalls), that Muriel added double kick-pedal to his kit live. “I had never used one in the studio, and [until then] I hadn’t used one live, jeez, dude, for probably 15 years, because I was just thinking if everybody’s trying to get faster, I want to do the exact opposite. I want to lay down a stupid, greasy, funky backbeat. I think it was because I had gotten to the point where most of my fills were pattered after Bonham because he was the king of the sixes, you know? He had sixes down – right-left, right-left—two-kick-beats down – and so amazingly well that you couldn’t tell whether or not he was using his 18" floor tom or whether he was using a bass. So for years I labored over whether to get one again. I really wanted to use it, sparingly of course, or it gets old.
“I was watching Jimmy The Rev from Avenged Sevefold play – a sad, sad, loss – and remembering how in the ’80s I played a double kick, just like everybody else did – Tommy Aldridge and Tommy Lee and Randy Castillo and all of those guys – and I started to miss it. I thought, Well, I don’t want to change what I play for the song, because the song is the song. Buckcherry was never about the double pedals, never about doing sixteenths- and thirty-seconds. Even to this day I don’t do them. I refuse to because that’s what everybody else does. I only use it as a flavor because I felt that I needed to open up another chapter in the way I performed live. And when you have a fan that’s a drummer who’s been listening to that same song for nine years come up and go‚ ’Hey man, I heard what you did in the precursor to the middle of the solo, that was awesome.’ I’m like, ’Yes! Validation.’ But if you do it for the whole wow factor, I think that’s a poor choice because you’re already up there, people already paid to come to see you, you’re already on the record, you know? How much more ego needs to be fed?
“I’ve been asked this a hundred times, Do you ever get tired of playing “Sorry” or “Crazy Bitch” or “Lit Up,” and I’m like ’Uh, no. Have you ever asked Joey Kramer is he tired of playing “Sweet Emotion”?’ I’m sure there might come a day but right now, no. So if you’re able to keep the beauty and the simplicity of it but maybe just add a little something here and there to where you go‚ ’Oh, what was that?’ Then that’s awesome.”