Extreme Metal Roundtable

Chris Adler, John Boecklin, Justin Foley, And Dirk Verbeuren

Date December 5, 2007.
Location Congress Theater, Chicago, Illinois.
Background The seventh show of a 17-gig, six-week winter tour.
Danger Level High. Very high.

Foley: First off, John, it’s bull that you’re 220 [pounds].
Boecklin: Hey, I hit the gym hard for this tour. I beefed up.

DRUM!: Which begs the question: With all the traveling you guys do, how do you stay in shape on the road?
Adler: I’m up to 2,100 sit-ups a day.
Boecklin: No way. That’s ridiculous.
Adler: And I wake up early every day, no matter where we are, and try and find a gym. In 2006, I realized that if you get drunk at night, then wake up in the morning and feel like crap, you don’t put on your best show, and that’s not fair to the people who come out and pay money to see us. So at the same time I quit smoking, I started going to the gym. I replaced smoking with doing something good for myself, and I’ve completely become obsessed with it. It’s not that I need to be either trimmer or bulkier. I just know that the better I treat myself on a day-to-day basis, the better I’ll be behind the kit.
Boecklin: I don’t find myself doing a damn thing at all. But the shows have been tight for me, so why try and fix something that’s not broken? But I will say that some nights I party a little too hard, so when that starts to affect my playing, I back it off for a few nights.
Verbeuren: I’m like John. I’m lazy on tour. I just warm up before the show a little bit, and I’m ready to go.
Foley: Yeah, I just warm up too. I also try and eat the opposite of what [Killswitch guitarist] Joel [Stroetzel] eats. If he has a triple bacon cheeseburger with extra meat, I’ll have a salad.

DRUM!: Your bands all play a ton of fast tempos. How can you keep that up night after night?
Adler: Ask Dirk. He makes us all look slow.
Verbeuren: Speed is addictive, I guess. That’s what attracted me to drums in the first place. I think the first beat I learned was a blast beat. It didn’t make much sense at the time, but that’s what I was into. Nowadays, speed isn’t my main focus at all. I just want to serve the song. Sometimes [a song] requires you to play simple, while other times you have to come up with some crazy stuff.
Foley: The rest of us can’t keep up with him, probably because he measures his body weight in kilos. If we switched over, we might be able to catch up.
Adler: When I first started playing, it was all about being faster or hitting harder than the next guy. But you become a better drummer by not trying to outdo everybody else, by sitting back and letting the song breathe, by becoming part of the band rather than making it a one man show. Everybody starts off wanting to be the next Eddie Van Halen, but when you really find your place in a band, that’s when the work you do seems to last a little bit longer.

DRUM!: In terms of speed, how do you adjust your approach between the studio and the stage?
Boecklin: In the studio, I don’t have nearly half the problems I do in a live environment. I really need to focus in on relaxing on stage. With the adrenaline in the live show, the feet just don’t work as well as they do when you’re hanging out in the studio, kicking back with your friends. Even when we’re playing in front of 4,000 people, I try and keep the state of mind that I’m going to a rehearsal, so I can play tight.
Foley: I try to approach playing the same way in both instances. I’ve never really noticed a difference.

DRUM!: Do any of you use clicks during the shows?
Verbeuren: Yeah, I use them on the songs that have backing tracks, and also on songs where it’s more comfortable for me to play with a click. It’s a matter of feeling.
Adler: I rehearse on my own at home with a click, but we never use it live. I’ve suggested to the guys that we try it so we could be more consistent, but they really don’t want the live show to be anything like the record. And actually, I kind of agree with them. If somebody messed something up — if somebody goes too fast or too slow — well, that’s why a lot of those kids come to hear us. They want something different than what they’d hear at home when they crank up the albums.

DRUM!: What else do any of you do differently during live gigs?
Boecklin: Some of our older material is a lot simpler, but now I add a lot of new fills. As I play the songs more and more, I find different things I can do in them. It’s like Chris said — you hear a band live, you want something different.

DRUM!: But there are some listeners who do want to hear precisely what’s on the record.
Boecklin: Well, I do flashier stuff live, so they won’t be that bummed.
Foley: I definitely have come up with parts for older material that I wish I’d thought of when we recorded it. It’s like, “Why didn’t I think of that two years ago?” I have some live parts that I play each night the exact same way, but then I have other parts that I play whatever fill I feel like.

DRUM!: Do you learn anything new from watching each other play every night?
All (practically in unison) Absolutely.
Verbeuren: One of the best ways to learn new techniques is to watch other drummers. It’s essential. It’s inspiring to see how people get through their shows, and how they move. It’s the little things.
Adler: In general, since I started gigging, touring has made me a completely better drummer. When you’re at home practicing, you’re living in your own little world, but when you go out and see these guys night after night, you realize, “Wow, every other dude on the block is better than me.” That inspired me to make each record or show better.

DRUM!: Do you all like multiband touring, or do you like touring alone, or would you prefer playing with only one opening band?
Boecklin: Touring alone sucks. The more the merrier, I say.
Verbeuren: Also, different bands draw different crowds, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s great to play to your own crowd that’s already in love with your band, but it’s also great to play for people who don’t necessarily know you. For us to open on a tour like this, it’s a dream.
Boecklin: (motions to the roadies struggling with the tons of gear) It’s murder for those guys, trying to figure out how to fit four bands on stage. But I love it. I’ve been a fan of all three of the other bands on the bill for a long time.
Adler: Backstage and offstage are a lot more fun, too. We’ve all been in our respective bands for quite a while, and we’ve all known each other for a long time, so we’ve got all these practical jokes, and games, and fun stuff that keep things from wearing thin. I’ve been touring on and off for 13 years, so any other band you can have around is a blessing.

DRUM!: Even if you don’t like their music?
Adler: Yeah. Even DevilDriver.
Boecklin: Daaaaaaaaaaaaaamn!
Adler: I’m kidding, John. Seriously, we’ve been touring with those guys since 2003, and we’re all really good friends. One of the most enjoyable things we’ve come up with is a game called arena ball.

DRUM!: Please describe arena ball for our readers.
Adler: You can play arena ball either before or after a show in an empty club or arena. You pick a section of the place — like any one group of seats — and take a football, and kick the ball into the stands. Whatever row the ball lands in, that’s how many points you get. If the ball ends up outside of the section, you lose points. But the rules are always evolving. It’s turning into a pretty popular game on this tour.

DRUM!: Do you stick people up in the stands to retrieve the balls?
Adler: Yeah, we have two guys that we make wear referee shirts, and these really stupid hats and whistles. It’s a real production.
Foley: One of the refs snuck on stage the other night. We penalized him for offsides.
Boecklin: Chris and I are on the same team. We’re called The Dudes.

DRUM!: Are The Dudes doing well?
Adler: Not at all. I’ve earned a nickname: Foul-out Adler. I seriously need to practice.

DRUM!: What are your favorite cities to play in?
Boecklin: Here in Chicago. The crowds are always on fire. And Detroit has always been one of my favorites.
Foley: Wooster, Massachusetts. It’s practically home. The shows there are always incredible. We also had a lot of fun in Australia. The shows were terrific, insane. The crowds were really into it, singing along with everything. It was so much fun.
Verbeuren: Justin’s right. We played in Australia with Killswitch a couple years ago, and the shows were definitely insane. They were all packed. People always look forward to tours there, because I don’t think too many good ones come through.
Adler: We’ve played a lot of places. Philadelphia, New York, and San Diego stand out, but like these guys were saying, Australia’s a pretty special place. Every show we’ve all played there is something we’ll never forget, probably mostly because going into it, we didn’t know what to expect. Really, we didn’t expect much, because we didn’t know how the records were doing down there, and half the guys in the band can’t even find Australia on the map. But when we got there, everything exploded.

DRUM!: How do you keep from getting bored after playing the same material night after night?
Boecklin: There’s no way around that one. I admit I sometimes get pretty bored, but you have to play the popular songs each set. But hey, we wrote them, so it’s our fault.
Foley: You get bored playing the most popular songs, but you play them so much because they are the most popular, so that makes it a bit less boring. It works itself out.
Verbeuren: You have to get creative with the songs, whether they’re old or new. If you really get bored, you can switch stuff up, try different stuff.
Boecklin: Like cowbells?
Foley: More cowbell!

DRUM!: Do your songwriters or bandleaders get upset when you switch things up?
Verbeuren: As long as it’s tight, everybody’s happy.
Foley: I think in my case, if I really screwed something up, everybody would be thrilled. They’d think, “The untighter, the better.” They mess around so much, inverting stuff into major keys, that sort of thing. I think if I played an entire set where I was swinging everything, the guys would probably … okay, they might not like that.

DRUM!: Any good tour stories you’d like to share?
Boecklin: Arena ball, man! (general laughter)
Foley: No sex and drugs stuff. Been there, done that.
Verbeuren: When I first started playing drums, I once fell off the back of a riser in the middle of a song. It was a tall riser, but I didn’t get hurt. That’s one of those things you always remember fondly.
Boecklin: Once we were in Iowa, and it was our first tour, and it was the first song. It started out with a snare roll, then went right into some tom stuff, and I went for the toms hard, and just knocked the whole rack over. We weren’t even 15 seconds into the set, and I had to stop playing, go around the kit, and pick my toms up. The crowd had no idea who we were, and they barely noticed.
Verbeuren: There was one time when my right beater broke, and I had to do a double kick part with my left foot. That was fun.
Foley: Oh, I’ve broken my right beater multiple times on the exact same song, on the exact same note.
Adler: I have one good story. It’s not necessarily a backstage thing, and it’s not insightful or musical, but it’s really disgusting and funny. We were playing at the club in Phoenix a few years ago, and there was a large photo pit and a bunch of security guys in front of the stage. At one point, I looked over to stage right, and there was this guy standing there who had managed to get past the security — which wasn’t that unusual at that point, but fortunately now it’s more difficult. So he’s right next to our guitar player Mark [Morton], and Mark isn’t a very touchy-feely person. For that matter, he doesn’t like being around anybody. But this guy had his arm around Mark, and I thought, “This is just going to turn out badly, and Mark’s going to haul off and hit him, so somebody’s got to get this guy out of here.” Security finally made it onto the stage, and I could see they were trying to get him off. We were in the middle of a song, and I didn’t want to stop playing, but Mark had stopped — the rest of the band was still going — and I saw that this dude was hopping … because he was missing a leg. And he must have lost the leg recently, because he still was wearing a colostomy bag. But they couldn’t get him offstage, because the colostomy bag got tied up in Mark’s cable. Suddenly, the song ground to a halt while they untangled this disgusting bag from Mark’s cord. We still couldn’t figure out how this guy got on stage. I mean, there’s this rabid crowd of fans in the front row who couldn’t get up there, but this one-legged dude with a colostomy bag made it. Fortunately for everybody, the bag didn’t explode.

DRUM!: Anybody else have anything to add?
Boecklin: No, man. It’d be impossible to follow that.

Chris Adler

Band Lamb of God
Latest album Sacrament
Height 6' 0"
Weight 150 lbs.
Primary influence Steve Shelton
Style “I play drums like I would want to play guitar.”

Dirk Verbeuren

Band Soilwork
Latest album Sworn To A Great Divide
Height 6'2"
Weight 65 kilos (“I’m from Europe, and we don’t do pounds.”)
Primary influence Dave Lombardo
Style “Groove matters the most.”

John Boecklin

Band DevilDriver
Latest album Last Kind Words
Height 6'1"
Weight 220 lbs.
Primary influence Vinnie Paul
Style “I’m a beefy player. Lots of power.”

Justin Foley

Band Killswitch Engage
Latest album As Daylight Dies
Height 6'1"
Weight 180 lbs.
Primary influence Kenneth Schalk
Style “I just try to groove.”