From Griller To Killer: Nick Augusto
On a muggy summer day in Orlando, Nick Augusto is at a service station staring into the engine bay of his Nissan Xterra when suddenly a rainstorm hits. “Can you hear that?” he yells into his cell phone over what sounds like pebbles falling on a tin roof.
The 24-year-old Trivium drummer apologizes for the racket but he’s leaving for Rockstar Mayhem in two days and this was the only chance he had to get his oil changed. “The mechanic just found, like, five nails in my front left tire,” he says bewildered. “And it still drove.”
When Trivium’s fifth album, In Waves, slams the ripped-jeans-black-T masses in mid-August, most will agree it’s a paragon of classic metal —grand scope, majestic tone, and technical perfection couched into stickily melodic songs. The album’s creation — averaging 30 (!) takes per drum track over three days in Stanford, Florida — damn near killed Augusto. No doubt it was grueling, but … 30? Surely, he exaggerates. “No, no. I’m really not,” he says, recalling the many hours he spent with coproducers Colin Richardson and Matyn “Ginge” Ford. “They said‚ ‘All right, do it again. Do it again. And again.’ And even if I did take a really good track, they’d still make me do it again just for the hell of it.”
Conventional wisdom says go with the first or second take because after that the passion is gone. With Augusto, the opposite occurs: The more takes he does, the deeper he gets into the guts of the song. “It was tiring, but other than that I didn’t lose the feeling of the song,” he says. “I actually got tighter as things went along.”
No triggers were used in the studio, which is surprising considering the evenness of the bass drum tone. A lifelong Pearl guy, Augusto tracked with a DW kit featuring a 24” bass drum for a bigger sound even though he normally plays a 22” on his Masterworks. Every track was played to a click on the same setup, occasionally swapping in a Spaun snare.
When playing live, Augusto’s approach is the reverse: triggers but no click. From the audience’s perspective, the kick sound is half trigger, half microphone. “When I’m playing really fast stuff the mike won’t pick that up so we have the trigger just to have that little bit of clarity.”
Augusto’s Trivium connection goes back at least a decade. In junior high, in Orlando, he and future Trivium bassist Paolo Gregoletto would jam to Metallica songs in each other’s bedrooms, with Augusto playing a kit he inherited from his dad. (He cops to something of a Metallica fixation in those early days: “I had an all-Metallica Christmas one year.”) Slayer was another major influence, but the tipping point was “Heresy” from Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell. “I was like, ‘Aw, man, I wanna play that beat; it sounds so badass.’ Vinnie Paul was the guy responsible for helping me play that fast thrash stuff and that song really helped me to play that way.”
The two friends played together briefly in Metal Militia before Augusto broke off to pursue more extreme stuff, the most notable of which was Maruta, a grindcore trio he started soon after graduating high school.
Fast-forward to 2009, Augusto is working as a short-order cook at a bowling alley. Out of the blue he gets a call from Gregoletto asking would he like to come tech for then-Trivium drummer Travis Smith. Ditching the deep fryer for music was a no-brainer, but vicariously living the rock and roll dream as a crew member got old fast. “I was good at teching, but I was more of a player than a tech so I wasn’t really happy,” he explains. “Because I watched them every night and I just wanted to play so damn bad.”
Augusto returned to Orlando to concentrate on Maruta with renewed vigor. In less than two weeks, Gregoletto called to see if he wanted to play a few Trivium dates after Smith left in the middle of the Decimation Of The Nation Tour. Exact reasons for Smith’s departure vary, but everyone involved agrees the soon-to-be-ex-drummer’s lack of enthusiasm was dragging the other members down. According to Augusto, Smith left to get married.
Fortunately for Trivium, Augusto already knew the drum parts exceedingly well after weeks spent watching from the side of the stage every night. It gave him a leg up on mastering the 15-song set list he was required to do in the next 36 hours before flying out to meet up with the rest of the band.
On the first night of the tour, Augusto dispatched the parts with a life-or-death ferocity that convinced guitarists Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu he was the one. As far as the vacancy was concerned, there was a lot interest from more established players, but the band had made up its mind pretty much that first night. “They wanted somebody that no one knew about and who could grow into the band,” says Augusto. “Not just a ‘name’ drummer that’s played in a million bands.”
When DRUM! caught Augusto on that same tour back in 2009, we couldn’t help but notice how at ease he appeared while producing major thunder. It might have something to do with the grip, which is uncharacteristically loose. “I don’t do that clenched thing with the sticks,” he adds.
He’ll have a bigger kit for Mayhem, mainly due to the “dummy” bass drum he’s adding to showcase the elaborate resonant-side art work. “I’m still using single kick with double pedals, that’s the way I’ve always been, that’s what I feel the most comfortable.” He added a China on his left so it now mirrors the right side of the kit (what’s this metal drummer obsession with symmetry?) He also deleted the rack system. “You want to move something around and the whole kit moves,” he says. “So, I kind of just wanted to stick with stands this time.”
We almost forgot the biggest motivation behind Augusto’s work ethic: He wants to hit the Mayhem stage and be able to nail the new songs as well as they sound on the album, if not better. He might even be comfortable enough to put a personal stamp on his predecessor’s parts. “Hell yeah,” he says. “I’ve already started to.”
Augusto got the distractions of the touring lifestyle out of his system a long time ago, so he’s coming into the Trivium gig with no other mission than to crush it each night. “So many people are dying to be in your place. You’ve got to remember that,” he warns. “It’s like you have fight to keep your spot every time you go on stage.”
Augusto likes to focus his swift footwork into neatly arranged phrases of sixteen bars, like this title track that introduces Trivium’s latest, In Waves. If we split that phrase into two eight-bar statements, it kind of looks like the same sentence twice, only the last couple of words have been changed. This arranging technique, called “antecedent and consequent,” adds a little bit of pop sensibility to a song, perhaps in the hopes of offering it as a single.
Current Release In Waves
Birthplace Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Influences Vinnie Paul, Dave Lombardo, Lars Ulrich
Web site trivium.org
Drums Pearl (Masterworks and Reference series)
Cymbals Sabian (AAX X-Plosion crashes, AAX X-Treme Chinese and ride, 13” Paragon hats)
Sticks Pro-Mark 5Bs
Electronics Alesis DM5 module, Roland triggers
What’s interesting on In Waves is how Nick Augusto keeps his chops in check until they’re necessary for maximum impact. Most of the time, he invests the band’s mechanistic intensity with an organic effect by varying patterns from one section to the next, sometimes as often as every two bars. Some of these structures are complex; we have two bars of 8/8 alternating with two of 5/8 in several parts of “Chaos Reigns.” Augusto powers through it all by laying down a bedrock of sixteenth-notes on the kick, which allows him to accent points of the groove with whip-crack snare hits. Even in 4/4, Augusto keeps coming up with fresh ideas: At one point in “A Skyline Severance” he switches from snare to open hi-hat on each quarter-note with the snare pounding only on the third beat, adding not only muscle but also a hissing emphasis to the guitar riff. Augusto’s thinking here is even more impressive than his execution — and that’s impressive indeed.