Drum Parts: John Boecklin Of DevilDriver
You’ll notice that Boecklin mentioned aligning his left hand snare hits with his left foot on his kick drum. Using his left foot in pockets and empty spaces in the grooves was one of the primary ways he challenged himself on this album. “It was an odd thing for me to do – I’d never done the left foot and the left-hand in a beat. It has more of a slam to it when you use them at the same time.” This is one of the keys to learning this track. That, and never forgetting your paradiddles.
For instance, take the verse that begins at 0:46. Boecklin plays six groups of sixteenth-note paradiddles played between his floor tom and snare drum. (RLRR LRLL RLRR LRLL RLRR LRLL). On the last two sixteenth-notes of the fourth paradiddle (on the & and ah) he hits his snare drum twice. But, there’s an additional third snare note played on the downbeat of the fifth paradiddle (making a total of three consecutive sixteenth-note snare drum hits in a row). On the e of the fifth paradiddle, Boecklin hits a splash with his left hand. Immediately following these six paradiddles, Boecklin plays three groupings of thirty-second note “twos and twos” between his hands and feet. Each of these clusters is played in the order snare-tom-kick-kick. The last two sixteenth-notes of the groove are played on a 12" tom followed by a snare drum hit. Don’t forget that during the six paradiddles, Boecklin is lining up his left hand with his left foot on his kick drum.
By the time you hit the prechorus at 1:17, your hands are now playing a single-stroke roll on your floor tom. For this particular groove, Boecklin employs yet another atypical foot pattern. His feet play the pattern right-right-left-left. It’s just how he naturally felt the groove.
Good news – this rhythmic pummeling does subside momentarily. As you reach the chorus at 1:33 Boecklin intentionally scales down his drum part. He explains that nine out of ten times, DevilDriver will craft choruses that are the least busy part of the tune, in order to make them huge by allowing the vocals to take over. But don’t get too comfortable.
In the bridge there’s an intricate rhythm played between his snare and kick drum at 3:27, where he layers a quarter-note splash cymbal over the top of the groove. At 3:35 Boecklin switches hands with this pulse, and moves the note he was playing on his splash cymbal to his snare drum, while also adding an intricate pattern on the bell of his ride with his right hand. Your ears will deceive you at this section because there’s a percussive palm-muting part played on guitar, but Boeckin assures us that’s a quarter-note pulse being played on his snare drum.
The rhythmic foundation that underlies this part resurfaces in the song’s outro as well. The guitar plays the rhythm at 4:21, and Boecklin joins in at 4:29. Notice how the two instruments build the groove, working up to an abrupt stop. “That’s just us having fun on the spot,” he saus, “just making the ending real chaotic. We try to stay away from a fade out.”
Okay, so now you’ve got a verse, chorus, bridge, and outro – you’re going to need some fills to tie all these parts together. If you want to approach drum fills like Boecklin, you’re going to need to start improvising. The drummer is often still shaping his parts when he enters the recording studio, and for a very specific reason. “I just like the energy I get from doing something on the spot off the top of your head. You tense up, but you hit harder because you’re trying something new in your body, and you’re trying to pull it off,” he explains. In fact, over half of the transitional drum fills that Boecklin plays on any album are created in the recording studio. “We tend to do a lot of improv in the studio, and rely on that to give energy to the tracks.” Whether you use that as an excuse not to learn his fills note-for-note is up to you. No doubt you’ll have earned the reprieve.