Lessons

Pete Parada Of The Offspring: Dividing By Zero

pete parada

Photo: Ian Charbonneau

Press “play,” then hold on tight — The Offspring are coming at you again. Their ninth album, the freshly released Days Go By, is the firestorm you’d expect from these punk pioneers, and every single drum performance brings the heat.

In a feast for drummers, the songs on the band’s masterful latest album were split by two top players: eight tracks from rhythm maestro Josh Freese, and another four stunners pounded out by Pete Parada. We hunted down the latter to find out how he executed the exhilarating drumming on “Dividing By Zero,” the hyperactive second-to-last song that serves as a sister track to the album’s closer, “Slim Pickens Does The Right Thing And Rides The Bomb To Hell.”

Although Parada has officially been The Offspring’s drummer since 2007, the Bob Rock–produced Days was his first studio album recording with the group. “Bob and [vocalist/guitarist/founder] Dexter Holland want a lot of ideas,” he says. “They said, ‘We want the drums to be exciting.’ Everything was important — from verse to chorus to bridge, nothing was a throwaway.”

pete parada

Parada’s Setup

Drums Tama Starclassic Bubinga (Black Metallic With a Blue Sparkle Inlay)
1 22" x 18" Bass Drum
2 14" x 6" Starphonic Brass Snare Drum (or 13" x 6.5" Metalworks Snare)
3 12" x 7" Tom
4 16" x 14" Floor Tom
5 12" x 9" Tom

Cymbals Zildjian A Custom
A 13" Mastersound Hi-Hat
B 19" Projection Crash
C 20" Ping Ride
D 19" Medium Crash

Percussion LP
E 12" Timbale
F Cowbells

Electronics Yamaha
G DTX Multi-12 Pad

Pete Parada also uses Tama Iron Cobra pedals and Tama hardware, Remo heads (Emperor Clear on tom batters; Ambassador Clear on tom resos; Powerstroke Pro Clear on bass drum; Controlled Sound [black dot] on the snare), and Vater Session wood-tip and Josh Freese H-220 sticks.

“Dividing By Zero” kicks off with a darkly sparse guitar intro, which gets promptly blown apart by a fast-charging straight-stick roll at the 0:06 mark, then continues on for another six seconds. “That’s an open-handed single-stroke roll that just builds and crescendos up until the whole band comes in,” Parada says. “Dexter is very specific when he’s writing songs, and he knows what he wants. He said, ‘For this riff, hit the top of it with a roll, bring it down, and then bring it all the way up so we can come in.’”

When they all arrive together at 0:12, a no-holds-barred Parada punk blast awaits. “That’s a classic punk beat — very fast,” he notes. “That was a look back to their early recordings, which had that beat on it a lot. It’s a tricky beat to pull off: I’m playing two hands on the hi-hat, the right hand is coming over to catch all the snare hits, and underneath it’s a syncopated backbeat on single kick. Mastering it at that speed [about 156 bpm played double-time], you have to break it down and say, ‘What’s hitting what with what?’ Slow it down, get the muscle memory. Okay, now you’re good to go.”

The band charges forward together, until the 0:23 mark, where they break together in unison, a quick musical guitar/bass/drums seesaw that reappears throughout the song. “That transition fill is another nod to the older material of the band — it just has that energy,” explains Parada. “To Dexter it feels like [’70s hardcore punk band] T.S.O.L., with these accents that come out of nowhere. The song is built around the idea that there’s this energy, it’s going to be contained, and then at certain spots you let it loose.”

Case in point is at 0:31, where Parada’s controlled charge of a chorus beat drives the band cleanly forward. “When we’re there, I’m playing on the ride, but I tend to not be ping-y — I’m more on the edge of the cymbal, and I let it wash a little bit. The kick pattern is the same — we don’t want to confuse things — but I’m hitting the snare drum a little harder. So there’s not a lot of definition on the ride, the kick drum is propelling underneath, and it sounds like something is building.”

A verse/chorus combo follows, but a close listen to the second chorus sees an Offspring trademark emerge at 1:14, as Parada moves in mid-chorus from the ride to digging hard into the hi-hats. “The switch from the ride to the hi-hats is classic Offspring — if you go through tons of their hits, that’s their thing. Dexter says, ‘If you do a double chorus, I want you to move over to the hi-hat.’ That sort of mixes it up, and I think it makes it a little more interesting.”

There’s a guitar solo at 1:26, and Parada continues on with the classic punk beat, hi-hat firmly closed. “I’m bringing it back down, as if someone was singing — the guitar solo is carrying as much weight as the vocal would. It’s not show-off-the-drums time. We’re bringing in an Eastern melody thing, and I’m not going to stomp all over that.”

Arrive at 1:39 for the bridge, where a hat choke ceases the beat, followed by a spare hi-hat pulse punctuated by quick snare accents running under Holland’s lone vocal track. “When we did a take with a choke and just silence, it felt like it lost momentum,” says Parada. “When we threw in little hi-hat counts in between, it kept pushing it.”

Then a Hollywood-sized action sequence detonates out of the bridge: Those halting unison fills are followed by a reprise of the single-stroke roll, a double shot of unison fills again, then a gonzo tom fill that finally gets capped by a furious return to the chorus at 1:52.

“That’s my favorite part of the song,” Parada grins. “The last chorus just needs to explode. We tried different things, but that fill ended up being the turn-your-brain-off-just-go-for-it-primal-aggression thing. It was tricky to catch all the accents and get a fill in there at the same time, but the key was not to overthink it. Instead, dive in and see what comes naturally.”

At 2:17, with just a few seconds to go, Parada helps deliver The Offspring into the outro with a loose rock beat that also has a hint of restraint — foreshadowing the more straight-ahead feel of “Slim Pickens,” which is about to arrive and finish off the record. “We’ve just got a couple of bars left, everything’s nuts, but we needed to kick it down because the end is leading up to the next song. So we let it feel like it’s crescendoing a bit.”

A massively satisfying hi-hat choke brings “Dividing By Zero” to an unequivocal stop. “It’s just done — it seemed very fitting to the rest of the song,” Parada says. “If I know I’ll end on a choke, then the last note of the fill before the choke is a kick. You make the kick your third arm when you’re doing a fill like that: play rack, snare roll, two toms, then the kick again to buy yourself one note to get your hands over for the choke.”

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