What did the drummer say to the band leader? “Do you want me to play too fast or too slow?”
Drummers always get a bum rap. Why is that? Ever seen a good band with a shitty drummer? No. Know why? BECAUSE THEY DON’T EXIST.
Drummers rule! We hit stuff, get peoples’ butts shaking, and ultimately determine whether or not the band is going to perform well. You CANNOT have a solid band without a solid drummer, so this column is for the hitters.
Today, we go heavy with one of the most prolific and talented players on the metal scene (or any other,) Mr. Gene Hoglan. You might know him from such quaint groups as Dark Angel or Death. If not, maybe you’ve heard of Testament? Dethklok? Strapping Young Lad? If you haven’t heard of any those, do us both a favor and GET OFF FUCK OFF MY PAGE!!!
But seriously, Gene is the man, so spend some time checking this one out, and catch “The Gene Hoglan Experience” if you’re fortunate enough to live close to one of the dates listed below. OR, if you can’t make it to one of those dates, make sure to pick up his new dvd, “The Atomic Clock: The Clock Strikes Two,” featuring many of the aforementioned bands and a host of goodies from Mr. Hoglan himself. East Coast, please. J
G- So Gene… Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today! How is everything going, man?
GH- Things are going great, Greg. I appreciate the time and the opportunity to chat with everybody!
G- And us the same! So, where do you find yourself today?
GH- Today I am in Cleveland, Ohio. I am rehearsing with my band from Cleveland called Pitch Black Forecast and it features not only myself, Gene Hoglan, but it features Jay Mann from Mushroomhead. He is also making a return to Mushroomhead and if people are familiar with them, Jay is the vocalist for us, and this is a project we put together in 2007, and we are playing a big show tomorrow here in Cleveland and it’s gonna be great. The band is super metal! Our first album was called Absentee, and we also have our latest release, which is on iTunes, called Burning In Water, Drowning In Flame. It’s a little 5 song EP, and the music is really, really pissed! It is some pissed off music! When I hand over an EP to anybody, I always tell them that this is the most pissed band I’m in currently, so it’s pretty aggressive. That new EP has some seriously fast stuff, some hauling bass, and just some aggressive, aggressive music. Check it out! I’m sure there is Youtube stuff and all that sort of things. But check out iTunes and the latest EP from Pitch Black Forecast!
G- Sounds good, and I’ll provide a link to that right here since you brought it up!
GH- Thank you very much.
G- So first and foremost, I’m interested and I’m sure a lot of our readers are as well, let’s talk a bit about your history… How long have you been playing the drums, and when and what got you first started?
GH- Ok let’s see… What year is this? 2013.
(I giggle a bunch)
I’ve been playing now for 32.5 years on the drum kit. I got my first kit for Christmas of 1980, but for a few years before that, I was a savage air drummer…
(More laughing by me… this is a recurring theme throughout.)
I was awesome! And I’ve always talked about it… Air drumming is a GREAT way to learn drums! I mean, if you’re actually seriously trying to air drum to a song, you put some sticks in your hand after you learn the song, and it’s not that far removed from just plain old air drumming. So yeah, I guess I’ve been playing for over 30 years, and I started really young. I started touring when I was 16 years old, and it’s been pretty nonstop ever since 1984, I tell ya.
G- Ok and you started playing, rather you started touring when you were young as well… What was you first professional band and first professional project?
GH- Well, I guess that first professional band that I ever worked for in a touring capacity was Slayer when they were going out on their West Coast “Haunting The West Coast” Tour when I was 16. I went out as their lightning designer. I had been working with them for about a year or so before that, and just the lights at the shows… There was a time when Slayer was coming up and they were way too heavy for the L.A., gay cock-rock horseshit out there, and they were playing to some scary people. Was that because they were not a good band? No… They were the best band in the world, but they were just too heavy for everybody. There was a time when there manager at the time who did lights, wouldn’t show up to a show. Tom Araya, their vocalist, turned to me and said ‘Can you do lights, Hoglan,’ and I SAID ‘Yeah I was stage crew in high school and we had a light board.’ So he said ‘Will you do lights for us?’ I said ‘Sure.’
Then, they ended up losing their manager, and I was at the shows anyway, so I just jumped behind the boards and started doing lights. And when they wanted to go on tour, they brought me along. And I tell you, and I’ve mentioned this a million times… I was an absolutely horrible tech. Doing lights onstage is one thing, but the day-to-day grind of being a tech on the road I was terrible at. And I don’t blame them for not asking me back after that.
What was fun on that tour is that I would go up onstage and play Dave’s drums for sound check, and play… Drummers never get to hear what they sound like front of house. A guitarist, they have a wireless, so they can wander out to the front of house. The vocalist has a wireless, so he can wander out to the front of house to see what it sounds like. No drummer ever gets to do that, and I was like ‘Hey Dave, I’ll play some Slayer songs and you can hear what the band sounds like, and he was like ‘Great! Awesome!’
So, I worked with Dave a bit over the course of that year. He has said this many times that I showed him some tips for double bass. He asked me to be his drum tutor, and at that time I was like ‘That’s cool, but hang out with your favorite band, or go join a band?’ I said ‘Hey that’s a very cool offer, but I want to do my own thing.’ So, I joined Dark Angel. Well, I was in a band called War God for a few months, but my first professional band, going out there and playing shows and all that, was Dark Angel.
G- Alright. And well, I gotta tell ya… Your name and Dark Angel’s name has been in the news pretty consistently for the past few weeks, and apparently it was made known that there will be a few festival dates in 2014, but I won’t get into that right now because I’m sure you’re getting it from every direction about Dark Angel, so we’re gonna stick strictly with drums, how’s that?
GH- That is very appreciated. I appreciate that. Thank you!
G- Not a problem, but I’m gonna be at one of those Dark Angel shows, I’ll tell you that much!
G- So, you’re doing The Gene Hoglan Experience, and just today I find out you’re doing The Atomic Clock: The Clocks Strikes 2. You have your own drumming, touring show, and then you have a dvd coming out…
G- Do you ever sleep, sir?
GH- Uhh, not as much as I’d like, and you’re right. People ask me ‘How do you do this?’ And you pretty much just cut out your social life. You just put your nose to the grindstone and work it. I’m cool with that because I love playing drums, and I love being in all the bands that I do. I love playing with all the musicians in those bands, so I am the most fortunate guy on the planet, especially since I’m following the dream that I had for myself when I was 11, you know? I said ‘Look, I’m gonna become a Rock and Roll drummer,’ and I’ve been able to stick to it this whole time.
G- It worked!
GH- Yeah. So, I’m very fortunate and I do count my blessing… Frequently.
But I’m super excited about the DVD, and I’m super excited about The Gene Hoglan Experience shows that are happening, and yeah. It’s a touring drum show, but it’s way more than that. And this is one thing… When I’ve done clinics, people come up and say ‘This was super entertaining. I’m a drummer and I go to clinics.’ Other people come up to me and say ‘That was awesome! I’m not a drummer, and I don’t go to clinics… Is this what a clinic is?”
Half of it, or a large portion of it is spoken word. I go up there every night and just go off the top of my head, without making any of it up, of course. But I’m throwing stuff out there off the top of my head, every night.
GH- There is no script, there’s no anything. I’m sure I’ll repeat things here and there, because it’s fun. But as for every night, I don’t do any preparation or any sort of script memorization or anything… It’s just ‘Get out there and have some fun!’ It’s like a spoken word where the spoken-worder jumps on the drum kit and plays a song. So, I’ll be playing songs from a lot of bands from my career, and I’ll be doing a bunch of tunes to the actual tracks from the records…
G- That’s fucking AWESOME!
GH- … which is pretty cool. And if I don’t have a track, if I don’t have the actual track, hell I’ll play to the cd, you know? Crank up the cd! I might not start up the song at the right time, but I’ll jump right in there and play along with it!
GH- It’s very entertaining and very light-hearted, because I like to have fun with all that I do, especially with the GHX, I like to have some fun with it and really entertain people. And I try to open it up to more than just drummers… It’s not just a drum clinic. Yes, it is a drummer, who is gonna do some drum performing, but it’s for all metal fans, all fans of any of my projects, it’s open to EVERYBODY, not just drummers. If you’re a musician, if you’re NOT a musician, and you want to come down and ask Gene a question, because that’s one thing I do… I never say ‘Here’s our Q&A time,’ or choose 3 people to ask a question. No, if you have a question, fire it out there! Fire it out there and it just gives me something more to blabber on about for 5 minutes. So, it’s very light-hearted, it’s very much fun, and it is open to EVERYBODY! Whether you’re a metal fan, a drummer fan, a Gene fan, or a certain project of mine fan, it’s open to EVERYBODY! That’s why I strongly urge everybody to come on out and you’ll have a great, fun time!
G- Awesome! Now, the shows that are list (below) are mostly West coast, and I’m calling from Syracuse, NY… You think we might get a shot at this in NYS or somewhere close by where we can make the drive?
GH- Absolutely! This is just… Scheduling is always the premium right now, and with the west coast stuff, it was just ‘Ok Gene, you have 7 days open in your schedule… Let’s get something done around the release of the DVD,’ just to show people I’m out there promoting the release. So, the west coast will be hit, the mid-west… Who knows? I might be able to find some time in the future to do a nationwide tour, but even if it’s not, I am going to be, sometime in the future, back on the East coast, tackling the Mid-west, tackling Europe, tackling South America… I guess I gotta bone up on my Spanish for S. America! Australia, New Zealand, Japan… ALL of them. It’s all gonna be super kick ass, so…
G- Well, if you need another drum tech, or someone to open water bottles for you, you let me know, because I’ll make those trips!
GH- Very good to know, Greg. You might be getting a call from us.
G- Sounds like a plan… I’m ready to drop everything and go where you are!
Now we just talked about The Gene Hoglan Experience… Let’s talk about this DVD! I just got the word today, and you’re not only offering a ton of music, and probably a very entertaining time, but you’re also offering some excellent, excellent little bonuses and perks for the people who want to pick this up early and help it. Is it true that you’ll call somebody and tell them that the person who pledges is The Man if they do that?
GH- Actually, I will call their friends to tell them that! If you have some issues with your friends, where you’re friends think you’re a chump, I’ll call your friends and say ‘No, he’s not a chump. He’s my buddy!’
But yeah, the packages are for the fans and they’re pre-order packages, so if you do pre-order you’ll be the first people getting the release, before it is released, and we’re just trying to, you know, give back to people and thank them for their support throughout the years, and we try to make the packages very cost effective for everybody and just have some fun with those. So, if anybody is interested in this topic that we are talking about right now, head on over to www.hoglanindustries.com and check out these packages!
The one that is actually the most surprising, that has caught the most response, was the package that we call The Galaxy, where for $5,000, Gene will come to your house and give you a lesson and hang out with you for an afternoon. That was the one where the most people were like ‘Holy Moly! OK!!!’ That one has to be very limited, so there you go there. Come on, cloning technology! Clone Gene! That’s the one that is most limited and that I’m most excited about, so it’s cool.
G- You may not need to be cloned. I’m still waiting for teleport. If we can make that happen…
GH- I swear the Japanese have that right now. I’ve seen it in action… I’m not joking.
G- I’m kinda scared, but I want one. I want TWO!
G- So, we’re all drummers, and we’re all total gear nerds, and you are represented by some of the best companies, so let’s just give them a shout out… Tell us about your current rig looking like? What kind of drums and cymbals are you using primarily, what configurations, and what companies are backing you up at this time to give them a bit of time.
GH- Awesome I love that!
Well, the kit that I am playing currently is a Pearl Custom Reference kit that was made for me and designed by Pearl. The configurations are a 12, 14, 18, 24 kick, 24×16, I think a 12×10 and 14×12, and 18×18 I’d say. They also designed for me a Pearl Reference 8” wood snare, 8×14, and I know I like big snares, so my main snare is a Brass Free Floater snare by Pearl. I actually picked this up at a pawn shop in England, and this is the sweetest snare I’ve ever had and I have like 3 of them. My main one is awesome!
And lemme see… My cymbals are Sabian, and I play the AAX line for the crashes, 18, 18, 19 crashes, and my China’s are… I like the holey ones. I use the Paragons as well, but I like the 19 holey Chinas. Those are great. And the rides are a pair of 21” Powerbells that I’ve had for a dozen year now, and you can hear these on MANY records. You can always tell when I’m not using the rides because it’s got this tiny little bell, but those I try to haul around with me for everything and play those.
And my sticks are Pro-Mark 2B Nylon tips. Pro-Mark has really great nylon tips… They don’t come exploding off! I’m an exploder of nylon tips for years there! I had to play wood tips because the nylons would just grenade off, but Pro-Mark just has a great line of nylons that don’t explode, so that’s really cool.
And my heads are Evans. I tend to use the G2 clear, which is 2-ply, and it’s a great sounding head, you know! I used to use coated, but an old enginner of mine explained that the clears had a little more of the top end attack, so that’s always good. And in metal, we do a lot of tom stuff where it’s chugging along with the riff, so the attack of the clears is fantastic, man. I’m really down with those.
G- Right on, man! I always liked the Evans G2’s myself and G1 coated on the snare.
GH- I’ve found, for me, that the SD Dry Evans is the greatest snare head ever made. Absolutely! It has the greatest crack. Whatever it is they do to that, whatever Wheaties they feed to the SD Dry, it really works, man!
G- Especially on that Brass drum you’re hitting, man… That thing must just… OOF!
GH- Yeah those things are just… Rim Shots!
GH- And really quick… 2 things I’ve added to my set up over the years are, over my 2 rack toms, I’ve placed these 2 Sabian Tang cymbals, and they kind of look like mini-Chinas, but they don’t sound like Chinas. I was expecting the to, like little China sound, but they don’t sound like that at all. They sound like this, you know those stacks?
G- The Factory Metal stacks?
GH- Yeah. The little curved bars that stack up and have this crunchy sound? They sound similar to that. They just sound really strange and awesome, and that is the latest addition that I have a lot of fun with. For those that follow the old Death, I used to play with this old 5lb boat propeller in the center of the splashes, and that thing was awesome, man! That was pretty fun!
G- That is awesome!
So, and it may be from that last piece of gear, the 5lb boat propeller, you just talk about, but as drummers, we’ve all bled, sweat, and cried over our drums. So what I’d like to know is, in you rexperience, what is the worst drum-related injury you’ve sustained from playing? What happened and what was the injury?
GH- Umm, I am fortunate enough to be relatively injury free from drums. But I tell you, thank god for the creation of Super Glue!
GH- I can rip up my hands really well. I apparently have such baby soft hands that if I go away from the kit for 2 weeks, I start losing my calluses. I have some pretty mighty, monster calluses on my hands, and if there’s ever some downtime, I start losing them pretty darn quickly.
For instance: Right at the moment, I’ve not been playing as much drums as I usually do when I’m touring and recording, so my hands are in a bit of a state where I’m gonna need some crazy glue before our rehearsal tonight. This is my first time picking up some sticks since the last Testament tour about 3 weeks ago. I’ve already lost my calluses… It’s crazy! I used to keep these things for months, but then again I actually used to play a lot more drums than I do now. So, that’s what happens.
That’s probably the most injury I’ve ever had from playing drums, and I’m fortunate of that. I start taking pictures when I rip up my hands. When I was doing double duty with Testament and Anthrax (!!!)… They were on tour together last year… I remember I was doing a lot of guitar playing and studio work for that. So, I was going out with Testament AND doing the Anthrax set, I remember I lost my super glue for one night, and God did I tear up my hands! I’ve always taken pictures… I can put a little photo roll on the DVD of ‘Gene’s Hands’ and it’s just disgusting.
Even after playing, the anthrax guys, to this day, are like ‘Hey, how are your hands doing, Gene?’
G- Little markings and bloodshed on the drum heads, huh?
GB- Oh yeah. There will be blood.
G- (laughing) “I’m finished!”
GB- That’s right.
G- Another thing in talking about musicians and musician health… You play Metal and you’re a drummer, so I want to know do you wear hearing protection when you’re performing and do you think it’s important for your fans to do so when they come see you play?
GB- You know what, now? I never used to subscribe to that. I never have worn protection, and these days I do play the majority of my shows with In Ears. But I do strongly suggest ear protection for people.
It has been through using the In Ears and through not using your own monitor… Sometimes your drum tech will get things set up for you… There are many times when I’ll have to use a new drum tech. I have my drum tech, Jeff, but when he can’t make it or something and I have to use another drum tech, sometimes my ears get really damaged.
I do have irreparable ear damage due to the first few weeks of using in Ears. I had a drum tech that, a temporary tech fill-in, that apparently he needed an ear cleaning, probably for years, because every night I’d get on stage and he’d say ‘Your ears are gonna be great tonight,’ and it turns out he was basically deaf. So the volume of these things were blistering and brutal. And it only takes one loud volume attack in your ears. You could have ear damage from one sonic boom, one loud boom, and having to spend the first 5 minutes of every show… The show was on click track, so I can’t removed my ear. I had to keep them in there, and I was screaming at my drum tech ‘Turn EVERYTHING down.’ Everything, everything, everything.
Now, I have an ear issue that… I used to love silence, and now I can’t stand it. Up until 2010, I didn’t have any ear issues. I had the tiniest little Tinnitus that wasn’t phasing me in any form. Now, I have raging ringing in my left ear that will never go away. It’s there right as we speak. It will keep me up at night. It is pretty savage. So yeah… I’m very down with people protecting their ears.
You know, Pete Townshend, Ted Nugent, all of these guys know what they’re talking about when they say. So yeah, protect your ears.
G- Well, if Pete Townshedn, “The Nuge,” and Mr. Gene Hoglan think it’s a good idea and endorse it, maybe you should, too, folks.
I have 2 last questions for you today, and the first one… Well, you have a large repertoire behind you. You have a ot of projects, and a lot of output, but what I’d like to know is what recording are you most proud of in your career as a drummer? Anything in particular really stand out to you, or is there one that you’re most excited about?
GH- Wow! Yeah, the new Atomic Clock DVD!
GH- That’s the thing now. Well, I’ll tell you… I was really proud of Strapping Young Lad’s City record. I remember that I recorded 15 tracks that we did record for that album in 15 hours, and I thought that was pretty sharp. This is back in the day when not a lot of budgets were to the point where you could have 5 days to record your 10 songs. 2 songs a day?! That’s cake!
It was always… You have 2 days to A) Get going and B) Get this entire album. Ok? You’ve gotta get your tones on the first day, and then get 3 songs that first day. And then you have 7 songs, 10 songs the next day, and so, that’s kinda the way it worked with Strapping… We didn’t have a huge budget, so it was a matter of we had to do it all in 2 days. And being the drummer, you know that the project cannot go on unless you get your tracks done, so a lot of pressure on the drummer, and I think I’ve been able to step up to the pressure, and that’s been really good.
G- I’d say you pulled it off. All that Strapping Young Lad stuff is chaos! My father here is 65 years old, and he loves it. He LOVES it!
G- Last question of the day, I just wanna say you’re living the dream. You’ve gone everywhere, you’ve played with everybody, and you’re still doing it, and there are a lot of kids that want to do the exact same thing: They want to go on the road and record and be a pro like yourself.
So, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming drummers everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional drummer?
GH- Well, on e of the first things I always tell guys is the first thing you do is play with other guys that you can get along with. Maybe you’re singer , guitarist, or bassist is not the best in town, but you get along well. And if you’re gonna spend long periods of time in the van… Bands are families. Bands are a team. Having somebody fucking cool, and maybe not the best player… Good, but not the hottest hot shot in town, but a great personality and you can get along with them for a year in a van, that’s important I think.
I’ve been in situations where I get along with everybody in the band. I’ve been in situation where I get along with everybody except that one member of the band. That’s always kinda stressful and trying.
Another thing I would tell people is, and this is the business aspect, is learn how to read contracts…
GH- … And this is something you want to do for life. You’re gonna see a whole lot of contract in your life. And if you’re young, don’t make the same mistakes you hear every other young guy out there make when they’re ‘Oh… the record label raped us with the contract. We couldn’t read it, and we signed away our lives to them.’ Contracts are not hard to read. Legalese is way easier to fathom than you’d think, so don’t be intimidated by it. Learn how to do it.
G- And those are 2 very, very, very wise tips. So, I highly recommend that you listen to this man, who’s been doing this probably longer than some of you reading this have been alive. Almost longer than myself.
Well, that’s all I have for you today, Mr. Hoglan. We’ve got The Gene Hoglan Experience hopefully coming to the East Coast, but definitely doing some shows in California. We’ve got the DVD, The Atomic Clock: The Clock Strikes 2 coming up. And chances are you’ll catch this man beating the snot out of his drums in the very near future somewhere near you, so I highly implore you to go check it out because if you haven’t before, you’re missing out!
Gene, I just want to say again… Thank you very, very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today! I wish you nothing but the best in the future, so travel safe, play hard, and we look forward to round 2.
GH- Aww thank you very much, man. I appreciate that.
G- Absolutely. And like I said, if you need somebody to open those water bottles for you…
GH- Very cool man. You’ll get a phone call real soon.
G- Awesome! Take care, man.
GH- You too. We’ll see you.
G- You got it.
Confirmed GENE HOGLAN EXPERIENCE Appearances:
*new* 9/29 – San Diego, CA @ Royal Dive
*new* 9/30 – San Diego, CA @ School Of Rock Clinic (ALL AGES)
*new* 10/1 – Hollywood, CA @ The Whisky
*new* 10/4 – San Jose, CA @ Milano’s
10/17 – Coralville, IA @ West Music Coralville – Signing TBA – 6:00PM
10/19 – New Berlin, WI @ Cascio Interstate Music – Part of Drummer Fest / FREE – 11:00AM