About The Torch: A monthly series, The Torch aims to help musicians of all ages and talent levels learn more about their respective instruments. Each issue features band members from around the world discussing their craft. They provide our readers with advice and insight towards their person experiences, as well as talking about the tool of their livelihood. Whether you’re an aspiring musician, beginner, fan, or expert, there’s something here for everyone. I truly believe it takes one generation to inspire another. With each issue, I hope we can motivate more and more readers to become the forces they admire.
Written & Produced by Meryl "LJ" DeWitt | Edited by Rachel Rosell | Photos credit to owners
Boys and girls, we have a good one for you this week! From Ontario, West Virginia, and North Carolina respectively, these drummers paint a perfect picture of the progressive metal and post-hardcore genres. Each with their own style, each band should be on your concert bucket list. Enter the bangers of Red Handed Denial, CURSES, and Krosis.
Meryl "LJ" DeWitt: How old were you when you first started playing? / What was your first drum set?
Tyson Dang: I was in between the 9th and 10th grade when I first hopped behind a drum kit. I’d say at the time I might have been the age of 16. My first drum kit was a CB Drums kit that my mother had gifted me for my birthday. She knew I really wanted to get into drums, and so she helped me out.
Shane Cyrus: I started playing drums when I was 13. My brother was in a band that practiced at my middle school and I'd go watch them practice every day after school, and eventually I picked up some sticks and took interest in drumming, mainly because I enjoyed playing the Rockband videogame. My first kit was purchased by my mother later that same year on my 14th birthday. It was a Birch Gammon 5 piece, pretty much the "First Act" brand of drums. One year later I joined that same band I used to watch and upgraded to a Tama Swingstar kit.
Daniel Cece: I first picked up drumsticks on Christmas morning of 2008. My parents took me to my uncle's house and there was an M&M trail leading from the front door to a closed door near the dining area. I walked in, and there was my very own Groove Percussion 5-piece starter kit. After showing an interest and love of percussing my whole life, it was a dream come true. I sat down immediately and began jamming with my uncle who plays guitar. I fell in love and learned my passion that day.
LJ: Through trial & error in your career, are there any mistakes you would warn young drummers to be cautious of?
Shane: In the art of drumming, I have noticed the biggest roadblock is a subconscious loss of interest or dedication when trying to self teach. This can be said about learning and practicing any instrument, but it takes a certain amount of patience to slowly start training your limbs to separate different rhythms on time. Don't sit down for a 1 hour practice session expecting to come out of it sounding like Neil Peart. It takes time and patience, and consistent perpetual practice. You'll quickly find out how dedicated you are by your progress.
Daniel: Control and understanding of rudiments and technique is far, far more important than speed. What I learned in jazz band and drumline helped me way more than anything I attempted to do on my own, so I would absolutely recommend joining programs or band groups through school or taking lessons starting out. Also, trying to learn too much at one time can be a detriment. Take your time, and master one thing before another.
Tyson: Work on the foundation before building on it! So many times have I witnessed a drummer with too many pieces than they know what to do with. I get that some people want to leap right into the double-kicks, 4 toms and 10 cymbals, but they should really lay out the floor plans before stacking the bricks. Also, protect your ears! No musician wants a damaged ear, and as a drummer you’re the closest thing to the snare and cymbals. Protect your ears or learn to embrace tinnitus.
LJ: Biggest stage nightmare you've had so far?
Tyson: There was one show during our US tour, when we arrived the venue, the promoter refused to make accommodations for our set up. On top of that, the sound guy was absolutely clueless about the FOH (front of house) system they ran at the venue. This led to us having a stripped down version of our show, where the audience were deprived of the full effect of our performance.
At another performance, everything wrong that could happen, happened! Both guitarists broke a string at the same song, the bassist’s pick up was having issues, the backtrack was off and the monitors were pumping our singer’s ears out. It was total chaos on stage, but the show must go on, and we complete led the set seamlessly. Almost as if everything I wrote here never actually happened.
Shane: My biggest stage nightmare was when my band, Curses, played the 2014 Vans Warped Tour. This was huge for us, especially at the time. So there was already a lot of excitement and anxiety in the air. When our time came to play, we were set up in 10 minutes, the crowd was huge, so we didn't want them to have to wait. Then suddenly during soundcheck, the power to the entire stage shorts out. It took the stage crew 20-30 minutes to fix, making us lose more than half of our crowd. More stress. We finally started our set and the crowd reformed. But any touring drummer knows it's always just the next problem. During one of our songs, the floor tom leg closest to me loosened and the tom lowered and slid into my right leg. For the rest of the song, I had to hold the floor tom up with my right leg and do all the bass drum parts with just my toes, no leg movement. The tom was one false move away from falling over, and rolling off the drum riser, then the stage, so that song in that situation was definitely a nightmare.
Daniel: The only experience close to a "nightmare" was when one of my band's samples from our computer started playing with the click track over the sound system. Then, when our guitarist tried to fix it, I didn't have any click in my ear at all. We had to restart the song like, 3 times before everything was set up correctly. The crowd was pretty laid back, though. We tried to make a joke out of it.
LJ: What's your current stage set up?
Daniel: As of right now, I am endorsed by Soultone Cymbals and Xcel drumsticks, so I use them for all live shows and practices on my kit. I use a Mapex Bonewood 5-piece kit and Pearl Demon Drive pedals. My specific cymbals run down is:
- 16" Soultone Extreme Crash - 17" Soultone Extreme Crash - 13" Soultone Extreme Hi Hats - 11" Soultone Extreme Splash - 9" Soultone Extreme Splash - 20" Soultone Extreme Ride - 16" Soultone Extreme China
Tyson: Los Cabos Drumsticks 5A Red Hickory - Mapex Black Panther Blaster 13" snare - Mapex Armory 22" kick - Mapex Armory 16" floor - Mapex Armory 14" floor - Mapex Armory 12" rack - Evans Genera HD DRY (snare) - Evans EC2S Clear (toms) - Evans EMAD2 Clear (kick) - Sabian AAX 14" hats - Sabian AAX 16" crash - Sabian AAX 18" crash - Sabian AAX 20" ride - Sabian B8 8" splash - Zildjian 6" Zil-Bel - Zildjian Oriental 18" china - Shure SE215 earphones - Vratim Drum Shoes II
Shane: Ddrum reflex 3 pc. w/ white pearl wraps - Mapex Black Panther Phat Bob Snare - Saluda Cymbals - Remo Coated Ambassador heads - Vater Sticks - DW9000 double pedals - Gibraltar/Yamaha hardware
LJ: Best piece you've ever owned? / Worst piece you've ever owned?
Shane: My favorite kit I've ever owned is the kit I have now. We've been through a lot and I don't ever plan on selling it for that reason.
Tyson: I’d give the “best” title to two items I own and currently use. The Zildjian china has been through hell and back! It’s the oldest cymbal on my kit, the most used, and the most shared- still not a crack in sight (knock on wood!). The other item I’m in love with are the Vratim Drum Shoes II. They’re a recent addition to my fleet and probably the most significant! I was a bit skeptical to try the shoes at first knowing they claim it’s better for drumming. After practice and a show or two with them I fell in love! My kicks are more precise, the grip is astounding and the comfort is… comforting! They also make for great casual shoes as well.
On the flipside, the worst piece I ever owned might go to a Paiste cymbal. For their price point purchased, the cymbal I owned had a surprisingly short life span.
Daniel: By far, the current ride I use is gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. Soultone, in my opinion, makes the best cymbals, and the 20" Extreme ride cuts through any mix, has a distinct, massive bell, and is a perfect all-around versatile cymbal.
Contrastingly, I remember I used to have a 12" Wuhan China that made anyone's ears bleed who heard it. I kept it on my hi-hat stand for some reason. It sounded like a trash can had a baby with a white noise machine. I finally threw it out when I upgraded to a real China.
LJ: Dream pieces to own one day? (Collectors, customs, etc)
Tyson: I’d love to move up on the Mapex tiers. Those shells sound beautiful and their hardware is incredibly robust. I’d also like to have Los Cabos Drumsticks with my signature printed on them. Then I can tell my mom “I’ve made it, I’m a celebrity now.”.
Daniel: As far as cymbals go, I've never been more content with a brand to use than Soultone. I would, however, absolutely love to have a Truth custom kit one day. Several of my favorite drummers use them and to me, they have the most top-notch sound of any drums I've ever heard.
Shane: My dream kit is either a Vintage Ludwig kit from the 60's that's been restored, or a Mapex Black Panther Cherry wood kit. Both out of my price range at the moment...
LJ: Some drummers think I'm crazy for asking this & others find it a perfectly normal question… Do you name your pieces? If so, what are their names?
Daniel: That's pretty funny, actually. I usually just refer to my drums or cymbals as my "babies". I love them all equally and for different reasons!
Tyson: None of my pieces are named, although I really should get into that habit! I think I made a joke long ago about giving all the pieces female names, since I was banging them all...
Shane: I have personally never named any of my drum pieces, which surprises me. We name our stage equipment racks and amps after Star Wars droids and robots from movies, but that's it.
LJ: Who's your personal drummer hero?
Daniel: Over the years I've been amazed by many drummers and the things they can do. My #1 personal drummer hero overall is Matt Halpern from Periphery. He's also a guy I've been able to talk to personally about music and even got a lesson from him. I've never met a guy more invested in his fan base and musical community than Matt. Aside from that, his playing is godly. I've never seen him miss a note.
Shane: My personal drum hero would have to be Luke Holland. He's a huge inspiration because of everything he's accomplished since I began drumming. It was a huge honor for me to even record in the same studio and play the same kit he did a couple months ago. I aspire to be at least half the drummer he is.
Tyson: There are several drummers out there that have contributed to the growth of my abilities. They span across different genres and ranging from different ages. Some are my friends and some are in big-name bands. Some aren’t even drummers!
LJ: What, for you, makes it worth it to keep playing? What's your favorite part about being a drummer?
Tyson: I love the creativity that comes with drumming, they’re technically not note-based and for an artist to provide flavour to something like that is truly magical. It’s also a great workout on stage as your entire body is being used. My favourite parts about being a drummer are both the writing and performing aspects. Drummers are pretty awesome.
Daniel: I've told anyone who has asked me what the best part of drumming for me was the same thing every time: The feeling of playing, regardless if it's for 5 people or 500, is unlike any other high that can be experienced by a person. There is something truly transcendent that takes me to another dimension of reality when I escape to my own realm of music. Only other musicians will understand it. It's an indescribable feeling that can't be expressed through words. It's an honor and a privilege to be able to express myself and my passion through percussion. Any kind of fame or fortune or worldly/career aspect of it is just icing on the cake. I just love to play.
Shane: My favorite part of being a drummer is a tie between the feeling I get when I learn something new, and the feeling I get when we start our set every night. These feelings are very similar, I guess you'd call it excitement. I've never felt more alive than in that moment.
Red Handed Denial