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
Today's features all come from bands that optimize gut-wrenching metal. These three drummers have perfectly honed in on the sounds of brutality. From Michigan, self-claimed "sex metal" outfit Echo of Silence's drummer, John, Pennsylvania natives Hollow Visions' Morgan, and Travis of Virginia devils, Human Excoriation. Enjoy an in-depth look into their madness!
Meryl "LJ" DeWitt: How old were you when you first started playing? / What was your first drum set?
John: I was 14 when I first saved up for a FirstAct kit, with Meinl B8 cymbals (hi-hats/splash/crash-ride). I am 23 years old now, and I have been playing consistently since I graduated high school.
Travis Cook: I started playing drums around 18 but I started playing guitar and bass when I was 5. I've always had music in my life and after searching for a good drummer, I decided to take drums seriously. The best decision I could have made. I got my first drum set from John Brown of Gigantic Brain in 2000. We traded an ESP 7 string I had just bought for a Yamaha drum set with cymbals and double bass drum pedal. It was all over from there.
Morgan Bauer: I was 10 years old when I started drumming. Premier drum 5 piece.
LJ: Through trial & error in your career, are there any mistakes you would warn young drummers to be cautious of?
Morgan: Giving up. Never give up! I gave up for 2 years and had to start over.
John: I am still young, and making constant errors. Learn from your mistakes, and never get discouraged. If you are not passionate about your instrument, do not expect to go far with it. And do not expect any handouts. YOU have to get people's interest, there are too many musicians trying to do the exact same thing as you. Meet new people when you can, and learn from them. You don't even have to be good at your instrument if you are good at networking. And spread the love, it comes back to you.
Travis: The number one thing I would warn is taking care of your body. Stay hydrated and eat healthy on the road. Stretch before each practice and show to avoid injuries. If something hurts, reevaluate that technique. Your arms burning after a fast part or long practice is normal but sharp, prolonged pains aren't. Warm-up somehow beforehand. A great thing to consider is ergonomics such as the way your body moves as you turn from your smallest tom to the floor tom. Your body has a downward motion and taking this into consideration will save you a ton of energy.
Last, be sure to listen and play different musical styles. Find your weak spots, and practice those parts. The last few years, I've started learning to play the most simple beats with a metronome and when I go back to songs I know, those songs are easier and I think of new ways to play parts. Practice, practice, practice and you will form neurological pathways that will make playing second nature.
LJ: Biggest stage nightmare you've had so far?
Travis: The biggest nightmare was when I used cymbals stands and having my stands fall over while playing. After a couple times, I decided to change over to a drum rack. In False Hope and Human Excoriation, I would do vocals while drumming and having my microphone stand fall over.
Morgan: Voltage lounge. First professional set. Very overwhelming. Crowd was HUGE, lights bright, drums were very loud! Amazing show but very nerve racking.
John: I have had a few incredibly sloppy shows due to lack of sleep, stress, and faulty equipment. Underperforming on stage is the worst result I could imagine (other than a China cymbal falling and slicing my neck open). Your worst performance only lasts 30-60 minutes. No need to worry about it.
LJ: What's your current stage set up?
Morgan: 4 piece SJC Custom drum kit - Mahogany wood red Satin - Snare- 14x8 steal snare - 18in Zildjian bright crash - 18in Zildjian dark crash - 20 in Sabian metal rod- 6 in Wuhan splash china - 18in Wahan china - 14in Zildjian high hats
John: 3 piece Tama Rockstar (22" bass, 10" rack tom, 14" floor tom, all Evans heads) - Peace 14" snare drum w/ Evans Heads
Gibraltar double bass pedal - I am currently using a 20" Paiste prototype crash, 14" Zildjian A hi-hats, a 10" Saluda Decadence mini-china and a 21" Sabian AAX Stage Ride, but I have been a Saluda endorser since late February, so for our upcoming tours, I will be using 14" Earthworks Fusion Hats, 21" Earthworks Heavy, Raw Bell Ride, and a 18" Mist X Medium (slightly thin) Crash
Travis: For the last eight years I've played Phattie Drums. They were hand made in Johnson City, TN for Kevin Lane when he was in Whitechapel. Kevin recorded This Is Exile and toured to world with them. Unfortunately, the owner of Phattie passed away in a vehicle accident in 2010.
The drum sizes are: 8x7, 10x8, 12x9 toms, 14x14 floor tom, 20x20 kick drum and 14x7 Sounds Like Art Stave Snare. Axis X Longboards, Gibraltar rack and hardware, Alesis D4 and DDrum kick drum trigger. My cymbals are 13" Sabian hi hats, 16" Sabian Paragon crash, 18" Meinl Byzance crash, 19" Sabain AAX Studio crash, 22" Sabian Paragon ride, 18" Sabian AAX China, 16" Wuhan China, 12" Paiste Rude Shred Bell and 10" and 12" Wuhan splashes .
I use this same setup on the stage and in the studio.
LJ: Best piece you've ever owned? / Worst piece you've ever owned?
Travis: My Phattie drums are by far the best drum set I've ever owned. I love the tone and how they project through a loud mix. The worst has been all of the cheap, starter cymbals like Zildjian ZBT and Sabina B8s. I'd rather purchase a Wuhan.
John: The best piece I have ever owned is my Pork Pie drum throne. It is beautiful, and I could sit on it forever, and I want to. I have had too many terrible stands, drums, drum heads, drum sticks, and cymbals to count, or to name. I have learned not to settle when it comes to the quality of my drum equipment.
Morgan: Best, SJC Custom Drums. Worst kit, CB set.
LJ: Dream pieces to own one day? (Collectors, customs, etc)
Morgan: I own my dream piece with SJC.
John: If I can own any Buddy Rich, Benny Greb, Tony Royster, Aaron Spears, Eric Moore, or Vinnie Colaiuta custom drums/cymbals, I would hang them on my wall and never touch them. There are so many beautiful drums and cymbals on this planet. Those are just a few of my favorite things.
Travis: The last few years I've been lusting over a high quality custom double bass drum drum set. I keep looking into one and I can't justify the high cost because I honestly love my Phatties so much.
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?
Travis: I've never named any of my gear. I know a lot of musicians who name their instruments. I've always just called them my Phatties.
John: I do not name my equipment, unless it is out of frustration. @#&@$*#$#!!!! Thankfully, my current set-up does not have this problem, so it has not earned a nickname.
LJ: Who's your personal drummer hero?
Travis: I have three drummers that changed my life and made me want to know how to play drums. Kevin Talley and John Longstreth. When I heard Origin's first album and Dying Fetus' Destroy the Opposition, I knew I wanted to become a drummer. Then I heard Decrepit Birth's And Time Begins and the extreme drumming from Tim Yueng was the game changer. Unique Leader Records early roster was my end game goal. If I could play like those bands, then I had accomplished my goals.
Morgan: John Bonham (Led Zeppelin).
John: Refer to question number 6, and add any drummer who can teach me something new, and those are the drummers I am influenced by.
LJ: What, for you, makes it worth it to keep playing? What's your favorite part about being a drummer?
Morgan: When I discover new beats and new time signatures. When we are live and our time signatures are on point! The CROWD!! The PIT!! The FANS!!! It never gets old! My whole life drumming has been my passion. My friendships with my band mates James, Avery, & Zach of Hollow Visions will be forever family. I practice daily. If I'm not working I'm drumming. SJC custom drums are a huge part of my family. I was endorsed by SJC December 2016. Zach Matook of SJC is by far the best dude ever!! YEE YEE Zach
Travis: There's no other feeling like nailing a difficult part of a song in practice or live and looking up to see your band mates grinning from ear to ear. It's a very humbling experience having someone walk up to you and say, "Aren't you that drummer from such and such band?". At that moment I realize my playing or music had made an impact for someone to remember me.
My favorite part of being a drummer has always been getting to play. Playing a fast blast beat makes me grin and so happy. The faster the better! I want to thank you for the interview, my wife, son and family for their support and all my current band mates in Vituperate, Human Excoriation, In Crypts, Intraocular Anomalies, Down From The Wound and Caesura. Without these guys, I wouldn't be where I am today musically.
John: I am a drum set. I live, breathe, sleep, and eat drums. This is my life. There is nothing that anybody could do to take that away from me, and that is my favorite part about being a drummer. What makes it worth it? You make everything what it's worth. I want to play drums. And if I have to work multiple dead end jobs in between band practices to keep moving forward as a musician, I can't wait. This is all worth it. That's my favorite part.
Shoutout to my dog momma's.
Thank you so much for your time.
Echo of Silence