Gene Hoglan Talks New ‘Atomic Clock’ Instructional DVD, Drumming Technique + More
Drumming legend Gene Hoglan was the guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show. The musician was there to discuss his 'The Atomic Clock: The Clock Strikes Two' instructional DVD. Check out the chat below.
How are you Gene?
I am excellent, Jackie. Hello to all your listeners. It's nice to be here.
Glad to have you on the show, finally. Gene's resume, if you've been under a rock, includes bands like Testament, Death, Strapping Young Lad, Dark Angel and Fear Factory. You've got this DVD in the works I wanted to talk about. Gene, what's the most important thing you hope other drummers will take from your forthcoming instructional DVD, 'The Atomic Clock: The Clock Strikes Two'?
Quit drumming so I get all the jobs! [laughs] I hope people just, you know ... I hope they’re entertained by it more so than anything else. I’m never sure how instructional I get with these DVDs. I try to throw some instruction in there, but I just try to have a really good time. And this format for this DVD will be a little bit different than the last one, and it’s hopefully going to be twice as entertaining, twice as much fun, twice as much for those who are not drummers or even musicians to enjoy. So yeah, that’s going to be coming out hopefully real, real soon. And I’ll be touching on all that plenty when the time is right.
Gene, double bass technique and timekeeping are what people tend to regard most about your playing. What overlooked aspect of your playing would you like fans and other drummers to notice a little more?
Wow, that’s a good question. Well, I do try to bring as much taste and thinking outside of the extreme metal box in the extreme metal perimeter. I do try to bring in a lot of really odd outside influences that, you know, every drummer has their influences that are probably outside of their genre, and I really try to display those as much as possible. Like a lot of the classic rock influences to jazz fusion influences, I try to bring those out whenever I can. I guess it’s all dependent upon the project I’m working on. If it’s one where they tell me, “You have full carte blanche to do whatever you want on drums. Whatever you lay down, we’re gonna dig, so just go nuts.” That’s when I let a lot of those influences really come out. There are other projects where I try to keep a little more tempered for the project, because some bands don't need all the crazy, psychotic drumming. They need something a little more straightforward, and I’m good for both.
I do try to show off as little as possible. If there’s a band, or a song, or a part that needs, you know.. we just need it pretty solid, don’t go too crazy. Let your freak flag fly, but not too much, I try to adapt to that. If it’s another project where, like I was saying earlier, it’s like, “Go sick, go crazy.” Then, hey I’m there too, for that.
Versatility has kept you in great demand throughout your career. When you first come into a band, what's the most important thing you need to determine about their music in order to tailor your drumming to the situation?
The thing that helps me the most is if I like their music. That’s usually the 99.99 percent of the projects I do, I like the music beforehand. Or, if the music isn’t quite my taste, I like the guys in the band a lot. There’s something I have to like, there’s something that has to be fun and engaging about it to keep my interest. Like I said before, the money’s always there, the fun has to be there. That’s the main thing. I’ve always said this, but if I’m coming in to help somebody achieve their vision of what they want their music to sound like, I try to be a big ball of clay for them. I’ll be your drum machine for hours in the studio to try everything. Or, if your vision is, “Gene, I know exactly what I want.” For instance, “I’ve programmed all these crazy drum beats. You’ve had the demo for a little while, you hear the crazy drum beats. I need those crazy drum beats that most humans can’t pull off. I need those on here.” Great, I’m good for that. Or, like I said, if it's something where the session is malleable to all forms of input, I’ll try everything for somebody. But that’s my main thing, if I’m playing for somebody else and trying to help them achieve their vision, I want them to have their vision completely achieved. To where it’s like, “Yes! This is what I heard in my head all this time. I didn’t think I could get it, but yes! We have it now.” Fantastic. That’s a win-win, for me.
Gene, what non-metal drummers have inspired you most? How do the things you hear in their playing ultimately come into play when you're making metal music?
Gosh, there are so many non-metal drummers. I started drumming before I was into heavy metal and I got into into heavy metal really young. I was nine when I started understanding what heavy metal was. By the time I was 12 in 1980, I was full metal child. I take influences from everybody -- all the Motown drummers, they're a huge influence. I've always said Stevie Wonder is my favorite drummer. A lot of people get really surprised, they don't even know he played drums. As a matter of fact he plays drums on many of the songs you've heard from Stevie Wonder that you enjoy. He's got this crazy style that's just so groovy and so awesome. The fact that he is not a drummer by trade really let's him think way outside the box which is why I think Stevie Wonder plays on a lot of his earlier records because he was probably trying to get his vision across to a drummer. The drummer was trying to get it but it's not quite there so Stevie said, "Just hand me the sticks. I know what I want. Hit record!"
All sorts of non-metal drummers, everyone from Frank Beard from ZZ Top to -- I've been listening a lot lately to this band I also play for up in the bay area called Kehoe Nation and that's run by a gentleman by the name of Brian Kehoe. He is also known as the face of Dunlop, if you ever read Blabbermouth and you see Dunlop interviews Kerry King or Zakk Wylde or John 5, usually it's Brian Kehoe doing the interview and he's an amazing guitarist. His band Kehoe Nation, they have an album called 'The Devil's Acre Overture' that's just so incredible. The drums on that are amazing, the drummer on that record is named Wes Anderson. I've been listening to him a lot going, "Hey, god, I love this guy's drumming."
There's a band from Canada called The Smalls who when I moved to Canada in 1997, they were the largest underground legendary band in Canada, in western Canada especially. Their drummer, TJ Kerry Johnson, he's an amazing drummer. He's not flashy at all, he's just got this style that's so laid back and so mellow and so much of his own personality goes into the drums. That's really enjoyable to listen to and -- I just like anyone who's really good and tasty and throws out just one really tasty lick in there that nobody else would have thought of, but it's just super cool. For most of my life, I noticed vocalists before I notice drums. I've always been so melodically oriented, vocal line oriented. Guys like Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age. He's today's modern messiah of vocalists for me, Mike Patton -- another God. Guys that can just do these crazy things with their voices. That's something I really latch onto, or even somebody that has a really great voice like Joseph Duplantier from Gojira. He's got that tone to his voice that's just incredible. It's raw, it's "yelly," but there's notes to what he does. I've always appreciated that.
Despite being one of the most accomplished drummers in the world, Neil Peart from Rush famously broke down and rebuilt his drumming technique. Being highly regarded yourself, how does your own technique continue to develop and change?
Well, that's a good point. Peart -- I have to admit, I grew up being a Neil Peart worshiper. He as well as Peter Criss, he was my first No. 1 when I was a kid when I turned 9 or 10, I discovered Neil Peart. He was my God for years and years. I didn't appreciate when he broke down his drummer and started working with Freddie Gruber out in New York. The things, for me, that made Neil magical -- all that outside of the box thinking. All that "I'm going to shove this lick into this rock song" -- it's not going to fit, but it'll be awesome! It seems like he abandoned that when he broke down his drumming style. I still love him, but I must admit it's the older Neil that really grabs my attention.
The one thing I do to stay constantly evolving, since I do play with all these other -- every couple of years I've recycled a new band that's been around for a while. That's one way to keep your drummer style just ever-evolving, just by adapting to what this band needs. For instance, a band like Testament does not need what a band like Dethklok or Dark Angel needs. I try to adapt my style.
There's an example of somebody's vision I want to help create -- Eric Peterson's vision of the music to be the ultimate that he is looking for by being a drummer that is going to try everything in the studio for him. He'll come up with ideas after ideas, I'll try to lay them all down for him. That's one way I can always -- I have the best of many worlds, I always adapt my style to whatever is playing. It's been a while since I've done gigs with Kehoe Nation but that is a non-metal project that wants me to be metal in it. So, that's a psychobilly band. Crazy hats, stand up bass etc. A lot of chicken pickin' stuff going on there. I get to do a completely different gene style than what a Strapping Young Lad or Fear Factory would call for. That's one way to keep your chops well rounded, by playing well rounded music and not every band I'm in sound like any of the other bands I'm in. I think that's very helpful.
There's going to be more news about the DVD, 'The Atomic Clock: The Clock Strikes Two.' Thank you so much for being a guest on the show.
Thank you very, Jackie. I appreciate it.
Thanks to Gene Hoglan for the interview. 'The Atomic Clock: The Clock Strikes Two' is available to pre-order at this location. Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.