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Dancers to a discordant system
July 25, 2011 7:14 PM   Subscribe

Here are two videos of drummer Stan Bicknell playing drums: Mars Volta Medley; Meshuggah Medley.
posted by mhjb (39 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I.....really need to practice my rudiments.
posted by triceryclops at 8:03 PM on July 25, 2011


All due respect to Mr. Bicknell's skill, but I'm inclined toward the opinion that this is more sport than music. But this is my feeling about many drummers in metal (and its various sub-genres), especially.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:16 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I fail to comprehend how you cannot hear the sick groove in those Meshuggah beats.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:23 PM on July 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I agree, Dark Messiah.

Meshuggah sounds like an aircraft carrier grudge-fucking a blast furnace.

That's a good thing.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:26 PM on July 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


I fail to comprehend how you cannot hear the sick groove in those Meshuggah beats.

Heh heh. Different single stroke rolls for different single stroke folks!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:26 PM on July 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of terrible metal drumming. But Meshuggah ain't it. And they're more of a math problem than a sporting event.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:30 PM on July 25, 2011


All due respect to Mr. Bicknell's skill, but I'm inclined toward the opinion that this is more sport than music.

It is sport that allows one to make music that would otherwise not be makable.
posted by ignignokt at 8:31 PM on July 25, 2011


Oh, and for those who liked the Meshuggah bit, I would suggest checking out Dysrhythmia; Running Shoe of Justice. Used to be hugely into both.

Mr. Bicknell did an excellent job with his medleys, especially with the snare sounds. I can't say enough good things about this.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:40 PM on July 25, 2011


It is sport that allows one to make music that would otherwise not be makable.

I'd have to disagree with that statement. This kind of drumming can be easily and readily programmed for a sequencer or drum machine, and if reasonably good samples are in use, it would be pretty hard to tell the difference between a live performer and a sequence. A skillful programmer could make it next to impossible to tell the difference. The same cannot be said for many other styles of drumming, notably jazz, classic funk, soul and R&B, etc.

And please, note, this is not in and of itself a value judgement on the music, but it is, I believe, worth noting, as regards your statement, ignignokt. This is exactly the kind of drumming that is indeed very "makable" without human physical drumming skill.

I'd like to reiterate that part of my first comment, as well, though, that gives props to Bicknell's skill. He is very skillful.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:26 PM on July 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


flapjax are you saying you can't groove to this style of drumming or that this style of drumming has no groove?
posted by mhjb at 9:39 PM on July 25, 2011


I'd have to disagree with that statement. This kind of drumming can be easily and readily programmed for a sequencer or drum machine, and if reasonably good samples are in use, it would be pretty hard to tell the difference between a live performer and a sequence. A skillful programmer could make it next to impossible to tell the difference. The same cannot be said for many other styles of drumming, notably jazz, classic funk, soul and R&B, etc.

That's pretty spot-on, considering that Tomas Haake writes his drum parts in a computer program before learning to play them, and also considering that he engineered one of the most popular metal drum kit plugins out there.
However, I'm interested to know what's so different about any of the aforementioned styles that makes them essentially unprogrammable. Are we saying that metal drumming sounds programmed, or that Tomas Haake's drumming sounds programmed? Because there are a lot of examples of "jazzy," "soulful" and "funky" metal drummers out there. Also, old funk and R&B are sampled endlessly in hip hop and electronic music, frequently to an end that could have easily been programmed.

FWIW, I would love to hear/start the programmed soul genre.
posted by Demogorgon at 9:48 PM on July 25, 2011


There's something off with that snare -- too loud in the mix? Or out of tune? I dunno.. makes the whole thing sound like noise to me.
posted by empath at 9:49 PM on July 25, 2011


I'm interested to know what's so different about any of the aforementioned styles that makes them essentially unprogrammable.

Well, if we look at jazz drumming, it's many things: the dynamics (that's a huge one), the improvisational interplay between other members of the ensemble, the overall fluidity and unpredictability of the style. Virtually impossible to effectively program.

flapjax are you saying you can't groove to this style of drumming or that this style of drumming has no groove?

Oh, the former, for sure. Groove is in the ear of the behearer.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:33 PM on July 25, 2011


Drummer here...

Yes, he has great chops.

Yes, he is pretty legit in that he doesn't use a double bass pedal.

Yes, his snare is a little wonky in the mix.

Yes, tons of drummers could do this.

Yes, it's a great YouTube drumming video.

No, I don't think he's an awesome drummer.
posted by ReeMonster at 11:21 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


What is this I don't even
posted by chimaera at 12:26 AM on July 26, 2011


> It is sport that allows one to make music that would otherwise not be makable.

I'd have to disagree with that statement. This kind of drumming can be easily and readily programmed for a sequencer or drum machine, and if reasonably good samples are in use, it would be pretty hard to tell the difference between a live performer and a sequence. A skillful programmer could make it next to impossible to tell the difference. The same cannot be said for many other styles of drumming, notably jazz, classic funk, soul and R&B, etc.

And please, note, this is not in and of itself a value judgement on the music, but it is, I believe, worth noting, as regards your statement, ignignokt. This is exactly the kind of drumming that is indeed very "makable" without human physical drumming skill.


Animals as Leaders is a case in point, afaik all the drums in that record are programmed, which is kind of impressive in itself.

Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of terrible metal drumming. But Meshuggah ain't it. And they're more of a math problem than a sporting event.

Personally, i find that kind of drumming (and throw dream theater-style of prog drumming as well) very boring. It requires tons of skills for sure, but i put it in the same category of music porn as Satriani or Vai are to guitars (Pardon the ignorance on guitar heroes here, i am a drummer after all).

I agree it's more of a math problem, i'd consider more of a sport something like what Abe Cunningham or Dave Turncrantz usually do. Guys that i enjoy watching much more.

But hey, like flapjax said, groove is in the ear of the behearer and different strokes for different folks :D
posted by palbo at 3:07 AM on July 26, 2011


And let me say i really liked the sound of the snare in the mars volta medley, and posit that all of the set in the messhuggah one sounds like shit.

Also, what's with most people nowadays playing only two toms? Where's the love for three or four tom sets?
posted by palbo at 3:11 AM on July 26, 2011




Meshuggah can get more groove out of programmed drums than plenty of meat-based drummers.

Metal like this does the same thing to me as the first time I "got" Kind of Blue. Jazz and this kind of metal are all about applying virtuosity, geekery and soul to give your music teeth. I'm not alone - I see an increasing number of Haake fans who swear by Buddy Rich, for instance.
posted by vanar sena at 3:53 AM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


And please, note, this is not in and of itself a value judgement on the music, but it is, I believe, worth noting, as regards your statement, ignignokt. This is exactly the kind of drumming that is indeed very "makable" without human physical drumming skill.

You can't win if your time keeping is indistinguishable from a machine and you can't win if it is. WTF?
posted by spicynuts at 4:23 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


> It is sport that allows one to make music that would otherwise not be makable.

I'd have to disagree with that statement. This kind of drumming can be easily and readily programmed for a sequencer or drum machine, and if reasonably good samples are in use, it would be pretty hard to tell the difference between a live performer and a sequence. A skillful programmer could make it next to impossible to tell the difference. The same cannot be said for many other styles of drumming, notably jazz, classic funk, soul and R&B, etc.


I didn't know that Haake wrote with a drum machine (which is perfectly valid), so my statement doesn't apply here. But in regards to extreme metal drumming in general, I believe it does. In the late '80s, not many would take it upon themselves to program blast beats or even double bass. It wouldn't occur to people that something that brute and repetitive would sound good. Once death metal and grindcore drummers did start playing it, even though - as people like to say - "it was not very musical" in the course of playing related physically demanding "sport-like" beats, it was apparent that yes, this can be awesome.

Later, the Berzerker, et al and even black metal band did start programming blast beats with drum machines. But discovering that this kind of thing was worthwhile without that experience of playing faster and faster on physical drums despite it being condemned as non-musical? Pretty unlikely.
posted by ignignokt at 5:52 AM on July 26, 2011


Music is just one of those things; if you have to ask "why" then it wasn't made for you.
posted by Dark Messiah at 6:24 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


And as for programming blast beats, while it is possible to make them sound mostly live, there is still a difference; especially for the double-bass parts can sound very staccato and bland; like your sound card driver just crashed on a game's loading menu. The best programmed metal drums I've personally heard were on the first Necrophagist album, and the first 3-4 Project Hate albums; even there, with amazing programming, the mixing is still used to hide the limitations of programmed drums.

Unless you're trying to find a round-about way to profess your love for Mortician, I don't understand how you could say "whatever, a drum machine could easily do this". And the fact you think R&B is harder to program than metal drums, I'm just shaking my head over that one.

While you may feel there is little to no subtlety or nuance to this kind of drumming, I would say that's a stretch. Yes, a lot of metal drumming is very one-dimensional blasting; if you don't care for the music then it's hard to see the finer points -- or know where to look for the real gems. There are cliches in all styles of music, and performers who can make anything artistic look and sound more like going through a wrote set of motions than an actual musical performance -- pretending that's relegated solely to metal is self delusion.

In the end, though, I guess it doesn't matter. I don't care if you like or appreciate the same music I do. It's impossible to explain the allure of things like Meshuggah, or metal in general; it either speaks to your soul or it doesn't.
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:01 AM on July 26, 2011


Dark Messiah: " especially for the double-bass parts can sound very staccato and bland"

I picked up Toontrack's Library of the Extreme MIDI set for practice tracks. Having a look at the MIDI notes was instructive - the subtle variations in dynamics and slight imperfections in tempo made them far more interesting than just plonking down 16ths in the piano roll.
posted by vanar sena at 7:47 AM on July 26, 2011


Here, let me explain to you what he's doing wrong with his kick drum.

It's nice that he has that close-up video cam so you can very clearly see that he's resting his foot on the kick pedal allowing the beater to mute the drum head.

This is bad technique. If you want a dampened kick head, you can tune it, or add a pillow or any number of other modifications including using different types of drum heads.

Allowing the beater to mute the head is bad form and results in a very dead sounding kick drum. It's lazy and it kills the boom.

I suppose that sort of thing doesn't matter much in this genre, all you hear of the bass drum is click click click anyway.

On preview, what ReeMonster said.
posted by j03 at 8:16 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the end, though, I guess it doesn't matter. I don't care if you like or appreciate the same music I do. It's impossible to explain the allure of things like Meshuggah, or metal in general; it either speaks to your soul or it doesn't.

Absolutely no argument there! You took the words right out of my mouth.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:16 AM on July 26, 2011


So I guess I have to drag out a metal drummer for people to start thinking about respecting drum programmers?

Well, if we look at jazz drumming, it's many things: the dynamics (that's a huge one), the improvisational interplay between other members of the ensemble, the overall fluidity and unpredictability of the style. Virtually impossible to effectively program.

A skillful programmer can trick you in all genres by a variety of tricks and all of those things can be programmed with a suitable program. It would be somewhat time consuming to get the interplay, but not challenging. Think about what the Aphex Twin was doing with drum programming in 1997 and think of how far software has advanced. It's just a matter of knowing where everything is on a drum kit and thinking about how fast a drummers arms can move.

That said, most human drummers I have met nowadays do not understand dynamics, even a little bit.
posted by fuq at 8:31 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want to know how interesting programmed drums can be, listen to any 2 step garage track. Swung beats, lots of triplets, pitch changes, etc.
posted by empath at 8:35 AM on July 26, 2011


Unless you're trying to find a round-about way to profess your love for Mortician, I don't understand how you could say "whatever, a drum machine could easily do this". And the fact you think R&B is harder to program than metal drums, I'm just shaking my head over that one.

Are you replying to me or flapjax? Because I'm definitely not saying programmed blast beats are "better." They can work, though.
posted by ignignokt at 8:51 AM on July 26, 2011


It's just a matter of knowing where everything is on a drum kit and thinking about how fast a drummers arms can move.

No, sorry. It's a lot more than that. Show me the programmed *jazz* drums that sound anywhere near as fluid and sophisticated and finessed as the drumming of Elvin Jones or Tony Williams or Max Roach or Joey Baron or Ed Blackwell or Paul Motian or Dannie Richmond or Philly Joe Jones or Papa Jo Jones or any number of other jazz greats. I mean, who would even bother to try?

But listen, really, there's plenty of programmed beats that I personally LIKE. You know, a LOT. And there are plenty of genres of music wherein programmed beats are essential to the music's character and aesthetic. Genres where a human drummer couldn't fill the bill nearly as well. Techno, house, drum'n'bass, and all their myriad offshoots. I mean, duh. But to argue that somehow jazz drumming (as the term "jazz drumming" is generally understood) can be programmed, and that that programmed jazz drumming could sound as compelling and sophisticated as a great jazz drummer, and be as successful in matching the aesthetic standards that jazz is held to, is just, sorry, barking up the wrong tree.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:13 AM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


most human drummers I have met nowadays do not understand dynamics, even a little bit.

You might need to move to a bigger city?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:14 AM on July 26, 2011


Seriously flapjax, check out the video from like 1:35 to 1:50. That shit is cooking.
posted by kenko at 9:19 AM on July 26, 2011


Give me Pretty Purdie any day...=)
posted by stenseng at 10:33 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Palbo, I didn't know that Animals As Leaders had programmed drums. I assumed that Navene recorded them, but now it makes sense why he looks kind of bored playing the tune in this video. I compare his excitement there with playing a part he wrote and, well...it's noticeable. Note: I'm not saying that the AAL drum parts are bad...just not written by their touring drummer.
posted by klausman at 2:06 PM on July 26, 2011


This guy nails Jon Theodore's ghost notes on the Volta tracks. I'm not very familiar with Meshuggah, so I couldn't say how well he's playing those. I did like when he got bored with the 17/8 section of Tetragrammaton and threw some blast beats in there. Not actually tasteful musically, but it made me laugh.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 2:55 PM on July 26, 2011


Martin Lopez, Mike Smith, Samus Paulicelli, Sean Reinert, Morgan Agren.

Metal rhythm is about more than just hitting as many skins as fast as you can, and it's about more than trying to sound like a machine. The Paulicelli link above could throw even more complexity into the programmed/meat discussion, as he uses a 'triggered' drum kit - a kit that is hooked up to samples of drum sounds.
I would argue that in the end, there simply are no genres, and labels like "metal" and "jazz" are meaningful only on a very superficial level.
Still, I'll never understand why people who pride themselves on having eclectic musical taste are yet unable to appreciate metal. The reactions are almost always couched in some sort of "skill" or "virtuosity" asteism.
posted by Demogorgon at 3:21 PM on July 26, 2011


Give me Pretty Purdie any day...=)

If you don't want to be a drummer after watching Bernard Purdie, then I don't believe you were ever meant to have a pulse.
posted by SomaSoda at 6:23 PM on July 26, 2011




Don't forget that all these pop drummers owe their attempt at rock/pop groove to The Source.
posted by Vibrissae at 7:50 PM on July 26, 2011


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