I joined Confessor after I had been playing drums for a little over two years. I had not even come close to developing a style yet, but I did try to play around with beats as often as possible. I had a good ear and I could count to four, but that was all I had going for me. I wasn't able to play drums when I lived with my parents if anyone else was in the house, and once I joined Confessor my drums were in a practice space that I almost never went to unless we were practicing. I knew that in order to progress as a drummer, to avoid becoming stagnant, I would have to keep pushing myself. Since I didn't have a chance to work things out on my own, I decided to write something into every song that I was not yet able to play. It was a self imposed trial by fire. I intentionally set the bar higher than what would have been realistic for someone at my skill level, but it forced me to play beyond my abilities. It meant that I was always struggling and that I was always nervous about some new part at every live show, but I know I would be a very different drummer had I not put myself in that permanent "crunch mode". Bass drum patterns and flourishes, polyrhythms and cymbal grabs were all written into Confessor songs well before I was capable of playing them.
In order to write ahead of my own skill level, I used to map out patterns by creating a long horizontal line with a series of perpendicular hash marks underneath it to represent a guitar part. Think of it like the lines on a ruler. The longer the line, the higher the note. It was a crude way to visualize riffs but it worked. Above the line I would use a series of similar hash marks and symbols to represent different drums, cymbals and things that I wanted to do. By writing things out in this way, I could practice the patterns anywhere. If there was a place to sit, and I remembered to bring my hands and feet, I was good to go. Using that system was how I worked out every polyrhythm I ever came up with and it also made it possible for me to write beats and patterns that I never would have conceived of if I only ever wrote from behind a drum kit. I most recently used that same approach to come up with the ending of 'Shark Dancer' on "Iron Balls of Steel". The idea to write guitar and drums out that way came to me out of frustration one day as I was trying to figure out a fast staccato pattern in a song I liked. I knew the first small bit of the pattern, and once I put it on paper and could "see" it, the rest of the pattern became clear in a flash.
Every band I have ever played in posed a new challenge, and I tackled those challenges head on, eager to see where they might take me as a musician. I have always felt that the more I was willing to try as a drummer, the more often I would surprise myself. Learning is at least seventy five percent of the fun of playing music. Everything you learn expands your vocabulary, and has the potential to lead you to the next thing that might set you apart from other musicians. I certainly could not have played drums in Loincloth without the foundation I was able to develop in Confessor and the other bands I had played in after that. Confessor has recently begun work on a third album, and I cannot tell you how excited I am to take what I've learned with me into this new challenge! I have kept a few patterns in my mental lock box for years, waiting for a chance to implement them... and now that time has come! It's time to pull out the pencil and paper once again.