Jul 15, 2017

In My Element

Have you ever had the experience of returning to an old, favorite meal after months or even years of trying other things, and once you run your finger through the last drop of savory juices left on the plate feeling as though you just ate a long, lost friend? It's like rediscovering one of life's simple pleasures after being all but forgot.  The kind of subtle, confident smile that devouring an ol' pal puts on your face is one that can keep you in high spirits for days. Now that Loincloth grows increasingly smaller in my rearview mirror I have been able to dive back into a steaming plate of polyrhythms and patterns, Confessor style, and I am thoroughly enjoying the warm comfort of returning to the things that made me the kind of drummer I am, and always wanted to be.  I am devouring an old friend as it were, and even with the occasional kicking and screaming, it is a delightful experience that I appreciate now more than ever before.  Truth be known I actually like the kicking and screaming, too.  It adds to the mystique.

I have written about different challenges that I have created for myself so that I might be pushed out of my comfort zone and into places that force me to seek out different approaches to drumming.  Complacency can be a disease, and while mistakes can be made when you are trying to force a change in your drumming perspective I do believe it is absolutely critical to attempt new things.  Pushing myself to find new ways to tip rhythms over or to manipulate how riffs feel has kept me on my toes over the years.  As good as Neil Peart is, he stopped progressing decades ago and sat on his creative laurels as far back as the mid 80's.  I owe my inspirational spark to "Moving Pictures", which I think highlights Rush at their creative peak, and I have probably spent more time listening to that album than any other. However by the time 'Grace Under Pressure' came out in 1984 it was obvious Neil Peart had no interest in pushing himself anymore.  This may seem like blasphemy to some of you, but perhaps he would not appear to be the most bored musician on earth if he had decided to continue pushing himself instead of coasting.  Listen to their albums in chronological order and hear for yourself when he began repeating himself. Maybe the irony of a pasty, white Canadian in a kente kufi cap is enough for you to stay satisfied with one of rock's icons, but I need more than cultural appropriation to keep me fired up as a fan and inspired as a musician. Plus, as idiotic as Neil Peart looks in his African cap, I would actually look even dumber.  I can't rely on headdresses from around the world to keep me relevant. It's hard for gingers like me to get away with the politically incorrect offenses that other people commit with impunity. Ginger persecution is real, and there can be no peace until it is rectified.  Are you a gingerphobe?  Do you have gingerphobic friends?  I'll bet the answer to at least one of those questions is 'yes'.

Now that I have devoted all of my creative energy to Confessor I have come to realize there were many things I could never do in Loincloth.  I didn't necessarily feel held back in Loincloth, but there were certain things that we were never going to write that were the kinds of things I have loved taking advantage of as a musician who liked to play with opposing rhythms. Namely, we almost never played riffs long enough to establish any patterns at all and without an established pattern it is almost impossible to pull off a counter rhythm, or polyrhythm. Because of the intricacies of Loincloth's riffs I followed what the guitar did much more than I ever have in Confessor.  That was by design.  There were plenty of other ways for me to test my abilities, but since simple polyrhythms have been a staple of mine I always felt like one of the critical elements that made me stand out in the world of underground metal was unavailable.  Finding different ways to express myself was one of the challenges Loincloth offered, but now that I am able to write longer patterns in Confessor I feel like I am feasting on that old friend I mentioned earlier.  Quick, could someone please pass the awesome sauce!

Loincloth wrote instrumental music but Confessor write in a more structured way which allows for verses and choruses.  By coming back to those sections within a song I have chances to modify my patterns and expand upon them, which is something that I have always loved to do.  I believe that most of the time those modifications stand out more, and are easier to absorb if you start with a basic approach first.  The second time you get to that part you enhance it a bit, and if you play the section a third time you enhance it even more. It's a simple but effective way to build momentum and it allows a listener an opportunity to hear an idea as it expands.  Loincloth tended to forego the basic version of a riff and jump straight into the more complex patterns. I think that made our music less accessible to some, which was something we were aware of as we discussed what we wanted to do with the band.  We wrote music for people with tastes similar to our own, and we wanted to keep our songs shorter.  That meant there was no time to build up to "the good stuff".  Confessor has to write with a singer in mind, which sometimes means that simpler is better.  One of the hardest lessons for me to learn as a drummer trying to stretch himself was that backing off for clarification was key in trying to reach as many people as possible while still maintaining the right balance between heavy music and complicated beats.

At this point Confessor have roughly half the material we will need for a full length album. We have struck a very appealing balance in our most recent riffs that highlights years of trying to combine heaviness, weirdness and rhythmic uncertainty.  It is a very happy place, and after years of pursuing different approaches to the heavy music we have always loved I am delighted to return to the table to devour an old friend with renewed enthusiasm and a fresh understanding of what it is to be Confessor's drummer.  I enjoy bringing what I have learned from playing and recording with others back into the practice room and applying it to what we are doing now.  I feel like it makes me a better song writer and a more focused drummer.  For years I have looked forward to bringing all of the lessons I have learned throughout my journey to this latest Confessor album, and now that we are in the middle of the writing process its possibilities are hitting me like a metal hammer!  

I would like to thank everyone who has stayed interested in what Confessor have been up to over the years.  You are a dedicated lot, and I hope that when this record comes out your patience will be rewarded.  We had some guests pop in during our last practice.  Fellow travelers with many more albums under their belts and a much longer list of accomplishments who have always shared a love of music that pushes the metal envelope and inspires creativity.  They had nothing but great things to say and their enthusiasm was a shot in the arm that helped cement the notion that we are indeed on the right track.  We had a blast with them and their encouragement was appreciated more than we could ever truly convey.  Please raise a glass to old friends and new ideas, and to a day when the dark shadow of Ginger persecution is finally lifted from this earth and a new era of Sheltonian Dominance brings peace, contentment, and the power to obliterate you all! 

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