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Thomas Youngblood Kamelot - Interview
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DIRK VERBEUREN
SOILWORK




Best known for his drumming skills with Soilwork, Dirk Verbeuren is also a seasoned session drummer and an experienced teacher who is very passionate about sharing his wisdom and skills behind the kit. While he is busy working on the new Soilwork album right now, he also has several other projects happening including his Dirkblast videos which provide valuable insights in drumming skills and techniques. We caught up with Dirk during some rare time off to discuss his session work and everything else in his music world.

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Andrew: Hey it's Andrew from The Rockpit here

Dirk: Hey Andrew how you doing?

Andrew: Yeah good thanks how are you?

Dirk: I'm good thank you!

Andrew: So what's been happening lately, what have you been up to?

Dirk: Oh man lot's of stuff. Did the drums for the new Soilwork album, that was early February and since then I've basically been at home taking care of drum lessons and a bunch of session recordings that I've been working on. So yeah it's been pretty busy.

Andrew: So what kind of stuff have you been doing?

Dirk: Well one of the coolest things I've done recently is kind of a non-metal thing, I recorded with this fusion artist from Pakistan and there's actually going to be a whole bunch of quite cool musicians on this album, people that I've looked up to for many years, drummers and bassists and stuff. The music is very interesting as well since it's pretty different to what I usually play so that was fun. I did that here locally in a studio in North Hollywood and that was a lot of fun. And just a whole bunch of different projects, I tend to work with artists that are up and coming. They seem to reach out to me a lot so it's not necessarily names that you would know. I love doing session work, it's always entertaining for me.

Andrew: Yeah obviously doing different kinds of stuff with different kinds of bands, what do you personally get out of that kind of thing?

Dirk: Well the most interesting thing to me is just everybody's take on music really. I think as a musician you get stuck on the stuff you do, I had that for a number of years. I played with the same bands for a number of years and as good as that is, it's good to have a challenge and when you're working with all these different people that you don't really necessarily know before they reach out to you and they send you their music and discuss how they envision drums and stuff like that, you really learn new things every time. Sometimes it's physically challenging to play some other stuff and other times it's more like trying to find the right line that works with that particular band or artist. And so every time it's something new and I really enjoy that a lot, it keeps me kinda on my toes as far as my chops go and it's just very diverse, is the best way I can put it.

Andrew: Yeah trying to do new and different stuff and finding different challenges, it makes you a better drummer I guess.

Dirk: I would hope so haha! If I'm doing it right it should so yeah everybody has different expectations when it comes to how they would like to see the drums on their music. And so for some people I get total Carte Blanche and play what you play and for other people it's more specific and of course there's just a wide variety of stuff. I've done everything in recent years from Japanese power metal to black metal/death metal, the odd pop project or this fusion recording I just recently did. So it's all across the board style-wise and even though it's mostly metal related I would say because it's kind of my field I guess, that's what people know me for. But overall it definitely pushes me as a musician, I really try to give it a 110% every time so I'm quite the perfectionist and I don't let things go until I'm 100% happy with it.

Andrew: Well I mean that's great to hear because you don't hear a lot of musicians who are very open to different styles of music. If there was one kind of music that you think that your fans would be surprised to hear, what do you think that would be?

Dirk: I don't know man, I've been pretty vocal about the fact that I listen to a lot of stuff. For example I grew up listening to a lot of stuff that was on the radio so pop music, rock music, classical music and then I had a big rap/hip hop phase when I was a young teenager and I still enjoy listening to old school rap and the stuff I grew up with. And that all happened before I listened to any sort of hard rock or metal really. I also really like jazz fusion, electronic music so yeah I'm pretty open minded I think when it comes to that stuff!




Andrew: Obviously having that varied kind of style would probably help with your drumming a bit like something like hip hop would give you a sort of funk kind of feel etc. Is that what you get out of every kind of thing?

Dirk: Absolutely! In fact hip hop is probably...early old school hip hop I'm talking about like Run DMC, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and all that...I think that was a big inspiration for me to become a drummer, alongside people like Chad Smith from Red Hot Chilli Peppers or Tim Alexander from Primus who are also people I listen to around those same years. I definitely think that funky side I love playing groovy stuff, funky beats and of course I blend that all in with what I do. To me groove is always something I want to have if the music demands it, sometimes you want for certain things like grindcore or black metal which can sometimes have that non-groove thing. It sounds good with that but most of the time you want that flow that kind of comes from funky stuff. I've actually been on kind of a James Brown (thing) recently, my Uncle gave me a bunch of old James Brown 45's so there's a lot of cool beats in that.

Andrew: Yeah totally! When you start rehearsing for session work, is there a routine that you do to get warmed up?

Dirk: Not really, I'm so used to it now that I just basically open my computer, pop in the files and I just start working on the songs and I listen to it a couple of times and I just start working on them depending on the variety of factors that go with each recording. Some people want me to specifically do certain things and with other people it's very open but either way I always inject my own personality into it because you can't avoid doing that even if you tried! I just kinda let it be a fun process and that's what really matters to me in the end, is that the enthusiasm of the playing comes through.

Andrew: Do you kinda keep Soilwork seperate from all the other bands or do you just do whatever you need to do regardless of who you are playing with?

Dirk: Yeah in my mind musically it's not different in the sense that like I said, obviously I give everything my very best and that goes for Soilwork and for every band I ever work with. So in that regard it's not different but I think Soilwork is the more omnipresent thing in my life obviously, I'm very involved with all non-musical aspects of the band as well so it's basically a daily thing to take care of Soilwork matters. That's going to come up regardless and the artists I work as a session drummer just kinda fluctuates over time - one month it's this person and another month it's these 2 bands etc. I mean at the moment I'm working with 7 different bands that I'm recording for right now!

Andrew: Oh wow!

Dirk: Yeah it can get intense at times but I love it!

Andrew: Obviously you love keeping busy so that's good to hear.

Dirk: Yeah I'm fortunate to be doing this.

Andrew: With the drum lessons then, you must love teaching then?

Dirk: Absolutely! I started teaching at a pretty young age because I was fortunate to go to a full-time modern music school when I came out of high school. And so I did that for 18 months and then as soon as I was done with that, one of the teachers there left or wasn't available as often as the school would like and so I just went up and said 'Hey I'll replace him' and they were like 'Oh really, OK let's see'. And they accepted it and so I just kinda started like that and I had no idea what I was doing haha! I tried my best but it was probably pretty crappy at first but yeah basically I've been teaching for over 20 years now so it's a natural thing and in the end, to me it's about sharing knowledge and helping people out when they're stuck. I've been stuck as a musician a number of times where I didn't know how to play certain things or know how to move forward or just stylistically what do I do next. So I'm kinda familiar with some of those road blocks that you can encounter over the years, even accomplished musicians get a lot of that kind of stuff. So that's really my goal with Dirtblast which is my instructional videos that I do through my website, I really just try to help people to keep moving forward and keep having fresh ideas. And through the facebook group we have, they can ask me questions at any time if they are stuck or have anyhting from just an issue with playing something to just more mental advice about, like some people get hurt or some people have kind of a crisis like they are not sure what they want to do. So I help them all, it's all across the board.

Andrew: What is the most common problem that new or learning drummers are having?

Dirk: Good question! Let's see...One of the questions I get the most often is how to better your technique, that's something that inherently because it takes so much time, it's something that people get fustrated and that includes myself. And especially in what I would call the field of extreme metal where there is a lot of speed involved and a lot of stamina. Those things are very difficult by their nature because it's kind of like being a high level athlete in a way and obviously as we all know, high level athletes need to train their asses off to get that half a second or not even 1/10th of a second faster. And it's kind of the same with fast drumming and extreme drumming so I get a lot of questions about that.




Andrew: What about you personally, what was the most difficult problem for you when you first started learning drums?

Dirk: Well the biggest thing I recall is that after a few years of playing just self taught which I started around age 15-16 before having any lessons, was just that I kinda got stuck after a while. OK I can do this and I can do that but now what do I do? I was just playing along to records I liked and jamming with friends and having fun but after a while I felt like I was doing the same thing over and over. Then I went to this music school which I mentioned earlier and I got lessons from people from such a wide background, was everything from jazz fusion to afro-cuban to just pure technical lessons to playing in a band with people in a style of music that I wasn't familiar with. So all of that just totally opened my mind to 'OK you can do all this as well' and that was a big revelation for me which is why, as much as I respect certain people that just learn it all on their own, which there are quite a few of them out there and they do just fine but, for me it was a big thing to take lessons and to get input from experienced drummers. But the most difficult thing even to this day is definitely to be up there with the technique, since I started listening to metal things have become so much faster! Nowadays there are people playing 300 bpm and you can't sit and do that haha! It takes a lot of work!

Andrew: Haha Well what is your take on the whole extreme metal? I mean how much more extreme can metal really get now?

Dirk: Haha that is what everyone is wondering about I think! Honestly it's not a means of it's own, I love all the fast stuff, I'm a big fan of that but in the end it's about writing good music right? So that's what really matters, but I'm sure there are boundaries to be broken. People come up with new stuff all the time and I'm sure that it's not the end, I'm sure there's amazing things to come.

Andrew: Yeah it's interesting to see where metal will go in the next 10-20 years I suppose.

Dirk: Yeah because you kinda have this history, this background behind it that this legacy that's always going be a part of it but at the same time there's always people that push things to a new level and it only takes a few of those. Take Meshuggah for example, they've influenced everybody! It doesn't say in the one song, we all rip off Meshuggah! It's so true, everybody has some polyrhythms in their music now where it didn't before, they just epitomised the whole kind of idea and pushed it to the outer limit. I'm sure there are currently bands developing similar groundbreaking things that everybody will take in.

Andrew: Who has been the biggest influence or inspiration on your drumming then?

Dirk: Oh man that's a tough one haha! If I go back all the way it's people like Dave Lombardo, Chad Smith, Mitch Harris from Napalm Death. All my old influences, there's tons more. I mean I've played along to Obituary so Donald Tardy, all those people were big to me. But as far as defining it to 1 person, that's really hard to say because...I don't know, I just listen to so many different things. I think the biggest thing for me was really, again I have to go back to my teachers, the people that opened my mind to bringing in these different techniques from all these different genres because that's still what I draw my inspiration from these days. That I don't just play like very familar rudimentary double strokes and dynamics and I always try when it''s appropriate for the music to think of that when I'm working my drum parts. So I always try to create something different and new whenever it's appropriate in every song that I can because I want every drum part to stand out, to be something unique. So it's the creativity that comes from working with all these people, that's been the biggest change to me.

Andrew: If you had one piece of advice for any new and up and coming drummers out there, what would it be?

Dirk: Well my creedo, and I say this in my lessons to my students a lot as well, is the 3 P's I call it - Patience, Practice and Peserverence. I think if you stick to those, you can do anything regardless of who you are. If you have some feel or some talent for the instrument you are playing, just stick with it and don't give up. That's the biggest thing ever.

Andrew: Cool! Well it's been an absolute pleasure chatting to you today and we're looking forward to the new Soilwork album when it comes out. So thanks again!

Dirk: Absolutely and thank you Andrew! And yeah we're working hard on that right now, I know Bjorn (Strid, vocals) is almost done with his vocals so I'm excited to hear it as you are!


For more info on Dirk's session work, lessons and more, go to www.dirkverbeuren.com

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Interview by Andrew "Schizodeluxe" Massie on April 21st 2015