Darren King of MUTEMATH - Modern DrummerYou’d never know it by listening to Mute Math’s terrific debut album, but drummer Darren King got his act together not by playing his best, but by playing his worst. In between demoing songs for the band’s forthcoming album in a farmhouse in Franklin, Tennessee, the twenty-five-year New Orleans resident explained his unusual methods.

“Growing up,” King recalls, “I played in church and was free to be horrible on the drums. The things I learned came from playing lots of bad shows. The pressures of playing live–there are things you otherwise would never confront. You can practice all you want, but you have to play lots of bad shows first. The more bad notes, the quicker you’ll get to the good ones. That’s my theory..”

King’s galvanic, deeply improvisational drumming sounds like the result of a New Orleans groove fascination and an intense rudimental regimen. But like the best things in life, it’s really just an accident. Similarly, King’s practice sessions follow a freeform approach.

“Whenever I find something that I can’t do,” he says, “something that my brain wants to do, that’s when I slow it down and work it out. But because we’ve toured for two years straight, whenever I have the opportunity to play, I enjoy playing freeform. I will imagine myself in front of a crowd and I’ll just play, messing with ideas for the songs we’re writing, and focusing on creative beats.”

Demoing tracks on a found-sound set of buckets, saw blades, or even pots and pans, King will record Mute Math’s second studio album with his equally unique kit consisting of late-’60s Rogers drums augmented by a 1940s Ludwig WFL snare and a ’60s-era Slingerland marching bass drum. Whatever the outcome, King credits his success to playing live–and, of course, to playing badly.

Ken Micallef