Ben Shanbrom of Bushwhack : Modern DrummerGreetings, Modern Drummer faithful! My name is Ben Shanbrom, and I play drums and (yikes!) sing in the progressive alt-metal band Bushwhack. I started annihilating pots and pans at the ripe age of two and proved too bad-ass for pre-school when I was diagnosed by the idiot teachers there as “emotionally unstable” due to my percussive interests and “disruptive behavior.” My parents fortunately got a full refund when my pediatrician, in rebuttal, diagnosed me a “drummer.”

My father is responsible for a big part of my interest in drums, as he exposed me at a very young age to Tower of Power and David Garibaldi’s effortless awesomeness. (I think that was about all we listened to in the car.) Because of this, I grew to like funk music long before I really listened to rock. At around eight I started taking lessons, but the teacher disappeared one day and I lost interest for a little while. A few years later, a family friend put me in touch with a dude by the name of Greg Trabandt, who runs a music school in Connecticut called RVP Studios and is “the man” in all senses of the term. He made me care again and inspired me to make music a key part of my life.

Bushwhack was the first meaningful band I joined. I started jamming with the guys (and our now-ex bass player) in sophomore year of high school as just a fun little musician’s outlet, but over the course of about an hour and a half we got really serious. We clicked right away and wrote our first song, “Greatest Wall,” in that pivotal ninety minutes. What was so cool about the project was that we put no restrictions on ourselves; we had all been in bands where we were told what the leading member wanted us to do, and did it. Here, we were our own bosses and got to make the music we loved. Our sound is a little all over the place, but in a good way—a soaring string section here, a chugga-chugga breakdown there, an acoustic interlude off in the distance, and a tech metal thrashing from down yonder. We play what we like, and we like a lot of different things. We do try to make sure, though, that everything fits in context.

I have long lived by my self-proclaimed motto, “I rip-off so many people that I’m original: some of Morgan Rose’s quarter-note grooves, a little tasteful cymbal work from Jose Pasillas, and a dash of Gavin Harrison and Travis Orbin’s non-sensical poly-rhythmic wizardry. (Well, I’m working on those last two, LOL.) More recently, I’ve changed my outlook. I measured myself for far too long based on what others can do and what I, then, should learn to do. I’m finding more and more, though, that what is most satisfying as a drummer is creating an arsenal of beats that are genuinely your own. They may not be the most difficult things on this side of Neilchael Peartnoy, but they catch your ear right away in that “Wow, never heard that before” sense that can only come from experimentation. That’s where I’m heading these days.

Now, about that whole singing deal. Bushwhack, as a band, always intended to have vocals, but never found the much sought-after “one” who was right for the job. (We had been an instrumental band for our first five years together.) This past summer we decided that enough was enough, and for our new EP, we were going to have vocals one way or another. Accordingly, I put myself (the guy voted to have the most “pleasant” voice in the band) on a strict regimen that juggled mastering drum parts with learning how to belt high notes and roar with all the grit of a sandpaper connoisseur. I’m still not sure how I managed to condense several years of voice training into one summer, but I somehow managed, and we’re all really proud of how this new addition to our sound panned out (no production puns intended). The EP, called Canvas, is on iTunes, and we a have teaser up for it on our myspace page. Thanks so much for reading, and please check us out!

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