Hello, Modern Drummer readers, my name is Gunnar Olsen. I’m from New York City, and have been a professional drummer for over fifteen years. My band, Knights on Earth, is preparing to release our first album, Move Slow Life Ends.
Knights on Earth has been performing in New York City for three years now. I originally met Grey McMurray, our lead singer, while playing with my former band the Exit, with whom I toured and recorded extensively for five years. These were key experiences that shaped me into the drummer I am today. When touring so extensively, there isn’t time for formal practice—shows and soundchecking are the sole opportunities to play together. You have to make it count.
Major early influences of mine are Dave Grohl and punk rock drummers. I find Grohl the most inspiring—not only his technique, but also how he performs. It always looks like he’s hitting the drums as hard as possible, yet all the while getting a great and unique sound out of them.
At first, hitting hard and giving every ounce of energy to a performance became what I wanted to be known for. And while this is still so, I have since honed other skills in my drumming. Around the time I met Grey and the rest of Knights on Earth, the Exit had stopped playing and I was spending more time in New York playing with a wide variety of artists and bands. This was great for me. It helped get me out of my comfort zone of aggressive drumming.
My influences at this time began to shift. I was heavily influenced by drummers like Dave King and Jim Black. Both are, to use the term loosely, “jazz drummers” who infused modern styles into their playing, ranging from rock to electronic.
When I started playing with the Knights, I found myself approaching the drums in a way I never had before. Many parts of our music leave room for improvisation and a dialogue between instruments. While groove is essential, melody is too. A good example on our record is the song “Am I Late.” The intro/verse part is a dialogue with the bass that I’m playing on the floor tom while accenting parts of the rhythm on the floor tom’s rims. The kick drum holds down four on the floor, but the floor tom/rims dance around the melody and bass, creating its own melody.
Our new album is something I am very proud of. While adding just enough production to take it to a new level, we were able to document what the band truly sounds like playing in the same room together. We recorded at the famous Clinton Recording Studio.
Since the completion of the Move Slow Life Ends, I’ve been working on my next evolution as a drummer, a solo record under the name Futures, which is a hybrid of live drumming and electronic programming.