When I began playing drums around the age of nine, I had no intention of becoming a professional musician. I fell in love with music because it enabled me to convey emotion via the act of crafting sounds and the act of performing. I was enthralled by the seemingly limitless possibilities music afforded me. It seemed as though all of the elements were there in front of me, all I had to do was tap into them. Throughout my musical career this has been my driving force. I feel as if I’m on a never-ending journey of learning and discovery.
When I was young and started playing drums, I had an idea of what it meant to be a great drummer. The crazier and more technically proficient a drummer was, the better I thought they were. So I looked to drummers who played in this style for inspiration and learned their songs to build my technique. I had the idea that more was better and that faster and louder was far more impressive than just laying down a beat and catching the groove.
As I progressed as a drummer and musician, I stopped looking at music on an instrument-by-instrument basis, and realized that technical skills, although important, were not the only mark of musicianship. I started to look at songs as unified wholes. This made me rethink my role playing drums in a band and in the recording process. I wanted to add to the song just enough to convey my emotion and then elaborate when needed. This is now what impresses me when I listen to other drummers: creative beats that hook you, and fills only when needed to emphasize a particular transition or build up. I want to groove to a beat more than be blown away by the craziest fills. Being reserved is not a bad thing.
I began taking inspiration from unorthodox places, especially when viewed from the hard rock/metal world. I would take ideas for beats from Parisian dance music and DJs. I would take a record like † by Justice, and try to replicate the grooves I found there in a live drum setting. It’s really about the bass and other instrumentation working along with the drums to fill in the gaps and drive the song. You don’t need much from the drums to hit that groove: kick, snare, kick, snare, kick, snare. I like to call this the MJB—the Michael Jackson Beat. For some reason that beat resonates with me, and it’s all about how you incorporate the rest of the instruments along with it to make it groove even harder. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still blown away by incredibly talented and technically proficient drummers, but right now that’s not what moves me.
I think that is the ebb and flow. You listen to so much of one thing that at some point you feel the need to rebel and find the complete opposite to inspire you. I imagine this is how Miles Davis felt surrounded by a bunch of Dizzy Gillespies. At some point you have to break out of the mold and play what’s in your heart: kick, snare, kick, snare, kick, snare…. Just always play it with force.
For more on Allen Blickle and Baroness, whose latest album, Yellow & Green, was released this week, check out the Recent Videos section of moderndrummer.com.