Hi. This is Weasel Walter. For the past three years I’ve played drums in the instrumental metal band Behold the Arctopus. Some people like to lump us into the vague category of “technical metal,” but I’m not sure we really fit there. There seems to be some misunderstanding about what our group is trying to accomplish. Well, I’m here to tell you exactly what we are trying to do: we are trying to create rhythmically, tonally, and structurally advanced music while still working with the raw materials of the heavy metal idiom. Whether or not it is “technical” is beside the point. Sure, it takes some considerable technique to perform, but the end result is the most important thing to us.
I’ve played in tons of bands, with hundreds of amazing musicians, and the music of Behold the Arctopus is the most complex material I’ve had to deal with since I started playing drums twenty-five years ago. Most of the compositions the group has played during the past decade have been fully notated first and then learned by the band afterwards. This is a totally different process from jamming in the practice room, or even having somebody bring in a song to have a group arrange.
When we write these pieces, the composer manipulates every single aspect in the music, down to the finest details. When our Warr guitarist (a half bass/half guitar twelve-string monstrosity, like a cooler Chapman Stick) Colin Marston hands myself and guitarist Mike Lerner and new song, we get sheet music and a MIDI demo. From there it’s all about having to figure out how to actually play the stuff and then setting about memorizing it. We tend to write A LOT of notes, so this is no small feat.
It takes a long time to learn this stuff and play it so it feels natural and rocks. When we go on stage, we like to go nuts and cut loose, so we have to know the music like the backs of our hands. The structures are so involved that there’s not much room for error. Generally I have to learn a lot of notated fills, non-repeating phrases, bizarre accents, and insane parts that I never would have dreamed of playing. Most of the music is extremely fast and intense, so pacing also comes into play. Over the course of our thirty-minute sets, we collectively play about a zillion notes, and the last ones have to be as strong as the first ones.
As far as all of this “technical” business goes, what’s really important to us is that the ideas are interesting. A lot of it is really hard to play, but it’s rewarding knowing that the music is unique. Behold the Arctopus is an intersection of three crazy musicians’ ideas, and I hope that people find it as challenging and rewarding as we do.
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