Hello, Modern Drummer readers. Erik here, and I’m writing to you from my hotel room in Zurich, Switzerland. We are about four weeks into the Billy Idol summer tour.
What’s particularly exciting about touring Europe in the summer is that we are playing mainly festivals, so you have lots of other bands on the bill and you run into friends everywhere. We started with “Isle of Wight” then played “Download” with Motley Crüe and Kiss, then played “Hellfest” with Motörhead and Judas Priest. Tonight we play “Rock the Ring” with Toto. The sheer excitement of playing in front of 80,000 people is impossible to describe. We have had some great times for sure and we have five more weeks of this.
A lot of drummers have asked me how I developed the stamina and technique for Billy’s gig. Well, the keyword here is “develop.” I didn’t walk into this gig three years ago and have that. I quickly realized after many blisters and sore arms, that there’s a big difference between sitting by yourself playing along with these songs and actually playing them with the band in front of thousands of people. The adrenalin and the sheer volume of the band make a tremendous difference.
I really had to work on how to play harder and faster without feeling or sounding stiff (my worst nightmare). Billy’s music is still very sexy and has a dance groove element to it that can’t be lost. Still, you have to drive a very loud band, your fills have to cut through walls of guitars and the eight-notes on that damn hi-hat in those tempos can be a bitch. Ha! (Most of the songs are above 160 bpm.)
So, I basically practiced a basic 4/4 beat in different tempos staying very loose on my grip. And this is very important, I went from super soft to super loud, back and forth. This basically allowed me to develop a more consistent grip, no matter what dynamic, and again, never kept me stiff. I hold my sticks pretty much at the end of the stick. My left hand actually has the edge of the stick in the middle of my palm. I came up with my version of a “whip” which basically keeps my wrists loose and the volume comes from the arm movement. I play to a click for the whole gig so that also helps me stay on point.
Doing this over and over is obviously very helpful, but there is simply no substitute for playing the gigs. I go through this before every tour and the blisters still show up!
Now remember, this I how I prepare for Idol’s tours. Every gig is different and when I work with other artists I prepare in other ways. This is by far the most physical and hard-hitting gig I have ever done. And warming up and stretching goes without saying.
When I’m home I work as a session musician. I recently played on Giorgio Moroder’s new record. I love working with him. I also recorded and co-produced Billy Morrison’s new solo record—Billy is the rhythm guitarist in Idol’s band. I have my own studio and when I’m home I’m basically focused on sessions and producing records, so being out here blasting away is beyond fun!
Anyway, thanks for reading and please visit my website. There is a contact link there if you want to say hi or have any questions.
For more on Erik, visit www.erikeldenius.com.