Track-by-Track: Frank Zummo Discusses Sum 41’s 13 Voices
by Billy Amendola
Frank Zummo was born on Long Island, New York, and began drumming at age three, when he discovered his dad’s drumkit. By the time he was seven he was an award-winning drummer, taking home the top prize in Long Island Drum Center’s Battle of the Beats. In 2004, Zummo helped found the drum ensemble Street Drum Corps with his partners Bobby and Adam Alt.
Over his long career—before becoming a member of Sum 41—Zummo performed with Mötley Crüe (he filled in for Tommy Lee during a hand injury), Dhani Harrison’s project thenewno2, Gary Numan, Scott Weiland, and most recently Krewella.
Zummo’s done the TV show circuit over the years (The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, The Conan O’Brien Show, Hell’s Kitchen, MasterChef, American Idol, and Glee), and has recorded with Kelly Clarkson, Orianthi, Gary Numan, and the Used. He’s also recorded the movie scores for Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and Beautiful Creatures. Frank and his wife just welcomed their first child, Brixton Frederic Zummo.
The January issue of Modern Drummer magazine, on sale now, features an interview with Zummo. Here he discusses each of the tracks from Sum 41’s latest album, 13 Voices.
“A Murder of Crows”
This was the first song that Deryck played me for this record. I was completely blown away by the dynamics, build, and cinematic tones of it. It was also the first song I tracked for the record. We recorded all the drums without cymbals to capture the massive drum and room sound. Then we overdubbed the cymbals and hi-hats. I approached this song as if it was a cinematic piece to match the tone of it. This was a really fun song to record and really dig into.
“Goddam I’m Dead Again”
This song was an absolute blast and ripper of a song to track. The verse patterns are ever changing. There is a lot of locking in tight rhythms and hits with the guitars. The end of the guitar solo/quick drum solo bit was really fun to track and an off-the-cuff, non-planned part.
“Fake My Own Death”
Overall crusher and a blast to play! The riff is so contagious in this song and really inspires me to completely smash the drums. The verse tom patterns were a great way to drive the verses and keep them moving. Having the choruses be a feel good, wide-open crash beat was a great way to support the big chorus vocals and guitars. The breakdown build is my favorite part where it goes from the four-on-the-floor to the offbeat groove.
“Breaking the Chain”
The verses in this song are really nice with driving on the tom rim and the snare roll groove. It really sets the nice tone of the verses. We also overdubbed sticks hitting the hardwood studio floor to double the tom rim part. We wanted to really drive the pre-choruses with the 8th note tom groove. The choruses are wide open but have a great stomping tag. The bridge is really fun with the offbeat and time groove and hits. Then once the bridge dust settles I went for an old-school metal vibe with riding the China and double bass fills and grooves.
“There Will be Blood”
This is a track I co-wrote with Deryck. This was the first song that we ever recorded in pre-production. We constantly tweaked the drum grooves on the song to get them to the recorded version. The grooves also change in each verse and pre-chorus. The snare build into the half time breakdown is a great hook part. We doubled the snares for this one to make it bigger. The wide-open breakdown part is a great section to groove to.
This song we spent the most time with in pre-production. This was an absolute beast to record—from the spastic intro hits to off-time grooves throughout. I’m really proud of this song and it took a ton of hard work to get it right. The verses go from this spastic snare roll rhythm to an open four-on-the-floor moving snare rhythm. That change was built in the studio during tracking, as it was originally the spastic snare roll rhythm the whole time. The end of the bridge/breakdown spastic double bass drum solo piece was my last “fun take” of the record and I thought it would never fly; when we heard the playback, Deryck said it had to stay in. This song really developed after a lot of pre-production. This track is a blast live! When we sound checked it for the first time, it was like, wow!
The opening vocal piece was one of the first vocals Deryck had recorded for the record and I knew this would be a really special song and stand out. This was one of the last songs we tracked for the record. The goal was to create a great drum groove to work with the verse loop. We wanted to make all the fills hook and be well thought out. Since the vocals are really special in this song we wanted to be cautious where we placed cymbals in the choruses. Overall a very thought out song from the drum parts and even with kick patterns to fit in the right places. This is a really special song because of Deryck’s recovery and watching him go through it all.
“God Save Us All (Death to Pop)”
The drum grooves changed a lot from pre-production until we tracked this. This was also one we tracked towards the end. We wanted the choruses to be a classic “Dave Grohl” type of open rock groove. The pre-chorus four-on-the-floor stomp is a great drum hook part. The beginning of the second verse shuffle beat sets that verse up nice and different from the first verse. The bridge grooves and fills were great to really drive that section. The outro really has a nice feel-good vibe.
“The Fall and the Rise”
The overall goal was for the drums to drive this song. The cymbal hits are also placed in specific parts in the intro and verses to work with the vocals. The chorus beats are also a two-part beat that changes at the end of each section. The breakdown snare march is actually two parts. We overdubbed a snare roll behind that main snare march.
“Twisted by Design”
This is one of my favorite songs on the record and was a blast to track due to just digging in and smashing on the open chorus. For the first verse we wanted to have a minimal but tasty tom groove to move it along. The second verse has a moving hat groove that takes that verse up dynamically. This is a great way to close the album.
Gear for the record and tour
For the record and touring cycle, I’m debuting a special collaborative drumkit with artist Shepard Fairey of Obey and SJC Custom Drums. We have created a special “art kit” containing Shepard’s original art and that is based on his piece Rise Above. The world is a crazy place these days and I wanted to make a statement-piece kit because I speak through my art and drumming. When I called Shepard, he was on board.
SJC has amazing and next-level technology to bring the art pieces to life on the kit. It’s been amazing to work with a company that knows how to push boundaries and create special art kits as well as amazing sounding kits. We’re using mahogany shells for this kit and it’s big with two kick drums. The Hard Rock Vegas is going to display it when our touring cycle wraps up. This is something I’m really proud of and couldn’t wait to take on the road.
Thank you, Modern Drummer, for supporting me throughout my career. It’s an honor and such a trip, as I’ve read your magazine since childhood.
Sum 41- Zummo Welcome:
Zummo Tour Solo:
Krewella EDC Vegas 2015:
Sum 41 AP Awards with RUN DMC:
Street Drum Corps Highlights Reel:
Frank Zummo live with Mötley Crüe (video filmed and intro by Tommy Lee):
Watch “Fake My Own Death”:
Sum 41 – Don’t Call It A Sum Back Tour (Vol. 1)
Sum 41 – Don’t Call It A Sum Back Tour (Vol. 2)
Sum 41 – “War’” off the band’s album 13 Voices
Check out Frank’s “Catching Up With” feature in the January 2017 issue of Modern Drummer magazine.