Joey Armstrong

Talks Tracking Drums and Latest Album

The son of Billie Joe Armstrong, the lead singer and guitarist of Green Day, checks in about his latest recording sessions.

Hello MD! Every time I open Instagram or scroll through YouTube I’m reminded of how many incredible young drummers there are in the world. Everywhere you look there is virtuosic playing. In my late teens and early twenties I put a lot of pressure on myself to try and match what I saw other drummers doing online. Every day I spent hours working on my rudiments and linear fills. But this year, as I was getting ready to go into the studio to record my band SWMRS’ sophomore record Berkeley’s On Fire, I began to reflect upon which drummers truly inspired me and why. I thought back to my love of Fabrizio Moretti, Chris Mars, Tré Cool, Brian Chase, Dave Rowntree, and my vote for greatest of all time, Ringo Starr.

To me, playing on a song isn’t about how well you play, but about how well you enhance the songwriter’s vision. All of these drummers complement writers and have a unique way of approaching a song that sets them apart. My approach to tracking drums on the record was a new experience, and I wanted to shed some light on it for any drummers out there who may want to experiment with something similar.

I drew influence from all the drummers named above, but the main things that fascinated me were drum machines and programming. The way RZA and J Dilla could capture feeling out of a machine opened my eyes to a new world. I spent weeks programming on an SP 1200 and then doubled everything with live drums, cutting and pasting both analog and digital sounds to create something new. The process allowed me to draw on my appreciation for the past without sounding nostalgic, and I think the results perfectly complemented the songs Max and Cole wrote for the record.

There was something so fresh and exciting about working outside of my comfort zone and pushing the boundaries I had set for myself. Shredding and playing fills extremely fast is something that still blows me away, but there’s nothing I appreciate more than a drummer willing to be a cog in the wheel or a member of the orchestra. Pick your moments.

My go-to gear list includes a Ludwig 20″ kick, 13″ rack tom, and 16″ floor tom in Black Sparkle; 14″ 1972 Supraphonic snare; Zildjian 14″ Avedis hi-hats and 20″ ride, 20″ Zildjian K heavy ride; and Vic Firth 5B sticks.

Thanks for reading!

Check out SWMRS’ sophomore album Berkeley’s On Fire released on February 15, 2019 via Fueled By Ramen.

Watch the music video for the latest single “April In Houston” here

Find the band at swmrs.com/berkeleysonfire and Joey on @itsjarms on instagram.

Photo credit Stove Rowe