Matt Greiner, the drummer for the seasoned metal band August Burns Red, deftly charges his way through the opening of the group’s latest record, Phantom Anthem, with a barrage of double bass hairtas and blast beats. And throughout the rest of the album—released on October 6—he easily handles odd time signatures while adorning them with unique tom orchestrations, inventive patterns, and his signature use of splash cymbals and bells.
Explaining the odd groupings that launch the album’s first single, “Invisible Enemy,” Greiner says, “The beginning is a seven-note sequence of 16th notes that’s repeated eight times before resetting and repeating. I think of it as a measure of 7/8 followed by a measure of 8/8. The bass drum pattern matches the guitar, while the right hand plays quarter notes and the snare bounces around to accentuate the rhythm.”
Greiner says that the idea to implement unique splash and bell orchestrations was born before he picked up sticks for the first time. “Growing up, I was drawn to drumming because of the challenges it presented. I was mostly interested in progressive styles that utilized odd time signatures, fast tempos, and linear patterns. A friend of mine named Joe Walmer played drums in a local band called Blind Influence. I’d drive to his house every Sunday to watch his band practice and observe everything he did. After practice he’d show me rudiments and ideas on a pad. He used several splashes, bells, and China cymbals, and the idea of having so many effects cymbals really caught my attention. When I started August Burns Red in 2003, I purchased an LP Ice Bell, a 12″ Wuhan China, and a 9″ Zildjian A Custom splash. When we started writing music together, I incorporated the effects cymbals into the parts, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Greiner followed a fairly strict practice regimen in preparation for tracking Phantom Anthem. “I printed out a calendar and scheduled days for each song’s completion leading up to [entering] the [recording] studio,” he says. “I also taped pieces of paper—one for each song—to the wall in my studio. I’d notate parts I wasn’t happy with or parts that I needed to practice in order to get up to par. Each day I’d study the ‘wall of work’ to reflect on what needed to be refined.
“My goal in preparing for the studio is to avoid any surprises,” Greiner continues. “When it’s time to hit ‘record,’ I want to be confident about every part. You can’t eliminate the surprise factor entirely, however, and I learned that lesson the hard way. Two days before I was scheduled to start recording, I got food poisoning. For the next six days I was out of commission. As a result we tracked guitars first, and I tracked drums when I was feeling healthy again. In the end everything worked out, but I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone!”
Matt Greiner plays DW drums, including a 6.5×14 brass snare, 10″ and 12″ rack toms, a 16″ floor tom, and a 20″ bass drum. Greiner uses Zildjian cymbals, Remo drumheads, and Vic Firth sticks.
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