Matt Halpern

For a decade the prolific progressive metal drummer, educator, and entrepreneur has been powering Periphery’s wild time signatures and blazing riff s. We asked the sticksman all about the groundbreaking band’s first self-released title.

MD: Where was Hail Stan recorded?

Matt: Our guitarists, Misha Mansoor, Jake Bowen, and Mark Holcomb, recorded their parts at Misha’s place in Dallas, Texas. Our singer, Spencer Sotelo, recorded his parts at his own studio in Maryland. And I recorded all the drums at Magpie Cage Studio here in Baltimore. I had our old bass player and producer, Adam “Nolly” Getgood, who’s not in the band anymore but mixed our record and is still involved, fly out here and engineer the drums. It took eight days to record the drum parts. We took our time to get it right.

MD: What was the writing process like?

Matt: We took off all of 2018 from touring in order to really take our time writing this record. We’d schedule sessions every other month or so, so that everybody had time to develop ideas. We’d never taken off a year to write together without a deadline. Now that we own our own record label, 3DOT Recordings, we felt relieved to not feel any pressure. Having enough time to let the ideas marinate was the best thing possible.

MD: Is there a philosophy behind some of the more complicated time signatures or patterns in the band’s sound?

Matt: I think that often with students of music, they’ll try to apply theory or concepts to writing. They may say, “I really want to create something that has syncopation, an odd meter, or a modulation,” because they really enjoy that concept. That’s awesome, and I think that’s great. With our band, no one is truly classically trained in theory, so those concepts aren’t at the forefront of our inspiration. But our band has been lucky to have friends who’ve exposed us to music that allows us to go way outside the 4/4 box. We’re all big fans of different styles that have different meters and feels, and our ears have just grown accustomed to it. So just through being music fans, and with the lack of theory, I think when we write the parts initially, whatever comes out is based on prior influences that have inspired us. If it ends up being in an odd meter or syncopation, it’s truly just by chance. And we’re all okay with that.

MD: Do you listen to any specific instrument when writing your parts?

Matt: When we’re writing these songs, I really focus on the guitar parts and the melodies. Those parts allow me to memorize the song and figure out what rhythm is going to be best.

For a lot of drummers, if they’re learning, say, a cover, they might only focus on what the drums are doing to build their performance. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but I think it can be very limiting. I always encourage people to learn a song two-dimensionally. Rather than just learning the drum part, learn the melodies, too, so that although you have the original drum foundation to build upon, you’re learning the melody, which allows you to expand on the rhythms within the boundaries of that melody and be more creative.

MD: You have a very crisp yet huge studio drum tone.

Matt: I owe a lot of my studio sound to Nolly. He’s as obsessed with drumming and drums as I am. That’s why we started the GetGood Drums sample library together with Misha. We loved challenging ourselves in the studio, trying to get that perfect combination of crisp sounds that are also huge at certain points. And with GetGood Drums, we spend probably way more time in the studio for those sessions to record our drum libraries than we do with Periphery. It’s so much more granular, because we’re capturing individual drums of specific sizes and tunings, and we have to maintain quality control, use the right mics, and make sure that the drums are tuned properly for the size and type of wood.

MD: Was Hail Stan’s sixteen-minute opener, “Reptile,” done in one take?

Matt: No, none of the songs are done in one full take. One main reason is for quality control and keeping the drums in tune. I hit hard in the studio, so from section to section we check the tunings because we don’t want the drums to slip from the start of the song to the end. But I’m proud to say that even a song like “Reptile,” we were able to do that in two, three hours tops.

Matt Halpern plays Pearl drums and Meinl cymbals, and he endorses Promark sticks, Evans heads, Ahead Armor cases, Big Fat Snare Drum, Reflexx pads, and GetGood Drums software.

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