The modern-prog wizards Tera Melos released their fourth full-length record, Trash Generator, this past August. The recording process brought the trio to Singing Serpent studios in San Diego, California, and marked the first time that the group’s madman drummer, John Clardy, was present for the entirety of the tracking period since joining them in 2008. Dense grooves, wild accent patterns, and rapid time changes abound throughout the album as the group furthers its signature experimental sound. Here we analyze key moments on Trash Generator and gain insight into some of the tracks from Clardy himself.
The beginning of this track features a mix of heavy guitar and dense, tom-based grooves. Eventually, however, the song opens into the following 6/4 segment that lightens the feel. “In this section, the guitar has a really rad chorus sound, and it’s pretty sparse for us,” Cardy says. “So I wanted to fill things in with the ride cymbal. It mostly follows along with the way the guitar is arpeggiating the chords.” (1:41, 146 bpm)
Shortly after that section, the song takes a wild turn into a barrage of mind-bending accent patterns and shifting time signatures—parts Clardy needed to shed before recording. “This part took up a lot of my time for a few months—first getting the changes down, and then playing it confidently and consistently,” he says. “Because of all the time that I put into this part, I tracked drums to this song first in the studio, which turned out not to be a good idea.” [laughs] Here’s a brief taste of the beginning of that section. (2:04, 139 bpm)
This song is built around a steady 7/4 structure, but the band incorporates some quirky little phrases that create some interesting breaks from the main groove. “Our bassist, Nathan Latona, and I worked out this post-chorus part to have a kind of ‘falling-down-the-stairs’ feeling,” Clardy says. “It gets really rubbery on the first four hits, but then it rebounds a little with strong accents on the last two hits going back into the beat.” (1:04, 146 bpm)
This second variation features an interesting five-note grouping between the drums and bass. (1:22, 147 bpm)
The song abruptly morphs into a 10/4 structure, which Clardy matches with funky kick variations. (2:26, 150 bpm)
This song’s intro features complex grooves over alternating bars of 4/4 and 6/4. As Clardy explains, “This is another spot where the guitar is sparse in the first phrase or two. I wanted to fill in the space with something that was a little screwy.” (0:26, 147 bpm)
The middle section of this track features a short drum break, and Clardy embraced the opportunity to play fills that are inspired by some of his influences. “The first two end phrases are inspired by programmed parts from the Run the Jewels track ‘Run the Jewels’ and an Aphex Twin–style linear triplet feel. I also wanted to throw in some hertas as a nod to Dave Grohl on Queens of the Stone Age’s ‘No One Knows.’” (1:59, 146 bpm)
“A Universal Gonk”
On this track, the drums enter with a tricky groove in 9/4. Clardy sneaks some elusive tom hits into the start of the pattern. “This groove was inspired by Stewart Copeland,” he says. “I wanted it to evoke a snake coiling and uncoiling rapidly.” (0:48, 144 bpm)
Clardy opens this track with a flurry of blazing kick work and strategically placed open hi-hats that give the pattern an aggressive feel. “It’s a kind of snaky, linear part,” Clardy explains. “It’s what I thought of from listening to the guitar part in the intro.” (0:00, 94 bpm)
These examples offer a mere taste of Clardy’s creative drumming on Trash Generator. So what’s next for the band? “For us, the foreseeable future is touring,” the drummer says. “We have some song ideas that didn’t make it past the initial writing stages, and we’ll likely explore those later. But for now it’s all about getting songs from the record into live shape and deciding what older material to mix in. I’m really excited for the challenge of playing these live.”
Austin Burcham is a drummer, educator, and graduate of the Musician’s Institute. He’s the creator of the YouTube lesson series Study the Greats, which you can visit at youtube.com/abbdrums. For more info, visit abbdrums.com.