Interview by Lord of The Wasteland (with help from Arto Lehtinen)
**Transcription by "Duke" (Thanks, man!)
***Pics by Lord of The Wasteland and courtesy of Seventh Frame Photography, Century Media Records, Strappingyounglad.com, DarkAngelMusic.com and Emptywords.org
In a career that has spanned over twenty years, legendary drummer Gene Hoglan is a true pioneer of the heavy metal plains. Dark Angel, Testament, Death, Strapping Young Lad?with jobs like this on his resume, chances are you have heard the bludgeoning skinsmanship of Hoglan. Besides the big-name bands, Hoglan also dabbles in several side projects?both metal and non-metal?which allow him to branch out and explore the many facets of drumming. Hoglan?s involvement with Devin Townsend both in his solo work and in Strapping Young Lad has been a relationship coming up on ten years with no signs of slowing down.
Strapping Young Lad unleashed their latest sonic assault, entitled ALIEN, back in March and I got the chance to speak with Hoglan on March 21st?the day before its release. Having met Hoglan on many occasions at local Vancouver shows, our 95-minute conversation was loose and full of laughs but also packed with insight into his many projects both young and old, as well as touching on Internet rumors, ALIEN, the ?real? Devin Townsend, his audition with Slayer, and many other things?.
The new record is out tomorrow?
And the band is doing an in-store signing at Scrape Records for it. Do you have any special plans or just a meet-and-greet?
I think the ?special plan? has been the fact that it?s been announced. We?ve done one for every record?every Devin Townsend record and every Strapping record?and we?ve never announced them so they?re usually pretty low-key. Sixty people show up or whatever and they?re pretty mellow. I don?t really know who announced it actually. Suddenly it was in the papers and people were like, ?Oh, I?m gonna see you there!? But you?re our friends, you see us all the time! Why would you go to a fucking record store to hang out with us? ?Oh, but that?s what signings are all about.? Great. More people.
It?s only been two years since SYL was released, which, in Strapping terms, is a relatively short time. It seems like we?re seeing a more regular output from the band.
Seems to, but you never know with Strapping. We can blow up or fucking implode at any time. Once we put the last album out, we knew that we wanted to do this for a while, ?cause everybody?s heart is really in it. Devin has his heart in it as well, his exploding heart. He?s trying really hard to be a metal trooper right now. It?s rough on him ?cause he?s always got so many things going on in his head. So we have a new album and I?m sure we?ll have another one after this?just keep it rocking and I really feel that we?ve stepped up on this record. We just have fun doing crushing records and we think that if we can?t do a crushing record, there?s no point doing it, but I think we have a lot of crushing albums in us.
Is there going to be a limited edition with any extra goodies, like a digipack with extra tracks or anything like that?
I get that all the time. I?m not really sure what?s happening with it. I know that we did a ?making of? DVD and there originally was gonna be a second disc with it but for some reason or other it just didn?t happen that way. I guess the label will wait and see if it?s selling all right and then ?Yeah, we were planning this all along!? In every territory there?s something different. In Australia it?s already out. I know there are a bunch of different ones. I thought the American one was an enhanced disc with the ?making of? DVD on it, but I just got a copy myself and there?s none of that. There?s a crappy live song from the DVD and I was like ?What? We have to listen to that thing again?? We?re all pretty sick of the DVD.
Can you explain the title ?ALIEN? for me? Is there a meaning behind it?
It?s a matter of being very different, being out of place, being just a little different than your surroundings. It means more than a spacey creature crawling out of your chest. I think Strapping is pretty ?Alien? anyway. I don?t know how easy it is to compare us to other bands or live shows or whatever. The fact is that we play guitars and have long hair?there?s a comparison. I think it kinda stopped there.
True, you can hear influences here and there but you can?t really find another band that sounds like Strapping Young Lad.
Yeah, we coulda called the album ?We?re better than you!? (laughs) But I think ?Alien? is a little nicer.
What about the cover. Am I seeing just outer space and in the corner sort of a shadow of a planet?
Kinda yeah. I gotta admit I?m not super-duper happy with the way the printing came out. They?ve done all this crazy stuff to make sure you can see the logo on the cover, but the original of it?somebody found one of the original computer covers of it and threw it up on our website. ?Is that the cover?? ?Yeah, THAT is the cover!? Century Media wouldn?t have had to do all this gobbledygook if they?d only printed it correctly. But what can you do? Things never get printed the way you want them to. I remember the cover of the SYL record?that didn?t come out the way I had envisioned it or imagined it to be. I thought it was gonna be really super, blood red, dark, thick, rich? a beautiful view of crimson. It came out red. This is the same. The original artwork is a little brighter; now it?s black. Great, we?ve got a Metallica record on our hands. [AC/DC?s] BACK IN BLACK, Spinal Tap?it?s not really supposed to be like that. It should be blue.
So you guys recorded at The Armoury again. How does a grungy underground band like SYL even get through the doors of a ritzy place like that (laughs)?
Pocket full of cash. Really, since we did the last album there, they liked us and were happy for us to come back. I don?t think they were happy when we told them we were gonna record for two days there. They probably thought we?d do the whole record there. We?ve got all of our own gear now. Devin has his computer setup and Shaun [Thingvold], our engineer, has his own rig rolling. We did a couple of days at The Armoury and we did about a month and a half at Greenhouse [Studios]. We just took an empty back room that they had in Greenhouse, brought in all of our own gear and we had a nice old Strapping clubhouse going there. But it?s pretty easy. If you?ve got the cash, you can go to The Armoury. Everybody?s really great there. It?s a great studio. More than the stuff there, like a great drum room, it?s the people who are great. They?re really nice. They could have the attitude. If The Armoury was located in L.A., it?d be a much different place. Up here, it?s really nice; everybody is cool and all the people who work there are great. Down in L.A., it would just be a bunch of jaded old music fucks.
Is it in Kitsilano [a trendy, overpriced Vancouver neighborhood where people carry their Starbucks coffee cup around as if it is a fashion accessory]?
Yeah, it?s just around the Burrard Street Bridge. The Molson [beer] plant is over there. That?s the only bogus part of The Armoury. You go out on the nice sundeck that they have there and it smells like Milwaukee. The Molson plant is firing yeast right at you. I swear they?ve got yeast cannons firing fucking waves of scent in your direction. If you like beer, you?ll love The Armoury.
So why did you guys decide to split between the two studios? Why not record it all at The Armoury or all at the Greenhouse?
The Armoury has a great drum room and that?s all we needed. We?ve got our own gear. The Armoury is a spendy place and with today?s recording market, it?s kinda dwindling. Everybody is like ?Fuck it, we?ve got our own ProTools system. Screw going to a big place!? Strapping is no different. It saved us a ton of cash not having to do it all at The Armoury. We were just able to fire it all into gear and, man, all you need these days are some good programs, a good ProTools system and good mics. That?s all you need.
What about Devin?s studio, why not record there?
We did pretty much all the vocals at his studio and also tons of the keyboards. That?s his basement studio. It?s great for a couple of people, but trying to cram four or five smelly dudes in there wouldn?t work out, too well, so we recorded at three different places. Probably even four if you include Green Jacket, where we mixed it and mastered it. I?m sure we actually laid down a couple of tracks there.
Every SYL record is notorious for the huge wall of sound you guys create and ALIEN is no different. How long does it take to achieve that sound? How long do you actually spend in the studio recording?
We spent three and a half months. We?d probably still be working on the record if it wasn?t for the release date. We blew past the first release date?it was supposed to be released on February 22nd?but we had to have the album done by the end of October and we started it in mid August. It was getting really apparent by the latter part of October that it was not gonna be done by the time the label wanted it, so they just said ?OK, let?s push the release date back a month. Hurry up and do the damn thing you bastards!?
(Laughs) It seems to have a lot more of the sonic chaos of CITY than SYL. To me it seems to fit between the CITY record and the SYL. Do you sort of agree with that?
Sure! Strapping is an evolution in progress. It?s another step in the evolution. One thing I?ve never wanted to see is Strapping painted with one colour. We can do anything that we want. We?re all pretty good at playing our instruments, pretty good at writing songs and we all work really well together. So for Strapping to just be known as a heavy metal band, I wouldn?t want to sell us short that way. When CITY came out, it was pretty much sonic brutality, very cold sounding, just like getting stabbed with an ice pick that?s just been pulled out of the ice. The SYL record was a little more brown, a little more earthy sounding. We weren?t really feeling like samples at the time. I remember when we were like ?The basic tracks are getting done and the vocals are getting done and everything is getting close. When are we gonna fire samples on this?? Devin said ?I dunno if I?m feeling like samples on this record.? OK, it?s gonna be a different sounding record than CITY. I don?t want any of our records to sound like the others. With this one, Dev has mastered sampling. His production has come so far in the last couple of years. He?s a great producer! He?s just been constantly working on the samples on this one. As soon as we were done with the drums, he started stacking samples on there, just all the chaos in his head. He was feeling the samples on this one, so we definitely went over the top with it. With SYL, I guess we knew that we could play any of the songs live. We would come up with some riff and Devin would immediately throw vocals on top of it. We just started writing the song ten minutes ago and Dev?s already got vocals on it! So this stuff was gonna be really simple to pull off live and from that album we could do just about any of the songs live.
There are a lot of samples on ALIEN.
And it?s easy to do these live too, ?cause the technology has come a long way in the last couple of years. We?ve got Will [Campagna], our new keyboardist?who was also the keyboardist for SYL actually?he?s been working his ass off and we?ve been jamming with full samples. It?s gonna be a sonic holocaust on the next tour! It will be a wicked live representation of the album. Will was just saying ?My keyboard has 76 keys and the song ?Skeksis? uses 74 of those keys.? So we?re throwing in kitchen sinks, anything! Throwing our dog at you! Throwing our grandma at you!
Where does he get all of these samples from? I hear the more obvious stuff like in the beginning of ?Love?? where there?s a guy who says ?There is no way to tell when a female is excited? or something like that. But all the small, almost subliminal things, where does he get them?
He makes them! With the exception of the spoken word stuff, which he usually gets from the library. The only channel Devin watches is the Discovery Channel, so he gets some from there. But the spoken word stuff is so little, it?s nothing. Dev makes all the samples. That?s why you cannot fault Strapping for the samples because we construct them, we make them. We don?t rip them out of other places. There?s so much you can do with computers now. You can take the riff from ?Angel of Death? and turn it into something completely different that doesn?t sound like ?Angel of Death?. I?d be happy to do it the easy way, but Dev doesn?t do it the easy way. He constructs it out of his own fucking head. That?s really awesome to hear that on pretty much any part of the record. The samples are so layered. It?s not just one sample playing?there?s ten things going on. We also show that a little bit on the ?making of? DVD. I know you can download it from Century Media?s website. We go into some tech secrets and Dev goes into some things like ?Here?s how the samples work, I throw this one on, throw that one on, throw that one on, just keep going.? He goes into them individually like ?I?ll play this one, this one, this one, now all of them together?. Massive layering is how Dev likes to work, which is really cool for Strapping. Dev is like the new Phil Spector and Phil Spector was such a great producer. He created the wall of sound and Devin has this giant brick wall of crushing mayhem-ic sound.
The Soilwork record that Devin produced [NATURAL BORN CHOAS] was a perfect example of that.
The SYL record was influenced by the events of September 11th and all the shit that went down with that?
?but what spawned ALIEN? What sort of got you guys working again so soon?
It was just time to get writing again. We knew we wanted to have a new album out in early 2005. Byron [Stroud, bass] was off doing the Fear Factory stuff and Jed [Simon, guitar] had moved to Philadelphia with his girl. And Jed was also with some of the Fear Factory tour with Byron. He was Byron?s guitar tech, so both guys were gone for most of last year. We finished the DVD?Dev did most of the work on that one. Then me and Dev wrote?well not all of it, but we wrote tons of the new record and Dev and I jammed actually. We?d been working together for six or seven years at the time and we had never just sat and jammed. We tried early, early on and we were both kinda awkward with each other at first. But with this one, Dev said ?Fuck, let?s just jam. Let?s not have any preconceived ideas. You come up with some beats, I?ll come up with some riffs?. It was so killer, things just started rolling that way. I found this album really, really easy to write. That makes me think of the next album, like ?Oh yeah, we?re gonna fucking kill people.? But people are allowed to live for another couple of years (laughs). This one is only gonna kick them in the neck a few times. But it was easy to write this record. You gotta be dedicated to it. There are no days off. You just gotta keep going and on days when you don?t feel like jamming, it would be really easy to say ?Let?s not jam today,? but no, we?ve got a record to do. We?ve got four songs already and they?re killer so let?s do it! What are the next six or eight songs gonna sound like? There are tons of ideas that we didn?t use for this album too. We could have, but we didn?t. I?m not saying those are gonna pop up. Those riffs are probably forgotten about ?cause we?re gonna write a bunch of killer ones for the next record.
You wrote on the Strapping website that you and Devin went through a lot of shit last year. What exactly happened?
Typical life shit, you know? Break-ups with girlfriends. Just all that sort of nonsense. Dev went through a lot of shit on his own?a lot of personal shit. If he wants to speak about it, cool, but I saw what happened to Dev last year and I have full respect for that man for coming through the way that he did. It was just a crappy year. Our buds, Byron and Jed, were gone. There was a lot of work and shit was going on. For me, my roommate stiffed me on about three months of paying rent, so we lost our house. I paid the back rent for him and we still ended up losing the house that we were at. I lived on a couch in the middle of writing this record. I just didn?t have time to look for another house. Nobody I knew was ready to have a roommate, everybody was pretty ensconced at where they were, so I was kinda bouncing around between different couches. I remember that I put this notice up for our fans on our website and suddenly it was on Blabbermouth. ?Gene?s broke! No fucking way!? Boy, did that get fucking taken way out of context! It was a shitty year but it was a great inspiration. I?m fucking glad my roommate did all that fucking stupid shit because it inspired me to really fucking lay it down heavy on this one. This album was such a mission to write, a mission to just be fucking devastating. We want to write a good record, a killer record, but also show off our own noodling capacities, as well. Dev gets to do some wicked solos on this and he gets to do some shredding guitar work. Dev?s one of the best shredders in the world but you?d never know it. A lot of people who don?t listen to the Devin Townsend stuff or see Devin Townsend live don?t know what a fucking shredding guitarist he is. He has some wicked leads where we go, ?Jesus, what the hell was that thing?? We watched him write it. He was tracking, said ?Gimme a second?, sat down for like 20 minutes and pulled out these wicked licks and all of us were just standing around with jaws hitting the floor. ?Yeah, right, Dev, cool, good!? We were just really inspired, it sounds chaotic, it sounds hateful, it sounds aggressive, and that?s the way we were feeling!
So before the next record comes out, you?ve got to make sure somebody fucks you around again (laughs)?
(Laughs) Yeah, anybody who wants to fuck Gene around, I?ll take it so I can write the next album!
(Laughs) There?s a couple of songs that I saw on old posts on the Strapping websites??Golluminizer? and ?Megabulldozer?. Did you just change the names to the final versions that are on the ALIEN record?
Yeah, we changed the names. ?Thalamus? was called ?Megabulldozer.? I think it was originally called ?Landscape?. And ?Two Weeks,? Dev wanted to call ?Golluminizer? just because he liked the word. I wanted to call ?Two Weeks? something like ?Skull fucking brutality fuck fuck fuck fires of hell? ?cause it?s such a nice little song. We were tossing things around. I wanted to call the record ?Onwards and Up Yours?. That was banded about a bit, but I actually prefer ALIEN now. So those were just working titles. Things like that tend to get out. The disc itself got put on Kazzaa back in December or something like that and the album wasn?t even complete then. We?ve made changes since that thing got out in December and we have to catch hell from people on websites. ?Why did you change that song? It was cool the way it was!? Fuck off, you weren?t even suppose to hear that, you fucking prick! So fuck you!
(Laughs) What happened with the Tom Jones cover? When I first heard about that I thought, ?I can?t wait to hear this!?
That would?ve been deadly! It kinda wasn?t gonna fit on the record. There is some humour on the album, but the overall ?Oh, look were being total geeks here? kinda humour isn?t present. Dev was like ?Let?s not put this on here? and I said ?Ok, I see your point about it not fitting?. But we?ve got it and we?ll release it somewhere down the road if need be. If we don?t get to it by the time we start writing the new record, it?ll probably never come out.
So you actually did record it?
Yeah, but we kinda stopped working on it half way. I don?t think we finished it and I actually don?t know if we even put any vocals on it. I know the drums and the basic guitar track were probably recorded.
How faithful did you stay to the original?
It was really creepy sounding. It was just a big metal version with blast beats and screams. The ?Wooaoooaoooa, what?s new pussycat?? was like ?RAAAAAAAAARGH!? Just fucking screaming and we changed the lyrics slightly to make it even creepier sounding. It?s kind of a strange sexist song and we made it even cruder.
?Infodump??I?m kind of curious about that. Why was it included as a regular track and not a hidden track? Usually stuff like that is found eighteen minutes after the last track where something like that will pop up.
Sure, I thought that was going to be kind of a secret track. But it?s a secret track with a fucking song title to it. That?s what Dev hears in his head. It?s strange that something like that would be called a song. It?s strange that something like that would be called music. But that is music to Dev. I dig it. I think ?Infodump? is awesome. If people don?t get it or don?t understand it, I can understand that. Some people have been like ?Why did you put this on, it?s a waste of time?. Well fuck you, turn it off then you fucking dick! The album is basically over with anyway. It?s a trip, that song?s a journey, man! We?ve had people tell us, ?Fuck, that song made me cry.? Wow, a pile of noise can make you cry? Wicked! I guess if you listen to it when you?re on a lot of heavy medication or drugs, then you?ll be probably terrified by it. It?s killer in the end, it?s bombastic.
I think it did some permanent damage to my car speakers.
Sure! That?s why I tell people to just listen to it once and turn it up really loud. It?ll fucking destroy your speakers!
What exactly is a ?Skeksis??
(Laughs) I had to ask the same question. You have not seen the movie THE DARK CRYSTAL, either.
I think I saw it when I was about 12 or 13 years old.
Dev saw it when he was 12, too, and it stuck with him because it?s his favourite film ever. The Skeksis are the bad guys in it. When he first told me the title I said, ?Wow, cool word!? Then he told me what it was. Ok, it?s that ?Dark crystal? movie again. He?s always saying, ?I love THE DARK CRYSTAL? and I?ve never seen it. It was one of those words that I?m not familiar with but the word itself is cool. Maybe somebody will ask it in an interview sometime, ?Hey, what?s a Skeksis?? So here it is.
Am I the first one?
No, there?s been a couple of other people. It?s still a strange metal-ly kind of word. Skeksis! What the hell is that? Sounds like a disease of the skin or something. ?Fuck, I?ve got Skeksis! I gotta get some lotion.?
(Laughs) I don?t know if I?m looking too much into this, but I was looking at the lyrics of ?Skeksis? and I see what I take to be some lyrical references to Devin?s INFINITY record and also the track ?Om? from the CHRISTEEN + 4 DEMOS record. He mentions INFINITY on ?Skeksis? and then again on ?Shitstorm.?
I know Devin likes to put in references to his older stuff. He?ll repeat lines and stuff. I remember I?ve seen the line ?I warned you? pop up a lot around 1997. That was like the first line on ?Infinity? and was on ?Home Nucleonics.? And ?All you are is all you are? is on a couple of songs. He?s always cross-referencing stuff and that?s cool.
And jackasses like me are always asking questions about it?(laughs)
That?s fine. It shows you?re paying attention.
(Laughs) Here?s a question you?ve probably been hearing a lot. ?Two Weeks??why is it now time for a ballad on a Strapping album?
It?s kind of a good palate cleanser to kinda show a bit more dynamics to everything. Ten songs of horrible brutality?who knows how that would water itself down? By the time you get to track seven or eight, you go ?Holy fuck!? Instead you get ?Oh, nice, a little breather.? Here?s a big metal scream for you afterwards! It?s a nice one, Dev and Jed wrote that one in the studio. Dev was like ?I wanna make a little acoustic track on the album? and I was all like ?Cool, that can be really cool.? That was the first ever Strapping song that was in regular normal tuning and we?ve never done that before. We?ve got wacky tunings going on with Strapping and that was pretty much straight forward. They wrote it and I had a fun time watching them tear their hair out as they were recording it. After playing heavy metal guitar for so long and writing an acoustic song, you gotta work on the acoustic song. To play an acoustic guitar again, you gotta do some noodling on it. ?Fuck it, let?s just write the song now!? They were tracking it and pulling their hair out, it was fun to watch! If we?d left in all the ?Fuck! Shit! Let?s do it again! Fuck!? that was going on, it would?ve been fun. The most explicit pretty acoustic track ever! It?s nice cause it kinda bridges the gap between?it?s not a concept album, but being around Dev, knowing what the lyrics he wrote were about and knowing what was going on in his head, I could kinda see a little mini concept happening between ?Possessions?, ?Two Weeks? and ?Landscape? ? or ?Thalamus?. You get off the road and ?Possessions? is like ?Okay, what are we gonna do with our lives?? and hearing from your girl ?Hey, maybe we should mellow out and have some kids.? Then you get off the road and have two weeks before the next tour and you?re like ?So what do we wanna do? Go to the beach? Mellow out? Take a day and have some fun?? And the next tune is about getting on the bus and getting on tour again and representing yourself as this metallic madman. Who knows where it can lead from there?
As a fan, ?Two Weeks? was a bit off-putting at first. It came on and I was like ?Huh??
The coolest thing about ?Two Weeks? is the sub that runs underneath it. If you?ve got a good system you can hear that there?s a sub running that sounds like fucking Korn or something. Even our pretty little acoustic track there?s something rumbling that makes you feel bad!
It?s not a happy song, by any means.
Totally, man! It?s a ?make-you-feel-bad-sounding? acoustic song.
Parts of ALIEN, like ?Skeksis? and ?Shitstorm,? are probably some of the heaviest tracks that you guys have ever laid down. Then you have the other end of the spectrum with ?Love?? and ?Two Weeks,? which are melodic and acoustic. ALIEN is certainly the most dynamic record that you guys have done as a band so far.
Yeah, I think that?s pretty apparent, especially with the inclusion of songs like ?Two Weeks?, ?Love??, ?Shine? and stuff like that, which is awesome for me. It?s the way I?ve always wanted to see Strapping. Not just a crazy metal band with a crazy metal record all the time. I like to run the musical gamut with Strapping including some Devin Townsend-sounding material. I thought that was wicked. It all comes from the same brain, so why not play up on that? Fuck, Dev, if you want to throw some massively majestic stuff on here, I?m cool with that! I love The Devin Townsend Band. I dig all his solo stuff, so to have some of that cross-collateralise only enriches the Strapping sound base, the Strapping experience or whatever. So it?s definitely a dynamic album.
What kind of feedback have you guys gotten about the more melodic stuff? Are there a lot of people saying ?I don?t like it??
No. ?Two Weeks? is tons of people?s favourite song. Just by going to our website where everybody could download it the last couple of months, you can see that ?Two Weeks? is one of the more popular songs. They?re like ?Fuck, I?m into metal and I love ?Shitstorm? and ?Skeksis? but ?Two Weeks? is wicked?. It?s nice when people get it. We don?t expect many people to get it. We tend to fly right over people?s heads and the same could happen with this record. If you want loud, abrasive heavy metal, you?ve got that in spades. If you want lyrics that are touching on some subjects that you?re probably not used to in a metal song, we?ve got that, too. And if you?re looking for dynamics and melody and all that, fuck, what more do you want than Strapping? All the people out there buying all that other crap, fuck that! Trade that in, buy Strapping!
Who are the kids and the ladies singing in the choirs of the songs?
The kids we got from our friends and people we knew and a few that we didn?t, which is really awesome to have people bring their kids in. We were like ?Oh, we?re gonna have them screaming like they?re terrified, is that ok?? The parents were like ?Ah, cool! Finally someone else gets to hear what I hear every night!? A bunch of our friends? kids came down and we had them scream. Dev?s great with kids. It was awesome to get the performances out of the kids like he did. And the girls are just ?Strapping Young Lass.? We?ve had them do stuff on every record so far. They?re like ten or twelve really saucy girls.
I saw a clip on the Century Media site?not too shabby, dude (laughs)!
Those are just a bunch of friends that I put together. Everybody that could carry a tune. We had them come down and do some singing and it came out killer.
The drums are just insane on ALIEN. I?m sure a lot of people have been telling you that. Was it a conscious effort that you guys went for in really beefing them up? They sound a lot beefier than I?ve ever heard before on a Strapping album.
Dev really put a lot of work into it. The first album I did, CITY, didn?t really have much of a budget. I recorded those drums in a day. We had an inkling of the budget we have now. On SYL, Dev and Shaun were both doing The Devin Townsend Band album at the exact same time. They?d be splitting their time, like three days with Strapping, four days with the DTB. Dev was spread a little thin sonically. This time all the concentration was on Strapping. ?If we?re gonna do this, let?s do it the right way, which is huge.? The cymbals came out great. It?s killer. Dev?s a great producer. Every album he does is getting better and better and that?s why, for a little while, we were talking about using an outside guy. We were talking about Daniel Bergstrand again. He?s the guy that did CITY. Then when it worked out that Dev would do it, I thought that?s really the way it should be, the way it?s gotta be. Who knows how to produce Dev?s music better than Dev? He?s really into it and he?s not gonna be splitting his time between the two projects. We?ve got all of the brain working on one thing so it?s gonna be really over the top. It?s gonna be awesome and I?m happy with the way everything came out.
Is ALIEN sort of a new reference point for what Gene Hoglan is capable of as a drummer?
I?m not sure. Everybody says ?Oh god, you really stepped up on this record?. That?s the stuff I do on every record, just here! But I always try to set the bar high and re-set the bar with every record. Some of the stuff that a lot of people might not have heard yet, like the punch drum on the Just Cause record [FINGER IT OUT, 1999], they?re pretty extreme. I?ve got another project, a band called Hurt, from here in town. Those drums are psychotic, those are sick drums on there! Every album I do, I just try to ?Hey man, check out what I can do on this one!? If it is a new reference point, and I?ve heard similar stuff to that, cool. But if this is the first album someone ever hears from Strapping, I hope they go ?Wow, what the hell is that drummer thinking??
You and Byron seem to really have found your groove on this record. Did you work together to get a tighter mesh of the bass and drums on ALIEN?
We?ve worked real hard over the last few years, actually. Byron and I have been taking the chances that we get to work together. After everybody splits from a jam, Byron and I will stick around and work out stuff together. That?s cool. We didn?t get that much opportunity to do that with this one, but Byron just did a lot of homework while he was out on the road with Fear Factory and just made it so he came to town with his shit together. I didn?t have to tell Byron much of ?Hey, let?s play this bass line!? because he kinda did that one anyway. So Byron did great work on the record and we?ve finally captured Byron?s sound?the essence of Byron. Big, rumbling, beefy?he plays like he looks! Big solid man, big solid bass. The thing I was really psyched about when working with Byron was that we?re both doing the Ani Kyd record. I don?t know if you?re familiar with her?
I?ve heard the name.
She?s from here in Vancouver. We?re both playing on that, we?re tracking tomorrow. I?m gonna try to finish my drums by the in-store and then go to the in-store and if I haven?t finished, I?ll go back and do it. We?re recording right around the corner from it. Jello Biafra is gonna produce it and he?s coming into town tonight.
Wow, that sounds cool! He was here a few months ago for the Ministry tour, too.
Yeah, actually he was here for the Ani Kyd thing. Byron is playing his ass off on the new stuff. Her stuff is wildly different from Strapping. It?s just good four-on-the-floor, tasty riff, metal-rock. Byron is killing. I?m having more fun playing with Byron than I have in a long time. He?s really letting his chops fly. It?s not metal, so it doesn?t have to be this chunk-chunk-chunk-chunk. There are bass lines all over the place, go nuts! And he is and it?s killer.
You have a new keyboardist on the record?Dave Young from The Devin Townsend Band. What happened to Munesh Sami?
Well, Munesh plays drums for Hank III now. Munesh was awesome! He came across at a time when we needed a keyboard player because we lost Will two weeks or ten days before our first tour in 2003 and Munesh, who had never touched a keyboard in his life, said he?d do it. Keyboardists are fucked up! You think guitarists are fucked or that drummers are strange or singers are lunatics but keyboardists, strange buggers, man! Even Dave doesn?t play keyboards in Dave?s band. He plays guitar in his band. He does play keyboards for The Devin Townsend Band but he?s not just a keyboardist. So we lost Munesh and we knew we were probably gonna record with Dave anyway, because Dave is a phenomenal keyboardist. He?s a great transcriber and a great musician. It worked out fantastic with Dave and it was nothing but a pleasure working with him. We wanted to have him for this tour, but he wanted to stick with his own project?a band called Ten Ways From Sunday?so we got Will back and Will is killing. He?s doing great work and he?s doing his homework every day. It?s really apparent when we jam every night that he?s been working on it every day. The keyboards are gonna be killer on this tour. I love Munesh and he could bang his head very well (laughs)?but Will is actually a great keyboardist.
Munesh looked like he was having a seizure up on stage (laughs)!
Yeah, he kind of sounded like it, too (laughs)! But everything really worked out for everybody. Munesh is really happy playing with Hank III and we?re happy to have Will back. Everybody landed on their feet, which is a good sign, I think. A portent for things to come.
I was starting to think you had a keyboardist curse?like Spinal Tap did with their drummers (laughs)!
We full on do! Will is our seventh and ninth keyboardist. Munesh was number eight. We can have a Slipknot of keyboardists.
(Laughs) You mentioned the webisodes that Century Media put on their website. Whose idea was it to film the actual recording of ALIEN?
Well, it was something that we wanted to do. We had our video guy, Marcus, in town. We had brought it up with the label, ?Hey, we have a guy in town that does really good work. What do you think of bringing him in and making a making of?? and they were fully behind it and Marcus got fully behind it, as well. He was there for tons of the trackings and the interviews were really cool. I love the way the ?making of? came out! A killer, wicked little documentary. Someone oughta fire it up for the? what are the Oscars called up here?
No, for movies.
Oh yeah...The Genies!
Yeah, get it up there for best documentary ?cause fuck, it?s really cool. Makes us look like we?re not a bunch of mutants. So yeah, those came out really well and those are being released as a DVD. Actually it?s a three inch DVD, ?cause I was on the website a while ago and people were bitching about the three inches. I don?t know why it?s three inches, why do you ask me this? Send it to Century Media!
(Laughs) You guys have a big tour coming up that starts the week after next, I guess?
Starts in Edmonton and ends back at home here in Vancouver.
Actually, it starts in Victoria now and Prince George. First time that we?ve ever played there and the closest to the North Pole that we?ve ever played. I think that?s even further north than Hultsfred, Sweden! But we start there and we end up at The Commodore and that?s gonna be a ripping show. Finally Strapping gets to play a headlining show in town the way we?ve always wanted to?at the end of the tour or the start of the tour or even in the middle of the tour. Every show we?ve ever done in Vancouver has been a one-off.
Like you did at Studebaker?s for the release of the SYL album.
Yeah, we did that after we got off the tour but I think we?d been off the tour for like a couple of weeks. There?s a bit of degeneration that goes on. Your chops go off if you don?t play for a week. This is gonna be on the last night of the tour, so we?re not gonna be tired and it?s gonna be a crushing show. If people thought the DVD show was killer, this one?s gonna be over the top. Unless everything explodes or whatever.
(Laughs) That might add to it?
(Laughs) Yeah, wicked!
(Laughs) How many songs are you going to do from the new record? Do you have a setlist that was put together yet?
Yeah, we do and we?re playing at least five of them. I?d like to see us do like seven or eight, but we?re doing the first five off the record. I?m sure we?ll do a rewrite somewhere down the road. I?d love to see us do ?Possessions? and ?Zen? live, as well.
How about ?Two Weeks??!
Hey, make it an outro! We might be playing six and then fire that off at the end of the set. That?ll be our ?Good night everybody, fuck off now!? song. Here?s the slow dance! Piss off everybody!
I read that you guys are part of a new tour, ?The Sounds of The Underground,? as well. That sounds like a pretty cool bill.
Yeah, it should be interesting.
Are you swinging through Vancouver again?
They?re talking about it. I know the obligatory Toronto date and probably Ottawa and Montr?al. I know they have discussed doing Vancouver. There?s discussion about doing a few dates in Western Canada but I don?t know where that will be or if it will wear itself down to just a Vancouver show, but hopefully they will do it.
Is it gonna be an outdoor thing?
Some days. I hear that the one hear will be an outdoor show.
At Thunderbird Stadium, I suppose?
Good question. We?ll probably just fire up at a Shopper?s Drug Mart?s parking lot. We?ll go to the Real Canadian Superstore parking lot?Strapping and 17 other bands.
(Laughs) Are you guys happy with the FOR THOSE ABOOT TO ROCK DVD?
I am, sure. It came out way better than it could have.
I thought it had a cool look to it. It looked like a comic book with all the different ?panels.?
I never put that together but I surely hear what you?re saying. We should have some nice little writing in the corners and thought bubbles.
(Laughs) Anthrax had the same idea with their new DVD, where they have all those panels and I got the same idea with the Strapping DVD.
Cool! I haven?t seen the Anthrax one but I dug ours. I thought it came out great. We played whack-a-camera and in true Strapping form, we shoved it all in your face at one time. There?s very little subtlety, it?s not like we?re gonna make you guess how many cameras we had. ?Wow, there?s twelve takes on the screen! Twelve cameras!? It was done on a shoestring budget and it still came out killer. It wasn?t intended as anything other than kind of a ?stop-gap? sort of release, our 2004 release that kinda tided over the time while we were making the new record.
Is there any talk about doing a follow-up DVD?
I know we?re talking about doing one in 2007, which will probably be a compendium but that was a while back. I?m not sure if we?re gonna do another one for this record. If we were to do one for every record, I don?t know if that wouldn?t kinda get boring. We have no plans as of yet, but you never know. Even that last DVD wasn?t really thought out well in advance. We just went ?Hey man, we?re not gonna release a record until 2005, so what should we do?? ?Why not record a live show and put out a DVD?? ?Ok, let?s do it!?
It was a cool show as well. Unbelievably crazy crowd. I was over at stage right, just in front of Jed. As soon as you guys fired up, the crowd just surged and I was like ?Ok, I?m outta here.? I?m too old for that (laughs).
I remember that as the worst show we ever played. Everyone came up afterwards going ?What a show, great energy!? and we were all backstage going, ?Fuck, that was a nightmare!? I?ve played I don?t know how many shows with Strapping?500? More? I?ve only had technical problems in two shows. One was the one in Melbourne, Australia where we recorded the live record and then last year when we did the fucking DVD. I?m jinxed. If there?s gonna be any sort of recording going on, Gene?s gear?s gonna have some problems. But we were able to just fake it and thank God for having so many cameras. With all the editing possibilities, we were able to add in Arnold, our guitar tech who was on stage quite a bit that night. You only see him once on the DVD. We put a lot of work into making it look that easy.
I have to ask why you didn?t edit out Drew.
Aw, we had to keep Drew (laughs)!
In the audience, you couldn?t really hear what was going on and he sounded like he knew what he was doing. But when I put on the DVD, I was like, ?Is this the same show??
If you notice, the vocal production on his stuff is drastically different from the rest. We had to find the track he was singing on because he was singing so low. We had to break it up and do all this studio stuff just so you could hear it. Poor guy.
Maybe he?ll show up at the in-store tomorrow (laughs)?
I hope so! We?ve never met him. We were looking for him before the DVD came out to say, ?Hey dude, come sit with us and check it out?. We could never find him. But we do that at most of the shows, just because Dev?s sick of singing at that point in the set anyway, let alone hitting these brutally high screams and stuff. So we usually throw it out in the audience. ?Hey, does anybody know this song? Cool. Come up and sing it!? My favourite time we did that, we were in Portland and we were playing with Satyricon. This was like, 2002. Dev shouted, ?Hey, does anyone want to come up and sing our last song, ?Far Beyond Metal?? Does anyone know it?? All of a sudden, the tallest man in Portland comes walking to the stage. We were like ?Fuck, that dude is huge!? This guy comes walking up and when he gets on stage we see that he?s missing his right hand from half way from the elbow and down. Dev hands him the mic and he pulls off this wicked version of it. He hits all the notes and knows all the lyrics and just does this killer version. At the end, I don?t think Dev was even thinking of it, but he went ?Hey everybody, give that man a hand!? I was just cracking up! I was pissing myself and the guy was just ?Yeah, I could use one!?
I read that you guys all hate the video for ?Relentless?.
Oh god, yeah!
(Laughs) Have you SEEN it?
Yeah, you guys are all in that cage and everyone watching is going nuts.
The nuts part?I guess you could put ?nuts? in quotations. I remember that we wanted to make everyone look really crazy. ?Everybody, go shit crazy! You?re freaking out, you?re losing your mind, you?re rabid, you?re insane!? I guess that passes for Vancouver insanity. We were passing the booze around. ?Loosen up, everybody! Get into it, go nutty!? And that part was pretty silly and the fucking Terminator smashing?ooh, wicked [in full sarcasm mode]. We still haven?t found out whose fucking idea that was. We all blame it on Val [Chris Valagao] from Zimmer?s Hole ?cause he created that thing and he?s got the Terminator sitting there at his place. We rehearsed at his place. He?s got a chop-shop and we rehearse there all the time and have to sit there and look at the fucking thing. It?s kinda funny. It?s got an Alien mask sitting on it, just a little Halloween mask. I didn?t really put it together, ?Wait a second, he?s had an Alien mask on that thing for a couple of years?. It?s sitting right there in the studio. I don?t know?that has been the bane of our existence if we have one. Some people like the Terminator, some people don?t. I don?t care, it?s a fucking video! We all got really drunk and it looks it. It was a lot of fun. The main problem I had that day was that the monitors were really, really crappy, so you couldn?t hear what you were playing. Me, I wanna freak out and look like I?m going nutty, but I couldn?t hear the song. You?re not really playing as you?re playing but still with the crappy monitor system that we had for it you really had to crane your neck to hear the damn thing. It didn?t really work out too well, but?oh well, fuck it. It?s a video. Shit, who cares?
Are you guys doing any videos for the new record?
Yeah, we?ve already done one for ?Love?? We did it in L.A. last month.
So what?s going on in ?Love?? then? Are you happier with that one?
Yeah, totally. It came out really good. We?re zombies! It?s kind of a take on THE EVIL DEAD. They built a set for it off THE EVIL DEAD. We had a couple of buddies come down and we knew that we were doing an EVIL DEAD and I?m not really sure where that idea came up but it did. So a couple of buddies came down to the set and checked it out. ?Holy shit, they?ve built the fucking set from EVIL DEAD for you guys!? I hadn?t seen the movie in forever but a couple of my buds who were there said they did a pretty good job on this. I know there?s a big elk head or deer head sitting behind me. And then they turn us into zombies! Jed gets possessed and we?re all zombies! But the zombie portion is kinda small. It?s a cool video. It gets the job done. It?s a cool song and it shows the song. I don?t think there?s enough naked cheerleaders in it, though.
(Laughs) Can you ever have really have enough?
Do you ever get frustrated when people assume that Strapping is just Dev and the rest of you guys are just a bunch of flunkies or hired employees?
I think that is a misconception that I wouldn?t mind changed. Dev IS the life support of the band. He?s the brains, he?s the driving force. He?s pretty much the lead riff master but it is a four piece band and we all make decisions together. Devin and Byron are the two hardest working members of Strapping. Byron does all of the biz and he pretty much manages us. Besides playing wicked bass, that?s what Byron has to do with it. Me, I got the easy job. I just sit back and play drums. I do some interviews and write some of it and work on it, but that?s easy. I enjoy doing this. It doesn?t bother us at all, but it is a notion that I think is a little off the mark. Then we get our own little platforms to do interviews and we get to speak our own minds.
How did you first meet up with Devin anyway?
We met at an Iron Maiden concert down in L.A.. I think we were both there to see Fear Factory. We had a mutual friend, a guy I went to high school with. He was always telling me ?Dude, you gotta come down and meet my friend Devin Townsend! He?s fucking killer!? I loved the guy and I watched that Steve Vai video on Headbanger?s Ball for three months straight when it came out, where Dev had the tattooed head. I watched it for three months straight to see the top of Dev?s head. I thought he was the coolest-looking guy I?d ever seen. When you?re thinking Steve Vai and a singer, you?re thinking some pretentious long-haired guy who probably has a flowered paisley shirt looking like Joe Lynn Turner or something?singing some [wails in high-pitched falsetto] ?aaaaaah!? But you had this crazy Pinhead-looking Cenobite PVC-wearing crazy bastard. I was like ?Fuck yeah, that was awesome! And he screams like a motherfucker!? So I totally wanted to meet Devin Townsend. We met in the bar and Dev was just, ?Well, I understand that you?re in town with not much to do and I?m writing my new Strapping Young Lad record. You wanna get together and jam, see what you think?? ?I?m a big fan of the last one, so hell yeah, let?s get together.? We got together a few days later and rocked it out and we wrote ?Oh My Fucking God? in our very first rehearsal.
One thing I?ve always wondered: Is Devin as much of a maniac as he seems on stage? I read him saying in interviews that he plays a character when he?s on stage with Strapping and he kind of parodies the caricatured heavy metal frontman.
Yeah, I think that?s pretty apparent. But Dev?s definitely one of the more complex people on the planet. I?m not calling him crazy, but it?s not sanity, either.
A "mad genius"?
Yeah, and I think Dev is probably the last person to call himself that. That?s where he?s been characterised and I don?t think he likes being characterized as anything, whether it?s complementary or not. Does Dev have to live up to that role of being a mad genius? He?s not the typical person, let alone a typical musician. Most musicians I know are lazy motherfuckers! Myself included! I?m the laziest person I know and Dev is not. He?s a madman when it comes to work ethics. It?s all music, all of the time for him, whereas me and Jed, we can get to know a video game and complete one. Dev doesn?t have time for that. Dev has put it like ?This is a job and why would I put less into it than if I was working a 9-5 job somewhere? I will put 10 hours to something, 12 hours, 16 hours, 18 hours to my day job if that is what it takes.? He gets to do something he enjoys, so that?s all right. Dev has changed a lot since I got to know him. At first I thought ?Wow, this guy IS a fucking mad genius! He?s bouncing off the walls!? His mental issues are pretty well documented by now, but this was before he had any mental issues. ?Wow, this guy is a madman and it?s awesome!? His energy would rub off on you, it was totally engaging and catching. I remember when we were writing ?Oh My Fucking God?, how he was bouncing off the walls while we were writing it. That was really killer! That has subdued quite a bit. Dev?s the most normal person you could ever talk to. He?s just got a lot to say. He has a lot on his mind and he?s not afraid to speak in an erudite manner, unlike most of us metal mutants.
Was Strapping ever supposed to be a full-time gig for you?
No, and I don?t think it was for Dev, either. When we did CITY, he said ?This is gonna be my last Strapping album.? I remember we recorded the record at Steve Vai?s house. We were down in his garage, sitting on his Harleys, talking like ?Wow, this is really, really cool. This album is gonna be killer. We all get along as dudes, so why don?t we talk to Dev in a couple of months when the album is out and see what he thinks about taking this on the road ?cause this is really heavy shit! This is next level stuff that the world needs to hear.? That was really the genesis of how Strapping became a band because I know it wasn?t an intent of Dev?s to carry it on. I think that was why he had to call it a band and not Devin Townsend because Century Media were pushing for a name. ?We don?t have any solo acts on Century Media and we can?t start with you, Dev. You gotta give your band a name.? So Strapping Young Lad became it and we kinda evolved into a band after that.
I want to ask a couple of questions about some of the other projects that you have going on now. Is Just Cause still an operating entity or was that a one-off thing?
Any band that I?m in is always gonna be an ongoing thing. The Almighty Punch Drunk is my main outside activity, really, but Cam [Kroetch] from Punch Drunk is involved with Savannah and Rico [Forrester] from Just Cause is really involved with Savannah and those guys are gonna be touring as much as Strapping is. Those guys are definitely making a name for themselves in the metal/hardcore world. So Just Cause, you never know, you might see another record from us, you might not. There are some extenuating circumstances that definitely need to be dealt with with Just Cause, but when it came to the Punch Drunk record, we just had Val from Zimmer?s Hole join Punch Drunk. That was really cool. We played a show with him and that was wicked. We finally sounded like men!
And what?s going on with Tenet?
Well, Century Media asked us to just kinda postpone any Tenet work until we had finished ALIEN and all that. I?m sure that?s gonna be something. We?re going to have some down time with Strapping some time in the future and Jed?s got a full record ready to go. He?s always working on riffs and stuff. There?s probably gonna be another Tenet record for me, and also for Byron. Byron?s got the Fear Factory stuff and I know they?re doing another record so he?s probably gonna drop down there and nip his bass tracks on it some time in the summer time when we have a few weeks off. Then we have the Ani Kyd record which is gonna be killer, and like I said, the Hurt album. Val is now singing for Hurt, as well, so that?s gonna be nutty. There?s some crazy shit always happening.
The inevitable question that you?re probably tired of hearing: What is the status of Dark Angel?
(Laughs) Well, how perceptive you are. It?s moribund. It?s hard to get those guys to even be in the same room together anymore. One of our members has now moved out of L.A. so trying to throw jams together isn?t gonna be the easiest thing in the world. Who knows what the future will hold with that, but I know that if I get some time available and I?m in Los Angeles, Jim Durkin?their original guitarist?and I wanna write something together. I doubt that it will be for Dark Angel but it will be in the vein of fast, aggressive, brutal shit. Jim is still one of the world?s best riff writers and that was one thing that attracted me to Dark Angel when I joined them. ?Ah, you guys have got great riffs! People are gonna be stealing your riffs a lot.? And sure enough, it happened! Jim is still killer, so hopefully we get to do something in the future, at least work together because Jim is still one of my best pals. But as for reunions, I?ve fought against reunions. It?s definitely my fault that Dark Angel never reformed because I know that when they were talking about reforming and were like ?Let?s see what we can do here,? I said, ?Look, if you guys get all the shit together and you do all the work and make everything work, I will fly in and play drums for anything that Dark Angel wants to do if I have the time. We?ll make the time, make the schedules together. You guys have to do the work and put in the time, because I used to have to do everything for Dark Angel. This time, if you guys wanna make it happen, you have to do it.? I love Dark Angel, but that was twelve years ago, man! Fuck, thirteen years ago we broke up. For me to work, it can?t be a whole lot of work for me to do it. I think that was kinda what doomed it from the start. ?You guys do some work!? And then all the fighting started again. Old things started coming up between certain members so it never really got off the ground. I was fine with that because reunions are fucking stupid. Kudos to Kreator for never breaking up. They were going through a few lean years when thrash metal was dying and death metal was taking over. They did that RENEWAL record and everybody hated that one. I thought it was a killer record. Also Overkill. Through all their line-up changes and everything, they?re still doing it. Good thing for both bands that they never broke up.
Is there any chance that the Dark Angel ATROCITY EXHIBITION demo from 1992 will ever see the light of day?
It?s funny. Last year when I went home for Christmas?well, I guess it was the end of 2003, I had about ten days there. Dark Angel were there and they said ?Let?s re-record some of those songs. Let?s make a demo and see if anyone cares.? I?ve got all those songs. It got back to that I played all the drums and then I played all the guitars, then I played all the bass and then I did all the vocals on it. I was like ?You guys gotta do something here, come on!? Ron was kinda having a hard time with some of the lyrics, he?s pretty hard core Christian now. My lyrics have never been Satanic, but they?re definitely hedonistic. I wrote the lyrics from the standpoint of a satyr on ATROCITY EXHIBITION that was definitely going into some psychosexual areas and Ron was kinda, ?Oooh, I can?t sing this line! And I can?t sing that line and forget about that line!? It kinda reminded me of Spinal Tap. Okay, we?ve got a hearty 20 minute set now. But we re-recorded a few of the songs for ATROCITY EXHIBITION and I doubt that it will ever see the light of day because it was never on anything but four-track. I?ve still got the tunes somewhere, but I haven?t listened to them in a long time. If there were ever to be another Dark Angel record, I would just write one from scratch. I would just fucking write DARKNESS DESCENDS all over again. Why not? It seems to be what people wanna hear so I?ll give you what you want!
I was wondering if you?re involved in the Death tribute album that James Murphy is doing?
No. One of the guys from Darkest Hour was just asking me about that. I?m not involved in it, but I would be. People have been coming up to me the last few years going ?Hey man, are you involved? I know James.? Well, give him my number and tell him to give me a call. He still has my e-mail address. If I were to have the time, then sure. I asked the guy from Darkest Hour, who said they?re on it, ?Did anyone do ?Flattening of Emotions? yet?? and he said ?God, no!? I can do that one. That was always my favourite song to play from Death. I don?t even know who?s a part of it, but it seems like some pretty cool people who were into the band are in it. But if I don?t do it, I?m cool with that. I was in a Death tribute band called Death for a while (laughs). It was almost a cover band because none of us had played on LEPROSY or SCREAM BLOODY GORE so I would do it but if I don?t, I?m totally cool with that too, because I know it?s well represented with a lot of great musicians on it. It?s gonna come out killer no matter what.
What?s your fondest memory of your time in Death?
Being on tour, but there were a lot. Off the top of my head?getting to play with Steve DiGiorgio was awesome.
And Andy LaRocque?
Never met him.
Never met him to this day. He played on the record, but my tracks were done and I moved over to England and he flew in from Sweden and rocked it out there. A lot of the friends I made with Death were awesome and getting to unleash the propeller on people and playing a lot of the big shows that we did going ?Wow!? You know, Dark Angel never played shows this big. I had never headlined in front of 10,000 people before. That was cool. That was exciting. The most fun is the legacy that has been left behind. Chuck?s legacy is a vast and far reaching one. It?s nice to have something like INDIVIDUAL THOUGHT PATTERNS and SYMBOLIC be a nice testament?for lack of a better term?to somebody?s career. I?m glad to be a part of all that.
You also worked with Old Man?s Child on the one album, 1998?s ILL-NATURED SPIRITUAL INVASION. How did you end up working with Galder?
Century Media gave me a shout, saying ?Hey, he?s looking for a drummer.? I?m not sure what had happened with his previous drummer but they said ?he?s looking to record pretty soon, would you be into doing it?? ?Well, have him send me a tape.? So he sent me a tape and I said, ?Yeah, that?s pretty good, I like it?. He had programmed all the drums on it and that was good. I listened to the tape for a couple of weeks and flew out and we rehearsed for one day and we started tracking the next day. I was done with the tracks in three days and it was really good. Galder is an interesting guy and he was really, really young at the time. He was only like, 21. He?s not even 30 yet.
I got an e-mail here from somebody?and forgive me if it?s all bullshit?but they wanted to know if, when you were doing all the session work in the ?90s with Testament, Old Man?s Child, whatever, if you were ever asked by Slayer to be the drummer in the band?
Well, I went down and jammed with them. That was right after I got off the road with Death for the very last tour. I wanted to take six months off, because I hadn?t had six months off in like ten or twelve years. I wanted to take time off but then the Slayer thing came up. They lost Paul [Bostaph] again?no, the first time they lost Paul was when they contacted me. ?You wanna come out here and jam?? The guy who ended up getting it was a guy named John Dette and he auditioned right before I started jamming with them and he nailed every part. He wanted the gig really bad. I wasn?t that fuzzy either way with it. Being in Slayer wasn?t gonna be a lot of fun. Being in a big band or whatever is nice, but I knew it wasn?t gonna be fun. He wanted the gig really bad and he played his ass off and he took the gig. He deserved it. Me, I was just like ?Hey, let?s have some fun, let?s jam, let?s rock!? I?m sure my attitude was not serious enough for them. Fuck, if you play for Slayer what can you do? Joy. For me, Strapping was the ultimate band I was looking for, something that?s heavy as shit, cutting edge, new next level shit with a great frontman/vocalist, great riffs, great attitudes and a total ?fuck you? attitude to everything. When we put out CITY, it was like ?Hey asshole, fuck you and your shitty music? because we ruled. I love that! I love being cocky in a band. I pretty much drive the guys in Strapping nuts, because they?re all nice guys and none of them were cocky to begin with and I?m all ?Fuck you, we fucking rule, That sucks!? They?re kind like, ?Oh well, Gene?s at it again.?
Besides the Strapping albums, do you have a favourite album that you?re particularly proud of your work on?
The new Hurt record?of course I?m talking about something that hasn?t even come out yet, but that one?s really good. And the Death albums. INDIVIDUAL was done in about three weeks worth of rehearsals and I was really nervous playing on that one because I really dug Sean Reinert. He was a great drummer and totally an influence for INDIVIDUAL. Sean took it to a new level with what you could do within the perimeters of this band. He opened up the door. Sean was totally the door opener for that one. INDIVIDUAL was really cool. It was like a savage version of what SYMBOLIC was. We had six or eight months to work on SYMBOLIC and that?s why that one sounded a little more together and not as frantic sounding. Both of those albums were cool and they really seem to get a lot of people off. Like the double-ride thing. A lot of people have come up and said ?Fuck, I really dug that record.? Also INFINITY from Dev. That?s one of my favourite Dev albums of all time. That one was awesome to be on. I love every song on it and all the songs that didn?t make the recording were all killer, too. We had some really strange songs that didn?t make the album that were awesome and I?m always telling Dev, ?Dude, bring some of those songs back!? That will probably never happen, once Dev leaves a song behind, it?s left.
How do you bring a different drum sound to each band? I mean, when Old Man?s Child approaches you, or Testament, how do you say ?This will work, this won?t work.? How do you go about getting into that specific band?s thought process?
I think the music itself is pretty intrinsic to how the drums are gonna sound and also it?s in the feedback that I get from the guys involved. With Testament, that was kind of a strange one because Chuck [Billy] was telling me, ?Go nuts! Be Gene! Go shit crazy! Go sick!? and with Eric [Petersen], it was more like, ?Dude, lay back on this, play it a lot simpler.? ?Why don?t you guys talk? You guys make the decision and I?ll play what you want.? I was only a session musician guy. I just wanted to make them happy, so I did a little bit of Gene for Chuck and I did a little solid time-keeping for Eric. I thought they both worked out really good. For me, that?s my favourite Testament record to listen to because it seems like their heaviest. It?s like ?Fuck, let?s write something really brutal!? And myself and Derek Ramirez, their bassist, we were really pushing for heavy shit out of those guys. Maybe the influence was there. Though I didn?t write for it, I went, ?Oh, we can play this a whole lot heavier if you want!? With Old Man?s Child, it was just that Death was my favourite band and I thought his riffs were kinda similar to SYMBOLIC, like in relatively standard tuning and nothing that was too over-the-top brutal, but something that you could lay a good solid foundation for. You know, Dark Angel doesn?t sound like Punch Drunk or Strapping. I try not to cross-collateralise too much. A drummer should have a stock load of beats in his head anyway, so you think, ?Well, I?ve already played this beat to death with this other project, SO let?s try something else here.? I?ve been cross-collateralising my beats over the last few years. On the last Strapping record there?s definitely a huge Punch Drunk influence over the drums. ?Skeksis? is a full on Punch Drunk influence. I remember Dev saying before we started writing the new one ?Fuck, I love Punch Drunk, I wanna write Punch Drunk music. Not to rip them off or anything, just write good solid fun metal.? So that was cool. Just try to bring something different. Every band should have its own statement, musically speaking, so the drums have to do the same.
Have you ever been asked to teach drums?
Yeah, I?ve given lessons. I?m not a very good lesson-giver, which is why I charge this exorbitant amount so no one will come back. I?m just gonna rob you blind for the first lesson and if you wanna come back and pay it again, cool, but usually if I give you one lesson, you?ve got me for life.
[Gene?s phone rings]
Ah, that?s Byron. We?ve had more hits on our site than ever before because the new record?s coming out tomorrow. Byron?s been pestering me to write a blurb for me. I?m kinda scared after the last fucking blurb I wrote. But? but I don?t really wanna! ?C?mon dude, you gotta!? But then I?m on Blabbermouth and people start thinking I?m broke!
Have you ever thought about writing a book about all your years in metal and all the bands you played with? Has anyone ever said ?Gene, you should put this down??
I started working on one in 1995. I put it aside because I thought ?Fuck, that will be the first chronicling?. It was just going to be a compendium of tour stories.
Like Motley Crue?s THE DIRT?
Yeah, probably, but a lot less drug use and parties than those guys. It was gonna be pretty cool but I just put it aside and started working on other things, then I moved up here and put it aside and you?ve got everybody releasing books of their tour stories now. Fuck, goddammit, I should have done that when I remembered all of them! That would have been a lot of fun.
Is there any chance that we?re going to see a genehoglan.com?
I?m working on it and it was supposed to be up this month, but I?ve been concentrating so much on strappingyounglad.com and not on getting my own site up. My site is gonna be wicked. It?s gonna be awesome. I?ve got a guy to do it and he?s fully willing to do it. Me, I?m just procrastinating like I do. I just did a record for a guy here in town, his name is Mr. Plow. I just play drums on it, Rocky George plays guitar and Norwood from Fishbone plays bass on it. He called his band Mr. Plow and the Procrastinators, which is perfect. Got me to a T right there, man. But there will be a genehoglan.com and there will be a lot of cool stuff on it. I think I?d rather keep it an entertaining fan site than ?Whoa, you?re gonna learn how to play drums from this site?. There will be some drum knowledge on there and I?ve got some ideas of what I can upload and stuff, but I want it to be an entertaining fan site and not the stick-up-my-ass here?s-where-you-learn-how-to-play-drums. I went to the Virgil Donati site and his site is totally killer on drum knowledge and he knows way more about drums than I do, and Derek Roddy [Hate Eternal], he knows a lot more and Flo [Mournier] from Cryptopsy knows a lot more, so I can?t compete with those guys in terms of drum knowledge. Let those guys go nutty with the videos and all the whatnots.
Alright, Gene. Thanks a lot for taking so much time out with all this other stuff going on and talking to me. It was a pleasure.
Strapping Young Lad?s official site
**Read my write-up about the ALIEN CD release here
**Read my review of ALIEN here
**Watch the making of ALIEN here
**Listen to mp3s of "Shitstorm" and "Love?"