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Derek Roddy

Interview by Sean Mitchell // February 28 2013
Derek Roddy

I simply want to be able to get gigs and play for the duration of my life. If all you can do is blast beats or your playing in other styles doesn't feel good then other musicians will not want to play with you. 

Derek Roddy is the epitome of a well-rounded drummer. Not only is he world renowned for his blast beat capability, but Derek proves he is no one-trick pony when you check out his groove-ability. I caught up with Derek recently, and as always the humble guy from South Carolina speaks only with integrity and honesty.

Derek, it sounds to me like you were born to be a musician, being that your entire family is musical. Do you remember your first experience with the drums and why you chose them? 

Well, my dad had bought me a drum kit, as I was hitting everything in the house. I guess I had a love for hitting stuff from as early as I can remember. It came on Christmas when I was 5 years old. The next upgrade I got was about when I was 6. I had beaten the crap out of those starter drums Dad had gotten a year earlier. Those are the first memories I have of drumming. 

What other instruments can you play, and are there any you would like to learn to play? 

I can partly play anything with strings, for the most part. I'm best at guitar (although I don't consider myself to be any good at all … [laughs]). Bass, I struggle with but can manage some decent parts. I'd love to be able to play scales on every instrument but, that's a life-long endeavor and I'm trying. 

Your history is proof that really great drummers in the extreme metal genre have shed more than metal all their life. Can you tell me why, in your opinion, it is important for a drummer in any genre to soak up other styles of playing? 

The main reason for me is that I want to be able to play with people my entire life. It's hard enough to find guys that want to play this style of music when you're young, but think how hard it will be at 60! I simply want to be able to get gigs and play for the duration of my life. If all you can do is blast beats or you’re playing in other styles doesn't "feel good," then other musicians will not want to play with you. 

The other thing is dynamics. It's important to listen to dynamic music. Metal is non-dynamic. Drummers don't want their snare drum to sound different every time they hit it; they want it to sound the same every time they hit it. This is why everything is sound replaced today in metal recordings. Listening to dynamic music is the biggest teaching tool we can have as learning drummers. It teaches us control and it also trains the ear—something that metal music can not do with only do with one dynamic: loud. 

Was there a song or a concept over the years that challenged you to really work through a learning block? 

I don't ever remember struggling to play anything other than the drum parts I wrote for myself. Even when I was very young, I have no memory of not "being able to play" something. I guess it's because I was so busy enjoying myself that I don't remember if that hi-hat part was sloppy or the snare didn't quite line up; I just remember rocking out. I think that is the answer to your question. I just jammed. I went for it with no consequence of it being "right". Over time I guess the mechanics fell into place and I never noticed it happening. I was too busy having fun hitting stuff! (laughs

Turning away from music for a bit, your fascination with snakes has been well-documented. I recently learned that you also breed them. I have to ask, do you have a favorite breed of snake? 

I love the Black Headed Python from Australia. They are such a cool species. I've always been into animals of all types because of my dad. He was always nursing injured animals of all shapes and sizes. He would catch snakes every summer and we'd keep ‘em and feed ‘em and let them go at the end of summer. It was always fun and I just got more and more into it.

I had my first exotics snakes (pythons) in high school and from there I started a massive collection of animals. I sold them all to tour because I couldn't take care of them while I was gone. But, after leaving Hate Eternal, I focused on building my dream collection. I had always wanted the BHPs, but they were $15,000 (US) a pair. Over time I was able to save (and their price came down, as more people had been successful breeding them over that time) and I got my first pair in early 2000. I have been very successful with breeding and producing them, so I've kinda made a name for myself in the snake world for that species, as they're very difficult to reproduce and get healthy babies. I love a challenge. 

And second, how does one breed snakes? What makes a good breed, and are there better “bloodlines” in snakes like there are in other animals? 

Well, I don't breed the snakes … (laughs). Seriously, there is a breeding season in which you put pairs together, they breed, and several months later you get eggs. Eggs hatch a few months after that and boom, you got babies. 

The rarer the animal in captivity, the more money it costs. So, then you get into mutations (like Albino or Axanthic, which means lacking yellow color). Then you can combine the mutations. It's a lot like creating living art and that’s what's so cool about it to me. Yes, you can make some serious money, but I like creating different looking things to look at for myself.

As far as bloodlines, not really; they are breeders of all types of animals, and they're all cool to me. I just prefer the snakes. 

Do you handle venomous snakes? 

I had venomous animals when I was younger, but that was 25 years ago. I don't chance it because eventually you will get bit. I need my fingers for drumming! (laughs

 

 

Getting back to your style and technique behind the kit, when I hear songs like “Halls of Cerberus,” I feel my arms tensing up at the thought of playing that fast. However, when I watch you play it, your technique is very fluid—intense, but still relaxed. What techniques and/or concepts can you attribute for your comfort and ability to groove at fast tempos? 

I guess it would be the Moeller Technique that opened up the "door to technique" for me, but I was never a player coming from the side of technique. I let my ears dictate what my body needed to do. I always figured if I was getting the right tone from my stroke, that I was using the "right technique" (whatever that might be). So, I focused on making sure my drums were as open-sounding as possible. That meant that my grip had to be as open as possible.

From there if I needed a shorter sound, I would simply grip the stick harder (instead of changing heads, for instance). That's where my blasting technique (and I use that term loosely) came from. I wanted the snare to be short, loud and clear; something I wasn't able to accomplish with only fingers. The only way I could make the snare the same volume as the rest of my playing during the blast was to add the wrist and arms. So again, sound dictated what technique I needed. Over time, and with practice doing it a lot, I was able to make it come together. 

Tell me about the development of the A21s. How do you take it from idea to reality? What was it that prompted you to develop a signature pedal? 

Darrell (founder of Axis) had used me as someone to test some new ideas he had. At the time he was working on the new 21-degree beater change. Also at that time they had designed this huge footboard to go along with the new 21 design. I asked him to make me a set of those with the longboard footplate, triggers built in so I could test ‘em out. I got them and loved them right away. About a month after, I get a call from them saying they'd like to put out a signature pedal. I was a little embarrassed and flattered at the same time! 

You are very big on pursuing all of your interests (music and otherwise) to the fullest. What have you yet to accomplish and what are you top 5 bucket list of things to do (music or otherwise)? 

Just to see and experience more of the world and to keep doing what I'm doing. That would make me very happy.

I grew up on Iron Maiden and Primus and was astounded by how well they did, despite never having heard them on the radio (which may explain my affinity for DIY in my own musical career). You have flourished in the music industry without the support of major labels and radio support. In your opinion, what does the next 20 years hold for music, its distribution and the business of music? As much as we love to play, there is a business side to music.

 I could go on for days about this, but my overall perspective is this: If you have something to offer the industry, the people of the world and yourself, then you can be very successful. If you are following what others are doing or have done, if you don't have your own Identity, you will perish as quickly as CD media (laughs). It's that simple. 

Can you give us some advice on the whole DIY concept? Where does a band begin? Are there resources you have utilized that worked better than others? 

A band can begin by [reviewing the above answer]. Also, do you have your own identity, voice and concept? What about you distinguishes you from your peers? Are you just another band or something else? That's a starting point. If those questions can be answered honestly, then you might stand a chance. 

That said, there is nothing a label can do for a starting band that they could not do for themselves with the internet and $5,000. If you have the above qualities and have your life together enough where you can afford to be in a band, then you can do well. 

What do you have coming up in the next few months? 

I'm working on a new band with some lifelong friends. We have yet to find a suitable name but we are working on that. Should have a release out by summer, so be on the lookout for that. I'm sure I'll be playing at some drum shows and doing clinics as well, but nothing planned as of yet. Just taking it easy, but looking forward to getting this band rolling. 

I also have a new DVD out with Hudson Music called Playing with your Drums. It's about setup and how to be comfortable at your drums. Got some new Serpents Rise songs on it as well. It's available worldwide.




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About the Author
Sean Mitchell

Sean Mitchell has been an active participant in the drumming industry for over 20 years. He has studied under Crash Test Dummies drummer Mitch Dorge and Drumming's Global Ambassador Dom Famularo. Sean is also a songwriter and regularly performs with his wife (and singer) Jill Mitchell. Sean proudly endorses Aquarian Drumheads.



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