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Ydna Murd

Interview by Sean Mitchell // November 14 2013
Ydna Murd

Sometimes when I play I get this feeling of being extremely proud of myself, not because of what I’ve played but just being able to be there on stage and the dance floor is full and people are having a great time. All this dancing going on. And then I look around and I’m like, “There’s nobody else on stage; it’s just me.” It’s a really awesome feeling.

It gives me great pleasure to present this interview with my very dear friend and colleague Ydna Murd. His humility and talent are a blessing in this industry and I am honored to share his insight and knowledge with all of you. Enjoy. As always we have transcribed this interview below for your reading enjoyment.

 

We are in the studio of my good friend Ydna Murd in Victoria, B.C. The YouTube phenom that he is,  in his humble little abode he creates all kinds of incredible beats and drum 'n' bass; he’s a very well-respected teacher in the area and performer as well. Ydna, I heard through a friend of ours that you are classically trained; is that correct?

No, I grew up in Germany but I’m not classical trained. I started at the age of 12. My brother was in to playing bass–he was playing bass for maybe a year, two years maybe–and then he went over to my room and said, “I need a drummer.” So, “OK, I think I can do that.” (laughs) I had some money saved–you know, with the paper route thing – and now we wanted to go and buy a drum kit except my parents said, “No way, no way you’re putting a drum kit in our house." It took me over a year; I kept bugging them and they wouldn’t allow it, and then after a year we said we’re just going to go and buy a kit and set it up. They weren’t too happy with that but that’s how it all started.

You went to school in Germany for drums or was it for music in general?

Yeah, that was for drums. That came later. So I grew up in southern Germany. There wasn’t anything happening in the area then, but I actually wanted to get drum lessons somewhere. There was one guy and he offered drum lessons. I went there–it was awful. (laughs)

He had this huge drum kit and I went to his place. I was pretty impressed. I had this old record player and a Scorpions’ record. So he said, “Ok, sit down.” Then he put on the record and he went upstairs. I was like, okay, so I just played along to Scorpions. Forty-five minutes later he came down again and said, “Okay, that’s it.”  So I paid him and I left and I was like, “What the heck?” and the next lesson, exactly the same thing, same record. I went there three times and then I said “That’s not worth the money; I can do that at home.” So I’m actually basically self-taught. Like I said, I couldn’t find any teacher and I bought this one drum book and just kept studying with the book and played along to a lot of records or I’d just put on the radio station and play along with the music and I also jammed a lot with my brother.

That would be the best teacher in and of itself, playing with people.

Yeah, back then there weren’t many things around to distract us much—no computers, no cellphones, no video games. We came back after school and we jammed for two, three hours.

You’re very well known for your drum 'n' bass—and very good at it! What drew you to that specific genre of drumming style? I know you can play other styles but that’s one that you’ve focused on a lot. What drew you to that and what keeps you creative in that realm?

If I look back at the music I liked, it was always cutting-edge music. I never really listened to mainstream music. The first record I ever listened to and bought was Einstürzende Neubauten. Do you know these guys?

No, I don’t know if I could even say that again. (laughs)

Yeah, it’s a German name. That was really experimental stuff, they had like shopping carts and trash cans – you should actually check them out on YouTube; they’re very interesting. They’re still touring, they’re quite well known in Germany.

I always kind of liked the weird stuff with underground music. I grew up with punk music—that’s definitely my roots—and then new wave music. So it was always underground music I liked. Like you said, I played lots of other styles too when I started making a living being a drummer. I did basically everything you can do to pay the bills–Top 40; Irish folk; jazz (I mean, jazz didn’t really pay the bills but I did it anyways cause it was fun). But the underground scene was always the thing that really excited me, and then drum 'n' bass kind of came out in the mid 90s, maybe 1995.

There was actually one moment ... I was on tour in Germany with a hip hop band. It was a little bit like the WARP tour; there were four or five bands in a bus and we just went to cities and played. I think it was Freibug, Germany, and we arrived in the middle of the night, and I think it was too late to check in to the hotel or something, so we went to this night club. There was a big rave going on there. I went in and I was just standing there ("What the heck is this?”). The music was loud, it was intense, it had the bass. I was just bobbing my head, listening and watching and I thought, This is awesome, I have to look into that. It wasn’t drum and bass back then but the whole electronic dance music thing caught me right away. The early, early techno and The Prodigy was a huge influence. I’m a huge fan of The Prodigy ... trip hop too. I spent a lot of time with trip hop, performing and producing trip hop music.

Now when you perform, you’re performing to tracks or you’re playing with a band?

I started my solo project three years ago. Before that I performed with bands but now it’s just me on stage. I’ve got this setup– I’ve got my laptop running with Ableton Live, an APC DJ controller, and an SPD-SX sampling pad. With that controller I have all the tracks separate so I’m not just playing along to one backing track; I’m in full charge of the whole thing– the bass line, percussion lines, music, guitar lines – everything’s separate. So when I perform I actually produce, mix and arrange live on stage and that’s really exciting. It’s actually the most exciting thing I’ve done in my career.

And challenging, I would imagine.

It’s very challenging. If I look back at gigs I did in the past where I was just the drummer in the band, it’s like wow, that must have been so easy. Now I have to be 100 percent focused the entire time, I can’t just let go and groove.

Now your influence with other instruments – that obviously would have come from your brother or growing up and establishing yourself as a drummer. What was the process for you to go from behind the kit and go out and say, “I want to try this or that.” What inspired you to do that?

I was always interested in recording, producing my own music. I think I was 14 when we got this four-track cassette Tascam. It didn’t sound that great but it was easy to handle, so I would lay down a drum track and then rewind the tape and then play bass, then add the guitar and then do the ping-pong thing–do you remember that? Bouncing everything to one track and then you could do more (laughs) until you get worse and worse quality 'till it’s like really bad. So I would experiment a lot with that. Like I mentioned earlier, there really wasn’t much else to do ... like I have here we had our room in the basement and I just loved spending time after school doing that.

For you, at the end of the day do you prefer being in here creating or do you prefer the ambiance of the stage and the excitement of the stage?

Oh that’s a difficult question. I really like to perform, to play; I’m really excited about my gigs just because it’s dance music. Sometimes when I play I get this feeling of being extremely proud of myself, not because of what I’ve played but just being able to be there on stage and the dance floor is full and people are having a great time. All this dancing going on. And then I look around and I’m like, “There’s nobody else on stage; it’s just me.” It’s a really awesome feeling. Like I mentioned earlier I’ve played in a lot of bands–funk, top forty, all these kinds of things–and I always enjoyed those gigs when the dance floor was full. I prefer that a lot over gigs where people are just sitting and watching, that really makes me nervous now a days. I’m not use that anymore.

It makes sense and I can relate to that. Yeah, it’s a little weird to have people just staring at you versus the energy that comes off of the dance floor.

I think with music it’s not supposed to be like that. It’s the same thing with jazz too if you look at those old tapes, like early jazz from the 60s when it was really hot, or even a bit further back–people were dancing like crazy! But nowadays you go and what are people doing? They’re usually eating dinner. It’s weird; music is not supposed to be like that. You don’t want to sit there and just watch. It should inspire you to move your body.

Along that line, who inspires you? Who influences you nowadays when you watch YouTube – especially, you have your own YouTube channel – who are the drummers or musicians that are inspiring you now?

That’s a good question. Through my YouTube channel I get tons and tons of comments everyday. Very often I hear or read that people think that Jojo Mayer would be my main influence. I mean he’s an awesome drummer—we all know that. I love his drumming but that’s actually not the case. My main influence to start this solo project was a drummer based out of Seattle. His name is KJ Sawka. I saw some videos on YouTube–early YouTube. I was just totally intrigued and inspired. I said, “Oh that’s so cool!” Same thing–he filled the dance floor and he was having super fun. Earlier it was mainly drummer-based; today he’s switched a little bit into dubstep. He was definitely the big influence.

Have you met him? Have you connected with him at all?

No, not yet. I would love to. He’s very busy. It’s like so many other guys on YouTube; he’s one of those guys who had some impact with his YouTube videos ... I don’t know the exact story but he got the gig with Pendulum, so he was touring with Pendulum for a while, maybe two years or something ...  so he moved to England. As far as I know he’s still living there.

Have you played with many other drummers? Like live on stage.

Not really. Well during drum festivals you share the stage and sometimes you jam at the end ... percussion players in the past in bands. I’ve met a lot of famous drummers.

Is Jojo Mayer one of them?

Yeah, that’s right. When I was studying really hard back in Germany I met a lot of drummers. I went to all the available workshops and master classes. Talking about when I started studying drums, I studied drums at the Yamaha Music Station in Hamburg. I was in my early twenties and I met a lot of good drummers there. 

You were recently signed to an endorsement deal with Sonor–which he proudly plays by the way. He has a lovely Ascent kit here. What is this, a galaxy sparkle I guess you might call that or black-silver fade?

Yes, something like that. (laughs) We chatted earlier and I said I’m not really a gear guy. Don’t ask me too many questions about my kit.

With the Sonor endorsement, obviously you have set yourself up to perform in your studio. What do you look for in a drum set as far as say tuning, the feel of the set? I know you use the Onyx Evans on the snare drum. What sounds are you after when you’re recording or doing your YouTube channel stuff? What do you look for in the kit?

Well, versatility. The thing with drum 'n' bass is it’s such a wide range of frequencies you need to deliver so I need a really good kick sound. That is really important, so it needs to have a lot of punch. For the snare drums I need some really tight sounds. Drum 'n' bass, it’s just a different approach. You wouldn’t want to use that snare drum right now with that tuning in a rock band; it would just not really work. There are high pitched, high tensions on the drums which makes it a little bit easier to play drum 'n' bass music because you get better rebound.

If you look at drum 'n' bass music, what they did, especially in the beginning, is they used pre-recorded drum loops they sounded off of records and then they sped them up so the pitch would change. So with the snare drums I have to look for that to get into that frequency range. I need the high tension; that’s why I have the 10-inch additional snare drum there on the left too.

And that’s another Ascent; the Ascent is a beech shell.

Yes, that’s beech wood. It sounds very nice. I fell in love with the kit right away. I got it right after the Nanaimo Drum Festival when Chris Sutherland came over and he used the kit for his performance. I put it in my truck right after (laughs). Thanks, Chris—and Scott! (laughs)

One of the things that I love about Sonor is the hardware on their kits. I had a tech tell me this; the no-slip lug system itself,  you almost can’t make these lugs slip. I would imagine for you that’s kind of nice to know that that’s where it’s going to stay all night.

That’s right. I haven’t noticed any of that since I played the kit and I’m hitting pretty hard. I’m a rim-shot guy. If you look at my live set– hopefully some day you will have the chance to come out and watch it–it’s extremely intense. I never stop. I’m not playing a song and then I drop the beat and I take a thirty second rest like you would have in rock music. My performance is like a DJ performance so the music never stops. 

Depending on the gig, sometimes I have to play shorter gigs if it’s a festival gig or something, but if it’s a club gig I go for an hour and a half usually—that means I play straight for an hour and a half. I try to play hard and intense but that’s tough to do if you play for an hour and a half without even stopping.

And the drums hold up I would imagine?

Oh yeah, I haven’t had any issues with Sonor drums. I’m really extremely excited and proud to be connected with Sonor Drums now. You know, I grew up in Germany and that basement room back then with my first drum set was plastered with Sonor posters. We didn’t have that many drum companies around back then. It’s like being a Canadian and you’ve got Sabian cymbals–they’re everywhere! Sonor was very present and I always dreamed of owning a Sonor kit. As a kid I looked at these awesome kits but back then I couldn’t really afford them. I’m extremely happy with the kit and the connection with Sonor. They’re very supportive.

And then your other endorsement is the Supernatural Cymbals. They’re a unique company, a newer company, I guess you could say. You said they’re made in Turkey.

Yes, they’re handcrafted in Istanbul.

They’re really, really unique-looking cymbals. They look incredible and they probably sound even more incredible. How did you get hooked up with Supernatural?

That came through another endorsement I have. I’m endorsing a product made by Eccentric Systems. They’re based in San Diego. Their quick torque cam is like a spring-arm thing that you can use on your bass drum pedal and it works on almost every bass drum pedal on the market. They’re holding the patents for the DW pedals. It’s just an awesome feature.

When they contacted me and they sent me the quick torque cam, I told them, “Okay, I am going to try them out." At the very moment that I put them on, the rep actually phoned me to see what I thought of them. I told them I was right in the middle of trying them and I would call them back. I put it on and played for a couple of minutes. I thought it was pretty nice but to make a comparison I put the old original spring arm again. I hit it maybe two more times and I was like “Ok, I get it.” I put on the quick torque cam again and haven’t looked back.

It’s such an awesome design; it just makes the feel much smoother on your pedal. I can’t really explain it and I haven’t had the chance to go down to San Diego and actually look at the factory and meet those guys. They claim it makes your pedal faster by, I think, fifteen or twenty percent and I think they’re pretty dead on. Plus the feeling, it’s such a smooth feel when the pedal comes back. I love that.

They happened to have a booth at NAMM right next to the booth of Supernatural’s. These guys know each other and Supernatural approached them about looking for some endorsees and I think that’s how we came together.

I know you’re not a huge drum geek guy. The types of cymbals you’re using – the hand-hammering slash-lathed look – what line is that and do they have a lot of lines?

I think, if I’m not mistaken, thirteen or fourteen different lines. I haven’t had a chance to test them all but they have some really nicely produced studio videos where they present all the cymbals and they all sound incredible.

I always liked those hand-crafted cymbals. I’ve been playing other brands before Istanbul cymbals and it was always the look and the sound–the combination of both–that I liked. They’re definitely not cymbals just off the shelf.

Yeah, they definitely don’t sound like they’re off the shelf. They’re a very specific skill set you’re looking for here.

This is called the Revelation series. They have a pretty dark sound so they might not suit everybody but like I said they have so many different lines. They have a line specifically made for gospel drummers, for example. Those sound really awesome, I think.

They invited me to come down to the next NAMM show and perform down there and I hope I can make it and have a chance to test all of the lines they have.

Speaking of things coming up, what do you have on the go? What can your viewers look forward to in the near future on YouTube? And where are you performing?

I’m always producing videos for my YouTube channel, even if I’m very busy I always try to tape at least once a week. Sometimes it's a challenge but I got so much support from the YouTube community over the last years that I just don’t want to miss out on future videos—I just want to keep it going. So that’s always happening and I have some local gigs here in Victoria next month as well as some future gigs further up Vancouver Island.

Yeah, and that project with Florian Alexandru-Zorn. He’s here in Canada right now playing at the Montreal Drum Fest. I’m really excited about that. That  will hopefully happen next month when he’s back. I’m working on two new drum books. All the ideas are there– handwritten down–now I need to sit down and put it in a book form. That’s going to take a few months.

And the concept in a layman’s abbreviated version would be?

It’s just my approach to drumming. Let’s say it’s a combination of drum 'n' bass and jazz so there’s lots of left-hand action in there.

Where can viewers find you online?

I’m on Facebook for sure. My Facebook page is called Ydna Murd Drum DJ. My YouTube channel is called Jungleritter – it’s a combination of an English word and a German word. Or just type my name into Facebook or Google. My website is called drumgate.com. There’s not as much there; I don’t update it that often so for most recent updates it’s definitely Facebook.




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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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