Keep up with Darren here:
Darren and Burn In Silence have already decimated stages all over the Northeast alongside everyone from Damageplan to Shadows Fall, to Morbid Angel. Having cultivated a live show to be reckoned with, the band stands ready to pummel audiences all over the world. Their Ken Susi produced EP Pure As Your First Day paved the way for their first full length. Tue Madsen (The Haunted, Himsa) mixed the metallic mastery. Tapping into the elements of great metal, the band has already become a cohesive and driven unit. With a mix of incredible production, musical talent, tireless work ethic, and a thirst to be distinct, these artists are destined to become integral to the future of the entire genre.
Darren Cesca Interview:
SDM.com: You just returned from a very long US tour with many different bands, what do you find most difficult and rewarding about touring?
Darren: Well, touring is a tough thing, especially now with so many metal tours and bands trying to make a living doing the same thing. It’s definitely not as easy to get good draws when clubs are doing shows 4 to 6 days a week in stead of 1 to 2 days a week. But I think the hardest part about touring is leaving the ones you love. It’s not easy to try and have a normal life and be gone most of the time, really it’s impossible and takes a lot of work. Not everyone can understand the effort it takes to keep normal relationships going while trying to do this. I’m just thankful for the all the love and support that I get from the people I love. My family and my girlfriend sure do put up with a lot and I love them for that. For me, financial inadequacies are also one of the most difficult parts of touring. It’s a full time commitment, but a commitment to something where I really wish the amount of money reflected the amount of effort. I’m out here working though and hoping someday those things will balance out.
Another difficult thing about touring is setting personal and group standards and keeping them there long enough for the band the succeed. There are huge highs and huge lows so it’s something to be prepared for. I’ve seen people handle it in all different ways, I personally just try to keep moving forward no matter what and even in times of dismay, try and find that good and that motivation. What’s most rewarding about touring? I’d say the most rewarding part for me is going on stage every night and knowing I’m going to do my job well. You have to work hard on and off the road but it’ll all pay off. It’s a great feeling playing through the set and just owning the music. It’s satisfying and empowering at the same time. Every night that’s a good night it’s like a little charge. That charge makes you want to play better the next night and keep on going.
I always play a huge part in the song writing process of whatever band I’m in, whatever CD my band puts out. So another rewarding part about touring is being able to perform your compositions every night and know people love what you’re doing. It’s like anyone else that has pride in their work and they love presenting that work because they feel that they did such a good job on it. No one else knows what went into it, how many hours, how long I sweat it out drumming to be able to play that section in a song. It just comes down to a feeling of accomplishment. It’s always fun to meet new people, to talk and learn and have a beer with someone you’ve never met before. I’ve been on tours unfortunately that haven’t had the greatest people on them, so it’s like a bonus when you meet up with other really cool musicians, maybe even people that could become friends. Bottom line, I just want to be out there in front of a lot of people knowing they’re enjoying my music as much as I enjoyed, learning, writing and performing it.
SDM.com: We understand you attended Berklee, what was the most important thing they taught you?
Darren: The most important thing, wow, I learned so much and so many “important things” at Berklee. If I had to narrow it down to one thing I’d say the most important thing I learned at Berklee was an understanding of what it takes to create music. In a more specific sense, I learned to respect music as an art and I learned how to approach it. You can’t attack something until you really know what you’re dealing with. Of course music is created through emotions, but man, there’s a whole lot more to it then that.
In reference to drumming, a blast beat isn’t just moving your hands really fast in a synced up movement. It’s timing, it’s dynamics, it’s placement, it’s physical awareness and it’s musical consciousness. Berklee took me to that next level and that new way of thinking. It might seem a little overkill and overwhelming but really it’s just the logical thought process of doing anything in life. If you want to do anything right you have to know what you’re dealing within all aspects. I went into Berklee a drummer and came out a musician. I feel musically I can tackle anything and know how to go about the right way.
SDM.com: When did you start playing drums?
Darren: I started at the age of 10, I’m 26 now. Before then I used to have a little drum at home that I beat the hell out of.
SDM.com: Did you play in a school band or any drum corps?
Darren: For me, age 10 was 5th grade in elementary school and that was the first grade I was able to study drums. From there it just grew. I studied drums up through Freshman year in High school then just focused on taking private lessons and eventually preparation for Berklee. In High school I did the marching band for a year. We traveled quite a bit and did regional competitions. After that first year in high school band I decided to move away from it. I was in bands and really wanted to focus on my drum set playing.
While in Berklee I did join the drum line. It was taught by instructor Larry Finn, an amazing drum corps drummer. I played quints while in drum line and really enjoyed it. We had the freedom to write a lot of our own parts. It’s funny a lot of my drum set crossovers I translated from playing quints while experimenting with them. I think it actually expanded my playing in the sense of odd movement around the kit. Other than that though, I’ve never really had any interest to join a formal drum corps. I’m a song writer and as much as I love drums by themselves I want to use them in a writing environment.
SDM.com: Ever take any lessons?
Darren: I’ve taken lessons all my drumming life up until the last few years and since graduation I’ve actually just been giving private lessons myself. I’ve really taken a liking to teaching and hope to do it more full time once I’m done playing in bands and done traveling. I actually do online lessons right now since I’m so busy and always moving around. It’s been a really cool way for students to learn from me without me being there. Anyone interested can reach me through myspace.
As far as my specific history of lessons and teachers I had school teachers for the first year or 2 and then studied through a family friend for a couple years. He was the first guy to really get my drumming off the ground. From there I took private lessons while I was in high school up until college. One of the reasons I picked Berklee was because of all the great instructors they had to offer. Some of the guys I learned a lot from were Larry Finn, Steve Wilkes, Rod Morgenstein, Mike Mangini along with many others. Mike Mangini definitely had the biggest influence on my playing today. I took lessons from him for 2.5 years. The question you asked; what was the most important thing I learned from Berklee; that has a lot to do with Mike’s approach. I learned to look at drumming in a whole new light. I’d never be the musician I am without all the great instructors I’ve met and worked with over the years. I think it’s important for any drummer to never feel they’ve learned all they can learn. Never feel you’ve reached your full potential. There’s a lot more you can learn and always someone out there to teach it to you.
SDM.com: Who are your top 5 influences?
Darren: Now a days I don’t really look to anyone for influence. A few years back though, I can name a few guys and albums that definitely pushed me in the direction that I headed.
Mike Portnoy -Dream Theater
Nick Barker – Dimmu Borgir
Jon Longstreth – Origin
Kevin Talley – Dying Fetus
Tony Laureano – Nile
SDM.com: Assuming that influences doesn’t mean favorites, who are your favorites?
Darren: I do think that in this case my influences would be considered my favorites. If I didn’t love those cd’s and their drum performances I would have never spent so many hours listening and analyzing. I feel that nothing out there right now has really surpassed any of those albums. I’ve heard all the best stuff out there and it’s all in those CD’s. Maybe new stuff is a little more pro tooled or a little faster but really it’s all been done at this point. We’ll see where music goes from here.
SDM.com: Let us know 5 CD’s that are in your current rotation
Devil Driver – The fury of our Maker’s Hand
Mudvayne – LD50
Pro-Pain – The Truth Hurts
Testament – Low
Nile – Annihilation of the Wicked
SDM.com: Do you practice any specific rudiments or combos regularly?
Darren: I have a huge number of things that I practice. It all depends on what I want to specifically focus on. I feel almost like a small encyclopedia full of drum exercises. Basically, even if I don’t have an exercise for something, I could take the time and create it. I think it’s important to understand you can’t get the speed and endurance and movement around your kit that everyone wants without doing long repetitive mathematical exercises. Of course, all that math translates into music, groove, feel and good timing.
Usually when I do sit down for a long practice I’ll pick something to work on, for examples, foot endurance, or speed around the kit with my hands, or blasting, or left side leading, etc….. Then after spending sufficient time on a specific aspect of my drumming I usually run through my drum workout CD. It consists of 10 or so songs that work on all the major things I need to keep up on.
SDM.com: I watched you warm up for about an hour before your Rochester show. Do you do this every performance?
Darren: Practice time all depends on available time and the set up of the venue. I try to get in a practice session as often as I can. I’d practice for 2 hours everyday on tour if I could. The last thing I want to do on tour is become stagnant. I feel that if I just went on stage every night and played the same songs for 2 months straight my drumming wouldn’t improve as much as it could, or should. I like pushing myself so that I know when I get off of a tour I’ve moved forward with my drumming. I’ll either take time and work on specific exercises with a metronome for an hour or so or play along to songs. I actually have a specific list in my Ipod called “Darren’s Drum work out”. It’s just songs that I can play in a logical order that really push my speed and endurance. I figure if I’m doing that everyday or at least 4-5 days a week plus playing with the band every night then that’s a huge help.
I definitely see a huge difference between practice and playing a set on stage. When I’m stage playing with the band I’m not doing that to work on aspects of my drumming. I’m focused on doing a good job, being efficient and playing parts that I already know I can play well. When I practice I try and improve my drumming specifically and hit weak spots. I just feel that’s a good thing to constantly challenge your self even on tour. That always keeps me motivated and focused.
SDM.com: If you could give one piece of advice to young drummers, it would be…
Darren: Practice, practice, practice and make sure you’re doing it right. Find a good teacher, have a desire to work hard and practice, practice, practice.
SDM.com: Who gave the best live performance you’ve ever seen?
Darren: One of my favorite live performances in recent memory, maybe 3 years ago was Nick Barker with Dimmu Borgir. I saw them at the Worcester Palladium in MA. I just really like his attention to detail and perfect recreation of what’s on the CD. Everything was really dead on and sounded great too. He plays the slow parts just as well as the fast parts. I just thought his playing really made the whole band come across well. They have such an epic sound to them and his drums just add to that.
I’ve seen a lot of great live performances that just happens to be the one that sticks out in my head. It’s just something that was tied in with a great experience for me. I went to that show with some good friends of mine, also drummers, and we went specifically to see the bands and their drummers. We just had really high expectations for Dimmu Borgir and they didn’t disappoint largely thanks to Nick Barker that night.
SDM.com: If you had to stop drumming, what else would you want to do with your life?
Darren: I’m into many aspects of music not just drumming. I compose music, play guitar as well as produce and engineer. I also love teaching and do that as much on the side as possible. I guess teaching though I’d have to be able to drum. I really have a love of producing. I’m hoping to get more and more into it over time. I’ve worked with a few bands and have really enjoyed it. It’s like a band looking to you and only you to help make them better or improve their sound and final product. The band leaves you with a lot of trust and a lot of responsibility and I think that’s why I like it so much. I think having the education that I have has given a really great ear and understanding of music. Just because I drum and work with metal bands doesn’t mean my ideas don’t apply to many things. I’ve been exposed to so many types of music and people throughout the years I really feel prepared to take on anything musically. I find producing as rewarding as it is challenging and hope to do more of it in the future.