Keep up with Alex here:
Read his full Biography on his website: http://alexcohendrums.com/bio/
Alex Cohen Interview:
SDM: How old were you when you started playing?
Alex: I was 11 when I first started annoying my family by arbitrarily tapping on anything I could. The car? Sure. The stove? Why not. My parents eventually bought me my first Casio drum pad for Christmas when I was 12, my first set for my birthday at 13, and then I think the rest is history.
SDM: Did you play in a school band or any drum corps?
Alex: I didn’t do ‘school band’ per se, but I went to a performing arts high school (so I was playing out professionally in New York at the age of 14), took lessons at Drummer’s Collective for twelve years, and I have a degree in Jazz Performance from NYU.
SDM: Who are your top 5 metal influences?
1. Nick Barker: I’ll never forget hearing ‘Death Cult Armageddon’ by Dimmu Borgir for the first time. A lot of musicians in other scenes always told me that metal guys couldn’t groove. I’ll be the first to tell you that ‘Blood Hunger Doctrine’ is a pretty deep pocket, and the blasts on ‘Allegiance’ still blow me away.
2. John Longstreth: ‘Informis Infinitas Inhumanitas’. There are drum parts on that record I’ve never heard replicated to this day. I was 15 when I first heard that album, and it completely changed my perception of what was possible on a drum kit.
3. Tomas Haake: Meshuggah was the first real ‘extreme’ metal band I ever heard, and after hearing ‘Destroy, Erase, Improve’ at 13, I knew metal was the music I identified with the most.
4. Patrice Hamelin: A drummer who is criminally underrated for his speed, consistency, and power. During my first tour with Malignancy, I opened for Cephalic Carnage in Europe when Patrice was filling in for John Merryman. Fresh out of college and Jazz studies, I really thought that I knew how to play the drums. After a month of watching Patrice, I knew that I didn’t.
5. Kenny Grohowski: A name that is becoming more and more familiar across the broad scope of the drumming community. We’ve done many projects, shows, and records together, and I’ve probably learned more about music from him than anyone else.
SDM: Who are some other of your favorites?
Alex: Some of my other favorites include: Dan Weiss, Ari Hoenig, Virgil Donati, Billy Drummond, Tyshawn Sorey, Jim Black, Steve Shelton, Gene Hoglan, Sean Reinert, Brian Blade, Ken Schalk, Flo Mounier, Chris Burrows, Mike Heller, Zach Gibson, Bryan Fajardo, Doug Bohn, Dobber Beverly, Keith Abrami, Dave Lombardo, Jonathan Mover, Mike Clark, Vinnie Colaiuta, Gary Novak, Bill Stewart, Dafnis Prieto, Tom Rainey, Ken Bedene, Kris Meyers, Steve Gadd, Andy Newmark, Dave Mattacks, Jerry Marotta, Chris Parker, Adam Deitch, Manu Katche… I could write a book here.
SDM: Let us know 5 CD’s that are in your current rotation
1. Coma Cluster Void – Mind Cemeteries
2. Origin – Unparallelled Universe
3. Bob Mintzer Quartet – In The Moment
4. Logan Richardson – Shift
5. Music I have to learn for my livelihood (I’m a professional musician, so a lot of my time is spent charting out, listening to, and internalizing songs for live gigs and sessions).
SDM: What do you do to warm up before a show?
Alex: For warm ups, I do about an hour of rudiments before every show. I put on a click at various tempos (usually mid-range to quick) and do singles, doubles, combinations, hybrids, and such. I’ll then work each limb with extensive micro-timing exercises against a displaced click to really get my brain and limbs working together. I make it a priority to practice constantly, so I’m always playing during any downtime before a show.
SDM: Do you read music? Regardless of answering yes or no, please tell us how it might have affected your playing?
Alex: I do read music. Charting out metal songs is a big part of my learning process, so reading has helped my playing a lot.
SDM: Can you tell us about the gear you use?
Alex: For gear in my studio, I use Sakae Celestial series drums, Bosphorus cymbals, Sakae hardware, and Pearl Demon Drive pedals. For performance, I use a Tama Starclassic Bubinga kit, Tama hardware, Bosphorus cymbals, and Pearl Demon Drive pedals again.
SDM: If you could give one piece of advice to young drummers, it would be…
Alex: Record yourself as much as you can. Even on your iPhone or computer. Being a studio drummer has really improved my playing immensely, and I highly encourage my students to listen back and pick out their inconsistencies and flaws.
SDM: Who gave the best live performance you’ve ever seen?
Alex: The first show I ever saw in NYC was when I was 12 at the Iridium, and it was Mike Stern playing with Dennis Chambers. The bar was packed, and the waiter was practically apologizing as they led us over to seats right next to drum set. I’ll never forget that show, and the impact it left on me as someone just starting to take up the instrument. The first time I saw Kenny Grohowski play with Dapp Theory was pretty life changing as well, especially because I realized that was the level I had to play at to become peers with the serious players in the city.
SDM: Aside from drumming, what else do you like to do?
Alex: I practice and learn music at every chance I get, so it’s quite difficult to find real ‘down time’. However, I do enjoy working out and keeping in shape, as well as getting in some good games of Magic: The Gathering against Chris Burrows (from Coma Cluster Void) on Skype.