Due to circumstances out of our control, this interview with Elliot Hoffman of Car Bomb was not able to make the March issue of SD Magazine. There will be a follow up interview in our next issue, but for now enjoy this one!
Interview by: Noel Smart
SDM: What can you tell us about the track entitled "Reich drums" on your MySpace site?
Elliot: That was the first recording I did in the new home studio. I was planning on recording over some of his stuff as soon as I got a chance to. I got turned onto him a couple of years back by Mike Dafferner (singer in Car Bomb) and I couldn’t stop playing on the dashboard of his car while listening to it!
It’s just nice wide-open stuff that you can take in any direction you want rhythmically. I just imported a track from his CD and went to town!
SDM: Anything new with Spooge, your older progressive technical metal band?
Elliot: I would love there to be! The guitarist, Joey Lodes, just returned from medical school, so he’s local again. I’ll start pushing him to jam once he gets settled in a bit. He really is one of the greatest players I’ve ever met and he really needs to be playing more! To hell with being a doctor. Jon Modell (bassist in Car Bomb) is always up for a Spooge reunion; we’re all just such good friends, it would difficult not to do something soon.
SDM: Tell us about the writing of the drum parts for the new album “^v^w^v^”?
Elliot: It’s a healthy combination of all of us coming up with cool rhythmic ideas and working those into grooves. How complex/busy the figures are determines what kind of beat I’ll write.
There are tons of really involved double kick patterns, and when you have to lock in with those it kind of limits your options a bit. I’ll usually try and do some cool phrasing with the hands on top of the kick figure. Like: odd groupings, or sub-divisions (fives, sevens, et cetera), or changing the rate. In the more open sections I can get more loose and do more fusiony stuff. Basically, the heavy stuff is as heavy as possible and the breakdown sections are pretty slick and tasty.
SDM: What is it like recording in Torsion Fields Studios (Brooklyn NY)?
Elliot: Having a recording studio at my house rules! I’ve always wanted to have one. It’s actually been about ten years since I’ve had a acoustic kit in my place; apartments in NYC are not very conducive to drums, so I only had a Roland V-Drum kit which just wasn’t cutting it. I split a big live/work space in Brooklyn and built out a real drum room. So I’ve been playing and recording a lot more; I want to get my chops up and keep’em up. Instead of only rehearsing once or twice a month and not really feeling like a drummer.
I’ve been a recording engineer for a long time. I used to assist in big NYC commercial studios in the mid ’90s, mostly doing hip-hop/rap recording sessions with big names. I got my first DAW back then and started making mostly electronic music, not recording drums. I have been buying recording equipment for about the past five years in preparation for having the space actually get set up to record my live kit. So since I got the studio space it has taken over a year to get built up and running.
I finally got my dream Brady drum kit and that stays miked up and ready to go. I’m set up to control the sessions from behind the drums so I can have files sent over the web to me and just record and mix by myself. It’s so sweet! I can’t even tell you how cool it is.
SDM: Are you still using the DW 5000 pedals? Have you played any of the new pedals out there, such as the Trick, Pearl Demon Drives, or any of the new Axis pedals?
Elliot: I am still using the DWs in the studio and using an older Yamaha double pedal live. I grew up playing on older Tama Camco pedals, so the DW is pretty close to that. I like a lot of tension in a pedal, and when I tried the Axis it just wasn’t what I was looking for. As of now, I’m not doing double stokes on my feet or more finesse technique type stuff, so maybe I’ll be looking for something smoother as I get more into that stuff.
SDM: What is your opinion on playing and recording with as many bands as possible?
Elliot: I’m a big believer in playing with a lot of people and in different projects. I just finished a recording with JG Thirlwell (Venture Brothers, Foetus, Manorexia) that will be coming out on John Zorn’s label later this year. Also, I had Joe Duplantier from Gojira over two weeks ago.
I recorded several tracks for a side project he’s doing. I want to get more sessions going in the near future and have a couple of other things in the works. The more I can interact with different musicians the better off I’m going to be in different musical contexts. I can’t play on everything, but stuff that I know I’ll have fun working on. I’ve got minimal time in between working my day job so I have to be kinda choosy.
SDM: How long have you been recording the new album “^v^w^v^”? How many man-hours have you guys pumped into the session?
Elliot: Well, the writing process is what has taken so long for this record. We have all been working crazy jobs and trying to arrange the tunes on this record and get them up to our standards. So, that took about two years (which is too long) before we started tracking. The tracking of the drums took about a month. Just Saturdays and Sundays in between work. I wish all the hours invested in this record were billable; we’d all be living well. I’ve passed the drum tracks off to the other guys to track their parts so we’re just about ready to mix.
SDM: Tell us about using a rough programmed framework on the scratch tracks of the songs?
Elliot: Greg Kubacki (guitars) is also a great drum programmer. He can develop drum ideas at his house and record scratch guitars for us to listen to for reference. He loves programming Dave Lombardo tom fills all over the tunes and it becomes a battle for me not to play them while I’m recording, because everyone loves Lombardo tom fills! Using the software drum kit for pre-production has really helped to solidify ideas and get the tunes pounded into our heads. I spend so much time in the subway every day, it really helps to have working demos of the tracks on repeat, getting funny looks from strangers as I head bang!
SDM: Why do you think this is an album that drummers will definitely approve of? What have you done on this album that you haven’t done on previous albums with your playing?
Elliot: It’s just fun to listen to and kind of fun to analyze if you’re a drum geek like me. It’s not so much that I’ve done anything much different on this record, it’s just got some great sections and patterns that will take more than a couple of listens to absorb. If you’re familiar with the last record you know it’s got that "what was that?" thing going on, and it takes a while to figure it out.
SDM: You have a couple new improv videos posted on YouTube. Do you like to do that kind of thing often? Is it a big help to your metal grooving?
Elliot: Those videos are really just testing different incarnations of the video rig I’m getting together for the SD lesson series. They turned out pretty well so I just posted them. It’s fun to watch yourself play and look at it critically to see what you like and what you don’t. I’ll be posting more of those videos for sure. I’ll do some Car Bomb tunes and post them; I really haven’t posted any metal playing yet but that’s coming.
SDM: Other than Steve Reich, who else do you play along to?
Elliot: It’s hard to find stuff with no drums that is in good time. There are a couple of records I’ve found that are fun to play over. Some artists include Chick Corea, Philip Glass, Frank Zappa, Aphex Twin, Amon Tobin, Square Pusher, anything that catches my attention, really, I’m not limited to any set routine or anything like that.