Blake Anderson

Keep up with Blake here:
Blake Anderson has been a drummer since 16. After years of piano lessons, school bands, and hobby composing, he self-learned drums and began playing in local bands. Since joining Vektor in 2007 he has recorded two albums and toured extensively with them, as well as various side projects. He teaches piano, drums, and composition.
Blake Anderson Interview:
SDM: How old were you when you started playing?
Blake: I started drumming just before my 16th birthday (2004). I’d been learning other instruments for a few years, but with drums I started self-teaching and was able to pick it up relatively quickly. There was a battle of the bands at my high school, and my friends needed a drummer for a few simple punk songs and covers. As a favor and to try out something new I did it. That resulted in my first band and a whole summer of jamming, and once I got comfortable I was very hooked.
SDM: Did you play in a school band or any drum corps?
Blake: I did play in all of the school bands, but not on drums. I played baritone in the marching and symphonic bands, and piano in the jazz band. One year I tried out for drums in the jazz group, but the instructor put me back on piano due to lack of pianists so I missed out on that one (I probably wasn’t really proficient enough back then anyways).
SDM: Who are your top 5 metal influences?
Blake: Mike Portnoy and Flo Mounier were my two starter influences and a major part in my initial learning process. I basically learned to play by air drumming Dream Theater and Cryptopsy albums, so those two guys make up a big part of my foundation. Richard Christy was another big one, especially his work on the final Death albums. Derek Roddy, Gene Hoglan, and Tomas Corn (Lykathea Aflame) probably round out the initial metal part of my influences.
SDM: Who are some other of your favorites?
Blake: That list is endless! In no particular order: Billy Cobham, Marco Minnemann, Terry Bozzio, Mike Mangini, Gavin Harrison, Travis Orbin, Vinnie Colaiuta, Jojo Mayer, Bobby Jarzombek, Neil Peart, Chester Thompson, George Kollias, Matt Halpern, Dave Weckl.
SDM: Let us know 5 CD's that are in your current rotation
Carcass – Surgical Steel (very excited they’re back, and this album’s great)
Kvist – For Kunsten Maa Vi Evig Vike (been rediscovering this one lately)
Focus – Moving Waves
Gorguts – Colored Sands (another “hurray they’re back”)
Frank Zappa – Civilization Phaze III (always jamming something Zappa but I’ve been fixated on this one recently)
SDM: What do you do to warm up before a show?
Blake: I try to get some time in on the practice pad if it is available, if not I’ll do barehand exercises on my legs. Always stretch my wrists, calfs, etc. What I play to warm up isn’t set in stone, I simply try get some speed going and run singles, doubles, rudiments, etc. Whatever feels right and gets my blood moving and muscles woken up. Mentally it can be helpful to run through the first 30-40 seconds of each song on the pad, and lots of off-the-cuff polyrhythmic stuff to wake up/challenge myself a bit. I like working in stuff I am not good at or unfamiliar with too.
SDM: Do you read music? Regardless of answering yes or no, please tell us how it might have affected your playing?
Blake: Yes, very much so. Less often on drums, but with piano I’m obsessively reading/playing all the time (it is a good mental exercise to read challenging music too – so lots of Liszt, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, etc.). On the drums I don’t often read while playing, but the new Vektor album we’re writing is mostly being written out in standard notation. I’ll have basically a book of sheet music for my drumming on that album, should come in handy if I don’t get time to memorize 100%. Still I think it is important not to be stuck in one method or the other. Reading/writing is useful, but a lot of times I still come up with better seeds of ideas at the kit improvising with other players. I try to strike a balance. I’m sure my reading ability has helped my playing and with learning new material quickly. In terms of my actual playing style though, I’ve been able to read music since before I started drumming so it is tricky to objectively say if or how it might have affected my playing.
SDM: Can you tell us about the gear you use?
Blake: Currently I don’t have any gear endorsements so it is a bit random. My kit right now is an OCDP, cymbals vary across a few
companies. I tend to prefer Remo heads in general, and I really swear by my Pearl Demon Drive pedals. My kit configuration is symmetrical to accommodate the open-stance ideas, 2 hats each with a pedal, rack tom on the far left side symmetrical to the floor tom. 2 crashes, china and ride, sometimes I’ll have another splash or something depending on the gig or how poor I am that week. If you’re familiar with Travis Orbin’s setup, it is basically that with china and ride swapped (I haven’t committed my ride over to the left yet, I was holding out for 2 rides but I may make the switch anyways without it soon). Lately I’ve been using an old DW nickel snare I’ve had for years that sounds great. No triggers, but I have a sampler pad where I control a few ambient sounds and intros for the live show.  I also use and love Vic Firth SRH2 Hardimon Hammer sticks. 😉
SDM: If you could give one piece of advice to young drummers, it would be…
Blake: Hard to say. Remember that speed and technicality are tools, not goals. That’s big for me. The goal is creating music, saying something that is your own (even in the context of a band). I feel like a lot of drummers that simply emulate others or focus only on speed and aren’t “saying” anything interesting on their own. Focus on power, consistency, phrasing, and originality. Don’t limit yourself, anything is possible… rules and standards in music are completely made up nonsense enforced by nobody. Keep it exciting, hit hard, and play with authority! Random tips that might be helpful, I guess. I should have focused on my weak side and heavier sticks years earlier than I did, so learn from my mistake on that one I suppose.
SDM: Who gave the best live performance you've ever seen?
Blake: I saw Flo Mounier play a drum solo in a tiny club in Phoenix back in 2005 that was pretty unbelievable. Cryptopsy played None So Vile all the way through, with Lord Worm, and a solo in the middle. The place was so tiny and I was so new to drums that it was a surreal experience seeing that right before my eyes. Another standout is Death To All in June 2012 at Irving Plaza (NYC), I got to see Richard Christy play a few songs from Sounds of Perseverance. I figured I’d never get the chance to see him play those songs, so that was such a pleasant surprise and it blew me away (they nailed everything, it was killer). He and Gene Hoglan were both incredible that night. I loved side stage view of Gene during Testament in Memphis, he can basically do no wrong though.
SDM: Aside from drumming, what else do you like to do?
Blake: Piano and composition are my other two main musical things, between those and drumming I keep pretty busy. I love being able to travel as much as I do, something I wouldn’t be able to do so much of yet if I weren’t in the band. My day job and my degree are in Computer Science, but I’m not sure I could even say I truly enjoy working with computers much these days. The short answer is, outside of social stuff, friends, reading, etc., I’m really just thinking about music all day (whether I’m playing or not)!