Danny Piselli

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Danny Piselli Interview:


SDM: How important are your kick pedals to your playing?

Having the right pedal’s are hugely important. I’ve used almost every major brands pedals over the years, but once I started with Axis, I never went back. The things are just tailor made for death metal.

SDM: How do you prepare yourself before a show and recording?

Before shows I try my best not to exert too much energy. I definitely don’t want to smoke, or have more than a beer or two. Loading up on water is important. As for recordings, it’s historically happened in the morning’s for me. During the Infallible sessions, we slept at the studio, so I made sure to get up a little earlier than normal. I certainly didn’t want to be rolling out of the bed onto the drum throne.

SDM: How do you practice? Do you practice with a metronome?

I always make time for the metronome. Breaking my practice sessions up into categories is a big thing for me. I like to spend time working on something that is difficult, playing along with songs, and then playing with the metronome only. Not always in that order though. I think practicing something difficult for 20 minutes will get you way better than practicing 1 hour of something easy.

SDM: Did you ever take drum lessons? Do you play any other instrument? Can you read music like drum notation or guitar tab?

I started drum lessons when I was 10, and took lessons for 10 years with many many different teachers. Some great, some shitty. I started lessons at the School of Rock in Downingtown, PA, where I teach now. I also play guitar a tiny bit, and write a small amount for Fisthammer. I wouldn’t consider myself a guitar player though. I can read drum notation and guitar tabs.

SDM: What kind of gear do you use?

I have a Yamaha maple custom absolute kit: 10,” 12,” and 15″ toms and a 14″ snare. My cymbal sizes are 18″ and 19″ crashes, 20″ china, 12″ Hi-hats,” and a 22″ ride – All Sabian. The hats and ride are AA, while the others are AAX. All G2 Evans heads. The hardware is pretty much a mix of everything.

SDM: Where did you record your latest album; Fisthammer – Infallible? Were you happy with the results?

Infallible was recorded at Atrium Audio in Lancaster, PA, with Carson Slovak and Grant McFarland. Carson engineered the first album, and we just jelled very well together. He has a way of pushing the most out of you, while still remaining calm and encouraging. I managed to finish the tracks in 2 days, and couldn’t be happier with the result.

SDM: Do you use triggers in the studio or live? What’s your opinion on triggers and drum modules?

I used triggers on the recording, and have debated using them live for quite some time. When the sound guy is good, and the drums are mic’ed properly, I love the way my bass drum sounds organically. The problem is, it’s a bad sound guy more often than not, and playing in bars mostly, you’re lucky if everything is mic’ed. That’s my motivation to getting triggers, just to get the consistency every night.

SDM: What band or drummer may have influenced you on your latest recording?

With Infallible, our goal was to create a dark, evil, atmospheric album, without losing the sophistication. Behemoth is a band that does that so well, so naturally. They, along with Inferno, are a big part of my drumming. Mario Duplantier of gojira is another huge influence. His ability to take a groove and rock it for 1 or 2 minutes straight without it getting boring is a ridiculously hard thing to do in metal, and something I attempted at spots on Infallible.

SDM: Who are some of your main drumming influences today, and back when you first started? Do you listen to different styles of music outside of the metal realm?

I could on and on forever. Too many to list. When I first started out at the age of 11, I loved all the classic rock my dad brought me up on. Aerosmith may be the first band I attempted to play when starting out. As for the metal guys, my main influences have to be Mario Duplantier, Chris Adler, George Kollias, and Gene Hoglan, just to name a few. As a student, I’ve always been taught the importance of learning all styles of music. Therefore, I took Jazz lessons for 5 years, and delved into Funk and Latin quite a bit. Dudes like Dennis Chambers, Huracio Hernandez, and David Garibaldi, are some of my favorite drummers outside of metal. I saw Steve Gadd do a drum clinic when I was about 15, which had a huge impact on me.

SDM: Did you record the drums to a click track in the studio? Do you find playing to a click track challenging?

I did record to a click, and I actually find it more challenging to track without one. I’ve been practicing with a metronome for as long as I can remember, so I don’t find it intimidating. I think when recording without one, I tend to play a little too tight, because I worry about getting off time.

SDM: How often does the band practice during the week? How often do you practice by yourself?

Fisthammer usually practices twice a week. Sunday being our main day when we go all day. My rock band On Top practices Mondays, and Coffin Dust Wednesdays. We all practice at my place of work. Everyone knows everybody else, so I usually have no problem bending my schedule to accommodate everyone. As for my individual practice, I try to get in 30 to an hour every day I teach, which is 5 days a week.

SDM: What blast beat method do you use?

I try to use an even amount of wrist and fingers. When you rely solely on your fingers, its hard to get an aggressive attack. On the flip side, some tempo’s we play, I have a hard time keeping up if I only use my wrist. A good balance is key for me.

SDM: What are you kick pedals set at?

I use the Axis long board pedals with my springs tight as hell. I guess it’s my way of making it feel like a chain pedal as much as possible, while taking advantage of the perks of using Axis.

SDM: Do you blast with one foot? If so, how did you learn this technique?

There’s a few spots where I blast with one foot, but 90% of the time it’s with two. Learning to play a proper blast beat probably took me longer to learn than anything else in drumming. It’s a very simple concept, and very hard to execute, especially at the speeds most guitarists want you to play them at haha. The way I learned was by taking them slow, and playing longer durations. With endurance comes speed.

SDM: What kind of double bass technique(s) do you use? Such as swivel etc?

My double bass technique is pretty standard I think. As a rock drummer, I was always taught to use a long of leg when I kick. Obviously, you have to use smaller motions when your drumming 200 BPM + though. I would say I still use a little more leg than most drummers, while keeping my foot relatively flat on the pedal. The swivel may come into play at super fast tempos, or playing 16th note triplets, but it’s more of a natural motion. I never put too much thought into it.

SDM: How do you advise drummers build up their endurance and speed? What did you do personally for yourself to enhance both of these areas?

Even though it’s hard, try not to worry about speed. It’s all about endurance. I used to put on old rap albums and play double bass through the whole thing. Generally, a rap album is going to have a consistent tempo, and the tempo will vary little from track to track. It also helps with not getting bored. Playing single stroke rolls on the bass drum for 20-30 minutes straight can get dull real quick.

SDM: What sort of tension do you have on your snare? Do you use anything like Moongel or anything else? What size is your snare?

The snare is 14″, and I keep it about 75% tight, with my actual snare wires about 90% tight. I definitely want it high in order for the blasts to come through clear, but I think too many drummers go overboard with tightening it.

SDM: Do you think the size of your snare effects the velocity of your blast beats?

I’m sure it does, although I’ve never really sat down with any other snare long enough to test that out.

SDM: What sort of gripping technique do you use?

Pretty basic grip. I keep a tight the stick tight in between my pointer finger and thumb, and allow my fingers to grip the stick loosely.

SDM: What would you do if you couldn’t play drums? Do you have another profession besides being a musician?

I currently teach drums and have about 20 students a week. So, If I couldn’t play drums, I think I’d be pretty fucked haha. Probably get fat and play online poker 12 hours a day.

SDM: What are some albums you are listening to now?

I’ve currently been on an R.E.M kick, so I dug out their album “Out of Time” last week. Also been digging on the latest live CD Gojira put out. I bought it on their tour with Mastodon. The DVD is KILLER too. I’m big on old school rap, so 2pac and Nate Dogg have a pretty regular rotation in the car. I always enjoy Crowbar too.

SDM: How supportive are your family concerning your drumming?

My family always went above and beyond for me with my music. I can only recall one instance as a child when I was told I had to stop drumming, and that was just my Dad being in a bad mood. When I graduated high school, I knew college was not for me, and my parents never once questioned my intentions. I definitely owe them a lot.

SDM: What would you say to drummers out there that are just starting off and want to become professional?

It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.

SDM: Any tips for drummers who live the tour life?

Stretch and see a chiropractor every once in a while. It’s hard to maintain a healthy diet, which will obviously cause strain on your body. Choose your spots to party wisely, and bring a damn book for the road! The hours you spend in a van every day gives you a perfect opportunity to learn a new skill.

SDM: Why do you use the specific type of module and triggers you use now? How did you find out which were the right kind for you. Did you try a lot out, or just settle with what you could get?

I still have yet to use triggers, although I think I’m going to suck it up and buy them already. I use a Roland SPDS pad for samples live, so I’ll try using that as a module first.

SDM: How important is it to your drumming to know the basic 40 drum rudiments?

It’s important, but not as important as most drummers think. I think one of the hardest things in drumming is learning how to creatively incorporate rudiments on the drumset. It took me years. I suggest listening to a drummer who is at that point to focus on paradiddles, then accenting paradiddles, then inverted paradiddles, and move them around. Really understand the rudiment and it’s variations before moving on.

SDM: Do you use a metronome when you practice alone?

Yup. Maybe not for an entire practice session, but it always comes out at one point.

SDM: Do you have any problems or have issues with your less dominant hand when drumming?

Sometimes, but it depends on what I’m playing. Some things are more difficult for my dominant hand. For instance, ghost notes are much more comfortable with my left hand, because I use them more with my left. I actually have slightly more quickness with my left hand, even though its not as strong.

SDM: Do you use a practice pad when practicing? What kind of practice set up do you have?

I have a practice pad, but it’s mostly for warming up. When I do use the pad, it’s at night when I can’t get on the drumset.

SDM: Do you practice using the Traditional gripping at all?

Sometimes I like to while playing jazz, but I’m not very efficient with it.

SDM: Do you go to drum clinics in your area? What sort of materials do you use for practice?

I have gone to some great clinics in the area. I saw Johnny Raab and Carmine Appice at the School of Rock where I work. I saw Steve Gadd at the Troc in Philly. I actually really enjoy Carmines Realistic Rock book. Tommy Igoe’s books are great as well. I still have all the materials my teachers have given me over the years, and I’ll bust them out now and again while practicing.

SDM: Any certain videos that you watch? Any certain Youtube channels?

www.drummerworld.com is one of my favorites. I’ve found some of my favorite drum solos on that site. Dennis Chambers preforming with Santana and playing the Soul Sacrifice is incredible. Derek Roddy has some great educational videos up on there as well. And honestly, sickdrummermaganazine.com should be THE place for anyone interested in extreme metal drummer. Although anyone reading this should already know that haha.

SDM: What are some of the new tecniques you would like to get tbetter at?

I’d really like to improve at the gravity blast. Max Svalgard of Fisthammer has been hounding me for years to throw it in some Fisthammer songs. My thing is that it’s really hard to make it sound intense, unless your REALLY REALLY solid at them. I’ve also been working on some Latin grooves that involve moving all 4 limbs, which I absolutely love.

SDM: How do you get a endorsement?

Wish I knew. I use Vader sticks and Sabian cymbals exclusively because I think they’re the best for me. I’ve hit them up over the years, but without luck. Maybe someone could clue me in haha?

SDM: How do you count when you’re playing a piece of music with your band? How important is counting to your drumming?

It’s definitely important at first. I never want to have to rely on counting live though. I should have memorized it well enough at that point. But in rehearsals, I’ll count occasionally. Whenever learning anything new, it’s a must.

SDM: Do you do any cymbal chokes in your playing?

I have a few spots in some Fisthammer songs. A lot more in Coffin Dust though. Coffin Dust has a lot of quick tempo changes, so the cymbal chokes help emphasize that.

SDM: Do you use ghost notes in your playing?

I’ve grown more comfortable using them in Fisthammer tunes. There are spots live where I’ll add them to sections that didn’t have them on the album. I use them more with my rock band “On Top.” That’ s when you hear me trying to channel my inner Brian Tichey.

SDM: How do you come up with original drum fills?

Most times, its the fill that first comes to mind that I keep. I heard Gene Hoglan say in an interview how the first thing that he thinks of is usually best for him. It made me feel a lot better about myself knowing it wasn’t just me being lazy. Sometimes when you put too much thought into it, you can drive yourself crazy, and lose sight of the goal.

SDM: Do you make use of paradiddles, polyrhythms, various stroke rolls, etc?

I love using the double paradiddle especially. You can hear it in the song ‘Evoking the Wrath of the Revenants’ off “Infallible.” I also gave some love to the lonely old triple paradiddle at the end of ‘Conjuration of the Fire God.’ People always forget about that one. I was pretty happy to do some new time signatures on this album as well. You can hear us playing in 7 in ‘Coven and Atomaton of Flesh.’


SDM:  What do you wear on your feet when you play double bass?

Just a shitty pair of sneakers. I know a lot of drummers who like to play barefoot. I started making a conscious effort a long time ago to put shoes on before I’d go to practice. That way I wouldn’t worry about stepping on a bottle in some shitty west Philly basement show.

SDM: How do you keep your drum patterns original and innovative?

That’s a great question, and it’s something I’ve been pondering for while now. As we’ve begun writing again, I’ve been asking myself, “How can I innovate my drumming without getting away from my personal style?” I’ve actually been thinking less about my patterns, and more about the direction of the music. As the music changes over time, I’m trying to allow my drumming to change with it.

SDM: How important is it for drummers out there to support their local scene of metal?

It’s huge for drummers. We gotta let all those guitar players know we’re alive and ready to jam.

SDM: Do you have any favorite grooves/rhythms when playing?

Extreme metal drumming has always been more about the double bass than the blastbeats to me. I love allowing my feet to fly and coming up with a completely different pattern with the hands. I also love Latin rhythms, and the Songo specifically is one of the most fun rhythms to play.

SDM: What’s more important to you… Having your drums sounding sick and fast, or having character?

Certainly they need to have character. To me character is developed when a drummer plays with all styles of drumming. Using all of that knowledge, and incorporating it into one style will give you a sound that is unique. At the end of the day, people want to hear something fresh. I see a billion youtube drummers going 100 miles an hour, but it’s about how it sounds when you hit that drum that’s special.

SDM: Do you practice any half-time shuffle grooves?

I do. A smooth half-time shuffle groove is one of the most satisfying things to play on the drums. I actually recorded a new song called ‘Don’t Go’ with my band “On Top,” and our guitarist rips a solo over a half-time shuffle I’m playing. I then throw in a double bass shuffle similar to hot for teacher shortly after.

SDM: How about practicing linear patterns? Do you cover any of this in your practice routines?

Linear patterns are excellent practice, especially for a metal drummer. It’ll really help clean up the bass and snares between blast beats. I studied a lot out of Gary Chaffee’s Linear books. Some of the best you can find for that style.

SDM: What inspires you to create new grooves behind the kit?

The power of the riff! That’s really what its always been about for me. In some cases, I feel I idolize certain guitarists in bands over their drummers. The first time I heard Pantera, and I heard Dimebag riff the solo from Walk, I knew I wanted to drum, and work the hardest I could to write some of the best music I could. That feeling came one day as a young kid, and never left.

SDM: How much of your practicing is based on strictly technique?

Not too much. I’m pretty aware of the technique I need to use for most things I do. That doesn’t mean I don’t double check once in a while to make sure I’m doing it right though.

SDM: How are your drums arranged, in order to create the ultimate results from your playing?

I keep my drums very close together. People always get weirded out by how low I keep my cymbals too. Just low enough for them not to smack my toms. My legs are at a 100 degree angle when I’m sitting down, which works best for me.

SDM: How much of your time do you dedicate to practicing things you are not so good at yet? What are some of your strengths and weaknesses behind your playing?

I really strive to work on things that are difficult for me. It not always the most fun thing in the world, especially as a kit. Now though, I get excited when I get something I cannot play right away. As of lately, I feel my creativity has been my strength. I find myself being able to go further outside the box, while still keeping things brutal. I still see my right hand speed as a weakness, and I’m working on having the endurance to play accents with my right hand as I blast.

SDM: What motivates you do get behind the drums every day and how do you keep motivated to drum?

I’ve got a few really good students that keep me on my toes. Some weeks I know that if I don’t go home and work on something new, these kids will start to catch on haha. I just love the journey. No matter how much you think you know something, or you think you’ve mastered something, someone’s always there to rain on your parade.

SDM: What factors do you consider when buying a drum head?

I’m all about the Evan’s EC2s currently. They’re a little more dark and have a shorter sustain than the G2’s. I think it fits each one of my bands styles really well. I don’t anticipate changing anytime soon.

SDM: Are you a big fan of Pro Tools, and do you support others in the studio copy/pasting/manipulating your performance?

It has its pros and cons. I know a lot of people really hate the super polished “digital” sound, but then again, there’s a ton of people that dig it. I’ll put it this way. If we were signed, and I had a big chuck of change to go into the studio with, I’d love the thought of recording without any edits. Unfortunately, we are not signed, and I don’t have a big chunk of change. Therefore I think Pro Tools can give the best possible sound for the time and money. When Dime recorded the Great Southern Trendkill album, I was told he took an entire day for each solo. What I wouldn’t do for that kind of time!