Petar Babic

Keep up with Petar here:
SDM:  How important are your kick pedals to your playing?
Petar:  Obviously – very important. Choosing the right pedals and the right sticks is the key thing, but also the most individual thing in any drummer’s playing.  I chose Cobra Jr’s because of a number of elements: they are lighter than Cobras, have a nicer action than Yamaha's, they are super durable and yet affordable enough to replace them at any moment. They can also take a beating and you don’t have to be super nice to them.
SDM:  How do you prepare yourself before a show and recording?
Petar:  No special stuff – singles, doubles, feet, a couple of corps exercises I learned back when I was doing marching stuff. I’ll also go through some of the more demanding fills and/or beats.
SDM:  What kind of routines do you work on when you practice? Do you practice with a metronome?
Petar:  Yeah, click for warming up, and for practicing my own stuff, slowly and building up. I like to get the notes spaced around nicely at a slow speed before I go up. If I’m doing endurance, I’ll just pop out one of my fave records with a nice long blast or double bass, and dig in. After all, I’m supposed to have fun, right?
SDM:  Did you ever take drum lessons? Do you play any other instrument? Can you read music like drum notation or guitar tab?
I used to sing, and I used to take piano lessons. Piano taught me how to read music, which I more or less forgot, but reading drum notation is something I worked on later, and brushed up. As I said before, I used to do marching stuff at a local drum line, and went from the bass drum, to the snare and to the tenors, so my reading skills needed to be on par. From there, it’s just a matter of zooming in on your interest, getting a book and/or some play-along tracks and going for it!
SDM:  What kind of gear do you use?
Petar:  Tama Superstar Hyperdrive: 20” bass, 16” floor, 10” rack tom. Tama Junior Cobra pedals, Evans heads (a variety, although I have a strong inclination to use something dry on the snare and the bass, something double-ply on my floor tom and a single ply for the rack tom). Cymbals come and go, at the moment I have a Paiste Dry Dark Ride – great hand-hammered cymbal with a monstrous bell, Zildjian K Ride 20” which is used as a crash, Zildjian Avedis 18” Crash-Ride, Ufip Classics 14” hats. I use a china too, but these are frequently broken, by myself or other local drummers (since we all like to borrow stuff to one another), so I’ll pretty much use anything I can get my hands on. Zildjians are preferred, although some of the low-cost companies also make decent sounding cymbals, especially china cymbals. As far as sticks are concerned, I prefer hickory, something along the lines of the Billy Cobham model – round head, medium taper, and a beefy stick.
SDM:  Do you have any touring planned for your latest release and if so with who and where?
Petar:  We did a small Euro tour, on which we even shot a live DVD in The Netherlands, with our label mates. At the moment we’re writing new stuff and playing individual gigs in Croatia.
SDM:  Where did you record your latest album "Insolitvs -Op. I?"
Petar:  This is a special thing for us! It was all done DIY! The recording and the mix were handled by our dear friend, and guitar player of another band I play in (Corpse Grinder) Mr Tomislav Novosel. The location was and still is referred to as being “top secret” 😀 The master was done by another very good friend of ours, Mr Igor Malecic of Meisterwerk productions from Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.
SDM:  Do you use triggers in the studio or live? What’s your opinion on triggers and drum modules?
Petar:  I don’t. Back when I started playing, I got some triggers and a module, but this just doesn’t cut it for me. Our music goes waaaaaaaaay down dynamically and triggers don’t do a samba beat any justice. Aside from that, I like to write and play music that can be done live, and I feel too many bands today depend more on the PA system than on themselves. And the most important thing: I REALLY like the sound of my drums.
SDM:  What band or drummer might have influenced you on this latest effort?
Petar:  As a lot of people, I like to zone out of other music when I’m recording or writing. I took bits and pieces from different guys, trying to staple all of that together and make this final mixture fit what the guys in the band are doing. If I need a groovy thing, I go for David Garibaldi. If I need a spastic, fast thing, I go for Chris Pennie’s work in TDEP. If I want to hear how extreme metal riffs can be followed and respected on drums, In Their Darkened Shrines with Tony Laureano, or Human with Sean Reinert… The list goes on and on.
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?
Petar:  Four main guys: Lars, since Metallica was the first heavy band in my life, and for the stuff he did on the first albums. Derek Roddy, for his commitment to his playing, to the genre, and to the community. Sean Reinert, for his mind blowing performance on Human. And Chris Pennie, for his innovative approach to writing, especially on Miss Machine, and for blending other styles into their music. Aside from those guys, I just love all the guys who work with Chick Corea, since I have a sweet spot for that guy.
SDM:  How long did it take you to record the drums?
Petar:  It took us, in total, a couple of hours, spaced out through one evening and another afternoon. I came in well prepared, and all we needed to do is find the best mic settings, and get in the “zone” mentally.
SDM:  Did you record the drums to a click track in the studio? Do you find playing to a click track challenging?
Petar:  Of course. Nothing is challenging if you practice enough! And having a click helps other guys record as well. I love the chemistry and the vibe of a live recording, but recording live in the studio was not an option.
SDM:  How often does the band practice during the week? How often do you practice by yourself weekly?
Since we all work pretty long hours, it’s once a week. We all do stuff at home; I like to work on my singles a lot, revise some rudiments and cadences, and write stuff. We exchange files during the week, new ideas etc, which we then put into life on rehearsals.
SDM:  What kind of gear did you use to record with this time? How do you come up with your parts?
Petar:  AKG for the bass, SM 57 for the snare(s), and some lower budget mics for the other stuff. I always listen to the stuff the guys send me for a million times, until it hits me. Then again, then I combine, and ultimately we try different ideas when we jam. So it’s a combination of methods.
SDM:  What blast beat method do you use?
Petar:  More or less all of them. Every blast style has it’s charms. I also never saw the point of limiting myself in my playing – genres, styles, of types of blasts.
SDM:  What are you kick pedals set at?
Petar:  Almost max tension, beaters a little bit over 45 degrees, closer to my foot. That way the pedal does the hard part of the work.
SDM:  Do you blast with one foot? If so, how did you learn this technique?
Petar:  Depends. Slower blasts always, because they sound different. I find that once you go over 210-220 bpm, no one cares whether you’re one-footing or not, and it’s not audible either. Learning-wise, nothing special. Slow polka to blast, over and over and over again!
SDM:  What kind of double bass technique(s) do you use? Such as swivel etc?
Petar:  I used to play heels down all the way. Since I found it limiting in terms of applying it to different tempos, and even more considering my seating position, I re-trained myself to play heels up. No special tech, the regular “no pain – no gain” approach.
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?
Petar:  Whip out early Deicide, Morbid Angel and similar stuff, and get going! Also, get some funk (or RnB) play-along tracks (without drums) and just do double bass stuff and blasts over that – it’s super fun! And when you want to get yourself up to speed, go slow, get the notes nicely spaced out so they can “breathe,” and then start going up, step by step. Always, ALWAYS with a click.
SDM:  What sort of tension do you have on your snare? Do you leave it loose or do you tighten it all the way? Do you use moongel or anything else on your snare? What size is your snare?
Petar:  My snare is a Tama that I got with my kit, 13" x 6", with diecast hoops. I used to play a Black Panther 12" x 7" Cherry-Maple, but since the band and me delved into more dark and groovy stuff, the high pitch of the drum simply wasn’t enough. I played two snares at one point, but my band mates also suggested they liked the bigger one’s sound more, and I find their opinion very important (as they do with mine). The snare is very tight, but not to its max. I like to be able to get some ghost notes, but also to have a higher pitch for the blasts to come out. Depending on which head I use, I’ll put on some moongel (or duct tape), but this also depends on the context – studio vs live, miced drum vs rehearsal, etc.
SDM:  Do you think the size of your snare affects the velocity of your blast beats?
Petar:  No. Not at all. Every guy has his own style, and his own sound. Personally, I value sound and style much more than speed. As I said, I used to play a smaller snare, mainly because of its pitch, but I don’t think it influences speed.
SDM:  What sort of gripping technique do you use?
Petar:  Regular American grip, which switches to French if I do any finger stuff.
SDM:  What would you do if you couldn’t play drums? Do you have another profession besides being a musician?
Petar:  I’m not a professional musician. I work as a high-school teacher, teaching History and English. I also do sports climbing, alpinism and cycling. Music is not my profession, it’s my passion, and I (and my band mates) would like to keep it that way. I earn my own money, and pursue my passions, one of which is music – simple as that (the Roddy theory he advocated some time ago, on his forums).
SDM:  What are some the albums you are listening to now?
Petar:  New Behemoth, new Modern Life Is War, new Secret, new Full Of Hell; last albums by Converge, Deafheaven, Liturgy. I love old school hardcore, and I love the ambient black stuff like WITTR and Altar Of Plagues. And I have 10-20 albums which are always on my playlist, metal and other.
SDM:  How supportive are your family concerning your drumming?
Petar:  Not very – completely. They’re excited by our enthusiasm, contacts and traveling.
SDM:  What would you say to drummers out there that are just starting off and want to become professional?
Petar:  Don’t follow trends, don’t do what everyone else is, and don’t try to prove yourself to anyone. Music is not a sports discipline, and it shouldn’t be a business either! It’s something you should, above all, ENJOY. I guess the best advice I can give you is to get some guys together, get into a band, check your ego at the counter and let the music carry you and develop you, as a musician and as a person. And support the local scene as much as you possibly can.
SDM:  Any tips for drummers who live the tour life?
Petar:  Be super fit and well prepared. Test all the stuff, carry extra parts. And be nice to other bands and promoters, it’s their enthusiasm that allows us to travel and perform.
SDM:  How important is it to your drumming to know the basic 40 drum rudiments?
Petar:  Very. I mean, there’s a very slim chance you’ll use ALL 40 in your playing, but being well versed and eloquent in a language ain’t gonna hurt your everyday smalltalk, right?
SDM:  Do you use a practice pad when practicing? What kind of practice set up do you have?
Petar:  Mostly for going through rudiments at home. I went through pretty much every pad on the market, and liked Vic Firth marching pad the best, but it’s also a thing you can make yourself very easily. 
SDM:  Do you practice using the Traditional gripping at all?
Petar:  Since I played marching snare, I had to. I also used to play my drum set like that at one point. I guess it comes down to what’s more natural to you, and I like to bang my drums when needed, so matched grip was the way to go. I still sometimes play traditional on my snare or pad, but for marching stuff exclusively.
SDM:  Do you go to drum clinics in your area? What sort of materials do you use for practice? Any certain books or videos?
Petar:  Unfortunately, there aren’t that many here. And for metal – none, zero. I used the classics such as Stick Control, I worked through Garibaldi, I bought a ton of Modern Drummers and I was always super stoked to catch my favorite drummer on YouTube. Derek Roddy and his NO BLINK videos. I also remember being blown away by the drum cams of Sean Reinert on the Human tour, and Thomas Haake’s first videos playing the pattern for Bleed. I love to watch the MD Fest footage, and I like to get my eyes on different Shed Sessions with gospel drummers.
SDM:  What are some of the new techniques you would like to get better at?
Petar:  I really like what gospel drummers are doing. I also like how different guys approach metal drumming, for example the stuff Minnemann did with Necrophagist. Yeah, I generally think that metal musicians should broaden their horizons as far as they can, and let the music evolve. For me, those things are linear grooves, ghosted grooves in a metal context and stuff like that.
SDM:  How do you get a endorsement?
Petar:  I have no idea! I guess by a combination of being very good, knowing the right people, and being at the right places.
SDM:  How do you count when your playing a piece of music with your band? How important is counting to your drumming?
Petar:  When I approach a riff that’s rhythmically challenging, I count. I’ll count numbers, wacky syllables etc. However, I find that my ultimate goal is always to HEAR the theme and be able to follow it. So, counting is essential for being precise and for having a plan B, but the aim is to be able to connect to your band mates and follow each other.
SDM:  Do you do any cymbal chokes in your playing? 
Petar:  For accents and such, yeah. Sounds pretty damn heavy!
SDM:  Do you use ghost notes in your playing?
Petar:  YES! I think this is the most undervalued thing in the extreme metal realm! I wasn’t very good at it, but  some time ago I recorded an album with a local post-metal instrumental band (Sagan, album “Horizons”, available on BandCamp), and that music really made me go into ghosting, grooving, linear stuff etc, and I believe it really benefited my playing! Besides, there’s nothing sexier than a fat, ghosted groove, no matter what the context – it just gives the music and the player character.
SDM:  How do you usually come up with drum fills when playing an original song?
Petar:  I’ll listen to what the other instruments are saying. If that doesn’t work, I’ll listen to what happens in a song before and after the fill. Then I’ll come up with some ideas and present them to the guys on rehearsal. If we want a heavy sounding thing, quads and all variations, if we want something fast, singles around the kit or if we want to really break a theme or a part, something linear, or over the bar.
SDM:  Do you make use of paradiddles, polyrythms, various stroke rolls, etc?
Petar:  I do, but to be honest – not as much as I could. But for smaller fills inside a groove, especially if it’s ghosted, I’ll do doubles on the snare. Paradiddles are great or doing linear stuff.
SDM:  What do you wear on your feet when you play?
Petar:  Depending on my mood, it’s either my running shoes or just my socks.
SDM:  How do you keep your drum patterns original and innovative?
Petar:  By actively listening to other types of music, and taking what I think would be useful from that context, trying then to apply it to our context. A general openness of mind is beneficial.
SDM:  How important is it for drummers out there to support their local scene of metal?
Petar:  Crucial. It’s your first gigs, it’s other people’s first gigs, it’s the ability to host your friends’ band.
SDM:  Do you have any favorite grooves/rhythms when playing?
Petar:  I absolutely love traditional blasting at about 180-190. It just sounds so powerful!
SDM:  What's more important to you… having your drums sounding sick and fast or having character?
Petar:  Character. Today ANYONE can sound sick, fast, and clean as a whistle. But there aren’t a lot of guys out there that are immediately recognizable the moment you hear a song they’re in.
SDM:  How are your drums set up, in order to create the ultimate results from your playing?
Petar:  Drums are kept close to me, and cymbals a bit away. That way I can groove and fill easily, and stretch out for accents, crash rides etc. Also, I made an effort to position everything so I don’t need to change my seating position in order to reach something.  And, I learned how everything goes and works, so I can be fast with setting up and tearing down, regardless of whether I’m playing my kit or a rental.
SDM:  How much of your time do you concentrate on practicing things you are not so good at yet? What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?
Petar:  I should always work more on timing and precision, and sometimes I get bummed out by the sound I get from my grooves. I should also work on more groove stuff since this seems to be my forte at the moment. I think I have a solid foundation of double bass and blasting, and I like to think of myself as being creative, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be true.
SDM:  Are you a big fan of Pro Tools? and do you support others in the studio manipulating your performance on a track?
Petar:  Not so much. I don’t think you are absolutely and without exception required to do a tune in one take, and that one being the first; I’m okay with doing punch-ins, e.g. when the tempo changes in a song and you stop and pick up from the next bar, but other than that – I don’t think so. I mean, the goal is to be able to perform everything I record in a live setting. I did various percussion details on Sagan’s record, but that was just adding flavor to the song.
SDM:  What factors do you consider when buying a drum head? Is it just durability, length of life, or tone?
Petar:  It’s the sound, first and foremost. Naturally, durability comes into play, but sound in the primary consideration. Basically, if my rack tom needs a one-ply head, then I’m going to buy a one-ply, but I’ll look into which brand has the greatest life span for one-ply's.
SDM:  Do you like to use alternate time signatures to add variety?
Petar:  We use a wide variety of time signatures. I don’t always count them, because I prefer hearing the theme and following that, but counting is always an option when learning a new part, or in situations when monitoring is so bad you can’t make out what the rest of the band is playing.