Updated: May 2, 2020
As a long-haired holy man once said, "ask and you shall receive."
**UPDATE** I have re-uploaded this video to VIMEO instead of YouTube, as YouTube blocked it everywhere due to copyright. I had put in a request to TesseracT's publisher to unblock the video, but it's not happened, and it's been months. So let's hope Vimeo is nicer :)
I've wanted to upload a drumcam of an entire concert for a while now - and a fair few of you good people have been asking me to do so. I'm sorry it's taken this long - really there's been nothing stopping me except laziness.
I set up a camera to capture my performance at most of the 2019 Summer festival shows. I like to watch the footage back to see how the show went. It's especially helpful for me to watch the show without hearing the metronome. See, I have a constant Cubase metronome blasting into my ears throughout the entire show, so I only really get a true 'feel' for the show if I can witness the performance-sans-metronome, and hear or see the crowd reaction. I don't generally do anything with these drumcam videos though - they just sit on my hard drive until I either delete them or put them on a portable hard drive, to perhaps be viewed again one day down the line, when I have even less hair.
NOT TODAY. Today, my curly haired, cat-loving, genius-songwriting, exceptionally talented bandmate and TESSERACT founder Acle Kahney did me an absolute solid by sorting out a 'rough mix' - in his words, he mixed the whole show rather than one song at a time - of our recent performance in Athens, Greece on 07.07.2019. It was the first time Tess' performed in Greece and I think it's fair to say that we received one of the warmest welcomes of anywhere we've ever visited. The crowd had SO much energy that night, for which I'm very grateful. If you were there in the crowd, contributing to that wonderful evening - I'm very grateful.
I feel like every TESSERACT show has the potential to be something special - even if just for one person. The energy we receive from the crowd has the power to uplift a show to a whole different place, or bring us down on stage to the same level of energy you might expect after a few days stuck in an airport. Some shows are definitely like that - big and small. Sometimes, it's just not our crowd. However - ATHENS - YOU WERE OUR CROWD and you were fucking excellent.
So - please enjoy the video. If you expand the info on YouTube, you'll see that I've listed the start-points for each song in the set, so that you impatient people can skip straight ahead to your favourite track.
Now - for the drummers in the room, let's delve a little deeper.
I'm going to highlight some of my highest energy moments in the set - and some of the moments I still struggle with. There's some parts that Acle writes which are a serious stretch for me as a drummer, but I try to humanise and perform them as close to the original idea as possible. Let's see you think my humanised versions of Acle's groove-bot beats cut the mustard:
Concealing Fate Part 1
0:29 - Fill into first bridge/verse. I used to play this fill differently. On the album, I put a stack in each of the gaps between the tom / kick fills. But over the years I've felt that being busy on my fills doesn't really translate well. I decided a while ago to drop the stack hits in exchange for momentary silence which - I feel - gives this fill more space to breath and definitely more impact.
0:44 - This whole section has evolved for me over the years too. I really enjoy the little 'hold' at 0:49-0:50, which is a small recent change I made to this groove.
1:37 - I find that the ghost notes in this small section where I play on the china, really help to keep me in time. Without them, I tend to slip off the metronome grid quite easily.
1:49 - Don't worry, Amos is just checking that the projector isn't blinding me. Someone had set it up after we'd sound checked, so hadn't considered it might be permanently damaging my retinas. It wasn't.
4:53 - Not much to report here, but this fill is something new I added on this tour.
5:17 - Rental drumkits make me unhappy. The day you see any bullshit like this happening on my personal kit, is the day I resign as a drummer / pigs fly / world politics cease all cock swinging and airports have no need for security or passport control, because people aren't dicks any more.... never gonna happen. See how annoyed I got just thinking about rental kits!
6:29 - This fill is a bit too fast and I mess it up regularly. In my defence, I barely play the drums when I'm not on tour...
6:39 - See previous comment regarding rental kits. There's a special place in hell...
Concealing Fate Part 2
7:00 - I never want to play double kick any faster than this. This is fine - it's just about comfortable. I do not trigger any of my drums so after a minute or so of playing this song, with my DW9000 double pedals set to maximum weight and torque, my chicken-legs want to go to sleep.
I find that if I focus on '1' of every '4' count, it's totally fine. But during particularly hot shows, this song can be hell.
8:01 - The start of this section is always a struggle to get right. I delay the first snare which, somehow, makes the rest of the path align for me. I don't really know why. It's also quite difficult to then go back into double kick immediately after taking my left foot off the hi-hat at 8:15.
9:43 - One of the most fun sections to play live!!
10:30 - I am not listening to the metronome here at all. It makes literally no sense - I just go on feel and speed up or slow down slightly as needed with the guitars to come in at the right point around 10:35.
Concealing Fate Part 3
12:39 - I've been using my 18" floor here as a replacement kick drum for the occasions where I have to play three beats in a row. I'll get one of those kick-drum-floor-tom things with my next kit perhaps... overkill just for the one or two sections where I'll actually use it.... but I've played shows with drummers who have ridiculously massive drum kits, and basically just play rock beats - so having something for 'show' is totally fine when you're playing big enough stages... i think?
16:43 - I love playing this song. I hear the first section in both 6/8 and 4/4. The hi hats are keeping the 1, 3 and 5 (of 6/8) and my other three limbs are playing 4/4. I have to lock into my left leg sometimes though to 'feel' the groove.
17:01 - By having played 6/8 on the pedal hat through the intro, it leads me effortlessly into this first verse section. When I was first learning this song, I heard the intro section as 4/4 then a time signature change to 6/8 for this verse section - that just doesn't work. Being able to switch my head between the two time signatures in the intro is the only way to make the song flow.
17:24 - I keep my left foot counting silently for this section so that I don't lose any momentum.
17:52 - This section took the longest amount of time to learn. It's essentially one section that loops three times, and I add small flourishes each time to keep things interesting. The first flourish is a tiny ghost note frill at 18:09. The second is the fill at 18:21 - which is one of my favourite little extras that I contributed to Sonder.
19:11 - if you count 6/8 from the fill here, the whole outro section makes way more sense.
19:49 - To learn this intro section, count to seven four times. If you can count to seven eight times over the whole intro, it'll make sense (after the first two snare flams).
20:32 - The most ridiculous fill Acle ever wrote, which occasionally still catches me out:
K R L K R L R K L R K R L K LR K K R L K K K K
K = kick
R = right hand
L = left hand
It looks like a combo from Mortal Kombat but I assure you that's my method for playing this fill.
One day I'll upload a video explaining the whole song as it's still very difficult for me to play.
21:21 - I changed the off-beat hi hat pattern on the album to this 16th note pattern instead, pretty soon after the album dropped. I prefer playing this faster pattern.
22:33 - I added this fill a couple years ago too. I've tidied it up a bit recently, especially towards the end of the fill. The trick here - my right hand is playing all of the accents that my right foot is doing. Sounds cool and isn't very difficult.
24:49 - The key to making this whole section groove is placing those ghost notes consistently. If I focus on those, the rest of the beat falls into place.
25:53 - The china is playing on the '1' of a 3/4 polyrhythm. The rest of the section is is 4/8. Or another way of explaining it - the hats and china are doing a 2/3 polyrhythm over one another.
28:31 - This is one of the toughest sections to not speed up live. I always want it to be just a little bit faster coming out ofd that intro. The ghost note work is key here too - keeping them consistent is essential to the groove.
29:50 - Huge highlight of the set for me - I love playing this section. The latest addition to this groove is the little frill around 30:28, which I added in a brain-fart moment during rehearsal just before this tour. It stuck.
31:04 - TesserFACT - We were working on this section of the song when Dan was in the band during the 'One' years (before Altered State).
32:41 - For this whole section, I focus on the ghost notes. They're key to everything else falling into place.
34:03 - I have to shift modes for this song. It's so chill compared to Dystopia that I find closing my eyes and focussing on slowing down my breath, while listening to the music, helps me settle into the slow tempo much more comfortably.
35:01 - This section is surprisingly tricky for me - I have to keep it super simple for it to work, which I'm not used to doing. I want to play loads more ghost notes, but I've not yet found a pattern that I'm happy with...
38:35 - I love having fun in this section. I keep the main beat the same each night but I change around the ghosts / toms / kick frills as inspiration strikes.
39:00 - Another example of a section where we have a 2/3 polyrhythm between the hi-hat ands the right hand. Keeping my head in either of these two timings really helps to unlock the groove in this section.
41:14 - Normally, James Monteith will come over and start rinsing his solo next to my face. I guess he was tired tonight.
42:27 - Fun fact - or annoying - the two verses of this song are VERY different to play but sound kinda the same. This first verse is the straightforward one. The right hand keeps a repeating stack pattern while the rest of the body plays the groove. There's no magic formula here - just a lot of listening and practice to remember the groove.
43:31 - Verse 2 - this one is a little more tricky. If we're counting this section in 4/4, the stack displaces by one 16th note every fifteen beats. The best way to practice this is to keep the left leg playing straight quarter notes, and take a practice pad, playing sixteenth singles:
1 2 3 4
R L R L R L R L R L R L R L R R
1 2 3 4
L R L R L R L R L R L R L R R L
1 2 3 4
R L R L R L R L R L R L R R L R
1 2 3 4
L R L R L R L R L R L R R L R L
and so on. It's a bit crazy at first but it does make sense after a while.
Of Matter: Proxy
46:22 - Focussing on the kick drum is the key to this section, Achieving nice consistent singles between left and right, and placing those ghosts evenly too.
47:53 - I like to throw this little change in to the china pattern here from time to time...
48:13 - On my 'to do list' is to update this. I'm bored of playing this stock fill.
48:39 - This whole section is about the ghost notes. They lead the groove.
48:56 - This is a good example of what I like to call a 'cheat beat' - it's a groove that sounds complex but is surprisingly straightforward. The right hand and right foot are plating the same accents. The left hand is just filling the gaps with ghost notes and occasional snare accents, and the left foot is keeping time. I LIKE these type of beats.
Of Matter: Retrospect
TesserFACT: We always soundcheck with this song
51:26 - Try counting this section with a 6/8 feel... sounds easier right?
52:42 - I could never actually play the little section we wrote here for the album - so I re-wrote it
55:40 - The ONLY Tesseract song so far that I lead with my left hand. I hear the china as landing on the '3' of a 4/8 count. You'll notice my left hand is extremely busy during this song - I have to make sure I've dried my hands on a towel before starting the song as, on hot stages especially, my stick has been known to fly out of my hand.
56:37 - This small section perhaps took the longest to learn. I've not actually broken it down yet into an understandable format.... so I'll do an online lesson soon to explain it!
56:59 - Relax - for this section I just need to sit back and keep the off-beat ghost notes happy. The hardest bit to learn was the open-closed hi hat accents as Acle programmed those in a way which, at first, felt very unnatural to play. Practice makers perfect though - I spent a day or two with this groove in the studio (no more than 3 or 4 hours) to get it to the stage where I am with it now.
58:43 - This beat / fill catches me off-guard occasionally - including during this performance. Most of the time I can make it flow nicely but if my in-ear mix is muddy, causing me to hit harder, it's easy to fumble this bit.
1:01:46 - Easily the most tricky part of the song to consistently perform. If I haven't slept well the night before, forget it. This part turns into a sack of damp mice. However, I HAD slept well the night before this show, so the groove is kind of working here. The trick for me, once again, is to focus on placing the ghost notes consistently in between the kick hits. The fill at 1:02:06 is particularly tricky to play without speeding up. I find that relaxing into this whole section is the only way to perform it. If I tense up - because I either can't hear something well, or I feel as though I'm playing badly, this section really seems to suffer.
Relax - relaxing is key to performing with fluidity and ease.
The other tricky thing with this section is the need to occasionally hop over from the pedal hat to the left kick pedal for a set of three beats. That took some practice.
1:03:01 - Triplet fun! This section isn't as difficult to play as it maybe sounds. The key to learning a section of music like this is to put it on repeat and just drill it. I slowed this section down and learned it in stages. I think I split it into three sections.
1:03:28 - I really wish I had a hi-hat on my right hand side for this section. Something about playing cross-handed open hats for such a long amount of time aggravates me. It's not comfortable. Especially the fill around 1:04:06. I fumble this maybe 50% of the time at the moment on rental kits when the toms are just a little too high.
1:04:54 - SO MUCH FUN. Man, this end section is such a great, high-energy way to end the show. I hope we keep Juno in the set for a long time because, it's bloody great.
1:05:22 - A wild Amos appeared!
So hopefully that was a fairly in-depth analysis of where I feel I'm at with the current live show. I'm happy for the most part, but I for sure know the areas where I'll improve. That's kind of the joy of doing this though - no matter how far you go, there's always more to learn and share.
If you want me to delve deep into a particular song, let me know. I plan on releasing a couple of drum play through lessons soon - so let me know what song/s you'd like to see.
Till the next time! Oh and please share this far and wide. The more people we reach, the more people we potentially help.