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Interview with Albert Born Drummer on Darkness Arena 2008



When did you begin playing drums?

When I was in 6th grade. My first instrument was actually Trombone in 5th grade, but that got boring once I figured out how to do the trombone "slide" and did it a gazillion times. The drums were so much more exciting and aggressive.

What is a recent influence you have had or found?

Hmmm, that's tough. I listen to a lot of stuff I'm not sure who it even is. Sometimes I'll just surf stations and leave it on something weird or something I think sounds cool. ...and that could be anything from Metal to Country to R&B to Rap to Smooth Jazz to Orchestral or Talk Radio. However, when I put my own music on it is usually pretty heavy stuff, but that doesn't mean it is all I like. A couple of heavier bands I've been listening to lately are Divine Heresey, Sworn Enemy, Soilwork, Slayer, Trivium, Unearth, Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage. There's a bunch of others, but I can't think of them right now. I also have been listening to stuff like Linkin Park, Iron Maiden, System of a Down. I can't say they are a direct influence, but they probably are somehow...

What influenced you in the beginning of your career?

Pretty much any drummer that could play fast double bass. The "solo" double bass part in "Fight Fire With Fire" by Metallica I remember being a huge influence when I first heard it. I just HAD to figure out how he played that. I thought it sounded so cool. Slayer was a big influence early in my drumming career. Lombardo in particular. Most fast double bass drummers are usually found in death, speed and thrash metal - so that's what I listened to.

How many hours do you practice a day?

I don't really time it, but somewhere between two to six. But some days I can only get an hour in, others I'll spend just about the whole day. If I stumble a bit after a practice I know I've worked my legs good (and not from drinking alcohol!!! I don't drink alcohol until after practice or rehearsal, if I'm going to have anything - usually all I want for a bit afterwards is water anyway). If I've had a half gallon or so of water I know it's been a good practice. I usually try to take a day or two off once in a while though - you have to let your muscles rest and get stronger / recoup once in a while if possible, especially when training to achieve more endurance or speed.

What has been your best experience with music?

The natural high it gives me no matter when or where I play.

Any terrible experiences you would like to share?

Band crap. Trying to find other musicians with the same goals, desire and passion about music. Canceled practices also drive me mad. Don't ask me what happens if a show gets canceled. I don't care if someone is sick, tired or whatever - you better be there unless there is a damn good excuse. It's like nails on a chalkboard to me.

Do you prefer instrumental or music with voices?

Instrumentals are OK depending on how they are written and if it makes sense, but typically I like music with voices. I particularly like it when there are vocal harmonies and layered vocals from time to time. I used to (and still do) listen to bands with cookie monster vocals, but I usually get sick of the vocalist and end up listening to them for the music. When a heavy band comes around that can do great singing vocals and harmonies, along with some tasteful screaming, then I really start to pay attention.

I am told you recently filled in for the Pakistani band “Call” on a very short notice what was that show like for you?

They are a popular hard rock band from Pakistan - I didn't even know that type of music existed out there; I always envisioned sitars and chanting... ...and FYI it is just "Call" not "The Call". They have done work for Bollywood and have played big shows and have been featured by MTV Pakistan (again, no idea there was such a thing!). They flew out to Washington D.C. to do a couple of "test" shows for a local promoter that is interested in eventually getting them here for larger scale tours. Well, the drummer had problems with his Visa at the airport in Pakistan. The rest of the guys got here OK but the drummer was left stranded. They had a big show to play on a recent Saturday night here at George Mason University and it was now Friday. Through the grapevine they found me and waited two hours for me to finish work and then we talked. I was quite skeptical at first, but they showed me some videos and we had an impromptu jam in the drum department at Guitar Center. They were impressed and decided right there to hire me and burned a CD for me to learn off their laptop. I started working on it late that Friday night, came to sound check the next day where we worked out a couple transitions and then were on stage about 10:00pm in front of several hundred fans and I nailed a full 60min set. They had VIP seating and so forth. These people paid $75 a ticket! Regular tickets were $25 each. Crazy stuff. I had my picture taken a billion times backstage with all the VIP guests. It was pretty cool. I met a whole bunch of new people and was exposed to a whole new scene that I had no idea existed. It was a bit stressful too, but a good experience nonetheless. I was a bit worried about pulling off so many new songs in a short time, but I knew if I stayed focused I could do it.

I am told you are into cars - what is the fastest you have ever driven your car?

Hmmm... The fastest I've been caught is 98mph (in a frikin' rental car too...ha!), and that's after I hit the brakes... I used to own a 1971 Chevelle SS with a four speed manual and a built engine that put out about 450Hp. It would kill the competition in quarter miles. I burned out the rear end gears one day (stupid oil seal went bad and ground the axle, probably from one too many wheel hops) and replaced them with very tall highway gears out of an Impala (that's all I could find in a pinch). Now put tall gears with 450Hp and you have a lethal speed machine. It was downright scary. 90mph in first gear at 8000rpm redline. 120mph in second. ...and two gears the math for fourth gear - that's the fastest I've ever driven. The front end started to float. Engine screaming (or should I say purring...). I burned two clutches in one summer with those gears (I had to ride the clutch a lot with such tall gears, the manual tranny wasn't set up for that - but it sure was a lot of fun!). I miss that car, had to sell it when I moved to London, UK.

Looking down the line, what impact would you most want to see emerge from your work?

A drummer should not just have to take the back seat. Drumming that comes at you and hits you in the face, but is also entertaining to watch. Keep the fans constantly hungry for more.

Why do people or specifically why does your wife call you the rebound guy?

Inside joke! I'm the guy she was supposed to only be with for a little bit and then move on...well that was over 10 years ago and we're still going strong!

I believe you also teach drums. Any tips on that for kids who want to learn, or parents whose kids are interested in learning drums?

Technique. Learn proper stick AND foot technique before anything else. Learn how to read music. Learn rudiments. Eat your rudiments. These are all foundations to becoming a good drummer. Practice should go without saying, but there are still a lot of musicians out there who think that band practice or a lesson is good enough. You will go nowhere unless you dedicate a good chunk of time to practice, and practicing properly. At least every other day you should be playing. You can actually practice to be bad, so learning from a good teacher is important.

Do you have an essential listening list?

No, I don't believe in putting myself in that kind of rut anymore. I try to keep an open mind. I actually am willing to listen to a wide variety of music as long as it is well written and the players are good.

How did you come up with the drum parts to "Darkness Arena" and "Land of the Free"?

Well, I did "Darkness Arena" first and I was given freedom to do whatever I wanted, but John Prassas gave me a few ideas on what he visioned. I toyed around with it for a bit and decided for a more tribal and percussive type of sound (reminds me of maybe a darker middle ages type of sound). I let the music influence my direction and melded it with my style and I think it turned out pretty good. I know it was different than what John was expecting, but I also knew that he wanted a new influence on the song by asking me to do it in the first place...!

"Land of the Free" was a bit different than "Darkness Arena" and I gave it more of an aggressive feel. Rather than have the feet gallop at the beginning I opted to translate that into the snare and let the feet run. Kind of like being free - your legs are constantly moving, but your hands are always doing something different. Again, I let the music speak to me and felt it out several times with different ideas. I usually come up with several ideas and record them to see what it sounds like, and then obviously pick what I think sounds the best. I have been known to play over the top sometimes - part of that is my style and the high energy that I like to deliver - but I also know how to listen to the music and play what makes sense for the part.

Listen to Darkness Arena 2008