Simplicity, Pulse, Making Music, & Blake AllisonNate Brown
OLD: What got you into drumming in the first place? Why did you start?
Blake Allison: When I was growing up I started playing guitar, not serious or anything, just wanted to play the guitar as a grade schooler. On my first day of high school, I signed up for band. I walked in and they asked what I wanted to play. When I said I wanted to play guitar, they asked what kind of music I like. I told them Metallica, and they said, “Ok, you’re going to play drums.”
That’s actually how I got started. They stuck me on cymbals to start. By the time I was a senior, four years later, I had played drum set in a couple of bands.
I got really got into drumming along the way, and when I graduated high school, I got a scholarship to go the University of Memphis. I was a part of the drum-line there, and once again, I was on cymbals as a freshman.
By my second year of college I had gotten my first record deal, and so it was kind of hard to do both, go to college and be in the band. So I chose the band over college, and that’s pretty much how I got started.
OLD: Are you disappointed with the decision to pursue the band over music education?
Blake Allison: I think that there would be a lot more opportunities presented to me, considering, if I had the degree, and then again music education is one of the hardest music degrees to get.
OLD: What was your first drum-kit?
Blake Allison: My dad, when I was 14, was nice enough to buy the Mapex Venus series, and I still have that actually. It still sounds great! I played those all the way through high school.
OLD: Before a show, what do you like to do to get yourself ready?
Black Allison: I don’t really do too much. I definitely don’t have any drinking rituals or anything like Popeye with his spinach.
I like to listen to music. Not necessarily our music, but anything I like. I just like to listen to a drummer hold rhythm, just kind of get in the groove mentally.
Sometimes I play the guitar and sing, too, because I do a little backup.
OLD: How many sticks do you go through?
Black Allison: I usually go through four sticks a show.
OLD: What do you like to play?
Black Allison: I play Vic Firth, Extreme 5Bs. Those are my favorites.
They are longer, so I don’t have to reach far. I like my kits to be set up pretty spacious. A lot of drummers like to put everything really close. I like to snap, so I can really, really hit the drums as hard as I want to. I can really slam each drum.
OLD: Your most recent album’s namesake is the song White Rabbit. Do you have any stories you want to share about the making of that song?
Blake Allison: The drum part in the intro was something that I had wanted to do, something like the intro for Last Resort by Papa Roach. I wanted to do something like a war-drum rhythm.
As of right now that’s one of the best drum songs we do. For a live show, White Rabbit, Ghost Town, and another song called The Drug, are great to play. They’re all drums.
OLD: With this new release, does it liven up the tour for you, as far as bringing something fresh to the plate?
Blake Allison: Yeah, seven years I have been playing the songs. I don’t even need to think while I am out there, playing those old ones, I’ve played them for so long.
OLD: Does it ever get tiring for you to play the songs over and over?
Blake Allison: I would say it depends on the show. If it’s a show with a great crowd and we’re doing well, I could play anything and still be having a great time.
But I will say, I keep re-writing parts. Sometimes I realize that I’m doing too much and need to go back to the original. I’d end up playing a completely different song if I didn’t stay focused. I just need to relax and remember that simplicity is the key.
OLD: How much flexibility do you give yourself as far as changing the parts that you play and not going strictly with what’s on the recording?
Blake Allison: I would say that snare placement is one of the most important things that has to be uniform to the record. Sometimes I’ll do a couple of fills differently.
Sometimes I feel like in the rush of recording a record, I don’t put enough forethought into some of the fills and later find that something else works better.
On that topic, I feel like drummers and singers can get away with a lot more in the studio nowadays. You don’t have to be as trained or as perfect in the studio. So, making sure that your parts are strong when you perform, I think that’s one of the things that people lack from records today.
OLD: When you’re on stage, do you put an emphasis in putting on a visual show as well as audible?
Blake Allison: Oh yeah, I would say it’s progressively gotten “worse” because moving around and stick flips, it’s sacrificed the solidness of what I play.
But, I think that when you are at a show, if you see a band that looks like they are really enjoying what they are doing, it leaves a big impression and lightens up the show. It’s about keeping a balance, though. I am trying to contain myself.
When I started I was all about technique and perfection, and I’ve grown as a performer, realizing that perfection is a great thing, and being right on your click track, not rushing your beat are great, but after watching some of my favorite drummers, I realized that the “pushing” of a song can be beneficial to the way that the audience feels it.
OLD: If you could only pass one piece of drumming advice on to the next generation of drummers, what do you think that piece of advice would be?
Blake Allison: I would say simplicity is the key and the pulse of the song is the most important thing.
Blake Allison is endorsed by ddrum Reflex and plays Sabian cymbals.
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