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Learning Death Metal Beats in the Classroom with Drew Beckthold

by Topher Kelly
student stories

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The weekly student profile series is dedicated to featuring our favorite element of creativeLIVE — our community members, who are bravely learning and making real things every day.

There is no classroom for those seeking to become a death metal God…or is there? During this addition of our Student Profile Series, we catch up with musician Drew Beckthold about his experience learning from Audio Hammer’s Eyal Levi in the creativeLIVE studios.

Tell us a bit about your musical background – what bands and projects you’re involved in?

I come from an extremely musical family and was raised on the likes of Slayer, Pantera, Priest, Sabbath, Maiden Etc. Later on,  my older brother got me into Heavier, Faster Metal – Bodom, Kataklysm, Six Feet Under, Decapitated, Cradle of Filth and Cannibal Corpse to list a few. Death Metal has been at the top of my preference since. I taught myself to play Keyboard when I was 10,  mimicking what I heard in Rammsteins “Live Aus Berlin” DVD on an old broken keyboard. From there, I proceeded to learn a lot of Children of Bodom’s album Hatebreeder and jam out tracks with my 3 brothers and my Dad.

Keyboards led me to fall in love with much more gentle piano/orchestral oriented music as well. I started writing my own songs across a lot of different genres. I always wanted to learn guitar but held off because my 2 older brothers were guitar gods and I didn’t want to be a copycat. I caved in when I was about 15 and got my first guitar. After I graduated high school, I attended The Centre for Arts and Technology for a 2 year Audio Engineering program. I learned a lot of stuff about recording techniques, mixing, editing, producing, and composing. Got to work with some great bands but only once did I get to record a real metal band. So now that I recently completed school I am currently Recording/Producing/Engineering my own metal band, Archaic Disease’ first album. I also have a series on youtube called “Metal Meets Piano” in which I mellow out some of my favourite tracks of various metal acts. There’s some other original piano tracks and some guitar covers over there.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far in writing and recording realistic-sounding drums?

The biggest problem I had was making it sound like a robot wasn’t hitting every drum the exact way every time. There was no sense of realism to anything I had programmed drums on. It would directly cut off my creative flow when I was having to stop every 5 seconds to try and fix a bad drum pattern or snare hit. When I would record drums in school it was good quality and I didn’t know why I couldn’t recreate that. It would get really frustrating, really fast.

Why were you interested in Eyal’s course?

I was interested in his class because I don’t have a place to set up drums, I don’t have a place available sound-wise, I don’t have a drummer, I don’t drum, and I could never get programmed drums to sound good in my projects.

What makes Eyal such a great teacher? What specific things did he do or say that were especially helpful for you?

Eyal is the perfect teacher for me because he has worked with some of the most solid current metal acts on the market today and also has incredible insight into many other genres that require solid drumming. Audio Hammer Studios is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Metal (The Black Dahlia Murder, Whitechapel, Devildriver, Reflections). He obviously had every topic setup and well prepared to the point where he could answer any additional questions simultaneously. He just kept pointing out so many little issues people might have and just saying how to get around it and fix it. Personally, when he said how common it is for bands today to be led by a “one man writing machine,” I really appreciated that since I am the writing force behind my band and am now recording our debut album. I’m really stoked about the next courses he has on the way. Now that I completed the course Eyal has already answered several ADDITIONAL question I have had as follow-ups. He really seems passionate about genuinely wanting to help people get past common problems.

What were a couple of the most useful things that you learned?

What I learned that was most useful is that at first many guitarists who are in charge of writing don’t know a thing about drums and drumming. They write parts they think sound good but are actually impossible to play unless you’re an octopus. I have been guilty of doing this. I’ve also been guilty of taking all the velocity levels and cranking each and every hit as high as it can go. Humans aren’t perfect so your drums shouldn’t be the same velocity and length on every hit.

Why is EZdrummer such a great plugin and worth learning?

EZdrummer is an incredible plugin because not everyone knows an incredible drummer, not everyone can pay for a session drummer, not everyone can afford 5 years of lessons so they can play drums themselves. Few people have a nice acoustically treated room with dozens of microphones and dozens of snares/toms/cymbal/kicks at their disposal. Alot of people don’t have access to these things but they still have a passion for music and a desire to create something. EZdrummer is all of those things combined in one small package. Every EZdrummer kit and expansion is performed in treated rooms with the best drummers on the best kits and microphone set-ups with incredible producers at the helm. You can get a solid programmed groove in minutes then start working on your bass/guitar/keyboard rhythm/melody without being interrupt with a poor drum mix. If you decide later that a certain kick doesn’t flow well it takes 2 seconds to change it to make it fit with the song.

Why is the creativeLIVE classroom such a great place to learn from your perspective?

creativeLIVE’s sets you up with an actual professional that works in their field every day, to demonstrate to up-and-coming writers, engineer, producers, music-advocates and composers how to get way less stress out of your session with a better payoff at the end. They are set up as conversations, not as dull lectures which makes them a pleasure to be a part of. This is a great way to connect professionals with other people that have a desire to continue progressing with their art.

Where can we find more about you and your music?

Sure, you can find me  on the Internet at:

www.facebook.com/ArchaicDisease

www.youtube.com/archaicdisease

www.youtube.com/mrskeletonkeys

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Topher Kelly

Topher Kelly is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and editor at CreativeLive. Follow Topher on Twitter@Topher_LIVE.