A Toontrack Interview with Soilwork Drummer Dirk Verbeuren

Although Metal Month is technically done, we still reap a few final fruits of it. To promote the release of Toontrack’s Metal Beats Midi software, here’s a Q&A with the man behind all of the beats and fills of that software, Soilwork’s Dirk Verbeuren

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Where do you draw most inspiration for your drum parts in Soilwork, from other metal drummers or completely different sources?

Music that resonates with me, inspires me. I love the drumming of [previous Soilwork drummer] Henry Ranta, so groovy and creative. Some other drummers whose playing I admire are Martin Axelsson, Peter Wildoer, Tomas Haake, Sean Reinert, Gavin Harrison, Kai Hahto, Morgan Ågren, Chad Smith, Gene Hoglan, Brann Dailor, Tim Alexander, Pete Sandoval and Dave Lombardo. I also love 80s/90s hip-hop like Beastie Boys and Run-DMC, and electronic/experimental stuff like Autechre, Final, Squarepusher, Black Lung, Body 13, Aphex Twin and Scorn. Last but not least – the music we write as a band is a huge inspiration in and of itself. I try to let each song guide me in a natural way. It’s better to go with the flow than to overthink things.

Who in your mind are some of the best drummers in metal today and why?

One young metal drummer that stands out to me is Kerim “Krimh” Lechner [Behemoth/Decapitated], he has such an awesome flow and a sound that’s truly his own. Danny Walker [Intronaut/Murder Construct] is extremely creative and groovy. Derek Roddy and George Kollias are always amazing to see and hear. Peter Wildoer really pushes the envelope in his recent work. There are many, many more… These are the ones that come to mind right now.

What’s the one kit piece you’d be stumped without? And you can’t say the double-pedal!

My floor toms. I use a 16″ on the right and an 18″ on the left. They’re the ideal complement of the kick/snare/hat or cymbal trio. Without them I might as well be playing naked.

You are an avid e-drummer. Give us a rundown of your setup.

Most importantly, I use Superior Drummer. It’s the ultimate drum software, versatile, rich and easy to use. I doubt I’d be playing e-drums at all if it weren’t for Superior Drummer. My e-kit is a second hand Roland TD-10 which I’m planning on upgrading. For now it does the job, but the newer models have a much better dynamic response. And, of course, you need a good computer. I grew up using a PC and still haven’t switched to Mac. My machine is a Rain Ion and my DAW, Nuendo.

What are the most obvious pros and cons comparing acoustic and digital drums?

You can never replace the feeling of playing an acoustic set. On the other hand, e-drums are much more flexible. Using Superior Drummer means you have tons of incredible drumkits accessible instantly, and kick ass sound presets. The combinations are endless and it’s all user friendly. Another great thing is that you have no noise issues. If I played acoustic drums in my house, my neighbors would instantly go nuts. It’s fun to be able to blast and grind late at night without bothering anyone!

The past few years, it has become common to record records using e-drums and working with MIDI in album sessions. What’s positive about this development?

Dirk: My studio [Die Crawling Studio] is all electronic. It saves me endless amounts of time and hassle. No changing drumheads or micing up my kit- just switch it on and record. Working with MIDI is more flexible than audio. I get things done on a fairly small budget, which allows me to record session drums for up and coming artists. It seems like the general trend is towards home recording and I think that’s a good thing. You used to need professionals and a ton of expensive equipment to make an album, but now it’s possible to do it yourself and get a sound that will blow people away. Just check out the newest release of my band Bent Sea. I recorded and produced everything myself using Superior Drummer and EZmix 2, except the vocals, which were recorded at another studio. Also, for non-drummers who need killer rhythms and fills, there are MIDI packs such as my own Library of The Extreme and Metal Beats MIDI.

What is your happiest drum memory?

I’m gonna have to mention several. Playing and recording with Devin Townsend was an absolute blast from start to finish. Playing Ozzfest with Soilwork and opening for Meshuggah with Scarve were standout touring moments. And I recall having a ton of fun during the recording session for Aborted “Goremageddon” and Phazm “Hate At First Seed”.

What’s your WORST drum memory?

Probably when my drum stool fell off the stage, and me with it, in the middle of a song. That was during an early Scarve gig sometime in 1994 or so. Funny to think of now, of course!

If you could pick five players for an all-star band, who would they be and why?

I think it would be really interesting to jam with Justin Broadrick and Fredrik Thordendal on guitar, Devin Townsend on bass, Sven Karlsson of Soilwork on keys, and on vocals, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Talk briefly about the MIDI packs you have released with Toontrack.

My aim with the Library of The Extreme series is to make all metal/punk/extreme beats accessible for musicians and producers by recording them in MIDI and in a wide range of tempos. I played every single one of the more than 3,000 rhythms and fills in the series, with as many variations as I could think of. Karl Sanders of Nile and Anders Nyström of Katatonia told me they loved the LOTE, and I’ve had many up and coming musicians tell me the same, which is awesome. To me, that means “mission accomplished”!

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