Gene Hoglan is one of metal’s most experienced and respected drummers, serving over 20 years in the scene with the likes of the legendary Death, thrash pioneers Dark Angel, and of course the Devin Townsend led maniacal outfit Strapping Young Lad.
Prior to the band’s performance at London’s Astoria as main support to Arch Enemy, “big Gene” spoke to Ryan Bird in none other than the venue’s backstage shower area. Get those rubber duckies at the ready, you may get wet!
Wow, you smell nice!
Thanks! That’s my shampoo. Apparently people can smell it outside and everything. It’s awesome.
I’m sure it is! Anyway, this is the first time you’ve been to the UK in a while…
About 6 months I think? A pretty long time anyway.
Even then it was only a one-off show. How does it feel to be doing a full UK tour this time?
Well, this is only 5 shows, so I’m not sure you could even call it that – but it’s cool. We’ve not really hit much of Europe as a whole at all this time around, which I suppose sucks, but we’ll get there. Hey, could you pass me those boots over there?
Erm, sure. Here you go *covers eyes*
Thank you sir!
Not a problem. The bill seems to be rather diverse with yourselves sandwiched in between Throwdown and Arch Enemy. How does that affect your reaction each night?
Well it’s pretty much the same each night really. Arch Enemy have their fans, we have a bunch of people there for us, and Throwdown apparently have a cluster of their own fans at each show too. Everybody just seems to respect the bands whether they’re really into them or not, so it’s cool. Although, I haven’t managed to check out Throwdown yet.
After their latest record, I wouldn’t recommend it!
Ha! Really? It’s not good?
As good as straight edge hardcore can be I guess.
Say no more then.
Quite! You seem to be a band that can pretty much play with anyone and not seem out of place. I’ve seen you with everyone from Clutch to Fear Factory and now Arch Enemy…
Absolutely. We are a band that can play with effectively any band you throw at us. You could put us on a bill with a bunch of real mellow bands, and we’d wheel out the mellow material and slot in. At the same time, you can put us on a death metal bill and we’ll slam out some of our heaviest shit. It doesn’t matter what bill you wanna put us on, we’ll still rip your head off.
You spent the summer on Sounds Of The Underground which was certainly a very diverse line-up once again. How was that for you?
It was awesome. An excellent way to spend the summer. We had a good time with effectively every show we played. We’d just go up onstage, do our thing and then leave. We had this “fuck you!” attitude about us on that tour because we kind of stuck out like a sore thumb compared to most bands, and we didn’t give a fuck if people dug it or not.
How do you feel you stood out above all others? This was a tour that included bands like Clutch and Opeth after all…
Because a handful of bands aside, everybody else sounded the same to me. Metalcore or whatever you wanna call it. I mean it’s cool if that’s what bands want to do and I don’t have a problem with it – but most bands sounded the same to me on that tour.
Speaking of Opeth, I heard you had to help them out on that run?
Yeah, I did. Their drummer Martin got real sick, and played the first 8 or 9 shows regardless. Sadly for him it took its toll and the band sent him home, and they asked me to step in and play a couple of songs with them, which I was delighted to do.
How do you manage to learn such complex songs in such a short space of time?
Well I already played with them before, when they toured North America a while back. Again they needed some help with the drums and asked me to play a song at their Vancouver show. I knew Devin (Townsend – SYL vocalist) was going to the show and was a big fan, so I called him and asked him what song I should play. He was like “Drapery Falls!” so I listened to it overnight, played it through once at sound check and nailed it right off the beat. I had such a blast I learn another one straight away and didn’t even sound check it. As we played it onstage that WAS the practice run!
Wow, that’s gutsy. Obviously you’ve been playing drums for a long time now in bands like Death and Dark Angel, so it may be easier for you to pick things up so quickly compared to a lot of people – but how would you say modern day drummers compare to when you were a kid learning the trade?
Kids today are getting very tasty very early on. They’re playing these technical rolls and licks at 19 or 20 that I wasn’t even starting to grasp until I was like 25. When the whole thrash thing was starting in the 80’s and I was with Death Angel, it was a pretty tough task to find yourself a solid drummer. Charlie from Anthrax was solid, Megadeth had a decent drummer, and Lars from Metallica was…ok. Nowadays kids are getting so good so early on that you can easily find a solid drummer for a band now.
Which of course can only be a good thing for music in general.
Absolutely! You certainly have to wonder where it’s going to go next. There’s definitely a new level of heaviness that hasn’t been discovered yet, and eventually someone is gonna find it.
It’ll be me that finds it, and you’re not having any when I do. Anyway, back to touring. You were with Fear Factory for 6 weeks or so. I’d imagine that’s a crowd that would certainly appreciate your music…
Yeah, that was a fun time. We only had about 4 days off between the end of that and the start of this run, but it’s cool. I suppose with Fear Factory having a very industrial based sound and us dabbling with electronics ourselves, it was a nice balance for their fans. We certainly had a good time.
So with such extensive touring this year, what can we expect for 2006?
Well, Devin is going to be doing a month with the Devin Townsend Band– their new album is amazing I might add – but after that he’s said that he’s down with Strapping for the duration. Summer should be a big period for us, and we’ll also be doing a new album. I think we’re in the studio around April, so it should be out a couple of months later. Either way 2006 is a big year for us, so watch yourselves!
Strapping Young Lad’s ‘Alien‘ is out now through Century Media.
Go to www.strappingyounglad.com for ear bleeding chaos.