Interview with Alfred Berengena in August 2008 - El Tarro Drumatico

He is a drummer you should know. First he is able to play even the fastest blast beats with an astonishing complexitiy, second he is an innovator of extreme metal drumming by using foot operated jam blocks & cowbells and third he is a very versatile drummer. Drummers like him help to transcend the caveman image of heavy metal and therefore ladies and gentlemen please welcome Alfred Berengena.

ragazzi: "You released the book/CD combination "Essential Double Bass Drumming"; can you give us some tips to diversify double bass drumming?"

Alfred: "Yes, it was published in 2005. In fact, I wrote down the notes for my drum students, because I couldn`t find any practical, functional and easy method to understand. Then, one of my studends told me to send the notes to some book distribution company. So I did that and they were interested in my method. I never expected that, but in the end the book was published and it sells pretty good. Nowadays I'm preparing a second one. Double bass drumming is in fact relatively new in the world of drumming. If you remember we didn't have double pedals thirty years ago. What I usally recommend is not complicate things so much and drummers shouldn't get obsessed with speed. A lot of people say that you have to do with your feet what you do with your hands, but this is a great mistake. I would like to be so free with the feet as I am with the hands. I always associate this like a latin "ostinato" in which you are playing a pattern with your feet and with the hands you are playing other things. With my method you work this way, all is based in independency and in fact, double bass drumming is a "caveman ostinato" ajajaja!"

ragazzi: "Do you have a special fitness concept for staying in shape?"

Alfred: "Good meals, drinking good wine (not every day) and sleep (without clock alarm) is all that I need. I don't do any sports instead of "sofing" - watching football and formula1."

ragazzi: "You use a little china cymbal underneath your hi hats - why do you place it so low?"

Alfred: "For comfort reasons because I only play it with the left hand. If I would play my hit-hats with my left I think it would be too low. In 2006 I was playing with Dom Famularo at the International Drumming Festival. He uses to play his hit-hats with the left and he places it very low too."

ragazzi: "You often use two ride cymbals - why is two surface riding so poular in death metal drumming?"

Alfred: "I don't believe that it's so popular. In fact, I've seen only a few drummers with two ride cymbals. I have always been a fan of Death and the three last drummers of this band were known by using two ride cymbals and splashes. I love high and dry cymbal sounds . For that reason I use the 6'' and 9,5'' Zil Bells; with these bells you can use a similar sound that you will get by playing the bell of a ride. I use two splashes, an Avedis 8'' and a K10''. I always like to spice up my grooves with these six cymbals - two rides, two bells and two splashes."

ragazzi: "You seem to be specialized in extreme metal - what makes this kind of music so attractive to you?"

Alfred: "I don't consider myself a specialist of a certain musical style, because I think that I haven't learned all the things that I wish to learn but this still makes music in general so attractive to me. I am not only listening to extreme music… At this moment for example, I am listening to a disc of Steve Coleman."

ragazzi: "Why do so many extreme metal drummers trigger their drums in your opinion?"

Alfred: "I only use the triggers for the bass drums because it's more easy to get the sound that I want. I am using triggers because it's so dificult getting exactly the same sound for my two bass drums with other methods. There is so many people that think it is so easy to play with triggers… That's not true, because a trigger needs much precision, and if you don't play exactly the people will notice that immediately. I don't think that using a trigger is a crime. The crime is using triggers in the studio and for all drums of the kit with Meshheads and using the Quantice. What makes me unhappy is that every time a lot of extreme drummers are sounding like a typewriters with a precision that is hard to believe, because they are cheating the audience and when they play live they cannot play 50% of what they "recorded" inthe studio. I don't want to mention any bands but you would be surprised of these "extreme" drummers that uses the Quantice in Midi or the Bit Detective in Pro Tools. The only thing I do is to record each song twice and if there is a part that is not exactly the way it should be I choose the other take, and if it's necessary I play another take of the whole song."

ragazzi: "Wouldn´t it be much simpler to use electronic drum sets?"

Alfred: "No!!! I have a Roland TD20 at home and it is wonderful for studying and teaching but I prefer acoustic drums because they let me control my dynamics. I will lose the human touch and as I said before, everyone will be sounding like a typewriter. The good thing about electronic drums is that you can obtain good sounds by using samplers and some plugins with little money. If you play acoustic drums to obtain a good sound you have to have a good drum kit with good heads, good tuning, good microphones, a good recording studio and a good technician. All of this is so expensive but the final result is so much better. All depends on the money of everyone, electronic drums are a great thing but I don't think they can substitute acoustic ones."

ragazzi: "You sometimes use digital drum pads - which sounds do you generate?"

Alfred: "I have a SPD-S from Roland, in which I can put anything I want in WAV or AIFF format.
Usually I use it to put the intros in the live concerts for the bands or just for ambient sounds. I use it for the double bass triggers too."

ragazzi: "What do you think of using (mini) timbales and tambourines to add some more latin flavor to your playing?"

Alfred: "I don't have a backliner ajaja! At first sight I don't think I will incorporate more things into my drum set. Each time that I have to build up my kit I think: "Why don´t I play harmonica?"

ragazzi: "Is extreme metal your favorite playing style?"

Alfred: "No, but maybe this is the musical style that people usually ask me for jobs and it is the style in which I am involved quite a bit for sure, but I like to play all kinds of musical styles like jazz, funk or whatever… My dream is to play with Shakira ajaja!"

ragazzi: "Please tell us about your bands and projects."

Alfred: "Within the next days the CDs of the last three studio jobs that I did should be released: Mistweaver (melodic death metal from Spain), Trapped In Time (math metal from Barcelona) and Meltdown (death metal from Mexico) and now I am preparing for the recording sessions of Nebulah (brutal death metal) and Vidres a la Sang (black death metal). As I mentioned before I am also working on my new book "Advanced Double Bass Drumming" and like "Essential Double Bass Drumming" it will be edited by Dinsic. I have a FTP server installed to make long distance work for international bands easier."

ragazzi: "Using foot operated jam blocks and cowbells in extreme metal makes your playing distinctive - how did you come up with this idea?"

Alfred: "Sincerely, I don't remember, but I guess it was in my final studies of the Superior Grade in the school of music. I had to play a lot of things with the cow bell there. I remember that I later bought a jam block because I like more this kind of sounds and even if I don't remember I think that I put all the things together someday."

ragazzi: "Do you have any suggestions for developing versatility on the drum set?"

Alfred: "Yes, but the work is in progress now and at this time I cannot say any more."

ragazzi: "By the way you are giving drum lessons; does teaching drums widen your horizon?"

Alfred: "Yes, very much, and all the students have diferent styles, different points of view and interests. I have to say that I don't use any specific method for all of my students, I have a different method for each one."

ragazzi: "Which CDs represent your playing best?"

Alfred: ""Woven in the Book of Hate" (Scent of Death); nobody would say that I recorded this album reading the tracks while I was playing. I didn't have any time for rehearsals, but Jorge, the guitar player, prepared all the scores for me because the compositions had endless details and marks. It was a great experience for me, and without any doubt the album was a great deal. Then "Post Earthquake Age" (Baalphegor); maybe it's the most innovative brutal death album in the last ten years. The tracks of my DVD are from this album. "Patogénesis" (Profundis Tenebrarum); this is the hardest CD I ever recorded. They asked me for endless speed and I think I went too far. When I finished the recordings my hands were injured."

ragazzi: "Before your endorsement deal with Zildjian you played other cymbal brands; what made you change metals - love at first listening?"

Alfred: "The only cymbal endorsement deal that I ever havd is Zildjian, and before that deal I used second hand cymbals, so I didn't have much freedom of choice. I remember that I had a K heavy ride that turned me crazy. I bought it in a bad status, with green humidity spots but the sound was incredible. I sold it when I got the endorsement deal but I haven't found any like that. Maybe my new one lacks of the humidity spots ajajaja!"

ragazzi: "Santa Fe drums produced a custom made drum set for you - what makes your drums unique?"

Alfred: "Santafe CUSTOM & Vintage Drums makes drums at your choice, for anyone and for any wish. You can choose every little detai like diameter, depth, thickness, ply of the shells, type of hoops, heads... You can get the acurate sound that you like for your drum set and the best is that the price is very competitive. For me for example, I like to use thinner shells tomwise (like in jazz), for example in rock they wouldn´t be so thin. The differerence is when you get thick ones you have more volume but less sustain and if you use thinner ones you get more sustain. I like sustain - it's very unusual for extreme drummers to play thin shells, but since I'm from the cave… ajajaja!"

ragazzi: "Which plans do you have for the rest of 2008?"

Alfred: "At the moment I want to finish my second book, I will play some concerts around Europe with the Mexican guys from Meltdown, I have to record the new album of Nebulah and start working on the upcoming album of Vidres a la Sang."

Frank Bender