MATT GARFIELD (Mose Giganticus) – …it’s inside of me
- by Rune Grande
- Posted on 30-06-2011
Matt Garfield is the mastermind behind the band Mose Giganticus. He has previously played drums in a bunch of hardcore / punk rock band in the Pennsylvania area. Matt started playing drums 15 years ago and he readily admits drumming has become a part of his life and identity, although he has not played drums live in the past 3 years. It’s Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) that should have most of the credit for Matt learned to play drums and without that he still has yet to meet his "mentor". He is not a typical pure drummer today, but more of a musician who is thinking more on the totality than just the drumming. Here is Matt Garfield from Mose Giganticus and his very interesting contribution to The Blast Beast Series.
What is the force behind you being a drummer, that is, what keeps you going?
It’s difficult for me to define exactly what it is that keeps me drumming, other than to say it’s inside of me. I started out as a drummer 15 years ago and it’s become part of my identity. When I’m listening to music, I’m never singing along to the melodic elements of the song, I’m tapping out the beat.
You are playing in a genre where both technique and speed, together with groove, are important ingredients. What do you think is the most important of these?
I haven’t been regularly drumming live for about 3 years now while I’ve been fronting Mose Giganticus. Because of that, I frequently audition drummers to perform for tours and my background has made me a very discerning critic. For my tastes, I’d say groove is most important, with technique as a very close second. I’m much less concerned with speed or anything flashy for my style of music. I appreciate a hard hitting drummer with a solid foundation in proper technique.
Which drummer has inspired you the most throughout the years, and what would you have said to him/her if you had the chance to meet him/her in person?
I learned to play drums to Dave Grohl. I certainly had access to material from faster, flashier drummers, but I really connected with Dave’s style. It was accessible enough for a beginner to learn at face value and train with, but artful and nuanced enough to keep my interest and help me develop my technique. I’m not big on gushing over personal heroes, so if I did meet Dave, I’d keep it short and simple by simply saying "You’ve really been an inspiration to me, man."
Which is best while rehearsing alone: systematic progress or full improvisation?
I wholeheartedly endorse a systematic approach. My favorite way to rehearse and train with new techniques is to pick a song or an album that I like and play along until I have mastered all of the nuances of the drummer. A couple years ago I spent the winter training on the Smashing Pumpkin’s "Siamese Dream." I’ve always looked up to Jimmy Chamberlain, but he was just too good for me to train with when I was younger. It was really fun to tackle this record systematically until I felt comfortable with the fills and transitions.
Do you have any "core rehearsal tips" that have given you a lot of progress in your drumming?
Training by learning a personally respected drummer’s work has always broadened my horizons in both style and technique. You will inevitably come across a fill or playing style that uses a sticking technique or level of independence that is out of your comfort zone. When you find that section that you’re sloppy on, focus on it! Do NOT glaze over it when you can get through it "well enough." These have been the times that have led to breakthroughs for me.
What is important for you while rehearsing new songs/riffs with your band? Is there something in particular you do or listen for?
Now that I’m in the position of songwriter, it’s given me a new perspective seeing the song as a whole, instead of focusing on whether or not the drums are unique and interesting enough. When I’m working on new material, I ask myself "Do the drums fit? Do they carry the song, or are they trying too hard to draw attention to themselves and detract from the song as a whole?" When I go back and listen to the drumming I did in previous bands, I can hear the drums doing too much at times. I’m always looking for the drums to be tasteful in their discretion and not "overplayed."
What is, in your opinion, the biggest challenges for extreme drummers (or, generally speaking, drummers), and what can you do to work them out?
I think I touched on the biggest challenge for drummers in the last question- learning how to "underplay." In my experience, most young, serious drummers are always sprinting for the gold- writing every part to max out their abilities and constantly playing at their peak. They’re playing to impress other drummers. But in my opinion, getting to the next level of being a great drummer means having that impressive artillery up your sleeve, but only hinting at it subtly throughout the performance until it’s appropriate to tastefully "max-out" in a short burst.
Wrists or fingers? Heel up or down? Why?
Wrists for power, fingers for nuance and grace. I prefer heel up because I feel it makes for a more powerful strike.
You must have rehearsed for an insane amount of hours to be as good a drummer as you are. Do you think it is worth it, and have you ever thought about quitting?
Developing any skill takes an insane amount of hours, so yes, I feel it’s well worth it. The time invested is the price you pay for the skill- you can’t buy it with money. I’ve only thought about quitting in the same way one might muse about what it’d be like to jump off a building or to quickly jerk the steering wheel into oncoming traffic. It may cross your mind but only as an impulsive thought experiment.
While playing at a concert: are you 100 % concentrated about what you are doing, or do you notice some of the mood and energy among the audience?
I go in and out of focus depending on the atmosphere of the individual show. Sometimes I only remember starting the set and ending it with nothing in between. Good thing it’s all well rehearsed, haha!
Is it expensive to become a drummer, and what does it take outside all that can be bought for money to become a clever and good drummer in extreme metal?
Drums are one of the most expensive instruments you could possibly choose to play. The initial cost is equal to or usually greater than any other standard instrument, but even after that, almost everything you’re playing is consumable and will need to be regularly re-purchased. Additionally, you have the most gear to lug around and take the longest to set up and tear down… and you’ll get no sympathy from your band mates. And most people watching the show barley noticed you were there. Aspiring drummers, take heed- you’d better REALLY love playing! Beyond all that, practice and become familiar with tuning and maintaining your gear. A well tuned and maintained kit can make all the difference between sounding like a decent amateur, or a solid pro!
And then some about your equipment:
Which snare drum and configuration do you like the best? 12", 13" or 14"? And which material? Wood, steel, brass or bronze?
I have a 14” Yamaha Maple Custom snare. I like the crack I get out of it, especially with a nice, heavy flam.
What kind of pedal(s) do you use? And which "settings" fits your style the best?
I use a Tama Iron Cobra. I have the double Iron Cobra, but I rarely use double kick because I don’t feel my music calls for it and it’s SO easy to over utilize double kick if it’s around. So I usually keep it off to resist temptation. Rather, I try to make the most with the basics. I like a chain drive because of it’s durability (I’ve shredded several of the nylon strap drives), and a nice heavy wood beater for maximum impact!
As always, we are rounding off with you picking the next drummer in these series. Pick a drummer, and explain why he/she deserves (!) to be one of our Blast Beasts.
I have to say Eric Soelzer from the band City of Ships. We just got off a short tour with those guys and his style totally embodies my own philosophy on drumming. He’s tight and hard hitting, with a few tricks up his sleeve when called upon. Look that dude up!