RONNIE BERGERSTÅHL (Grave) – Live the dream
Ronnie Berger Ståhl is the drummer in the Swedish death metal band Grave. You will also find him in Julie Laughs No More, Triton Enigma and World Below. He has a history in Centinex, Demonical, Amaran and Mynjun and he has quite a lot he wants to say and that he shares more than happy with us in his contribution to The Beast Blast Series.
What is the force behind you being a drummer, that is, what keeps you going?
Hm, good question. I guess the kick you get when you go up on stage and see all the people there just to see you and your band, you might even see it as an ego thing, hahaha. I mean, I’ve played drums since i was 6 years old and I have reached the goals I set very early, to record albums and to be able to tour all around the globe, so I guess the force that keeps me going is that I actually get to somewhat live the dream I had since a little kid.
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?
Groove, no question about that! I’m so fed up with all these fast technical bands at the moment. There are just a few of those I appreciate. Nile, Immolation, Gigan and Ulcerate are basically it. I just don’t get why most of the newer bands think it’s become a competition of who can play the fastest double bass or the fastest blast beats, they’ve forgotten THE most important thing in music… The SONGS!!! If you can’t write memorable riffs and tries to compensate with shredding, well, I don’t buy that! Every drummer can learn how to play fast, it’s just a matter of practicing… So, groove is by far the mos important ingredient!
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?
There’s 2 drummers that I’ve listened and copied a lot during the years.. The first one is the original Helloween drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg (R.I.P.). He was the first drummer I heard playing these insane double bass (for that time) combined with a energetic groove and finess. He’s really my first drum hero so to say and even today I can just sit and listen to the first 4 Helloween albums, the EP included and just smile due to his drumming. It’s a shame that his drug addiction and illness was stronger then his will to live… The second one and maybe even more important is Mikkey Dee! His groove, his power and energy is untouchable, he is really as Lemmy says; -The best drummer in the world! When I first heard the "THEM" album by King Diamond I was completely blown away by his groove. His ride cymbal playing is legendary and the same goes for his snare sound. After I heard "THEM", I started to look into what other stuff he’s been doing and this was kinda late. I didn’t discover King Diamond until mid 90’s so the next album I heard with MIkkey on drums was actually "Bastards" and when the song Burner came on I was floored!I have no idea what I would say if I met Mikkey… I’d probably just tell him how much his drumming mean to me and have done for many many years.
Which is best while rehearsing alone: systematic progress or full improvisation?
Play along with your favourite albums! The whole "you HAVE to practice along with a metronome" thingy is to me complete bullshit! You might gain consistency but that you also get by playing along to albums, plus that you develope groove easier. I have never sat down with a click to practice, never! The metronome is a good tool in the studio but I don’t like it when bands use it live. It should be fun to practice and I have a hard time to believe that anyone thinks that playing paraddidles or whatever is fun. I believe that you can get equally good or even better if you play along to other music instead!
Do you have any "core rehearsal tips" that have given you a lot of progress in your drumming?
Not really as my rehearsels by my own was to play along with albums. The thing I did was to improvise over the songs. Say f.ex that I was playing along to an AC/DC album. Instead of just play the beat that Phil Rudd do, I would incorporate double bass patterns and stuff like that, which helped me to think drums as a seperate instrument more then just the thing that holds the beat.
What is important for you while rehearsing new songs/riffs with your band? Is there something in particular you do or listen for?
To find the sweet spot in tempos. That can be really hard sometimes. If a song goes to fast or to slow some riffs might suffer and that can ruin a whole song. Before I joined Grave I’d always played music that had the same tempo thru the whole song, that’s not the case with Grave’s music hahahaha.. It was really hard for me to get into the way the songs were played, at least the old stuff as they could have like 3 different tempos in one song. To get the flow took me awhile but now it’s completely natural to play in that way.
What is, in your opinion, the biggest challenges for extreme drummers (or, generally speaking, drummers), and what can you do to work them out?
The mentallity in the actual drumming. To maintain the energy thru an hour show is very challenging but also a way to push yourselves. I think it’s 75% mentally and 25% your actual condition.. I’ve played shows where I was so psyched to go up on stage, my body felt really good, warmed up and all but when we start to play nothing works.. That gets to you. On a tour, the first 2-2.5 weeks are always the best, then I get tired mentally and the playing suffers somewhat. It’s better now compared to a couple of years ago so to get your mind set is for me the biggest challange.
Wrists or fingers? Heel up or down? Why?
Always heel up and a mixture of wrist and fingers. Playing heel up gives you the power that metal drumming craves plus that it’s easier to play "fast." I try to use as much wrist as possible as it’s much more powerful then playing only with fingers. Note also that I’m not a drummer that play lots of blast beats and stuff like that but when I do, I always try to do it by using my wrists. I can’t stand watching drummers who play loose. You have to hit the drums hard… There’s one specific band that I watched at the Barge to Hell Cruise in Dec last year and I couldn’t watch them. I got so pissed on how loose the drummer hit his kit. The cymbals barely moved and yeah… I left the show in anger hahaha.. Fucking hell, you’re a pro, play the drums like your life depended on it instead of just poke them gently!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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?
It is worth it, strange but it is. That hour you’re on stage makes it all worth it. I used to practice for 2-3 hours a day up ’til 1999, then I moved to Oslo and didn’t have a band so I got to play for only like 2 occasions per month, so I lost a lot in those 2 years I lived in Norway. Nowadays we play so much live so I never rehearse by my self anymore, I get my practice time on the road instead.
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?
The drummers are in the best position to see what happens in the audience as we’re often below the lights on stage… I try to focus on my task but sometimes it’s not that easy when you see people stand there with their arms crossed, yawning or looking the other direction hahaha… You always perform better if you get some energy back from the audience. If there’s a mosh-pit going on our if they cheer very loud, stuff like that always give you the extra boost!
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?
It’s the worst instrument you can choose actually economically speaking, it’s very expensive! I just got an endorsement deal with Paiste cymbals which was a dream come true for me. Paiste’s always been the No.1 brand for me when it comes to cymbals and to be able to be a part of their family is a great feeling! I’m also endorsed by Artbeat drum sticks which’s really good sticks.
And then some about your equipment:
I have a Yamaha Stage Custom kit in our studio. It’s a 2×24" kicks, 10", 12", 13", 16" and 18" toms. All Paiste cymbals in different series. I’m experimenting with heads but the ones I have now is Evans Power Center on the toms and Remo Controlled Sound Clear on the snare. Powerstroke Coated on the kicks.
Which snare drum and configuration do you like the best? 12", 13" or 14"? And which material? Wood, steel, brass or bronze?
My current snare, my baby hahaha… It’s a wooden snare by Ludwig. I’m not sure what kinda wood it’s made of though but it sounds fantastic and especially with that Controlled Sound Clear head. 14"x6.5". I hate piccolo snares and it has to be 14" for me.
What kind of pedal(s) do you use? And which "settings" fits your style the best?
I’ve tried basically every pedal in the market but the ones I use now is by far the best I’ve played. It’s the Tama Speedcobra. First I bought a double pedal but then I also bought a separate single so that I can choose what to play. The beater and foot board angle is fabric settings and the spring is tightened to the max. I also removed the "Cobra Coil" thing under the foot board.
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.
Fredrik Widigs from my former band Demonical! He’s one of the most skilled drummers from Sweden today. Playing all kinds of styles and do it amazing! So that’s my pick!