LUKE BOUTIETTE (Embryonic Devourment)
LUKE BOUTIETTE is the drummer in the American death metal band EMBRYONIC DEVOURMENT, a band he has been in since their start in 2003. Three full-length albums, a split and an EP is what they have released so far. Here, Luke tells among other things how he gets motivated, why John Longstreth is his greatest inspiration and how he believes young drummers should train to become a good drummer. Here’s The Blast Beast Series and Luke Boutiette from Embryonic Devourment.
What is the force behind you being a drummer, that is, what keeps you going?
I suppose my biggest motivation is simply to get better. Honestly I was always kind of a slow learner and relied mostly on raw energy until recent years. I feel I’m still capable of learning much more especially as I have a better understanding of music in general as I have grown older. I see so many amazing drummers playing at shows everywhere i go, and I know i have a very long way to go to get anywhere near the level of some of those guys. I may never truly master my drums, but I know that I can get better than I am now if I keep working hard.
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?
Years ago I would have said speed was most important, but in recent years I have enjoyed playing with power and groove. The new album is a tad slower in some respects, but there is more power in the blast beats without sacrificing too much. I still play pretty fast most of the time, but a heavier stick has helped maintain that brutal feeling that I’m always looking for when I play.
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 are so many; but the biggest influence is probably John Longstreth of Origin…one of the main reasons for that is because we have had the pleasure of playing over a dozen shows with Origin thru the years, including a 10 day leg of their 2012 tour with Decrepit Birth, Cattle Decapitation and Aborted. I got to see first hand, the perfect blend of speed, power, and technique, many times. I didn’t want to seem like a crazed fanboy, so all I really said was "thank you for being such a bad ass drummer".
Which is best while rehearsing alone: systematic progress or full improvisation?
I mostly improvise when playing alone, which can help when looking for new ways to fit things together during songwriting…but honestly it gets to be a bad habit, because I rarely get around to focusing on my weak spots when I’m constantly working on stuff that already sounds okay. I would advise other drummers to always spend time on your weak areas. However, you’re going to be using your best stuff when you play with the band so you want to make sure that stuff sounds good too. I always have a hard time with my weak areas because I hate playing stuff that sounds terrible! Thats no fun right? But, even if you can only stand to do it for a few minutes at a time, it will help over time as long as you stick with it.
Do you have any "core rehearsal tips" that have given you a lot of progress in your drumming?
I’m sure other drummers struggle with one hand being slower than the other, and that has always been the primary thing i’ve worked on during warm ups and personal practice time. When I first started playing death metal, the band’s main focus was getting songs written quickly so we could play shows as soon as possible. So instead of getting better at certain things, I would just do my best with what I knew at a given time, without having much opportunity to work on learning new things, at least at first. That probably hurt my learning process in the long term, but I was young and didn’t make enough time away from band practice. eventually I learned some good flam tap and flam accent exercises to help with independent hand control. Then I worked on simply making my feet and hands play at the same speed…and eventually I did these things and more to a metronome. I could have done all this at an earlier age like most drummers do, and would probably be better for it, but that was then and this is now…ultimately the biggest help for me was to quit drinking, and eventually also quit tobacco. My body is still capable of doing this for years to come, which means I can still keep learning and reach my maximum potential, even if I was a late bloomer.
What is important for you while rehearsing new songs/riffs with your band? Is there something in particular you do or listen for?
For me, a good riff is one that I can play 2 or 3 different sounding things to and still sound ok. The riff doesn’t need to be simple for that to be possible either. This makes it more interesting to play, and can help make a song sound a little less repetitive without sacrificing the natural power/groove of a given piece.
What is, in your opinion, the biggest challenges for extreme drummers (or, generally speaking, drummers), and what can you do to work them out?
Endurance for keeping the grinds and blasts clean, and the kicks as well; consistency from one night to the next, particularly while on tour; just getting your drum rack thru the door can be one of the biggest challenges to be honest, and dealing with different sounding stages every night, sometimes playing without being able to hear the rest of the band at all. The biggest challenge is being prepared for the recording studio. In the past I’ve thought I was ready but really I wasn’t. The studio is unforgiving. The best way to deal with this is to learn from experience and watch what the successful bands are doing. Not music wise, nobody likes a copycat, but more in regards to warmups, how they handle merch, how they conduct good business. Those are things worth learning. The most important thing is to practice and learn as much as you can without sacrificing other things in your life too much.
Wrists or fingers? Heel up or down? Why?
Hand technique is a little of both. Sort of like what Hannes Grossmann does. Sometimes I’ll swing my elbow back and forth a bit while grinding, to help maintain momentum without straining my forearms as much. Takes some practice to keep the stick on the center of the snare head, but it can be done. My kick method is mostly heel up, always single strokes. I haven’t learned double strokes yet.
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 was certainly worth it to take the time needed to get good. If I could go back I would have figured out ways to practice even more. I never spent enough time alone on the drums. I never put any serious thought into quitting drumming, and extreme metal is much more fun to play than any other style. I suppose I would consider a foray into a butt rock project with extreme metal drums instead of regular rock style. That might be fun someday.
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?
If there is a good crowd, its always important to take in some of that positive energy, without getting too excited of course. I don’t usually look at the audience too much while on stage, but I usually cant see past the stage lights anyway. But if I do see people moshing or having a good time, it always inspires me to kick ass as much as I can. If a show has a bad turnout, I try not to let it bother me and just treat it like band practice. If there is anyone there to see you at all, even if its just one or two people, or just the other bands, you still owe it to them to do your best when you play. That’s what we strive for.
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 very expensive for me because I break so many cymbals, and sticks don’t last too long either. I used to spend thousands each year. Lately I have been forced to play broken cymbals til they fall apart. I plan to get a set of traditional Avedis Zildjian cymbals because I have one that has outlasted all others.
The answer to the second question is again, practice as much as possible and learn as much as you can from the good bands.
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?
Right now I’m using a 12 inch Pork Pie, I think the shell is maple. I used to run a 14 inch mapex black panther. Wood sounds the best, but isn’t always very loud. My Pork Pie snare is pretty loud though, especially if you hit it just right.
What kind of pedal(s) do you use? And which "settings" fits your style the best?
For the last 4 years or so I have been using Pearl Demon Drive, the bearing driven version. I don’t angle my beaters too sharply, and I keep the springs tightened up almost all the way. If I keep the balls of my feet higher up on the footboard, it always feels like I can play faster. Most people don’t like my settings. The Demon Drive has a switchable longboard option, but I prefer the normal setting.
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 would choose Ken Bedene from Aborted! That guy can play anything. I thought he was one of the best drummers I’ve seen when we toured with Origin, Decrepit Birth, Aborted, and Cattle Decapitation. Honestly I saw him play every night for 10 days and didn’t see him miss a single note. He certainly deserves to be mentioned among the best in the business.