As drummer for high-energy pop rockers You Me At Six, Dan Flint needs to keep in shape. With the band moving from support slots at tiny clubs to sold out 90-minute headline shows, Dan's fitness levels have had to rise rapidly as the Surrey fivesome's fortunes have exploded.
While working on You Me At Six's as-yet-untitled fourth record, Dan spoke to us from the lush Los Angeles pad the band are holed up in and shared his Top 10 tips for getting yourself fit behind the kit.
Interview: Richard Chamberlain
Tip 1: get some sticks in your hands
"Even if I'm sat at home watching a movie I will always have a pair of sticks. I'll sit there doing paradiddles and rudiments on a pillow. I wouldn't do that when people are around though! Even on our tour bus I'll be on the pad warming up and even though I'm warming up for a show people still get annoyed by it!
"You have to pick and choose your timing and not annoy other people. I've got sticks with rubber ends on them so I'll wander around the house and will always be using sticks, even just to keep sticks in your hand and make sure it's comfortable and you remember how sticks feel."
Tip 2: hop on the e-kit
"I have a rehearsal studio at home so I'll go in there most days. I have an electric kit in the house as well. If I'm going out and have my shoes on and I'm ready and waiting to be picked up, I'll sit at the electric kit and play a few rudiments around the kit. It's important to stay loose all the time. I'll do rudiments between my hands and feet. I don't play songs on the electric kit - I use it as an extension of a practice pad."
Tip 3: but don't get too comfortable
"If you get too comfortable on an electric kit when you move to acoustic it can feel a bit sluggish. You'll be whizzing around the electric kit and mentally you will think that you're struggling. Playing an electronic kit is no preparation for the abuse that you go through playing acoustic drums, especially the kind of music we play where you're hitting quite hard. To get your stamina up you have to get behind a real kit and get to work."
Video: Dan Flint's pre-gig routine
Tip 4: technique, technique, technique
"One of my favourite players is Jojo Mayer and he goes on and on about technique. One of the exercises I do on the e-kit and pad is going through the Moeller technique. Even just doing single hits as though you were doing a rim shot, doing those very slowly just to make sure you're not doing any damage to your hands is important. If you go through different hits slowly, you can make sure you're doing them correctly and then you put them into a rudiment and try to change the actions around.
"Technique is very important because you wouldn't last a show if your wrists were stiff and you weren't hitting properly. I don't have the best technique out there but it is something I am conscious of improving on every time that I play. It is the most important part of drums, really."
Tip 5: use your head
"The best thing to do is play with your mind a little bit. You should find something that you think is complicated and is not in your muscle memory. Every day you should find something new to throw into the muscle memory bag. Drums are as much about your mind as your hands."
Tip 6: be an athlete
"Before playing I always have a little stretch. It is such a demanding activity that you don't want to come off stage having done any damage to your arms, muscles or ligaments. Especially if you're on tour with a run of shows in a row, you do have to stretch. It's like a sport and you'd never see an athlete go out and playing football or running without stretching and warming up first.
"At home I don't stretch as much because I just ease myself in and don't play solidly for an hour. At home I'll listen to something, play for a few minutes and play quietly so I'm not putting as much stress on my arms and legs."
Dan (second from right) with the rest of You Me At Six
Tip 7: don't overdo it
"As soon as I'm sat there thinking I'm doing it for the sake of playing drums because I have to, that is when to stop. Often all it will take is to see a video of a great drummer or hear a song on the radio - that is when I feel inspired and want to do it. If I'm forcing myself or if I'm not into it and thinking I suck at drums and having a self-loathing day then it is best to stop and come back the next day when you'll kill it."
Tip 8: keep it varied
"You need to keep things varied. You might love metal but listen to a hip hop song and listen to what the drums are doing. I love playing different styles of music, not only is it fun, it also gives you a different perspective. So when you go back to rock drumming you can throw in a different feel from a different genre of music. With You Me At Six I play a lot of rock, so I like to do something different and go learn things like Afro Caribbean beats or some linear triplet fills, they are some of my favourites.
"Linear triplet fills get every part of your body moving. With those you can groove or use them as fills. They sound very cool and very gospel. The main struggle with those is when you watch Tony Royster or Aaron Spears do them they are doing them with such groove and so fast, the main thing you have to realise is you have got to start things slow. If you can get a click going while you're playing and start very slow then you can get the muscle memory until it feels natural. Then you start to speed it up and work it into grooves."
Tip 9: don't forget your feet
"I'll incorporate my feet as well, even if it is just playing single strokes with my hands and copying that with my feet. Or you could do single strokes with the hands and paradiddles with the feet. I do that on tour so that when I get on stage I've had more exercise for my feet than just walking up to the stage!"
Tip 10: go large
"I've got these crazy metal sticks. I won't use them on a kit because it would break the kit. I'll use them on a pad, starting very slowly and I'll then pick up my usual sticks and fly around the kit. I don't do that for shows because going from heavy sticks to a normal stick can feel like you're playing with little twigs in your hand!"