Michael 'Moose' Thomas's drum setup in pictures
Just before the release of Scream Aim Fire back in 2008, Bullet For My Valentine frontman Matt Tuck said that the Welsh metallers’ only real competition was Metallica. While that might be considered hubris, if not downright heresy, in the metal world drummer Michael ‘Moose’ Thomas and his band-mates seem determined to prove the truth of those words through sheer bloody-minded determination.
Even after being roundly rejected when opening for Iron Maiden, the Bullet boys have proved that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Third album Fever saw the band slowing down from the pedal-to-the-metal acceleration of Scream aim Fire. Just as the venues they play were getting bigger, so was their music.
No longer worried about throwing out every lick he knows every night, Moose has shifted his focus to playing for his band and for the song - perfect timing, then, for our friends at Rhythm magazine to talk shop with the sticksman…
Among the exclusive shots of Moose’s setup you’ll see in this gallery are snippets from Rhythm’s interview in which the drummer talks about the Fever recording process and his - and his band’s - coming of age.
First up, though, let’s take a closer look at Moose’s kit…
What drums did you use during the recording of the album?
"I’m endorsed by Pearl but I didn’t use Pearl for the recordings. I used Pork Pie. They were slamming. I used 8", 10", 12", 16" toms and two 22" kick drums…"
"… and a 1970s Tama Bell Brass snare that was 14"x6.5"."
Why did you pick the Bell Brass snare?
"It sounded big, fat and meaty. We had an awesome drum tech, his name was mike. Anything I wanted, if I thought the snare drum was too tight, he was there. My reference to him was, just make it sound like thunder."
So is that what you were after for your tom sound too?
"I just want them to really cut through, but saying that, from what I’ve been using live for the last four years, now I’ve changed my set-up. I’ve just ordered three new kits from Pearl. I’ve got two 24" kick drums and three rack toms but they are 10", 12" and 14" with a 16" floor tom with two 20" gong drums."
That’s some depth with those 24" kicks…
"The guys from Pearl came down to Cardiff and brought these 24" drums in and I was sold straight away. A good friend of mine, Dave Lombardo from Slayer, he uses 24" drums. I always wondered what they sounded like and they sound massive."
Did you always play double-kick right from the get-go?
"The first kit I ever bought had a single kick drum but I had some money from my birthday so I immediately went out and bought a double pedal. It was a Premier kit in black. I had it when I was 16 and it was probably 10 years older than I was. It was in such bad condition I needed another one so I asked my parents."
Playing a 24" drum you are moving a lot of air, did you use much dampening?
"I like to pack my kick drums with the minimum amount of stuff I possibly can so it sounds like a massive drum rather than just a punch. I like to hear the whole thing rattle."
What heads do you use?
"I used to use Remo Pinstripes but I’m learning more as I go along with different techs. Because I play Pearl Reference and the bearing edges of the heads are round, they told me to use different heads so now I’m using Coated ambassadors and they sound awesome."
How about your cymbals? Have you stayed with Zildjian?
"I still love my A Custom cymbals. I use 18", 19" and 20" crashes, a 22" mega Bell ride and a 20" China, with 14" hi-hats."
How did the band go about writing for the record? Did you have any ideas from jams in sound-checks?
"Five percent of it was little ideas from soundchecks. We took last year off to focus on writing in the rehearsal studio. What happens is the four of us go in as a band. We’ll have someone with Pro Tools so we can record our jams.
"Once we get an idea, Jay [Jason James, bass] and Padge [michael Paget, lead guitar] will go home and me and Matt will finish it on our own. musically we all do it but it gets really noisy if there are loads of people in the room, so we feel it’s quicker and easier if me and Matt finish the music."
Were there any tracks on the new album that threw up challenges for you as a player?
"No, because we took the whole year to write, we were well-rehearsed by the time we went in. I did all 17 tracks in four days. I couldn’t believe it. For the last record we were there for ages just tuning drums. I think it took two weeks but this one, I just flew through it. I’m actually really proud of this record.
"Drumming-wise it’s nothing spectacular. For me the last record was the best drumming album I’ve done but I wanted to push the band on this one. I didn’t want to do anything that’s 100 miles an hour with loads of fills, I just calmed down a bit. I think I’m getting old."
Next: paradiddle grooves
Matt has said in interviews he thinks the new sound is more like AC/DC-style hard rock with a metal edge. Do you agree?
"Drumming-wise, it’s not so simple as AC/DC. It’s just more powerful, kind of like the first record we put out with more fills and different rudiments as I’ve grown as a drummer. I always want to learn more. When we first started and we did our first record, I just drummed through stuff. I didn’t really know anything about drumming.
"Now I do paradiddle grooves and I’ve started to learn double paradiddles. I’m trying to learn paradiddles with my legs as well."
Practising and playing for the song
Did you do any solo practising during the writing and recording process?
"Where I lived before I had nowhere to play drums so that’s why I moved. Now I have a double garage that I can play drums in. I tried to get in an hour earlier so I could have an hour on my own but it was mainly just playing with the band."
So the goal now is to play for the song?
"Definitely. I didn’t want to overplay or show off. I wanted the songs to be as powerful as they could be, not trying to do blast beats over everything. I wanted the songs to relate to people rather than the instruments."
Next: the live sound
The live sound
Has the change in the musical direction impacted your choice of touring kit and live sound?
"Yes, hence this new set-up with the two 24" drums. Obviously the venues are going to get bigger and the songs are simpler so I want a big, massive, old school drum sound so people can feel it. I use no triggers live, I want it to be as natural as possible. I’ve been playing the Reference Series for the last three or four years."
Did you employ any triggers in the studio?
"In the mix there is a little helping it along but it is more natural than anything. Our last record was probably all triggers. That’s just the way Colin worked. It sounds like a machine then but on this record I wanted it to be as natural as possible.
"Same thing with the new Slayer record, there are no triggers on there and the kit sounds awesome. We supported them last summer in America; I’ve never seen anyone drum like that in my life. It doesn’t just stop with metal, he knows jazz and everything."
For more from Rhythm magazine, check out the current issue 188 fronted by drum pioneer and all-round legend Phil Collins, or subscribe to Rhythm for a monthly dose of new gear reviews, kit buying guides, pro drum lessons and all-star interviews.
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