Matt Halpern: ten drummers that blew my mind
Jumping from a mind-boggling double concept record to a brand new album within 18 months could leave the fans of many band’s heads spinning.
Luckily for Periphery, as they prepare to drop new album III: Select Difficulty, their devoted following remains steadfastly by their side, and drummer Matt Halpern reckons he knows why.
“Sometimes bands take big steps to the left without staying connected to their fans and that can polarise their fans,” he explains. “But, if you keep your fans in the know and let them understand what you’re doing they are more willing to understand what you’re doing and give it a chance. We will always keep our fans in the loop of the directions we’re going in.”
Of course it’s not just keeping their fans in the loop that has helped the prog titans build a stellar reputation. The fact that they are all sublime players certainly helps. Halpern himself has blown many a mind wide open with his jaw-dropping performances as he mixes up deft technicality, raw power and delicate feel.
All of which means that when we asked the drummer to come up with ten players who have blown his mind, he knew exactly what constituted a show-stopping sticksman.
"Benny, first off, as a player is he one of the most lively and expressive drummers I have ever seen.
"What’s great about it is he’s not off the wall, but he knows how to use his body to emphasise how you should feel what he’s playing. It’s so fluid and effortless that it is mesmerising to watch him play.
"He’s also a great teacher, he’s great at conveying information in a way that is not intimidating. He does it in a way that is fun, funny and digestible. He is super talented and such a great inspiration to me because he is one of the most well rounded artists that plays the drums."
"Matt plays for Animals As Leaders and he is a little firecracker. He’s such a fun guy to be around. He is also so driven as a drummer and that shows when he performs.
"He has this amazing combination of technical skill, knowledge and facility along with feel, energy, passion and aggression. You don’t often see that, a lot of drummers are one or the other, maybe they’re really technical and schooled but they’re not expressive.
"Matt really has the best of both worlds. He’s incredible. He speaks fluently on the drummers as if it were a language and he puts a lot of time into that. He’s as fluent as you can be on the drums and he’s only going to get more fluent as time goes on."
"Billy from Dillinger Escape Plan is so admirable because he truly loves to play the drums. He lives by the art form that is drumming.
"He is a true artist. His conviction, his dedication, he wears those on his sleeve when speaking about drumming, practicing drumming and performing drumming. He is so good at making you believe in what he is playing.
"Similar to Matt Garstka he has unbelievable technical ability and power but also great feel and an understanding of so many different forms of music. He’s very impressive. He’s also someone who just loves to talk about drums and I always like that in a person."
Ryan Van Poederooyen
"I’ve known Ryan for years and he is such a positive, energetic, optimistic person. That’s so powerful when you are on tour, it’s great to be around him.
"He is so good at playing the part that he is required to play. Ryan performs the Devin Townsend set every night perfectly, there will never be a mistake or any deviation from exactly how it is supposed to be and how the band leader wants it.
His technique is flawless, he is as consistent as you could ever be.
"What is amazing about Ryan is that he is so good at writing, memorising and executing the same parts every night. For someone like myself who gets distracted and wants to play different things, that is really cool.
"He is also one of the fastest, most efficient session drummers I have ever seen. His technique is flawless, he is as consistent as you could ever be. He must be a dream for anyone who hires him as a session player."
"I’m a big admirer of Mark’s playing and his commitment to the drums. When you watch him play you really believe it.
"He gets lost in the instrument but he also has an amazing understanding of creativity and how to utilise creativity within any type of feel or meter.
As polished as he is he is also raw, he lets go.
"He has so many different dynamic ranges. At the same time he has this rawness to him. When you see him perform on stage, as polished as he is he is also raw, he lets go."
"This guy blows my mind because he can play anything and everything. He is so impressive to watch.
"It’s like watching a beautiful feather floating through the air. Also, his understanding of timing and feel and his ability to speak fluently in some many different musical languages is so impressive.
"His control is perfect. I’m also really impressed at how he is able to pick and choose the right sounds for his drum set, that’s a hard thing to do.
"You can tell that he’s put so much thought into the tuning of his kit."
"What can I say about Mike Mitchell? He is a young guy who plays with the wisdom of Tony Williams.
"He is just so good, there’s nothing he can’t do. He’s got feel, musicality, his chops are incredible, he can move from a small drum set to a large set without batting an eye.
"He is so explosive, there I feel and energy behind his playing. He blows my mind every time I watch him play.
"If you’re not familiar with Mike Mitchell then you really should be because this kid really is amazing."
“Chris is the best drummer’s drummer. He can play anything.
"He plays on some of the biggest gigs and sessions but can also solo and craft a performance like few other drummers can. His theoretical understanding of music in general is so far beyond what most people understand.
"It is incredible to hear him speak about music. He knows exactly what he is playing at all times and it is some of the most in-depth stuff you could ever imagine. He really understands what he’s doing and I find that impressive.”
“JP is a good friend of mine and he is an extremely mature player full of wisdom.
"He has incredible technical ability but he shows the utmost restraint for the sake of tastefulness. He is passionate about creating the most tasteful part for the song. He is also an unbelievable session musician.
"He is also one of the best soloists I have ever seen. He really understands the artistic side of creating a solo piece on the drums. He knows how to captivate an audience.”
“Mike is one of the most unreal teachers I have had the privilege of hearing and working beside.
"He teaches with passion and he cares about how he delivers information to other drummers. He is passionate about making sure everyone he is speaking to understands what he is saying.
"He also has a commitment to understanding the drums and he has a commitment to being able to do everything he teaches. That is almost unheard of.
"There are a lot of teachers out there who can teach something without being able to do it themselves but one of Mike’s biggest requirements is anything he teaches he has to understand and be able to execute from top to bottom.”