What’s up everybody? Ben here, drummer for Selfmachine. It’s time to back up and break down the drumbeat with a brand new big and bulky blog broadcast. (CCC-combo breaker!)

The drum tracks for our debut album have been making all kinds of gains and are now finished! It’s the first time I’ve written drums for a full album. Before Selfmachine came along, I’d written drums for various internet music forum projects and the band Alison Stereo, but I’ve left them for a band in which there’s much more room to broadcast my own identity! I like to write inspiring and experimental beats and fills, while still laying down a solid foundation for the track. Three years back I would not have been able to write the drums for Selfmachine’s debut album. It would’ve been too chaotic and unstructured. After ten years of maturing as a drummer, last year was the perfect time for me to join a new band and finally write my first album. The writing proces and freedom I get in Selfmachine exactly suits my needs and I’m very satisfied with the results.

Our debut album has very much been home-written. This is how I’ve written al my previous drumtracks as well. Mark writes most of the songs in GuitarPro with general guidelines for my drums. The parts are sent to all members and the first task is for me: laying down the beat. Instead of improvising behind my drumkit with the song in my earphones, I sit behind my PC and program the drums in Reaper and Addictive Drums. That way, I can instantly make changes and evaluate, which makes the writing fast and easy.

Behind the desk, I write in a phased manner. The first phase is ‘song support mode’, where I don’t let myself do MY thing. In my mind, I let master Mark enslave me as his puppet that only follows his steps. Ninety percent of this drumtrack will consist of quarter notes on the hihat/crash with bassdrum and snare hits on the accents of the bass guitar. This is the quick fix, no-risk way of writing what actually works fine most of the time, yet I often find it to sound rather boring and generic. Now that the foundation for the drums are laid down, it’s time for phase two: the visionary phase. I decide what kind of drumtheme fits the song best, in other words: What kind of defining beat and/or fills will set the tone and repeat itself in slight variations throughout the song.

After this ‘mature part’, I’m hungry for the dirty bulking phase. Here I write whatever I want, steal whatever’s available, create my own alternative and program drums I could not have thought of behind my drumkit. I don’t even care if I’m able to play what I write for the drums. The only limits I take into account while programming are the tempo and the fact I only have four limbs. For half the songs on this album, I’ve written drumparts that took me at least a couple sessions to master, mostly co√∂rdination wise. The drumintro for Caught in a Loop is a good example. By this way, I push myself to learn and grow as a drummer and to keep it interesting for myself and hopefully, others. At last, when the song is all ripped, shredded, mauled and torn apart with usually just too many drums, the fourth and final phase starts. This is where I get all serious and stuff. I let the song rest for an hour up to a couple of days, then listen back to it and evaluate. I decide if the drums unwantedly steal the attention, if the drumtheme is represented strong enough, if the groove parts actually groove and if the buildup of tension in the drums fits the song structure. I change the drums ’till I think the song is jacked, pumped and buffed up to maximum potential.

When my own evaluation is applied, I send the song with my drumtracks to the rest of the band for evaluation. These drumtracks sound quite realistic with Addictive Drums, making it much easier to evaluate. The critique I get, usually only consists of details, hardly ever about whole parts that need to be rewritten. I think it’s a combination of the freedom we all get to broadcast our identity and my writing style that flows with the rest of the band.

Finally, after all parts are set in stone, we record the final album. Since we’re called Selfmachine it would be logical to keep the programmed drums as they sound perfectly tight like a machine. However, in Selfmachine, a big factor is the groove. The only way to really get the groove going, to make it spicy and crispy like Dorito’s Sensational Salsa and to get it oily, sexy, lazy and laid back like melting dark chocolate, is to play the drums myself. With my semi-selfmade electonic kit made out of a Pearl Rhythm Traveler with mesh heads, DDrum triggers, Yamaha cymbal pads and an Alesis Trigger iO, I record the drums in the form of midi files. These are sent to our mixer Stef Hartog who creates the best sounding drums we can think of. When you compare the effort all musicians have to put in to record their work, I clearly have the easiest job. I only have to deliver a bunch of midi files, but that saves me time to write big bulky blogs like these!

I wanna thank Mark for giving me the freedom to go loose on eleven awesome tracks, Steven for lending me his cymbal pads and the sexy lyrics, Mike for instrumentally writing the most juicy song on the album: iSybian, John for the tight solo’s and Stef for the fat, yet clear sound. Can’t wait to let you guys hear the end result!

– Ben