Interview With Eighteen Visions Drummer Trevor Friedrich: First Time’s a Charm

Sometimes even the most dedicated drummers need a decade or two (if ever) to hit it big. But for a couple of special players, well, a whole lot less time will do. 

“I started playing like five years ago,” says Trevor Friedrich, the 22-year-old slammer behind hardcore heroes Eighteen Visions. “I actually started because my dad wanted to do this extension on our house. All we needed was [our neighbors’] approval, and they denied it—on top of being like the worst people ever. So he had had enough. I had a bunch of friends staying over, so he woke us all up one morning, and he’s like, “Hey, we’re going to go to Guitar Center and start a band,” just to kind of piss them off. So he basically bought a bunch of stuff, and the drums stuck with me I guess because everything else wasn’t fun if you sucked at it.”

Friedrich, though, apparently didn’t suck for very long. Once the thrill of terrorizing the neighbors abated, he decided to sharpen his sticks in as many local bands as possible, specializing in metalcore and grindcore groups like Tire Iron (“it wasn’t even music it was so heavy”) and developing his skin-smashing skills along the way by learning “every AFI song.” During that oh-so-short time period, he somehow managed to master a uniquely thick-kick, deep-pocket style, even though he’s never taken a formal lesson or learned a rudiment (though he wishes he had), and never gets a chance to practice much anymore (though he wishes he could). “Yeah,” Friedrich admits, “I’m seriously like the weirdest drummer.”

Weird…or just really, really fortunate. How else does a guy with only five years of stick time—no matter how good he is—hook up with Eighteen Visions, a band whose last disc, Obsession, earned devil horns from Revolver and even snatched Metal Hammer’s album of the year award? 

“That’s another good story,” Friedrich deadpans. “I got into them shortly after I started playing drums. Ken [Floyd, the group’s original drummer and now guitarist] used to play a 10″ soprano snare. I thought that was the coolest thing, so I went out and bought one, and I’d always try to play Eighteen Visions songs. And with going to their shows and being so much in the hardcore scene, I just became friends with them. I was going to school in L.A. for art, and I was in two bands at the time, but never touring bands. And I was really close with the touring manager, and he called, and he was like, ‘Hey, the new drummer isn’t really working out,’ and then just kind of jokingly shot off like, ‘What we need to do is have you quit school and come drum for us.’ I laughed it off and said, ‘Yeah, dude, I’ll do it.’ And he was like, ‘Really?’ So I had four days to move out of my apartment, find a storage space, and learn all the songs, and then I was on tour.” 

Well, it was almost that easy. Though he was buds with the bandmembers (always a big plus) and had the chops to handle the gig, an audition was still set up. Friedrich spent two days tracking down a copy of Obsession (it had sold out all over town) and the next two days listening to each song for hours on end, playing along with headphones, patiently perfecting each pattern by ear—just like he always had. “But I was nervous,” he says of the audition. “I was like a wreck. When I was setting up my drums, I kept asking a million questions, “Hey, okay, so where do you want me to set up my drums? Is this okay? Can I set up here?” And they were just laughing at me. And, you know, it’s nerve-wracking because not only am I a new drummer, [but] the old drummer is still in the band, and he’s a drummer that I looked up to. It wasn’t replacing somebody that’s gone. It’s replacing somebody that’s there watching you and critiquing you.”

Floyd must have liked what he heard, because Friedrich’s butt is now firmly planted on Visions’ throne, and his big, heavy beats are driving the group’s latest, self-titled CD. Unlike the double-kick frenzies and improvised rolls that mark early Visions tunes, Friedrich’s drumming is all taut muscle and sinewy meat, the kind of slamming that tilts toward AC/DC (if, that is, Phil Rudd had ever whipped out the slick hand-and-foot combinations on “Nightmare”). Though earlier fans might find themselves on unfamiliar ground with such groove-based bashing, Friedrich himself finally feels his playing is right where it needs to be with the band. “The new album,” he says, “is a world of difference because instead of copying beats, all the beats are your own. Everything is just completely natural. I feel like I could play them in my sleep.” 

And he might have done so had the recording session itself not been a bit of a wake-up slap. See, it was his first time in front of a big-label red light, which is stressful enough, but producer Machine (from Lamb Of God fame) walked in with an added challenge: He wanted drums and cymbals to be played and recorded separately. “It was the weirdest thing ever,” Friedrich recalls, “because he didn’t want me to even air-drum cymbals. He wanted me to focus just on kick, snare, and toms. And there’s a bunch of fills where I’ll throw a cymbal or a hi-hat in between a roll, and I couldn’t just air it, I just had to leave it out.” Once he was able to isolate his limbs and play the patterns, there still came the inevitable twists and tweaks to the drum parts he had rehearsed and fine-tuned during preproduction. “So not only did I have to do it all weird,” he explains, “I had to completely remap where I hit. And up until cymbals were recorded, we were changing stuff around. It was kind of a brain buster.” 

But the craziest mind trip of all came a little later. At some point during the 13 days of tracking, Friedrich was laying down yet another part, when suddenly he realized he had an audience. “Me,” he remembers, “in this huge-ass room by myself, recording drums and looking up and seeing Machine, who’s this gnarly producer, and Davy and Jay from AFI. I was like, ‘What the hell is going on here?’” 

Doesn’t sound like anyone told him he was becoming a rock star. About a decade ahead of schedule. 

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