Tag: Andols Herrick

  • Interview With Chimaira Drummer Andols Herrick

    There’s no shame in it. Lots of drummers deliver pizza before getting their big break—you know, the one that includes a record deal, world tour, and enough cash to stop once and for all having to haul around extra-large slices of pepperoni and cheese. But in mid-2004, Andols “Andy” Herrick did the unthinkable, the downright crazy-nuts. He quit his thick-muscled, increasingly popular metalcore band Chimaira and actually went back to delivering pizza. “Yes,” he says, “I just wanted to work and be normal for a little bit.” 

    Ask him again, though, and the story of why he left the band gets a little more complicated, a little darker. “It was mainly because at the time my playing was really kind of falling apart,” Herrick explains, “and I was having bad shows every night. Eventually I was at the point where I was just miserable going on stage. And I didn’t want to be on the road anymore. So those two things combined, and it was going on for a long time, building up, building up. The other guys [in the band], they’d always try to be supportive, telling me, ‘Stop worrying about it, everything sounds fine,’ but I would listen to audio of the shows, and just be totally embarrassed. It really came down to my left foot. It was having a total melt down. I would do a double bass run, and I’d come to the end, and it would just fall apart. Stuff that I had recorded in one take, I couldn’t play live anymore. And that’s pretty much what drove me to my breaking point. Finally, I just thought, ‘I need to get out.’” 

    So he did. And in retrospect, that two-year, self-imposed exile couldn’t have been a more painful decision for someone who had grown up—and had lived—in music. Herrick took to the sticks almost two decades ago, influenced by his older brother, who played drums before turning to the piano. (Both his parents played instruments as well, and one of his other brothers eventually earned a master’s degree from Julliard.) Music was in his blood, and by the time he was 13, when Metallica and Anthrax and Slayer entered the scene, his blood was boiling. The new-born thrasher first started slamming with bands in the ninth grade, eventually meeting guitarist Rob Arnold, who a few years later brought him into Chimaira. At the time, Herrick was all of 19, though already with fast feet, sophisticated hands, and an aggressive groove that would be put to pummeling good use on the band’s first two albums, Pass Out of Existence and The Impossibility of Reason, both underground metalcore sensations. And it wasn’t long before Herrick began doing what all real musicians have to do: living and honing his craft on the road. This, then, is the guy who took himself off the stage. It must have been hard. 

    “Yes,” he agrees, “it didn’t take that long afterwards when I thought, ‘That was a bad move.’ It felt right at the time, at the very first, when I kind of felt relieved and thought I did the right thing. But it probably wasn’t more than six months before I got the itch again. When I was away, I didn’t really play at all for a year, and it wasn’t until the beginning of 2005 that I started teaching drum lessons a little bit, so I had my own practice room, and that gave me a chance to practice here and there. I would set up my drums and start playing those patterns that killed me live at the end of being in the band, and I would suddenly just be able to play them all again. It must have been a mental block, or it could have been some sort of burn out in that respect.”

    With his drumming confidence firmly hammered back in place, and with his left foot now free to fly, Herrick jumped on the hot seat for Roadrunner United’s All-Star Sessions, where he thumped alongside Joey Jordison and Dave Chavarri, and where, more importantly, he was reunited with former Chimaira bandmates Matt DeVries [guitarist] and Mark Hunter [vocals]. From the first note struck, the musical connection was still there. “It felt totally natural,” Herrick says. “It felt great, comfortable right from the get go. I kind of realized, ‘Oh, man. I really miss this.’” 

    And apparently he wasn’t the only one. A few weeks after the session, his phone rang. 

    “When I got the call,” he remembers, “that the guys were interested in bringing me back, that was the catalyst for busting my ass, for me to get down [to the studio] every day and practice. I kind of had to make some serious improvements in a short amount of time. But the guys definitely didn’t have to convince me to rejoin the band, because I was ready to throw down again.” 

    But there was one ever-so-slight hurdle. While Herrick was doing deliveries and teaching lessons, Chimaira had charged on, playing for a short time with Richard Evensand on the skins, and then with shred-master Kevin Tally, who tracked the band’s self-titled disc in 2005. Tally’s ferocious whacking is not the easiest bunch of drumming to get under the sticks, so Herrick, ever the perfectionist, carefully worked out his colleague’s beats, whipped them into jamming shape, and eventually joined the band on the road. “We toured from the end of March to the end of May this year,” he says, “and we did a lot of those songs. We spent a lot of time making sure I could do the parts—all the fills and stuff like that—as closely to what Kevin played as possible because I think what he did is excellent. People expect to hear [the songs] sound that way, so out of respect for what he did, I didn’t try to put much of myself in anything.”

    That was all right, because Herrick finally got to flex his own ripped drumming muscles on Chimaira’s new disc, the aptly titled Resurrection. As usual, he perfected his patterns in preproduction and managed to lay down in a take or two some of the meatiest metal drumming that’s ever ripped apart your iPod. In particular, check out the complicated bridge pattern on “No Reason To Live,” an exhausting barrage of drums and cymbals. “I heard the guitar part,” he explains, “and thought it needed something other than a standard drum beat with hat/kick/snare, so I sat down and started doing all this stuff between two rides and basically using the entire kit for the beat. Even though it’s only eight measures, it took me a long time to get the muscle memory to throw my hands all over the place and hit everything I wanted to hit. It’s kind of crazy, but I basically try and do what’s called for in the song, while making it as creative as possible. I just tried to make it the best I can.” 

    And as you slick-kick enthusiasts already know, Herrick’s “best” usually has a lot to do with his feet. Though a master of manic pedal work, he tends to double kick with a purpose, tastefully integrating and weaving licks into the rhythmic structure of songs, like on “Empire” and “Six” off the new record (or, for the old-school fans, “Stigmurder” from The Impossibility of Reason). “I don’t try to ram notes just for the sake of ramming notes,” he says. “And as far as patterns go, it happens to be that guitar riffs are a certain way and it kind of needs to match that, so it ends up not being a typical bass drum part, but a little more syncopated, a little more intricate.” 

    But if you’re thinking about doubling down and tackling some of his own intricate, syncopated, speedy tunes (we know you are), Herrick recommends treading carefully—at least at first. And remember: The guy speaks from experience. “In the beginning,” he says, “obviously your left foot has to go from doing nothing except occasionally hitting the hi-hat pedal to actually trying to keep up with your right foot. I made the mistake early on of basically trying to play along to these fast double bass parts without really ever developing control on the left foot. I’m actually thinking I’m still kind of paying for that today, where my left foot independently doesn’t work as well as my right, so I do a lot stuff where I play single parts on my left foot and try to make it stronger like my right.”

    Oh, man. Herrick worrying again about a weaker left foot? Sounds a bit like that thing that drove him down the lonely road to Dominos two years ago. Does he ever worry that he might have to pack it in once more? That his foot might freeze up? That playing might produce more pain than pleasure?

    “No,” he says, laughing, and then stopping, and then saying again, seriously this time, “No.” 

    It’s just a word, of course. A small one at that. But his tone means everything: No. No more not playing drums. And definitely, without a doubt, no more goddamn pizza deliveries.