"When I'm playing, I know I'm playing fast, but it doesn't feel like I'm playing fast. I'll hear it later, and I'll be, like, 'Fuck, dude, that is pretty fast.' But when I'm playing, it's kind of like slow motion almost. Although when I'm done playing, I'm kind of like the cheetah. I heard they get really tired after they run down an antelope or a gazelle, right? That's how I am, because when I'm done, I just have to sit there and breathe a little bit before I can even talk or do anything."
When did you start playing drums?
"I started playing drums about 15 years ago when I was about 15. I'm 30 now. I can play the guitar and keyboards and stuff, but I'm all self-taught, so I'm not like any studied cat or anything like that."
So you've never taken lessons?
"No. When I was 15 I had one drum lesson, but that was pretty much it. So I learned the proper way to sit behind a drum set, how to hold sticks right, and how my feet should be positioned, but that was pretty much it."
How did you go from there to being a superfast professional drummer?
"I was just obsessed with it. All I did was play. All I did was practice playing drums."
How many hours a day do you play?
"Nowadays, I don't get to play as much as I'd like. But I try to get behind my drums at least once a day, and then I'll play anywhere from an hour to four hours."
So do you practice being faster? Do you practice speed techniques?
"Not really. I just do it."
Have you ever entered any of those speed-drumming contests?
"No, I've never done anything like that. I have wanted to get one of those things that joggers wear so they can determine how many steps they took when they went for a run. I want to get one of those so I can see how many times I hit my kick drum in a set. I haven't done that yet, but I want to try it out."
So it sounds as though you're more proud about how fast your feet are, not just your hands.
"Well, kind of. Because it's a lot easier to play really fast with your hands. So I try to do, like, stick exercises with my feet, just to build more independence between my feet. I'm right-handed, so my right foot is what I follow through with, mostly. So I try to do stuff so I can strengthen my left foot a bit more. Like, there's a stick technique called a paradiddle that you do with the right and left hand. It's like right left right right, and then you switch it so it goes left right left left. But I do that with my feet, and I just practice that a bunch. It's pretty hard to do that left left part with my feet. So I just do that for a long time, and the next thing you know, my left foot's pretty strong. In fact, there's a beat called a 'blast beat,' where your snare drum's going dat-dat-dat-dat-dat, really fast, and your feet are just doing pretty much the same thing, and my left hand is actually a bit faster than my right hand now, which is kind of weird. But I can do those 32nd notes really fast with my left hand now."
Do you have any idea just how fast you are?
"I have no idea. I don't even know how you'd gauge that, like, how to measure it. I just try to play as smoothly and fast as possible."
It does seem that trying to play fast would go against trying to play smoothly.
"Yes. Definitely. But I've been told that I'm really fluid. And that made sense to me. Because when I play my drums, it's, like, I don't know. You can either be kind of robotic and just nail it out, or you can be kind of fluid and move with the rhythms with your whole body. I move with the rhythms, and it makes it easier. It's almost like a dance, you know? Like, instead of just sitting there and trying to crank it out, I move with the rhythm, which makes it easier to let it out. And also, it creates a lot cleaner of a rhythm. It's not so jagged."
Isn't it essential to relax? Even though you're moving at that manic speed, you have to really calm down, don't you?
"Yeah, but it's kind of hard to. Especially when I'm playing live. That adrenaline. I get really excited, and it's kind of hard to relax. So I find myself in the middle of a song where I have to just mentally kind of go, 'All right, man, you have to calm down.' Because otherwise I'm going to burn myself out. Like, when I'm playing, sometimes I'll realize that I'm holding my breath. So now I just try to remind myself that I have to breathe. I even tried chewing gum for a while, like, to calm myself, but I would choke. And that was no fun. So I also do this other thing where I'll just stare at the wing nut on my crash cymbal, and it kind of relaxes me. Just staring at one thing that's stationary, it calms me down, and then the next thing I know, all the parts are just flowing together."
associate head coach for the UCSD men's and women's track teams
How can human beings train to run faster?/p>
"Certainly, there's a built-in talent level. You can always get faster from where you are, but the talent level for speed -- in terms of natural biomechanics -- is a huge component. You have to have narrow hips and a high ratio of fast-twitch muscle. But height and weight don't matter much. There are fast sprinters who are short, and there are some that are very tall. But speed is turnover times stride length. So it's how quick you are on the ground times how long your steps are. You have to have both."