Hour of Penance has two rules: play it fast, then play it goddamn faster. They’re Italian fucking death metal, it’s what they do, and it’s what they’re doing now as they savage the States with Misery Index and Cannibal Corpse. New drummer James Payne (no relation to Max) talks to ZT about his experiences with the band, the upcoming European tour and his side project “The Drum Brother”.
ZT: Hi James, good to have you here.
James Payne: Hi Zero Tolerance Magazine and thank you for having me here!
Hour of Penance are on tour at the moment with a veritable horde of bands including Arch Enemy, Misery Index and death metal legends Cannibal Corpse. What is the mood in the band camp at the moment?
Yeah, we’re excited about the upcoming tour with Cannibal Corpse and Misery Index! Arch Enemy won’t be in the line-up of the tour; we only had one show with them in Rome. The mood is very positive. The band has been doing really well in the last years and going back to the US for the second time in one year is a really important thing for us. People seem like they’ve enjoyed the new album, Sedition, and this makes us want to go back there and destroy every single stage; what better occasion than doing this with great bands such as legendary Cannibal Corpse and Misery Index? We can’t wait for this to start, prepare yourself if you’re reading this and will be at one of this tour’s shows!
You have only been playing with Hour of Penance since June. How has your time with the band been so far?
For me it has been a bit of a challenge. At the beginning, it was more than two years that I hadn’t regularly practiced blast beats and extreme metal drumming because I stopped playing live shows with my death metal band, Hiss from the Moat, and started to play other kinds of music like I still do with Notimefor. In one month, I had to get back on track with such a fast band like Hour of Penance. Luckily I’ve been practicing drums techniques very often (to shoot videos for The Drum Brother too) and that helped me to get to 270 bpm really quick.
Then, once the preparation was over, the new challenge was playing shows, such as Hellfest [France], that I never played at before; it was a lot of pressure for me, it was my second show with the band and first experience on such an important stage! But things went pretty well until now, we’ll see on the American tour how things go! I’ll have to handle the jetlag and sharing the stage with great and experienced drummers like Adam (Jarvis, Misery Index) and Paul (Mazurkiewicz, Cannbal Corpse). But for me, this will be only the beginning of a very long road, I hope. I will practice and work hard to be constantly out there and show everyone what I’ve got!
Having seen you live, I know that you and the band gel really well; however, how have the crowds been receiving you in the gigs since Hellfest?
Yeah, I immediately built a strong relationship with the other guys. They’re super cool guys and really serious about the band and this is the mood I like in a band: relaxed but professional.
People at the shows most of the time were like “Wait a minute, did the drummer got on a diet? Or is it a new one?” then realised I was the new Hour of Penance drummer. I received a lot of really good comments on the web until now and a lot of people are appreciating the fact that I am a versatile drummer, as it can be seen on The Drum Brother. I can play really fast metal but also practice funk, jazz, pop, hip hop and all different kinds of drumming. I’ve had a really positive response until now from the crowds, but I only did a few shows with the band so far, so it’s still early to give a precise response to this question.
What do you want to bring to the Hour of Penance creative process, especially with regard to how you perform and how you write new material?
There are a few death metal drummers that I really am a fan of like Derek Roddy [ex-Nile and ex-Hate Eternal] and George Kollias [Nile]. What differentiates them and the other metal drummers, in my opinion, is the groove they have no matter the speed they play and that’s what I like to reach in my playing.
I like to keep a nice groove before speeding up my blast beats or fills. I don’t like using triggers on snare or toms, that’s why I practice my hand techniques a lot. For the bass drumming, I think it’s essential to have triggers since the volume is way lower than the guitar amps and the snare and cymbals. So I would like to put a nice groove in addition to speed. I think it’s really important and gives another taste to live performances.
On the creative process (we are currently writing new songs,) I will try to be innovative over the death metal style. I will try to put creative fills, or “colours”, to the blast beats and grooves that I will do. I get a lot of inspiration from Derek Roddy’s Hate Eternal album I, Monarch or any Behemoth album since I think the drums in their albums are absolutely brilliant! There will be a lot of work to do and I won’t be afraid to test some creative stuff over Giulio’s [Moschini] terrific guitar riffs!
Have you got any plans for another European tour, possibly with some UK dates?
We do have some European gigs and festivals coming on for 2013 and hopefully we’ll come to the UK too! I’ve had the chance to tour over there with Awaken Demons a couple of times and with Notimefor earlier this year. For me it’s always a blast to play shows in the UK since it is home for half of me! But unfortunately I can’t give you more details than this for now!
You have been promoting your project “The Drum Brother” pretty heavily. Although it’s been going for over a year now, there are still many people who remain uninitiated. Could you give a quick overview of what it is, why you are doing it and what you would like a viewer to get out of it?
The Drum Brother is a documentary about a studying experience that Alessandro Lombardo and me are doing. At the beginning, we closed up in a house for months just to practice drums and did a weekly release that documented our improvements on different styles that we were practicing. That’s where the name comes from… let’s say it’s like a drummer’s Big Brother.
Since we are students and not meant to be teaching anybody, we have great drummers such as Thomas Lang [stOrk], Derek Roddy, Steve Gadd, JP Bouvet, Marco Minnemann and many more doing lessons, sharing their experiences and doing some drum solos. We also share our mistakes too so that anyone on YouTube can step in and give us tips or share ideas.
The response we’ve had from our followers is just amazing! We’ve reached more than half a million views in one year from all over the world and have thousands of subscribers on YouTube and followers on Twitter and Facebook! It also gave us a very good visibility, so bands, booking agencies and recording studios started to call us to work with them. We couldn’t keep the thing of being locked in the house going anymore, so we are still practicing a lot and we still release one video every two weeks, the first and third Tuesday of the month, which show what we’re practicing right now and our developments, but we are not locked in the house anymore.
We want to give the point of view of a student on drums and not of a teacher, as many YouTube channels do. We would like the viewers to get inspired from our hard work and to keep the good work up, even if sometimes it’s hard and you give a lot and get back really a little, and to share their ideas with us and grow with us! The drum community is really big and strong and we want to keep it alive with this programme!
You have interviewed many great drummers during The Drum Brother project. Do you have any plans to collaborate with them in the future? Also, do you have any new projects on the horizon?
Everyone we interviewed has been super cool with us, from our neighbour’s drummer friends coming in to the great Steve Gadd! We never expected to have the chance to collaborate with such amazing artists and after the episodes, we stayed in contact with most of them as friends more than colleagues; we will for sure make other collaborations as there’ll be another chance!
Since we are both (Alessandro and me) playing a lot of shows around the world, we are organising to do The Drum Brother “life on the road”. It’s like the second chapter of the life of an artist. We started from our practice room practicing day and night, working hard, giving each other tips and sharing on the web and then you start to go out and play shows, have experiences and see places that you have never seen before! We want to share these things with everybody. It can motivate and inspire people to start or work harder on what they are doing, be it drums, guitar, acting, anything they are doing! So keep following us because we’re constantly growing and doing new experiences and we want to share all this with you!
Thank you again Zero Tolerance Magazine for having me and I also wanted to thanks my sponsors who are giving me amazing support, and without them things would be so much more difficult. Thank you Zildjian, Tama, Remo and Vic Firth! By the way, my signature HD9 Vic Firth drumsticks are about to come out and will be available at the merch stand of my bands or online soon!
Check out the tour dates on Hour of Penance Facebook page and come and bang your heads at the shows!