Drummers. You can't live with them and you can’t make them shut up during soundchecks. What’s there to say about drummers that hasn’t been said? They usually annoy me very much, it always takes them ages to build their annoying and overly expensive instrument and it’s never enough, they will keep moving things around..
...even during the show. Their ego only matches the number of the cymbals and shells they have in their kit and they just can’t wait to tune their toms exactly when you have to check the guitar's sound or they remember to play the cymbals when you’re ringing out the monitors. That being said, my good friend Efraim Juntunen is far from being an annoying drummer, on the contrary, there’s no one else I would rather tour with than him. His approach to things is very zen-like, he is chill and not demanding, if something goes wrong (and something always does) he won’t make a fuss about it and just move along with the program.
A drummer’s work is probably the most important and crucial in rock music and rock-based genres. Almost every song that isn’t a ballad has its own unique drumming patterns, sometimes very noticeable and prominent and sometimes very subtle with small nuances. Nevertheless, it is a careful thought of weaving and combining some of the oldest beats and patterns known to man up to complex time signatures while trying their best to not repeat the same song pattern twice. I don’t know how they do it really, it takes so much physical strength and mental focus to get a solid sound out of a drum shell let alone keeping the beat accurate without losing stamina, especially in extreme metal drumming. It is an incredible ancient instrument and probably the most challenging and complicated instrument to work with in the studio or in a live show situation. When you mic’ up a drum kit you do it with the intention that you are about to capture both transient hits and slow air movements in order to translate it through a sound system or DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) in the best way possible without losing any information. Although the methodology of micing’ up drums in the studio and in a live situation is quite different from each other, the overall concept remains the same.
Efraim is not only the drummer of the almighty Naglfar, he also plays in Persuader, Guillotine and other bands and projects that we will talk about later in this interview. He released several MIDI drum packs for Toontrack covering genres such as Black Metal, Thrash, Doom and Heavy Metal. One of his bands, Persuader, has recently released their fifth album called “Necromancy” and prior to that he recorded drums for the seventh album of Naglfar, “Cerecloth”. His drums setup for the Naglfar shows is a straight up metal setup: 2x22“ Kicks, 14” Snare, 16”, 14“, 12“, 10“ Toms. Cymbals will probably be Sabian AAX or similar: 15”,16”,17” crash cymbals, 18” china, ride cymbal and hi-hats. He runs a kick drum trigger for the dynamics and he is also incharge of the backtracks (piano tracks, violins and basically anything that can’t be played live by 5 people in total).
It’s hard for me to describe his drumming style because he is such an excellent performer and leaves no room for mistakes or personal touch, what you hear on the record is exactly what you will hear live. I guess the best way to describe his style is “versatile metal drummer” or as I call him; “Machine”.
Efraim, Effe, Effi, Machine. There have been many names! How are you doing?
There sure has been, don't even get me started on spelling. I'm fine, or as fine one can be in these pested times. Winter is also on full blast upon us here in the north so it's dark and gloomy but ok I guess.
Let's start by a rundown of the bands and projects you’ve been involved with until now.
Sure! My first "real" band was Persuader, going on some 25 years now. There were some loose projects before that but it´s with that outfit I stumbled into serious rehearsing, creating and recording songs. I've been in Guillotine since 2007 when they started up again after a long hiatus. Did an album, some shows and a small tour, the band has been on hiatus again with the other members working with other bands and projects, hopefully we can get that going again soon. In 2012 I joined Naglfar which has been my main focus for some time with lots of shows, touring and the recording of the album Cerecloth last year. I also have a death metal project called Esox Lucius where I do most of the music and recording and an old friend of mine does the vocals. During the years I´ve worked with the software company Toontrack and recorded a series of Midi-packs for them covering different metal genres.
Impressive, I didn’t know Persuader goes back that long. How did you start playing drums, did you just wake up one morning and said “let’s piss off the neighbors”? What influenced you and what was your first drum kit?
I was apparently banging on pots and pans at a very young age, but I remember as a kid seeing some live thing on TV with the band Europe and the drummer must have done something to impress me because I told my parents "right, that's what I wanna do". I started with drum lessons in 4th grade and that Christmas I got my first kit, a used Ludwig Vistalite blue acrylic 4-piece. It was kinda beat up and impossible to tune but I didn't care, it made loud noises! Just doing lessons and playing alone was not the most exciting thing though, it was when I got together with friends and started jamming I really got into it.
Impressed by Europe’s drummer? That’s a topic for a whole different interview I guess. I’m glad you upgraded the kit since then, or at least I really hope you did! Is the current drum setup you have in Naglfar is the same for all the bands you play with?
Haha, well you have to start somewhere right? Upgrading wise, the first thing I did was by a cheap double pedal and firmly planted my left leg on it never to be moved again. My next kit was a Tama starclassic that I use still to this day. A few more cymbals and a second kick drum was added through the years. I'm comfortable on a standard kit, anything extra is just a bonus to play around with.
Keeping it simple, nice. I’ll remind you that next time when you complain about backline rentals or a house kit. When I first heard “The Massacre” album by The Exploited, it hit me like an epiphany, the role of drums and bass in extreme music. I bet metal music played a big part in shaping your drumming style, what else inspires you?
You grunt a bit, then you deal with it, it's just how it goes. Ah yes, great album that. Beat the bastards is another good one. As for metal shaping stuff, I blame Gene Hoglan and Dave Lombardo for said drum pedal upgrade. Their work with Slayer, Death and Strapping young lad definitely inspired me to step up my game. But inspiration can come from any music really. A cool beat is a cool beat, no matter the genre. I find programming drums for demos and such can be a good way to come up with new stuff and also to challenge myself.
I see drummers with kits that have at least 8 toms and even rototoms and more cymbals than the stars, but during a set of an hour they are lucky if they hit at least one of them once. What is it with those drummers that must have this useless setup? By the way, this is why I can’t stand Neil Peart and Rush. Yeah you’re a great drummer we get it, but take it easy. Yes, I said it.
Haha, savage! I mean if I had someone carry my stuff and put it all up for me, sure...bring on the double rack toms and what not. I guess it's part of the show if you're at Neil Peart's level. But for us mortals, or at least for me, it's more about ease of use and thinking if it's really worth the effort to haul around something that you may only use for one part of one song.
A matter of taste I guess, in my opinion Niel Peart didn’t need all of this crazy setup and could have performed just fine with half of it. Back in the day, they used to record drums with 2 microphones and it sounded amazing, today you run at least 32 microphones. I think it’s because drummers used to play drums in “balance” but since the 60’s it’s all about the “attacks'' rather than the “movements”. What do you think?
Oh absolutely. Back then balancing how hard you hit your kit was way more important and implemented I think. I seem to recall you berating me more than once for not easing up on the crashes... I guess that fine art is sometimes lost to technology. I'm certainly guilty of it.
Well, I have told you that when you played in some difficult venues and stages, where the cymbals simply cut through everything else. In your opinion, what makes a drummer stay relevant these days? Is it her or his ability to play different styles or simply having a YouTube channel?
Geez I sure hope it takes more than a YT channel, I'm royally screwed otherwise! From my perspective it's just about finding what you like about drumming and go full tilt for that. Playing with other people was always the way to develop and grow for me. Trying to master different styles is a good thing, you can cross breed between genres and potentially come up with something new.
I think that real professionalism is shown in moments of crisis. I remember a show of Naglfar when your kick trigger began to stutter so I pulled it out of the mix and you disconnected it, yet it didn’t disturb the show at all, you just kept on going. Other drummers would try to fix it after the song, dragging out stage time or even worse, stop the show entirely just because they can, those bastards. Things like that don’t happen quite often but you know, shit happens all the time, how do you deal with malfunctions like that?
Yeah those things are not fun, especially if you have a limited time on stage. I remember one show when I started the intro but then the clicktrack never came on. It probably took less than a minute to fix the loose cable or whatever it was but it sure feels like an eternity when you´re under pressure. I try to keep electronics as simple as possible so you have less points of failure. making sure to have backups if possible, fresh batteries, cables switched out regularly. Also, make sure you know your set by heart even without any monitors. Game saver.
Good point, too many musicians nowadays rely strictly on technology and gear, forgetting it can all come crashing down. Do you think you can make an honest living out of drumming alone, without living in your parents basement or having a rich wife?
You can, but it´ll usually mean a lot of hard work and sacrificing other things. A bit of luck wont hurt either. If you´re talented and can market yourself in a good way it of course makes things easier but it's not a business for fast cash that's for sure.
For me, drums are the most elaborated and difficult yet fun instrument to mix, but it takes a relatively long time to nail the drum mix and given the fact it is the loudest instrument in the band - I usually start with it first. What’s most important for you in soundchecks and in your own monitor mix?
It's also the most expensive, and your job is to literally beat up your own instrument. Stupid right? Anyway...Making sure the pieces are where they can be beaten up the easiest is important. Tuning the victims comes next, if there´s time. As long as I have a guitar in my monitor I'm usually ok, vocals and a bit of kick drum is icing on the cake.
Keeping it simple, that’s great. Let’s talk about Persuader’s latest release, “Necromancy”, no blast beats on this record and the singer actually sings, which must be strange for you.
Haha, well it's good to mix things up aint it? Before I joined Naglfar I had never played blast beats other than the occasional bit here and there, so in that regard playing in Persuader is just like putting on a pair of old shoes. The drumming is not as intense but I also do backing vocals live in that band which makes for some edge case fainting on stage when totally out of breath. I'm glad I gave up smoking.
Oh no, we got a singing drummer here, too bad, we could have been good friends! Speaking of friends, Alexander Impaler recently joined the band, it seems like you just can’t shake him off.
"Singing", yeah hehe... Speaking of that, we all do backing vocals in Persuader so we're excited to hear what Alexander can bring to the table. Bringing a stranger into a band can be a bit of a gamble, so when we decided to let Jens be a vocalist only it was a smooth transition to bring in a known fellow. Alexander is a professional so we´re glad to have him with us.
I think you and Alexander combined makes a mean rhythm section machine. Esox Lucius, this was an intriguing project in my opinion. Raw death metal that combined epic melodies and obscure ambience. You released a four track EP called “Dödsmantra” and since then it came to a halt. What happened to this project?
Ah yes, this was a funny one. I was chatting with an old friend from school, about old times, music we grew up with etc...and he told me he had always wanted to sing in a death metal band. So we decided to record a song for fun, me doing the music and him on the vocals. It turned out much better than expected, the guy had a pretty evil voice, albeit a bit rough. I had a bunch of unused riffs lying around so I crammed out three more songs and we recorded the EP. The rules were that it had to be in Swedish, it was to be about monsters (fictional or real) and there was to be no overthinking it. First takes, put together fast, mixed fast. Once we´re past Covid I'm sure we'll hook up and do some more, I've got a lot of ideas in the riff bank.
Ever since the covid-19 on-off restrictions and lockdowns I’ve been hearing all sorts of stories from people, some get more creative and rediscovering themselves while others scratch their faces and thinking of ways to commit suicide. How is it for you?
Well as much as us northerners like to be distanced from each other, it's of course a drag at this point. We have had a bunch of shows moved or cancelled with Naglfar, which sucks completely.. Playing live is why I do this. We have a small tour planned with Persuader this fall but who knows.. I'm expecting this to keep on going for the whole year I'm afraid. Personally me and my family are ok, a few relatives have catched the virus but luckily nothing too bad symptom-wise. I just really really miss meeting up with people, here and abroad.
You and me both. What’s the first thing you’re going to do when this shit is over?
Go to a live show, drink a bunch of beer and hug the fuck out of everyone I meet.
That’s how you catch Covid-19! And Lastly, name 3 do’s and 3 don'ts when dealing with a grumpy sound engineer.
Pretty much! Ok,
1: Show up on time.
2: Give the engineer his complimentary craft beer.
3: Do what said engineer tells you, no questions asked.
Simple as that.
1: Drag your ass.
2: Play when it's not your turn.
3: Forget the tomatoes
I couldn’t agree more! Thank you Efraim for the interview, I hope those restrictions will be over soon so we can go back to our lives and have shows again.
Thank you very much, hope to see you soon buddy!
The interview was conducted between Efraim Juntunen (Persuader, Naglfar) and Lior Delman (Delman - Sound Engineering & Tour Management)
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