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Gene Hoglan – Drums, Not Brain Surgery

By: David E. Gehlke


Hoglan with Symbolic-era Death circa 1995...

Blistering.com: You’re like a beat laboratory.

Hoglan:
[laughs].

Blistering.com: This is one of the big questions surrounding the Testament record and subsequent promotion, but how are you going to work touring with Dethklok and Testament?

Hoglan:
Well, at the moment since either way it looked, I was going to have to miss something with Testament. I’ve been involved with Dethklok for six years now, I guess, and Testament is pretty new. We’re just trying to work out the schedules. There’s a lot of things that were already on the books that we can’t change, but Testament, fortunately, has a lighter touring schedule at the end of the year than some bands. You release an album and you’re usually gone for six months straight. Testament is doing it rather…I don’t want to say lightly, but they’re picking their spots until the end of the year. Next year they’ll do tons of touring, and Dethklok is a relatively transient project. It’s not a full-bore band where we’re putting albums out every year, so I don’t see a lot of scheduling conflicts. There is one coming up with this upcoming tour where Dethklok is going on the road in late October and Testament has some dates in Europe. I’m not sure what’s going to happen with that. They’re going to have to get a fill-in, but hopefully they’ll get someone that works out really cool. Hopefully we don’t have to do a whole lot of that.

Blistering.com: You’ve had the good fortune of being teamed up some of metal’s most innovative thinkers like Devin and Chuck. What's it like being paired with guys that routinely think outside of the box?

Hoglan:
Since I’ve been an outside-of-the-box thinker myself, I think it’s always been a really good marriage. I enjoy helping somebody else who has a really clear vision, attain their vision. I share the same vision. Let’s write something bitchin’ and cool and fun to listen to for us. Getting somebody behind that, like Devin, like Brendan [Small, Dethklok], like Chuck, and even like Eric, all of those guys have really strong visions of what they want to achieve with their music. If I can be a really bad-ass drum machine that they can push to the limit, here I am, use me! I’ve always liked being a support character or in a supporting role to someone else’s vision because you always win in the end. I get to be on really cool records, working with awesome, amazing people. And the final product is, “Hey at least Gene is pushing boundaries, there must be a reason for that.”

Blistering.com: There must be a reason your name keeps getting called when someone needs a drummer last-minute. You’ve filled in Opeth several years when Martin Lopez had problems, and you most recently did Anthrax when Charlie Benante had family obligations.

Hoglan:
If I am gaining the reputation of last-ditch effort, call Gene and he’ll save the day, then cool! I’m Mighty Mouse, then. Opeth, I got to play with them because circumstances came up beyond their control, so it’s like, “Hey Gene, you win! You get to play with a kick-ass band.” I enjoy it. There’s always a lot of pressure in those situations. Maybe I feed off that or something.

Blistering.com: You almost have to. How did you adapt to something like that? Like when you filled in for Anthrax right after they put a new album out?

Hoglan:
That was a matter of Charlie came to me on a Monday, then by Friday, I was onstage with them. I filled him behind his kit. I took my iPhone out and filmed three of the shows as much as I could. There was one show where I got the whole thing. The Tempe, Arizona show, I was able to play the whole thing; there were a couple they swap out every night, so I might have had those from the other night. I just had the ultimate Charlie Benante drum footage. Three days…that’s a lot of time for me [laughs].

Like with Opeth, it was a matter of “Hey dude, we’re going onstage in six hours, so whatever you can do, we’ll be there for you.” [laughs] I also did an Unearth show. I was driving up to Vancouver to work on my DVD and I got a call from their management saying, “How familiar are you with the Unearth material?” I was like, “Not very. I know the riff in that one song!” We did a few tours with them, but you don’t pay attention to the breakdowns in each song. So they said, “Tell you what: If you can learn everything by tomorrow, they’ll be in Vancouver tomorrow. If you stop by this Best Buy in Salem, Oregon, they have a couple of copies of what you’ll be playing on hold for you. Walk in there, pick them up and maybe you can listen to them on the rest of your drive.” I had about another 12 hours on the drive, so I just listened to the seven or eight, or ten songs of what they were playing over and over, and we hit the stage the next night.

Unearth is a very talented and technical band. It’s not like you’re playing basic material. The style I wasn’t familiar with, like the choppy, double-bass is the norm in that style. I had to figure out how to play that shit. It was a fun challenge…it’s just drums. It’s not brain surgery. You hit something hard, and a lot. That’s what I do! Try not to fuck up [laughs].

Blistering.com: Did you ever play a show where you had no idea what you were doing?

Hoglan:
I definitely have little gappy moments in the early stages of anything. When you’ve just learned ten songs that you did not know the day before, especially if any of those songs have similar tempo or similar chordal changes. Sometimes you have a little gapping moment in the first few days. I remember Buzz [McGrath] from Unearth running past the drums and air-drumming the fill I was supposed to be playing that I was just about to blow. I always know I’m about blow it when I have two guitarists and bass player turned around and staring at me, like “Oh no, what’s he doing?” It happens. I just try to make that happen less and less between each show.

 Gene Hoglan official website

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