Old Hands And The Forward-line

Cozy Powell / Ian Paice / Gene Hoglan / Mike Browning / Rick Colaluca



It is about time we give hard rock and heavy metal some attention again in the Swkrant....
At the time the most important names of the speed metal wave have gotten a chance. This time we ask attention for two old-timers who still keep the collosus' from the hard rock glory days going:
Cozy Powell (Black Sabbath) and Ian Paice (Deep Purple). Besides we lined up three promoters from the young, very heavy metal guard: Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel), Rick Colaluca (Watchtower), and Mike Browning (Nocturnus); a story as varied as the influences, techniques, and opinions that are discussed.


Magazine: Slagwerkkrant / Netherlands
Article: Zwaar Dreunende Drummers

Written by: Mark van Schaik
Published: November/December 1991



In the year 1991 Dark Angel, Nocturnus, and Watchtower now stand for the great flight metal took. The first took care of a very sharp refinement of thrash metal, the second took death metal to a higher (heavier, faster, more extreme) level. Finally the third is the patriarch of techno metal, a sub genre that is still developing, but is rejoiced at a graving interest from mainly musicians. And maybe because not every listener feels the lust to put his stamina to the test even the old values are being rehabilitated completely. Led Zeppelin's popularity today makes it seem like the 70's never ended! Black Sabbath and Deep Purple are still indefatigably making records which are far above the average hard rock release. And all its descendants, from Whitesnake to Guns 'N' Roses, are selling millions. Hard rock and metal, no matter in what form, is never enough.

When you try to keep up with the new releases, when you check upon the bands touring the Netherlands in this genre, or when you take a good look at the fanaticism of the followers, it becomes clear that hard rock and everything that comes along with it is more popular than ever before. It was cast into our teeth as it appeared just after the release date of issue #22 that this one took the lead in the row of Most Popular Issues. Back then it was seven drummers, from Motörhead to Metallica who shed their light over hard rock, heavy metal, and in particular speed drumming. On the following pages first of all the Britons Cozy "Black Sabbath" Powell and Ian "Deep Purple" Paice get a chance. Next are Gene "Dark Angel" Hoglan, Mike "Nocturnus" Browning, and Rick "Watchtower" Colaluca; three drummers pushing back borders that were defined by the first two.


In 1987 the broad acceptation of speed and thrash metal directly led to an extensive story about metal drummers. The bands that were thrown a light upon in the Swkrant #22 heavy metal special haven't done too badly since. Motörhead is often quoted as one of the most important founders of speed and thrash. Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax in the meantime kicked it to absolute world fame! Metal Church and Flotsam & Jetsam had their ups and downs, but are still assured of a loyal audience. Only Laaz Rockit has dropped out of the picture.

The unexpected success of speed metal, not exactly the most commercial kind of pop music, made record companies keep their ears extended on the ground of the underground and every band from which they thought would link up with the taste of the Headbanger, that "Oh so easy to buy" group, was contracted. It was just a matter of (very little) time before a part of this audience and quite a number of musicians decided that speed metal was not enough; not hard enough, fast enough, extreme enough, or virtuoso enough.....


Ever since he was a part of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow he always played in the forward-line, jumping from band to band as a full time session drummer. However, right now Cozy Powell has stuck it out for three years already around guitarist Tony Iommi with the legendary Black Sabbath. Especially Sabbath's latest release "Tyr" is worth the effort of listening to. You hear a band with its own well tried sound, certainly not resting on their laurels.

"I'm, let me think, around 3 years a part of Black Sabbath", he tells. "Some find it quite long for me, yet I am not the only one who's been a part of this many bands. Take a look at Carmine, at Tommy Aldridge. For some reason it's more striking with me. I haven't always been that lucky with other bands, but I'm very happy in Sabbath. I can play my own way completely. Nobody is nagging me about how or what I should be playing. This happened to me before. The last time with Gary Moore. He wanted me to play every note the same way that I did on the album, so I said: "Look Gary, you could just as easily tie me up! I am not telling you how to play your guitar either", you know what I mean? That was an exception. Mostly I am being asked for who I am and won't have to put up with this kind of nagging. Especially on tour, you must play the music you really like to play. In the studio I am willing to make a fool of myself and play something I am not behind 100%, but with an audience of 5,000 people I don't. After all, what they heard can never be erased....."

When you joined Sabbath you were having conditonal troubles....

"I am 43 now and had to lift some weights, did some running, but above all I played a lot. Touring is the best fitness training. After playing an hour and a half with Sabbath, well you're done. Your shoulders, your arms, your legs. Everything works. Everything is moving and just a bit more than with the average jazz drummer. Six shows a week keep me quite fit! I could use some more sleep, but that has to do with other.... activities, uh.... that come along with these kind of tours."


Sabbath plays a lot of classic rock songs. Are you attached to how your predecessors played those songs?

"I don't have any problem at all to play somebody elses stuff. When I was playing, for a short period, with Emerson, Lake & Powell ('85-'86), I did everything Carl did but different. A bit more heavy probably and less freaky. The classic Sabbath songs are pretty easy for me as they are. I always liked Bill Ward, the original drummer, and I just add a little of me. Tony Iommi's guitar sound and style are defining Sabbath's sound for a major part, so that doesn't change. Mostly he comes with a theme, I put a solid rhythm underneath it and then we jam for a while, until we have something that sounds good. Or I put on a beat and he plays over it. Teamwork. It's better than one person writing everything by himself because it gets boring. Teamwork is the secret of every succesful band. Drummers need to have their say in what happens. I co-produce the albums, I get a solid drum sound, and I am not being pushed away in the mix. That's the way I can work. There are drummers who take years to develop their sound and style. Then along comes a producer who doesn't like it and the drummer is gone. Those guys that are able to make a 32" bass drum sound like an 18". Do you recognize that? It happened with me in Whitesnake."

Powell names Buddy Rich and Louie Bellson as influences but says to have learned the most from the 60's pop drummers like Brian Bennett (Shadows) and Bobby Elliot (The Hollies). Once he cooly stated in "Modern Drummer" (11-'84); "I am not a "tasteful" drummer". Besides he always says not to believe in reading.

"About reading: I rather play on instinct", he says shrugging, "and when I play a solo it has to be an explosive whole that you'll never forget. Technically I am at an absolute minimum level, but I just don't give the game away. It hasn't got that much to do with playing; you just have to pull out all the stops and use all your tricks."


Has there been a lot changed in the studio, compared to let's say, 15 years ago?

"Not really, John Bohnham had the best drum sound ever, a natural tone, which had a lot to do with how he hit. I almost play the same way; it matters where you place your mics. I don't use all too many effects, just a bit of resonance to give the sound a bit more body. And how I tune my drums matters a lot. You have to tune them right and hit them hard. Ah...."

Matter of experience?

"When you hit as hard as I do you must not put your heads too tight, otherwise you'll get a very silly sound. I put on a new head, tighten it a little, give every bolt an extra turn, and then I tune it until I hear what I want to hear. But I hit hard with very thick sticks. I will give you some, so you know what I mean."

The Cozy Powell Model Yamaha sticks are 2,5 cm longer, 4 mm thicker, and 40 gr heavier (each...) than the heaviest standard stick, the 2B; almost a forest.

"The Yamaha folks once came on stage to measure my old Ludwig kit. Great people. They still make special kits for me, like the one I'm using right now, with Gilt hardware. Don't ask me about seizes though. I know my toms have 2 extra inches, just like the bass drum. It's 26"x 20". Yamaha always listened to me when I had comments on the standards or pedals. When something stays whole under my hands then it's strong enough.That's something they really understand in Japan. I'm sort of a test case for them. I've played Paiste cymbals for years now. Not the Signature; they just don't sound good with the sticks I use. The 3000 series is perfect for what I do. Why play something else then?!"

During the last Sabbath tour Powell used 5 crashes, actually almost sounding, after finding their way through the gigantic sound system, alike. The rivels in his 18"and 20" Paiste 3000 crashes are not marking effectful. The very big Paiste gong behind him is completing the stereotype image of the English rock drummer in the year Powell.


Next to Black Sabbath another band that escaped by the skin of their teeth was Deep Purple. After a reunion with the succesful line-up of Gillan,Blackmore,Lord,Glover, and Paice, the group is living now without Gillan, but Ian Paice stays in his place as solid as a rock. The drummer who made "Made in Japan" and songs like "Fireball" and "Speed King", into unforgettable pieces of rock history wants to look back on his youth with pleasure.

"A drum kit looked cool and drumming seemed to be an easy thing to do", is his first answer about his choice for the drums as an instrument to play on. "The first urge for drumming I felt around the age of 10-12. I used to grab my mothers's knitting needles and play with them on everything that I could find. It became obvious that I had a talent very soon, because a lot of stuff I only had to hear, not even see, and I could play it. On my 15th birthday my father gave me a drum kit. He was a professional piano player for quite some time and my parents supported me a lot instead of telling me to look for a "real" job."

Paice does his first performances with dance orchestras, mainly playing foxtrot and waltzes.

"And getting drunk afterwards with my dad, beautiful!"

Like Cozy Powell he played in his first professional band at the age of 17, and he also went to Hamburg (Germany/YK) in the mid-sixties. There he ran across Ritchie Blackmore, whom not much later formed Deep Purple. The rest of the story is history....
Except from his father, Paice dit not get music lessons, which had nothing to do with not wanting to, but there were simply no drum teachers available around Oxford, where he lived at that time. Yet on the video of the concert that Deep Purple did together with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969 Paice is reading music.

"Oh, but that was a joke, I mean on the first line there was something like: wait about 3 minutes, then give 3 HARD strikes, first in rock & roll tempo, pay attention to the director for the stop, STOP, etc.... Quite a nice experience. All those violinists behind me read this of course and they all went: "this is never gonna work", but it did. Those lines were as much sheet music for me as theirs was for them."


The Deep Purple songs arise like Black Sabbath's out of jam sessions in the rehearsal room. They play with a theme which slowly grows into a song.

"The problem with this is that you really only get to know a song by playing it on stage. Before it's too young. The songs from "Slaves and Masters" like we played them on the last tour are totally different from those on the album. Better, mainly. They have something complete now, a freedom which is not to be found on the album. During recordings we're not quite sure of what we want to tell. Nobody in the band says: "here's a song and this is what it should sound like". It's a process of growth like life itself. In the beginning it's very confusing and not clear at all. In former days things went different; we played songs live before they got recorded. In those days we never stopped touring so every idea was worked out on the stage and recorded after a gig or 20-30. Now we make an album and tour afterwards etc..... I've never had much fun working in a studio. A crowd makes me much more enthusiastic than a tape. Something goes wrong live? Once you've noticed it it's already gone. In the studio it's a sign to do it over again, which is not very good for spontaneity."

Ginger Baker and Bernard Purdie have been influences on Paice's style, but Carmine Appice was his big example among the rock drummers. Furthermore Ian listened a lot to jazz drummers and played along with the dance albums of his father's. "Which helped me develop a quite varied style."
Asking him about recent musical developements Paice fancies Jason Bonham to be a good young drummer.

"Very powerful, like the "Living Colour" guy, what's his name again? By the way, that whole band is great. I don't follow everything though. Sometimes I hear an album I like, or just one song. I'm not that fanatical. It's like drumming, I do it because I enjoy it; it's not an obsession. When you become too serious about your music you lose the essence. When you're young you make music for fun and I think that's always how it should be."


Powell exchanged Ludwig for Yamaha and Paice for Pearl.

"A 26" bass drum and a 6 and ˝" free floating snare are the only two indispensable drums. A drum kit actually exists out of 4 drums. Everything you add must really be seen as extra, at least that counts for most of us mortals. It's different of course when your name is Simon Phillips. He plays everything all the time and with every hand that's available. Wonderful. I watch him play, but I have no idea how he does it, and if I could do what he can I wouldn't play that way because it's just not my style. The same goes for Mark Brzezichi. His polyrhythm's are amazing, but nothing for me......"

Between the Paiste cymbals the 2002 ride strikes the most, still the same as to be heard on "Made in Japan". "A wonderful cymbal."

"There's really nothing you should not play, grab everything, you'll learn to make distinctions between. Furthermore it's of course beautiful if you can play all rudiments, but just a few are really of importance: the single and double paradiddles and a good two beat roll, a five beat roll and take care that your single strokes are steady. When you can play those rudiments in different speeds and feels, you have enough baggage to be able to play all nowadays music. Also the placing of your bass drum hits are very important. By placing them correct you can fool people about your speed. Search a good teacher and play with him until you know what you wanted to know and not any longer, because you will end up sounding like him, which leaves you no future. Sound like yourself. Personality is the secret of every great musician."


We won't blame the gentlemen Powell and Paice that they are no longer on top of every developement in hard rock and heavy metal. However three drummers that would compel admiration from the old hands as well as from the average Swkrant reader immediately are Gene Hoglan of Dark Angel, Mike Browning of Nocturnus, and Rick Colaluca of Watchtower, respectively from San Fransisco, Tampa (Florida), and Austin (Texas). Listen to Dark Angel's last CD "Time Does Not Heal" and hear how Hoglan effortlessly whips up his band members in deep, rhythmical, very elaborated songs for which he himself wrote many of the guitar parts and that are supplied with not quite decent lyrics also by him. His double bass drum play isn't second to Deen Castronova's, his up tempo rhythms lean nicely in front of the beat and the combination of suppleness and inventiveness speaking from his breaks are the incontrovertible proof of the indepencence of his hands and feet.

"Drums don't have much soul", Hoglan explains. "You have to put in a lot of time and energy to get soul, fire and passion out of your drum kit. That's why I never stagnate in my development. I always try to get out more than I did before. I play left-handed on a right-hand kit, but as we tour with a support act and I have to share my kit with their drummer I play right-handed on a right-hand kit because it takes less time rebuilding in the break. I do everything to prevent myself from getting bored and I like making a show out of it. When things are easy for you, must you go watch the ceiling as a drummer? So I am head banging like an idiot, I catch every cymbal I can, I juggle with my sticks... Since my childhood I've realized I'm not really a drummer, but I just like to hit on things. Hard and a lot. Guitar playing certainly helped me with drumming. I always come up with those fucking satanic schemes.... And in Dark Angel it's always been this way: the bass guitar plays along with the rhythm guitar. So whenever I think of something weird on guitar, a strange rhythmical beat, I want to be able to play along with it with my feet. I assure you that's a big help with drumming. Terry Bozzio quite influenced me with those stuttering, stacata bass drum parts. We put over a guitar riff in E and ready..... Something else I've learned from playing the guitar is the importance of moderating your speed. On our first album there are beautiful riffs, but no-one ever heard them because we played them too fast.


Kiss, Angel, and Queen were favorites of the young Gene. From Deep Purple he quotes the song "Fireball" as an example of what you can do with your bass drum foot.

"Later on there are Rush (my idols around age 12) and Yes. Bonham never appealed to me a lot, although I once was called the Bonham of speed metal. I appreciate Led Zeppelin more now, but as a child I hated that band just because of the fact that every simple soul in my environs was a Zeppelin fan. No, Peart was my man, and Tommy Aldridge. Bozzio with Zappa and UK. I was just 14 years when I learned to play "Presto and Vivace" from UK's live album. I was as happy as a king.... Then there's Steve Gadd for his Al DiMeola stuff, "Elegant Gypsy", "Casino", those albums. I steal a lot of him and Bozzio. Deen Castronovo is a great metal drummer. He's got a good sticking and plays as free with his feet as with his hands. I'm very happy just sitting on the couch at home playing video games. I never really studied on the drums, I never had a teacher. Fuck the drums, give me a guitar, you know. All my drum play I made myself familiar with through osmosis. I absorb all kinds of styles and spit them out again in the Gene Hoglan style. Band rehearsals and touring are enough for me. The gig as a rehearsal: throw a linear pattern into a speed metal song. Very interesting, hahahaha. You are gonna attract attention immidiately, I assure you. The words thrash metal and soul are seldomly named together. Thrash metal is about negative emotions such as hate, pain, suffering, oppression.... We try to bring out those emotions in our music as much as possible live and I try to add some soul here and there, but our music is based on power not on groove. So my play will never have the impact like that of Gadd of Sonny Emory (my absolute hero at this moment). Creating a groove in a thrash metal enviroment isn't the easiest thing to do, but damn, having four body parts you can at least try. I don't care whether my heroes will ever hear me or not. People are very fast judging about thrash metal and I admit immediately that there are a lot of thrash metal drummers playing like a piece of shit. I hope I will never be one of them. Hey, nice quote? Gene Hoglan said: "I shall try not to become a piece of shit."


Nocturnus got a general support with their debut album "The Key" because of the integration of keyboards into, mainly vomitting guitars and vocals dominated, death metal. Not that this all of a sudden produced sweet melodies. Heavy, almost industrial tints were added to the complex, for the unsuspecting listener, almost inscrutable wall of noise. Mike Browning, who used to be the drummer of Morbid Angel, leads the band past strange time and tempo changes and up-up-tempo rhythms, meanwhile growling the lyrics. He frankly admits that it's not always easy.

"A head-set mic isn't ideal, and certainly not with this kind of music, with this crazy volume. Singing mainly takes away some of the power of the super fast 2/4. Try spitting out those kind of lenghty lyrics over it. Guaranteed you will get breath problems at some point and something has to suffer from it."

Mike's drum roots are with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Yes. In high school he played snare in the marching band and learned to read and write rhythms. Between '82 and '86 he played in Morbid Angel. Slayer and Angelwitch are the main reasons for making music as heavy as lead. With Nocturnus, for the first time Mike can get rid of all of his ideas, whether it's about singing, song writing, or drumming. Striking on "The Key" are the small (6", 8" and 10") toms emerging in his breaks. Seldom in music where it's usually low, lower, lowest.

"Yeah, I've always loved Neil Peart and he uses them often, that's why. My kit goes from a 6" to 16" with a 24" bass drum which gives me a lot of melodic possibilities in fills and some rhythms. Nocturnus usually works from out of the guitar riff or somethimes even from out of a certain sphere. Like with "Neolithic". That had to sound prehistoric. We try to catch this with riffs and rhythms. Tommy Aldridge was the one that inspired me to go play with a double bass drum. If you want to learn about playing steady you should listen to Tommy; or, even better, go and watch him. But what I really like lately is Watchtower and Rick Colaluca. I would love to have some private lessons from him..... Unfortunately I still have a day time job. But if I ever would be able to live off Nocturnus then I hope to spend three hours a day on the band and three hours a day on practising for myself. To study 6 months at the Percussion Institute Of Technology in California also is a nice thought. If you don't keep up your writing and reading it'll go."


A band that clearly left their traces on the metal world is Watchtower from Texas. What you hear on the albums "Energetic Disassembly" and "Control and Resistance" is a mix of thrash metal, fusion, and avant garde jazz. The trio Ron Jarzombek (guitar), Doug Keyser (bass) and Rick Colaluca (drums) are pushing the limits so far in their rhythmical and melodic experiments that it's no wonder that the singing gets in a crush and not one singer sticks it out very long with the band. It's quiet around the band lately, but their influence shows through in recent work of bands like Confessor, Secrecy, Donor and Osiris.

"We don't have a song writing formula, but we are completely devoted to our fans", tells Rick. "We therefore want to keep the balance between technical and accessible. We could write songs that would go so far that people without a profound knowledge of music would not be able to follow anymore. That's why we throw ideas overboard which we like very much ourselves. I think half of the music I listen to is fusion and funk. My favorite drummers used to be Neil Peart and Terry Bozzio, but nowadays they are Weckl, Chambers, and Chad Wackerman. Of course there are great thrash and rock drummers, but I'm inclined towards fusion. Is anybody doubting the influence of Rush and Neil Peart? I want to say that although it's probably the only band Ron, Doug, and I like, all three, we are not trying to be Rush. Some people say so. If you look at the trio concept and the progressive song writing with the emphasis on technique you could draw a parallel, but there are quite some early metal influences as well. After all, we started as a cover band. We played Judas Priest, Saxon, Scorpions, Iron Maiden and slowly more technical material crept into our repertoire. When I rehearse I do everything I like. I actually can't study rudiments very disciplined for hours. In high school I walked in the front row of the marching band and learned a lot about writing, reading and counting, but practising? Not really. I really started to work on my basics when we were starting to get recognition with Watchtower and got an audience that came to watch us because of the technical tour de forces we did."


"I am not counting when I play. Neither would I learn a break by heart or play a certain accent everytime on the same place. I always know at which point in the song I am, no matter how much improvising is going on. What is to be heard on the last album is just a snapshot and what I play live has little to do with it anymore."

Rick plays an acoustic drum kit, but his favorite set is a combination of an acoustic snare and Yamaha electronics and pads (5 tomsounds and special effects and 2 bass pads). Besides preferably small cymbals: 14" and 16" crashes, 20" ride, 10" splash and an LP Icebell.

"Of course I am looking for a good deal because the kit I use now is based more on price than quality. I mean, I'd rather use Drum Workshop pedals than the Tama Flexaflyers I use now, but.... my wallet...."

Mark van Schaik


to talks

Translated by YK/ASa for EmptyWords-Published on September 24 2000