||The recently released
CD of his new band The Almighty Punchdrunk, the upcoming Strapping
Young Lad-album, the long awaited Dark Angel-reunion
there's always an occasion for a Gene Hoglan interview. Besides,
the American super drummer is always full of interesting stories
and anecdotes. For example, his current domicile Vancouver is, according
to Hoglan, the 'burglary-capitol' of North America. His car has
been broken into 13 times, once they even captured a box full of
"There are many homeless people
here and they steal everything they can lay their hands on. My
car has an American license plate and apparently they conclude
from it that I'm very rich. My van meanwhile looks totally battered,
but luckily Vancouver also has very many attractive sides. It's
a beautiful city, almost all my current bands reside here, and
I made many friends over the last few years. Also the members
of Punchdrunk, I've already known them for years."
The Almighty Punchdrunk originated in 1996, from the ruins
of local bands such as Spleen, Process and hardcore pioneers Minority,
and already released in that same year -without Gene- the album
'More Than Metal'. Hoglan met the band members just a year later,
at the recordings for the Strapping Young Lad video 'Detox', for
which the local scene-guru Devin Townsend invited dozens of friends
"I just moved to Vancouver
and pulled together the whole day with those guys. Afterwards
I was invited to a show for their band, that was simply called
Punchdrunk back then. I went without special expectations, but
they completely blew me away that evening. Punchdrunk had great
songs, consisted of very good musicians, and had a great energy.
They turned the venue completely upside down. I instantly became
a great fan of the band and later regularly jammed on a few songs
with them live. When their drummer left due to personal problems,
it went without saying that I offered my services. After all I
already knew their songs by heart."
After Hoglan's entry the band
soon started working on their second album. The Devin Townsend-produced
'Music For Them Asses' was already finished in 2000, but has just
last month been released world wide by the German label Virusworx.
Most striking about the CD is the big contrast between the tongue-in-cheek
band name and lyrics, and the extraordinarily tight, extreme music.
"We are a super serious band",
grins Hoglan. "The term Punchdrunk for that matter, has nothing
to do with drinking punch. A punchdrunk is somebody who had too
many punches against his head, and because of that is going through
life kinda like a zombie. Maybe you've seen Mohammed Ali recently
on TV? Well, that's the prototype of a punchdrunk. And because
there are other bands walking on this world with that name, we
later on added 'The Almighty'."
How big was your contribution
on 'Music For Them Asses'?
"I co-composed on half of
the songs and I wrote part of the lyrics. Although there's a lot
of typical 'Gene-drumwork' on the CD, I tried to retain the style
of the previous drummer as much as possible, because his way of
drumming helped to define the sound of Punchdrunk. He often played
i.e. heavy blast beats underneath very open guitar riffs. I thought
that was beautiful and just imitated it."
Why is Gene already doing interviews,
while he joined the band much later?
"Because Punchdrunk is a great
band to which I will be devoted completely for the coming time.
With Dark Angel I was the one doing everything for years. When
the rest of the band was in the bar at weekends, I was at home
writing lyrics. And when the others were chasing the girls on
tour, I was in the tour bus composing riffs. I didn't mind back
then. I lived completely for Dark Angel and I really loved doing
those things. Yet it was nice with other, later bands, like Testament,
Old Man's Child and Death to simply be the drummer of the band.
That way I finally was able to perfect my style of drumming, that
in the Dark Angel days still was very primitive and sloppy. I
really lived to the fullest with those later bands, but I never
had the responsibility for the music. However, The Almighty Punchdrunk
is my new love. I want to tour a lot with this band in the future
and I already wrote a lot of music for the next CD. Nevertheless,
the coming time I'm completely in 'Strapping-land'. The new CD
is almost finished. At the moment we're putting the finishing
touch to the vocals. The new album was recorded in ten days. In
spite of it, it's a very tight and extreme CD, compared to which
'City' is a pop album. When the album is released we first will
be touring America together with Nile, Napalm Death and Voivod.
After that undoubtedly, we'll be coming to Europe."
I sometimes wonder how you manage
to keep up with this kind of busy schedule. Besides your current
projects, you recently recorded an album with the Danish band
. Actually you always played in several extreme metal
bands at the same time, in which the drum speed in the music often
was inhumanly high. It is known that, because of your knees, you're
walking with a cane for years now. Aren't you afraid that your
overburden symptoms will be getting worse?
"No, because drumming is the
best remedy against all complaints. Although I smoke a lot, and
not take care of my health at all, I'm really in top shape. The
first encounter with my doctor here in Vancouver was very comical.
He said: 'sombody of your size and weight should be moaning and
groaning all day, but your heartbeat is the lowest I measured
today.' After I explained to him what I did for a living, he comprehended
it better. The same doctor for that matter, used to play in a
Judas Priest cover band. I now have to keep him posted of my activities
all the time. But you're right: I'm always in several bands, and
sometimes I actually drive from one rehearsal room to the other.
And because of all that drumming I'm in excellent shape. I could
run a marathon screaming, at the moment. My latest physical complaint
is actually quite funny: since a while I regularly have a big
lump with dried up fluid on my wrist. According to my doctor such
a ganglion-lump can't do any harm and it could easily be removed.
Byron, the Strapping Young Lad bassist, sometimes has to beat
me with a book or a beer glass on my wrist for a quarter of an
hour. And to my surprise that makes the lump disappear."
Gene doesn't want to know about
taking things easier yet. Also with the reunion shows of Dark
Angel, next November and December, he will be in on it.
"That's right. They wanted
to book a dozen shows and I was still fully available for that
period. My idea about reunions is openly known: I think they're
ridiculous. On the other side, when a lot of people want to see
Dark Angel one more time, I don't want to be the spoil-sport of
course. Then I'll sit behind the kit and go for it. The other
band members know where my priorities are nowadays. I warned them
up front: you'll be getting a trimmed down Gene. I don't have
time to do it all again. Which doesn't necessarily has to be a
handicap. Not for a tour, and not even for a possible next album.
I know that guitarist Jim Durkin already wrote new material. And
although I composed a lot for Dark Angel, Jim wrote 70% of the
material on 'Darkness Descends', and actually all classics are
written by him. The set list during the tour? I think about the
complete 'Darkness Descends' and a few songs from 'Leave Scars'
and 'Time Does Not Heal'. For that matter, also requests from
European festivals for Dark Angel are starting to come in. It
could be that I will be in Europe half the summer with my bands."