Drummer Mike Mangini of progressive metal giants DREAM THEATER recently answered a number of questions for the visitors of the Music Radar web site. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Music Radar: What was the last breakthrough you had with your playing?
Mangini: It was adjusting my velocities and realizing that I don't have to smash everything, with the perception that hitting harder gets you a better sound. Hitting hard enough gets the best sound, yes. Over-smashing is hard not to do, especially when you're an excitable person, so I've learned to control the velocities — to make them strong but not go below a certain point. That's a ton of work, though, because it forces you to redo your own protocalls, your operating system. It's a big, big behavior change.
Music Radar: When you watch other drummers play, what's the one thing that you see them doing wrong?
Mangini: This is a tough one because I look for the positives in everybody. And, of course, I was a teacher for forever — I'll probably always be one. If I were being asked to evaluate someone, I would just look at that person on a purely technical level. So the question would be, "Are they reaching their potential?" It could be that a drummer's technique limits them in pulling off things that they don't yet do. But maybe it's just not in their spirit to do it; it's not in their calling — I can't call that wrong. The only thing that would be wrong for anybody would be to use a technique that would hurt them. And this includes me — I'm not pointing a finger at anybody else. If I see myself, or anybody, grabbing the sticks too tightly and hitting the drum in a way that I know is unhealthy for the tendons, I would say that's a wrong thing to do.
Music Radar: Of the songs on the new album, which one was the most challenging for you?
Mangini: "The Looking Glass" took the longest for me to get, and it's because I improvised the most on it. But, you know, that goes back to the older tracks. Whenever there wasn't a lot of time for those guys to mull over their parts and they just kind of had to play stuff, all of that comes out of an improvisational base. Those things are hard to replicate for anybody. "The Looking Glass" was the most improvised track on the new album. I had to catch a train home, so I really whipped it out — I just played it and left! [Laughs] Later on, I had to go back and hear what I did. There's so much cymbal work on it, with layers and layers of sticking, and it's hard for me to hear in that frequency range. And I was improvising.
Read the entire question-and-answer session at the Music Radar web site.