GENE HOGLAN: 'Drums Are 90 Percent Mental, 10 Percent Physical; If You Can Think It, You Can Do It'

April 4, 2024

In a new interview with Scott Itter of Dr. Music, legendary metal drummer Gene Hoglan (TESTAMENT, DETHKLOK, STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, DEATH, DARK ANGEL) was asked what he does to keep his body in shape to be able to play such extreme music night after night. He responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Well, I guess a number of years ago, I quit all extracurricular activities. I don't drink anymore and I never got into drugs. I used to smoke a little pot. Now I don't even do that. I'm an effing teetotaler these days, for the last couple of years. And so, waking up, feeling good every morning.

"Everything about drums — I've always said drums are 90 percent mental, 10 percent physical. And if you can think it, you can do it," he continued.

"When I was a teenager, and I was like trying to figure out how do I play double bass this fast, as I'm supposed to be playing, it's, like, 'I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.' So now I feel younger than ever. I put on a little bit of weight back then, but I've lost 180 pounds since my biggest weight. I was 410, then I got down to about the 250 sort of area now. And I got down to 224, I think, [at one point]. But one thing I have noticed, and it's the only thing — I feel like a baby; I'm 56 years old, but I feel half that age; I feel 27, 28 kind of thing. Seriously. Aging, it's in your mind, man. So many guys I know that are my age and older and even younger just going, 'Oh my God. I'm so old.' And I'll stop all of them. It's, like, 'Cut that shit right now. You're not old. You're a baby. You're an effing baby. You're 54 years old. You're a child. Come on, man.' When we were young, we were like eight, nine, 10, and our grandparents were in their 50s, I mean, they look like they were in their 90s. 50, that's nothing anymore."

Gene added: "This is the only thing I've ever known. This is the only life I've ever known. I've never done anything else other than tour and put out albums. So there's nothing different for me. That's what I was gonna say, the one thing that I have noticed from having experience, being more experienced than some of the younger dudes, is I do need to keep my chops up. Like back in the day, I could go six months without playing and sit on the kit and get back pretty darn quick. These days — and maybe this is mental; maybe this is me just telling myself that, 'Dude, you have to keep your chops up or else they're gonna go away' — I can't go for much more than a couple of weeks or three weeks. And they come back real quick, but I would not wanna give it two months, where I've gotta go do something like, 'You're only gonna play guitar for two months,' kind of thing.

"During the pandemic, when that thing hit, I was, like, 'How am I gonna keep my chops up?' So I became a live streamer on Twitch. I essentially started that live stream in order to force myself to get down to the studio on a regular basis because I refer to myself as the legend of lethargy, 'cause I'm a lazy dude, man. If I don't have to do something, I ain't gonna do it. So you make yourself have to go down and play drums every day. So I was streaming for a month straight every single day, or I was streaming, like, four times, five times a week ,playing three, four hours of drums. And I utilize drums as cardio, and I utilize weights with drums. I still wear the leg weights, and it's pretty, pretty well-known concept. I wear leg weights when I play drums, and that's a great way to keep your muscles going. And I go to the gym, I work out and try to keep my muscles ready to go, because as you reach an advanced age, utilize everything you can to give yourself that edge.

"I fully, completely intend to be doing this in my 70s, in my 80s, Gene said. "And it's not gonna be something like where it's, like, 'Oh, that's adorable. He still plays some drums.' No, I mean, like bringing it, So I figured I could get away with this kind of carriage that I have at the moment, but in my 70s, who knows if I could get away with this kind of whatever gut I've got. So I intend to be cut and ripped in my 70s, so I'm just this destructive force, where it's, like, 'Holy crap, Hoglan is still bringing it.'"

Hoglan is acclaimed for his creativity in drum arrangements, including usage of odd devices for percussion effects and his trademark lengthy double-kick drum rhythms (using what he calls "kick triplets"). His highly technical playing is extremely accurate at very high and challenging tempos, earning him the nicknames "The Atomic Clock" and "Human Drum Machine". He is best known for his works with Devin Townsend, DARK ANGEL, DEATH, DETHKLOK, STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, TESTAMENT and FEAR FACTORY.

Hoglan got his first drum kit when he was 13 and is completely self-taught. He started jamming along to his KISS and RUSH records. In 1984, Hoglan began his music career as a roadie (lights engineer) for the thrash metal band SLAYER, where he also played the drums during concert soundchecks. He was also part of the band WAR GOD with Michelle Meldrum. At the end of the same year he was asked to join the thrash metal band DARK ANGEL as the drummer. He penned most of the lyrics for DARK ANGEL's next three albums. He achieved greater fame during the mid-1990s playing with DEATH, at the same time that bandleader Chuck Schuldiner was taking that group into a more progressive style. Subsequently, he recorded several albums with the thrash metal band TESTAMENT, and made the acquaintance of Canadian multi-instrumentalist Devin Townsend, forging a lasting friendship. He has since recorded several albums with Townsend, both as part of the speed/industrial/death metal band STRAPPING YOUNG LAD and under Devin Townsend's name.

For the past decade and a half, Hoglan has been working with DETHKLOK, the band from the animated TV show "Metalocalypse". The show was co-created by stand-up comedian/actor/musician Brendon Small, who also composes or performs all of the music.

Gene joined FEAR FACTORY in 2010 and played on the band's "Mechanize" album.

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