I’ve recently had the pleasure of corresponding, mostly via Facebook messenger, with Canadian drummer Nick Yacyshyn. Like a lot of metal heads I’ve met and/or talked to, Nick’s a genuinely friendly guy, and he has graciously agreed to be interviewed for the WOBC blog. On top of that, he’s a uniquely talented, creative drummer.
I first became aware of Nick as a result of his involvement in post-metal super group SUMAC, where he plays alongside Aaron Turner of Isis/Old Man Gloom and Brian Cook of Russian Circles/ex-Botch/ex-These Arms Are Snakes. As I’ve said many times to those who will listen, SUMAC’s inaugural album, The Deal, is hands down my favorite of 2015. Since its release, I’ve listened to it at least 10 times. As a drummer, I became fascinated by Nick’s complex texturing and unconventional rhythmic patterns. One song in particular, ‘Thorn in the Lion’s Paw’, had my mind warped. Rather than submitting to my utter confusion, I decided to reach out to Nick and ask him what the pattern was. Despite being on tour on the other side of the planet, Nick got back to me with an hour. He clearly explained the drumbeat, and demystified that which would have otherwise remained totally opaque and indecipherable.
Following this exchange, I dug into Nick’s back catalog, including (but not limited to) his two albums with British Columbia based hardcore act Baptists. Needless to say, I was blown away, not only by the band’s explosive sound but also by their—and in particular Nick’s—breakneck speed. And as I soon found out, I wasn’t the only person who was impressed. Ex-Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighter Dave Grohl had posted numerous videos of Nick playing with Baptists online, accompanied by messages like ‘My favorite drummer’ and ‘Drummers beware’. Drummers beware, indeed.
But enough with the stunning praise and all-star endorsements, and onto the interview!
How does the writing process for SUMAC compare to that of Baptists? How much individual creative freedom do you have in each of those projects?
I like to think that I have complete creative freedom in both bands. Whether or not I choose to fully explore that freedom depends on what the song calls for! The writing process for both is fairly common: guitar player has riffs, riffs turn into songs.
With Baptists it’s a little more familiar as most of the songs are straight ahead 4/4 with the odd twist and turn. Also, Danny (Baptists guitar player/song writer) is a drummer, so he often has drum parts/input in mind when he presents me with a riff.
With SUMAC it’s more demanding because it’s all from scratch. A big part of the challenge with SUMAC is coming up with ideas and concepts that aren’t necessarily beats or parts, but feelings and textures that work within free space and don’t come across overbearing or worse, pointless and totally meandering. I have to think less conventionally, especially on this new record SUMAC is working on, in order to supply the rhythmic foundation needed to support the riffs, as well as creative and engaging parts that propel the songs forward and tie the more elaborate forms together.
In your interview with Metal Injection back in March, you got asked who some of your favorite new drummers are, and you were at kind of a loss. So I’ll ask it again, now that you’ve had time to think: who are they?
Thank you for asking me this! I completely blew it in that interview and have given it some thought since, so here’s a list. Most of these guys aren’t necessarily “new”, but undeniably worth the mention.
Benjie Nesdoly – Waingro
Danny Marshall – Erosion
Shaun Maguire – Dead Again
Tristan Helgason – Molten Lava/Anion
Allan Harding – Black Mastiff
Florian Schanze – Obliterations
Shin Yokota – Endon
Kirby Fisher – War Baby
Alex Litinsky – AM Overcast
Mads Richter – Halshug
Josh Bueckert – Wake
Ryan Driscoll – Burning Ghats/Klandestin
Jordan Easson – Hand Of The Horsewitch
Jamie Byrum – Black Breath
TJ Childers – Inter Arma
Jae Rowe – Westerbur and Rowe
Kyle Spence – Harvey Milk
Jon Mueller – Jon Mueller
I know I’m still forgetting some guys, but I’ll get ’em next time!
What’s your favorite song to play right now?
Right now I’m just concentrating on writing parts for the new SUMAC record, so I’d have to say all of those! Festered and Think Tank Breed are some of my favorites when Baptists plays live. Bushcraft is up there too but it’s damn near impossible to get through that one without becoming physically ill.
Who are a few of your biggest musical influences?
My biggest musical influences are my close friends and band mates. Aside from them I have a few stand outs – Angus and Malcolm Young, John Carpenter, Brian Sepanzyk, Ballou, Patton, Grohl, Danzig, Iommi. As far as drummers go, there are my big 3 – Bonham, Rudd, and Koller.
What is your practice regime like? Maybe an exercise that you’ve found especially helpful recently.
I actually don’t have a practice regime, or anything close to it! I’ve never really been that way, and as an adult and not having drums in the house or nearby, it’s harder and harder to put time aside to get down to play my drums unless it’s for the purpose of rehearsing for a tour, or for a show with one of my bands. Baptists is no longer a solely Vancouver-based band, with 2/4 members living elsewhere within British Columbia, so our practice schedule is virtually non-existent. Same goes for SUMAC where we have 3 members that all live in different countries/states/coasts.
I occasionally watch videos of myself performing and pick them apart. See what works and what doesn’t, where my playing is adding to or taking away from the song, where I need to pull back, or where I need to be more assertive in setting up a particular part. This way, although I’m not always practicing I am still improving.
When and why did you start using acrylic drums?
I’ve played acrylic drums on and off for around 7 years. I’ve had my Ludwig kit since 2010 and it was just a lucky Craigslist find. The volume and tone that they produce is exactly the sound that I want to come out of my instrument and how I hope to represent my playing. They also look cool.
What do your fans have to look forward to in the near future?
A new SUMAC record, hopefully a new Baptists record, an Erosion record. I did some drums on Gordon Smith’s new country record and I’m excited for that to come out sometime in the new year. I also have a couple of new groups in the works!
All questions by Gil Young and Danny Evans