(In this post we welcome metal interviewer Karina Noctum to NCS, and happily present her discussion with Spencer Prewett, the phenomenal drummer of a Vancouver band we’ve been following since early days — Archspire.)
Hello everyone! My name is Karina Cifuentes. I was born in Colombia, but I live in Norway and I’m here because of Black Metal basically. I had to live the BM dream with forests, darkness, and so on. I have been interviewing my favorite bands since 2008 and I do this because it really makes me do more research than I would otherwise and I get lots of knowledge that way. I’m also working with a Black Metal documentary called Blackhearts (https://www.facebook.com/blackheartsfilm) So here’s my first contribution, an interview with Spencer Prewett from my fav tech-death band Archspire.
When did you start playing drums and what appeals to you the most about drumming?
The first time I started playing was when I was a kid. I was 8 years old when I first got my drum kit, but I didn’t actually start practicing drums until I got into metal and that was when I was 17. Now I’m 32, so I’ve been playing for quite a while. I find extreme drumming really appealing. I respect rock and blues drumming, but it doesn’t excite me the same way as Cryptopsy or Nile did.
Which drummer has inspired you the most and why?
Flo from Cryptopsy when I was younger, because when I was 17 I had a fake I.D. and I could go to my first Cryptopsy show. My first real metal show ever, and I didn’t know much about Cryptopsy. I was so blown away how fast the band and the drumming were, and that was probably what really affected me. So Flo was my biggest influence originally, but every year that goes by I discover a new band or I discover a new drummer or a new style.
What achievements are you most proud of when it comes to drumming and what kinda goals have you set for yourself?
I have never really thought of it. I’m always trying to push the fastest kicks that I can hit. I’m always proud of all the work I have done with Archspire, and all the touring and playing with my favorite bands. I guess that’s the most proud thing for me. As far as technique goes, I don’t know. From time to time my focus kinda changes, is not very consistent. Right now for me it’s switch blasting I’m working on. I hit 360 bpm, now trying to hit 370. A year from now it might be something else.
photo by Milton Stille
Do you have a fast routine or does it involve more improvisation?
If it is a show that I’m warming up for, then I’m not playing my drum kit so I have a special routine I do. First I stretch. I warm up my feet and wrists a bit and I warm up my legs and my ankles just playing blast beats until I feel I’m sufficiently warmed up. I spend quite a bit doing cardio backstage. The reason I do that is because all the songs are so physical and having my fingers and feet warmed up is important. I have to have my heart rate up as well. Otherwise when I hit half way through the first song I feel like I’m gonna die. I always do jumping jacks and move around, staying warm like for 15 min. When it comes to jamming I just sit on my kit and screw around until it feels like I’m warm enough.
Which technique have you mastered completely and enjoy playing the most? And tell us about another one that you haven’t mastered yet and what makes it difficult?
I got into gravity blasting years before it got on YouTube. I read about it in Derek Roddy’s message forum and I spent the next three years kinda obsessing over it, trying to figure it out. It was all from hand position, to snare design. How to match my kicks with it. It was really sloppy and crappy and I guess something in my brain just clicked and I figured it out. Then YouTube came along a little bit after that and I could see how other people were doing it, all the different ways. So the way I do it is different from most people because I started doing it before I could see it. So I guess that’s one technique that I got down really well.
One technique that I’m playing a lot, that I’m working on right now, is doublestroke roll with my kick drum. I can get it like maybe 75% of the time right now, but it’s not totally clean like a whole bunch of other techniques that I use. We are putting it in the new Archspire songs. I’ve been trying it out, but I’m not gonna play that live until I’ve got it completely down.
As far as composition goes, what inspires you? How do you do it? Because I guess you write your own parts…
The way we write is like nobody has any riffs ready to go. We all come to jam and we have a metronome and everyone has monitors so they can hear the click track and basically what we do is try to come up with ideas for riffs and work on them. If someone has a riff, it’s always changed quite a bit and then we start piecing it together. If someone doesn’t like it, then we just scrap it until everyone is happy with every part. Unfortunately, writing like that is good for keeping everybody happy, but it sucks for time. We wrote our last album jamming five nights a week for like three hours every time. So it took a long time to write that album because of all those micro parts. So you get some cool Death Metal but… I mean I have friends in some other big metal bands and they explained that they have just one guy who writes the parts. Anyhow, I’m happy with the way we do it. It’s just frustrating sometimes.
Any advice to those who are just starting to play drums?
One of the biggest struggles I had was accidentally learning bad habits and then trying to unlearn those bad habits. That will kill you, you’ll get stuck with that for years, but you can unlearn those bad habits, like your posture and your set up. For me at this point it’s all about how to conserve energy because the drumming is so physical. If you are playing and doing extra numbers like moving your arms around, all that energy will go into that, so when you hit your next fast part you gonna be tired.
So it’s about learning good, clean habits like proper technique and posture and all that sort of stuff in the beginning.
About Archspire’s future plans… what’s coming?
On the 5th of October we are heading down south. We have a two-week west coast tour. The first week is with Fallujah, and then The Zenith Passage will be joining us for the last three days, and then Fallujah heads home and we end up in Texas, that’s the last show. We are negotiating with booking agents and a few agencies and it looks like we have some pretty cool tours coming up. I can’t tell you who we are touring with, but what I can tell you is that it will be a U.S tour in November.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Archspire’s most recent album, The Lucid Collective, was released this year by Season of Mist, and you can listen to and buy it on Bandcamp here. Below is the flyer for the band’s upcoming tour with Fallujah, and after that you can check out a video of Spencer Prewett playing through the track “Lucid Collective Somnambulation” off of The Lucid Collective. To see brief video clips of Spencer working on gravity blasts and switch blasting, visit Archspire’s Facebook page here.