(We present Karina Noctum‘s new interview of drummer extraordinaire Derek Roddy.)
It was time to catch up with Derek Roddy (Serpents Rise, Nader Sadek, Malevolent Creation, Nile, Hate Eternal). We talked about drumming, but also more about his band Serpents Rise and the making of Nader Sadek’s latest EP The Serapeum (premiered in part and reviewed at NCS here), which was a collaboration with Karl Sanders (Nile) and Morean (Dark Fortress), among others — as well as other interesting endeavours.
When you compose your drumming parts, how do you go about making them sound original?
Well, my approach is to let the music tell me what needs to be there. I think there is a huge misconception about “writing parts” that many musicians, specifically drummers, miss. Music writes the parts, not us musicians. Or at least musicians should listen to what the music is telling us to play. I know within 5 seconds of hearing a riff what needs to be “written” as the music has already done that job for me. Now, that said, it’s up to the musician to “color” the music however they would like. When I think about this I usually want to color around vocal lines or whatever melody line is happening around the riffs. For me cymbals (splashes and chinas) are my go-to for coloring music with my preferred voicing. If you have to try to fit something in, it probably shouldn’t be there to begin with.
Are there particular songs or parts of songs that you think have been harder to compose or perform? Which one(s) and why?
Only the music thats super-demanding on the physical side, but even then, as long as I maintain my endurance levels, there are no issues with “harder” or not.
Which non-metal drumming styles do you play?
Pretty much anything if it’s needed in my vocabulary or for a recording gig. I have played many styles for my entire career, as I didn’t grow up playing metal, as there was no such thing as what I do now. Extreme metal wasn’t around in the ’70s/early ’80s when I was playing and learning. Haha.
How does non-metal influence your metal compositions?
Knowing other styles can definitely influence your main style. It’s how you add those influences that makes the difference. For instance you wouldn’t normally play a swing beat in extreme metal but you might play a swing ride pattern over a blast beat. Or you wouldn’t play a clave groove like you would play in a latin band but you might add that clave pattern and sound source to a blast, etc
Are there any differences in the gear used to record the drums for Serpent’s Rise and Nader Sadek? If there are differences, then can you explain why?
No, no difference. My kit is pretty much my kit. But I do change configurations a good bit. But that transfers to all the music I’m playing too. So in other words, I don’t really have a “go to” set-up. Sometimes I’ll play 5 toms up top and other times only 2. Depends on my mood but that will transfer to all the music I’m playing. I figure out ways to what sound sources I need out of any configuration.
How did you become a part of Nader Sadek’s musical project?
Nader hit me up and asked me to do a metal fest with him—I’m guessing in 2014/15—I don’t remember now. Haha. And I’ve been rockin with him when I can ever since. I enjoy the fact that I can be a part of a band and not have to worry about “going on tour” etc., as he mostly just does festivals and maybe a short week, week-and-a-half run. This allows me to take care of my actual business and not have to spend months at a time losing money just to play for people. It’s a win-win for me.
You have worked with Karl Sanders previously, how was it like to get together again for Nader Sadek’s The Serapeum?
The same as it was previously—FUN and EASY! Haha. Karl has been a friend for 30 years and we’ve always wanted to do more together. This was a perfect opportunity to do so and to get to see Egypt together, which was very special for both of us.
You did the drumming for a Lebanese band called Khavar? How did you get to be a part of it?
So, I first played in Beirut with Nader. I had been wanting to go there most of my life as I have lineage from there. My great grandfather fled Lebanon in the ’30s to America during the war and civil unrest there. Now, Lebanon is one of the best places on Earth (although the explosion made it tough for many people in the area) and I made many friends there the first time going. One of those was Garo Gdanain. He was the manager at a local music store that I ended up doing a clinic for the first time there.
After finding out he was involved in the metal scene there in the past with his band Weeping Willow, I asked if he would be interested in writing some music to get him back playing again. Haha. Didn’t really know if anything would come of it, but he assembled some of the best musicians/dudes Lebanon has to offer and we started writing over the net. Haha. Soon after we had plenty of music for a full release and bam, here we are. I’ve since been back several times and even done a show with KHAVAR while there this last time. Was packed and awesome!
How has all this cooperation with Middle Eastern countries changed your views, or what did you learn from it? I mean the Middle Eastern metal scene is still unknown for many.
Lebanon and Egypt are completely different in their world views. In fact Lebanon is so western in their thinking these days that it genuinely feels like “home”. I guess part of that would be my genetics, haha, but in all seriousness, if you get a chance to go there, please take the opportunity to do so. You won’t miss anything from home and the food is hands-down the best in the world. I’m from the South and when I can get better fried chicken in Lebanon than I can South Carolina… that’s saying something. lol. Even the pizza is better!!!
Egypt, I mean what can I say? It ‘s Egypt. But completely different in regards to culture. It’s still very “3rd world”. Not to say there isn’t commerce or business etc (there are western businesses there, KFC, McDonalds, Starbucks, etc) but it’s a tough life there for most. I definitely wouldn’t go if you didn’t have a contact there or a local that you knew to get you around and translate. Whereas Lebanon you can just pick up and go and you’d have no issues.
When it comes to the composition process of The Serapeum, there were several musicians involved. How did that process go? Were there any particular challenges?
Not at all, we would go see some old Egyptian ruins all day and the next day we’d go to the rehearsal area and hammer out riffs, repeat. Honestly, it only took us a day to get the riffs and a day to arrange them into the versions we have. It was like most musicians I get involved with, it was very easy to communicate ideas and whatnot. Songs come together very fast with me as I like to arrange the riffs. Drummers are usually really good at this anyway and most drummers I know are the guys in their bands putting this riff there that riff here.
Once we had a solid understanding of the tune and the various versions, we came home to record our parts. I did my drums here in my studio in Florida; I then sent the drums to Karl to record guitars in his studio in SC; he then sent those tracks to Mahmud in Dubai, who then sent them to Nader for vocals, who then sent it to various bass players and other vocalists, etc., for them to work on in their studios/homes for the different versions we had. I guess it’s like a lot of bands these days, everyone doing it from a different place. Haha.
Tell us about the techniques you use in Serpent Rise’s Interpersonal Violence?
No specific techniques; to be honest it’s most likely more of a “lack thereof”. What I mean is I don’t think about technique, I never have because I’m too interested in sound. And to have access to various sounds at your disposal, you need all types of “techniques”. Your body will tell you what your mind is trying to do and whether it’s achievable with said technique, or maybe you have to search for it through another avenue.
My playing has always been more about sound. Am I achieving the right “sound”? Am I conveying my “sound” to the people in the front row?, the middle?, the back of the room? (Without the need for reinforcement like a PA, sound system, etc.) Can those audience members “feel” what my playing is saying? That stuff to me is so much more important than “what technique”, and most drummers overlook this stuff. That to me is the stuff that’s most important, not “technique” or to be “fast” or “do it for as long as possible”, etc. None of that matters when your playing doesn’t connect with the people you’re playing for.
What are the advantages of making instrumental songs? I mean does it make any difference that vocals don’t have to be taken into account, in your opinion?
I don’t think it matters to the song. I’m off the mindset these days that I really don’t care what someone has to “say”— at least not with their mouth. If you can’t say it on your instrument then I certainly don’t want to hear it from your month. Haha. Not that I don’t like singers or great lyrical content, I do. I just think that a lot of times vocals are in music because it’s “expected”. I also understand that most people need that content to merge themselves into music but, I’m not one of those people.
If anything, not having the vocals in Serpents Rise has helped get us into the ears of listeners who would have never listened to extreme metal and that’s a good thing I feel. Can’t tell you how many musicians have come up to me and thanked us for releasing instrumental recordings as these people “love the music but hate the vocals”. I was so sick of hearing that when trying to expose my music outside the extreme metal world that I just took ’em out completely. It must have worked, as the first Serpents Rise recording has been downloaded now over 143,000+ times to date.
In which ways can the right technique help endurance? Because I have seen drummers that do not need to spend all their energy all the time and can play really fast anyway.
Again, not really into the “technique” talk but the one thing I would elaborate on would be to listen to your body and if something isn’t working, change it. It’s as simple as that. Some drummers are better at listening to their bodies and those are usually the ones that break barriers.
And depending on how you play, most of us don’t need much “energy” as there isn’t a lot of big motions being performed. Meaning that the stick height is lower and the motion smaller for this type of playing than it is for playing “hard rock” in a 15,000 seat arena. So each type of playing requires a different set of standards and “techniques”. I feel Energy is something that is a by-product of your playing, not something required to execute it.
What’s the status of Fire For Effect?
The recording is actually out but unfortunately since Bret’s passing we just hung up the project as he was a big part of it and we didn’t want to continue without him. It was never really finished as he passed in the middle of us recording it. We got 5 songs completed and it was released by www.vilerecords.com as the owners there are very close personal friends with the Hoffman family and all proceeds go to his memorial. I miss him. He was an outstanding human being and his vocals on the release are some of his best IMO.
Are you giving online drumming lessons?
Yes, when I’m available for doing so. I can be reached via…
Or just search my name on Skype or other preferred services.
I’m also interested in snakes, I own one, a jungle boa. How many snakes do you have?
Oh wow nice. Yeah snakes (and wildlife in general) have interested me since I was very young. My dad was all the time rescuing animals and releasing them once they were better. We had caught a rat snake that laid eggs while we had her in a cage so we released her (as we did all native stuff we captured and watched a few months) but kept the eggs and incubated them. Once they hatched we released those into the woods behind our house with their mother. I was hooked from that moment. I got started with exotics in High School so I was interested in breeding them (well not ME breeding them but the snakes breeding each other haha) from that point on. I had met a local keeper and he kinda mentored me during High School and after I graduated I got some Carpet pythons from him to breed myself.
I always had snakes of some sort during my “touring” period but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that I decided I wanted to get more animals and specialize in the Black Headed Pythons from Australia. I’ve produced 100s at this point and my Black Headed collection is the largest in the country. So, that’s also been a dream come true for me as there aren’t many keepers who are successful with them in breeding. You can see my website at
Do you have any new musical projects?
Nothing too new, just Serpents Rise, KHAVAR, and Nader Sadek. I’m always rockin out with musicians here in my studio though, some of it metal, some of it not so much, and I’m sure some of that stuff will make it out at some point.
Who are your current sponsors?
I endorse DW Drums, Meinl Cymbals, Vater Drumsticks, Axis Pedals, Remo Drumheads, Shure Microphones, Level Drum Rack, Kick Port, Powerfeet and Dunkin Donuts!!! Haha.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Keep playing music, it keeps you young!