Oct. 23 2006
Raymond Herrera

Raymond Herrera

Fear Factory / Killing Zone / 3volution Productions

TAMA :What has Fear Factory been up to lately?

Raymond : We just got back from tour. We’ve pretty much been touring the whole year. We recently got back from Australia. Before that, we were in South America… before that, we were in Europe, twice. So yeah, we’ve been pretty busy.

TAMA : And this is all in support of your latest album?

Raymond : Yup, Transgression.

TAMA : What do you guys have planned for the rest of the year?

Raymond : We have a show in Colombia this weekend. We come back, and then we’ve got about two and a half weeks off, which we’ll probably spend writing new music. And then we start in San Francisco and do a U.S. tour until December 10. So we’ll be out for about 7 weeks.

TAMA : How do you stay in shape on tour in order to play such high-energy shows night after night?

Raymond : I guess doing the shows themselves is essentially like a workout. So while I’m on the road it’s actually fairly easy to do that, because I’m doing it every night and my body is used to it. What’s tougher is the first couple of shows, cause I’m not use to it. I go to the gym like 4 times a week, and I steer towards more cardio right before I go on the road, because cardio is probably the closest I can come to playing drums live. Weights don’t really… they actually kind of work against you.

TAMA : Do you do any warming up before shows?

Raymond : Yeah, pretty much just sit-ups, push-ups, stuff like that… just to get the blood pumping. I try not to warm up too much before, because it tires you out and kinda goes against the whole point of warming up. But yeah, I’ll do maybe 20-25 minutes right before stage time.

TAMA : So you don’t really do anything on a pad, no rudiments or anything like that?

Raymond : Sometimes, but I don’t really have a strict regimen. It’s just kinda what I feel like doing at the time… whether it’s jumping jacks or whatever.

TAMA : Backing up a bit, how did you first get started on drums?

Raymond : Well, I started playing drums when I was 15. And I wasn’t really jamming with anybody at the time… it was pretty much just me trying to learn how to play drums. And then I think maybe after 3 or 4 months of that, I actually started jamming with guitar players, and I just got used to working with guitar players from there on out. But yeah, for the first few months it was just me on the drums trying to learn and understand and just trying to be comfortable with doing drums. I actually started playing bass before I started playing drums, but I wasn’t very good at bass (laughs). Drums just seemed like something that… I kinda enjoyed the fact that I was just beating something up, you know? I guess I was very destructive when I was kid.

TAMA : Did you ever take any lessons?

Raymond : I never actually took lessons. I guess I’m more self-taught, for lack of a better term, because I really paid a lot of attention to what other drummers were doing… a lot of metal drummers, like Dave Lombardo and Gene Hoglan and people like that. I really listened to what they did, and kinda took from that and made my own thing. I didn’t have Dave or Gene there with me rehearsing, but I did listen to a lot of what they did, and what a lot of drummers did on record, just to kind of take their ideas and put my approach onto it.

TAMA : Did you play along to these records?

Raymond : Not really played along to them, but I definitely learned a lot of things about how they played and the rudiments that they did, and just the endurance part of it, which was probably the hardest thing for me at first.

TAMA : You mentioned a couple of guys already, but what other drummers and/or bands have influenced you the most?

Raymond : My biggest influences growing up probably would have been bands like Slayer and Dark Angel, and bands like Terrorizer. Outside of that, Stewart Copeland was a really big influence, too. I really liked what he did with the Police… he had kinda like this jazz approach, but it was still very rock. He definitely made the songs really interesting. So I took a lot of ideas from that as well, as far as keeping songs interesting. And that’s pretty much it, because a lot of the other groups that I listened to used drum machines, which actually has a lot to do with why I started using triggers.

TAMA : Were there any specific exercises you worked on to develop your impressive speed on the kit?

Raymond : If anything, it would have been just constantly practicing the same things over and over and over. And one of the things that kind of changed the way that I started to play, and eventually became my signature style, was that I mainly concentrated on doing a lot of different rhythms and rudiments on the kick drums. Like what maybe most drummers would do on the snare drum with their hands, I pretty much did with my feet. And that essentially became my drumming style, which was based around different rudiments and patterns on the kick drums, and syncing up with the guitars. I wanted to be to the kick drum what Stewart Copeland was to the hi-hat.

Growing up, I thought there were a lot of metal drummers that never really took advantage of the double-bass. With most bands, it was either you were doing [straight] double-bass, or you weren’t playing two kick drums at all. And my idea was well, there’s so much more you can do than just playing straight double-bass. So that’s why I started to learn how to do different patterns and styles, and I was able to bring up my speed a lot because of that… because it’s so much more difficult to do patterns than it is to just play straight double-bass. It’s a lot less about speed and a lot more about control. And that’s the hardest part. Over time, it just kinda came naturally.

TAMA : When you were working on these different foot patterns, were you practicing to a metronome?

Raymond : No… I didn’t even know what a metronome was at that time. I just wanted to be able to do certain patterns faster and faster and become more comfortable with it, and above all, more consistent. Because probably the most important thing when it comes to playing drums is to be very consistent. And playing triggers helped me to be even more consistent, because with triggers you have to be within a certain threshold… if you hit too hard, it double triggers. If you don’t hit hard enough, it doesn’t send off the trigger. So you have to be within that window. Playing with triggers made me think about that more, so it actually made me more consistent.

I didn’t really start using a click track until we did our second record, Demanufacture. Before that, I never used one because there was never really a need to do it. But we ended up using a click [on that record] because of the keyboards we put on the songs. If you don’t have the songs mapped out on a grid before you do keyboards, it’s almost impossible to do them, because it’s hard to match up the tempos with the keyboard maps. That was actually the only reason we started using a click track. On the first record, we didn’t even use one. So I had to get a crash course on using a click track on the second record, which was really weird.

TAMA : Was that a big adjustment for you?

Raymond : It wasn’t that much of a big adjustment, but it did kind of open my eyes, because naturally – and I didn’t notice this until after I started using a click track – but naturally, when you start to do choruses and middle breakdowns, you tend to speed up as a drummer. I had to teach myself to not do that. And the other thing that I had to learn was how to lay back with a click track, as opposed to playing on it or in front of it… and how that actually changes the mood and the feel of the song. And I never thought about that stuff before because when you don’t play to a click track, you don’t even know to know. You’re not aware.

So I think one of the downfalls of what we did on Demanufacture is we never even thought of doing tempo changes. I think a lot of the songs might have felt a lot better if we would have actually sped up certain choruses and maybe slowed down some of the bridge breakdowns that were heavier. We were learning, we were really young, and that was our first record using a click track. It wasn’t until after that we actually started using tempo changes. Essentially, the whole point of the click track is to be on the grid, but you don’t want to be on the grid so much that it actually kills the feel of the song.

For certain songs, you want to bring it up 3, 4, maybe even 5 bpm on the choruses, because that’s what you naturally would do as a band. On certain breakdowns, you might want to slow it down maybe 8, 9, or even 10 bpm, just to give it that extra edge. But we didn’t start doing that until later. And I think that is kind of lost when you start using click tracks, is that everything is one tempo and one feel, but not all songs need that.

TAMA : Do you still practice to this day?

Raymond : I don’t actually “practice.” I have a recording studio, so I’m always recording stuff. I’m probably recording maybe 3-4 times a week. So that’s almost like practice, since I’m working with a lot of different people in the studio. Like I work with guys from different bands who do collaborations for video game soundtracks, and just working with different people is interesting. Because rather than practice, I actually like the idea of going into a room with somebody from another band, that either I look up to or I listen to or just enjoy working with. And I like to see the way people from other bands work. I actually learn more that way, because I’m able to kind of adapt what I do – because we have a certain way of working, but every band has a different way.

I play drums so much between when we’re doing rehearsals, and when we’re on the road, and when I’m in the studio, that when I’m on the drums I’m pretty much practicing. I’m still learning, I’m still evolving, and I still see myself being better. I guess I could kinda look at that as I practice every day, because I’m always on the drums doing something.

TAMA : How long have you been playing TAMA drums?

Raymond : For about 10 years now. It’s been a pretty long time.

TAMA : What attracted you to the brand?

Raymond : I mean, growing up I’d always see it on music videos, and I’ve always seen it with bands. It’s always been synonymous with not only drums, but with rock. And it almost seemed like you’re serious once you’ve got a TAMA kit… it’s almost like, now you’re doing this, now it’s a serious thing. And in my eyes, TAMA’s always been one of the names you want to be associated with when you become a professional. And I like the fact that there’s an office in LA, because I live in LA, so I can go by sometimes and check out the new stuff. It just really made sense. I’d gotten offers from other drum companies, and I was like, I really like the name, I’ve always looked up to the name, and it would feel really good to be a part of this family. So that’s pretty much how all of that came about. And obviously I’m happy, because it’s been a little over 10 years that I’ve been with you guys and it’s great, man. I’m really proud of that. When people see that name, it’s like, yeah, I am part of TAMA.

TAMA : Can you outline your current drum setup?

Raymond : Well, my newest kit is a Starclassic Maple in a black finish. I have 3 rack toms, 10”, 12”, 13”, and 2 floor toms, 16” and 18”. And I’ve actually got a bunch of snares, between 10-12 snares that I use in the studio. The newest ones I got are the ones that came with the drum kit… and those are 6”x14”. But I’ve got other snares that go from 4” to 8” in depth.

TAMA : Do you have a favorite that you like to use live?

Raymond : My favorite is probably a 5”x14” maple snare.

TAMA : And what about your kick drums?

Raymond : The kick drums are 18”x20”.

TAMA : Most metal drummers use at least 22” kick drums. Why do you prefer the smaller 20” bass drums?

Raymond : Well, I actually like it more for the studio than I do for live. Actually, live it probably works pretty well for me because of the triggers. The bigger the drum is there’s a better chance of getting mis-triggers and non-triggers. 20’s actually work really well. But I mainly got them for the studio, because they’re a little punchier. For instance, 22’s sound a lot bigger and chances are they usually get a little bit more on the muddier side. But for us, it’s always been easier to add more low end than it is to take away from it. And I just seem to get a punchier sound with the 20’s, they sound really good. And I like the 18” length because it’s still got that depth to it. And as fast I play, I like the fact the sound is a little more defined because the kick drums are smaller. They seem to be less muddy and that’s definitely what we want to go for, even though we’ve got the triggers, because we like to blend both sounds. I don’t like to just go with the triggers, or just with the microphones.

TAMA : When did you start incorporating triggers into your setup?

Raymond : I started looking into that back in 1991 or 1992. So it’s been a really long time.

TAMA : So you’ve used them on every Fear Factory album then?

Raymond : Yeah, every Fear Factory record. We used a little bit on the first record. And like every record is a little different. You know, it was maybe 50/50 on the second record, maybe 70/30 on the third record… and so on and so forth. But I always add it in there, and the reason is once you’re dealing with a digital signal you can pretty much ride it as high or as low as you want, especially with frequencies, as opposed to with a microphone. So essentially what it does is allow you to get the definition from the sound, and you actually get to hear everything that I’m playing. Whereas with the microphone, you’ve got so much you can go with on the low mid-range and only so much you can go on the high mid-range. With the digital signal, you can crank either one. So what we do is use the trigger for the high end and the low end, and we use the mic’ to kind of give it the body. So we get the full spectrum of the microphone. And that’s just the way we do it, and that’s what we’ve been doing since… I don’t know, for a long time now (laughs).

TAMA : So you always use a blend of the acoustic drum with the triggered sample?

Raymond : Oh yeah, always. Always. We like the natural sound we’re getting as well.

TAMA : What other projects are you currently involved with?

Raymond : We’ve been doing a lot of video game stuff. And I do that with different guys from different bands and just friends of mine. Essentially, I do a lot of stuff through my production company, which is called 3volution Productions. And that’s not necessarily a band, but we get a lot of audio done for video games and stuff like that. But I’ve been doing that, and I’ve been doing this other band called Killing Zone, with B Real from Cypress Hill and a couple other friends of mine. So yeah, I’ve been kinda keeping busy doing all kinds of things.