Q: How did you develop you double bass drum technique?
Dave McClain: “I practice a lot just by myself. When we’re home, I practice at least three days a week, usually four or five. I’ll play our songs or geek out and play solos or just work on things. I’ve had this double bass breakthrough in the last couple of years. I started doing heel-toe doubles on the kick drum. On our last Machine Head album, Rob wanted me to do this drum part that was just super fast. ’Dude, how am I going to play that?’ Every once in a while I could get it, but not with any real consistency.
“Then before we went out for that tour I was messing with my drums and realized something: I could bounce my drumsticks on my drumhead, so why couldn’t I bounce my bass drum beater on my bass drumhead? So I started doing it and it took some time, but I’m to the point now where I can do full-on double-stroke rolls with my feet — and do it super fast.
“Another thing I did that got my speed way beyond what I considered to be the fastest period in my life is I lowered my drum throne. For a long time I sat really high, almost as high as the throne would go, and I started having problems. During a tour I started noticing that some of the easiest double bass parts were getting a little harder. So I went back home to my practice room and messed with everything.”
“I made every possible adjustment to my pedal and my technique, and things weren’t getting any better. Then I remembered that I used to sit really low — like Tommy Aldridge low — so I practiced a couple days with my throne lowered. My foot speed came back, and then some. I couldn’t believe how fast I was going. Now I’m faster than I’ve ever been. I can probably play single strokes with my feet as fast as I used to play doubles.”
“I took lessons for about a year when I was 11, learning how to sight read and that stuff, but for the most part I learned drums from playing along to Rush and Judas Priest albums. After my first year of playing drums, I was pretty much playing in some kind of band from that point on. I think playing in bands early on was definitely a key to my growth as a drummer. When you play with a band you’re kind of thrown in the fire. You’re not playing to a record anymore. You are the record.
Brief online video selection
Dave McClain (Machine Head) drum solo live
Dave McClain drum solo at Spanish La Rioja Drumming Festival (2010)
Dave McClain backstage live in Finland (2011)