Trivium drummer Paul Wandtke: Exclusive Interview
Interviewed and Written by: Chris
“I hit the stage.”
Says the new band member for the award winning heavy metal band, Trivium, as he heads out of the tour bus to warm up for the night’s show. Paul Wandtke is the new drummer for Trivium and I got thirty minutes of his time before the band played the inaugural show on the 2016 US tour. The band’s seventh studio album, Silence in the Snow, was released by metal-publishing powerhouse Road Runner Records on October 2nd, 2015 and reached number #3 on the Billboard Rock charts. Paul shared his tips for young drummers, some insight into his friendship with Dream Theater drummer Mike Mangini and how he got selected for one of the heaviest touring bands around.
CL: Hey, Paul, How’s it going, man?!
PW: Good. How are you, man? I’m just laying down on the bus before the show tonight.
CL: Paul, you’re the new drummer for Trivium. Congrats, bro, that’s fucking awesome!
PW: Thanks a lot. It feels really good.
CL: Paul, you are known for your extreme precision double kick bass drum chops. Let’s drill into that some. Can you describe your double-kick warm-up and practice routine.
PW: I put on the metronome at 60 beats per minute (BPM) and I’ll just start with some eighths notes. Where it’s, right, left, left, left. I do that over a back beat. Then I’ll start subdividing that into some triplet feels. (He sings a triplet kick pattern.) Then switch stickings… and that’s all just for control. Then, I do a lot of double strokes and variations of the single stroke. It’s kind of hard to explain it over the phone. You just have to hear it. I work a lot on accents and patterns.
CL: OK. How do you keep steady 16th’s going with all that power?
PW: I don’t really know other than I’ve been doing double bass since I was in high school and when I got into college, I practiced double bass everyday from 5am-7am, just working on double bass technique, so I guess that helped? I’m getting back into a routine now. Over the years, I’ve been experimenting more on groove and different time feels rather than double bass stuff so it’s real nice to have the opp to do some fast/demanding footwork.
CL: Are there any other tips you can give to young drummers on developing wicked double kick skills?
PW: Yeah, don’t limit yourself to only metal music. You’ll learn so much. I had to work my way up through the ranks as a professional musician. I was a terrible jazz drummer but I learned a lot in Top 40 bands. Don’t limit yourself to one style of music! Play some blues. Play some jazz. Check out some hip hop. Don’t limit yourself!
CL: All right. So, how did you get the gig with Trivium?
PW: Trivium was looking for a new drummer and hit up John Petrucci (guitarist in Dream Theater) and was like, “Hey John you know any drummers?” So John asked Mike Mangini and Mike said, “Yeah, I know a guy. His name is Paul Wandtke.” Then Trivium called me. They had tried some other drummers, but I guess I ended up being the guy. I know Mike Mangini because I studied with him about five years ago at Berklee School of Music in Boston.
CL: What year(s) did you study with Mike Mangini at Berklee School of Music?
PW: 2008-2010. And he was the coolest dude in the world, man! It was pretty intense but relaxed to study with him, you know? I kept in touch with him over the years, and it was cool that he didn’t shut me out once he got the gig playing in Dream Theater. It was really cool for him to still converse with me. At the end of the day, that’s kind of how I ended up in Trivium. It was cool that we become more like friends from the teacher-mentor relationship.
CL: So you were mentored by Mike Mangini. What were some of the things that you took away from that?
PW: He was just really down to earth. He would answer any questions that I had. Questions about the music industry, or technique…. it was more than just playing. I mean, the dude’s a genius! I can’t play at his caliber! But, maybe one day I will be able to. It was just cool to get on a personal level with him. When I was at Berklee, Mike and Rod (Morgenstein) were my favorite teachers.
CL: Did you have to audition for Trivium?
PW: We kept talking/texting and we had lunch and stuff before even jamming. They flew me in and we had some rehearsals, and that was pretty much it. There wasn’t an official, like, this is an “audition” or you’re not considered. They were talking to like 12 drummers and I fortunately got to the top of the list. Being in a band is like family, you have to have all the ingredients (playing, personality, mind set) to make things work.
CL: Other than Mike’s recommendation, what do you think sold you to Trivium?
PW: I think it’s because I can do the double bass drum grooves where I’m doing singles and accenting different parts of the beat. It’s kind of like, I’m playing my feet like my hands. I’m the first drummer in Trivium that hasn’t used triggers. They’ve always used triggers, so I guess that’s kind of cool, man… a new guy coming in and saying, “Hey can we not use triggers?” and they let you do it. (Laughs)
[Editors note: “Triggers” are electronic devices that pick up the motion of the bass drum and send an electronic signal to help make up for the loss of volume that happens when drummers play at fast speeds.]
CL: How does not using triggers impact your playing in Trivium?
PW: When you use triggers you can’t really work with dynamics. Not that dynamics are really used when you’re playing metal! But for me, I have to play a lot of power and precision. (laughs)
CL: You’re on tour now to support the Silence in the Snow album. How is that going?
PW: Today is the first official show of the US run. It’s going well so far, the guys and I had some killer lunch at Husk on Queen Street. Trivium is composed of a great group of guys, man. They know how to live. They eat healthy and everyone is awesome.
CL: You started in Mexico, though, right?
PW: Yeah, my debut show was at Knotfest in Mexico City on Dec 5th in front of 40,000 people… with Lamb of God, Megadeth, Atrayu, a lot of great bands. I was literally thrown into the fire. (Laughs)
CL: How does the new Megadeth material sound?
PW: Fatal Illusion sounded great. Chris Adler is a beast, man!
CL: What drum kit are you traveling with Trivium on the US tour?
PW: I just became a Tama artist, but I’m don’t have a Tama kit yet. For toms I’ve got a 10”, 12”, 16” and 18” and I’m actually using two bass drums on this tour, 20”x 22” inches. I’m using two separate kick drum pedals and NO TRIGGERS! I use my own cymbals; two crashes, a china, two hi-hats, my auxiliary hats… usually always open. I do that to change colors. A lot of guys only have one hi-hat, but I like to have two. That’s pretty much it.
CL: Are you traveling with any special effects on the kit? Cowbells, percussion, etc…?
PW: Nope, no special effects.
CL: Who are your sponsors?
PW: Trick bass drum pedals, Evans drum heads, and Vic Firth sticks. They are actually making me some custom signature Trivium drum sticks. It’s not gonna be for the market. You can only get them on the Trivium website exclusively.
CL: What’s the website address?
CL: What’s your favorite Trivium song to play live?
PW: “Pull Harder On the Strings of Your Martyr.” It’s a very tribal bass groove that’s sped up so fast that it’s really fun to play. It’s a great song. I mean they [Trivium] have released seven albums. I’m such a lucky dude to walk into kind of a big monster thing! (Laughs) Another one of my favorite songs to play is “Rain.” A lot of the older stuff is really fun. From the new record, I like “Dead and Gone” … Silence in the Snow is so fun to play!
CL: Trivium writes a lot music in mixed meter. How do you approach playing in this style?
PW: Count! Just counting, man. But, it’s not like Dream Theater. There are some tricky songs that have an extra quarter note here and there or a bar of 3/4… but it’s just really fun to play. We’re just having a great time playing together.
CL: Anything else you want clear up, or any shout outs?
PW: Yeah, for the kids learning how to play drums; learn how to read music. It’s a great tool, and I use it all the time. I transcribe a lot of stuff. Knowing how to read music will really give you a whole different perspective on drumming.
I’d like to say “Thanks” to Slickster Magazine for interviewing me. Thanks to Mike Mangini and the band Dream Theater for recommending me Trivium. Without him, I would not be where I’m at right now, traveling the world with not one, but two bass drums! It’s a dream come true, man. If you’re a drummer out there and you have aspirations, NEVER GIVE UP! I never gave up, and I finally got a call for a huge kick-ass band. It’s a great feeling.
I also want to thank Matt, Corey, and Paolo, and special thanks to all the Trivium fans who have rallied behind me and accepted me into the band with wide open arms. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.
CL: Thanks buddy.
PW: Gotta go warm up… I hit the stage!