Thomas Kalksma: "Diversity Is Essential"
Detonation drummer speaks his mind
On Stage 16-08-2005 21:27
Detonation recorded their first full-length album "An Epic Defiance" in 2002. It showed a perfect balance between melody and brutality. In particular the excellent drums delivered by Thomas Kalksma got raving acclaims.

Now it’s August 2005 and Detonation is about to release their long-awaited sophomore album “Portals to Uphobia”. Al lot has happened since the band’s smashing debut, so it's about time for an update with the driven drummer.
Drummerszone: Lets start with you first: what were your early influences and musical inspirations?

Thomas Kalksma:
Maiden was the first metal band I ever listened to. After that Metallica, Slayer, Death and Sepultura followed. The song that got me into (air)drumming, was Inquisition Symphony of Sepulturas Schizofrenia. I would airdrum along that song and would be totally glad if I kept it up till the end of the song.

Are you fully autodidact?

Yes, I never had any lesson. Maybe I should take some lessons to improve. Taking lessons from a jazz-drummer would make me feel like Im starting all over again

For those who are unfamiliar with Detonation: can you give a short introduction of the band and the music?

Weve been playing since 1997, our style is thrashy melodic death metal. Were on Osmose Productions. Through the years we developed our own sound which is pretty brutal, although were always compared to Swedish bands. We have played with The Haunted, Within Temptation, Orphanage and many others. We toured Europe one time with Dimension Zero. Also we did a self-organized tour in the UK in 2003.

How many copies of "An Epic Defiance" has your record label Osmose sold so far?

An Epic Defiance sold a few thousand copies, but I don't know the exact numbers.

So, no endorsements coming up?

No, unfortunately no endorsements yet. It's harder than you think to get endorsements, and anyway the first kind of endorsement I would
ever get would be a sort of discount deal. That's how it works for drummers of relatively small bands. You have to at least play in In Flames or something to get your stuff for free :(

Initially you self released An Epic Defiance without a label, until Osmose Records showed interest and re-released it worldwide in 2003. This is quite similar to Textures. Could this be the beginning of a growing trend?

It could be. Labels dont base their judgment on one demo any more. In times of downloading and decreasing influence of bigger labels, bands realize they can accomplish success with working hard which means rehearse a lot, and make sure you have a killer debut album. Modern bands like Soilwork, Killswitch Engage, The Dillinger Escape Plan and Textures play their instruments on a very high level and that partially causes their success.

Looking back at all the different recordings sessions, tours, etc. during the years, what has made the most impression on you as a musician?

I cant point out one experience in particular. I love doing studio work, and working with Hans in Excess studios has always been great. Our last tour with Dimension Zero was just really cool. Despite the fact we played to not more then ten people half of the gigs, it was the best tour we had. We had a great time and gave our best every night. But the coming tour will probably top that!

Could you tell a bit more about the latest Detonation recordings?

We actually wanted to have Portals to Uphobia, our second album, recorded in the summer of 2004. Because of my arm injury the writing and recording of Portals was delayed. Afterwards it was good for the band to have - kind of - a break. We did a pre-production on my hard disk recorder and listened to the songs and adjusted them until we were satisfied. I went to the studio on my own and recorded the drum parts in three days so we took our time. We recorded all songs with click track, to get things extra tight. I didnt play my snare drum with rimshots, so we had to trigger the snare because we missed some frequencies. We spent three weeks in the studio. The recording went without any problems.

In what ways does Portals... differ from "An Epic Defiance"? What aspects have remained the same?

I think all things that could have been improved compared to Epic have improved on Portals. We just grew comfortable in our own style. Portals is a bit more brutal and slightly less melodic and the vocals are definitely more powerful. Our will to do better has remained the same haha! Today Im not totally satisfied anymore about my playing on Portals but thats okay, this way I stay focused.

What aspects of your playing on "Portals" does not satisfy you anymore?

Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with the drums on 'Portals', but I should have played harder, because that makes your sound more 'explosive'. John Tempesta on Testament's album Low has the perfect drum sound to me. That's because he hits hard on that album. Besides that there are some drum fills and some backbeats here and there that aren't timed as precise as they could have, although every part was played with a metronome.

Could you tell us a bit about the process behind the recording?

When we enter the studio the basics of the songs are finished. We add some extra harmonies to make the music better, but do some experiments as well. We want to use more effects in the future, that didnt happen with Portals. Because we had three days to record drums I could try different drum fills and stuff. [Guitarist/vocalist] Koen and [producer] Hans Pieters (and me occasionally) spent most of the studio time mixing the album.

What is your favorite studio in which to track drums? Why is it your favorite?

Im not experienced with any other serious studio than Excess studios in Rotterdam, although Ive been in more then 5 or 6 studios. Its a great studio because Hans is a really cool laid back guy, theres no stress. I could recommend anyone to record over there. For the next album well probably attend another studio, which is good for my overall experience as a musician.
People looking at you playing may notice your incredible speed, which only can be achieved with a proper technique. Yet youve suffered from an arm injury. Can you tell how this happened?

My arm injury was caused by different factors. In the beginning of 2004 I got a new day job for which I sat behind a desk three days a week behind a computer. It weakened my back. Combined with playing almost every day and playing guitar a small pain in my right shoulder built up slowly. A few weeks after our tour in February 2004, which went by without any problems, I felt pain in my hand, arm and shoulder at first from sitting behind the desk. After a show in March 2004 it was at its worst. Half a year of therapy followed, and since November 2004 its no problem any more. I attend a therapist every now and then, because nowadays a have a full time job behind a desk, haha!

What do you do to prevent yourself from a returning injury?

I lift weights every day and do different work-outs.

Is it true that Textures drummer Stef Broks has played with some Detonation rehearsals during the period you were forced to keep rest with your arm?

Stef hasn't rehearsed with Detonation, but we did ask him to be kind of a spare drummer for the recording of "Portals to Uphobia" because we had to book the studio. We agreed to let him know by the end of October 2004 if I was ready to record or if we needed him, in case my arm still wasn't okay. He agreed to that, which was really cool. Fortunately for me, eventually I was able to play on "Portals...".

Is there anything you would like to learn or to develop more as a musician?

Of course. I always want to be more powerful, more subtle, faster and try to do the right fills at the right time. As a songwriter and guitarist Id also like to develop. Trying different arrangements with the songs of Detonation and stuff.
What do your colleague drummers think of you?

You should ask them? I hope they think Im a nice guy.

Can you imagine Detonation, yourself included, as an inspirational or an enlightening example for the local scene in and around your hometown Utrecht?

Not really no ? I dont have the slightest idea how we are regarded by the local scene. But I think its motivating to have bands in your town that are doing well too. If youre impressed by another band, it keeps you focused.

Can you tell us a bit more about your new side-project Cardamon?

Cardamon is actually a full band nowadays. The band was formed by me and Koen. We had a lot of softer ideas and we wanted to do something with it. I am a great fan of Depeche Mode, A Perfect Circle and Anathema so there you have some of the influences. But dont worry, its still heavy. When you only play death metal, as a musician you just need to do something else from time to time. Diversity is essential.

In 2003, we where looking for a singer. Whether it was a guy or a girl, it didnt matter to us at first. Then I ran into Floortje, a friend of mine whom I had lost contact with, and it turned out that she could sing very well. So she entered the band. Now were almost finished writing our first album and we will start doing some try-out shows in October/November. The band is completed by the talented guys Michiel Bikker (guitars) and Patrick Velis (bass). You can check out for more info and our song The Sleepless World.

What are your current influences and musical inspirations?

I listen to a lot of Porcupine Tree, Depeche Mode, Anathema, Opeth, but Im also into Soilwork, Killswitch Engage, Scar Symmetry and of course Textures who are fucking awesome. More or less any music thats emotional or groovy and melodic suits me.

What do you think of these five Dutch metal drummers:
Sjoerd Visch
Arin van Weesenbeek
Michiel van der Plicht
Stef Broks
Gavin Harte

I know Sjoerd Visch from playing in Altar of course. He earned his credits by playing in a lot of bands. Arin is probably any sound engineers ideal drummer because hes tight and plays hard. I can only judge him from God Dethroned albums, but hes great. I dont know Michiel van der Plichts playing, but Ive heard good things about him. Of course Stef Broks is totally great. He has a great sound on Textures debut, which makes all the difference. Hes an intelligent drummer. Gavin Harte rocks! He plays more functional, which suits Callenish Circles music perfectly.

What are your plans for the near future?

Finding a job for 2006, hahaha! Serious, my plans are to record the Cardamon debut album. After that I have tons of ideas ready to record for an album I will be playing all the instruments on. First I will demo all the songs on my hard disk and then Im going to find me a male singer for this new project (volunteers? anyone?). Im also planning on a doom project, but its a bit too early to talk about that. At the same time, the cycle will continue. With Detonation things have never been better, Osmose is totally into Portals so well see.

Can you tell us something surprising about yourself?

Im a reborn Christian... Kidding!

Thanks a lot! Anything to add about

Every drummer should be checking!
drummer links