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Double Barreled Assault
Part 1: On Musical Complexity / Creating Drum Parts / Explaining His Patterns
In the mid '90s, Australian drumming sensation Virgil Donati moved to Los Angeles to make a name for himself in the music biz. Donati eventually formed a relationship with former Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian, which resulted in the genesis of Planet X, the most rambunctious progressive fusion group to come along since the original fusion boom of the early 1970s.
Donati has appeared on many albums, including Planet X's Planet X; Steve Walsh's Glassolalia; Garsed, Helmerich, & Donati; On The Virg's Serious Young Insects, and Jon Steven's Are You Satisfied?, as well as his own Virgil Donati Just Add Water (Thunder Drum). His amazing technique can be seen and heard on the videos Obsessive Rhythms(DBD), Power Drumming (CPP MEDIA) and Live at the Modern Drummer Festival 1997. Donati has also toured extensively with Steve Vai and is currently out with Vai on the G3 2001 tour.
Planet X's new release, Universe, is an excellent showcase for Donati's amazing talents as a drummer and composer. In recent years Donati has established himself as one of the true visionaries for the future of drumming. His double bass drum chops are the most extreme of any drummer on the planet and his passion for pushing the art of drumming to new heights is as ambitious and engrossing.
Musician.com: The music of Universe sounds much more focused than the first Planet X release.
Virgil Donati: The first Planet X was actually Derek Sherinian's solo record. As a result, we formed the band Planet X. They are really two separate projects.
Musician.com: What are the musical goals of Planet X?
Donati: Our goal is to present to the world a style of music that has been neglected since it's heyday in the '70s and '80s when you had bands like Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return To Forever, UK and bands like that (Greenslade, Eloy, Hatfield and the North, etc.) For me, it's a great opportunity to integrate my drumming and composing into a style that I enjoy. It gives life to some of the strange and usual things that I hear as a drummer.
Musician.com: The drumming on Universe is certainly complex, but doesn't sound complex for complexities sake. It's very musical.
Donati: Hopefully, a musician, along the path of his career, reaches a point of maturity where it's not about sounding complex for complexities' sake. It's about serving the music whether it's technical or not. It's important to work with musicians who share the same vision and understand what each other is thinking musically.
Musician.com: When you're composing, do you create the drum parts first and build from the rhythms?
Donati: Not really. I'm doing that less than ever. I'm a trained pianist and have studied classical piano for many years so most of my writing is done on the keyboards.
Musician.com: What is the main drum pattern that runs through the incredible double bass groove on "Dog Boots" from Universe?
Donati: The pattern with my feet is basically an inverted double stroke (RLLRRLL,etc). I wanted to create a hypnotic effect of a rhythm that was blisteringly fast to the point where it becomes numbing to the senses. I do some interesting things over the bass drum pattern like a seven over four feel in the chorus.
Musician.com: You have a nice way of accenting the quarter note pulse with the cymbals while following the melody with the rest of the kit.
Donati: That also gives the music a solid foundation because you're defining the basic time while you're displacing things around that.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4