Interview with Brian Harris, drummer on Firewind, Zanister, Vainglory and Kenziner Cds

1) Tell us about your early years before recording Cds on Leviathan Records.

Brian Harris: I've done many other recordings before starting my Leviathan recordings. My first recording was with my first real band, Decay in 1991. We did a 6 song cassette, pro packaged and sold a lot of them. It was called "Atrocities". Then in 1994, Decay recorded another 5 song cassette titled "Rebirth". While in Decay I also did a Heavy Metal Elvis tribute band, called E.P. Rock. We did a recording of a few songs. Did about 4 songs for this pianist/vocalist from the area, kind of Elton John styled. In 1995, I did yet another recording with Decay, only consisting of 2 songs for a sampler to be handed out at the Milwaukee Metalfest that we played. Also that year I recorded with a side project band I had called Pawn. In 1997 I recorded with My Own Victim, up at Normandy Studios in Warren RI., which was titled "The Weapon", on Century Media Records. I believe that's it prior to Leviathan.

2) You have been quite busy over the last few years. Please give us a short review of each Cd you played on in regards to your performance and your view of the Cds on the whole.

The 2 Zanister albums were all written by David Chastain and he pretty much had some solid ideas for drum parts, but I still got my "two cents worth" in. haha The Kenziner album I did, "The Prophecies" was the hardest album of all the Leviathan recordings, mostly because the guitarist, Jarno really puts a lot into each song. Mostly I'm referring to a lot of riffs and changes. So that's a lot of memorization! That was a solid album, and I enjoyed playing on it. The Vainglory album was great because it was more "heavy" metal compared to the "power metal / speedo" stuff on the other albums. It still had it's moments of fast double kick work, and what not, but it had way more groove to it. Ted's vocals are also what made it different from the plethora of power metal bands. At times, he reminds me of Dee Snider from Twisted Sister, and I mean that in a good way, cuz I like TS! I really enjoyed doing that album too. The Firewind album may be my favorite. It's a close tie with the Vainglory album, but Gus really writes good structured songs. (so does Corbin from Vainglory, don't get me wrong). I guess it comes down to the vocal melodies on the Firewind that I enjoy so much. Believe it or not, vocals can really change my opinion of a song. If the vocal pattern / melody kicks ass then I'm liking it. But if it lacks, it can ruin the entire song.

3) What is your current equipment set up?

Sonor Force 3000 kit.
Paiste cymbals (have always used these guys, and swear by them)
Axis double kick pedals
Attack 1 ply thin or medium on the toms, medium coated with dot on the snare (or terry bozzio coated), but I swear by the Aquarian Super Kick 1 on the kick drum.
Vic Firth American Metal sticks.
(endorsement anyone? I would love a stick endorsement, cuz I'm always chewing up sticks!)

4) Which Cd do you enjoy to listen to the most of all you have played on and why.

see question # 2 for answer.....pretty much Firewind.

5) If you could put a band around you of any musicians live or dead, who would they be and why?

Well, I would love to have Buddy Rich in the band on drums, but if I have to be the drummer, then I would have Jordan Rudass (from Dream Theater) on Keys, Russ Allen (from Symphony X) on vocals, my brother Michael Harris on guitar, and Steve DiGeorgio (from Death, Sadus and many others) on bass.

6) How long have you been playing drums and how did you get started?

I've been playing drums for over 20 years now. Even longer if you want to get critical. I showed interest at about age 3. My parents got me a Remo practice pad set at about that time and I then got my first real kit at around age 7 or 8, which was a blue Slingerland kit, which I still have and use today with my dad's jazz band. I got started playing drums because my entire family is very musical, so music was all around me, so I believe it was natural that I play an instrument, and unfortunately for my parents, I picked the loudest one! Haha. But my parents have been totally supportive over the years, never telling me I couldn't practice because it was too loud, even with all the bands I had jamming at their house when I was still living at home. To be honest, I don't see how they dealt with it, but I thank them for doing so. My dad is the more of the reason I was persistent with it, because of his life of music and having his own band, for 45 years now!

7) What are some of your influences?

Drumwise, my influences range from classic jazz guys like Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson, and Billy Cobham to more modern jazz/fusion guys like Dave Weckl (God!), Steve Smith, and Virgil Donati (mind blowing feet) to old rock/metal drummers like Nicko McBrain, Neil Peart, AJ Pero, to current rock/metal drummers like Mike Portnoy, Neil Peart (again!) and others I can't think of!, to even more brutal hitters of the death metal scene, like Pete Sandoval (absolute god of speed), Gene Hoglan, Sean Reinert, Thomas Haake. I also attribute some other influences from my brother, Michael Harris, just for doing what he does, which is great guitar playing and great songwriting, and all around integrity. Also my dad is another great influence just for surrounding me with great music growing up, because while other guys my age were growing up listening to Judas Priest and Kiss, I was listening to the great sounds of Big Band Jazz!

8) How did you hook up with Firewind?

Well, as you can tell by now, I'm the 'studio session slut' (haha) for a lot of the Leviathan bands out there. I did both Zanister albums, Vainglory, the 2nd Kenziner, and now the Firewind. I guess when they need a drummer with fast feet and hands, they call me. There are many drummers out there that blow me out of the water, but I still get the calls! No complaints here! David Chastain just sends me a demo and I learn the material and a few months later I'm in the studio recording my drum tracks!

9) You also played with My Own Victim and toured with them in Europe, didn't you?

Yes, I joined that band back in 1995, right after they recorded their first album 'Burning Inside', with their original drummer. He quit a month after the recording, and I joined the next month. 5 months later we were heading to Europe for 2 separate tours, lasting 3 months. It was one hell of an experience to tour Europe and play all those shows in front of many cool people.

10) How come you quit the band?

Due to lack of tour support and 'bring home' money, I just couldn't afford to support a family on the little money made. I guess I had higher expectations of income on the road. I sure was wrong! I didn't want to hold the band back from touring the next time, so I decided while on that tour that I would quit after we got back. I'm still great friends with them, and fill-in every so often, as they have an ongoing problem with keeping drummers! (kind of like Spinal Tap, haha). In fact, I just got a call from their manager a few weeks ago, stating that their drummer just quit again, and 'could you fill in?'. So we'll see how that goes. I'm always willing to help my 'bros' in M.O.V. Besides, their music is great and full of aggression, and I love that.

11) Prior to joining My Own Victim, didn't you have an audition for Machine Head?

Yeah, Chris Kontos had just quit, and I got a phone call asking if I'd want to try out. So long story short, I went out, auditioned, hung out with them afterwards at a Chuck Billy house party! And although I thought I had the gig in the bag, they still hadn't tried out Dave McClain, who is their current drummer. That little bastard beat me! Haha (just kidding' Dave). I think the only thing that got him the gig over me, is he hits harder than I do, and they were looking for someone to beat the shit out of the drums. Unfortunately at the time, I wasn't as hard of a hitter as I am now. But I did have the material down pretty damn well. They were impressed with that.

12) Have you ever taken drum lessons?

Yes, I took private lessons from a local guy. I also was in school band from 5th grade on through 10th grade, including marching band, concert band, and jazz band. I was a true band 'geek', as they say. But I didn't care, music was such a part of me, and I enjoyed it and still do, very much to this day. But now I'm currently teaching drum lessons to others! That can be fun and frustrating at the same time. Frustrating only when a student doesn't practice his lesson for the week, but hey, I did the same thing too, once in a while, when I was taking private lessons!

13) What do you consider the 5 greatest metal Cds of all time for drum performance as the single criteria.

The first one I can think of is Thomas Haake on Meshuggah "Destroy, Erase, Improve". That guy is amazing what he does between his snare and kick. Pete Sandoval on any of the first 5 Morbid Angel (that guy is just plain sick, and ungodly fast), Sean Reinert on Death "Human" album. Gene Hoglan on Death "Individual Thought Patterns" That's all I can think of right now.

14) What does the future hold for Brian Harris?

Hopefully many more albums with my work on it.

15) Any final words to the fans?

Thanks for all the support, and always support metal, cuz metal makes the world go 'round. haha