Kylesa’s Ultraviolet is an album of expert musicianship and unique time signatures, but does the band really need two drummers? Guitarist and songwriter Philip Cope explains.
Sludge metal’s Kylesa have just released Ultraviolet, their latest psychedelic, riff-fuelled masterpiece and an album of mind-bending metal mastery, but the real talking point with the lads from Savannah, Georgia, is their two-drummer line up, how they make it work and why they do it in the first place. What’s the idea behind two drummers then?”Originally, it was just to be heavier,” guitarist Cope explains. “When we first started the band, we wanted to do it right off the bat but we couldn’t seem to make it work. Later on, we brought it back. Originally we were running so many amps and we were still thinking how we could get heavier, so we thought ‘Let’s add another drummer’.”
Coordinating two drummers seems like an extremely hard task.
“On the writing end, it’s not so difficult,” Cope says. “Carl is our main drummer and does a lot of the song writing with us. He’s got a good understanding of what kind of space he needs to leave and can also write two different beats for each song, but on a recording level, it’s really hard. Trying to find the space in a recording room for two full kits is not easy. We have always recorded live but on Ultraviolet we did use a click track here and there – we usually leave it up to Carl and Eric. Sometimes they prefer to have a click and other times they prefer to do it on their own. It just depends on the song.”
Inevitably, the process evolves as the session continues, with the drummers sometimes playing in unison and sometimes recording separately, Cope says.
“On Time Will Fuse Its Worth, we recorded the drums one at a time and we weren’t so happy with how that came out so on the next album they both did it live,” he says. “On the latest album, sometimes they’re playing at the same time and other times they’re not – there were different drum set ups per song. It’s always a challenge but we keep trying all kinds of different ways to see what works, and it really just depends on the song. On Ultraviolet, and this is the first time we ever did this, there are a couple songs where Carl plays both kits and Eric plays both kits, each playing their own different beats. That was a little different but they wanted to try that out so we let them.”
The line up requires the band to remain flexible and open to new ideas, Cope continues: “We’re always trying different things out. We never decide that something works so we’re sticking with it. The biggest difference with Ultraviolet is that everybody now pretty much plays multiple instruments and we let everybody do what they want. Nobody has a particular role; no one has to play just guitar or just drums. It makes recording interesting and helps change it up a little bit because you get a different vibe with each song when you have different people playing different things.”
Writing an album in such a complex way sounds like a time-consuming and arduous task, but recording it sounds even harder.
“Writing it took about two years, off and on, Cope says, adding, “It wasn’t two years straight. As for recording, everybody else was in and out of the studio for about two months but I was there for the whole thing. It was definitely intense but it was also one of the more creative and interesting ways of going about making a record, for us at least.”
Touring Australia in 2011 as part of the Soundwave festival, Cope found a love for Australia and reminisces on one of their more interesting moments.
“Soundwave was truly one of the best experiences we’ve ever had as a band. Australia’s so beautiful and has so many amazing things to see,” he says, adding that things almost came undone in Sydney when Slayer’s cancellation at Soundwave threatened to create chaos. “They were bringing out the riot cops and people were getting prepared for the worst but we just told our sound guy to turn everything up as loud as he possibly could and we just got out on stage and played so loud that we couldn’t hear anyone scream or yell at us. It worked,” Cope laughs. ” The crowd was definitely pissed [about Slayer] but if that had been in the USA, there would definitely have been a riot. It was cool that people kept calm. Surprisingly, it turned out great and was one of the most fun tours we’ve ever done.”
So will we see the band back down under anytime soon? ” We’d love to do Soundwave again, and we’d like to do our own shows as well,” Cope says. “We’re talking about it and trying to figure it out now to see if we can get out there again – we’re gonna do our best.”
In the meantime, we’ll just have to wait patiently.