My name is Matt Holmes, but I go by the pseudonym ‘Valdr’. I play drums for Formicarius and Wyrdstaef, but I also play as a live member for Ereskigal and Sidious.
2. Who made you want to play drums and why?
My roots in drumming are firmly in late 90’s/early 00‘s punk rock but my first ever instrument was actually the Cornet, which I played for a few years until I really started getting into Rock & Metal, which was when I switched to learning and playing guitar. My band mate in school at the time gave me a copy of the live Green Day DVD’ ‘Bullet in a Bible’ and I was mesmerised by Tre Cool’s performance. His energy and personality instantly made me want to start playing drums just like him. It’s totally different to the kind of things I’m playing now, but that was how I got my starts as a drummer. Tre was a massive influence.
3. When did you get your first kit? Tell us about it…
I got my first drum kit back in 2007, so I would have been around 15/16 at the time, but I had been playing drums for a few years before that using the kits at school. I remember my parents took me to a small drum shop and we tried to find a decent kit for the budget we had. I was really drawn to some of the Pearl Export kits they had, and looking back, I wish I would have chosen one with a different finish! What I settled for was a Piano Black Pearl Export EX 5 piece drum kit, with a pack of Zildjian ZBT cymbals and Pearl hardware. I chose that almost purely because the advertising sticker on the bass drum had Joey Jordison’s face plastered all over it. He was another of my early inspirations, so that was good a marketing technique for Pearl! I still have that drum kit and it served me well during my first 5 or so years before I got my next kit.
4. Were you parents supportive of you and your loud/expensive new habit?
Of course they were! When I brought my kit home, it was actually my mother who got in contact with the local council to ask them what time in the day it would be best for me to play my drums. At the time we lived in terraced housing so we had A LOT of neighbours, so I don’t blame her for being a bit self-conscious. The council told us that I can play my drums between the hours of 4-5pm, as that is when people were just getting home from work. For a few years I did that and played my drums in our basement/cellar and eventually I was bought a cheap but solid e-kit for a birthday gift so I could play drums in my room and be a bit more quieter! Nowadays, if I’m sat having dinner with my mother and I start tapping on the table or on the floor, she goes nuts about it. So I don’t think she’s that enthusiastic about drumming anymore…
5. What drum performance on an album is perfect to you?
Hmmm, there are so many to choose from! But I’ll have to say that Darkside’s performance on Mgla’s ‘Exercises in Futility’ is probably my most recent favourite showcases of drumming. The way he accents certain sections of the songs and brings more life into the riffs is just mind-blowing. He does this to an extent where he doesn’t overplay the song, either. He plays exactly what the song and the structure needs and that to me is pure perfection. The song will always matter more than the person who is drumming, so drummers who stick to the needs of the track are the best. That’s not the only example, though. I could sit here for days telling you about all of the other albums that feature perfect drumming, but I won’t…
6. Tell us about your current kit and set up in DETAIL.
My setup is pretty ‘typical’ I’d say. I play a 2-up, 1-down configuration, with my snare central between my legs and my bass drum angled off to the right – which helps my legs sit at a more natural angle as if there were 2 bass drums present. I find this more comfortable than having the bass drum dead in the centre and my slave pedal too far off to the left. I tend to have my cymbals quite high up, as I have pretty long arms (I’m 6’ 4”!) so I have no problems reaching the cymbals for chokes etc. But for what I actually use at the moment, I’ll break it down into full specifications for you.
Drums: Mapex Meridian Maple in Supernova Burst finish. 22x18 Bass Drum (Evans EMADII) 16x16 Floor Tom (Evans EC2/G1 Clear) 12x10 Rack Tom (Evans EC2/G1 Clear) 10x9 Rack Tom (Evans EC2/G1 Clear) 14X6.5 Mapex Armoury ‘Daisy Cutter’ Snare Drum (Evans Genera Dry/Hazy 300)
Cymbals: Paiste 900 & Alpha series. 12” Splash 14” Heavy Hi-Hats 14” China 16” China 18” China 18” Heavy Crash 20” Heavy Crash 20” Metal Ride (Alpha)
Pro-Mark Shira Kashi Oak 5a Sticks. Gibraltar, Mapex & Pearl hardware & Accessories. Mapex Falcon Pedals.
7. If you could have a dream kit, tell us about it in DETAIL.
Lars Ulrich’s 1988 touring kit, that kit is gorgeous! I’d definitely want a setup like that as my dream kit. I think double kick setups are a dream for all Metal drummers, there’s just something very attractive about having two bass drums, a full rack of toms, two or more floor toms and countless cymbals so you have a wide palette of colours available to you. I mean I could get very specific and say I’d go for 2 22x20 kick drums, 8x8, 10x9, 12x10 & 13x10 rack toms, 16x16 & 18x18 floor toms. With a hammered steel/brass snare drum thrown in and then a full line of Paiste cymbals (especially RUDE’s) for good measure. In terms of brands, I’m not really an elitist and say ‘this brand is better than this brand’, but I am quite fond of Mapex so I would like to go for a Saturn kit in the future. Maple shells, because I love the sound and maybe a white/black sparkle finish.
8. Name your top 5 drummers excluding Neil Peart and Mike Portnoy.
Well, I’ve already mentioned a few drummers above, so I won’t add them to this list despite being huge influences. It’s hard to narrow it down to just 5 because so many drummers influence my playing. But I’ll go with:
1. Inferno (Behemoth) 2. Nicko Mcbrain (Iron Maiden) 3. Ingo Schwichtenberg (Helloween) 4. Jeff Porcaro (Toto) 5. Dominator (Dark Funeral)
Honourable mentions go to James Burke of The Infernal Sea, Slugh of Necronautical, Mordrath of Ethereal, M. Croton of Trivax & Gareth Hodgson (Gaz) from A Forest of Stars, for a short list of some local UK drummers who I admire.
9. Do you prefer live or studio?
Live, always live! I won’t lie, I’m too hard on myself in the studio. When you’re recording, there’s always so much more pressure than a live show, despite having more time on your hands. In the studio, you’re more conscious and scared of making mistakes – as well as being much more aware of when you’re not doing your best. You can play a really good take but mess up at one point and have to do the whole thing again and it’s infuriating. Personally, when I’m playing live, I’m in my element. There’s passion and adrenaline, the kind I don’t personally find in the studio. It guides you through the show and helps to put on a much better performance. I do enjoy my time in the studio (but also hate it) and I know it has to be done, but playing live is where my heart truly is. You can’t get the same feeling you get playing live anywhere else, even in rehearsals. That’s what I think, anyway…
10. Do drummers really get all the chicks and if so how do we convince the guitarist?
*photo credit listed at bottom
Absolutely yes, we do! (Joking). In seriousness? I’m not even sure who gets ‘all the chicks’, as it’s never really been about that. It’s about playing a great show, having a beer or two (after playing) and just enjoying the natural high that comes with performing, at least for me anyway. Anything on top of that, is just a bonus. Besides, drummers are too busy packing their gear up and WAY too sweaty after a show to be even considered…haha!
* credit photo Image 1 to Joanna Kat Photography