The upcoming maiden Australian tour for Thrash Metal progenitors Dark Angel is a special voyage, a chance for us mere mortals to pay homage to one of the godfathers of a scene that birthed so many bands and styles beyond them. We spoke with the blindingly fast and technical drum machine that is Gene Hoglan (also of Strapping Young Lad, Testament, Death and many other extreme units) about his thoughts on the upcoming jaunt and his thoughts on the Thrash scene in 2019.
“The guys in Dark Angel are super excited, this being their maiden voyage,” Hoglan notes with a hint of anticipation. “everybody’s super excited and I’m biting back on being the ‘grizzled old veteran’ so that it feels much more like my first time, too!”
When prompted about how his past Australian tours have been, Hoglan was full of praise for our hospitality, our “absolutely insane love for fast, extreme Metal,” our passion for the music and the scenic nature of our big old continent. As a veteran of international touring for the past 30+ years, Hoglan’s not withholding about how an Aussie tour usually pans out play-by-play:
“It’s busy,” he admits. “You’ll get up at 6:00 am for the 7:00 am lobby call, for the 8:00 am check-in for the 10:00 am flight. Then, depending on the gig you’ll either need to go straight to the venue for soundcheck and other technical stuff, or you’ll hopefully catch a nap beforehand at the hotel, get going to the venue, set up, warm up, play a rocking good show, get back to the hotel, catch a few hours, repeat.
“It’s basically Groundhog Day but with some amazing people, great sights and a whole lotta Metal!”
Alongside this realism toward the Down Under touring routine, Hoglan seems largely unperturbed by the prospect and excited in tone in general, animated and ready. Noting that the Dark Angel guys are taking extended leave after the tour to “properly check out Australia outside just the cities,” he admits to regular insistence to his bandmates that Australians “are some of the coolest, nicest people on the planet – more than Americans at least!” We’ll let our southern hospitality speak for itself when the Dark Angel boys arrive next month.
Hoglan takes this opportunity to make an announcement of his own – an upcoming drum clinic he will be hosting in a few undisclosed locations and dates, following the tour. “Pay attention to the socials and keep your ears open, folks – and that’s for all fans, this isn’t some drummer exclusive thing.” In terms of content, it seems the vibe is generally unstructured and experiential, with Hoglan preferring to “wing it” and use his extensive back catalogue as a conversation/performance prompter.
“Anybody that’s ever been to a Gene Hoglan drum clinic show knows that it’s basically a comedy show and conversation, with some drumming thrown in,” he remarks. “I try to make it as inclusive and engaging as possible. Got a question? Yell it out. Not a drummer? Come along anyway. Each question takes me down different genres, tracks and techniques, so don’t be afraid to ask.”
For a ‘grizzled veteran,’ you sure get the sense Hoglan is as affable and open about his craft, touring and love for fans as on day one. Not even the breakup of Dark Angel or the undulations of various projects coming and going over the years has seemed to faze the man.
When discussing the energy levels and stamina within Dark Angel as a unit, he notes “the energy is bigger than ever.”
“We never dissolved due to animosity or in-fighting,” Hoglan remarks sternly. “Even with our little disillusionment about how things were headed, we always remained friends, always went to each other’s bands’ shows together, always hung out. We got together a few days before the tour to rehearse and we’re just cracking jokes, reminiscing, playing, having a good time.” Witnessing firsthand the reformed band’s tangible excitement in playing new and exotic countries such as Chile, Japan and now our shores has reportedly allowed him to play and see touring with “fresh eyes” once more.
“You’ll see us up there on stage smiling, goofing around and having fun while we play blinding fast Thrash,” he scoffs with an almost audible grin. “The music’s intense and the passion translates from our enthusiasm and energy to the crowd – we might beat the shit of you musically, but mentally you’ll be smiling.”
Having such a fresh, energised and fun-loving lease on the live show is very important for a man who has been touring extensively with extreme Metal bands for over three decades. Remarked upon as “The Atomic Clock,” a world-renowned aficionado for blistering speeds and technicality, there’s not one hint of trepidation towards playing blistering endurance sets night after night even after all this time.
For someone who’s only been on this Earth around as long as Hoglan’s been cracking skulls at high tempos, this writer ponders aloud about what goes into such a feat of longevity.
He has a few responses, but his first and most important is: “This is my singular focus. This is all that I do. Sure, I’ve drummed in a lot of bands and projects in a lot of styles, but I’m known for and live my passion of being an extreme Metal drummer.
“I am an OG Thrasher if there ever was one,” he remarks proudly. “I was there for the inception of Thrash – phase one, baby!”
As the conversation progresses, it however becomes clear health is a paramount feature of his longevity in the scene. “Drums are a huge part of my cardio regimen,” he notes, “and I love essentially running a marathon’s worth of double-kicks per night on tour with bands like Dark Angel and Strapping back in the day.”
His next bit of advice resonates with all of us, I think.
“I have always been known for being a serial napper,” he admits. “Get those rests and naps wherever you can. I won’t have a Red Bull before the show and crash halfway, I won’t take uppers and then downers and wreak havoc on my sleep. I’m still using the leg weights when I play, still use heavy warm-up sticks, eat super healthy, I’m done with scoffing down those cheeseburgers,” he laughs, “and I don’t drink any more – all of that feeds into playing brutal music nightly.”
Psychologically, he also states it isn’t enough for him to want to just get up and play, either. “When you see me onstage, you’ll stand there thinkin’, ‘Oh, Gene’s gonna play, cool!’ – yeah, no, Gene’s not here to play, Gene needs to kill. Gene needs to absolutely dominate.” That last word is stressed for very heavy emphasis.
In terms of how he feels about the Thrash scene, Hoglan rattles off a whole number of newer acts he’s into, such as Vektor, Power Trip, and Fuelled by Fire. Interestingly, his thoughts on what “nearly killed the Thrash scene” in the early 90s was more the rise of Death Metal and Grindcore, not Grunge and the like as most assume.
He is, however, notably proud and adamant about the supreme reign of Thrash’s influence in Metal.
“Thrash paved the way for Death, Black and other technical Metal with it’s focus on speed, riffs and aggression,” he argues. “If you’re a Death Metalhead? Thrash is your dad. Black Metaller? Grindcore kid? Metalcore kid? Thrash is your dad. You can argue with me on that, but I’ll win, and all these reunions are the proof that Dad is ready to kick some ass again!”
You can get tickets for the upcoming Dark Angel tour right here. Stay tuned for news from Gene Hoglan on his upcoming drum clinic dates!