Interview with Septimiu

"Music is something sacred for me and the risky idea of turning it into my life looks now like the best possible decision. Music is unique in that it can't ever let you down and it contains the best of what humanity means, if you know where to look. "

Pestilence, Moordzucht, Neuromorph, Disavowed, Necrovile, CodeRed, Aria Urbana, The Thirteenth Sun, Indian Fall… Which of the projects you perform with is the closest to your heart and with which of them do you think you’ll have the biggest success? 

That’s definitely a politically incorrect question, haha!

I like all of them for different reasons, so the comparison is kinda hard to make. What I can safely say is that they all fit my general approach to things in life, which is only doing what I like and what I consider meaningful. As for success , I’d say there isn’t much of a chance that any of them will get to the notoriety level that Pestilence achieved in its glory days, but we aren’t really aiming for being successful in a box-office sense of the word. To me personally, success is more something like the comfort of going to bed satisfied each night and not feeling stressful or guilty or ashamed of myself and what I do. There’s a certain amount of “truth to myself” that I have to maintain in order to feel successful .

What are you doing when you’re not at the rehearsals or on the stage?

Well, I spend a lot of time on the computer, researching drum-related and music-related content, for the most part. This is something I’ve been doing for many years now. Also, I assign a lot of time to social media. Too much, for sure. Other than that, I tend to spend some lengthy evenings with my friends and/or bandmates, having some beers and talking stuff. That feels very nice, especially after a longer tour or some higher pressure sessions/shows, it’s got a certain feel of “coming home”, you know? I like that. I try to read – good stuff, if possible – but I have to admit I’ve pretty much given up the habit of doing it to the extent that I used to do it about ten years ago, when my headspace was much closer to some academic fields than it is now. I’ve gradually let go of that and moved my focus more and more towards music. I’m not good at multitasking, so in order to maintain a decent level in what I do, I must stay away from branching out too much. I have to keep the focus. But with music, I don’t need to attempt it, it comes quite naturally to me. I like loneliness, I tend to spend a lot of time by myself, just clearing my head and (over?)thinking about stuff. I like to walk through the forest. I like mountains, but I’m not a good climber at all, I’m just a relaxed pedestrian.

Funny enough, the freer you get, the shorter time seems to become. When you have deadlines and constraints and there’s outside pressure to get certain things done, you get very good at time management and also your free time feels a lot more intense. You feel free. Nowadays, since I’m the only person telling me what to do with my own time, one task per day pretty much feels like eating up all those 24 hours, you know what I mean? It’s almost like feeling eternal and not bothering to get out of bed, because there’s always tomorrow. You get much slower. You automatically go to idle mode for most of your time, although you most probably don’t want to.

When did it all start and why did you choose drums?

It started somewhere in 5th grade I think, so I was about twelve. I think rock and metal have this great power of encouraging people to pick up an instrument and play, so when I first heard Metallica and their huge, fat, crushing, greatly-produced drum sound, I thought I’d give the drums a try. My parents are Deep Purple fans and Ian Paice’s speed and smoothness were also a great inspiration at that time, for me. Still are to this day, actually. Anyway, I think it was a great decision, because I prefer sitting behind a huge kit in the back of the stage, rather than being under the spotlight all the time, like the rest of the band. Also, the drums make me work (and work out!) a lot more, because my best musical abilities aren’t rhythimcal, I’m more of a melodic or harmony-oriented guy. I have very good pitch and I love experimenting progressions and harmony-related stuff, so my mind and ear are more inclined to the other two dimensions of music, the vertical ones, rather than time, the horizontal one that the drums have to take care of.  I feel there’s still so much to develop about my time, especially now that my rhythmical hearing has become much more refined than it used to be.

When and which one will be the band where you’ll play drums and vocals at the same time?  

Haha! Not sure about that one. I did talk to Ela a couple times about me guest-singing some Clitgore stuff in the future, but I certainly won’t be their drummer at the same time. Some years ago, I was also thinking about doing a death metal solo project where I would play everything… and sing, but I’ve pretty much given up on that project at this point.

Being part of so many bands, I assume that you had some gigs outside Romania… what can you tell us about the public? It is different that the Romanian one? And which gig do you remember as being the best of em?

You assume correctly. My gigs beyond Romanian borders started out with Necrovile, which is for sure one of the most active Romanian bands in terms of consistently having international shows. For some reason, it seems to me like most of the Romanian underground media fails to take notice of that, but that’s of no big concern to us. So actually, Necrovile is playing a lot more all across Europe than in Romania. Other than Necrovile, of course, I play outside of Romania with Dutch death metal band Disavowed and, starting from January, with Pestilence as well.  I don’t feel like there are significant differences for the public  from one country to another. Metalheads are metalheads, right? As for the best shows, I would tend to say we usually have our best times in Germany, but to me, playing on the main stage at Brutal Assault last year was something quite special; that’s sort of a dream for any metal underground musician, I suppose. I do expect that a lot of great shows will happen next year with Pestilence, including a lot of the big European summer festivals. Patrick Mameli also says South & Central America should be killer.

At Rockstadt Extreme Fest 2017 edition you will be performing with 3 bands from Romania. Basically you will be the only artist who will have so much access on both stages. How do you feel?

Yes, that should be quite fun! I’ve played all the Rockstadt Extreme Fest editions so far, usually with more than one band, except for last year, when I had the Brutal Assault gig with Disavowed. So I am quite accustomed to the environment at Rockstadt and I know what to expect from the event. It’s a nice fest for sure and I am looking forward to this year’s edition.

Because you’re part of 4 foreign bands, do you think there will be a chance to see them here in our country as well?

I think so, yes. We’ve already had multiple invitations from organisers both for Disavowed and Pestilence, but so far there were various reasons for which we couldn’t make it with either of them. But I suppose the opportunities will definitely arise again in the future.

From your personal experience, what do you think we should change in our local scene?

Well, I’m not the kind of guy to offer – or enjoy – a lot of advice and parental directions, I attempt to stay away from talking ex cathedra and teaching people what they should do. I try to mind my own business and keep my experience for myself, to be honest, because it’s probably much more useful to me than to others. But if I were to put my finger on something that maybe bothers me at times about the Romanian underground,  I’d say there’s a certain spirit that engulfed pretty much all areas of activity in our country, since the idea of “competition being a good thing” started being inoculated to people: there’s a lack of trust, of unity, of solidarity and no real sense of a common purpose. Everywhere else I’ve been in Europe, people seem to take it a bit easier. Here, too often there’s some tension, a bit of animosity, a bit of envy and frustration and untamed egos floating in the air. I think we’ve lost some collaboration for the sake of savage competition, which we’re constantly taught about as being positive and natural and indispensable. I beg to differ.

What bad decisions do you think you’ve made so far?

I can’t really think of one right now. I mean, I’ve made some bad personal decisions, but those are not to be discussed here, haha! In terms of my career as a musician, I am pretty satisfied so far and I do believe that, as long as you stay true to yourself and to the values you truly believe in, there’s a big chance you won’t have to deal with much regret in life.

What else do you listen in your spare time? How much do you study ? How long did it take until you reached a professional level with drumming?

What else other than metal, you mean? I’m not really listening to music based on genre, to be honest. I listen to music based on what I consider to be its depth, its spiritual strength, its authenticity. By authenticity I mean that the songwriter has really got something special to say and he stays true to it and to the musical purpose, oblivious to any other possible purposes (like money, box office, more options for getting laid etc.). Now, by “saying something”, I don’t necessarily mean getting a rational thought across, but rather, getting across the subliminal power that I found some music can charge me with, which will uplift me to a very pure, clean state of existence where nothing negative can penetrate. I don’t find these qualities in a lot of music, therefore I don’t really like a lot of music, quantity doesn’t really matter to me. Also, genre is irrelevant in this respect: it can be symphonic, it can be jazz, it can be experimental, it can be electronic, it can be rock, it can be metal. I also listen to a lot of jazz-fusion and funk, and even gospel, just because they’re very good for training my drumming senses and for keeping me sharp and quick-thinking on the instrument. It’s a form of mental practice to me.

I don’t practice the drums too often nowadays. Lately it’s been less than one time a week. There are times when I feel like practicing more, so then I just to. I do whatever I feel like doing, but I try not to impose anything on myself, because my number one rule in relation to the drums is that I have to enjoy playing.

Now, it depends what one’s definition of the professional level is. What I can say about myself is that, up until 2008, almost all my practice was mental, just watching videos, reading stuff and assimilating as much information as possible about the drums, and this was because I didn’t own a set of drums. Once I got my own drumkit in 2008, I started working on putting all that knowledge to work. Apparently, people started appreciating it really early in the process, but for me, I’m still not at a satisfactory level as we speak.

Which drummers were your main influence? And which drummer is the most close to your heart ?

Well, I’m getting influence from everyone, pretty much. I learn a lot of stuff by watching drummers who aren’t too good on the instrument, I learn from beginners too, so I definitely get something out from everyone who IS indeed good at the instrument. Main influences would probably be Lars Ulrich and Ian Paice for getting me started, Dave Weckl as my main teacher (I know all his videos by heart), Peter Erskine, Steve Smith, Dennis Chambers, Carter Beauford, these are the guys whom I got most of my drumming philosophy from, Mike Portnoy for pure musicality and color in any rock situation, Vinnie Paul for demonstrating you can be colorful and tasteful and interesting without playing a lot of notes, Pete Sandoval, Derek Roddy, George Kollias and Tony Laureano as far as extreme metal drumming is concerned, also Nick Barker for getting me really serious about the blast beat and its emotional function in the music, Virgil Donati as an absolute technical benchmark… and of course, I’m pretty much into any good drummer out there. I research them all, haha!

As far as naming just one drummer who could be called “supreme”, that’s always pretty relative and hard to do, I used to say it’s impossible. For some reason though, nowadays I think I can do it: it’s Vinnie Colaiuta for me.

What drum set do you use? How important is it for a drummer to make his own set up instead of using a classical one? What drum and what cymbal brand do you prefer?

I’m currently using a Mapex birch kit with a variety of cymbal models from different brands. Actually, I am waiting to announce a big endorsement with one of the world’s biggest companies, which has already been signed for quite some time now, but some logistical delays are the reason why I haven’t gotten public with it yet. Other than that, I am already endorsed by Axis Percussion for everything that’s pedal-related and by Vater Percussion for drumsticks. Of course, I wouldn’t endorse their products if I didn’t think they are some of the very best available.

As far as setup goes, I’d say to each their own. The classical configurations are classical for a reason, they are “the essential kit”, pretty much. The rest of it is icing on the cake more than anything else. Many great drummers still play typical 4-piece or 5-piece configs and it works spectacularly for them. Now, the louder the music gets, generally the more drums you need, because most of the touch variations that you can coax out of just one item won’t get heard anymore, so then you need more voices in order to get the same amount of color. That’s why metal drummers usually need more drums and cymbals: the music kinda requires it.

How important is the ideology as compared to the composition in a band? As a drummer, would you accept or reject to be part of a band based on its ideology? 

I’ve always said this: I am all about the music. Music is something sacred for me and the risky idea of turning it into my life looks now like the best possible decision. Music is unique in that it can’t ever let you down and it contains the best of what humanity means, if you know where to look. It’s one of the very few amazing, uplifting things that mankind achieved along its generally shameful history. With music, there’s no tradeoff. So I can never accept ideology ever being more important than music. Ideology is a rational thing. If you want ideology, read stuff, do stuff, think stuff, you don’t need music for that. However, that isn’t to say I don’t care about ideology at all. Or lyrics in general. I am attracted to bands with good lyrics and many times, it’s people with depth that write music with depth, so it’s often the case that good music’s got good lyrics as well. Also, there are certain genres that are much more ideology-oriented than others. I’m not a big fan of that orientation, but as long as I can appreciate the artistical act, I am for it. Sometimes though, ideology can pollute the musical experience. I could definitely refuse to be in a band based on ideological reasons, yes. Especially if they are too serious about that and not serious at all about music.

Do you have time for any future plans? With which other big band do you wanna perform? Is there any band, from the one you performed / are still performing with, to have you in the band since their start?

I have time for future plans, but I also have enough experience now to know things don’t work like that for me. If I want to make sure something won’t happen or come out a certain way, I plan it. I’ve now lived long enough with myself to know certain laws of my own universe. I can predict the future, in certain situations. So I don’t even bother to plan anything. I’m a constantly-improving improviser, I suppose that’s some Vinnie Colaiuta influence right there, haha! But we have some big plans with Pestilence for next year, so that will probably keep me busy in the relatively near future.

In theory, I would like to play with a lot of bands. Pretty much all bands that I love, haha! But since I have this much going on right now, I feel quite accomplished for this point in time and I try to focus on making the best of it and seizing the day. It’s very important that I leave some good musical interpretations and history behind me, so I tend to look more into the present as the future past, rather than planning the future all the time. Things will come to me for sure, I don’t need to calculate too much of that right now.

As for bands that I’ve been with since their beginning, I guess they should be The Thirteenth Sun and Neuromorph. All the others have some history without me as well.

Thanks for being part of Din Intunerec interviews. the last words belong to you!

Thank you for inviting me to this chat! It’s been rather nice.

photo credit Miluta Flueras

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