Chris Rivers interview – by Travis Marc – 2010.
Chris Rivers is the drumming powerhouse behind local rock band “Heaven’s Basement”. In his humble opinion he describes his drumming as simple, yet solid and hard hitting, for anyone who has had the opportunity of ever seeing him perform live you’ll know that there really is a lot more to it. In this interview we chat to Chris about how he got started, his influences, and even his favourite football team, read on to find out more…
Chris, thanks for your time. As with everyone we interview, let’s start at the beginning. How did you start drumming, and when did you first realise that this was something that you wanted to do as a career?
My father was a drummer in an 80s glam/metal band called “Rox” so from an early age I found myself surrounded by drums. I remember going along to gigs, helping set up the drums and even having a bash on them during sound check. My mum would then come and pick me up before the doors opened ha ha. I think I realised I wanted to do drumming/music full time during my last years at school as I had no interest in anything other than being in a band and surrounding myself with similar minded people!
Your first taste of success was with your band “Hurricane Party”. In addition to touring with bands such as Nickelback and The Darkness, “Hurricane Party” released an E.P which was mixed by renowned producer Kevin Shirley. What was it like working with Kevin?
Yeah, Kevin mixed the Hurricane Party releases, we spent two weeks in New York for the mixing session in which we learned a lot. Kevin is a great guy and has worked with some amazing musicians during his career, so it was cool to hear some of his stories as well as pick up tips of someone like that.
Who or what are your drumming influences and why?
Honestly I’ve got so many drumming influences. I actually think it’s impossible for a Rock or Hard Rock band to be successful without having a good player. I think you can learn something from everyone, even if it’s “what not to do”. As for obvious influences I would have to start with the guys I listened to when I was growing up, Matt Sorum, Joey Kramer, Alex Van Halen, John Bonham and Cozy Powell. Those are the drummers of bands that my parents listened to so that’s all I really had to listen too. It wasn’t until I got into my teens that I discovered more current drummers like Dave Grohl and Josh Freeze etc.
One of my favorite drummers around is Kenny Aronoff, I attended one of his clinics about 3 years ago and it was possibly one of the most inspiring 2 hours of my life. That guy has it down! As well as being influenced by his drumming I was also blown away with how driven and focused he is, he’s got the full package down to a fine art. Someones attitude, drive and energy is one of the things that can inspire me the most.
In addition some of the guys that I’ve toured alongside have influenced me simply from being able to watch them night after night. Guys like John Fred (Black Stone Cherry) and Tony Palermo (Papa Roach). I enjoy watching how bass players work with their drummers and am a big fan of visual drummers like James Kottak (Scorpions) and Ray Luzier (Korn), they’re easily two of the best guys I’ve ever seen live.
Shortly after the “Hurricane Party” break up yourself and a few other former “Hurricane Party” member formed your current group “Heavens Basement”. Heavens Basement have been making some huge waves on both the European and British music scene for quite a while now. How would you describe the difference between the two bands? Also, what best describes your drumming style (which is amazing by the way) within Heavens Basement?
Yes, Hurricane Party was a strange set up. We had a lot of issues with our management and label so I was happy when things ended. Heaven’s Basement is real, it was so refreshing when we started, we didn’t have the pressure of any music business crap or managers/labels not working for our best interests. I’m proud to say I’m in one of the most hardworking bands on the scene at the moment, we have a lot of fun too, but ultimately the high is writing and playing good music that we all get off on. Heaven’s Basement is heavier then Hurricane Party too, which makes it more fun to drum for
I think my earlier drum influences helped shape my drumming into a style that I’m quite happy with. When we write songs, I usual start with the most basic foundation of groove and finding the tempo. Once that’s down I’ll elaborate, add the fills and colour etc. I would say my style is quite simple but solid and hard hitting..It’s not ground breaking or anything but I like to play to my strengths. I think so many drummers are too busy these days and I find it has little impact live. At the end of the day the drums are there to groove and make people move, dance, head bang or create a savage mosh pit. I think anything that distracts the listener away from that isn’t usually a good thing with our genre of music. You’ve just got to listen to some of the biggest rock bands ever, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Guns n Roses, Motley Crue. Generally the rhythm parts are very simple but they’re all massively effective.
Heavens Basement are a gigging machine. How does your body react with all the touring that you guys do? Do you have any sort of warm ups or practice routines that you do before shows,or follow any specific diets to try and keep fit? What’s your secret?
We’re all still in our early – mid 20s so luckily we’re at an age where can enjoy the perks of being in a touring rock band! We love to party but only when we’ve done the gig. We take what we do seriously, we never go on stage drunk, high or anything like that. The music ALWAYS comes first. If we ever have a bad show, we’ll all be pissed off until we can put it right at the next show. I love that attitude within the band, we’ve all got each other to answer too and we expect the best out of each other every single night, no matter if there’s twenty people watching like when we toured Finland for the first time, or if we’ve playing at Manchester stadium with Bon Jovi in front of 70,000 people.
Aside from that side of things I do look after myself on and off the road, I usually take some weights on the road to keep in shape, we also go to a gym when we’re off the road. Heaven’s Basement is a very energetic show so we’ve got to have a decent level of fitness to put the energy across. My diet isn’t really strict but I do have a well balanced diet. I love eating healthily although sometimes I love going onto the bus after a show with a massive kebab, haha.
My general per gig routine (if it’s a headline show for example) will be to do the sound check then relax for an hour or so, about an hour before the show I’ll get into my stage clothes, that’s always an important part of getting in the right head space. Half an hour before stage time I’ll start doing some stretches and warming up on my pad, doing basic rudiments etc. If we’re the support band or playing a festival we won’t always have the luxury of time to prepare (or even having a dressing room) in those situations you learn to find other ways to get in the frame of mind.
What have been your highlights within the band and why?
The main highlights are the touring, we’ve toured around 20 countries in the past 2 years since we started, I’ve got so many good memories from these tours! Going on the road with bands like Papa Roach, Black Stone Cherry, Shinedown, Buckcherry and Theory of a Deadman are always highlights..Nothing beats the feeling of playing and delivering to a big audience that have come for a rock show! Another highlight has been working with Bob Marlette in the studio recently, he produced a few tracks and we learned so much from him. He’s a great producer, he really knows how to get the best out of the musician and make you feel comfortable.
Where do you see both Heavens Basement and yourself personally within the next five years?
I’ll be drumming for as long as I physically can, that’s a fact! It’s a very unpredictable world but “Heaven’s Basement” is now left with members that all share the same goal so I’m very confident we’ll be doing what we’re doing now (touring and recording our music). Hopefully it’ll be on a bigger scale. I feel like we’ve got something to offer to the world of music and I’m confident we’ll deliver it.
Tell us a little bit about why you chose to endorse the products that you do, as well as the gear you use that isn’t endorsed?
I focused on the companies I wanted to endorse a few years ago, I’ve always played the gear I’ve wanted to play, not just because it comes under an endorsement.
I choose Paiste because I feel like their cymbals have the most signature sound to them, also most of my favourite drummers play or have played Paiste, (Bonham, Alex Van Halen, Tommy Lee). Tama are the best sounding drums around in my opinion, especially for hard hitters, I play Bubinga and I wouldn’t choose anything else. Their hardware is as solid as a rock. Vic Firth are an amazing company and great people to work with, their Rock sticks are what I have used for the past 5 years. Other companies I want to give a shout out to are Hardcase and Baskey footlocks – if you have problems with your stands moving around and want a fast set up, check theme out!
A bit of a silly question, but we sometimes ask silly questions. If you could no longer drum or perform in a band, what would you do with yourself career wise?
I hope I never have to put that question in practice! Wow, I don’t know. I guess the obvious answer is something in the music/drumming industry but I honestly don’t know.I would never work in a job I don’t enjoy though, simple as that.
What has been the most important piece of drumming advice you have ever received and why do you feel it was so important to you?
Once you know your audience, write your parts as if your the listener! Play what they would want to hear. I feel that’s important as sometimes it’s easy to stray away from the basic feel and soul of the song, pushing your boundaries is a great thing and I love doing it myself, but don’t be afraid to just play simple…
Any last thoughts?
Sure, What I’ve learned over the last few years is very simple but important. All us musicians know that this business is such an unpredictable world, if you’ve got something good then put your all into it and enjoy it. Time flies fast and I believe that your destiny is in your own hands. You can make so much happen if you’ve got the right frame of mind and work ethic. Nothing gets handed to you on a plate, commit to what you want to do in life and make it happen… Finally, Man Utd are the greatest football team in history.
For more information on Chris or Heavens Basement please visit – www.heavensbasement.com