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Metal Drum Maestro Gene Hoglan Releases New DVD

Dubbed the Atomic Clock, the man behind the kit for the likes of thrash metal act Testament and the erstwhile metallers Strapping Young Lad talks about time on the road, India and recording Death’s seminal album ‘Symbolic’


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Gene Hoglan, the man behind the kit for the likes of Strapping Young Lad and Death, talks about his new DVD. Photo: Courtesy of Adrenaline PR

Gene Hoglan, the man behind the kit for the likes of Strapping Young Lad and Death, talks about his new DVD. Photo: Courtesy of Adrenaline PR

If Gene Hoglan, the San Diego-based drummer who’s called The Atomic Clock on account of his faultless work on the drum throne, had to put together a promo for his new DVD – The Atomic Clock Strikes Two – he says he’d include just footage of flubs. “Because I left them all in, you know?” says Hoglan over the phone.

In fact, the mistakes are his favorite part of the DVD that covers drum playthroughs, interviews and anecdotes. “All the human parts. That’s where the humor just came from. Okay, there’s a camera in my face and I’m blowing it, I’m not going to edit this out. ‘Oh that was potentially embarrassing, let’s get rid of that’. No, I leave it in, that’s fine!” he says in his most jovial voice.

The drummer for the likes of thrash metal band Dark Angel and then death metal pioneers Death, extreme metallers Strapping Young Lad (helmed by the madman guitarist-vocalist Devin Townsend) and thrash veterans Testament, there isn’t a beat that Hoglan can play wrong or too slow or sloppily when he’s on stage. He recalls how he got his name the Atomic Clock courtesy of Chris Valagao, his bandmate from Canadian heavy metallers Zimmers Hole and Devin Townsend. “We were rehearsing at a motorcycle shop and he [Chris] just came in and said, ‘Damn man, Hoglan is the atomic clock’. I just don’t know what made him say that, but I thought it sounded pretty fun. Devin said, ‘Oh that’s cool,’ so we just ended up with the tag. It’s the timepiece of the world. It beats being called ‘Gene the Machine’ or something like that. Or ‘Mean Gene’.”

On The Atomic Clock Strikes Two, Hoglan rips through Testament’s “Native Blood” and “Rise Up” as well as Death signatures like “Overactive Imagination” and “The Philosopher.” And then there’s Strapping Young Lad’s “Skeksis,” which he says is one song he wouldn’t mind playing forever. He adds, “There’s a whole lot of Strapping songs I would love playing and in the Testament set, I’ll freely admit, I was never a fan of this song growing up, but now that I’m playing it, but “Practice What You Preach” is one of my favorites. I know there’s no double-bass in it, not in the original, I throw little spurts of it now. I like playing that song, I’ve done a complete 180 on it.”

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One thing you won’t find on the DVD, or in any of the gigs Hoglan plays is a drum solo, something that’s often assumed most virtuoso drummers like to do. Not this guy, though. “The longest drum solo I can imagine myself playing is about 30 seconds,” he says. Turns out, he’s been asked by Testament frontman Chuck Billy on their upcoming tour to play a drum solo while he gives his voice a rest for a few minutes mid-set. Hoglan says, “Chuck asked me, ‘How do you feel about playing a drum solo?’ I’m just like, ‘Oh, you’re kidding me’. We’ll see what I end up doing with his drum solo portion of my upcoming Testament set. I’ve got some really cool ideas and I’m going to try to make it fun and really engaging for the five minutes, rather than just bashing on the drums. I’ll come up with something super cool. I’ll do anything to get out of playing drums, I’ll tell you.”

Hoglan changing voices and being overall funny is probably why he’s part of animated comedy metallers Dethklok, the stars of the TV show Metalocalypse, including five releases and live shows with showrunner Brendon Small. He recalls, “I loved everything that we did. I loved playing every song on those, except ‘Laser Cannon Deth Sentence’ – I’m glad we never play that one live. That was one of the most challenging studio times I’ve spent.” In fact, it was his Dethklok duties that prevented him from visiting India with Testament back in 2012. He adds, “We get such support from our Indian fans and we get so much love and we just want to return that love. I know that listening to metal and trying to obtain metal might be a little challenging in that part of the world, but boy, Indian metal fans, they get it. We love the fact that they dig it and they’re a great support and we just want to say thank you so much.”

More info on The Atomic Clock Strikes Two here

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