An Evening with Baard Kolstad – Live Streaming
Following the successful live streaming shows and special streaming events Leprous have been doing for the past months, it was just a matter of time for drummer-extraordinaire Baard Kolstad to do a live-stream drum clinic. But not just any: hosted by his longtime friend and fellow drummer, Arkentype’s Simen Sandnes, this one was not really just a master class, but thought out more like a gathering of friends, present in the studio and online, to explain details about his drumming style, his personal history growing up behind the drumkit and to answer questions from fans, students, aspiring drummers and friends. All this, seasoned with playthroughs of some of his band’s songs (Leprous and Rendezvous Point), as well as special covers. An event not to be missed by fans and especially by any aspiring drummer out there.
With several cameras all around Baard, the show started with none other than ‘The Sky is Red’ from Leprous’ album “Pitfalls”. This performance offered a unique view on Baard’s style of playing this song, while we are thoroughly reminded of its complexity from start to finish. I wonder why on earth Baard started with this song!
Then almost immediately, he continued the set with another Leprous song, ‘Captive’, of which he said it’s not often played live because it is rhythmically very complicated. So now I’m beginning to think that Baard is really mad, starting with those 2 songs haha!
Catching his breath, he went on to answer the first batch of questions from the online audience and precisely I got the answer for my previous musings, when, after being asked which is Leprous’ most difficult song, he mentioned: “Oh well I was stupid enough to start the set with ‘The Sky is Red’, we played it so many times I should know it by heart! I don’t know what I thought, so I realized when I started: Ahhh everyone’s watching… Even mom…” – Haha! Oh Yes, Baard is mad! He then added some more to the list: “‘Rewind’, ‘Salt’ (…) ‘Moon’ is also pretty tricky (…) ‘By My Throne’!, that’s why we barely played it live, we tried in a couple of soundchecks and it was always… noooope!”
Simen was the perfect plus to this streaming by adding his contagious good humor while moderating the questions and adding his own bits of stories about his fellow drummer and good friend. The fans’ questions went on about his history as drummer, so Baard talked about his origins as a drummer, from grabbing his first pair of sticks when he was 9 years old – 21 years ago, playing on the streets as a teenager during the Oslo Music Festival. He played on the streets for about 9 years and was able to earn good money which paid his first apartment “yes it was with coins, a lot of coins“. Interesting insights were also added from his first teacher Svein Stensaker who was present in the studio.
Then Baard graced us with his first drum solo of the evening, entirely improvised on the spot and only given one direction from Simen: only Hi-Hats!. And so he did!, incorporating insane patterns with the bass-drum, next the snare. So creative adding elements live right there in the moment, showing superb control of timings and changing patterns. Insane and just awesome!
“Let the stick work for you, let nature work for you (…) there’s no grip perfect for all purposes, you should be aware of what sound you’re producing…”
Coming back to the fan’s questions, after some more playthroughs of Leprous songs, there was an interesting question about the loose grip of the sticks, he said he learnt since he was a little kid “because my teacher told me so!”. Then he followed with the full story: after he met Jon Eirik Bokn (Bokken) from Trollfest (present in the studio), and assured him when entering university, he was going to change his grip “You’re going to get so much power!“. Baard said he refused then to do so, but after meeting his new teacher Bruce Rasmussen, he actually made him change the grip for the loose grip he uses now, indeed getting much power out of the maximum bounce of the stick. “Let the stick work for you, let nature work for you (…) there’s no grip perfect for all purposes, you should be aware of what sound you’re producing… Is like when playing Jazz, something I cannot do at all…. it makes more sense to play with (the) more traditional grip“. As Baard and Simen resumed In 3 words: Gravity, Sound and Muscle Efficiency.
And so I learnt something new, even if I’m not a drummer at all!
After some more questions and laughs, an interesting question popped up: Would he have his own solo project? Baard said with a big smile from ear to ear: “I don’t even know how to change a light bulb! And Simen knows how many times I call him to ask for help haha! – If my vacuum cleaner needs a new bag I have absolutely no idea how to change that!” Truth is, he said he just doesn’t really have any time to do anything else as he is focused 100% on his drums, though he would like to learn more about composition. But he thinks he exposes his musicality very well in RP, Leprous and Kickslip (his Dj and Drums duo with DJ Boge), so he doesn’t really need a solo project now.
Moving on, now he played ‘Apollo’ from Rendezvous Point. The song brought him back memories of exactly 11th March 2020, the last show he played with RP in Portugal and the same day the W.H.O. declared the global pandemic. He said he will never forget that day as they all felt bad on stage playing to thousands of people there while the rest of Europe was already locking down.
Previously selected by the online audience, it was now time for the first cover: Porcupine Tree’s ‘Anesthetize’! That was indeed a surprise. I’ve always considered Gavin Harrison one of the most complex drummers out there, so this was truly a treat! Wow! To watch Baard playing a song from Porcupine Tree / Gavin Harrison is just breathtaking. And just as if Baard read my mind he said: “Gavin Gavin Gavin.. He’s a rude bastard behind the kit.. Oh Gavin!” haha perfect comment to close the song.. To which Simen replied: “oh yes.. Gavin Harrison, he’s a beast!”
And after such a demonstration of superb drumming, Baard (yes he is mad, I already said it haha), went on to play ‘Forced Entry’ from Leprous’ second album “Bilateral”. Baard mentioned that it is like a cover for him as the song was recorded by the band’s previous drummer Tobias Ørnes Andersen (Ihsahn, Shining, Aiming for Enrike) Baard considers one of his primal influences. Right after the song finished, Baard ended up on the floor exhausted!
“…when improvising, the important thing is not to play perfect, but trying to get the vibe and you’re going to make mistakes, just go with it.. It is like talking, it is just like a story, how it is important to try to tell a story”
This was the end of the “normal” ticket set. For the VIP ticket holders, the show would continue with an extended set, more questions and extra covers. 15 minutes after a well deserved rest, Baard was back behind his drums with ‘By My Throne’ from the latest Leprous album “Pitfalls” (one of my favorite songs from the album, and as he mentioned before, one of the most complex ones!). Showing off his skills once again, he transitioned into the second drum solo, creating a completely new song out of thin air, playing complex polyrhythmics with a smile on his face! It is a delight to watch people enjoying so much what they do, and Baard is one of those, always with a smile, always enjoying every kick and hit to the fullest.
Then he went on to tell another anecdote: “it’s about trying to tell a story, somehow” – Remembering when he played in a Festival with Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck, etc), and Morgan Ågren (Kaipa) – “when improvising, the important thing is not to play perfect, but trying to get the vibe and you’re going to make mistakes, just go with it.. It is like talking, it is just like a story, how it is important to try to tell a story” (sic). Then Simen replied that he remembered that at the beginning he only did solos, like in the show “Norway’s Got Talent” on national TV – Baard said: “oh yeah when I looked like 11 years old but I was 17?” haha!
Baard continued the Q&A from fans and friends, offering some more interesting insights about Baard’s personality, for example:
What does he enjoy the most? – Having a good beer after a tour with good friends can give him a kick as much as being on stage, or coming back to his family after a tour
Why did he shave his head? – his sister said so.
Something other drummers do that you can’t stand – “a lot of kicks on the bass drums on black metal festivals.. Machine gun kicks”.
The most and the least “rock and roll” thing about Baard – the most: he probably ends up in a lot of situations you only see in movies.. A friend said he should probably have a camera following him all over. The least: he plays prog!
Best thing he can eat – anything not made by himself.
Then he continued with different anecdotes and answering more questions from the fans, and even his bandmate Einar Solberg in Leprous, joked “his opinion about prog metal drummers, are they groovy enough? be honest, and if you’re not honest, I’ll know right away.. I know where you live”
Baard commented that he doesn’t care for genres.. But his most favorite drummers come from Prog, some like Mike Portnoy, Gavin Harrison, Jay Postones (TesseracT), and Tomas Haake (Meshuggah).
Talking about his favorite drummers, next he played the cover of ‘Dance of Eternity’ from Dream Theater’s masterpiece “Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory”, which he played by heart and at the end commented that he used to have an iPod of 8gb where he only had ‘Dance of Eternity’, ‘Erotomania’ (both by Dream Theater) and ‘Technical Difficulties’ by Racer X.
“everything I do should have a meaning… Finding the balance, where to stick out, where to hold back.. Technique is just one of the many tools when making music.“
Following on, there were questions to his teacher as well and some more anecdotes about his journey learning the drums and becoming professional, to highlight was this comment for future drummers: “everything I do should have a meaning… Finding the balance, where to stick out, where to hold back… Technique is just one of the many tools when making music.“
The next song was a cover, another one selected by the fans online, this time the turn was for Meshuggah’s ‘Do Not Look Down’. I’m no fan, but I recognize how complex this song is. After it there was another round of questions like what’s his favorite Leprous song (‘Observe the Train’), being a Dimmu Borgir fan (“love the cheesy blast beats”), about his many different cymbals and the broken ones (“I was broke!.. I’ve always liked thin cymbals…”), to end with the playthrough of ‘Moon’, another Leprous fan favorite and selected by both audiences on a quick vote, but as he was enjoying it all so much and it was almost a tie, he also went to play ‘Distant Bells’.
To finish the round of questions, Baard extended over technical stuff (sorry I’m not a drummer, so I can’t tell you more in detail about it), but I prefer to highlight a very interesting question about how Covid has changed him, as a person and as a musician.
Baard commented he was pretty abashed at how so many people took it badly, totally defeated as if this was the end of the world, but he saw it more positively – “As Einar said: Let’s focus on what you can do now”. He was pretty excited about everyone having to be in quarantine – “I can be on my sofa for 14 days!” Baard said he actually did a lot with many bands and musicians in the studio, also loved the streaming shows with Leprous, and even though he has not been out of Norway for more than a year, he managed to get a lot of work done.
And even though these were going to be the final questions and the streaming was already well past the 2 hours, he agreed to play one more song, so impromptu he granted Simen’s wishes to hear ‘Red’, his favorite Leprous’ song. A song with many complex time changes, another great example of Baard’s mastery of the instrument and a great choice to finish this superb evening of a drumming master class with one of the best out there!