this is part of a photo series i’ve been working on since 2011. it is a collection of photographs of badass women involved in metal, hardcore and the borderline metal/punk/avant-guarde worlds. these are the people who make up the music scene. these are my friends.
Meet Annie Buchwald, awesome drummer, lifelong city gal and soon to be Columbia grad student.
What was your first metal experience?
Annie Buchwald: It was 2000. I was 12, at Buck’s Rock Performing Arts summer camp, at a camper recital. These teenage guys who were like, 15 or 16, came out in corpse paint and performed a crazy black metal song, an original called “Blood for the Blood God.” It was actually called that. (BTW, two of those guys I’m still in touch with – Matt Graff is a sick drummer and engineered a couple of my drum tracks, and another, Casey Sabol, was briefly the singer for Periphery before moving on to his solo stuff.) Anyway, cut to 2000 – before seeing them perform, with the growls and the corpse paint and the guitar solo and everything, the heaviest stuff I liked was Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. I really had no idea what the hell was going on onstage, but the whole thing was ridiculous and really cool. I decided to become friends with them after that. One of them eventually gave me the Jester Race (an In Flames album) to listen to, and after I heard the first couple notes of “Moonshield”, that was it. After In Flames I just went on binge after binge of finding new stuff to listen to.
In retrospect, my affinity for metal makes a lot of sense. I always had a tendency to like weird or morbid things as a kid, like Ancient Egyptian death ritual stuff, or medieval art about the plague, or ghost stories, etc. Not to mention my dad played a lot of classical and old European folk music when I was growing up, so in metal I heard something that I liked, something that was familiar, but turned into something unexpected.
My first real metal concert was shortly after coming back from camp. I was 13 and I brought my best friend to tag along who wasn’t into metal at all – she hated it. It was at the Wetlands, a now closed venue that used to be on Canal street: Dying Fetus and Origin played. Actually, at the time I remember thinking it was too heavy, although I like both of those bands now. I went to a lot of concerts after that around the city, mostly at L’Amours. It was a big part of my adolescence.
Tell me about what motivated you to start playing drums?
AB: I spent my young adult life being interested in a lot of things but not finding my one true “passion,” despite taking various things both in and out of school pretty seriously. I was into languages – I learned Swedish and Russian fluently – architecture, drawing and photography, and nature. In college, I studied abroad in Russia for two years, and one of those years I was actually in a Russian architecture school. But living on my own in Saint Petersburg was stressful, and the prospect of finishing a professional degree in from a Russian university, although kind of cool and unusual, might have actually been useless. So I came back to NYC, went to architecture school here for half a semester, knew my heart wasn’t in it anymore, and I withdrew in the middle of the semester. I felt sort of defeated from having spent two years abroad and dabbling with many different career ideas and still not knowing what I wanted to do with my life.
That’s when I sort of experienced a “fuck it, I’m gonna do what I want” phase. I started going to shows again and meeting up with my old metal friends from high school. I also started getting really into fitness and Pilates, (which I think eventually helped the drumming, seeing as double bass drumming in particular requires balance and endurance.) I tap danced a lot as a kid, so I decided I would start drum lessons – it seemed like a logical progression.
So, I officially started playing drums when I was 22. I had reached a point where I realized I wanted to be musician, not just a fan: I wanted to participate more than I wanted to observe. My own experience with metal (and music in general) was never super social, although I know it can be for many other people – it was me, alone, doing work or riding a train or working out, listening to it, thinking about it, imagining it. The most social it got for me was going to a concert with other people or hanging out afterwards. I think being a drummer has allowed me to just tap into that solo connection by practicing, but also channel into a truly social event by creating music with others.
When I decided to learn how to play drums, my friend hooked me up with a teacher, a jazz drummer named Dan Pugach, who had just graduated from Berklee. He eventually recommended that I buy an electronic kit, which I bought from Raeph at Guitar Center on 14th street. I hardly ever used it. The truth is I hardly practiced the first year I played. He was on my ass about it, but always encouraged me and told me I had a lot of potential.
How did you go from buying your first kit from Raeph to playing in multiple bands?
AB: After a year of just messing around and barely improving on the drums, I reached a point where I was like, I either have to take this to the next level or just quit. So I saved up money working as a nanny to attend a 4-week drum- intensive program at the Collective School of Music. That program changed me forever: I learned a lot about the other drumming styles – funk, rock, fusion, jazz, Afro-Cuban, Carribean, etc. It was then and there I got bit by the practice bug – I knew I needed access to a practice space or a real drum kit in order to really step it up. But I live in a NYC apartment, and even the rubber kit I had bought was too noisy for my neighbors. So, after the intensive was over, I begged Tony Maggiolino and Anthony Citrinite, the directors of the Collective, to let me work there as a cleaning lady on Sundays in exchange for practice time. The school was a couple blocks from my apartment and closed late; this was huge – it meant I could practice like two or three hours a day if I wanted to, late at night, after working or school. Eventually I got a full-time job at the Collective as the receptionist and office manager, so I’ve been able to use the facility and garner relationships with the students and teachers for about two and a half years now. The teachers there are excellent and I’ve received a lot of encouragement from them: Jason Gianni, Fred Klatz, Adriano Santos, Tobias Ralph, just to name a few – so many of the faculty there have been super supportive. This goes for the full-time students as well, whom I will sometimes pull aside in a practice room and say “show me something awesome that you’re learning in class.”
Basically I’ve just soaked it all up: master classes, lessons, playing with as many people as possible, filling in for bands, asking drummer friends to show me cool stuff, joining bands, leaving bands, etc. I’ve crammed a lot into the past few years, but the real game-changer was the constant practicing.
I got my “in” to the local metal scene when I replaced an acquaintance of mine who went left his band. I did two gigs with that band before they decided to split up, but we’ve all joined much better bands (Fate Breaks Dawn, Citoletium, and Usurp the King). I’m still friends with them. Mikey from Fate Breaks Dawn is actually doing guest vocals on a Hudson Horror song.
I joined the Hudson Horror in January 2013. I had stayed Facebook friends with this metalhead from my high school, this great guitar player named Marcus Hedwig, who had moved upstate when he was a Junior. Cut to years later – we were in our twenties – and he saw on Facebook that I was drumming. He had previously asked once if I wanted to audition, but I said no, because I had just started to play and was sure I wasn’t good enough. A year later they still hadn’t found a drummer, and I had been incubating and practicing for that year, so I agreed. I auditioned, and was offered the spot. It turns out the other members are all from Marcus’s high school that he moved to (except for our guitarist Julian, who just joined a couple months ago). They took a bit of a chance on me but I’ve improved and just continued to practice throughout my time with them, and I must say I think we’re all happy that I joined! I’m really, really lucky. They’re great players and good people.
I also have an excellent teacher, Alex Cohen, who plays in several bands in NYC: Malignancy, Pyrrhon, Imperial Triumphant, Turrigenous, etc. He’s obsessive about the drums and has been a truly great friend and mentor. He and Kenny Grohowski, another incredible drummer who teaches at the New School and gigs with various bands, have created a recording studio. They’ve both taken me under their wing and are engineering my drum tracks, in addition to coaching me through the tracking process. It’s been awesome.
I just joined another band, Entropy, in Brooklyn, which is like blackened death/trash. That project is still in its infancy – we’re composing and jamming on some pre-existing tunes- although I’m super excited about it. It sounds really good and it’s allowing me some freedom and spontaneity with the drums.
When we met up, you mentioned Martin Lopez was one of your biggest inspirations. Who else is up there with Lopez? Anyone outside the metal genre you admire?
AB: Martin Lopez – I just love his ghosting, his double bass, his groove, his taste. Right up there are also Vinnie Paul and Gene Hoglan, Richard Christy, Mario Duplantier, Igor Cavalera, Van Williams from Nevermore. So many. All the “greats” really are. Ultimately, when choosing a drummer to venerate, it’s about taste. It’s not just chops, just musicality – it’s results. It’s about liking what they chose to play for certain moments. Non-metal drummers (who are alive): Mark Guiliana, Dana Hawkins, Chris Coleman. There’s another girl drummer named Anika Nilles from Germany who is phenomenal.
Do you have a favorite warm up exercise or something you do before you play to get yourself stoked?
AB: If a gig or a rehearsal is after work, I try to drink a coffee and jump around a bit, do a couple of stretches. If the gig is after a day off, my feet usually are able to go noticeably faster and with less tension if I run beforehand or do some cardio with my legs. Doing a proper warm-up, starting slow and getting your hands and feet aligned, always makes a difference when you play fast later on. As far as being stoked, If I’m not exhausted, I’m usually pretty stoked. However, there have been only two times when I’ve been in a bad mood or really in a bad place mentally before a gig: the first time it messed me up, and the second time I forced myself to be present and just lose myself in playing. The second time was one of the best gigs I think, strangely enough.
You said The Hudson Horror is working on a recording. Will it be a full length or EP? When will it be released?
AB: It’s a full length album. Marcus, Tyreek and Julian all are very adept at recording themselves and making it sound pretty good as far as production goes, so we just have to track drums, do a preliminary mix, and send it to a good engineer to do a final mix and master. We are very excited, but these things take time – and we all work full-time or are getting degrees so that is also a factor. I want to say it will be released before the end of this year, but if it takes longer, it’ll be for good reason!
You can download the entire Hudson Horror EP on thehudsonhorror.bandcamp.com and on facebook. We are going to work on promoting ourselves a bit more after this recording business. We JUST got t-shirts.