Sitting in math class one day I tapped an equation on my desk with a pencil, 6+5 = 11. 1-2-3-4-5-6 1-2-3-4-5. The next one came up, I grabbed another pencil to tap with both hands. 3+4 = 7. 1-2-3 1-2-3-4. It was during a test, very quiet and I could hear the clock in the back of the room. 1-2-3 1-2-3-4. I started tapping the beat to the constant gentle knocking of the clock. Then 4+4 = 8. With the clock I tapped all 8 beats with accents on the 3, 6, & 8. Too slow, the clock was too slow. So I cut it in half, playing 2 beats for every second. 1-2-3-4, 5-6-7-8. Now I was cooking.
"Ben...pencils are for writing," I heard the teacher say.
I stop tapping. I thought I was alone.
"I was just trying to make the test go faster," I said. Some kids giggled.
"That's not possible," the teacher explained.
I know it's not possible. Time stayed the same, but I was in control of it. I decided how fast the time felt, at least for a few moments.
Math was stupid back then and I had a hard time understanding it on my own. Tests were a disaster for me. I would easily get bored and draw or think about something else. But when the teacher was lecturing I was right there with them. I could follow it and solve the problems when we did them together. But now, alone in silence, math didn't make sense and my life was currently chaos.
It wasn't until recently that I realized my problem. The equations on a piece of paper had no feeling, no rhythm and that's why I couldn't understand them. If I didn't tap it our or count on my fingers I was fucked. To this day, I can't multiply weird numbers in my head. 7 x 8?! Who even knows that?! ... I need a calculator. And fractions...I seriously almost dropped out. I am the epitome of that old drummer joke..."Well, if you want to play drums, you really only need to be able to count to 4."
So I keep tapping.
The drummer is the most influential player in a band as far as how the music sounds. They ultimately decide how fast the song is, how it feels, how much energy it has, and where the song takes the listener. Basically, we're in control. And I have to be. I'm not a control freak by any means, I just have to plan, prepare and be in control (or at least feel like I'm in control) because my emotions are very fragile.
Everyday is a question. What do I have to do to stay level? What do I have to do to balance my emotions so I don't fall off the edge, so I don't spend too much energy on the wrong things and not have enough energy later for the things that really matter. I'm not talking about physical energy, I'm talking about mental energy. Being balanced is what keeps me from getting too depressed or too excited and then crashing later. Without a solid balance, I could sleep all day, everyday, and all night. Too much the other way and I wouldn't sleep more than an hour or so at a time. Staying way from things that I know make me anxious is one thing, but sometime it's unavoidable and I have to tip the scales the other way somehow.
Playing the drums has been a huge part of that balance and staying in control. The more I play, the better I feel overall. It provides the balance I need to survive and inspires me to never stop learning and continue improving. I'm not going to say I love what I do or that I found what I love and will never have to work again. That's bullshit. I have to work my ass off to create something good, just like any other profession. You make your own success not by quitting because of your failures, but by learning from them and improving.
Recently I (we/eight53 and Kevin Hahn [producer/recording engineer]) wrote a new song called, "It Gets Dark So Early" which will be on our new album coming out this year. The song is about my struggle with depression, anxiety and my fight to stay balanced in a world that seems designed to throw me off balance. I began writing the lyrics at the beginning of last summer as a healing process for the all the mental chaos I deal with on a daily basis. In the past I have contributed to eight53's lyrics in minor ways here and there, but hadn't really attempted to write a song like this. I'm extremely humbled and proud to be working with Richard and Kevin on this new album and can't wait to share it with all of you.
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