In the summer of 2004 Dennis
Leeflang moved to New York. Tired of the abstemious
possibilities for musicians in his home country, and
ready for serious adventure, Dennis exchanged windmills
for skyscrapers. The former drummer of Within Temptation
and Sun Caged is currently working with guitar player
Bumblefoot and can be found on his latest album 'Normal'
that is set for release in September. We asked Dennis
about these recordings and his living and playing in
- Tell us something about the
Bumblefoot “Normal” album recordings
Bumblefoot asked me if I wanted to play on his
album pretty much when I told him I was moving to New
York (from Holland) in 2004. I was extremely excited
about it. After several tours, I finally got to record
I moved to New York in the summer of
2004. We started recording in January of 2005.
The recording process was pretty unique. When I
first came into the studio, I had not heard anything
yet. There were no rough demos or anything. Bumblefoot
had about 5 or 6 songs “written” at that time.
Everything was in his head, including the full
arrangements. Except for detailed drum tracks. At the
studio, he played the songs to me on his acoustic
guitar. I was blown away by how catchy and classic
everything sounded. The songs were really strong.
Bumblefoot would jam them on his acoustic guitar
in the control room and I’d jam along with my hands on
my lap until I was familiar with the riffs and form of
the song. He would then record scratch guitar tracks and
a vocal track. Then I would go into the live room and
jam along to the song for maybe 10 minutes. We'd record
pieces to see what would work and what wouldn't. After
fooling around with the song for maybe a half hour, I'd
know it so well that I'd be able to jam it out. Some
stuff we played live together. Some bits I did freestyle
without a click. We experimented a lot. It was
fascinating to see each song develop from an acoustic
version into the full band version. Bumblefoot already
had those arrangements in his head, but to me, it was
kind of like unwrapping presents. Very exciting.
We recorded everything in Bumblefoot's own
studio, so there was no time pressure at all, which was
a new experience for me. I'm used to having to work on a
tight schedule because the studio is costing me or
someone else a lot of money per hour. We’d record two or
three songs a day and then Bumblefoot would continue
writing more songs. I’d come in every time he’d have one
or two songs finished.
Bumblefoot's way of
working was extremely inspiring. He definitely knows how
to get the best out of a musician. I was pretty much
able to do whatever I wanted with my drum tracks.
Bumblefoot came up with suggestions here and there, but
most of the drum takes were very spontaneous. He pushed
me to try to just totally get into the songs and play my
ass off without thinking too much or worry about
screwing up. That was awesome. I’ve been hitting
incredibly hard and intense on some songs. I’m surprised
I didn’t break any heads or cymbals.
really interesting, is the way we recorded the drums. We
only used a bare minimum of microphones. We used one mic
for two toms. So we had one mic on my 10” and 12” tom,
and one mic on my two floor toms. We used two overhead
mics, but no mic on the hihat. The overheads picked up
the hihat loud enough. One mic on the snare (top) and
one inside the bassdrum. Then one mic about 2 feet in
front of the bassdrum, and a room mic that was at the
other end of the room. In the mix, Bumblefoot used
absolutely no effects whatsoever on the drums. Neither
did he use any gates. He actually uses all the “bleed”
from all the mics and it makes the drums sound nice and
big. The reverb you hear on the drums is the actual room
itself. Nothing else! All very basic, and it came out
awesome. I also used a very basic setup compared to what
I’ve been using in the past. No splashes or anything.
Just snare, kick, 2 toms, 2 floor toms, 2 or 3 crashes,
ride, china, hihat… That’s it. For some songs I even
only used one tom and one floor tom.
laid down all the drum tracks, Bumblefoot recorded the
bass, guitars and vocals on top of it. Some of the
scratch/live tracks were good enough to be kept. He
would listen to the drum tracks intensively before doing
guitar and bass takes so that he'd know all the nuances
in my tracks. It came out awesome. It all sounds real
The concept of the album is, as the title
suggests, "being normal". It's about a person who takes
medicine to feel normal, and at the same time, it's
about how subjective/relative normality really is. All
the different songs cover different moods. Love songs,
manic songs... It's all on there!
- When did
you start recording and when had you finished them?
We started recording in January of this year (2005).
I would come in to record one or two songs, and then
we'd live with the rough mixes for a couple of days.
Then I'd come in again for another bunch of songs, and
maybe redo the previous ones. This went on from January
through about early April. When we did a small tour in
Europe in March, I was actually still in the middle of
recording the drum tracks. Bumblefoot has been very busy
with other projects as well (one of those projects being
producing the new 24-7 Spyz album), so we weren’t able
to work on the album non-stop. But everything is
completely done now. Including the mix. The album will
be out soon!
- What can we expect of the
album? What kind of music/songs?
It is very hard
to describe the style or genre of Bumblefoot's music. I
honestly think he has a very own sound. I would not be
able to name any similar bands. The music reaches from
punkrock to oldschool punk, to metal, funk, alternative
rock, grunge... Even polka and surf. Lots of very catchy
choruses and guitar riffs. And of course, Bumblefoot's
signature crazy guitar playing, humoristic lyrics and
awesome singing. The album is diverse, but strong and
not too weird to catch a wide audience.
is it to work with Bumblefoot?
It's super cool.
Bumblefoot is the most creative, patient, and gentle
person I know. There hasn't been a single moment of
annoyance or frustration during the recording sessions.
It’s all been very inspiring. I've been working (mostly
touring) with him since 2002, and I'm loving every
second of it. There's no stress and absolutely no ego
issues, which makes it possible to completely enjoy the
ride without having to worry about a thing. It's the
most challenging situation for a drummer as well... The
music is so diverse. And so much fun to play. There's
definately also some sick chops going on!
How did you hook up with Bumblefoot and what made him
decide that you are awesome?
Haha. You are
funny… Awesome? You’d have to ask him…
Bumblefoot for the first time when I was on vacation in
New York City in the summer of 2000. We got in contact
through a mutual friend, and hung out a couple of times
that summer. We jammed a bit at his studio, and had a
lot of fun. We stayed in contact, and I went to see him
play in Paris in 2001, which is still one of the most
intense concerts I ever attended.
Bumblefoot was asked to do a clinic tour for Vigier
guitars through Holland in 2002, he contacted me and
asked me if I'd be interested in learning some of his
songs and jam with him at those clinics. I gladly
accepted the invitation, and I drove around the country
with him for about a week. The "clinics" were really
in-store mini-concerts, and we drove several store
owners and their neighbors crazy by blasting out songs
like "Hands" and "Shrunk" at full volume. We also did
one actual show at a venue in Holland.
couple of months later, I was backstage in Hamburg
(Germany), getting ready to go onstage with my band Sun
Caged at the time, when I received a call from
Bumblefoot on my cell phone. He had just started a 3
week tour through France, and his drummer had to drop
out due to personal problems after only two shows. He
asked me if I would be able to fly over as soon as
possible. I drove back to Holland right after the Sun
Caged show and flew to France the next morning. I had to
learn 7 or 8 songs that I hadn't played with him before.
I learned those songs on the plane as much as I could. I
was picked up at the airport by a couple of crew members
and pretty much ran right onstage when we got to the
venue in Marseille. I finished the rest of the tour and
it was an awesome experience. Most venues were sold out
and the crowds were wild.
I've been playing with
Bumblefoot a lot since that tour. Since I moved to New
York last year, I’ve also done some shows with him in
the US. I am not his "permanent" drummer, as he likes to
jam with different people all the time. I play with him
whenever he invites me. Lately, that’s been pretty much
99% of his shows.
Bumblefoot has had a lot of
bad luck with musicians in his bands in the past. He’s
very popular in France, and most of his shows are in
France. Despite the fact he sells out venues and the
fans are awesome, the "behind the scenes" situations on
our tours are usually quite stressful (not to say
completely insane), which is something not everyone can
handle. Sometimes a band member only finds out that he
can't handle the craziness of a tour when it's too
late... on the road. Luckily I can handle it, and
actually love life on the road. I love traveling, seeing
lots of different places, and jugging with crazy
schedules is a great challenge to me. I guess Bumblefoot
likes taking me on tour with him because he knows I
won't flip or get into trouble on the road ;-)
- How does his music influence your
That question is pretty huge. Playing
with Bumblefoot actually made me enjoy playing on a
different level. It’s a whole different approach.
There’s a lot of respect and freedom. As long as what I
play fits the song, I can play something different every
night. I never really overplay, so I never abuse that
room for improvisation, but it’s a great feeling to be
Bumblefoot's music is the most
challenging music I ever played. It's so diverse and
original, it totally pushes my creativity and ability to
adapt to different vibes and styles. Until recently,
I've only done tours and random live shows with
Bumblefoot, playing song that were recorded with other
drummers. He always left me free to do my own thing on
all of the songs, which is awesome. To Bumblefoot,
chemistry, vibe, intensity and personality is most
important on a stage. Although it's his music, and
people are there to see him, he doesn't act like a band
leader. When playing with him, it really feels like
every musician on the stage is equal. And because
there's room for improvisation and I don't have to worry
about playing a note that he doesn't want to hear, I can
totally get into it and enjoy playing to the fullest.
The entire band enjoys that and shows are a lot of fun.
Recording with him was a whole other experience,
and took everything to the next level. The songs I
recorded with him have sort of become "my songs" as well
now, and I can't wait to start playing them live!
- Do you actually play on pots and pans as
you told in our earlier conversations?
situation calls for it, absolutely!.
is the album due for release?
I think the
release is tentatively set for September 20th.
- What gear did you play on during these
I used my custom Chop Shop set on
the recordings. With Meinl Byzance cymbals. The exact
details can be found at my web site.
- How do you
like working in NY?
The past year has been
completely insane. But by far the most intense and
positive experience of my life. Moving to the US and
getting a visa (to be able to work legally as a
musician) were not as easy as it sounds. I went through
hell and back to get everything sorted out. But now I'm
playing full time, with tons of different people. All
kinds of music. I've been playing everything from metal
to jazz, funk and acoustic singer/songwriter settings.
I've accepted gigs in genres I had never played before.
Just to push myself. I've learned more here in the past
year than I've learned in Holland in the past 5 or 6
years. And I'm not exaggerating. Sometimes I play with 3
different bands on one day. In completely different
genres. It's a huge challenge. The biggest thing I
learned in NY is to have control over my dynamics.
Playing with an acoustic combo requires a completely
different approach than playing with a metal band. But
being able to comfortably play in both situations will
enhance your freedom in both situations. It's huge. It
feels great to be doing all of these different gigs and
play constantly. I'm spending so many hours behind
drums. It's a dream come true. I'm also constantly
meeting all kinds of great people in New York that
inspire me to keep pushing things to the next level.
Great musicians, producers, teachers. The possibilities
and sources of inspiration are endless over here.
- Could Bumblefoot himself tell something
about your playing?
Hi all, BfoOt here - hey
Dennis, thanks for the kind words – you’re a fine
Dutchman. Now I’m gonna talk about ya like you’re not
here… Dennis is the best drummer I’ve ever played with
in more ways than words can describe. He should be seen
as a role model for all drummers. Creatively, he always
does what’s best for the song, and explores all
possibilities – he’s tasteful with dynamics, fills,
grooves, accents… technically, his tempo and flow are
great, he knows how to tune drums, he really knows how
to hit ‘em right… and most importantly, he has the best
work ethics – he’s thoughtful, considerate, honest, he
communicates with people, his word means something, he
takes initiative and helps people, always gives his
best, he respects and values the gift of making music,
the music itself, the people he makes music with - he’s
a real team player, great sense of humor, I could go on
and on. The world’s better because of him. I’m *very*
lucky, not just that I get to play with Dennis, but that
I have his friendship.