Becoming proficient on a musical instrument is no easy task. It takes years of practice and dedication to the craft. To become a master of your instrument is an entirely different level of persistence. Our recent discovery Nir Nakav has put in the time and energy to be considered a master and has the musical output to show for it.
After 4 decades of punding the drums Nir Nakav has accomplished many of his goals. He is head of the Drums department at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in Israel. He also authored the educational textbook for drummers titled ‘Battle Hymns’. When not teaching, Nir Nakav is playing drums for multiple bands including the extreme metal band Salem, doom-metalers Tomorrow’s Rain, and the instrumental project the Gevald Brothers.
With even more music flowing from his mind, Nir Nakav is ready to release his solo single ‘Heartbeat’ of an upcoming project called The Nir-Death Experiment. The song is a powerful testament to what can happen when expert musicians come together. The drumming is extraordinary as expected, but some amazing guitar adds to the sonic assault. The 10 minute epic dives deep into some dark places lyrically as well. The single is a complete package for any lovers of aggressive music.
We caught up with the exceptional drummer and musician for a deeper look into how he achieved his success and the new single. Enjoy the interview:
First off, what is it that drives Nir Nakav to create music?
An Inner need, an inner passion, from before I can remember myself and we are talking about a person who started taking music lessons when he was five years old.
Art to me is all about emotional impact. I get it from music, that is why I wanted to be a part of the music world as a young kid and it serves as an output vehicle as well.
I went through a divorce two years ago. I did not see it coming and I did not take it well. I was devastated. Besides my two kids, the only thing that kept me alive was working on this album that later on became “The Nir-Death Experiment”. I really believe that music has saved my life.
“Heartbeat” was written before Tom was born because I heard his heartbeat on a monitor.
“Once Upon a Lifetime” on Salem’s Necessary Evil was written for my son Haim. You see, in that sense I am writing a soundtrack for my life.
How would you describe your sound?
I will quote the great late Bruce Lee: “The ideal is unnatural naturalness, or natural unnaturalness. I mean it is a combination of both. There is natural instinct on one side and control on the other. You are to combine the two in harmony. If you have natural instinct to the extreme, you will be very unscientific, if you have control to the extreme, you’ll become a mechanical man, no longer a human being.”
I aspire to have equal measures of brains and brawn. I want some part of my sound to come from the brain and some of it to come from the guts.
Having said that, Metal and Heavy Rock that preceded it are there in my sound, no matter what style of music I am playing. It is a part of my identity.
Which artists have had the biggest influence on you?
Oooo, this list can be endless so I will start with early influences and see where it goes from there: John Henry Bonham of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple’s Ian Paise, Dio’s Vinny Appice, Neil Peart of Rush, Phil Rudd of AC DC, Clive Burr and Nicko McBrain of Iron Maiden, Tommy Lee of Motley Crue, Anthrax’s Charlie Benante, anything Terry Bozzio has done, Nicholas Barker of Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir and Tomas Haake of Meshuggah. That is the very short list of the heavy genres influences. There should be one for Jazz/ Latin: Ari Hoenig, Bill Stewart, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Dafnis Prieto and Efrain Toro.
I should definitely mention Carlton Barrett of the Wailers. Yeah it is Reggae but he has been a huge influence as well.
You are involved in many musical projects. How do you keep them separated?
Interesting question. You see, to me it is like keeping social roles separated. Every one of us plays a different role under different settings yet we are always us. What I mean is that during the same 24 hours I am a father, a teacher, a friend, a parent, a partner and a drummer.
I do not think much of it but if I do- every social interaction is restricted by its definition; there are things that are ok for a parent to say to his kids and there are things that are not that great. There’s a certain interaction that is expected when I show up for a session, when I am putting on the hat of a teacher or when I serve as a producer. You get it? I treat the different bands I am in the same way. Salem is one entity, Tomorrow’s Rain is another, The Gevald Brothers is a third. They do not get mixed. Whatever works in Salem, will not be working for Tomorrow’s Rain.
Knowing the boundaries is very important especially when dealing with other people.
Your skills are well known in the drumming world. Share your journey to the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music.
Thank you. I was always into teaching. I think that the coolest thing to do when you discover something is to run to someone else and tell them “Hey look what I discovered”.
Thank God for this teaching/ playing balance because right now, no one is playing due to the Coronavirus issue. At least the teaching is still happening.
Back to your question, around 2005 I got a call to come and teach a Rock Proficiency class in Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music. The head of the drum department at the time, Rony Holan was my teacher for six years when I was a teenager. He knew what I could do on a drum set and at the time, Salem was working hard to my musical prowess was out there and the students in the school requested me to teach this class. As I said, I am totally into teaching and I believe that if you are passionate about what you are doing, it shows and it did show.
Five years ago I became the head of the drum department. Funny how life happens because I never saw myself holding a managing position.
What can you tell us about your newest single “Heartbeat”?
Heartbeat is the first single off “The Nir-Death Experiment” as I mentioned earlier. It is an album I never wished to write because it deals with the toughest period of my existence.
Heartbeat was written many years ago for my son Tom who turned twelve in August 2020.
The song remained the same but the lyrics have changed to reflect a reality I could not come to terms with. For over a year and a half, I was seeing my kids half a week only. I did not like.
So it was important for me to let Tom know what whenever he needed me, I was just a heartbeat away, that no force in this world can rip him away out of my arms and that I wish my life would have happened a different way because I wanted to stay. I did not want the divorce that took him away half the week.
Share some advice for other artists trying to master their instrument?
We live in a very fast age but we are the result of millions of years of evolution. There is no fast way to becoming proficient on your instrument. There are no short cuts. If you are playing an instrument because you want to become rock stars, I think that you are doing it for the wrong reason. If you are connected to the music you are creating then you understand that it is a long, tedious and never-ending process. Enjoy the journey, be persistent, persevere.
Give us a look at the future of Nir Nakav?
Forty-Three years after I started taking music lessons, I still practice drums two to three hours a day. I will keep practicing, keep writing, keep playing and keep teaching… for as long as I am granted permission by the Universe to do so.
You can keep up with more from Nir Nakav on his WEBSITE.