Angelika Roswell is the vocalist/drummer and half of the alternative/post-hardcore/metalcore outfit, Brighter Than A Thousand Suns. Peart-, Portnoy-, and Porcaro-influenced, Roswell began playing drums in 1990, then joined a punk band in high school, and the rest, she says, “is history.” BTATS’s latest EP, Rebirth, is out now.
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What is your city, country, and age?
Kannapolis, North Carolina, 35 years old.
What kind of gear do you use? What’s your setup?
A 4-piece Tama Superstar Classic; Dream Ignition 18″ and 16″ crashes, and 14″ hi-hat; Wuhan China; vintage 1980 Zildjian 22″ Medium Thin Suspended as a ride; Remo Emperor heads; DW, Pearl, and Tama hardware; Vic Firth sticks.
What bands/groups do you perform with, if any?
Only one project—Brighter Than A Thousand Suns. We just released our new EP Rebirth in November, so we’d love it if you’d find us on Spotify!
What led you to your instrument? What’s your origin story?
I have a long-standing history with various musical instruments, but my main focuses and passions have always been guitar and drums. My father was (and still is) my biggest musical influence, and I wanted to be just like him. I began playing both in 1990 when he got me started on lessons, but stuck with guitar through most of my childhood. When I was 14, I began playing drums in a punk band with my high school friend, and the rest is history. We formed a couple other bands over the years, and I would play in house bands at the local pub, but I continued to focus mostly on guitar. I didn’t really get super-serious with drums until I began playing them in BTATS.
Who is your favorite drummer and why?
This is a tough question because there are so many! Of course, there are the expected ones—Peart, Portnoy, Porcaro. But I think I’d have to say that my favorite drummer to date is Jay Postones of Tesseract. His use of polyrhythms, not to mention his ability to get very technical while still maintaining a solid groove is really inspiring to me.
How do you practice? Do you have a routine?
I don’t have a schedule that I stick to, really. Some days, it’s just running the live set with Randy [Roswell] the other half of BTATS; others, it’s focusing on rudiments and technique; and then some days, I’ll just pick a few of my favorite songs to play for fun.
Are there any specific playing tips or techniques, or advice, exercises, or discoveries you’d like to share with Drum readers?
1. Playing to a click is okay, and in many cases, far more desirable for things like session work and recording. Don’t listen to purists who believe playing to a click isn’t “cred.”
3. A more expensive kit isn’t always better. Listen with your ears, not your bank account. This goes for any instrument really, but with drums, as long as you take care of them and pay attention to the materials and craftsmanship, you can get a really great kit for under a grand. My kit is not a high-end kit by any means, but it spoke to me the moment I sat behind it.
4. Take lessons, even long after you’ve established yourself as a drummer, because you never know how different teachers will contribute their insight to your playing.
What’s something you believe about drumming or music that other people think is crazy?
It’s worth the money. Drums are expensive, and sticks, cymbals, and heads break. You’re in a constant state of replenishing and replacing. It seems financially daunting, but if you love it, it’s worth every penny.
As artists, the goal post for “success” is always moving. There’s not one “I made it!” point. How do you think about and define success?
Success is fluid. Sometimes, it seems like a single point on an ever-receding horizon that will never be reached. Sometimes, it can feel as though it’s pouring in through the walls. I’ve tried to not think of success in terms of monetary gain as I’ve gotten older, because you can’t take money with you when you’re gone. Instead, I’ve begun thinking of it more in terms of legacy—the people whose lives have been touched by our music, and those who will be left behind talking about it when we’re long gone. Working toward that has helped me to focus on the little successes. Now, it means far more to me to have someone message the band to tell us that we’ve changed their lives for the better in some way than it does to make a killing in merch sales.
The concept of “making it” often goes hand-in-hand with waiting to be picked. But if you pick yourself, and work every day toward reaching milestones, success will become the path on which you walk, rather than a destination point.
Do you have any quotes or sayings that you live by?
“Make the future; don’t just hope for it.” This is an old song lyric from when BTATS was still known as Self Made Soul, and still applies to this day. Your life is not something that just happens to you. You are responsible for making it great every day that you are alive.
When you sit down to make music and are starting with a blank canvas, what’s your process like?
I’m not all that involved with the writing process. I tend to leave that to Randy, and offer my input whenever I feel I have something that might add to a song, but I’ve never felt writing was my strong point. I prefer to focus on the performance side of things.
How important is failure in making music/performing?
Failure is not only important, it is inevitable, and can be a fantastic compass that will help you on your path. If you’ve not failed, you cannot succeed.
Any advice for girls contemplating getting started and making it in this arena?
Just get behind the kit and go for it. We are becoming more and more represented in drumming, especially with social media outlets and publications putting more of a focus on it and acting as a platform from which we may make ourselves seen. Don’t be afraid of entering the “boys club.” There will be naysayers and people who want to make reductive statements about you, or try to sexualize you in some way. Let it roll off your back, because you will find that there are far more people who will be like cheerleaders on the sidelines, rooting for your success and supporting you through every step. Let their voices be louder, and follow that passion. Play hard, have fun, and never stop looking for opportunities to learn something new about your instrument.
If you had to put together a school or resources for would-be drummers, what would the training include?
I’d make sure that there was a focus on playing and singing at the same time. It can be difficult to develop the coordination needed for that, not to mention the stamina and breathing techniques required. Being able to sing, even backup, while drumming can really expand your opportunities as a drummer.