Battles Drummer John Stanier Talks Accidental Influences and Never Ever Jamming

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While post-math-rock trio Battles should be recognized for its technical chops, dense songwriting, and pop-sensitive innovation, there's also no denying the group's status as a bona fide supergroup.

While guitarists Dave Konopka and Ian Williams received their respective twinkle-noodle pedigrees from Lynx and Don Coballero, drummer John Stanier was a member of the equally technical alt-nation standard-bearer Helmet.

In the leadup to Battles' performance at Grand Central this Thursday, Crossfade spoke with Stanier to pick his brain about the latest phase of his supertight supergroup.

Crossfade: Battles has winding, multistage songs. What is the writing process like? Do you jam until you hit upon what you like? Or is everything superstructured from the get-go?

We definitely do not jam. Ever. It usually starts with a seed idea, a beat idea, or one small loop. Everyone takes it home and comes up with ideas. The easy part is throwing everything together. The hard part is trimming it down. Arrangements are much more difficult than composing.

There are moments on the new album, Gloss Drop, that seem to draw from Latin or beach-oriented music. Was that an influence?

Not at all. We didn't have any time to sit around and listen to new music. We're not influenced by Latin music at all. A lot of that is playfulness. I agree with you how [a Latin sound] did come out ... It's weird that it came out.

Was the video for "Ice Cream" a collaborative process with the directors, Canada? Or was that entirely the production team's vision?

Everything was entirely done by Canada.They went to town. We showed up in Barcelona and they had everything. They had already been filming for three days. It came out great. Very European to me. They use all analog cameras.

How do you feel about the recent incarnation of Helmet?

I don't even have an opinion on it.

Why do you raise your cymbal so high?

It started off as a joke. I originally didn't want to use any cymbals. Now it's kind of a marker. When I hit it, it's always at a very significant moment in the song. It's like a flag. I can't imagine lowering it.

Battles with Nisennenmondai, presented by Nightdrive Miami. Thursday, October 27. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $15 plus fees via fla.vor.us. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.

Follow Crossfade on Facebook and Twitter @Crossfade_SFL.

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