Ben Atkind

Ben Atkind is the drummer of the CT-based jam band Goose. Ben is known for his struggle to grow a proper mustache comparative to his band mates, his immaculate drum playing and lip syncing, and being the heartthrob of all of the sensible Goose fans out there. Ben studied at Berklee and takes his drumming technique very seriously. The rhythm section of Goose, Ben and bassist Trevor Weeks keep things very tight. Take a look at what Ben’s rocking for his kit and our dive into his musical background and mindset.

The Gear

Drum Kit // Tama Starclassic Exotix

Drum Sizes

  • Snare: 14″ Dennis Chambers Signature Series
  • Rack Toms (L to R): 8″, 10″, 12″
  • Floor Tom: 16″
  • Kick: 22″
  • “Generic LP Cowbell”

Cymbal Sizes

  • Hi Hat: Zildjian 14” Quick Beat 
  • Zildjian 17” K Custom Dark Crash
  • Zildjian 10” A Custom Fast Splash
  • Zildjian 16” A Custom Crash
  • Sabian 22” Medium Artisan Ride
  • Zildjian 18’ A Custom Crash

Kick Pedal // DW 9000

Drum Heads

  • Snare: Remo Ambassador Coated
  • Toms: Remo Pin Stripe
  • Kick: Evans Key Mad

Sticks // Vic Firth 5A Wood Tipped

Behind the Gear

Photo by the great: Bryan Murphy

Jared Lindquist: What inspired you to play drums, both in life and professionally, and do you play any other instruments?

Ben Atkind: Well I started on piano when I was in kindergarten, and took lessons and did the whole thing with that. I don’t remember why I got into drums, I just have this memory of–I think it was third grade– band, when you can finally get your snare drum, and I just remember being with my dad in the line of parents and kids waiting to get their drums and their band instruments, just being really excited to finally get that drum. I ended up playing both, and I was pretty good at piano, but I was just so much more into drums so I kinda fell off with piano and kept going with drums. 

JL: Obviously it’s Berklee and it’s not hard to discern why you’d want to go there, but how was your experience at Berklee?

BA: It was pretty awesome. I was pretty frustrated with my school education system growing up, always had a good private teacher, but then once I got involved at Berklee it was opening up to a world of the next level– well not even the next level, just all the greatest musicians in the world. So going there was the craziest thing, you go there and you learn even more from the students than you do from the teachers, or just as much. It’s a pretty crazy environment though, it gets really competitive, and it’s definitely not for everyone, but I enjoyed my time there.

JL: Are there any major drum influences that influenced the way you set up your kit?

BA: The way I set up, that’s been influenced a lot by my main teacher from Berklee, Dave DiCenso, and he was all about making sure you have the right posture sitting at the kit. I talked to him a lot about set up, how to get around the kit and be efficient, use the right muscles so you can be relaxed. Right now I’m with my new kit so this setup is new to me and I’m still getting used to it.

JL: You mentioned your new drum kit; you used your old drum kit for a pretty long time before you got your new one recently. What inspired that change and how are you liking the new drum kit compared to the old one?

BA: So that was my kit that I got in high school, which I was very happy to have in high school, but I’ve wanted a new kit for a while. So the first chance I could get to afford the kit, and after searching for a long time I got really lucky finding this really rare drum set in pretty perfect condition, got a great deal on it. It’s like way, way nicer than my old kit, it’s a lot of fun to play on. It’s been taking a lot of getting used to, it’s a lot bigger and everything’s more spread out, but I have a lot more options melodically. I’ve just been practicing every day getting used to the set up.

JL: You mentioned melodically, how do you approach which cymbals you’re gonna use and how you tune each drum?

BA: I finally got my dream kit, but my cymbals are still something that I’m not as happy with. There’s going to be a lot of change there in the near future. Right now I’m just working with the collection of what I’ve got and what I’ve been able to piece together to make work. 

When I first got the kit, my good buddy Jeff Arevalo–who you guys know from playing upright bass with Peter and Rick– was hanging at the Goose tech rehearsal for the New York shows. In addition to a bass player, he’s a beast of a drummer and a big tuning nerd, and he helped me spend some time to get them where they needed to be. I’ve just been maintaining that tuning and they sound awesome. 

JL: In a scene of growing drum/sampling pad usage, you’re one of the few drummers I’ve seen that doesn’t use anything like that, like an [Roland] SPDS or Alesis [SamplePad], yet you guys still do some pretty electronic shit, like Creatures, and Yeti, and Myst. You still get that dancey drum pad sound but with your acoustic kit. What’s your opinion on drum pads and do you plan on including them in your sound?

BA: I think they’re awesome, and I would love to add one to my set up sooner than later. I mean I just got the new kit; the priorities were new drums, number 1, then cymbals, and then all the toys and everything. I’m definitely planning on getting one sooner or later, it’s just not a priority right now. It’s been a lot of fun trying to replicate that sound on an acoustic kit and play with different textures. 

JL:  Keeping time vs. using feel. Obviously keeping time is important, but how often are you trying to keep an internal clock versus just feeling how the song is going?

BA: It’s really more feel than anything. I’ve played in tons of bands before, and the goal was always to play in perfect time, unless there was a planned tempo change. I practice to a metronome all the time, and I would love to have perfect time, but I don’t. The cool thing about playing with Goose is I feel like there’s always situations where you’re not thinking about trying to keep steady, you’re more playing and responding to the energy that’s happening. Sometimes there’s situations where you feel that energy pick up, and it makes you want to pick up and get a little faster, and because of the kind of music we play and what we do, that’s totally fine and accepted to speed up sometimes, or slow down. 

JL: From show to show and version to version of each song, the general theme of each version seems to change a bit. When you’re starting up the song, like say you’re gonna play Arcadia again for the 200th time, are you always trying to keep it similar to the last time, or you know how Arcadia goes and you approach that version as a new version of the song?

BA: In terms of tempo?

JL: Tempo, feel, yeah.

BA: That’s a good question, I’m not really thinking about it like that. I’m more just like: ok, here we go, we’re playing Arcadia again for the 200th time, but we’ve never played it in that room, with that crowd, in that setting, and with whatever has happened earlier in the night, whatever’s going on in all of our heads; it’s a different situation no matter what. Sometimes we’ll play the song [in] the same time and then all of a sudden this one time, because of whatever is happening, maybe we’re not even thinking about trying to do this, but something else just happens, and you get a different feel or a different hit or a whole different section in the jam that opens up. I think it’s about not having pressure on these songs to play parts the same every time. 

JL: How do you contribute in the writing process?

BA: I contribute a lot in… like the drums. I help with arrangement, and usually have a lot of opinions on types of feel. Usually when there’s a song brought to the group, sometimes Rick might know exactly what kind of feel or groove he wants, but sometimes something comes in and it’s just open, there’s a lot of options. It’s figuring out the color and the texture, and like the vibe of each of the sections. I’m pretty open about ideas as we’re going, whenever we’re rehearsing we’re all bouncing things back and forth at each other.

JL: Among the fanbase, people seem to appreciate your drumming and how much sound you’re able to get being just a single dude on a drum kit. What’s your approach to serving the song vs showing off chops? 

BA: It’s all about the song, sometimes I find myself getting a little carried away if I’m having fun, …it’s easier to get carried away when you get into it. In general it’s really all about the song, it’s not about you trying to show off technical parts, it’s about playing what you play based off of your reaction to what’s going on, and just trying to build on that.

JL: What’s one tip you’d give to young drummers starting out?

BA: Study jazz, never tense up. Always play relaxed.  

JL: How do you approach the art of improvisation? (From Garrett Morris)

BA: I think the goal is to think as little as possible and react. It’s about trying to have a conversation. 

JL: Thinking back on your years of practice, can you call out one or two practice habits or specific rudiments/techniques you learned that really changed and helped define the way you play? (From Zach Santarsiero)

BA: The Rudimental Ritual by Alan Dawson. It’s just a badass warmup that goes through every rudiment in all these ways, on top of a foot ostinato, so it works independence while working hand technique and time. It’s awesome. 

-End Interview-

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