Gear Rundown: Nic Pettersen of Northlane

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Gear Rundown: Nic Pettersen of Northlane

Nick Pettersen Northlane
Words by Alasdair Belling

Nic sat down with Mixdown to chat about his tips for tuning, drummer hacks, and why on earth his kit looks so strange to the naked eye.

From the opening seconds of Northlane’s breakout 2012 hit “Dispossession”, there was one question on the lips of drummers around Australia: who on earth was producing those complex – and tasty – beats?

Read up on all the latest features and columns here.

That drummer was Nic Pettersen, who over the last decade has gone on to become one the most recognisable heavy drummers in the world.

Taking a unique approach to Northlane’s already left-field brand of metalcore, Nic’s work stands head and shoulders above a crowded field of drummers overreliant on china-busting breakdowns.

The likes of “Impulse”, “Bloodline”, and “Quantum Flux” have become regular fixtures on the practice playlists of budding skinsmen and women, with their odd-metre grooves and linear fills challenging and inspiring countless others.

Nic sat down with Mixdown to chat about his tips for tuning, drummer hacks, and why on earth his kit looks so strange to the naked eye.

Regarding your set-up: why are your drums angled so much?

“The first thing I started to tilt away was China – I was cracking the shoulder of the cymbal, so to combat that I tilted it away, and that felt really cool.

The next thing to go was my snare – that was a total accident at band practice because the basket of my snare stand was just a bit loose – but I’d been rim-shotting everything, not missing a hit, so that stayed.

I also realised, just from putting GoPro’s up and going over the footage, I was holding my arms up really wide.

It was mainly to keep my arms down and just not use up as much energy. It looks pretty dramatic from the crowd though!”

What are your tuning tips?

“The toms are the easiest part of the kit to tune. With my floor toms, the top heads are finger tight, with a 16th turn on the drum key afterwards. They’re floppy but still have a note to it. The resonant side has to be higher – always!

The rack tom is very similar, with a bit more of a turn on the top head – but still pretty low. 

My kick drum is just finger tight on the batter side, and the resonant side is tightened so there are no wrinkles on the head.

I want the kick as low as possible with no note in it – I don’t do a lot of fast doubles, it’s more pattern work, so I’m not looking for any rebound really.

I’m currently running two snare drums, but one’s tuned low and one is high.

The high-tuned snare is relatively cranked – it has to be snappy but also has the mid-range in there- it’s a super aggressive tone from front-of-house. The bottom head is cranked too.

With the lower snare, the resonant side is the same as the high-tuned snare, but the batter side is obviously way lower.

A trick as well – you can crank the batter side, and then drop the two lugs that are closest to you.

It’s an easy way to get a nice snap without getting heaps of overtones.”

Any drummer hacks?

“I’m all about hacks – there are so many ways to hack tuning drums!

I’ll use resonator rings over moon gels (for example) on my snares.

When you have toms that have bowing tails – i.e. the note is dipping after you’ve struck it – straight away, that means the tension rods of the bottom heads aren’t even. An easy fix is whacking some gaff tape on the bottom head, which helps a lot.

You can put cotton buds into the grommets of toms – that results in a similar sort of thing, but they act more like a gate because the buds bounce before falling on the head.

Only put in one at a time though – otherwise, you’ll have to take the head off to get them out!”

A hack for moon gels – a lot of people buy gels and whack them on the drums but after an hour of practise you might notice them getting dirty, or curling in on themselves.

If you’ve got old drum heads or a piece of plastic – if you cut out a little circle and put it on top of the moon gel it stops it from curling up and getting gross and dirty – this makes them last months longer.”

Which current drummers are getting you excited?

Benny Grebb for sure! For the last few years, he’s been a massive inspiration to me. He could play in any band on the planet and nail it – he has that rare versatility.

Still to this day, Steve Judd (Karnivool) is also a massive influence on me. I’ve definitely taken some influences from him and tried to adapt it to my own realm.”

Gear Rundown:

Tama star classic kit

  • 10 x 6.5 rack
  • 14 x 12 first floor
  • 16 x 14 second floor
  • 22 x 20 kick
  • Evetts Nic Pettersen Signature Snare 

Cymbals (Sabian)

  • 18’ AX Ozone crash
  • 14” AAX and 2x 16” XSR stage (bottom) and 16” XSR ozone (top) for “techno” hats
  • 18” AAX Explosion
  • 12” HHX splash
  • 10” HHX Evolution Splash
  • 19” AAX explosion
  • 20” AAX explosion
  • 13” HHX evolution hi-hats
  • 21” AA Holy China

Hardware (Tama)

  • Tama Road Pro booms x4
  • 4X boom arm attachments
  • Iron Cobra Roadpro hat stands
  • Iron Cobra Roller Glides (pedals)
  • Vater Power 3A’s 

Nick pettersen northlane

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