“Addicted To That Rush” is the first song off the debut record by American band MR. BIG. It’s about a romantic relationship but it’s also an analogy for anyone who feels the compulsion of an uncontrollable force in their life. It’s the way Gerald Sellan feels about drums. Even though Sellan is the leader of his band Beat The System (BTS) and a composer of many of their songs, he quickly confirms that he is a drummer through and through. When asked if he had to don just one role in his band, he quickly exclaims, “Of course I’d play drums! That’s what brought me to music. When I was going to church in my home country of Malaysia, I’d always watch the drummer. The band was playing music like Hillsong which is basically rock music but with a spiritual message. It’s funny because now I am living in New York and playing Hillsong music.” Truly a child of his generation, Sellan also credits YouTube with having a great impact on his abilities. The easy accessibility to watching amazing drummers (known and unknown) from around the world supplied a boundless curriculum for his education. Sellan’s story is truly a modern one which epitomizes the ever increasingly communicative global community. Being influenced by the music from the opposite side of the planet has led to Gerald and his band relocating to New York, thanks to talent and technology.
Gerald Sellan is not the norm for drummers. Ask any musician and they tell you that bands love to tell drummer jokes; the most common is “What do you call someone who hangs out with musicians? A drummer!” Tell this joke to Sellan and he laughs, partially because he has proven time and time again how incorrect this is. Gerald has been co-writer on many of BTS’s award winning hits. In 2010 BTS won the award for Best Rock Song for “Penipuan Berwaris”as well as Tipped to be the Next Big Thing. They quickly followed this with “Shine” (featuring Malaysian Idol winner Jaclyn Victor) which won Song of the Year, Best Collaboration, and Best Genre Bender at the Asian Voice Independent Music Awards. Gerald was involved up to this point as a co-writer but as the band started to make a move towards a mixture of pop and rock influences, he began to take a lead role in writing and the overall direction of the band. The dichotomous nature of Sellan’s musical tastes have always mixed well in his writing and drumming approach. He comments, “I’ve always loved both rock and pop music. I’m just as happy listening to Mariah Carey as I am with Iron Maiden. I remember the first time I saw Iron Maiden in concert in Malaysia. I was crying I was so happy. I’ve always loved visual and musical drummers like Nicko McBrain, Tommy Lee, Tommy Aldridge, Taylor Hawkins. I feel their excitement. As an audience member I want to be excited as well as enjoy how well they are playing. That’s important to me when I am performing as well. That being said, the music has to be catchy to me. If you can’t walk away humming that melody…maybe the songs aren’t that great. I can’t separate the two; melody and great drumming go hand in hand.”
The enthusiasm that is essential to Gerald’s approach is readily apparent when you witness him perform; it belies the fact that he has become the primary songwriter for BTS. Names like Phil Collins and Dave Grohl serve as well known reminders that these two vocations are not incongruent. The same spark of inspiration and emotion that creates an infectious groove can be applied to a melody. Sellan has proven this quite often recently as a writer of songs such as “Hero” and “Journey” which will be on BTS’s first US release, also entitled Journey. Songs like this are what convinced Diana Meltzer (A&R, Chief Executive Officer of Monster Hits Music) to sign BTS and convince them to relocate to NYC to work with her on the band’s American debut. Meltzer notes, “I have worked with many great songwriters and drummers from Creed, Evanescence, Alterbridge, and many more. Gerald has exactly what it takes to stand among these artists in the US music industry.” During one of their initial conversations, Sellan promised Meltzer he would deliver 10 songs in 30 days that would be better than the ones that initially peaked her interest. As proof of the results, BTS soon relocated to the US at Meltzer’s prompting. Being driven has always been a character trait of Gerald’s and an asset to his band. He confirms, “I always want to improve myself and be a positive influence to others. Rick Allen (drummer of Def Leppard) is so inspiring! He was in a car wreck, lost and arm, and pushed himself to get right back into drumming. He is as good as or better than so many great drummers out there. The world needs people like that who don’t let their circumstances dictate who they are.”
Often, the dream does not live up to expectations once you are there. In Sellan’s case, it’s even better than he had hoped. Journey will soon be released and another box will be checked off of Sellan’s list in becoming a successful musician in the US. The record was produced by Andy Anderson (four time Dove award-winning producer) and engineered by Grammy-nominated Damien Page Lewis. Gerald is especially happy about this revealing, “We were given several different choices as a producer and we all agreed that Andy was the best choice. A lot of the producers were great but Andy in particular has a real sense of modern sounds. We needed someone who is really on top of some of the more modern sonic approaches and Andy delivered extremely well on that.” Sellan states, “I typically use a 14 inch rack tom, 16 inch and 18 inch floor toms, and a 22 inch bass drum. Those are big rock and roll drums. I love that sound but the band also loves the modern sound that utilizes electronics. For most of the songs on the new record, we mixed my acoustic drums with loops, etc…so the approach to the parts I played was dictated by that. Most of the time, the drums are the last thing to go down when we are recording. As a songwriter who is also a drummer, that is ideal for me. It gives me more choices and a wider range of things to choose from. It also makes me push myself as a drummer to come up with a great drum part that serves to support the song rather than just my ego.”
Beat The system’s forth coming album JOURNEY will soon be released. The first two singles “Hero” and “Be Your Own” are currently available.