Inside the mind of Tomas Haake, Meshuggah's modern musical genius
we get to know drummer Tomas Haake, the backseat mastermind who has made Meshuggah one of the world’s most important metal bands
“If my parents had said, ‘You have to sacrifice one of your arms to get a drum set’, I would have been totally cool with that. Just chop it off! I was just so in love with drums.”
Tomas Haake smiles. Drummers are often the unsung heroes of music, but he’s a little different to the majority of his percussive peers. As Meshuggah’s rhythmic backbone since 1991’s debut album Contradictions Collapse, he is one of the most forward-thinking figures to ever batter the shit out of a drumkit, responsible for the inventive patterns in the band’s mind-altering songs.
“I was really restless as a kid, and my outlet was hitting things,” he grins. “Sometimes I’d hide in the closet where there were clothes to muffle the noise, and I’d just sit there and bang stuff. I’d play along with Elvis, which was one of my first musical loves when I was five or six, but I had no drums, so I’d sit on mom’s piano stool with half a circle of chairs around me, and I’d put pillows on them. I’d hit the pillows with branches and imagine that it was a big drum set. I’d take the tin lids from cookie jars, nail them to a piece of wood and tape them to the chairs, and they became my cymbals.”
Tomas was raised in northern Sweden. His upbringing was devoutly Christian, something he has long since rejected, but it was at church that he first spied a drumkit and immediately knew that this was what he wanted to do with his life. Both his parents are musicians, but it certainly sounds like he made a good fist of driving his mother, in particular, to the edge of madness.
“Yeah, it would drive my mum insane, because there’d be dust coming off the pillows in big clouds, so she’d get pretty upset,” he remembers. “Of course, it didn’t matter what I did, I was just a big, noisy nuisance to my parents, so around the age of eight they caved in and said they’d buy me a drum set.”