Interview With Léo Margarit (Pain of Salvation)

I have been a fan of Pain of Salvation since the late 90s, and one of my favorite parts of their music has always been the drums. With extremely challenging songs like “Handful of Nothing”, “Inside Out”, and “Fandango”, Pain of Salvation is well known in the progressive world for their very challenging drum parts. French drummer Leo Margarit joined the band in 2007, and has more than proven himself with incredible mastery of the previous discography, and amazing performances on the band’s more recent material. His drumming on the latest album, Panther, has received universal acclaim from numerous outlets, including a “best drummer of the year” nod from The Prog Mind.

What has Léo Margarit been up to lately? What are some of his favorite songs to play? What Pain of Salvation song would he sing lead vocals on if he were tapped to do so? Léo stopped by Proglodytes to chat with us and answer some of these questions.

You have been playing drums from a very early age. How did you first discover your
love for drums?

I can honestly say I don’t remember! According to my father, he was rehearsing with his
band back when I was 3, and it seems I was very attracted to the drum kit. Now, one
could argue that most kids are. I mean, it’s a very simple instrument to understand, yet
very fascinating, especially for a 3 or 4 year old kid. You bang – it sounds loud.
From that point my parents decided to get me some silent drums and my father taught
me in a ludic way how to read rhythm and how to play. I started taking lessons at the local
music school at the age of 6. I think real love started when I was 12 or 13 maybe, when I
started to play in bands and could express myself behind the kit. I’ve been fortunate
enough to have some very good musicians around me to play with that could « pull me
up » if you know what I mean!

Who were some of your favorite drummers growing up?

I had many! I think as a kid/teen I had a tendency of only listening to one artist/band at
the time. It was like, I’d find something I love and would just listen to that until I
discovered something new, more challenging. So I guess the drummers of these bands
were my favorites! I can name (in no particular order) Cliff Almond, Dave Weckl, Lars
Ulrich, Mike Portnoy, Dennis Chambers, Horacio Hernandez, Virgil Donati and probably
many more that I can’t think of right now!

What were some of the best lessons you learned as a percussionist?

Playing the drums and playing percussion are really 2 totally different things. I think playing
percussion taught me to apply myself and a certain way of practicing. When I was
learning some marimba or vibraphone pieces I could spend several hours just playing one
or two licks over and over until I knew them perfectly. I think that method helped me to
learn some tricky independence stuff on the drums.

How did you first discover Pain of Salvation?

They were opening for Dream Theater back in 2002 in Barcelona! I didn’t know about
them so seeing them live was my first encounter with the band. I was blown away! I
started to listen to them actively after that!

What are some of your favorite Pain of Salvation songs to play, for whatever reason?

I think nowadays I really enjoy playing “Full Throttle Tribe”, particularly the ending! I love
that super heavy riff and the way I kinda deconstruct it. Also it’s probably the one
moments of the show where I can improvise a little bit more, even though there’s a thread
to follow. Otherwise I always enjoy “Beyond The Pale” and “Perfect Element”, mostly
because these songs always meant a lot to me, and I get to sing as well, which is always

Pain of Salvation is known for their insane rhythms. What are some of the hardest
songs to play?

Actually once you get the rhythms it becomes easier! For me it’s more a matter of playing
in time, to be tight with the rest of the band, have a great sound and still perform. Songs
like “Handful of Nothing” can be tricky for instance, not because of the complicated
rhythms but more because I can feel sometimes than my foot technique is not infallible,
especially if I haven’t played double kick for a while. Same goes for “Inside Out” for
instance! On the new album, I could mention “RESTLESS BOY”, these quintuplets and
septuplets are a pain, and “WAIT” with its 13/16+11/16… Funny enough, most people
haven’t noticed that it’s odd! 🙂 I’ve prepared a playthrough of this one, I’m just waiting for
the green light from the management! But yeah, “WAIT” is way more difficult than
“ACCELERATOR” for instance! 🙂

You also have a really nice voice! There aren’t that many singing drummers. If you had
to sing one Pain of Salvation song on lead vocals live, which one would it be?

Thanks a lot! I do sing a lot with Pain of Salvation live actually, and also on the Road Salt
records where I have a couple of leads, like on the chorus of “Linoleum”, instance. Live I
usually take the lead on the last part of “Beyond The Pale” and also the ‘I lost the way’
section in “On A Tuesday”. But if I were to choose one to sing entirely, maybe “Iter Impius”, IF and only IF I was able to do it! This one is a voice killer and the first verse is too low for
me anyways!

Tell me about the new Pain of Salvation album, Panther and the writing any
development of your drum parts for that record.

Actually Daniel wrote 99,9% of the drum parts for this album, so I got demo tapes with
either drums played or programmed by him, so I listened to that, and then recorded the
whole thing under a few week time. I played a few of my own fills and stuff but that’s it!
There’s been a lot of experimenting back and forth in the studio with tuning, choosing
cymbals and snares for different parts.

In the videos you’ve released, you’ve used some unusual setups, such as this setup in
“Restless Boy”. How did you decide to set up your drums that way?

So the thing is that we used 2 almost completely different setups for the verses and the
choruses in the studio, one dead and one open and ringy. So when I made the video I
tried to find a way to combine both kits in one and this is what I came up with. We’ll see
how we solve that live, but I can tell you that this specific video setup was not practical
nor convenient to play, especially if I have to play another song on it!

How are you keeping sane during these years crazy times? Anything in the works?

Those are difficult time indeed… I’ve lost pretty much entirely my regular source of
income, which is live gigs with a Swedish cover band, so I’ve been focusing more on the
studio work for other bands or solo artists, both recording and mixing stuff! So I
encourage anybody who might be interested to contact me via social networks or my
website! I’ve also recorded a pack of MIDI grooves for DrumForge that will be released
soon so keep an eye out for that, and I mixed the live bonus tracks for the remix of The
Perfect Element, out on November 18th!

Check out the new Pain of Salvation album, PANTHER, here. Check out the 20 year remaster of The Perfect Element 1 here.

Bonus questions:
What is your favorite cartoon?
Asterix and Obelix. Old french stuff but I really love it, especially Asterix and Cleopatra

The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, or neither?
Definitely the Beatles!

If you could have one animal power, what would it be?
Do animals have power? Maybe the cat’s night vision, could be practical to see the
drums when I’m in the dark on stage…

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