Like most drummers of Jason Bittner's stature and expertise, he began by banging on pots and pans as early as the age of 3. He began his formal training at age 8, taking lessons and learning rudiments, and was involved in school programs lik jazz band and marching band all throughout high school. Eventually Jason entered the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston.
On their latest record, The War Within, Jason and company (Shadows Fall) made strides to ensure their sound would keep its integrity. “We pretty much get together and start writing,” Jason says. "We know we have a certain formula that we pretty much stick to but we pretty much write, and whatever comes out, comes out. We’re pretty much writing for ourselves, you know? Not to sound egotistical or anything about it and not to be like ‘We don’t care what anyone thinks,’ but you know it’s got to definitely satisfy us first. We’ve been fortunate enough to have people actually like our music so far, [so] it works in our favor.”
Joining the band for its third studio record, The Art of Balance, the only obstacles Jason had to overcome seemed pretty simple. “I just had to remember my parts,” Jason says matter-of-factly. “And play good. I’m not here to slag on the past, but I didn’t feel that I had to fill anyone’s shoes; I just had to make them bigger. I mean, I just came in and did what I’ve been doing for years. I come in and contribute without stepping on other people’s toes—my only ‘obstacle’ I had to deal with was driving an hour-and-a-half to practice, and having to deal with leaving a pretty successful day job making good money to basically living like an animal,” he says with a laugh.
He adds, “It was difficult to leave a job that I knew had a future on what was basically a gamble. It took me a good 10 to 16 months to realize that this (playing music) is what I do for a living now and to be confident in the decision I had made, and there is no way I’d change anything I’ve done in the past three years. I have no regrets. I’ve seen things and done things that I never thought I’d be able to do. It was definitely worth every minute.”
Jason is as passionate about his band as he is about offering Shadows Fall fans something of himself—both on stage and off. On a ”special edition” release of The War Within, a DVD is included with music lessons given by guitarists Jonathan Donais and Matthew Bachand, and, of course, Jason Bittner. He goes through an entire song, teaching the intricate parts in detail, and it is both humbling and comforting to note that such thoughtfulness went into the making of the record and all its extras.
That passion can be summed up in Jason’s own words, who says, “Making music to me means enjoying myself and enjoying the people I’m making music [for] and making a piece (of music) that might last in history for some time for our genre of music that kids might look up to in the future. If I can record a drum part that will be talked about for years to come like (Dave) Lombardo did with ‘Angel of Death‘ and Neil Pert did with ‘Tom Sawyer‘ or something like that, then that’s the ultimate compliment.”
The ins and outs of being involved in music are paramount to staying passionate about creating something that can be shared with fans from all walks of life. Though, in the beginning, Shadows Fall began as a grassroots styled, do-it-yourself band, the group is now finally starting to see those returns in very positive ways. Both guitarists, Jonathan and Matthew are regular columnists at Guitar World, sharing their extensive riffs and expertise with a metal-hungry public. Another flattering accomplishment on behalf of Jason is that he was named the “#1 Up and Coming Drummer” in Modern Drummer’s Readers Poll. It’s a point of pride for Jason who counts the vote of confidence from the Readers Poll as one of his greatest achievements.
Jason’s work on The War Within is again another point of well-earned pride. Lauded by fans and critics alike as an all-encompassing metal album, The War Within is equal parts solid grooves, ‘tasteful’ melody (in that heavy context) and stellar musicianship on each and every one of the members of the band. From the thought-provoking lyrics of Brian Fair to the clever and careful intricacies of guitarists Jonathan and Mathew, to the solid, stomach-churning rhythm section comprised of bassist Paul Romanko and Jason, The War Within might be the album that garners Shadows Fall its mainstream success while keeping its street credibility—a feat that has eluded Shadows Fall’s idols who are too numerous to mention.