Whether it’s pulling off the impossible task of learning a 2-hour set one day before the start of a tour, laying down a solid backbeat on stage, or taking the music to that next level in the studio, Dennis Leeflang has been seasoned not just by his own choice, but by that of others.
Born and raised in the suburbs of Rembrandt’s home-town of Leiden, The Netherlands, Dennis took an interest in drums at an early age. By age 8, he had joined several local marching bands, playing snare drum and participating in competitions and national events. But as soon as high school rolled around, carrying with it the interest in pop culture and music, it wasn’t long before the bands featured on MTV made his destiny crystal clear. Inspired by drummers such as Dave Grohl, Steven Adler, Matt Sorum, Clive Burr, Nicko McBrain, Tim Alexander, Dave Abbruzzese, Lars Ulrich and Jeff Porcaro, Dennis soon found himself locked up in his parents’ attic, playing his drums for hours on end and driving the neighbors crazy. Not long after, the Leeflang family moved to the other side of town where dad Leeflang built a rehearsal space for his son inside a barn at a friend’s farm at walking distance from the house but far enough for no one to be bothered by young Leeflang’s daily 5-hour practice sessions (8 to 12 hours a day on the weekends!). Local musicians soon took notice of this young, ambitious drummer and entrepreneur, and there was no way back.
In 1996, a yet to be named collective of musicians, lead by a female vocalist by the name of Sharon den Adel, approached Dennis to be the drummer for their newly formed band. Several months later the band, now dubbed “Within Temptation“, locked themselves up inside Dennis’ studio to record what were to become one of the most legendary demo tapes in the history of European heavy metal music. Telling him he was “too young” to be going on the road at age 17, the band replaced Dennis as the record deal was signed, leaving him behind confused but only more determined. It wasn’t long before Dennis had formed a new band by the name of Sun Caged, featuring one of Europe’s most celebrated virtuoso guitarists, Marcel Coenen, as well as keyboard wizard Joost van den Broek, who would later join After Forever and become one of Europe’s first-call producers. Sun Caged released three demo CD’s and toured all over Europe before signing a record deal that would not only land the band worldwide distribution and record sales in Japan, but also place them on the bill as an opening act for bands such as Queensrÿche, Pain Of Salvation and Joe Lynn Turner.
As Sun Caged was about to get signed, Dennis had befriended New York-based singer-songwriter and guitar maniac Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (Guns N’ Roses) on a promotional trip to New York in 2000. Several months later, Thal invited Dennis to join him on a clinic tour through The Netherlands and play some of his music live rather than to a backing tape. When, several weeks later, Thal’s touring drummer dropped out just one show into a 5-week tour, Dennis’ phone rang while in Germany with Sun Caged, with a request to learn 15 additional songs and fly to France the next day. Never one to mistake a challenge for the impossible, Dennis played the show in Hamburg with Sun Caged, canceled that night’s hotel booking and drove Sun Caged’s van and band members home overnight himself. Hours later the ambitious drummer found himself on a flight to Marseille with a Discman, a notepad, and a dream come true.
While touring with Bumblefoot and Sun Caged simultaneously and juggling schedules, Dennis managed to find time to briefly join Epica (then called Sahara Dust) to assist with the pre-production process of the band’s debut album. As is often the case when inexperienced musicians suddenly find fame, Sun Caged’s original line-up fell apart, leaving behind only guitarist Coenen. By this time Dennis had formed a new band with local friends Eric Hazerbroek (Stream Of Passion, Daeonia), Douwe de Wilde (Daeonia), Sander van den Thillart (Wowbeggar) and Edo van der Kolk (Kingfisher Sky) under the name The Saturnine. The band toured all over The Netherlands and recorded a critically acclaimed debut EP in early 2004, shortly after which Dennis made the life-changing decision to exchange windmills for skyscrapers and relocate to New York City to take his career to the next level. The Saturnine would continue on as an inter-continental recording project with occasional live performances in Holland.
Now based out of Thal’s home-town, Dennis immediately became Bumblefoot’s steady skinsman and his album debut with Thal was released in 2005 in the form of Bumblefoot’s most successful album to date: Normal. The album release was followed by intensive touring through Europe and Russia, and several exclusive shows in New York City. Less than a year after the release of the album, Thal shocked friends and fans alike as he joined the biggest band in hard rock history. As part of Guns N’ Roses, Bumblefoot’s own touring schedule was called to a halt and Dennis took the opportunity to collaborate with dozens of local New York City artists in genres ranging from jazz to singer-songwriter, and funk to extreme metal. Honing his craft and sharpening his instincts, Dennis soon became one of the most in-demand session drummers in The Big Apple, collaborating with producers such as P.J. Bianco (Jonas Brothers), Nick Sansano (Sonic Youth, Ice Cube, John Spencer Blues Explosion, Galactic) and Easy Mo Bee (Miles Davis, Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, Wu-Tang Clan). Between tours with Gn’R, Thal and Leeflang recorded and released the sequel to the 2005 Normal album, Abnormal, in 2008.
Ever aware of the changing climate in the music industry and the inevitable decline of recording contracts, Dennis soon jumped on the opportunity to build his own recording studio, enabling him to offer drum track recordings at rates affordable to independent artists. Proving to be ahead of the curve with this idea, Leeflang collaborated with over 200 artists between 2007 and 2011, including artists such as pop idol Tiffany Giardina (Disney), Shane Gibson (KorN), Chris Poland (Megadeth), James Murphy (Testament), Dave Martone, Milan Polak, Kip Winger (Winger), Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering), Ted Poley (Danger Danger) and thrash-metal legends Indestructible Noise Command.
In 2009, Ron Thal and Leeflang joined forces with Anthrax vocalist Dan Nelson. While rehearsing with the newly formed band, Leeflang and Thal got called to join Lita Ford (known from hits such as Kiss Me Deadly and Close My Eyes Forever w/Ozzy Osbourse) on the road as she had just been forced to fire her entire band one show into a world tour. Sound familiar? After 48 hours to learn Ford’s set, Leeflang and Thal were joined by Trixter bassist PJ Farley and keyboardist Michael T. Ross (Missing Persons, Angel, Hardline) and embarked on a three-month tour across Europe and the US, playing such prestigious events as the Bang Your Head! festival in Germany, the Gods Of Metal festival in Italy, and the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, sharing bills with acts such as Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney, Aerosmith, Heaven & Hell, Mötley Crüe, Queensrÿche, Tesla, Saxon, Slipknot, Down, Whitesnake, Judas Priest, Spin Doctors and Journey. Following the tour with Ford, Dennis joined Danger Danger vocalist Ted Poley‘s band in 2010 for a run of shows in the US and Europe, including the Empire Rock Fest in South Dakota, sharing the stage with Skid Row, Cinderella, Firehouse and Quiet Riot. In the meanwhile, the project with Dan Nelson had been abandoned but the lion’s share of the material that Thal and Leeflang had written was reworked and released as a series of Bumblefoot singles, including Invisible, Father and Catfight (featuring Accept vocalist Mark Tornillo). These songs were Leeflang’s first equal writing credits with Bumblefoot.
Not left unnoticed by the drumming industry, Dennis has sealed several important endorsement collaborations with companies such as Paiste (cymbals), Vic Firth (sticks), Ahead (drum cases and snare drums) and Cymbag (cymbal sleeves). Some of these endorsements have enabled him to travel all over the globe to perform clinics and workshops for hungry drum fans. In his home country of The Netherlands, Dennis has become one of the most influential rock drummers of recent years. He consistently ranks as one of the top rock drummers in the readers polls of Slagwerkkrant magazine in The Netherlands annually. He has also been featured in advertisements and write-ups in major international drum magazines such as Drum! and Modern Drummer.
Despite a busy recording, producing and performance schedule, Dennis has become known as the go-to guy because of his approachability and willingness to collaborate with indie artists. Legendary “Global Ambassador Of Drums”, Dom Famularo, describes Dennis as “a tremendous talent” with “a maturity in his approach to drumming” that is “very creative“.
When not on the road, Dennis teaches private drum lessons out of his studio in New Jersey as well as in New York City whenever his schedule allows.