Originally from The Bronx in New York, Van Williams has built up fame as drummer in Seattle's most famous metalband Nevermore. In the words of KNAC.com: Van Williams is one of the few instantly recognizable drummers in the world of hard music. He has a dominant and signature style that features highly complex time changes, freakish speed, and an overall dense sound.
Metal Rules (January 2000) enthousiastically adds: "Drummer Van Williams just demands attention. Listening to the albums, you would agree that this guy rocks. But wait until you see him live! Then you will really appreciate his ability! (...) He is extremely fluent with his playing, pulling quick tom rolls, accenting cymbal hits, and crashes out of thin air. And it looks like it is so effortless for him. He kept himself very loose, bobbing his head to and fro and keeping his whole body in motion while playing. He is a very energetic drummer." Van hits his drums like a blacksmith pounding an anvil, but he always keeps in mind to play with a irresistable swing. His extravert style of playing never interferes with timing and technique. Though he sounds like a born metal god, Van actually listens to a lot of other styles. In fact, is was until recently that he discovered death metal... On the Metal Rules web site Van explains: "King diamond, when I first heard of Mercyful Fate... You know, I was so into Rush at the time and Kansas and Yes and things like that...I was like, Dude, I'm not listening to or playing any of that skull and cross bone devil shit, you know and the next thing I'm like fucking, we're out there playing Black Funeral like "eeeoohhhhhh"..." (Van belts out some high notes in King Diamond style while laughing)"
The fun part is that Van Williams joined King Diamond on one of his tours a couple of years ago. It happens more than once that Van needs some time to appreciate newly discovered metal since he also listens to other styles a lot: "So, that's the same thing with death metal now for me, it's like if I hear something if it grows on me then I'll fucking listen to it and I'll really dig it. So my CD player has, like I said, it's got the Cannibal [Corpse] in it, it's got Spiral Architect, it's got Planet X in it, and it's got Dave Mathews in it right now. So those are like the things I've been listening to. And Dave Matthews, 'Before These Crowded Streets', man, such a great album. (...) You know what it is.. it's, they're just really good songs, you know. And the drummer is just fucking killer, and probably from a drummers' standpoint, drummers would appreciate it even more than, like, the guitar players. Not really much guitar type things going on. The drummer's doing all these little tasty things, you know."
It may be clear: Van Williams likes different flavours. Some other musical influences include (in no special order): Mickey Dee, Neil Peart, Gene Hoglan, Nick Barker, Ian Gillan and Carter Beauford. But also Yes, Johnny Cash, Thin Lizzy, Dead Can Dance and Ice Cube...
Van Williams does not stop. He continues in the same interview: "Rush was always one of my favorite bands. Well, I don't think I reflect any of that in my playing but that is definitely one of the things that first turned me onto how cool drums really are, you know, was everything that Neil would do..."
In the same interview with Metal Rules e-zine Van Williams explains how Nevermore creates songs: "Jeff [Loomis, guitarist] will come up with a bunch of ideas and throw stuff and make me a tape of a bunch of parts or maybe he'll have whole parts written out. And some drum machine stuff and drum machine ideas and it'll all start to happen like that. Then we'll go down try rehearsing some stuff and fucking around and improvising on top of things and then taking some parts that are good that he might come up with and reworking them or adding to them or taking away from them or whatever and then Warrel [Dane, singer] might get a later tape. It's made, more compiled and start coming up with vocal ideas. We try to give it to him more last so that in case music stuff changes he doesn't fall in love with something too early."
Van Williams also playes with Christ Eichhorn (guitar and bass and keyboards) in a side project called Pure Sweet Hell. They released a first demo in 2002. Not only does Van all the drums, he also takes care of the vocals. It's the first time that the drummer is using his voice on a record. KNAC.com wrote about Van's efforts: "Van's vocals are unlike anything I've heard. Warm, deep, yet animalistic and almost inhuman. He hits few high notes, relying mostly on his power, singing from the gut. His voice is truly demonic, but it's not a forced effect, it's simply how he sounds. At times it's a growl, a blood-curdling scream, or whisper, with some droning chanting/chorus moments. Drums are similar to his work with Nevermore, but more experimental."
Van Williams recorded the songs on the demo with his electronic drum kit, a Yamaha D-Extreme kit. He also combined a Roland kit he had [previously] for the cymbals, though thereís also one real cymbal used.
In 2003 Pure Sweet Hell was still unsigned but independently released a first full-length album.