Sunday, September 18, 2011

They March To Their Own Beat - Favorite Drummer Stories

Ladies, put your hands up if you ever wanted to marry a drummer!!! They seem dangerous, your parents probably wouldn't approve, and it just sounds like fun, right?!

I think there are a few drummers this might be true of, but every drummer I've ever met/worked with hasn't exactly been the bad boy imaged by the likes of guys such as Keith Moon (of The Who) or Tommy Lee (of Mötley Crüe).
The truth is, most drummers are a bit anonymous, as parodied in the mock-umentary movie "This Is Spinal Tap." And let's face it, if you're in a metal or rock band at all, chances are you've got quite the personality no matter what instrument you play. At any rate, drummers seem dangerous cause they hit things for a living (without the injuries incurred by a fighter of some sort), the things they hit are loud, and they can be a bit independent, but they are the heart and soul of sounds from hip hop to rock and roll. The only musicians I would say hold the record for being the most anonymous by category of instrument are bass players, and they work rather closely with drummers by holding the rhythm section together for our audio-based enjoyment.

All that said, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite drummer moments. For the record, I'm going to use alternate names in these stories to protect the anonymity of these people...unless any of those former musician friends want the credit and then you can email me permission and I'll use your real name...for a small fee...JK.

• A lot of drummers hit hard. It takes practice to learn how to let the drum stick hit the skin of the drum and A: Not leave a dent in it. And B: Not hit the rim of the drum at the same time. Or the side of the symbol either. This acts like a knife, chopping away at the stick. One of the bands I was in during my high school years, happened to experience the shredding and subsequent breaking of a drum stick in the middle of the performance. This was a pretty common thing for "Stevie." We were a ska band. We played songs at an incredible rate of speed with a hep, yes, hep, full of energy. Normally, "Stevie" would lose his sticks around his drums when they broke and he'd quickly reach for a new one in a pocket attached to his drum kit. This time, however, he was heavily invested in the aggression of the moment and when his stick broke, I felt something fly past my face with a hefty force. It barely missed, and it's a good thing it did, because it was the sharp end of the broken drum stick and it nearly impaled my head. "Stevie," shocked but still filled with adrenaline, did what he always did and grabbed a new stick and flashed a sheepish look towards me, but I couldn't understand why until after the show. Apparently, he not only broke his stick mid song, he decided it would be "rock & roll" to throw it into the crowd before realizing how dangerous sharp, broken wood can be if thrown as hard as he threw it. He, of course, apologized, and we played a lot more shows after that...without impaling each other.

• Have you ever seen Mick Fleetwood, the drummer of Fleetwood Mac? Fantastic drummer! A bit of a kooky seeming fellow. I once played with a guy who seemed to have a similar kookiness. This "Mick-alike" is probably one of the best drummers I've ever played with. He seemed to live in what musicians call, the pocket, but with a kind of finesse & abstract timing that put Stewart Copeland (of The Police) to shame. He also builds drums. Not surprising considering how well he understood tonality and the importance of it in drumming. I learned an awful lot about rhythm from this guy. Especially since I had the privilege of playing with him more often as a bass player than a guitar player. At any rate, my favorite thing about playing with "Mick-alike" was that when you looked over at him to do the whole, "hey, how's it goin'" thing during a song, he would throw in some crazy, off-beat, accent to see if you'd follow. If you caught it, he would challenge you to another. If you didn't he would laugh...and challenge you to another. All in good fun, of course. It felt like you were actually "playing" with each other, much like Improvers do.

• Once upon a time Bob Dylan's son Jakob Dylan put a band together called "The Wallflowers." (Oh how music trends through the ages...also it was in the late 90s) Through some random circumstance the drummer for this band ended up coming to the youth group I was a part of as a youngster, and spoke to 500 high school kids who could say they heard that song about Cinderella and something about a car with one headlight. He spoke about his life. He was very genuine, and humble, and a little bit nervous to speak in front of so many people...especially high schoolers who hold rank for judging what is cool and what is lame. *Note the sarcasm. Anyway, I happened to be a part of the worship team at the time and our youth pastor asked if Mr. Wallflowers drummer would play drums for a song or two after he spoke. The short story here is that I got to play bass alongside the drummer of the Wallflowers when I was 16 or 17, which, by itself is pretty cool, so I'll end this story here.

• It's not often that any musician really finds their own voice on their instrument. This is especially true for drummers. I could rattle off a number of bands where the lead singer is the only person we'd know off the top of our heads. That said, there are bands whose uniqueness is founded in each player having their own unique voice; bands like U2, Colplay, No Doubt, heck, even Fleetwood Mac! Each musician stands out by themselves, not just in personality, but you'd know it by the first strum, first hit, or first pluck. I had the privilege of playing with a drummer, who found his own voice on his instrument. This name I won't hide. His name is Richard Lee Jackson, from Enation. Richard is an EXCELLENT drummer. He has a great sense of timing AND musicality. He doesn't just play a beat, he creates a beat. He settles in it and tells a story with it. One of my favorite moments with Richard was when I was playing bass for Enation and we were writing a song called "Perfect Display." The parts Richard and I came up with were fast and furious. So fast and furious that halfway through, when my forearm and fingers were aflame from plucking at the speed of sound, that I noticed the strain on Richard's face. It was like he was sprinting and doing push up jacks as fasts as he the same time. By the end of the song, he was sweating pretty good, and he had to stretch out his forearms and legs...I think there may have even been something about a muscle cramping in his leg, but I can't remember. All I know is that it was awesome and stands as one of my favorite drummer moments.

I have a lifetime more that I could share, but I won't...cause that would take a-whole-nother lifetime to do so...and I'm too young to spend it on a couch, in a sitting room, without a cane and dentures in an effort to retell it to you now.

Happy Monday!


Melissa said...

Loved this look at drummers! They really are the backbone of a band. I of course loved the bit about Richard the best.

Caroline said...

Loved this story!! And the part about Richard too! My favorite drummer moment was when the drummer of Golden Earring gave me his drumsticks after he played Radar Love for their concert in Portland. (I still have the drumsticks!) <3 Drummers diffantely rock!!

Wayne said...

My daughter sent me this link because i'm one of the drummers for the Worship band at our church. Thanks for the great stories. I met Richard Lee Jackson at a conference at my church here in Vacaville, California. There is a reason for his ability to "create a beat", it flows out of living a genuine life and having a passionate heart.

Thanks for your creativity in telling the stories and your appreciation for drummers.

P.S. If I wasn't a drummer I want to be a bass player.