Tuesday, January 30, 2007
drums of death:
Speaking as someone who first picked up his father's drumsticks at age three and began trying to execute a double-stroke roll on a pillow at age 11, seeing John & Belle's toddler daughters drumming brings warmth to my heart and tears to my eyes. In the interest of cultivating their talents, here are a few drummers they should seek to emulate:

1. Elvin Jones. Nuff said here. Lots of string and brass musicians have used their instruments percussively. Elvin Jones was the first, and best, to use the drums to provide melody. If not for him, we'd never know what the far side of the ride cymbal sounds like.

2. Stewart Copeland. I sort of hate the Police. There's a number of good songs out there in the dark of their catalogue -- "So Lonely" is pretty awesome -- but, by and large, their prog is corny and their punk is fake and their reggae is cringe-inducing and their rock is passable. The thing that brings me back to them is Stewart Copeland, who actually introduces breaks to a band that's as white as a fluffernutter. I'd advise the girls to listen to Stewart Copeland for those times that they need to rescue a song from its creators.

3. Janet Weiss. My dream interview is me & Janet, talking drums for hours and hours. I have so many questions about why she does what she does. With a band as frenetic and taught as Sleater-Kinney -- which, of course, has no bass guitar -- you can imagine the temptation exists to provide a stable beat and little else. (As Lara MacFarlane demonstrates on Call The Doctor.) Janet never, ever does this. You have to listen to her like you listen to a jazz musician -- always asking why she made this particular choice of rhythm, dynamic and tone and not another one. If ever you think she doesn't serve the song, notice how different her style is with Quasi than it is with S-K.

4. Topper Headon. The only band that mattered had the only drummer that mattered. The break in "Guns of Brixton" could be the entire basis of another drummer's style. (I say that because after I heard it, I made it the basis for my entire style.) Legend has it he recorded Give 'Em Enough Rope in one take. Topper married James Brown rhythms to the Clash and made punk rock transcendent. Just listen to how sad and pedestrian the Clash can sound when Tory Crimes drums for them -- a track as straightforward as "White Riot" comes alive with Topper behind the kit, but with Tory Crimes, the Clash are held back to a standard, plotting halftime two-four backbeat.

Remember, girls: learn your rudiments, and there's no substitute for proper gripping. Never hold your sticks using your thumb as a brace -- it's tempting, particularly when you're tired, but you're only cheating your finger strength. There are a lot of sucker drummers out there. Don't play yourselves.
--Spencer Ackerman
These are the greatest drummers.

More drummers, each of which is the greatest I've ever seen:

Ed Blackwell (Unlike any other jazz drummer.)
Han Bennink (I enjoy him greatly on recordings, but he's phenomenal on a whole 'nother level live.)

Great studio drummer:
Steve Gadd

Each of these is the greatest drummer in the world, along with each of those in your list.
Blogger riffle | 5:07 PM

and please point me toward your XML / RSS feed, please.
Blogger riffle | 5:10 PM

If I were the parent of a child interested in drumming, I'd look into getting the kid tabla lessons. More soothing on the ears, at the very least.
Blogger Jackmormon | 5:11 PM

What, no Meg White?
Blogger Xanthippas | 6:01 PM

Taut, not taught, I think you mean. The opening drum barrage of "Our Happiness Is Guaranteed" is one of the best starts of an album, ever. My addition to your list would be Jim Eno, who makes Spoon credible as a classic rock band (note lowercase) a la Sleater-Kinney, rather than just a very good indie rock band.
Blogger Jesse | 6:05 PM

hey, i commented to another post about the democrat thing. i just scouted google, and it appears that the folks on free republic regularly use the term 'rats' in place of democrats. me thinks this is your answer.
Blogger Marc | 6:38 PM

Need to add Gene Krupa if you want to talk about jazz drummers.
Blogger joedokes | 8:19 PM

If ever you think she doesn't serve the song, notice how different her style is with Quasi than it is with S-K.

See also The Friends of Rachel Worth...
Blogger Scott Lemieux | 11:15 PM

how can you leave Keith Moon out of this?
Blogger chiggins | 7:12 AM

In re Topper, it also sez here that Martin Chambers was the best thing that ever happened to Chrissie Hynde.
Blogger rickhavoc | 8:06 AM

I was always amazed at the drumming of Brian Downey.
Blogger wkmaier | 8:33 AM

Buddy Rich, the greatest.

Vinnie Coliuta, like Steve Gadd, but raunchier.

Bill Bruford, like no-one else, polyrhythmic.
Blogger tft | 8:42 AM

what tft said (look for the buddy rich vs. animal clip on youtube for an example).

Modern day drummers I find appealing include Rodney Holmes of the Steve Kimock Band and Stanton Moore of Galactic.
Blogger Shane | 1:55 PM

Evelyn Glennie - deaf percussionist.
Blogger Jon Hendry | 7:23 PM

You diss The Police, yet give dap to the most boring band in the universe since Pavement broke up I.E. Sleater-Kinney? Bleh
Blogger Dustin Ridgeway | 9:47 PM

"Bill Bruford, like no-one else, polyrhythmic."

Dude, that makes him Elvin Jones.
Blogger rickhavoc | 7:55 AM

While your Police-bashing is regrettable, you've presented a good list. A few others: Tony Williams, George Hurley (the Minutemen), Al Jackson (the MGs), and, of course, Clyde Stubblefield, the most sampled musician ever.
Blogger M. Duss | 6:47 PM