Rock drummers: Billy Bob Thorton coaches Badnews Bears?

 

Growing up playing music the one constant we heard from the music store salesmen to the older guys in bands at the clubs we watched local music at was: 'Drummers are nuts, you can't count on them, the best ones are always in 3 bands and therefore won't show up for practice, like, ever" We found all that to be true, but the actual reality was far, far weirder…
To protect the innocent, some of the names have been changed. DISCLAIMER: these stories may be enhanced with a Celtic sense of tall tales in the same way that MSG artificially enhances cheap carry~out dinner. It might not all be word for word how it happened, and extra salt is not 'good for your health' but it still tastes good! Despite being able to play only 10 out of 25 years…the other 15 we couldn't find a drummer we liked! Go figure after reading about these charismatic wonders, a combination of uneven human metronomes and pure chaos. This is the story of the ones we did like, which after reading this you may wonder what is wrong with us for befriending what is certainly the music world's most needed & revered, yet dreaded species: Drummericus Rockious…thus we begin at the genesis with some epic drummer stories:
 
Our musical saga begins when only 1 of us knew how to play any instruments, so your humble author was for a few brief songs the lead vocalist and lyric writer. Some friends of the keyboard/sax/drum programmer on these tunes had left an old (then uncool 'outdated' analog in the early digital years) half-broke Roland synthesizer lying around after one of their 'post jazz~band' jams. Not as in 1960s harmolodic free jazz or 1970s upper east side loft concerts scene. No, as in after school band rehearsal! His brother, who later in our epic will get us into our first actual studio session (albeit 5 years after we broke up for the first time) was a computer who wrote machine language on an Apple IIe. This was 1985 and we did not even know about drum machines. So they worked up a machine~code program from scratch which approximated a drum synthesizer/programmable machine. All pre-mouse baby, every instruction even when writing the songs rhythms had to be typed in using the typewriter keyboard! The inherent insanity in this technique resulted in a groove which can only be understood by the same quote Killing Joke likes to describe their music's heaviness: "The sound of the Earth vomiting" which was appropriate since the song itself was called Industrial Disease!
 
We started on a drum machine after the 3 other guys 'quitting on our drummer' who was borderline narcoleptic and therefore refused to play in straight 4/4 time, because it made him fall asleep during songs (and yes he was sober…maybe the last one who ever was?). Thus our attempts to play what we wanted to do, which at the time was fast relentless punkrock, miserably flailed into the 'Jazz Odyssey' in Spinal Tap. Imagine progressive 70s rock played by 4 people who yet had completely learned how to tune their instruments! That was our 1st band the Suckies which we morphed to form Wept by moving to another to place record on 4track + write 1st demo w/ Jhost. He who was then on synths + sax before he did guitar. The original Suckies drummer did return on a guest spot on the song Hang 10 in which we lambasted the suburban non~surfers wearing surfer clothes in midwinter with the lyrics. It had a sludge bassline that Flipper's Will Shatter would have been proud of over a sarcastically uptempo 'pr/eppy disco' drum machine beat and some psycho~circus fake synthesized Farfisa organ atonal keyboard melody. The guest drummer hit his snare whenever he felt like it to accent the lyrics. Yeah, we were going places fast, not even college radio avant sound~collage shows were gonna play this…
 
Wept's first drummer split after our second full length cassette demo album to "walk the Earth" wandering America on freight trains (before that was de rigeuer crusty~punk style). While working on a ranch in Montana on same journey blinded himself by looking at a welder and had to sit in a dark barn for 24 hours to get sight back. He was an unusual cat to say the least. He spoke in his own made up language sometimes doing acapella wordless 'sung' solos followed by a burst of falling down the stairs drum rolls solo…while we were trying to tune up before prcatice. While recording our 2cd demo album in the garage, he would stop playing in the middle of a take and lead us into a labyrinthine argument egarding the alleged 29/13 time he thought the song was in. In fact it was a straight 4/4 rock tune. Ed Blackwell who drummed for Ornette Coleman   years late was invited to speak at a jazz masterclass Ellis Marsalis (father of Wynton & Branford) was hosting for free to the public. All the best local RVA drummers were there…and then there was Rudy. Ed gave his virtuoso demo and then asked the drummers to get up and play a  few minutes. After each one played he gave them a few pointers, Rudy got behind the kit and did one his caveman on the moon vocal intros then launched into a wall of chaos beats that lasted only 30 seconds. Ed Blackwell paused about that long as well, then said "Well, you made your statement."
 
No one at the session knew whether to luagh or cry or cheer. We had encounter this same mood universally as he was peacefully confrontational 24/7~365. He put out 3 or 4 album cassettes on our tape lable that were like a combination of Throbbing Gristle and Popol Vuh~ neither of which he had heard at the time. Examples of his art sketch doodles included 'Washer Probe' and "Rudynot~so! Wake 2' (the latter was so off-the-wall it became his nickname Rudynot~so later shortened to Rudy) wore cutoff jeans with bleach induced blobs on them that therefore began to disintegrate…with knee high white athletic socks and hiking boots. This was Rudy's interpretation of punkrock- it was definately unique. Having previously been a Prog-rocker who listened to Marillion & Hawkwind he jumped fully into the fast, weird and atonal He called us Abertords. When asked what that meant, he said "People with messed up haircuts who skatebaord and listen to Sonic Youth." In 1985 he just about summed things up. Cutting his own hair into again what amounted to his vision of 'punk' at times what resembled a "homeless mullet dude from a sideshow" and later another shears~ragged nightmare, the infamous "triple spiral continuous mohawk". His dad rarely spoke when we practiced in their basement. While upstairs, he was watching three televisions at once {each with the sound off}. . .using the soft cathode~ray glow of the TVs to read the newspaper!

 
Our next drummer who quit after 1 gig was a metalhead who hated our music.  

Finally we got someone who could play and was not insane. Being a self professed satanist after reading that Anton Lavey book, howevz, he would rarely show up on time due to the fact that he would skateboard about 5 miles to and from practice. His best excuse ever was he was on a 'date' w/ his hot girlfriend in a church parking lot after being chased out of her house by the dad. Then once we recorded in NY after breaking up for 5 years and were recorded by an engineer that had at one time been one of the most notorious punk rock singers ever's guitarist, who owed our guitarist's brother a favor. Bro had helped this guy (no heckler, not the notoroius anti-star singer!) get into the best technical university in the country where he had gone to school (but knew him from Boston punk scene). He then called in the favor owed by getting him to rcord his younger brother's band, that being WEPT. The day we started taping there was a ton of rain. Somehow the roof had leaked and the styrofoam drop-ceiling panels had collapsed from water onto a 6-figure fully automated state of the art 'flying ~ faders' mixing console. The first several hours of our recording time he had to clean that thing off or get fired on Monday!  The two engineers were supposed to have a drummer for session (the '93 songs off 93/05 EP on our page) who did not show up. Typical WEPT drummer? We never spoke to or met him, yet he still didn't show up on time- or at all- in this case.

The rest of us had taken Amtrak up or were in town on a roadtrip from Cali to do this so i said no way this session is not happening and called a drummer from RVA out of my band there then. He was down in Louisville rehearsing for a European tour with the guys that later did band June of 44, then in their previous band who was supposed to open for Mazzy Star in Europe. After learning the whole set for them, he said he missed his girlfriend and split leaving them drummerless! So i happened to catch him on the phone the day he got back into VA, and asked him to come up to NY to record. He showed up the day before studio date, learned 3 songs, recorded and as soon as the reel to reel stopped on last basic track take he did not stay to even hear the playbacks…as he was leaving we asked why are you splitting so soon? He said he missed his girlfriend. We figured out then, sometimes music could be "a means to an end"?
 
Where are they all drumming now? Who the hell knows! This final Wept record in 2005 we ended up doing the drums ourselves on overdubs, and ophidian~like full circle we have now yet to see what chaos/freedom/ineptitude/ awaits with our new follow up band Serpent's Exile.The one previous traps~rattler we still work with lives a coast away. He recently had a manual setback while working, but like Tony Iommi it only has made him better. Thanks to him from the band and fans, we're all proud of the optomism speeding his return to ace mad skills. Congratulations on your first child last year too, an artistic *super~nova* to be certain!
 
A strange synchrony is the new Serpent's Exile drummer's proving the stuff of next years' lore: Eccentric and uncompromising, Xian Bhan insists for on remaining completely anonymous… His drumset is from the UK and sounds eerily similar to Zeppelin's epic kit but that's all we can say for now… How will we play live with a stadium ready percussionist that want's to keep it on the down-low? Will Krozz Warzaw have to step up to the mic? Xian is ready to give lessons on his perfectionist craft, only to those that can take it to the next level: After 2 decades of playing the same couple Pearl kits Krozz got a Ludwig 100th anniversary kit at a big discount from a big~box store. In green sparkle finish (the same as early Led Zep) in the same sizes as Bonham's kit. Maybe drummers aren't crazy, maybe they're just psychic…Or did we say psych~0?!
Share Button

Comments