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Bant Mag:Drummer stories: ¨How did I start? Why did I start?¨

Drummer stories: ¨How did I start? Why did I start?¨

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Drummer stories: ¨How did I start? Why did I start?¨

Prepared by Cem Kayıran & J. Hakan Dedeoğlu
PREVIOUS Owen Pallett: A Small Burger Joint Kind of Guy SONRAKİ Top 50 albums of 2014

Following the cinematic achievement of the movie Whiplash, we turned our minds to our favorite drummers and their formative days. It is an instrument that demands the full attention of the player, and their body. So we asked for memorable, fascinating and unique stories from our tub-thumping friends. Here’s the collection of the stories told by our favorites, from Chris Corsano to Jeremy Barnes.

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Bob D’amico
Sebadoh / The Fiery Furnaces

¨If I don't play the drums for a long tine I really start to lose my mind.¨ 

There isn't one genre that I enjoy playing more than the other but I guess changing, in general, is what's most enjoyable. And improvising. The best situations in a band setting are when you're on a tour and playing the same songs every night, you can and should re-approach them in a different way, even if it's just a slight nuance.  And when your bandmates pick up on these things and communicate back to you within that context then I've reached the height of musical enjoyment.

I started playing drums in the school orchestra when I was 9 years old.  Then soon after that my father bought me an orange sparkle drumset and I started jamming with other kids in the neighborhood and from then on it's all I've ever wanted to do.  I also played in the local fire department marching band and with that I played my first gig at Yankee Stadium!

Well, the cliché about drums and drumming being instinctual and visceral is true to a certain extent.  It's so instinctual to me that it's hard to characterize the feeling of being 'in' or 'in the pocket' … All I can say is that when it's ON, it's the only time I feel comfortable in my own skin.  If I don't play the drums for a long tine I really start to lose my mind.  Ask my wife, she'll tell ya..

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Damon Krukowski
Damon & Naomi / Galaxie 500

¨What a weird instrument¨

I grew up with jazz music because my mother is a singer, and she had friends of hersteach me some piano and guitar before I took up the drums on my own. I think whatdrew me to them at first was that it didn't seem like I'd need to study them. Unlike fora lot of American drummers, there was no marching band at my school so there wasno question of learning the fundamentals - I just had to get a hold of drums and startplaying them, which seemed much more appealing. And I've always loved the trapdrum kit's bizarre, one-man-band construction. What a weird instrument - and itneeds hardly any instruction! It fit my DIY attitude toward music.

I played guitar alongside the whole time, though not in public until Naomi and I beganperforming as a duo in the mid-90s. These days, I spend far more time playingacoustic guitar, though Naomi has always said I treat it like a percussion instrument.But when I do get to play drums - for our recordings, or on the odd occasion I play themin public like I did recently for a series of shows with Richard Youngs - it makes megiddily happy. They are just so fun to play. And I still don't know what I'm doing, Inever did learn any fundamentals.

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Liam O’Neill


¨I liked that playing the drums was like running, or playing sports, where the techniquerequired was so basic, so elemental.¨

I had always been a musical child, and had been begging my parents to buy me a littleelectric piano from the age of about 5 or so. Piano being a "legitimate" instrument indicativeof intelligence, class, talent etc, my parents readily agreed to buy me one on the conditionthat I take lessons, which I did dutifully and hungrily for about 6 years or so. Upon hittingthe very earliest stages of puberty, though, I became inexplicably and completely fascinatedwith the drums. There was something about the instrument that spoke to me, the intuitive,physical nature of it (after six years of piano lessons, I had scarcely learned to read a noteof music, and had figured out almost all of the songs I knew by ear). I liked that playing thedrums was like running, or playing sports, where the technique required was so basic, soelemental, that one could play ideas in real time, as it were, without much preparation orsetup. I've always thought of drummers as being like singers or athletes, as opposed to,say, those who play synthesizers, who are closer to writers or scientists.


As an extension to my previous answer, this story concerns how I got my first drum kit, andit more concerns another man's passion for the drums rather than my own. After botheringmy parents yet again for a number of years (what else do young boys do?), and after yearsof having my request refused, it was Dan Slater, a 50-year-old family friend with the heart(and the mind) of a teenager, who caught wind of my whining, and not only convinced myparents to buy me a kit, but sought it out and fronted the money himself. I remember himasking me if I knew the song "Wipeout", and in a secretive manner, confiding in me that ifI could play that, I could play anything (I can now play "Wipeout"). Years later, after I hadbecome a somewhat accomplished jazz drummer, he and my parents came to one of myshows at a local café, the first show he'd seen me play since I had been a boy. Near the endof our second set, (and the end of his second bottle of wine) the band left me alone forwhat must have been a particularly rambunctious drum solo, because upon ending it, hejumped up onto the bandstand, and started wildly, proudly shouting to the audience:"THAT'S MY SON!!! THAT'S MY SON!!! NOT THEM [gesturing to my parents]!!!! ME!!!!MEEEEEE!!!!"

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Jeremy Barnes
Neutral Milk Hotel / A Hawk And A Hacksaw / Bablicon

¨I remember playing my Mom's pots and pans at a very young age in the kitchen, while shewas cooking.¨

At the end of the last century, I was spending a lot of time in England, and I couldn't work,so I played homemade drums on the street for change.I remember playing my Mom's pots and pans at a very young age in the kitchen, while shewas cooking. Drums became and obsession but I didn't get the chance to get a set until I was about 13. I remember the music teacher kept the drum kit at school locked in thecloset, and one day she brought it out, and chose who could play it. She knew that I wasfixated on the drum set, and refused to let me play. I cried tears of anger!

¨I have recently been playing a lot of tapan...¨

I grew up loving many of the British drummers of the '60's: Mitch Mitchell, Keith Moon,Ginger Baker, Bill Ward and John Bonham and  Ringo. There are so many great drummersin different genres though. A few other huge influences are Gunter Sommer, Han Bennink,Viv Prince, and Jaki Leibezeit.   Some more recent drummers I love are Greg Saunier,Brian Chippendale, Damon Krukowski, Chris Powell.I love Turkish drumming and the Balkan styles that are often inspired it. I have recentlybeen playing a lot of tapan...

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Sebastian Thomson
Trans Am / Publicist

¨The love of drums and drumming for me is like a background hum that is always there.¨

I had just started high school and was living in Buenos Aires. Some friends and I wanted to starta band and I was meant to be the frontman. Our synth player organized everything - he recruiteda drummer and we "borrowed" a drum kit from a friend's church and set it up. However thisdrummer had a very bad work ethic and he would show up to maybe one out of every 5 rehearsals. So I got into the habit of sitting at the drums and filling in. After about a month of thisit was clear that I was going to be better at drumming than singing.

I don't have an epiphany type story when it comes to drums. I don't really believe in them. For mea passion is something that is manifested in many little ways for a long time. The love of drumsand drumming for me is like a background hum that is always there.

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Greg Saunier
Deerhoof / Greg Saunier &  Brian Chippendale

¨I don't know why but I raised my hand and chose snare drum.¨

On a normal school day when I was nine years old, a strange man came to the class and said he directed the school band. He asked who wanted to join. I don't know why but I raised my hand and chose snare drum. I never stopped playing since then.

I always had a passion for music but I didn't care that much about drums particularly. In Deerhoof the drums are usually the last piece of the puzzle. We sprinkle them on top once the song is totally written. That's why I don't really have drum parts for our songs. I just improvise every night. Drums are usually keeping time but for me it is pure emotion. Trying to create magic moments with my bandmates, telling jokes, making them confused, daring them to play better, stoking the fire to make it an inferno.

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Alex Neilson
Trembling Bells / Tight Meat Trio / Directing Hand / Ashtray Navigations / Six Organs of Admittance / Bonnie Prince Billy / Baby Dee / Isobel Campbell

¨I have quite an obsessive mind, so really dedicated myself to it¨

I started to play the drums when I was 13 as an extra-curricular lesson at school, primarily because it got me out of doing Physics class. I had no aptitude for the sciences but seemed to take to drumming as naturally as Christ took to the cross (only with a little less self-doubt). I have quite an obsessive mind, so really dedicated myself to it and became quickly interested in improvisation because it leveled the playing field for drummers to be an equally important part of the group as any other instrument.

Hmm, hitting surfaces with sticks is a very undignified way to make a living. The way that I acquired the drum kit I’ve had for the last 10 years is also very undignified. I moved to Glasgow to study English and Art History at university but didn't last beyond my first year. Instead I used my student loan to buy a drum kit. The local drum shop was advertising a 30% discount if you came into the shop dressed as a woman so I put on a dress, a wig and some make up and bought the kit. I guess music shops are a bit like car garages- quite oppressively male staffed by people who like to wield their superior knowledge over you. I guess in the back of my mind I found the discount quite chauvinistic, but I took it and got out of there as fast as my high heels could take me.

I have had innumerable fun experiences while drumming in a wide variety of contexts, so it's difficult to say which is the most fun. Playing with the Bonnie "Prince" Billy band cross America, Turkey and particularly Israel is probably the most memorable. Israel was an incredible experience. To press your nose against the wailing wall, crawl into the tomb of the Holy Sepulchre, walk the stations of the cross and float in the Dead Sea are experiences that still supercharge my imagination. Otherwise, taking mushrooms and visiting a natural hot spring built into a cliff overhanging the pacific at midnight in Big Sur was pretty rad. I have been incredibly fortunate to fly all over the world playing music with some of the most idiosyncratic and inspiring musicians of my generation. I continue to learn a lot from these experiences. My carbon-skid mark must be the size of Bradford.

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Chris Corsano
Rangda / Björk / Corsano Flaherty Duo / Chikamorachi

¨The main thing was wanting to be like my older brother.¨

Pots and pans in the kitchen as a little kid, then a toy drum set shortly after that which promptlygot destroyed by a friend. There was a gap of a few years, then I started playing on a set my brotherhad left temporarily at the house. The main thing was wanting to be like my older brother.

Hmm, not to take anything away from drummers, but I think that passion (or dedication or insanity...whatever you want to call it) exists across all instruments. Trumpet players run a higher risk ofstrokes, saxophonists give themselves hernias from years of hard blowing, some piano playerswreck their hands and wrists--so I don't think drummers alone have cornered the market. I think totruly commit yourself to any instrument makes you go a little crazy. On the other hand, without thatinstrument, you would probably go crazier.

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Dan Snaith
Caribou / Manitoba

¨I started playing drums when it was discovered I was a terrible trumpet player.¨

We had a really good music school at our high school despite the fact that it was just an average state school - no extra funding or wealthy parents... Just a music teacher that really cared and worked hard. There was one point when I was 16 that I was going to choose to stop taking music as a subject at school and she pulled me aside and said 'You cannot stop taking music. I won't let you!' 

Anyway, I started playing drums when it was discovered I was a terrible trumpet player. I started at the beginning of high school playing trumpet and I was awful and, as happened with a lot of people who failed on their first instrument, I was sent back into the percussion part of the music room. That was great because it was where I wanted to be anyway - the physicality of playing drums was always exciting and I was already into listening to records where the drums were the most exciting part even though I’d not seen any good drummers in the flesh. I’d already played piano for a long time at this point but I got obsessed with playing drums - I used to take the drum kit home from school in the summer when it wasn't needed and we lived out in the country and there was this big concrete shed crumbling in the weeds at the back of our property and I could play as loudly as I liked whenever I liked out there.

After high school I didn't have a chance to play drums for a long time and I never got very good at them but I always wanted to... when we first started touring with Manitoba/Caribou I demanded that there would be two drums kits in the band just so I could play drums onstage!

This story doesn't have anything to do with that... It has to do with breakfast. In high school we used to have to show up really early in the morning for school band practice. Because of our teacher, we'd be playing all sorts of 20th century classical music where the percussion/drum parts were 'Wait 156 bars and then play the crash cymbal once'. There was a little room off the back of the music room (percussion was at the back) so all of us percussionists started bringing in food and a hot plate and cooking pancakes, eggs, bacon, and making these big breakfasts for ourselves while we were waiting for our parts. Obviously everyone could smell what was going on - the poor clarinets, French horns, oboes, etc were sitting up there hungrily smelling the breakfast we were eating. Our teacher tolerated it for a while and then shut us down. It was good while it lasted though.

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Sam Fogarino
Interpol / Magnetic Morning

¨If melody is the body, rhythm is its walk¨

In Philadelphia during the Christmas of 1973, I received a better-than-toy drum kit as a gift from my young parents. I was five years old at the time. My mother, thirty—father, thirty-two. They both had an infinity for music—rock, soul, early disco, Motown—and, of course, the Philly sound as delivered by Gamble and Huff.

Before the my curiosity in drums and rhythm developed, it was the song as a whole; in concept, and emotional impact, that garnered my undivided attention like nothing else. I destroyed the Xmas drum kit, with an abandon guided by the music I heard, and began to love.

As I grew older I gravitated towards the piano. At the age of eight, I had switched to guitar. By 1980, seven years had pasted since getting that first drum kit, and before I came back around to my interest in drumming. Again, it was with an abandon. Strong, early points of reference came from the beat-driven drumming styles of the sixties/early seventies. A band had formed in my mother's basement with three other friends—all of whom had a few years on me. A drummer was needed, and I took up the role without even thinking. More than just getting to play drums, I was now a drummer—in a band—with an essential function to provide. One that propelled the song, held its form, while providing feel. If melody is the body, rhythm is its walk. I wanted to control a song’s gait—That was and is still the reason why.

Drumming is physical temperament; the punctuation in a musical grammar. It’s how music runs, walks, crawls, or skips.
How it stammers, or shouts—with emphasis or restraint. It makes people move, by moving them. All without a word.

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BJ Miller

¨Drummers are fucking crazy! Which means I'm fucking crazy!¨

I actually wanted to play saxophone. I was 11 years old, in the fifth grade, and it was the first year you could play in the school band at Castle View Elementary, in Riverside, California. My next oldest brother, Josh (who is now a classical guitarist) had joined the percussion section for about a month, and now in middle school, had lost all interest. I tell my mom I want a saxophone, she hands me Josh's sticks and drum pad. So for four years that's all I played on, a practice pad. We would get real snare drums at concerts. 

One thing I learned looking back it, if you can find the challenge of rudiments on a rubber practice pad as fascinating as I did at 11, then you are probably a drummer.  Once I saw how fast my instructor could play them, I was hooked. 

Mom to the rescue again, I was 14. Nirvana had taken the world by storm, and Kurt had just taken his life. Like so many at my age, I was devastated. As a kid I was exposed to GnR, Faith No More, Beastie Boys, Def Leppard, all amazing drummers. But Smells Like Teen Spirit was the first song in my life where the drums were that anthemic, and bold, and raw. Grohl had a perfect pocket for that song. Every measure, you wait for the cymbal hit, like he's dropping the beat the entire song. With that album was my first actual longing to play a drum set. Like it all just made sense, in this enormously arcane way.

I come from a family of five kids. We aren't a religious family, but we've always done a light, secular version of Christmas and Hannukah. As a kid all you care about is presents anyway. I wanted a drum set more than Ralphie wanted the Red Rider BB Gun in Christmas Story. In similar fashion, we were all sitting around the tree and covered in wrapping paper, gifting is over, and just when a slight look of disappointment starts to come over me, my mom pointed out a big box that was hiding behind the tree just right. She told me I forgot one. I rip opened the top in excitement, to find a big box of foam popcorn. I stormed through it like Garfield and lasagna and at the bottom is a set of sticks that say Coopers Music, and their phone number. Again I shot a look of confusion and disappointment to the ground, when mom said, the rest of it is in the New Room (our addition to the garage, a game room that would eventually become the Band Room for me and Josh). I look in and there it is, a black wrapped Sunlite, 5 piece, the best and worst kit I've ever played. I had no idea how to set it up. I thought the thumpy bass drum sound came from tightening the head. I tightened it so badly the rim went over the head on one side and it still sounded like a tight, wavy piece of shit. I took it back to Coopers and the guy looked at me befuddled, like, you can't be serious. He loosens it up, tells me to throw a pillow in there, an epiphanic 'ah' comes to me, and I finally had a shot at actually playing real drums, rock drums!

I get to work, practicing everything I could, but my first line of business was learning In Bloom. Then Good Times and Bad Times. Then Purple Haze. I was enthralled with rock drums. Something turned on that day, ever since I just can't turn it off. And it ain't no saxophone. 

So I was watching the new documentary on Ginger Baker the other day when it came to me: drummers are fucking crazy! Which means I'm fucking crazy! But most people would agree, if they met me, I don't really roll that way. I'm not into explosives; I'll take a bow over a gun any day. I hate fighting and would always rather talk it out. Well, almost always. So I dive deeper into that 'almost,' and I think of my life compared to Ginger's.  I suppose he just had a distaste for talking when physical force could speak more efficiently. But when you look at those guys, the Moons, Bonhams, Bakers, Richs, and Lees, they aren't necessarily menacing in physique. Bonham had a nice belly by the end of it; not exactly a guy most would think could outrun them or beat them in a fight. But his disposition was ferocious, and he harnessed it into an incredibly powerful and intricate world of drums, changing the scale of rock forever. 

Upon further review I realized that there is something tying us all together. Some mindset, sadomasochistic perhaps, that we all share. The Drummer's Gene, I finally coined it. 

¨We also come from violence, and self-sacrifice, there will always be some remnant of that instinct in us.¨

Going back to middle school I recall we percussionists were in the back of the room. We were constantly hushed, the scapegoat of the ensemble. One day to piss off the instructor, I grabbed a handful of raw black eyed peas from Biology the period before, the ones you put in a Petri dish to sprout. We sat quietly, five drummers, in obedience, as I tossed them at respective cymbals and bass drums while our teacher was working with the clarinets. Every splash of metal or bang of a drum got an angry look from the man, but he would only find us all sitting ironically still as if we couldn't possibly have played that cymbal ten feet away from us. 

There is a certain element of mischief in the drummer gene. And let's remember, historically, drummers were at the front of the attack, leading others to die, with a drum at their hip. So we also come from violence, and self-sacrifice, there will always be some remnant of that instinct in us. Blood on the drumhead. 

We are conversely people of trance, shamans in a way. As any drummer will tell you, and you can see it on their face, drumming is a transcendental experience. So when you bring all these elements together, a yin and yang effect occurs, and the drummer is sitting right in the middle, on the ever appropriately titled drum throne. Kings of a moment, a moment in time, a time completely unique to the individual and only truly experienced in the live setting. Again there is the sense of something turned on that can't be turned off. I've often felt drumming chose me, not the other way around. There's no end to stories of aggravation from teachers and siblings caused by my tapping flams and paraparadiddles on desks and tables. It's the most OCD thing about me, and everywhere I go, I overhear someone else tapping on a bar or a steering wheel, and I know then, we have ourselves another drummer in the world.

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Bruce Cawdron
Godspeed You! Black Emperor / Set Fire To Flames / Esmerine

¨I never thought I would like anything other than punk rock, but tastes evolve.¨

I started drumming at the age of 16 when a few friends and I decided we wanted to form a punk rock band. I know at the time one of my main influences was American hardcore and Animal (ie : Keith Moon) from the muppets! I never thought I would like anything other than punk rock, but tastes evolve, and I started playing with more traditional forms of music (Celtic, African), and it broadens your palate. Now I'll play (and enjoy) anything, but still love simple chord progressions with a lot of energy and drones and repeated patterns I can play 'around'.

An inspiring story about drumming  

Watching Elvin Jones play during a master class then interviewing him afterwards and getting a personal lesson from him on playing with drones and ostinatos (short repeated motifs). You hear a lot of this on the records he did with John Coltrane and his methods and reasonings put me squarely on the path of 'playing' - being more than just a timekeeper - using the kit as a melodic instrument.

A memorable story about drumming

Going back to school to study orchestral percussion and after practising just the snare drum for what seemed like 2 years, finding that all that practise translated in an incredible fashion onto the drum kit with all four limbs!

A funny story about drumming

Being so tired during a Godspeed show that I actually fell asleep during one of the rock bits, and woke up a few seconds later still playing! Now that is 'muscle memory' for you!

Drummers that I find inspirational

In no particular order: Elvin Jones, Keith Moon, Tony Allen, Art Blakey, Max Roach, Katherina Bornefeld, Chris Mars, Jim White,  Charlie Watts, Evelyn Glennie, Carlton Barrett, Jamie Thompson, Aidan Girt, Billy Higgins, Maureen Tucker, George Hurley, Brock Pytel, Eloi Bertholet, Yoshimi P-We

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Ivan Knight


When I was growing up, my parents where always listening to Burt Bacharach.To me, even until this day I’ve always felt very moved by his compositions. Although he was a technician, he was a songwriter first, and since that day I have always been attracted to songs. Technicians and flashy players are always great to watch, but to me... I like songs. 

Anyway, Bacharach had a group of musicians that did most of his recordings and this group was called The Wrecking Crew. During the 1960’s, the wrecking crew backed dozens of popular singers (Sinatra , The Beach Boys, The Mamas and The Papas, Elvis Presley…), and they were one of the most successful groups of studio musicians in music history. They had two main drummers, but the one I loved was a guy named Hal Blaine. You probably never heard of this unsong hero, but check out his stats as related in Wikipedia. He has played on 50 number one hits, over 150 top ten hits and has recorded, by his own admission, on over 35,000 pieces of music over four decades of work. Blaine is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum and the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame. He is widely regarded as one of the most prolific drummers in recording music history. (Thanks Wikipedia!). Whew… And I thought Ringo was bad ass…..

Funny thing about this drum hero of mine was that I never really knew what he looked like. When I was a kid there wasn’t any Internet, and I never went to any library to look up his image. I just loved listening to him play, and I didn’t know anything else about him. He could have been an angel or an asshole… I didn’t have a clue .

Well years later I was in this really cool old drum shop called professional drum shop Hollywood. Every drummer that has worked in LA over the last 50 years has gone there. And I just loved going there to see all of the old pictures on the walls. All the cool vintage drum sets. And talk to the owners who would always tell me great stories of all the old cats. 

One day I was in there hanging out talking’ crap with Jerry, one of the employees, when this short old guy with a big smile  came up to me, shuck my hand and said “Hello “… Man, I didn’t even skip a beat in my head. I didn’t know who he was, but I knew exactly who he was... I said, ¨Your Hal Blaine aren’t you?¨ he said “Yes I am, how did you know?“ I didn’t know how to explain it, but somehow I just knew it was him. Somehow we have certain connections in life…

Of course, after a brief laugh about it all. I told him how much I admired his work, and what a hero he was to me. I asked him if I could send him some music I had been working on, and he said he would love to hear it. So we exchanged numbers. 

At the time I was working on some film soundtrack compositions, and as soon as I had finished them, I sent them to him. I never expected any kind of a response from him, after all this man had worked with some of the best composers of his era. But sure enough one day I received a message on my tape recorder answering machine that said: “Hey Ivan, this is Hal Blaine, and I just listened to your music, and man you really got something there. I sincerely wish you all of the luck in the world. I think your going to do just great “. I was in heaven. I jumped around the house like a little kid.  

To me a great drummer is one that supports the music. It’s not about the ego. It’s about the music. And Hal Blaine had done for me what he had always successfully done for all of the music he’s played on… he was supportive. Cool. And inspiring. 

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