Miscellaneous - Top 5 No. 2: Breathtaking Drummers

  by Jamie Rowland

published: 16 / 4 / 2012

Miscellaneous - Top 5 No. 2: Breathtaking Drummers

In the second of his Top 5 lists for his 'Gimme Indie Rock', Jamie Rowland provides a list of his five favourite drummers


It’s easy to remember the great frontmen of rock’n’roll. They strut up and down the stage like peacocks; bravado be their feathers, and truly they do make the fans fall at their feet. Yes, the frontman is most certainly the captain of his ship. But how could that ship sail if it weren’t powered by a mighty engine? A driving force, steering this musical vessel into thine ears and hearts. Well, I guess the navigator would steer it actually, but in any case – I’m talking about drummers. Yes, drummers. I think the rhythm section often gets short shrift when people talk about the music they love. Of course, there are a few notable exceptions – Meg White is often noted for being quite boring (not an opinion I agree with), Keith Moon is noted for being mental, Ringo is noted for being not very good...there are others of course, but more often than not drummers are discussed for their antics off-stage rather than the proficiency of their skills. Well I’ve decided to give a few drummers the recognition they deserve. In this column, we’ll be looking at my own, personal Top 5 Drummers. Now I’m not necessarily looking for perfection here; I’m looking for drummers who grab your attention, take the limelight away from that Peacock Captain wailing into the mic and make the crowd’s jaws collectively drop. I’m sure you can think of some drummers you prefer; feel free to tell me I’m an idiot for omitting them in the comments section below. 1. Brian Chippendale – Lightning Bolt As the name suggests, Lightning Bolt are destructive, over-powered and sonically explosive. Lightning Bolt is psychedelic music forced through a wood chipper and then shot out of a cannon. The drum-and-bass duo of Brian Chippendale and Brian Gibson create a dense wall of noise which for many is frankly impenetrable. For those who can get their ears below the surface however, there is much to love. Gibson’s customised bass creates multi-layered, intricate melodies which at times verge on beautiful – before being kicked to the side by a jackhammering wave of distortion – along with Chippendale’s ever-present, ferocious, frenetic, monstrous drums. To see Lightning Bolt perform live is to see humans moving as speeds never before deemed possible. Chippendale’s drumsticks turn to spaghetti in his flailing arms, the intensity of the sound wraps you up and you feel like you’re completely submerged. As if that feeling wasn’t trippy enough, Chippendale performs wearing the kind of mask usually reserved for chainsaw-wielding cannibals in horror movies. A heavily distorted mic is attached to it at the mouth, and his vocals – barely recognisable as actual words – become another layer of this thick, sickly, absurd, psychedelic sandwich. I love it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Q81UELPXYM&list=PLB55145302D2F9A95&feature=mh_lolz 2. Greg Saunier – Deerhoof I could watch Greg Saunier play drums all day. It really is a something special. It’s amazing to see someone who obviously has so much control look like they’ve lost it completely. Deerhoof is a band where one can find a lot of pleasure in the little details; the intricacy of the lead guitar, the child-like melodies of vocalist/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki. Often they sound like a band on the verge of losing control completely – which is also true of Saunier’s drumming; it’s frantic and wild, and Saunier looks every part the frantic, wild man while he smashes the hell out of his drums like they just insulted his mother. But if you listen to the sound he’s making, there is so much control there. He’s not just flailing wildly – he knows exactly what he’s doing, and he’s hitting every beat he needs to hit. The grin on his face illustrating how much he loves doing it just makes it all the more enjoyable to watch. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sl9Odo_8rjo&feature=BFa&list=PLB55145302D2F9A95 3. Mel Taylor – The Ventures I didn’t feel like I could do a list of great drummers without mentioning Mel Taylor, driving force behind one of the most famous surf rock anthems of all time – ‘Wipeout’. That song works to illustrate how drumming isn’t just for keeping pace; get the right man sitting behind that set and he’ll create magic with those sticks of his – and Taylor certainly did that. If you want proof, just seek out footage of him performing the ‘Caravan’, and if his solo doesn’t make you involuntarily blurt out an expletive, his tight leather trousers might. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=_Ii4ZGB0h8k&feature=BFa&list=PLB55145302D2F9A95 4. Matt Barrick – The Walkmen It’s rare that you can listen to a piece of music and be able to say “I recognize that drumming style; that can only be one man.”. With the Walkmen’s Matt Barrick, you can do just that. There’s something incredibly distinctive about his style, and there’s only one other drummer I can think of who has a style more completely his own (more on him in a minute). Barrick creates hard, fast, precision rhythms that take great songs like ‘Angela Surf City’ and ‘The Rat’ and blast them into orbit. Undoubtedly the surf rock drumming of legends like Mel Taylor were an influence on Barrick’s style, but he’s mixed it with jazz and hard rock styles to make it something entirely his own. Seeing him perform live is the stuff grins are made of. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hKUJnMners&feature=BFa&list=PLB55145302D2F9A95 5. John Convertino – Calexico I mentioned a drummer who has even more of an individual, recognisable style than Matt Barrick, and this is him. I was once at a music festival, taking a break from watching bands and enjoying a drink and a chat with some friends. On a stage not too far away, a band was sound-checking; each member coming out and playing little bits and pieces until the sound man gave them the ok. I wasn’t watching or really paying much attention, but when it came the drummer’s turn to set his levels, he only needed three brief licks of his sticks against the skins for me to sit up and say “that’s Calexico!” If you can recognize a drummer from the sound of his soundcheck, you know he owns his instrument. I don’t feel like I need to say anything more about him. John Convertino pretty much is Calexico. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDat_7_ewiM&feature=BFa&list=PLB55145302D2F9A95 Honourable Mention: Bob Log III I’m giving an honourable mention to Bob Log III because 1, - technically he is playing the drums, and 2, – no one ever mentions Bob Log III. Let’s all have a boob scotch! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJPNo7RxrBE&feature=relmfu

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