Great article in the Guardian where famous drummers are asked about life as a drummer – which got us thinking have you got a favourite drummer, someone whose contribution to a band goes largely under the radar? Tell us who you nominate, we’d love to know....
You get none of the credit and do a lot of the work: who’d be a drummer? Deirdre O’Callaghan asks some of the best in the world. Introduction by Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint
I’m not sure what kind of person makes a drummer, because they are so wildly different. The star of Whiplash and a 14-year-old kid in a punk band have a different set of goals, even though they are expressing themselves through the same instrument. You have to be a certain kind of person to want to play music seriously. There is a type that sees the value in sticking to it.
When I was at primary school, boys never let me near a drum kit, because “girls can’t play drums”. But while other kids learned instruments and became disillusioned, I always had this little fire in my belly. Even now, when I play drums, I still feel like an excited teen.
A lot of drummers are studious and read percussion notation, but I started off hitting pillows to video clips of Hanson songs in the living room. The band’s drummer, Zac, was 11, tiny and on TV. Everyone needs that moment of realisation – “I can do that!” – and seeing a kid my age and stature in a successful band was mine.
My mum was a singer and my dad played bass; he bought me my first drum kit for my 12th birthday. I took lessons with a local jazz teacher, but after a couple of months he told my dad he wanted to let me follow my own path. I thought it was really cool of him to say, let her teach herself all these songs, she has a good ear. I found the best learning process was sitting at my drum kit, headphones on, listening to songs by Tool and Led Zeppelin, music that had intense drumming.
Performing well has a lot to do with feeling relaxed and confident, as opposed to warm-ups before a show. It’s important to do the best work you can, to honour the composition and nail the parts you’re playing, but it’s difficult to have an achievement that is separate from everyone else. As a band, you are a package: it’s a very emotional experience, with the same three people every night over an extended period of time.
Outside Warpaint, I’ve played with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kurt Vileand Regina Spektor. When I play more aggressive stuff, I can snap two pairs of sticks a gig. It’s a different game now: Warpaint don’t go that hard.
I don’t get nervous before shows, but sometimes, on TV, I get a cramp in my hand muscles. Something just hits me and I grip the sticks differently – like a monkey, rather than a human who has practised this for a decade.
Drumming suits my personality more than being a singer in the spotlight. I don’t want to be famous. As a child playing Steely Dan in my bedroom, I would close my eyes and fantasise about playing a massive festival; I never wondered what it would be like to hook up with Leo DiCaprio.
Stephen Morris, New Order and Joy Division
In Manchester, in the early 1970s, there was very little to do; it was all grey. If you wanted to hear music, you had to go to concerts at the Free Trade Hall and the Stoneground to see bands like Genesis. Phil Collins was an interesting drummer, and probably still is. When punk came along, you pushed all those records under your bed and pretended you never liked them at all.
Joy Division were called Warsaw then. I saw two ads in a magazine. One was “Drummer wanted: Warsaw” and the other was “Drummer wanted: the Fall”. I thought, hmm, I could probably do both. But I phoned up [Joy Division frontman]Ian Curtis and got the job.
It was really difficult getting a gig because there weren’t that many venues. Nobody liked punk bands. It was us versus the establishment; we quite liked being on the outside of it all. There was the bloody Manchester mafia, where the Drones would get gigs, and the Buzzcocks, and everybody else – but we couldn’t get a gig. So when you did, you’d really go for it.
We knew Tony Wilson, who became our manager; he saw us, and everyone thought we were fantastic, even though it was probably more anger that set us apart. And then people started getting interested.
Working with our producer Martin Hannett on the album Unknown Pleasures was interesting and infuriating. You’d listen to it and wonder how it had got from what you imagined, which was very raw and live and raucous, to the way it sounded. It was like, what’s he done? I had to record all the drums separately. Martin wanted the bass drum in the ballroom, and the snare drum in a tin can, and the hi-hat in a little cardboard box – which is dead easy to do now, but not then.
The worst was Love Will Tear Us Apart. We had recorded it, and I had done the drums over and over again. We were staying in a flat in Baker Street in London, and I had just got my head down when the phone went. It’s bloody Martin: he wants us to come back and do the snare drum. Every time I hear Love Will Tear Us Apart, all I can hear is the anger of being dragged out of bed.
Jim Sclavunos (Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, Grinderman, Sonic Youth and the Cramps)