Grumpy Rocker's Guide To Profiling Drummers!


If you're a musician, let's face it, you're one judgmental S.O.B. when it comes to seeing other bands. You can't NOT be because, at the end of the day, this is a competitive field. If you're a bass player, you focus on the bass player, looking for anything that immediately renders the player a total hack without ever hearing a note. I'm a drummer first, so I continually check out the drum kit and how it is set up. I've gotten so that I can tell whether a band is gonna kill it or not based on a few tell-tale signs that others might call "musical profiling." Here is what to look out for when pre-judging drummers.

DRUM THRONE DEALBREAKER 

When I see a drummer who has a throne with a backrest on it, I completely lose respect for not just the drummer, but the entire band. Think I'm kidding? Had I been born early enough to partake in Beatlemania and spent months begging my parents to take me to see the Beatles in-person and then one day they finally did, you can just imagine how excited I might have been.

But let's say that in a stadium full of screaming girls, John, Paul and George each singing their asses off, if I had been close enough to see that Ringo's drum throne had a freakin' back on it, I can tell you with complete certainty that I'd have stuffed every last one of their records in the garbage the minute I got home.

Whether such thrones even existed back then, Ringo never used one.



SINGERS WHO DRUM VS DRUMMERS WHO SING

I'm originally a drummer who sang lead vocals, which I admit looks ridiculous.  I also stood up, which takes a lot more work, but still look ridiculous.  You would think that somebody would have pulled it off by now, but nobody has despite quite a few bands trying, like, say, the Rainmakers, Jellyfish, and the Romantics.  Other bands whose drummers sing lead vocals include Night Ranger (their drummer sings "Sister Christian") and Eagles.

If you do ever see a good young band whose drummer sings lead vocals, you can bet your ass that by the time the record label has their say, he or she will be moved out front and they'll bring in some other schmuck who, no matter how good they are, will completely blow the chemistry and the band will never be the same.

This happened to the Rainmakers, who freakin' OWNED the midwest club circuit as Steve, Bob and Rich, with singer Bob Walkenhorst handling drum duties.  Of course, as soon as they get a nibble from Mercury Records (one of the three worst labels a rock band could have signed to at the time), they bring in a drummer and move Bob out front.

While I did manage to enjoy parts of their three albums for Mercury, they were just a different band than they would have been if they'd just left well enough alone.  They had no actual hits and are pretty much a band you can mention to a thousand people and none will have heard of them.  Hindsight being a cruel mistress, I'd say that's proof enough they had nothing to lose by sticking with the original formula.



When all drummers are as animated as Bob was, you can get away with it, but when they are blocked out by rows of tom-toms and cymbals, like the guy in Night Ranger, then it truly sucks watching a band where the drummer is singing because it forces you to actually watch them, at which point you quickly realize how limiting it is for a drummer to have to sing while drumming.

Sure, the guitarists have to stand in front of a mic, too, but they get to pose and shit, which is a helluva lot more fun to watch than Kelly Keagy righteous drum fills.



TOO MANY KICKS IN THE KITCHEN

Much like the sight of a back rest on a drum throne, there are few other things that can signal disaster, like the sight of a set of double-bass drums.  Unless they play in a metal band, no drummer has any right to hit the stage with more than one kick drum.  Funny thing is if you look at all those old "fat" Elvis Presley performances, the drummer's set has two bass drums.  For the life of me, I can't imagine that second kick getting any action.  What's he gonna do, a bass drum roll in the middle of "Burnin' Love"?  The ONLY real purpose I ever saw a double bass set-up serve was when I saw this one metal band where the drummer used both kick pedals to create the sound of a motorcycle revving whilst using his sticks as makeshift handlebars.  It was a great piece of theatre, but got old after about ten seconds.

Thing is, back in the day when not everybody played in a band, you could always tell when a more pop based rock act was unable to find a COOL drummer when they'd show up to a gig with a drummer who played a double-bass kit.  Does the guy really think he needs the extra kick, or does he need it to hold all his extraneous toms?  Unless your Neil Peart, nobody needs more than one kick and three toms to get the point across.

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