Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Drumming For A Lifetime, pt.7

Influences, pt.1

Sometimes I can go a long time without giving any regard to the influences I have had as a drummer. I just play, enjoy it, and let the experience happen.

Sometimes I like to reflect on the major influences I've had, and give credit where it's due. Their respective styles are a part of my playing.

I thought I'd chronologically go through a short list of my major drumming influences. I'm sure I've had many more drummers rub-off on me than that will be listed here, but for brevity sake, I'll hit the highlights.

There are two categories as well: artists and private teachers (teachers will be covered in pt.2). The differences in the influences there are substantial, but both have been profound on me. So, here goes...


Peter Criss: I hate to admit it, but probably the least talented drummer on this list is the one that got me into drumming in the first place. My Jr. High friends and I wanted to start a band "just like Kiss", and I was to be the drummer.

Our Kiss tribute band never took off, but I started learning the drums just the same. (CLICK HERE for the highly entertaining story of how I first got into the Jr. High school band) I learned a lot about simple rock beats while playing along with Kiss records, but it wasn't long before my eyes were opened up to bigger and better drum idols. Still, I have to give him credit for getting my attention first.

Neil Peart: My first rock band I played in was in 10th grade. I asked my Dad's permission to play with these guys. He chuckled and said "alright." We were horrible, but through them I was introduced to Rush for the first time. I don't think I ever put on a Kiss record after that.

I spent hundreds of hours playing along with Rush records, figuring out his drum parts, and reading everything I could get my hands on about Peart and his Tama drums. His precise style was good for me at the time. It taught me discipline and strength. He was (and still is) a monster.

A couple years later, still in high school, I joined a very good band that covered a lot of Rush songs. We had a lot of fun, and by 16 I got a few write-ups in a local Dallas music magazine. I thought I'd made it then. Righhhht. I don't listen to a lot of Rush these days, but I appreciate how Neil Peart has always persued more knowledge and skill in his craft.

Stewart Copeland: I have recently commented on his greatness.
Go here to read about it.
I will add here that his approach in striking a drum is inspirational. He never hits anything without every ounce of his energy involved.

Steve Smith: (best known as the original Journey drummer) A great, great drummer. Extremely versatile. But, his influence on me came more from a short conversation than anything else.

I had the fortune of meeting Steve during my freshman year of college. At the time, he was touring (post-Journey) with his fusion band Vital Information. At North Texas, we had heavyweight players come through often, and I was able to spend a few minutes talking one-on-one with him.

He talked about feel. To him it was more important than all else. His simple approach to making a song FEEL better was a revelation to me. It opened my eyes, because most of the players I was listening to were not 'feel' oriented players, but technique oriented. I started listening to drummers in a whole new way.

Jeff Porcaro: Talk about feel, this man invented it. Best known for his role in the band Toto, he revolutionized the way we all play a shuffle beat. I can still remember looking at the transcription for "Rosanna" in Modern Drummer magazine, and wondering how he ever came up with that. Some of my favorite recordings he did were with James Newton Howard. It was an audiophile project that included most of the Toto rhythm section, Joe Porcaro on percussion (Jeff's Dad) and JNH. Crazy over-the-bar 12/8 patterns and GREAT linear grooves.

I saw Toto in concert in the 80's. He made an impression on me when he DIDN'T play a solo. It was a time when show-offs and chop-monsters displayed their goods. Well, here was one of the best, and he chose to play for the music, keep it straight-ahead and keep his solos to himself. This spoke volumes to me, and I learned that even though you CAN go crazy, it doesn't mean you SHOULD go crazy. Let your time keeping and feel speak for itself. Huge lesson.

Next time I'll get to the rest of the list, including the drummer I believe to be the most well-rounded player out there. I'll also discuss some the teachers in my past.


Karenkool said...

"It was a time when show-offs and chop-monsters displayed their goods. Well, here was one of the best, and he chose to play for the music, keep it straight-ahead and keep his solos to himself."

I love to see this demonstrated by a person with great talent. It can leave you begging for more.

I really enjoy these posts... ahh, the journey of music.

Mark Keefer said...

Yeah, amazing how the "less is more" approach can really communicate.

Are you still teaching piano?

Karenkool said...

Blaahhh--I don't even want to talk about it!!! Kids suck! (Oops. Did I say that out loud?) Yes, I am still teaching. No, my students are NOT practicing, but wasting my time AND their parents' money. I took a break from teaching Musikgarten because of the homeschooling. I haven't touched the piano in quite some time. Such is life! My life anyway...

Mark Keefer said...

Yeah, I remember when I was teaching privately (did it about nine years), I usually had 1-3 kids out of 40 that really wanted to work at it and get good. Frustrating.