Category: drumming


Hi, and thanks for stopping by. I haven’t had much up lately, been way too busy, but this read will more than make up for the gap. Yes it will.

First, the usual disclaimer: I don’t do product reviews as a general rule here, simply because that’s not what this li’l blog is about. What I do is write about people and stuff I like and believe in. Usually, I prefer to surprise folks and put up something up that they never expected to see, to give them due recognition. When it comes to products, same thing.

In the case of Liberty Drums, based in Shildon, U.K., it’s a bit of both. I met Andrew Street and Kevin Lodge at the 2015 NAMM show, in Anaheim, California, where Goran Kjellgren was sharing a booth for his Percussion Kinetics Vector bass drum pedal. I wrote a blog about Goran’s pedals awhile back for the same reasons: great product, great person.

 


 

Andrew and Kevin are the heavy lifters at Liberty. Kevin’s very intense attention to the vast array of production and logistics details, as well as his experience as a sound engineer, allows Andrew to do what he does best, which is make a seriously amazing drum. But mind you, everyone at Liberty contributes to making the final product one that’s well worth checking out.

 

 

Continuing on the matter of giving due recognition, Rhythm magazine awarded Liberty Drums the best wooden snare drum in the world last year. Modern Drummer gave strong respect and admiration to Liberty’s jazz/bop kit a few months ago, and they also created a video of it. The tuning was a bit low for my taste to sample a jazz kit, and thus was born my desire to write this blog and put up a few video samples with higher tuning and more emphasis on the jazz end of things.

 

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While at NAMM 2016, I had the chance to briefly play the Liberty Jazz/Bop series kit seen here, with the following sizes of Finnish birch shells: 8×12 rack tom (12 ply), 14×14 floor tom (12 ply), 18×14 kick (15 ply), and a 14×5.5 snare (15 ply). Here’s a video clip of my exploration, shot with just a cell phone and the usual NAMMbient background madness…

 

 

Ya think?

The snare pops and sings. The kick launches, and the toms deliver from the bottom up. I say this especially, because for the following video clips I shot, I tuned the toms higher. The first clip emphasizes the kit’s overall bop performance with sticks, and the second showcases the use of brushes and how much subtle range the kit has. The third give brushes their due, and it lets you hear what makes jazz so special, at least to my ear.

The snare in particular, while not the award-winning one, stands out as musical instrument of its own. Amazing tones, the smallest little details, the stuff a jazz drummer who is close-mic’d can use to make beautiful musical statements. My jazz chops are decent I suppose, but they sounded more so to me because I could hear the sound of gen-u-ine jazz drums at my fingertips. This gave me an authentic palette to create with.

 

liberty kit

 

On a side note, as I was shedding one night, just goofing around, I could swear I smelled wood, I mean, like walking by a tree in the forest kind of wood. I mentioned this to Andrew in an email, and he said I was in fact smelling bees wax, which the inside of the shell was treated with.

Bees wax.

Yeah, kids. That’s what you do when you hand-form every single shell that goes out the door and want to put a signature on it. You address production with a deep level of focus and care. Now, multiply that level of attention to ten years of making drums. Rhythm magazine did the math and came to a similar conclusion.

 

 

Now, on to the main point of this blog: Here’s a brief up-tempo improv I shot to showcase the overall kit’s response to sticks. I used my iPhone 6S, with sound recorded using a single overhead condenser mic, run through a board and directly into the iPhone using an iRig adapter.

 

 

The drums are super light by the way, and they are running Remo Emperor clears on the toms, kick, and an Emperor vintage coated head on the snare. Tuning could go from rock to bop in sixty seconds per drum. I‘m not kidding. In four minutes, you have two entirely different sounding kits that sound authentic on both end of the spectrum. Yes you do.

Here’s a second clip, a slower example to let you hear the drums a little clearer.

 

 

Liberty’s latest achievement – and you can be sure that it is – was getting their wares into Pro Drum Shop, in Hollywood. Do that, and you’ve summited the top of the West Coast drum store hill. They are distributed by Cymbal Planet on the East Coast, in New York, and if you live in the U.K., the Dealer link on the Liberty site will take you where you need to go (www.LibertyDrums.com)

I’ll leave you with my favourite clip, the true test of any jazz kit, recorded with no external mic, directly to my iphone. Brushes are where the real finesse of this American art form really come to life, and I enjoy giving it a shot every time I pick up a pair. Use ear buds to grasp the finest levels of detail in the snare, and I do believe you will hear what I heard… some subtle truth, laid out across a canvass built by true artisans.

 

 


 

Liberty, you guys really know how to make a drum that sings. You’ve given the drumming world a beautiful and distinctive voice to express itself with.

Well done, mates. Very well done.

 

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A few months ago, a good friend of mine showed me an app at lunch that I didn’t quite know what to make of. Periscope is sweeping the world, literally, letting you broadcast live and pick up followers for your broadcasts. I could see the immediate potential and applications… but is it all it’s cracked up to be?

scope

I have used it on my iphone (6S) and my ipad (2 Air) with mixed results. The speed of both devices and their processors certainly makes a difference, as does the camera quality. The sound still leaves a lot to be desired, so you do have to take that into account when you broadcast.

 

There’s a Help manual you can download, and within a few minutes reading, you’re up and running. For those of you who have not yet seen or heard of Periscope, here’s some thoughts on how it works, and some pros and cons I’ve discovered after about 2 weeks of playing with it.

me scope

When you download the app, you can use your Twitter account to log on with it. The set-up is pretty quick, just a few steps and questions. If you have multiple Twitter accounts, you can use those as well. Once you have the basic Periscope account established, you are ready to see and share with the world…

 


 

There are FOUR icons on the bottom of the home screen that make Periscope work. The first is the small TV. It displays who is live that you are following, along with random Periscope broadcasts that its algorhythm cranks out. If you see numbers to the right of the broadcasts, that’s how many people are watching it. If you see minutes or hours, that’s a broadcast that has ended and how long ago.

 


 

The second icon is a Globe, with two options: Map and List. Map lets you expand and see live and expired broadcasts from all over the world. The red dots mean live or just recently ended. The blue dots mean the transmission has ended a while ago.

 

List shows you live transmissions, selected I guess at random by Periscope. It’s cool for just browsing to see what’s out there with no particular search agenda. For either, once you select a broadcast, you may notice little hearts bubbling up from the lower right hand corner. These are generated when people tap the screen, and you can do so as well when you hear or see something you like in a broadcast.

 


 

The third icon is a Camera Lens, with a red dot. This is how you go live and broadcast. You click on it, and then you can type in a short description of what your ‘scope is going to be about.

 

There are four small icons on the screen above the keyboard that give you additional options. The Pointing Arrow gives precise location to your viewers on the Map display. The Lock enables private broadcasting, nothing global, and lets you select who the potential viewer(s) will be for this broadcast. Mutuals is another option, meaning people you follow who also follow you back.

 

The Chat icon, when not enabled, allows everyone who is viewing to add comments. When it’s enabled, it only allows people to add comments who are already following you.

 

Once you have these four options configured, you select Broadcast Now, and you are live! However, to get the camera to show your face, you have to double-click the screen to reverse the image. Very important to remember…

 

To stop the broadcast, you tap and drag the screen down, and select End Broadcast.

 

Oh, and one important note: broadcasts do not remain on your profile indefinitely, nor do they remain on your Twitter feed. You have the option though of saving them to your camera roll for future viewing.

 


 

Finally, we come to the People icon. This one lets you edit your profile by clicking the Cog icon, upper right corner. It also lets you search for people, see your followers, and also delete followers. This item is important, because yes, the porn world has indeed discovered Periscope. Select the Cog icon on the profile and click “Block Viewer.”

 

If you encounter annoying viewers posting rude comments during a live broadcast, you can block them as well. Select their profile, find the Cog icon (upper left hand corner, click and select “Block Viewer.”

 

The rest you’ll figure out pretty quickly, as it’s not that complicated.

 


 

Sooooo… with all this said, is it worth time investing it getting it up and running? I think so, yes, because you can demo stuff on the spot that comes to you, plan something ahead and announce it on Twitter and Facebook, create a live feed to your Twitter account for people who do not yet have Periscope, and it’s a cool way to build your presence around the world.

 

I’m on there as David Aldridge, using my Twitter account (@daldridgedrums) as the link. Mind you, the sound quality for both iphones and ipads is limited, but if you don’t play too loud, it’s comes across okay.

 

But do remember this: it’ll cream your cellular usage like a thirsty camel after a 30-day trek across the Sahara. Watch out for that and battery use (which you can monitor for this and other apps on an iPhone 6S, I have discovered).

 

It’s a brave new world out there, and Periscope lets you partake of it in a very interesting way. I think it’s got a lot of potential, and who knows, maybe it can help you get your particular drumming message out there in a way that transforms other players. We truly do live in most amazing times…

 

 

“Watching the waves from a ship to and from Japan and looking out of the car window on multiple trips across the USA in my childhood, gave me the space to study time itself, and the complexity and harmonics of rhythm, order and chaos.  

Subdividing and predicting the instant objects would pass, or their relationship to others in time, consumed the hours of my youth. It all comes down to time. 

That is why I chose drumming, Jazz, Indian classical and African. All the great rhythm traditions. When I drum, I sing the melody of the arrow of time. “

 


About a year ago in Los Angeles, I met the author of this quote, at a gig led by my bass player friend, David Hilton. Leonice Shinneman had a very interesting set-up, a small jazz kit with some tablas. His playing was very light and elegant, sophisticated, without question. He played the tablas briefly, and I thought, kinda cool to see that…

 

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I had no idea I was in the presence of a recognized world tabla master, a former faculty member at Cal Institute of the Arts, an innovative inventor and patent holder, and an artist whose drumming and percussion credits included work with Frank Zappa, along with contributions to soundtracks for “Drugstore Cowboy” and “Aliens 3.”

 

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I just knew the guy could play.

 

Unfortunately, it’s probably going to be six months to a year before Leonice can resume his art, because he was recently in a very serious car accident. Broken neck, broken back.

 

Yeah… that kind of serious.

 

His sister, Joy, created a Gofundme account to help get through what is obviously going to be a rough road, so if you have a minute, please visit the site. You may not have heard of Leonice or know of his work, or perhaps you have and already heard about his accident. No matter. He’s a drummer, he’s one of us.

 

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Here’s the gofundme link: https://www.gofundme.com/u5jxgb2c

 

For more information about Leonice, here’s the link to his website: http://www.leoniceshinnemandrums.weebly.com

 

During a break at the gig where I met him, Leonice and I had a great conversation about his ride cymbal and how he played it. I asked about his tablas and said I was interested in learning a little more about them. He offered to share information, and he said I was welcome to sit in during the next set. I had to leave, but I appreciated the offer.

 

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Leonice, when you get back to bandstand, I’d like to take you up on that offer. Meanwhile, you take it easy. The universe has got this.

 

 

Somewhere around 2007, I discovered a MySpace profile of a drummer with a song running on the home page. It was “Our Truth,” by Lacuna Coil. I was unfamiliar with the group or their music, but this song immediately resonated right to my core, and it remains one of my favorites.

 

 

As we enter 2016, about 90% of what I hope to accomplish nine years ago has been fulfilled. But as a successful software developer someone once told me, it’s the last 10% that’s the hardest. He was 100% correct, and I think I have finally figured out how to best make that last push.

We need to return to the origins of our intent and grab them with both hands. The title of this amazing song really begs an important question: What is “our truth?” I mean, what really drives us to make art and be drummers? If we lose sight of it and drown in the overwhelming information overload of today’s world, we are screwed.

 

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I recently returned to the freelance drum magazine world, with works in DRUMHEAD, DRUMscene, and a very cool article in DRUM! that’ll definitely have people talking about the May issue. I’ve got a huge re-publishing effort underway with the definitive Don Ellis biography (two volumes, plus a third with just photos), and if I can do what I think I can do shortly, a huge change in direction regarding getting the word out about my binary rhythm pattern theory books (The Elements of Rhythm, Vols. I & II).

But as far as my real drumming truth… I guess it’s finally time to ditch the rev limiter and just play what I love the most. For too many reasons to go into here, I’ve not ever really done that. What it comes down to is this: being bravely fearful. These are not my words, they were given to me, and they hold great power, as I am discovering more and more every day. Because the truth is, none of us truly knows where our steps will lead, and if you debate it for too long, you’ll never cross anything except a return to your doubts.

 

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NAMM 2016 is gonna be interesting, and I created a Periscope account to document some of it in real time (David Aldridge, linked through @DAldridgeDrums on Twitter). I hope you’ll check it out, and as always, thanks for reading my little blog. The interest and support over the last nine years has helped make 90% of my ambitions come to life. If stick around for the last 10%, I promise it’ll be the best part of the ride.

And thank you, Lacuna Coil, for a most awesomely inspiring anthem!

 

Hey there, here’s a little something more that I’m pretty sure will turn your rhythmic world upside-down if you’ll give me about six minutes of your viewing time…

In 1982, the some lessons I took with Terry Bozzio exploded in my head and lit a fire that never went out. It led me to figuring out a systematic approach to understanding where all rhythm patterns came from mathematically. I sucked at math from day one of first grade on up through forever, so, I’d say this discovery was personally kinda huge…


Regular readers have been really cool and kind about humouring me over the past five years, so I’d like to ask them, and you new readers as well, for one small favour: turn up the volume so you can hear my voiceover, and watch this video clip. It’ll show you where everything comes from that you’ll ever play, or at least get you started on it.

There are a finite number of building block rhythm patterns that all larger combinations come from. Binary rhythm pattern theory uses 0s and 1s to prove they exist and create a model of them, which we then re-write with conventional music notation. But first, we gotta prove that a finite number exits… which I’ve done.

Other educators have explored this notion, but I’m pretty sure I can almost absolutely that no one has done it to the degree that I pursued. It was an insane obsession, but the results… are pretty damn cool. And I say that with a lot of unusual pride.


Anyway, the first video was kind of general and broad… but this one gets down to it like nothing you’ve likely ever seen before. The page excerpts from my books are fuzzy at times, just because of conversion I suppose. I’m working on it, so please bear with me. But gimme six minutes… and your head might get set on fire too. I hope so, because all I really want to do in this world any more is get the word out about binary rhythm pattern theory and how it can help expand our rhythmic minds to explore basic patterns, odd meters, polyrhythms and beyond.

And please, if you like this one, tell your friends and share it. I have never asked this, but if you get the message and what it means, you’ll see why. I hope you do, and as always, thanks for checking out my blog. I love writing this stuff!

Whew!

Okay, lemme tell ya up front: THIS was some work! And for those of you who’ve already done it, my hat is off to you. For those thinking about making a drum video of sorts, I figure it might be helpful to tell you a little about the process I experienced in hopes that can save you some time and steps.

The short version: I bought a GoPro, a backdrop system to hang fabric, some lights and stands, a very functional tripod (good lord, a must!), a complete set of mics for a 10-piece drum set, a mixer, dug out my ProTools LE8, bought another Mac laptop that could process the GoPro 4k images, and I borrowed a really nice HD video camera as a backup.

The short short version: no GoPro, no mics, minimal kit, and I only used the HD camera and one lighting stand.

What I discovered was that… the new version of iMovie was getting slammed reviews, and I couldn’t figure out how to strip original audio from the incoming iMovie 8 file and layer it with a ProTools sound track. My old laptop worked just fine, and I was able to import the footage, move it around and edit it, add some still shots and some music audio, and get it up and running on YouTube.

Seriously, I wasn’t experienced with this stuff to the degree I wanted to be, but it got done… which is all that matters.

If you’ve been following my last few posts, I’ve been sharing what I’ve been able to accomplish to move forward with getting my stuff out all over the world. We have the technology… but not all of it easy to grasp. It ain’t perfect, but I don’t care. I began the journey three decades ago with this project, so, tonight, I’m happy it got launched in one piece.

Meanwhile, I hope your individual drumming projects are moving forward, and hey, keep pounding if they aren’t done yet. You’ll sleep pretty good once they are, and then you’ll wake up and want to do more.

Enjoy, and remember: Everything You’ll Ever Play Comes From Here!

elements-cover-I                elements-cover-II

Just got a tweet from a film company producing a documentary on Bernard Purdie. They are really close to fully funding and only have a few days. 

  

I met Bernard in a hallway at NAMM 2014 and got to shake his hand. We talked briefly about his hometown, Elkton, Maryland, where I grew up near and lived in for a bit in the late 70’s. His face lit up when we exchanged a few tales.

  

Bernard is of course the shuffle MAN, inventor of the eternally copied Purdie shuffle that Jeff Pocaro evolved with in “Rosanna.” 
Bernard’s YouTube videos are a blast, filled with humble truth and sharing of treasured knowledge. I’m keeping this little blurb short and sweet will just say that if ANY drummer out there is deserving of a documentary, Mr. Purdie’s name shoots to the top of the list!
Here’s the funding link:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-purdie-good-life-the-documentary–2
Seriously, this man has given you great shoulders to stand on and leap from. It’s time to give the drummer some… literally!

A couple of weeks ago, I read a very interesting thread on a Facebook drumming group (Drummer’s Database Community, April 24, 2015). Seems a young drummer named Adrian had referred to a ride cymbal as a “dink” cymbal, after which a guy apparently decided to rip him a new asshole about that and how little he knew.

Adrian left the group, obviously upset and feeling bullied within a group he should have felt the exact opposite of. True to the blood that runs through most of us as drummers, people started coming to his defense left and right. They started posting pictures of their “dink” cymbals, and they engaged in discussion about various brands and sizes of dinks, the merits and dislikes, the whole dink enchilada.

dink-1

It was a thing of beauty to see. And it kept going for several days, which you can search and read (find April 24, 2015 and go from there). The brotherhood of drumming rallied around a young beginner who may never know how many people came to his support, because by this time he was long gone. The camaraderie you feel in a real drum store was reflected in the posts, with full-blown cyber support hitting on all eight cylinders.

But it also reminded me that the subject of bullying is not something we as a group are isolated from. I have to admit, guys in my generation can’t easily relate to the bullying issues one reads about a great deal today on the Internet, but this certainly painted a quick picture. Those of you in your teens and 20s reading this perhaps relate more immediately and have likely seen these things happen to some of your friends and peers.

The power of words can’t be understated, especially when so many millions of people have access to putting them out there. And when it hits, you feel it. In today’s blog, I’d like to share a little story with you about it that pelted me two years ago…

I had just published my Elements books, and I was so excited I couldn’t see straight. It literally took 30 years from start to finish, a very lonely and isolated process in my head that came and went. It took everything I had in terms of strength, focus, and financial investment. And of course, the mental gyrations that Tourette Syndrome served up on a daily basis never made things any easier.

elements-cover-Ielements-cover-II

But I found a software tool called Finale that helped me make it all happen, and when I met the Finale guys at NAMM 2013, I couldn’t stop raving about their product. I was 100% sincere and not looking for anything free. I just wanted to thank them.

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They wrote a blog about me on their website, which was quite an honor, and in it I said I could not have completed my books without their product.

Shortly after, I discovered that a musician, a Ph.D candidate, had read this and was commenting rather snidely about it on a site about Lilypond. It’s an open architecture music software site that I’m sure has merit. But in his series of posts, the Ph.D candidate really started taking me to task for not using what in his opinion was a better system, pointing out left and right how I could have done things so much more efficiently… but he didn’t stop there.

He became increasingly boastful about how he was going release Lilypond code to write basically the contents of much of my books… for free… for anyone to use.

How do you think that went over in my world?

As he continued to grow more full of himself, other Lilypond readers began noting that he was starting to draw increasingly erroneous conclusions from my words. They did offer valid critique and comments about my work, but they also actually started coming to my defense. They saw his inflated self-grandizing for exactly what it was. Hardly actions becoming a Ph.D candidate.

I, on the other hand, was actually very concerned. I envisioned code being sent all over the world, people cranking out versions of my work, costing me what little money I do make off sales. I was being insulted and talked down by a complete stranger, all because I enthusiastically wanted to thank Finale for making a product that made my lifetime dreams come true.

And then this Ph.D candidate pretty much crapped all over them.

I was about two months away from going to England to present my books at a highly respected academic conference, one where leading researchers in the field of rhythm perception meet every two years to share their findings. It was an incredible honor to be able to go, and I had to decide how to react to this Ph.D snob.

I debated engaging him publicly on the Lilypond message board (he never did contact me directly, by the way, and I’m very findable). The hardcore biker in me wanted to shred him in print. The airplane flight instructor in me kept things at a higher road level, but I was even ready to contact his music school and Ph.D advisor concerning the possible ethical issues concerning his actions.

I gave it a lot of thought, and in the end, I decided to remain silent and let it all die down, which it did. Meanwhile, more and more people on the Lilypond site began taking him to task for putting words in my mouth and misinterpreting my message.

It was a thing of beauty.

As for the rhythm conference? I never even finished community college, but I had serious Ph.D’s, leaders in the field of rhythm research and perception from all over the world, gathering around my 3’x4’ poster on a stand, asking me a lot of questions and repeatedly acknowledging that they’d never seen anything like it and the information it conveyed.

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So, to Adrian, the young drummer out there who coined the word “dink” as he sought to communicate his sincere and eager interest about drumming, I hope you get word of the support you were offered after you left. To the FB drummers who offered Adrian that support, you fucking rule. To the members of the Lilypond community who offered me support, I really appreciate it and will not pass judgment on your software based on one person’s skewed posts.

And to my drumming family members, remember that we are in many ways models for our younger drummers, in both age and spirit (for those starting drumming late in life). I believe we should offer support and enthusiasm, genuine and helpful critique, or say nothing if we’ve nothing nice to say. Whether you’re 12 and just picking up sticks, or you’re 54 and bearing your soul to the drumming world with a life’s publishing work, it’s kinda scary out there sometimes.

But as long as you’re down with the dink, you’ll show the world that you have the right stuff. If you’re not, you’ll show who and what you are either way.

And if you do it over the Internet, it’ll be for a very long time…

#cuzwordsmatter

Billy McCarthy is a drummer. It’s not what he does; he paints houses. But it’s what he is.

BillyMcarthy

Just like you.

His bio says he was a signed drummer in the past, a published author, and a music producer. He’s also an aspiring filmmaker with a project near and dear to his heart, which leads us to the point of today’s blog…

Billy wrote me recently, asking if I’d spread the word about a Kickstarter program he’s got going on to fund a movie called Ferocious Drummers, The Documentary. I watched the trailer, read the background, and my gut tells me this is a good thing.

Billy’s been gathering classic footage and interviews for some time now, and believe me, it’s a lot of work. I dabble in production on the side, and the amount of work it takes even to shoot a trailer is incredibly disproportionate to the amount of time allotted to the actual finished product.

That’s one reason Billy needed to go to Kickstarter. He’s already laid out a lot of his own money to shoot the basic footage. The rest of the journey takes considerably more.

Now… as regular readers know, I’m about as anti-commercial as it comes. In fact I basically loathe the whole Internet “Oh look at me, man, I got shit for sale, buy my shit, cuz it’s awesome! Here, have a bunch of it, and let me drown you with ads and stuff while you buy my stuff…”

I don’s see that here. What I do see are some serious name drummers and a couple of well known drum companies helping out without drowning the project in “Oh look at me, man…”

So I’m giving my little promo nod to Billy and his cool project in hopes that it can help spread the word. He’s got a hard road to hoe, but if you look at the Kickstarter page link below, you’ll see what the donation tier awards are as well as a few of the sponsors, like Zildjian, Vic Firth, Aquarian, DW…

By the way, my first thought was when I say these company heavyweights was, “Why aren’t they kickin’ down serious coin to help make this happen?” Then I reasoned that it’s not really their place to do that, quite frankly. Just wanted to make that point.

I might add that the list of drummers he’s got footage of to date is pretty impressive, including Hal Blaine, Carmine Appice, Carter Beauford, and Chad Smith. It’s a long list, actually, that you can see on the website page as well as the Kickstarter page. Some serious hitters, no question.

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That said, as drummers, we are members of a very cool club, a unique group of multi-limb talented individuals who are driven to hit things like we mean it. Some harder than others. And I tell ya, like hundreds of thousands of drummers all over the world, when I go home and pick up a drum key, change a head, get the beater angle and spring tension juuuuuuuuusssssst right on my pedals, adjust the seat height and position, fix the cymbals just so, put on the headset and press “Play” to my favorite song, I go to another world, far away from the bullshit of humanity. I go to drummer land, and I get to live.

That’s what Ferocious Drummers, The Documentary, is really about. The spirit of hitting and not quitting. The intangible, unexplainable connection to life through four limb movement and neural back flips. The moment when impact and projection complete your world.

The countdown goes to May 28, 2015. Check out his Kickstarter page, see what you think. Oh, and you can submit a song for possible inclusion in the film as well, which is actually something I’ve not seen in any other Kickstarter programs, making this a uniquely interactive project.

My only personal request is that somewhere in the footage, a dog be included, like the one in the YouTube clip going around tapping the bass drum pedal.

Please Billy, make this happen. But even if you can’t, your film will be 1,000 times more honest than Whiplash, and for that, I gladly accept your request to tell the world about your project and passion. Oh hell yeah…

http://ferociousdrummers.com

https://www.facebook.com/FerociousDrummers/info?tab=page_info

Bear with me, this one is kinda long and maybe a bit of a ramble/rant. But it needs to be, to convey the message. Please adjust your seat for comfort accordingly…

 

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When I first heard about a new drumming movie featuring not just a jazz drummer but a song written by my musical mentor (Hank Levy), I was curious, interested and a little excited. That’s mostly because my love of odd meters since I was 15 was fueled almost entirely by Hank having come up to our high school on a government arts grant to spread the jazz word.

 

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Hank was writing for Don Ellis and Stan Kenton at the time, big band explorers of the highest caliber, and Hank shared his knowledge and enthusiasm in a way that ignited our young minds and made some of us want a great deal more. My high school bandleader pushed us like that as well. He held us to high performance standards, but it rarely involved yelling unless we were simply acting like fools or were utterly lazy.

 

Hank was the same way, and not once during his visits did he ever snap or exhibit anything even close to serious anger or beratement. When I landed the top slot in the All-State Jazz band my senior year, Hank was the guest director. Again, he demanded a lot, but he was never a berater. Ever. Not once.

 

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When I graduated high school, I followed him to what was then called Towson State College. He led the three jazz ensembles there, and I started off in the third and worked my way up to the second. Here I got to see Hank on his much more demanding level, and he had no tolerance for laziness of lack of attention.

 

Either of these actions, if not corrected after fair warning, would earn you a dry marker board eraser thrown your way, and given the times and Hank’s honest but fair gruff nature, I certainly respected his message: pay the hell attention and stop screwing up the music for everyone else.

 

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So, what does all of this have to do with Whiplash and why I won’t go see it?

 

Because I absolutely loathe the idea of competition. And I loathe it because it prevented me from becoming a truer artist and musician for years.

 

All through high school I had pushed myself very hard, with no whip cracking required from anyone. I was simply driven to be the best, and I went after it like a demon. I was actually driven by demons of a sort, ones that wanted out of my body that was consumed by an undiagnosed case of Tourette Syndrome. I expressed the never-ending blast furnace through rock drumming, and then I developed four-limb coordination to control it through jazz drumming.

 

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When kids first applauded my playing, I finally found acceptance to some degree. This fired me up to want to get more of it and to get more of it than anyone else. I wanted to obliterate my competition, and I had the chops to do it. My body and neural pathways are wired for drumming, and I went after everyone in my way. I was young and immature, uninformed and unguided. I was an idiotic gunslinger who was learning everything about how to make my body unleash and virtually nothing about how to interact with fellow musicians and make music.

 

In my senior year, I took every first chair there was in the state of Delaware. All State Band, Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, and a tri-state honors band that went to Europe that summer. I owned every bit of it, or at least I thought I did. It was somewhat innocent, because I truly didn’t know any better, even though my band director constantly reminded us that competition didn’t mean anything unless you truly improved as an artist.

 

I had two primary drum teachers at the time, and one was into supporting my desire to blow away the competition. The other was a disciple of Jim Chapin, who brought Jim down to the drum store once a month from New York to offer lessons. Guess who taught me more about the right path?

 

Now I believed to some degree that I HAD to be competitive, because there were so many other drummers out there in so many genres. Hank reminded us more than once that there was always someone better out there, and that we had to strive to do our best for ourselves.

 

But I remember one time, I was going to have a drum solo in a song at a festival, and I was sitting in a corner with a watch, timing how fast I could get my hands going. When it came solo time, all I did was explode and go insane… zero musicality. A couple of years later, I ran into a fellow drummer from another high school, and do you know what he remembered? My sitting in a corner with a watch. Certainly not my alleged performance that had been hell bent on showing everyone else up at the festival.

 

I’m probably beating a dead horse at this point.

 

By the way, let me add that having written several screenplays and unsold pilot TV shows, and also being involved with some small degree of film production projects on the side, I do have a reasonably informed perspective on what it takes to get a movie made and do respect the hoops that Whiplash had to jump through. You can’t even begin to imagine how insanely impossible it is get anything done in this town…

 

That said, it was a question asked on a Facebook drumming group that really inspired today’s blog, so I’ll close with it: “Do you think Whiplash will inspire a new interest in jazz drumming by young drummers?”

 

My hope for those who chose to watch it is that the answer be yes. But, for those who do chose to watch it, know that the title of the movie comes from a song written by a man who was heading 180 degrees in the opposite direction. As a life-long disciple of Hank Levy and his spirit of fearless jazz exploration, I’d be betraying my admiration for this man to go see Whiplash, and if this position comes back to bite my professional ass, so be it. I’d rather speak the truth loudly any day than choose to silently support something that is diametrically opposed to what I now know to be the true and correct path for a musician.

 

I chose instead to watch endless hours of YouTube videos and instructional DVDs created by new and old masters, and support their production if they convey the stuff that matters. I chose to find drummers who are killing their hands and offer suggestions of how to treat themselves better so they can better express their message.

 

I chose to promote drumming as storytelling so the energy of magic weaving can take you over. I chose to write blogs like this, laying bear my soul for younger drummers to hopefully learn from and recognize in themselves, and then move forward to re-direct their minds and souls.

 

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But if you must follow the competitive path, do it to master yourself and make it one hundred times bigger than it presently is. Give to the music, push out, tell a tale with Tony Williams intensity and musicality. Channel Max Roach, play with the snap and flare of Gene Krupa. Read about allllllllll the drummers who came before you and drink them in rabidly to make them a part of you.

 

As long as you are breathing and upright, you can be a badass. Chose to be the right kind of badass, is all I’m saying, the kind that understands honoring the music and not the ego. Slay your SELF, because it’s always competing with the bigger picture to get out.

 

Then go play a story in a way never before told… cuz…

 

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