Read Exclusive Interviews written for Drumhead, Modern Drummer and Off Beat: Troy Luccketta – Steve Goold – Daniel Glass – Garrett Goodwin – Steve Smith – Dan Needham – Kelly Keagy – Scott Pellegrom – Brandon Scott – Mike “Woody” Emerson – Ben Barter – Rich Redmond – Sean Fuller – Jason Hartless – Robert Sweet – Keio Stroud – Tommy Taylor – Frankie Banali – Bobby Z – Danny Seraphine – Dino Sex– David Abbruzzese – Marisa Testa – David Thibodeau – Robert Perkins – Sarra Cardile – Bill Stevenson – David Cola – Ran Levari – David Raouf – Coming Up: Stan Frazier – Mel Gaynor
I must first confess that I am late to the party when it comes to Nick Mason. I’ve heard and admired plenty of Pink Floyd songs over the years (including owning the live album A Delicate Sound of Thunder). My dad is a huge Pink Floyd fan, so their music was in my house while growing up. That said, I never fully appreciated the drumming of Nick Mason until recently. Mason is a founding member the progressive rock band, the only member to feature on every Pink Floyd album, and the only constant member since its formation in 1965. Listen to any song off The Wall or Dark Side of the Moon and you’ll hear Mason’s masterful drumming, dynamic at times and delicate at others.
Clearly Mason was influenced by the swing era. His abstract approach to the drums and open tuning is part of his signature. His kits are also an extension of the big band approach as he uses both single and double headed concert toms for that huge sound. Many of his performances sound as though he is sitting in an enormous studio with lots of echo. He also uses percussion, electronic drums and Rototoms as an extension of his sound. Mason used these when soloing within the band’s songs. This includes Nick’s Boogie, A Saucer of Secrets, The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party, Skins, and Time. Due to the more energetic live performances of Pink Floyd, Mason’s style was more complex live, and can be heard on such albums as Ummagumma and Live at Pompeii.
In an article for Financial Times. Mason described his laid-back style: “That’s my natural way of playing. I was never a technical drummer or a student of drumming. I’m a worrier. I’ve always had a low opinion of my drumming skills, I suppose because I don’t have the technical background. I do realize that what I do works and now I am comfortable with it, but I always felt a bit ill at ease about it. I only took up drumming in the first place because someone else had got a guitar and we were forming a band and I was buggered if I was going to be the bass player. That’s the truth. I like the drums, but that was more or less how it panned out.”
I would describe Mason’s style as the gravy that pours over your food. It’s so smooth and compliments everything it touches. It’s easy to overlook what can be considered as “simple” drum parts but there are two factors that remain. 1. It unselfishly compliments the song. And 2. Someone had to ingeniously compose that part to begin with. Mason’s drum parts are exactly what the song calls for. An uneducated ear might call some of them “lazy” while musicians refer to them as “genius.” The Rototom intro to Time for instance is so simple yet brilliant (see below).
Pink Floyd stopped performing together officially in 2008. In 2018 Mason announced his new band, Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets. The band focuses on performing tracks from Pink Floyd’s emergent years of 1967-1972. Drumming has taken Mason far beyond his bands. He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2019 New Year Honours, “for services to music” and was presented with the award by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace on May 2, 2019.
Viola Smith passed away peacefully in her sleep last night, October 21st. She would have been 108 on November 29.
Starting out in her family’s Smith Sisters Orchestra and later playing in the all-star female band The Coquettes, Viola made a name for herself as not only the best female drummer, but one of the best drummers of her time, period. At the age of 106 Viola was still actively drumming in a band called the Forever Young Band. Viola’s extraordinarily long career has spanned the entire length of modern music from swing, to jazz, to rock n’ roll.
During World War 2 Viola wrote a controversial article in Down Beat magazine titled, “Give Girl Musicians a Break!” Always being an activist for women musicians Viola challenged bands to replace their missing musicians who went off to war with females. She argued, “In these times of national emergency, many of the star instrumentalists of the big name bands are being drafted. Instead of replacing them with what may be mediocre talent, why not let some of the great girl musicians of the country take their place?” The article initiated a nationwide discussion about the role of women in the music industry and the prejudice that they faced at the time. Viola continued to campaign for women musicians throughout her career. Her tenacity was an inspiration to many women who stood up for themselves.
Viola commented on the dilemma that faced females, “Girl musicians used to have trouble getting any work at all. You had to prove yourself. You had to be heard, but how could you be heard if nobody gives you a chance to be heard? This was the situation for years and years. I always had a job, like the Coquettes, which was an offshoot of the family orchestra. We had some very important dates for the band in big theatres around the country. But this all happened naturally because I came from the family orchestra. The work was just laid out for me. I didn’t fight for it. But all the girl musicians outside of that had a problem, a real problem.”
John Bonham was legendary for having one of the quickest right feet in all of rock. His rapid triplets still challenge drummers today when learning Led Zeppelin cover songs. Many less capable drummers cheat with double bass pedals. Bonham accomplished his downbeats with the Ludwig Speed King pedal.
According to Bonham’s Wiki Page: At times, Bonham’s kick drum pedal squeaked. Jimmy Page later commented: “The only real problem I can remember encountering was when we were putting the first boxed set together. There was an awfully squeaky bass drum pedal on “Since I’ve Been Loving You”. It sounds louder and louder every time I hear it! [laughs]. That was something that was obviously sadly overlooked at the time.”
Unlike some contemporary drummers, Bonham did not use a double bass drum kit. He did once own one, a Ludwig Thermo Gloss Natural Maple Kit featured in the demo “Communication Breakdown,” but it was removed from his kit by the rest of the band. Bonham did play them while the band was touring with Vanilla Fudge. The band’s drummer, Carmine Appice, introduced Bonham to Ludwig drums, which he then used for the rest of his life.
Some of the earliest drum set-like instruments came in the form of the “one-man band.” This multi-talented musician played multiple instruments simultaneously using their hands, feet and mouth. Often they sang as well. The instruments often played in addition to the standard guitar, harmonica and horn were the bass drum, snare, and cymbal. The musician would either have these percussive pieces mounted to his back or he would sit in a chair and play them like a set. The bass drum would be mounted off of the shoulders with a beater which was connected to a foot pedal and the cymbals would be strapped between the knees or triggered by a pedal mechanism. Sometimes tambourines and maracas would be tied to the limbs. In a sitting position the drums would be set-up similar to modern day’s configuration with the snare on a stand and the cymbal being mounted on the bass drum.
If you are interested in learning more about the early history of the drum visit our friend Daniel Glass.
Read our interview of Daniel written exclusively for DRUMHEAD magazine.
You may have heard by now that Frankie Banali passed away this week after battling Stage Four Pancreatic Cancer. Frankie was one of the drummers that inspired me to take up drumming in the first place and he was the first drummer that I ever saw perform live in concert. I was fortunate enough to interview Frankie a while back and it was one of my most enjoyable talks. You can read the entire interview here: Frankie Banali . Frankie was one of the nicest and most sincere people I’ve ever spoken to and he leaves behind a legacy as one of the special ones both behind and in front of the drum kit.
Lately there has been a lot of news about the controversy over monuments. Some communities have removed or relocated them altogether and many others are still in debate. In some cases protesters have taken it upon themselves to tear them down. Statues of Confederates, Columbus, Jefferson, and many other controversial historical figures have been voted against. As a Civil War historian and author of two sanctioned books that present Confederate history, Historic Churches of Fredericksburg and The Civil War in Spotsylvania County, I have very mixed feelings on the issue.
There are many monuments around the world depicting the drummer boy. It seems to be a subject that turns up on battlefields, in cemeteries and even on the grounds of learning institutions. What is it about the drummer boy that makes him worthy of memorialization? Is it the courage or tragedy of the subject? Is it the service of youth? Whatever the intent it is shared around the world. Here are few historic drummer boy monuments:
- Monument to the King’s Liverpool Regiment, St John’s Garden
- Clarence McKenzie, Drummer Boy, Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn
- The Drummer Boy, Suffolk Coastal District, Melton Hill, Woodbridge
- “The Response,” On the grounds of St Thomas’s Church, Newcastle
- Ohio State Monument, Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park
- The Drummer Boy – Bloomfield, Connecticut, United States
- The Drummer Boy of Bruc, Anoia in Catalonia, Spain
- Cornish Drummer sculpture on the piazza in Truro
I do not see any of these innocent monuments being taken down. They stand as a testimony to the unsung heroes of war. For other posts on the subject of the drummer boy search (top left) for the term “Drummer Boy.” Or download The Long Roll. This 50-page eBook presents the history of the Civil War Drummer Boy. DOWNLOAD HERE (PDF, must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view)
I watched the Broadway musical Hamilton for the first time last week. It was brilliant. The musical score was extraordinary and featured the exquisite drumming of TONY, GRAMMY and EMMY award winning Andrés Forero. Here are a couple videos showcasing Andrés’s playing and set-up. You will notice that everything he uses has a specific purpose and compliments the performers on stage. (You can read a detailed bio here on his Sonor artists page.)
We all have those irritating songs that we try to master over and over. Some may be complex while others may be so simple its hard to get into the mind of the drummer who composed them. For me, the song “Hollywood Nights” by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band presents a unique challenge.
A combination of both of the aforementioned styles, David Teegarden’s drumming is a hard driving force that literally propels the song forward and ignites the band. The song features the hi-hat and snare played at a tireless tempo. What most people don’t know is that the drums are double tracked. No wonder I was struggling! In an interview Bob Seger explained:
“Our drummer, David Teegarden, played an entire set of drums as we recorded and overdubbed another entire set of drums playing a different pattern. In other words, there’s two sets of everything, snare, kick drum, hi-hat…” Listen to Teegarden explain how he double tracked the drum part:
Here’s the song as it appears on the album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhuVwVpr3WY
I wished I would have known that before. I wasted some serious practice time in the drum room. So the best I can do is what every other drummer who plays that song live does…fake it.
I planned to do an in-depth post on the history of the Ludwig Black Beauty when I came upon a blog post that already did an exceptional job. Check out “What Makes the Ludwig Black Beauty So Great?” by Kevin Osborn.
It appears that drummers have been irritating people with their practicing since the days of the Revolution…
May 9th, 1778. General Orders
“…the Drummers to practice which will from the future be from five to six in the morning and from four to five in the afternoon, any Drummer that shall be found practicing at any other than the time mentioned above shall be severely punished…The use of Drums are as signals to the Army and if every Drummer is allowed to beat at his pleasure, the Intention is entirely destroy’d, as it will be impossible to distinguished whether they are beating for their own pleasure or for a signal to the Troops.”