Aug 29, 2012

Early Influences

Well, if you read my previous post "The Moment that Changed Everything" you already know that Neal Peart's playing on Rush's monumental release, "Moving Pictures" is what made me realize I wanted to be a drummer.  I had a drum set when I was about three years old, but I don't remember it at all.  Were it not for a photograph or two I would have no idea whether or not that kit even existed.  I suppose it could have been an elaborate ruse perpetrated by my parents, but it seems like a lot of work to set up a drum kit for some random snapshots just to create some kind of Philip K. Dick alternate reality.  Photoshop didn't exist back then, and it just doesn't make sense that my parents would have fabricated such a thing, unless of course there is more to this hoax to be uncovered at some later date.  Maybe they will plant a "kill word" in a comment on this blog site one day.  Hmmm...

So Neal Peart was the reason for the season, though his style was not what I tried to emulate when I first started playing in bands.  Being able to play all of the Rush albums early on gave me the tools necessary to hammer out new ideas.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't very good but I wasn't afraid to try anything either.  My first band started off as a hardcore band, but as the main guitarist and I began to dig bands like Celtic Frost, Trouble and Slayer more than punk rock, the sound of the band began to change.  Metallica's "Kill 'Em All", Slayer's "Show No Mercy" and Trouble's first album (originally self titled, but once it became available on cd the title became "Psalm 9") created something much more tangible for me.  Punk rock was aggressive, but there is a certain jangly, annoying vibe that is almost impossible to escape.  The new underground metal scene was much more intense and mean, and the musicianship was so far beyond the clumsiness of punk that it was laughable.

Trouble quickly became my favorite band, and their drummer, Jeff Olson had just as much to do with the heaviness that drew me to them as anything else.  He had the sensibility of classic rock drummers, but he played so hard that you could feel it through the speakers! Man, did they ever change what I wanted out of music!  At some point or another Trouble was everyone in Confessor's favorite band.  It has always been apparent in our music, though once I joined the band we became more technical than they were.  Adding a certain amount of technicality was less common then and it really made us stand out from other bands, especially the bands who were into mid-tempo, heavy riffs like we were.

My favorite drummer is a guy whose music I was already a fan of before I started playing, but I never realized how amazing he was until I had been playing for awhile.  Once I thought I had several interesting rolls worked out, I needed a way to practice them to a metronome but I didn't have one.  I used AC/DC records to play those rolls over because they were straight 4/4 almost from beginning to end of every record.  I would turn the stereo up loud enough to hear the beat and practice my rolls on top of it.  One day I decided to try something else as a low-rent metronome and I pulled out Missing Persons' "Spring Session M".  By the time I got to the song "U.S. Drag" I stopped playing and picked my jaw up off the floor!  "Who in the hell is THIS guy?"  Terry Freaking Bozzio, that's who!  I am still awestruck by his vision and by how fearless he is as a drummer.  He is on a completely different plane from anyone I have ever heard.  He has been in a lot of bands that didn't create the kind of space he could really shine in, but he is the most creative and adventurous drummer I know of, and I point to him as one of the main reasons I am willing to try anything behind a kit.  I can't say that I sound like him.  There was a time towards the end of Fly Machine's existence that I sounded more like The Bozzio, but Loincloth and Confessor are enough different that I don't try to insert those same flourishes anymore.

The last drummer I can say had a measurable affect on my own "style" as I began to develop such a thing was Mickey Dee from his days with King Diamond.  I never realized his influence on me until several years later when I sat down with the first few Diamond records again, but  I think of him as the quintessential underground metal drummer.  Faster bands are more extreme than King Diamond ever was, and blast drummers are very different beasts, but Mickey Dee epitomizes power and perfection.  He never goes overboard but he always does enough, and does it smoothly enough that you know he could blow it out whenever he wants!  He always made the music more compelling but he had enough restraint to keep from hogging the spotlight.  It is a fair assertion to make that I take more of a lead role in defining the overall sound and direction of the bands I'm in.  That may not be what a lot of people are interested in, but I like to try and make the same riff "feel" different by making small or sometimes drastic changes in my own beats.  It's part of what makes the music fun for me and part of what people seem to respond to when they talk to me about the bands I've been in.  Mickey Dee has always been far more polished than me, there is no denying that.  Maybe I should go by the name Stevie 'S' and see if that changes my overall vibe.

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