Mar 1, 2014

Terry Bozzio Pays Raleigh a Visit

There are drummers who are good, drummers who are great, and there is Terry Bozzio. Terry Bozzio might be a bona fide force of nature, or perhaps he's actually unnatural.  It's hard for me to say.  He outdoes any other drummer I've ever heard in every conceivable way. He is not only on a level far beyond any other mere mortal, but there is no path for others to take to even come close to achieving the kind of mastery of the drum kit he commands. Roughly two hundred drummers packed Raleigh's "The Pour House" Monday night just to sneak a peak into the polyrhythmic world of Earth's most evolved drummer.  None of us were really sure what we saw or heard, but we all knew that through some type of dark sorcery, Mr. Bozzio was able to produce something with the same kinds of sticks and drums that we use, but that we'll never hear coming from our own kits.  Maybe I've been holding my sticks the wrong way all of these years.  Maybe I should have chosen a different instrument!  A kazoo, or a tambourine... hell, Terry Bozzio would probably blow everyone away on a kazoo, too.
I had hoped to be able to get a Loincloth CD into Bozzio's hands personally, but I decided I'd have a better chance if I explained how long I had been waiting for the opportunity to his wife and left the CD with her.  While there are almost no polyrhythms on 'Iron Balls of Steel' or even extended sections with off time cymbal work, I can still say that it is a good example of me following my own vision which began to come into focus after hearing what Bozzio was able to create by going down his own musical path.  In the same way that I always appreciate people telling me that our music has inspired them, I hoped that explaining to Mr. Bozzio that there is music out there that might never exist were it not for his example could make him feel like he has passed along something incredibly valuable; the spark of inspiration.  Mrs. Bozzio was very sweet and thanked me for the gesture.  I figured there might be a better chance of him hearing the CD if his wife told him of our encounter than had I just handed it to him seconds before he went on stage.  As it turned out, there never was a chance for me to speak to Mr. Bozzio, so I'm really glad I decided to talk to his wife.  I never saw her again either, even though I sought her out at the very end of the clinic to thank her once again for indulging me.  For what it's worth, everyone who had any contact with either of them said they were as nice as you could hope for, and that's always good to hear about someone who has so many adoring fans.

This was the third time I have had an opportunity to see Terry Bozzio deliver one of his drum clinics.  Way back in the early nineties I saw him on two different occasions.  One of those times was here in Raleigh, at the club where I played my first show with Confessor.  I'm sure he could feel the pressure of being in a club with such historical significance.  The first chance I got to see Mr. Bozzio was in Charlotte a couple of years before the Raleigh performance.  To my surprise I got to choose where we sat, and I insisted that we sit behind his kit.  His drums were set up in the middle of a room and everyone ahead of us had elected to sit in front of his behemoth set.  No one had thought about how much better you can see what a drummer is doing from the back of their kit, so we sat about fifteen feet behind him right by the aisle so I could lean around if I had to.  It was phenomenal!  After the clinic, or as Ignignokt of Aqua Teen Hunger Force would say, after the "pride obliterating bitch slap", everyone had an opportunity to have him sign something and say "Hello."  I had written a note thanking him for a lifetime's worth of inspiration and stuck it inside a copy of Confessor's first album, "Condemned".  I gave him all of my contact information at the time and wrote that on the outside chance he felt as though I had lifted anything a little too directly from his work, his lawyers would be able to find me at the address I had provided.  He first grabbed the CD thinking I wanted him to sign it, but once I explained that it was a small way of saying 'thank you' and that the music would have been very different had I never been exposed to his work, he was clearly touched, and very appreciative.  It was nice to be able to give something back to the guy who showed me that thinking outside of the box was always worthwhile.  I have no idea whether he ever listened to the CD or not but I did receive a newsletter, so someone at least read the note.

I have to say that I prefer the kinds of things Terry Bozzio was doing when I first got turned on to him.  His ostinato work highlighted his independence ( the ability to play one pattern on one hand or foot while playing a completely different pattern with the other hand or foot ) much better before his patterns became so evolved.  When he held down the unchanging pattern with one hand and soloed against it with the other it was much easier to hear, and even see the patterns come together and flow away from one another.  Now that he holds the unchanging patterns with his feet, he has freed himself up to solo with both hands, but those patterns are so busy that you tend to forget that there is what amounts to a bass line being played on the bass drums and hi hat.  You forget that there is a relationship between the two whereas before it was clear that the relationship, with all of its expansion and contraction, was the entire point of the exercise.  I'm sure Bozzio would have grown very tired of doing the same thing for all of these years, and it is quite clear he has evolved since the time I first began to dig into his work, but I still prefer the jarring, aggressive, angular nature of his earlier ostinato patterns.  It just suits my own tastes more.  I like a little tension in my music.  I like an edge.

There were plenty of dropped jaws at The Pour House while Mr. Bozzio showed us all that on the planet he comes from, drums are played in a very different way.  I ran into a bunch of guys I hadn't seen in a long time and even though everyone was there to see Terry Bozzio, I spoke to several people who were very complimentary of my own small body of work.  I'm always caught off guard when that happens, and I certainly didn't expect it at a Bozzio clinic. It makes me feel pretty warm and fuzzy inside, and I truly appreciate any amount of praise. I have been amazed at times at how much Confessor has impacted some people.  I was so removed from the music scene that I really thought no one could possibly care about what we did, but as one drummer said that night, it seems like Confessor comes up in conversation more now than back in the day.  It is an honor to be thought of with such high regard by some people after what feels like a lifetime has passed.  I think of Confessor as just a group of dudes who hang out every week, so it almost feels surreal for other people to think of us as something different, or even special.

If you're out there Terry Bozzio, please know that you are an eternal flame of inspiration to thousands upon thousands of drummers and musicians across the globe.  You should be Earth's Ambassador to Drums were we to interact with other planets.  Maybe you already have interacted with musicians from other galaxies!  That would explain quite a lot actually, and it would make the rest of us here on Earth feel a little better about our own limitations. Also, I'd like to thank Steve, and everyone else at 2112 Percussion in Raleigh for helping bring Terry Bozzio back to Raleigh.  We all appreciate being blown away in every sense of the word.  So here's to 2112 Percussion for supplying Raleigh's drummers with whatever they might need for over twenty years, to The Pour House for hosting such a special night, and to Terry Bozzio for a lifetime of amazement and inspiration.


  1. Terry is definitely a one of a kind guy. A legend in the drumming world. But c'mon, he is no Steve Shelton! : ) 
    Obviously you won't agree, but its a scientific fact, I looked it up and all

  2. I see you've been enjoying the special Kool Aid we make here at The Poundry! Excellent work, my loyal Pounderer... You should buy a copy ( or three ) of my book "The Undeniable History of Everything I Ever Wanted People to Understand About the World". Your gold star is in the mail, along with your next batch of Kool Aid. Enjoy, Keith!

  3. Darnit! I missed two of my favorite drummers:(

    *Terry Bozzio & Stephen Shelton

  4. I hope that you find a way to pick up the pieces and get back to your life before remorse takes over completely. While this was the only joint appearance the two of us were able to make ( insert eye roll here ) I'm sure others will still enjoy Terry Bozzio performing on his own at his remaining clinics.

  5. l love the photo. Makes me think of the under arms of an octopus. I think the b/w is a provoking choice to pull my imagination into the image. Such a tight crop and I like the cymbal indents upfront spiraling into dark fade. Awesome text illustration!
    Also, cool reflective quality, for me. – For instance, I'm thinking, how drummers's i've listened to, express themselves in ways in octopus ways. Rhythm patterns that resemble multiple arms, spiraling rolls, cymbal choking, fading etc... I'll have to revisit T Bozzio business soon. Yeah, the image + text works real fertile for me. Nice work!

  6. Well thank you, Mr. Tooth! I actually keep an octopus in my camera bag when my subject isn't behaving. An octopus underarm is like a kiwi; they both take on whatever characteristic you are looking for at any given moment. Sadly, much of Terry Bozzio's bands fall into the World Music category even though his drumming is nearly always jaw dropping. I still prefer how experimental he was with Missing Persons. Check out "U.S. Drag", "Rock and Roll Suspension" and "No Way Out" from their album, 'Spring Session M'. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. oh yes, the fruit from down under.

    thanks for the song suggestions. resonating. i'm liking the songs as wholes. the album title was a fun lil puzzle. T Bozzio had a interesting body language when he played those songs, as far as i watch on You Tube.

    I'll be making clearer connections to their influence within your work. Best!

    1. "Interesting body language" is a very diplomatic way of describing what appears to be a combination of modern dance while seated and some over the top John Holmes style love-making faces. I get that there is more of a physical connection to what you're doing if you exaggerate your body language, but c'mon, Terry! Get a room...

  8. Hi Steve
    I always been a big fan of you, since the times of Condemned.
    After all these years you're still my favourite drummer.
    My musical tastes are quite different now, I don't listen so much metal anymore, but I still remember the first team I heard your drumming in Confessor and I was totally speechless.
    Right now, my perfect musical dream would be you playing drums with Les Claypool and Ler Lalonde of Primus and start jamming crazy crazy stuff out of nowhere.
    I know it's not your kind of music, but in my mind this will be one of the best and weirdest line-up ever.
    Thanks to be an inspiration and to be so different from all the others metal and non metal drummers.
    Uncle Paul

    1. Wow! Thanks for the support! That's very kind of you to say! I'm honored to be thought of with such regard, especially after so many years and after your musical tastes have changed. If you don't listen to metal much it's possible that you may dig Loincloth. Not having a singer makes a band like Loincloth more of a pure musical adventure than a parade of metal attitude. I was on The Uncle Paul Show twice as a kid, and I remember seeing him in a record store once when I was a teenager. Are you from North Carolina? I have used "Sanford Anson" as an alias to post comments before. Now there's a 70's sitcom combo for you... "The Fred Sanford and Uncle Paul Show". Sounds like a winner!

  9. Hi Steve
    Thanks for your reply: I'm very happy to hear from you!!!
    I'm from Italy but I moved to Australia few years ago.
    My wife is aussie and all my nephews call me Uncle Paul.
    I listened to few tracks of Loincloth and is quite interesting: it's not something that I would listen daily, but the idea of controlled musical chaos is quite appealing.
    It reminds the kind of lunatic attitude of Fantomas or John Zorn, but with a math technicality of bands like Meshuggah or Tool, but of course I'm referring just to the attitude of these bands.
    My favourite rock/metal albums come from the 90's: Kyuss Blues for the Red Sun and Welcome to Sky Valley ( the sound of the desert, long long hot dusty acid sessions!!), Prong Beg To Differ ( I love Ted Parsons awesome drumming on that album: very tribal and hypnotic, maybe not too technical but very industrial and distinctive), everything from Primus ( Three Men Of Extreme Power!!! my favourite band: still dreaming for that octopus drummer from Raleigh in the line-up), Tool ( another great drummer in the band of course ) Undertow, Aenima and Lateralus, Confessor Condemned ( best drumming on record full stop!!!!), Coroner, D.R.I. ( big fan of old drummer Felix Griffin ), Holy Terror, Buckethead, Attention Deficit ( I think you would like their music ).
    Right now I listen to dub, reggae, Police, Tom Waits, Pink Floyd, Bill Laswell and everything that makes me happy and relax.
    I like when bands create their own distinctive sound and explore new frontiers, leaving the clichés and the safe marketing choices to embrace the freedom and the emotions of music.
    Ciao Steve and good luck with your projects!!!
    Uncle Paul