Saturday, August 27, 2011


Drumming for sport makes about as much sense to me as bowling for art does. Some things should just not exist, and extreme sport drumming competitions are right up there with non-alcoholic beer and Jersey Shore for me. Let me say this once and for all -- art, and music especially, is not a competition. Music is the conception and execution of ideas, a creative endeavor subjective to the audience. To try and quantize it and turn it into some sort of feat of strength and endurance goes against the main reason lots of people started to play music in the first place, and I find that insulting.

Now, I have no problem with a friendly group of drummers getting together and playfully trying to see who can outplay the other. I would never be involved, but I understand that it's going to happen. But when you start holding yearly competitions and people spend months and even years training for these things, you do nothing to advance the art form. I would even argue that on top of being just plain stupid, these kinds of competitions are detrimental to the art of drums as a whole, and insulting to anyone who takes themselves remotely serious as a musician.

Think about it, if you're spending all your practice time trying to play 1000 single strokes per minute, you're neglecting every other part of the drums to perform something that isn't even applicable in most areas of drumming, and for what? Bragging rights over a bunch of other bedroom drum geeks? If your only goal as a drummer is to be the fastest drummer there is, why not apply that kind of training and focus on something that will actually be relevant to more than just a small niche group of people? So many times I hear people talk about someone as a great drummer, when all they can do is play really fast. That's not great drumming. Anyone with a practice pad and loads of time on their hands can achieve that. Drumming is about expression, and the only thing you're expressing to me by focusing solely on speed is that you're a misguided douche-bag. Just spend ten minutes browsing the poorly designed World's Fastest Drummer website (complete with a super annoying pop up that shows up EVERY TIME YOU NAVIGATE TO ANOTHER PAGE) and I think you'll get my point. These people didn't get into drums for the love of music or art, they got into it because they feel the need to be the best at something, and they sucked at regular sports so they invented their own. I have a problem with ego-stroking endeavors in general, and this is just a big circle-jerk for drum nerds.

If you've read my interview with Jerry Granelli, you might remember him talking about his mentor, drum legend Joe Morello. Morello, in his day, was probably the most technically enabled drummer alive. He had speed, but he also had creativity and intuition, and it made him the most sought after jazz drummer for years. When I asked Jerry what the most important thing Joe taught him was, he knew instantly. Morello would always tell him this -- "The only reason to have technique is to serve the music." It wasn't about bravado or one-upmanship, it was about having the proper skills available to you so that when the time came you could contribute to the musical idea properly. We're all slaves to the ideas and that's the point.

Now, I understand that in Joe Morello's time, things like drum machines and Death Metal didn't exist, but the idea is still the same. Take, for example, someone like Florent Mounier from Cryptopsy. He is extremely technically skilled and is one of the fastest drummers in metal today, but the music demands it. That's fine. Listening to his playing you still get a sense of his musical identity, he is an extremely talented and important drummer. He's an example of someone who along with learning the speed, still maintains an artistic sense and vision with his music, which is why so many drummers respect him. With Extreme Metal there is a very thin line between serving the music and serving the musicians, and it's pretty obvious when you listen to certain bands which ones belong in which category.

That's why I have such and issue with sport drumming. It breeds the kind of drummer that is only in it to serve himself and show off his abilities, and that is when art begins to lose it's credibility. It went from being a curiosity among drummers into a league of people who put all of their time and energy into training and preparing and attempting to outplay each other, and it seems to be most popular in the realm of drummers. You never hear of speed-piano competitions, or endurance harmonica-ing. For some reasons drumming attracts a certain crew of people that feel the need to always be out-doing each other, and those kinds of drummers are the worst. If we start encouraging drummers to simply focus on speed and technical aspects without giving them the proper artistic foundation, then we're just going to end up with a bunch of beef-headed braggarts walking around backstage with their chests puffed out trying to challenge everyone, and they're going to drink all of my band beers.

So the next time you encounter a drummer that's talking about how amazing someone is because they can play really fast, do me a favor, look them in the eye and say "So what?"

Impress me with your imagination, it's what separates us from the monkeys.

No comments:

Post a Comment