I MEME THEREFORE I AM
Like all of us, I take playing drums seriously - it’s something I’ve dedicated my life to and I eat, sleep and breathe it - it’s how I identify.
In saying that - with any kind of pursuit you work hard at, it’s important to be able to keep a sense of humour and we drummers are generally pretty good at laughing at ourselves. If you've ever tried to make a living from performing and writing music alone then you'll have had your share of tough times, every now and then a well-placed meme can do wonders in the morale department. The above meme (featuring Sean Bean's character Boromir from The Lord of The Rings) was posted to a closed student facebook group at the place where I was, at the time, the head of department for music. As you can see, not only is it funny, but it also gave me some valuable (albeit passive-aggressive) feedback about how drum students' individual lessons were going. I work at a tertiary institution which can be quite informal so this kind of rapport is pretty normal—and It was all in good humour of course—but funnily enough since then I've always been more aware of whether or not I'm subconsciously letting my enthusiasm on the kit get in the way of student learning, and I think it's made me a better teacher. It's difficult to understand the humour behind it unless you were actually around at that time and knew me as well as the student, and therein lies the beauty of memes - they're all about in-jokes, which of course means that it's hard to find any kind of subculture these days which doesn't have their own brand of meme-based humour being rooted in its own nomenclature or specific characteristics of its practitioners.
Anyway, without further ado - I present my favourite drums memes to (hopefully) bring a laugh or two to your day.*
This is a classic - every drummer I know struggles with when to stop buying new gear, whether it's a snare to suit a totally hypothetical situation or a new ride cymbal to throw onto their already-sizeable stash. The quest for the perfect kit is never-ending, and I'm sure I'm not the only drummer who balks at selling gear to offset any new purchases. This has pretty much been a contributing factor every time I've had to move to a place with more space.
The first drumset I bought myself was one I still play to this day - a Tama Starclassic bubinga waaaaay back in 2008. I was a student at the time and had to take out a bank loan of $7k - it was a massive expense but to Tama's credit (along with some fastidious maintenance and H&B hard cases), it's still looking and sounding great despite being battered to hell over thousands of gigs! I wish I'd bought shallower toms though - because the kick is a 24" and they're too deep for me to sit over them comfortably. Guess I've got some shopping to do...
Ah yes, the age old argument - groove over chops. I've talked about this at length in previous blog posts, but sometimes the most effective way to communicate the point can be with the above 'visual aid'. Prescription: Go listen to some Steve Gadd, Bernard Purdie, Questlove and Levon Helm then get back and report.
Maybe it's because I like a challenge, maybe it's because it's more compact or maybe it's just because I'm old, tired and lazy, but my regular gigging kit is just the bare basics - three piece kit with hihat and a crash/ride. I actually love playing that setup now - when I get on a bigger kit my first reaction is "Whoa, where do I start?" Much as I love having a broad range of quality gear at my disposal, I now think that having a smaller setup encourages creativity while helping a drummer to get a broader understanding of the tonal and dynamic spectrum of each drum. It's all down to personal preference of course - someone has to employ all those drum techs!
The struggle is real! There must be a secret other dimension where all lost drumkeys go and hang, along with those cymbal felts which are invisible in stage light and roll off the drumriser - never to be seen again.
Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich would have the dubious honour of likely being the most mocked drummer by the online community - not in the least because of his legal battle in one of the OG torrenting sites—Napster—in back in 2000. Lars (on behalf of Metallica) sought a minimum of $10 million in damages, at a rate of $100,000 per song that was illegally downloaded using the site's peer-to-peer filesharing network. I think most people understood it was about the principle of it, however it didn't show Lars in the best light seeing as he was already very wealthy, and those illegally downloading the song were supposedly not as well off. Lars' actual level of proficiency behind the skins properly came into question, however, with the 2004 release of the documentary 'Some Kind of Monster' which documented the band's progress (among other things) throughout the production of the record St Anger. Many clips have subsequently surfaced showing Lars' tendency to accidentally displace rhythms and lose track of sections during live shows, as well as highlighting his tenuous working relationship with singer James Hetfield whilst laboriously tracking in the studio.
Of particular disdain to me is the clip below, where angry Lars—following an outburst—noisily eats a sandwich and wipes his hands on the sofa he's sitting on - the sofa!
On to the next one...
And last but not least, this gem featuring the legend himself - Bonzo. Look at that mischievous grin! It takes a good while for a drummer to develop the discipline to stay quiet when other people in the rehearsal are trying to communicate - something tells me Bonham never got around to nailing it.
Do you have any favorite drum memes? If this post is missing any, leave them in a comment below!
*These images were all pulled off the internet following a basic search - I do not claim authorship of any of them (especially the shocking spelling).
Tom Pierard has been playing and teaching drumset professionally for 15 years, and specialises in a range of modern styles