First off, some promotion:
EDIT FEBRUARY 2013: I have updated this post with our latest show:
EARLY SPRING, is playing Sunday 2/24/13 at Legion.
Address: 790 Metropolitan Ave., BKLYN.
We have a great line up. Early Spring, Iyez & Dead Night
I've been thinking I should learn to play drum fills. You'd think that my being a drummer in a psyche rock band on and off since 2001 would have given me some incentive to learn drum fills sooner, but the idea of learning drum fills has always been like the idea of (finally) one day becoming fluent in Mandarin. I posses the necessary tools to achieve both goals but like many people feel about writing (they like having written more than actually writing), I would rather already speak Mandarin, and know how to play drum fills than actually take the time to practice these skills. One time my band leader was angry with me and he said I was a lazy drummer. I don't think I'm a lazy person, and I certainly am not a lazy writer, but deep inside I had to admit he had a bit of a point. Part of the problem is that I don't have much ego invested in drumming. I've always thought of myself as a writer who drums in a band rather than a drummer who writes.
BTW, sometimes I'd like our band to be the "last psychedelic band". Check out this definitive cover of Pavement's "Unfair".
So, I've somehow drummed in a rock band for a decade without learning how to play fills. The other day I thought about this and for a pretentious moment decided that my drumming was like the Oulipo. It's a group of writers who write under specific formal constraints. For example, Perec wrote a novel without using the letter E. I almost convinced myself that my fill-less drumming was a noble experiment in restraint, but then I told myself to stop bullshitting myself. It takes lots of brain power to write a novel without using the letter E, while it takes even less skill than normal to play the drums without fills. My less was not more, it was simply less.
What's made me start to seriously think I should learn to play fills? The Rolling Stone's "Let's Spend the Night Together."
I've always treated the Rolling Stones like I treat jazz-- something I appreciate from a distance, something I'll eventually get around to. Well, just in time for their 50th anniversary I've finally fallen hard for the Stones. It's kind of pathetic, really. I swagger into my library listening to Exile on Main Street feeling like I want a drink, or something equally debaucherous, but I work in a library so I have to put those desires away unless I want to get fired. But! If you're able to listen to "Let's Spend the Night Together" with fresh ears you will hear what I hear. What fun! The drums kick in with a crisp rat-tat-tat drum fill, followed by a driving, snare-happy beat. The drums on this song are as integral as that catchy-as-fuck riff that drives the song. Suddenly I understand the point of fills.
Which is not to say I've never air-drummed a fill. I do it all the time. I believe my first bout with air-drumming was when I took a Chinatown travel agency tour bus trip to Canada with some friends. After several hours of Canto/Mando pop karaoke I clamped my headphones on and air-drummed the shit out of my PJ Harvey cassette tape of Rid of Me. I wasn't looking to make any more friends on that trip so I didn't care what my fellow passengers thought. They had their karaoke, I had my date with Miss Polly Jean Harvey. She's Man Sized, don't cha know?
With my new desire to learn fills I ignored the exercises my band leader has given me over the years. I am still a lazy drummer. I guess I just really want to learn how to play "Let's Spend the Night Together". Which lead me to learn about this weird genre of youtube videos of instrument karaoke. Most of it is people playing their instrument along to the record in the background, but some others take it to another level.
Here's this amazing Asian guy doing "Let's Spend the Night Together" . I genuinely love this guy, though I think things get a bit dicey for racial/cultural/political reasons when he tackles "Brown Sugar".
Here's what you get when you search "Rolling Stones Drum Covers".
And here's a confusing way to learn "Let's Spend the Night Together" on guitar. You'd be better off with some guitar tab, though it's helpful to see the live-action strumming and licks.
I'm familiar with guitar tablature, having spent a bout of unemployment in 2003 teaching myself how to play Silver Jews songs. Thank god youtube didn't exist because I am sure I would have uploaded my own cover versions. I certainly recorded myself doing Silver Jews covers on my four track. Yes, I bought a four track to record Silver Jews covers. But before I discovered internet guitar tab I wrote the band Pavement a letter back in 1994. One of the earnest questions I asked was where I could find Pavement guitar sheet music. Their percussionist, Bob Nastanovich,(who can't play the kick drum! He's worse than me!) kindly wrote me back and informed me that such sheet music did not exist. These guys were my entire music universe, but the music industry did not feel they were popular enough for sheet music. (My dad bought me a guitar when I was in the tenth grade and included a book of Pearl Jam sheet music. It was a very kind gesture so I didn't tell him I didn't like Pearl Jam any more. After seeing us play this summer he thinks I am in a grunge band. Dad, it's 2012, not 1992.)
Most musicians harbor a love of gear. I'm not one of those people. I almost died this summer when we went to Saratoga Springs and encountered bands playing on various street corners. One of the bands was what I dubbed grunge-hammer. The drummer had this super intense drum kit with racks made of steel tubing. I'd never seen such a loaded drum kit in real life. I only play a snare, bass drum, ride cymbal, crash, and high hat and that seems like a pain in the ass to set up. When I see all these youtube videos of people earnestly playing along to the records they love, part of me wonders why they don't write their own music. My band mate says it's a different skill set. Some people can cover a song note-for-note but can't write a song, while some of the best song writers are not necessarily technically proficient. I am neither a brilliant song writer nor technically proficient.
Remember, when Bevis and Butthead watched Pavement's "Rattled By the Rush" they were disgusted and said, "They're not even trying."
But, Westie Can Drum.
Even a literary critic spends time thinking about drumming, in this case the New Yorker's James Wood on Keith Moon. With audio.
I discovered this atrocity, aka as David Hasselhoff doing a song called "Let's Spend the Night Together". It reminds you that you can't copyright a title.
Let's cleanse our palettes together:
Yo La Tengo does "Let's Spend the Night Together"
Spoon does "Rocks Off"
the Feelies also do "Rocks Off"
Finally, after waiting around for hours to play rock shows, I kind of understand why musicians have a reputation for drinking and drugging. I still don't understand stage fog, though. It's terrible. But my point is that waiting to play can be really boring. The only time I played drunk I missed a cue and felt really bad about it, but it didn't stop me from having my tarot cards read afterwards by one of the friends that came out to see us. We sound like we do drugs but none of us does drugs. Keep that a secret, though.
Now, let us not forget the magic of music fandom. This guy GETS IT. He feels it so much. When I'm down I just look up this video of an acoustic Built to Spill performance and watch this amazing guy performing extreme guitar face bw/air solos. That's what love looks like. It might not be pretty, but it is genuine and full of deep emotions.
This is the notice for our previous show before I updated this post:
Our band, EARLY SPRING, is playing Saturday 12/22/12 at Brooklyn
Fireproof. Looks like we are headlining the show. Starts at 8pm.
Address: 119 Ingraham st. (Morgan L train stop, BK). We have a great