My time over the preceding 2 months has been peppered with a great deal of frustrations and minor annoyances simply because of my pig headed insistence on earning my crust via the medium of percussive activity. I know I am not alone in having to deal with the ego-centric shenanigans of singers and questionable high volume widdling banjo players, coupled with the near catatonic, incomprehensible mumbling bass players along with exquisite pleasure of dealing with agents, managers, bookers and other carnivorous music types with cold, lifeless eyes. But despite all this self inflicted torture, I still manage to convince myself, it’s better than a proper job.
The uncertainty and total absence of any human rights let alone employment protection, makes the ‘job’ of being a musician unique inasmuch the abuses and work conditions akin to a Roman galley don’t appear to discourage those already engaged, nor those of tender years determined to share their musical skills with anyone who will listen.
Whilst all musicians have many a tale to tell about the suffering that abounds whilst in a band, it’s my hard earned conviction that drummers still get an extra big portion (and seconds) of Poo pie. *pauses to listen to the sound of incredulous laughter from the world’s banjo pluckers*
It’s easy to feel proud of one’s drumming abilities and so one should. It’s a great talent and largely of great satisfaction and enjoyment, but while it could be considered a ‘blessing’ from on high or a fortunate skill resultant of millions of years of evolution, the practicalities and real experiences of drumming can, in moments of low esteem, make one feel the urge to thump, is a curse.
You only have to consider the “who hangs about with musicians?” type witticisms, the bulkiness and transport headaches sometimes associated with our toys and dare I mention the dreaded KIT SHARE!! Other band members often sympathise with our predicament and will offer soothing words when the situation rears its hideous head, but frankly, I think a lot of them couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss. But we still go back for more such is the instinctive urge to be abused….I mean, beat out dem kerayzzee riddums..
Practitioners of the percussive arts, particularly those engaged in more modern manifestations of music, can arguably describe their passion as a double edged sword – both edges quite jagged and capable of inflicting the most painful of wounds to the physical being and do some serious damage to the well balanced psychological equilibrium all drummers possess. This self torture, I believe is more akin to a fanatical test of faith and I take great inspiration from the fact that Gandhi, aged 76 would take naked, young girls to bed in order to test his celibacy. However, there is no documentation to confirm whether he succeeded or failed this test.
The enthusiasm and commitment many drummers invest is only occasionally equalled by reward of the folding spendy type and drummers are not unique in this respect. So often the cause of a band breaking up is rooted in filthy lucre. Not usually being principal writers, drummers are frequently victims of a band’s success since the guitarist/singer (often the writers) can wallow in the relative comfort of a regular writer’s royalty cheque. If the drummer is excluded from this aspect of remuneration, the ‘front men’ can afford to take a year off to ‘find themselves’ or get into the ‘writing zone’, whilst the bass player and/or drummer can find themselves scanning the small ads for shelf stacking jobs, gardening work or multi national operational consultancy positions.
Is it any wonder that that drummers have earned a reputation for being ‘tarts’ when they often play for several bands – and subsequently are berated by band leaders for such abhorrent ‘non-committed’ activity!!? Yes, we hedge our bets.
In conclusion, I must tell you, I don’t have a conclusion. Drumming is a blessing and curse, great highs, soul destroying lows. And a lot of stuff in between. Brilliant innit?
I’d also like to recommend the excellent article by Eric Fawcett in issue 26 (December 2005) of ‘Drummer’ magazine for further reading on the ups and downs of pro drumming, along with the snake pits therein!