THE ASCENT OF DRUMMER.
The evolution of an individual drummer is a fascinating example of triumph over adversity. The triumph being the pinnacle of human achievement – being considered vaguely musical, and adversity – being vaguely a musician.
The beginnings of the modern kit drummer usually occurs in early years when the subject gleans pleasure from a propensity to hit things and make lots of noise.
Using an impressive tool handling ability that deteriorates as the subject ages, the subject will assemble various pots, pans and tubs and set about them with knitting needles in order to quell his creative urges.
Now in early adolescence, the subject will have been bequeathed an old drum kit from a kind relative, or will have put further strain on the family finances by nagging for a generic Taiwanese drum kit.
Two weeks further on than the previous incarnation, the subject has now tired of his uncle’s kit after have re-painted it (including the lugs, hoops heads and cymbals) with left over paint from the garage, or, having seen Travis Barker on TV, wants the latest kit that Mr Barker happens to be playing.
As above, but 10 minutes after firm refusal by exasperated parents to spend $5000 on an DW Artist Self Pleasure series maple kit in California Orange Peel finish with Gibraltar rack and several Paiste Signature cymbals.
With the onset of various physical disabilities (spots, body hair, inability to control pitch of voice), the subject becomes reclusive and unpacks kit that was petulantly packed away 3 or 4 years ago.
It also about this time when the subject realises that members of the opposing gender have an unhealthy interest in modern music and particularly, the musicians therein. In an attempt to align himself with the aforementioned, he actually takes some drum lessons in order to increase his attractiveness to the opposite sex.
The parallel universe that is the world of drumming has consumed the subject entirely. Conversation rarely strays from the subject, every surface in the subject’s inner sanctum is adorned with percussion paraphernalia and he becomes quickly impatient with anyone who does not know the difference between an auxiliary BD pedal and a tension rod.
Loses virginity. Has an entirely different outlook on life, starts talking to parents again, can converse with someone without staring at the floor, washes hair more than once a month and starts to put drumming obsession in context with the rest of his life.
This is usually the time that proper excursions into band life start to occur and the subject discovers that he now has another group of people that he can shout at and argue with other than his immediate family – the band.
The subject has now progressed from the passionate environs of the band that “was going to change the world by seriously kickin’ some ass” into the world of actually wanting to make some money to contribute to his not inexpensive hobby.
He will usually spend some of this period playing music that he previously derided with vicious alacrity and lives in constant fear that his previous band mates will discover he plays “Stand By Your Man” 3 nights a week with a C&W band that boasts a myopic, 74 year old lead female vocalist who has a stammer and uncontrollable flatulence.
Alternatively, the subject will actually reach professional status, which in reality means earning less than the club drummer, but being in a touring band will mean that he can quite honestly say, in later life, that he has absolutely no idea what happened in the world, in his life between the age of 20 and 27 or what happened to the guitar tech “that night in Memphis”,
He will of course, state quite frequently that “life on the road” is not as glamorous as everyone thinks (mainly because he can’t remember anything) or he will bemoan the fact that he is having trouble breathing on stage and his drums cannot withstand another ‘stumbling-over’ from the senior citizen version of Dolly Parton and enduring the 10 minute apology.
Same as above but without a girlfriend.
Quite without warning, the subject will retire from his chosen profession, usually upon discovery that there is another Drummeranis Embryonicus sharing his gene pool. Either the product of a demonstration of bonding with current partner to appease her after yet another snare purchase, or it is the recently discovered arrival due a brief encounter with a 40 year old trailer dweller called Candy nine months earlier.
Subject will manfully sell his entire drum equipment saying “It’s time to move on, time to take responsibility for my life.”
This stage occurs when the subject suddenly realises he’s thrown away the greatest talent he is ever likely to have and becomes depressed, drinks heavily and goes up a least 3-waist sizes.
This can happen between 10 minutes and 10 years after the sale of all drum equipment.
Can occur between the age of 29 and 60, sometimes earlier, sometimes later. The subject starts getting misty eyed near drum stores, may even wander in and romantically stroke a drum or gently flick a cymbal. However, he realises that rekindling his former glory is just a dream and he still has many responsibilities. He is now too set in his ways and far too sensible to put further pressure on his credit card by buying a modest, but never the less, expensive drum kit.
But he buys it anyway.
This is the stage the subject goes through 20 minutes after buying the kit and realises, whilst driving home that his brain has not supplied anything vaguely resembling a plausible explanation for the recent purchase that “she who must be obeyed without question at all times” will accept – without emasculating him afterwards.
Survival rates for this stage are very low. Those subjects that do survive usually face a lifetime of appeasement involving, furniture assembly, frequent visits to soft furnishing stores, gardening, prolonged visits from spouse’s relatives (including the one with eyes that look in different directions and the distant cousins with too many toes), taking an over enthusiastic interest in offspring’s incomprehensible finger painting and partner’s really, really, really annoying, smug friends.
By now, the only one who truly understands the subject’s feeling is the dog.
The subject has now secured a place in band of similar aged musos with a name that creates much hilarity with band members, but does however, produce withered, eyes rolling looks from anyone not associated with the band. The subject will regale anyone who’ll listen to all his “nearly” stories (“I was nearly in the Stones – but Charlie got better”, ”I nearly told that Buddy Rich guy to take a hike, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, he seemed like a bit of a softie.”) and at the risk of serious personal injury, insists on trying to wear clothes that look great on a 19 year old, but make him look like a 40 year sack of horse manure tied up in the middle with a rope.
He will also attempt to play at least one thrash metal song and whilst hospitalised afterwards, promises the doctor he will NEVER try to emulate John Tempesta without first checking his life insurance is up to date.
The subject now should be able to live out the remainder of his days in relative happiness, only occasionally bringing home the bargain of a lifetime (“But darling, it’s a transition badge Black Beauty!! Darling, your teeth are moving from side to side, what’s the matter?”) Whiling away his spare time on the Internet telling teenage drummers all around the world how crap “new” drummers really are and Krupa would wipe the floor with them.
Mike Ellis wrote this article and it was first published in the London Times Literary Supplement under the heading “Euthanasia – the case for it strengthens.” Mike is currently appearing as a baggage cart in the departure lounge of Luton Airport.