How To Stop Fucking Up Songs With Your Shitty Drums Parts

*This post was originally written for bunkerpunks.com and pissed off a lot of metal heads on my bands facebook page. 

This is my first “guest” blog.  I mulled over what to write about for quite some time.  I realized I have never pursued writing about music and my mission as much as I always wanted to and that I should take this opportunity to get a very important message out to the world and that I needed to try and save as many as I could from despair.  And if even one person comes to know Jesus as their personal Lo…..nah I’m just kidding.  This blog is about not fucking up songs with dumb ass drum parts.

Drummers of the world, there is something you need to know.  Songs - you know those things that bands play - are not about you.  Unless you are Dave Weckl, or Carter Beauford* or Buddy fucking Rich, it’s not about you.  You know who gives a shit about insane drum fills?  Other drummers.  Double bass pedal is awesome you say?  99 percent of the time, it absolutely is not.  To the average listener most drum parts probably come off as sounding about the same.  It’s not entirely fair to us, but it’s for the better.  In my opinion, it is more important to not fuck up a song with the drums than to attempt to play what is just a bitching, crazy technical drum part that serves no purpose to the overall vision of the song.  

*ok this is probably going to be a really unpopular opinion but I think out of all of the drummers that fuck up songs in this world that Carter Beauford is by far the most egregious offender.  I actually even had to idea to do a YouTube series where I play drum covers of a bunch of Dave Matthews Band songs but *GASP* I play them….normal.  Seriously the guy is obviously insanely good at drums, but in the worst way possible.

It’s a minimalistic approach that many drummers have failed at comprehending.  I’ve definitely been guilty of this in my life.  The first way to fall into fucking up songs is by not understanding the limitations of your talents compared to your influences.  The best example of this mistake in my life would be my love for none other than Travis Barker.

Travis Barker totally changed the game when it came to pop punk drumming.  The previous drummer for Blink 182 was about as good as any youth group or talent show kid from your high school.  Then Barker came along and was doing shit nobody had ever done with that type of music.  He was so much more talented than Mark Hoppus and Tom Delong that his style was successful in not getting in the way of what were otherwise, even for pop punk, very simple and almost immature songs.  Eventually Mark and Tom started catching up to him in relation to complexity of song composition and content.  

So whats the problem with being influenced by Travis Barker?  Well in terms of drumming we were on totally different planets as far as talent goes.  The gap between him and everyone else who really liked how he played and wanted to emulate his style is so big that is as if we weren’t even playing the same instrument as him.  But alas, I set my drums up like him, all flat and shit.  I had a china.  I wanted a vented snare from Orange County Drums and Percussion.  And I never came close to nailing a Travis Barker signature fill.  Fortunately I grew out of this phase and graduated on to fucking up songs in a slightly less worse way.  Which brings me to Tooth and Nail Records legends, Further Seems Forever.  

When I first heard “The Moon Is Down” it changed everything I had ever believed to be true about what a band should sound like.  It was kind of punk.  It was kind of heavy.  It was kind of jazz.  Topped off with a lot of emo thanks to Chris Carraba.  Once again we have a drummer doing something different than anybody else at the time.  Steve Kleisath played with such reckless precision that you doubted whether or not he possibly could play a song the same way twice.  I was never nor am I currently as good at drums as Steve.  But emulating his style was more of a reasonable endeavor than that of chasing Travis Barker.  

So, I ripped him off.  Over and over again on my band As Cities Burn’s first record, “Son I loved You at Your Darkest”.  I just went back and listened to this record a few hours before I started writing this.  Maybe our band as a whole was ripping them off.  Back then, Further Seems Forever was easily the most influential band for ACB members as a whole.  I can’t remember how many times the phrase “you know how on 'moon is down' they do that thing” was uttered, but we might have had half a record if not for referencing that album.  However, looking back I failed to make our songs better on drums.  And I maybe even made them worse.  I was just playing too much.  

So what do I do?  How do I not get in the way of the song?  I’ll tell you how.  Go listen to “Control” by Pedro the Lion, the best drum record of all time IMNSHO (for future reference that’s short for “in my not so humble opinion”)

If you wanna learn how to write the coolest fucking drums on earth that don’t interfere with the songwriting, this is the record to reference.  Dave Bazan figured out how to take a less is more approach that not only didn’t fuck up his songs, but made them better.  There are hardly any fills on the entire record.  Only when absolutely necessary.  Some songs have the exact same beat through the entire track, never falling to the temptation of showing off.  You see, I can nail every part on this record.  Nothing is beyond my ability.  But I could have never written it back before I understood the concept of “Don’t Fuck Up the Song”.  DFUTS.

Once I discovered this path of influence, a whole new world opened up.  Jimmy Eat World, Nada Surf, The Cardigans, Death Cab for Cutie.  All of these bands had drummers that were wildly successful at serving the purpose of the song while also playing some “cool” beats and providing meaningful influence.  All these players are still decidedly better than me, but at least I am able to pull from their styles without having to exceed my own limitations as an artist.  

I think striving to maintain mediocrity is something to be respected.  What did spider man’s uncle say?  With great power comes great responsibility?  Not everyone can be trusted with the talent or power to do whatever they please.  And I have made sure through laziness and lack of ambition to stay right in the pocket of just good enough to not fuck up your song.  That’s what they mean when they say “stay in the pocket” yeah?

Know your limits.  Be influenced by those that know their limits.  And for goodness sake STOP NOODLING AROUND ON THE CYMBALS EVERY TIME YOU’RE NOT SURE IF YOU SHOULD BE PLAYING OR NOT.  If you are wondering if there should be drums happening that probably means it’s time for you to reach for a beer and shut the hell up.  When in doubt, DO NOT play the drums.  Spread the good news!  DFUTS!!