It was at Risky Rhi’s party, which happened to fall on Halloween, but was not really a Halloween party that I got thinking of the Top 3 drummers I have seen live. I think Rhian herself mentioned Led Zeppelin’s drummer, but obviously I have never seen Led Zeppelin live.
Equally, there are tons of heavy metal bands I have never seen live, and I would imagine any fan of that genre could list a ton of top quality drummers, but as it’s a genre I don’t follow closely, I can’t comment on any of them as I haven’t seen them.
Don’t get my wrong, including support slots at festivals, etc. I’ve probably seen over a thousand bands live. I would still say, among the worst of these was Cardiff band, We’re No Heroes. I’ve only ever walked out on a band once or twice. There was one hyped band I saw at Barfly who I walked out on cos I really thought they were shit. On the flip side, I didn’t get to see any of The Stone Roses on one of their first comeback gigs in Barcelona, not because I didn’t want to, but because in a drunken state, I tried to steal a pint (€8 Jesus!), got booted out and had to listen to the entire gig from outside.
I’m not going to include any random busking drummers who might have caught my eye at a tube station, any saucepan bangers, or bin bangers like Cardiff’s own Ninja. And, um, I’m obv not even considering any dance acts with amazing programmed drum patterns.
I’m sticking to the script and listing my Top 3 drummers that I’ve bought a ticket for and seen as part of a live performance.
So coming in at No.3, we have the obligatory:
I mean, as one of the world’s biggest Stone Roses’ fans, I’m hardly going to not include Reni.
It seems like it’s only in recent years that it’s been said that in the early days of the band, it was Reni who was the stand out musician of the band. It was he who got the band their initial attention.
For me, The Stone Roses are very much a complete all round band, with every contributor playing their part. Of course, Ian’s actual vocals sometimes let him down, but as a front man, you cannot fault him. It’s difficult to take your eyes off him, he has such a presence.
John is the most reserved of the band, of course, but at the same time, seems the most knowing. Again, put aside his immense abilities as a guitar player, he has an overwhelming connection to the soul of the band.
Mani is the joker, but could equally be spokesperson himself. He’s about the only guy you’ll ever see in the mainstream media. You could have a pint with him, but at the same time, you would not want to meet him down a dark alley.
The Stone Roses at their peak were the greatest Man Utd team under Alex Ferguson.
And then you hear Reni playing Fool’s Gold at the comeback gigs….
So coming in at No.2 is the drummer for a band that of course was heavily influenced by Led Zeppelin, Leeds’ own The Music.
Here we have a band that initially was massively hyped by the music press. They were touted as the new Next Big Thing post Madchester.
To a large extent, they lived up to the hype. The early single, Take The Long Road and Walk It was a nailed on indie classic. Their debut album was an indie rock masterpiece.
I first saw The Music in the aforementioned Barfly in Cardiff, a dingy, but cool little venue with a capacity of not more than a couple of hundred.
I recall being utterly overwhelmed at just how incredibly good they were for such a young band. And don’t get me wrong, we’d all grown up with the idea that you had to be young to be cool. If you had a band member who was older than 25, you might as well forget it.
But with The Music, it wasn’t just the fact that they were cool. The whole thing with indie music is, it never mattered if you couldn’t play a note, it was all about the swagger.
With The Music, you had a singer who could sing as well as Robert Plant, guitarists, awesome, but the drummer – fuck me, never heard anything like it. It is rare that in an incredibly good band, with incredibly good songs, it’s the drummer that is the stand-out.
And then The Music did that most unusual thing of releasing a second album that fucking blew the debut album out of the water.
I remember The NME singling out the lyric in “Bleed From Within” about the sun bleeding “within mine eye” as being pretentious. I always thought this was a pretty petty criticism. If it was what the guy felt when he was writing the lyric, in whatever state, go with it. It hardly detracted from a spectacularly strong record.
I was working for The AA at the time, and I remember going to buy it on CD in my lunch break. It might even have been number one in the album chart, but that didn’t really mean much at the time. They were still a band that were not known at all.
I saw them at Cardiff Student’s Union touring the second album. I bumped into a friend, Paul at the gig who I never knew was a fan. There were a lot of people who liked The Music and it was almost cultish cos we all knew how good they were, but they still never got that big.
Album 3 came along, final disappointment and they fizzled out, but still, when I saw them live, the drummer – immense.
And I come to best drummer I’ve ever seen live:
No.1 Cissi from Those Dancing Days
If you haven’t heard of The Music, almost certainly you won’t have heard of Those Dancing Days.
Yet another Led Zeppelin link, with the band being named after the Led Zeppelin song.
But you couldn’t get a band more removed in style from Led Zeppelin than Those Dancing Days.
They were an all-girl group from Sweden. I first heard about them when I worked on a radio show called The Waiting Room with presenter, Chris Brooke.
They played a gig, again at the Barfly, and we were due to interview them. My recollection was that I had hardly listened to them at all before going to this gig.
As I walked into the venue, I could hear the drummer warming up. I just remember thinking – what the fuck?!
Cissi, the drummer, uses a double drum pedal, which is perhaps quite well used in heavy metal, but practically unheard of in indie bands.
Again, unusually as a drummer, Cissi was pretty much the spokesperson for the band, if I recall from the interview we did. I might be wrong, but I think she had a lot more input with the lyrics than the typical drummer, and I believe she was also behind the artwork.
I suppose one key aspect of the drummer, at least in certain types of band, is to add a dance element to the sound. I think all three of the drummers I’ve mentioned achieves that, but Cissi perhaps did it best. I remember that gig as being truly joyful.
And I think that was one main point about Cissi, again, leaving aside the required obvious skill, sheer overwhelming personality. Just such a cheerful soul. Meeting her, for me was a real wow moment, in a career of seeing so many cool and surly indie dudes.
Now I don’t know if using a double drum pedal is actually more difficult than conventional drumming – I would expect it must be at least a bit more difficult. Quite likely, it’s a lot more difficult. Listen to any Those Dancing Days tracks, and believe me, you’ll be impressed by the drumming. And just bear in mind – that is not programmed, that is a live drummer. And then, believe me, when you see Cissi actually performing that drumming live. It’s a bit of a mind boggler and she never even breaks a sweat.