Playing stand-up drums with the Violent Femmes at Coachella in 2013.
Playing stand-up drums with the Violent Femmes at Coachella in 2013.

Confessions of a stand-up drummer

When I started to play the drum set some 40-odd years ago, I never thought that someday I'd be standing up to earn my living as a professional.

At that time, all the drummers that I admired sat down behind their collections of wood and metal to guide and power some of the most exciting bands in my-ever-expanding musical universe.

My favorites included such diverse talents as Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Don Moye, Hal Blaine, Jo Jones, Ed Blackwell, Roy Haynes, Ringo Starr and so many more masters of time and taste. The only time these players would stand up behind their drum sets was to either set them up or tear them down. I had only heard the term "stand-up" applied to comedians or to describe someone's character as a fine law-abiding citizen.

Drummers didn't stand up to perform. They played music sitting down! Standing to play wasn't allowed, or so I thought at the time.

Then I heard the music of The Velvet Underground and the gender bending earth shattering drumming of one Maureen (Moe) Tucker! She played fierce, driving beats on a snare drum, batter side turned up bass drum, and big cymbals, usually with the aid of mallets instead of sticks. Although she used such an unorthodox setup, she played with such a conviction that never let you think that there was something lacking in the drum department.

Moe's playing was peppered with a dramatic freedom and a primitive growl that whipped and slashed through melody and lyric. Her drums and her style gave me some things that
every young drummer comes to realize sooner or later: "Economy is king, and simple is best!"

Oh, and yes … she was standing up.

All of this not only made sense to me musically, but the stand-up bit fed the reason for my entrance into the showbiz world in the first accursed place. Now, I finally had some bread for my ham acting approach to performing as a percussionist with Violent Femmes.

Now, the standing up bit was an entirely different performance problem. I liked the flashy idea of no…

Read more...