Why did the drummer cross the road? (headline, not an actual joke…)

Louder Than War’s Hannah McFaull helps write part of Rebellion festival‘s programme each year and here we reproduce one of her pieces from last years programme wherein she investigated why the drummer appears to be the butt of so many jokes. Helping her investigate are a motley crue of well known drummers.

What do you call a drummer that breaks up with his girlfriend?
Homeless.

How can you tell when a drummer’s at the door?
He doesn’t know when to come in.

What do Ginger Baker and black coffee have in common?
They both suck without Cream.

How many drummers does it take to change a light bulb?
None, they have a machine to do that now.

When my sister told our parents that she wanted to learn to play the drums, the reply was something along the lines of ‘Any idiot can hit something, why don’t you learn something that requires some skill?’ They were joking (sort of) but it’s a refrain I’ve heard again and again since then. Drummers are commonly the subject of teasing and ridicule from other band mates, and the jokes about drummers are both hilarious and unfounded. But Cock Sparrer would be nothing without the powerhouse of Steve Bruce behind the kit, and having watched friends drum in bands, I know it’s not as easy as the jokes make out. If you’ve ever sat behind a kit and tried to do different things with each hand and each leg, you’ll know how hard it is to do well.

To get to the bottom of this, I assembled some of the finest (and funniest) drummers around and asked for their opinion. Thanks to Ray (Argy Bargy/Knuckledust/Deadline), Pete (Street Dogs), LeeLee (Angry Agenda), Quinn (Rivalries) and Cherry (The Uppercuts) for their insights into the world of drummers.


photo by dod morrison(Photo right of Ray from Argy Bargy © Dod Morrison.)

Hannah: Morning gents, I want to write an article about why drummers are the butt of all the jokes. And seeing as you are some of the funniest drummers I know, I wondered why you thought this was and what the best joke about drummers is you’ve ever heard?

Ray: How do you tell if the stage is level?
The drummer is drooling from both sides of his mouth.

How can you tell a drummer’s at the door?
The knocking speeds up.

What’s the last thing a drummer says in a band?
“Hey guys, why don’t we try one of my songs?

How many drummers does it take to change a light bulb?
Five: One to screw the bulb in, and four to talk about how much better Neil Peart coulda done it.

You see, these and the ones above are just some examples of how very wrong and childish other instrument players can be.

Let me explain… If the drummer decides to leave stage half way through a gig then that particular gig is over. The others may ad-lib and sing and play for a while to entertain, but eventually it will suck and the drummer will be begged back to the stage like the true master he is.

(Photo right of Pete from Street Dogs © Aga Hairesis.)

Hannah: So drummer jokes are based in fear and jealousy?

Ray: You got it!

Pete: It’s all jealousy of course! The joke I can think of that I like the most is: What is the difference between a drummer and a savings bond? One will mature and make money, the other is a drummer.

Quinn: Drumming is the back bone of any band and it is probably the most complex role – there are so many different ways for you to play something to achieve the same goal, you never stop learning. It’s the most primal of instruments.

Hannah: I suppose any idiot can pick up a microphone and shout into it…

Ray: I can do that whilst playing drums. It’s that easy. I’d also add that as we’re not at the front giving pelvic thrusts and throwing our ‘picks at chicks’ we tend to go un-noticed, hence being the butt of the jokes.

Hannah: Are you saying that ‘groupies’ don’t tend to go for drummers… Or is that not the case…?

Quinn: I don’t think drummers go unnoticed. You will always hear people talk about the drummer, whether they were good or shit, (back to Ray’s point earlier, if a drummer is shit, it pulls a band down. You can’t get away with it. Though you can be an average rhythm guitarist and no one bats an eyelid, but as we’re at the back we’re not the face of the band so maybe not recognised as much. Anyone can name some of the worlds “best” guitarists but few people other than drummers can name people like Neil Peart, Matt Cameron, Gavin Harrison etc … It’s also ridiculously expensive! My kit is easily more expensive than all the technology I own and it constantly needs replacing, updating etc. As for ‘groupies’ I have never been laid as a direct result of playing drums. Sad fact.

Ray: Sad to hear about the ‘groupies’ bit mate. I’ve been at it like a rabbit over the years as a direct result of being able to do 5 things at once. (If only that was true).

Cherry: I’ve had ‘groupies’! Only down to the fact most of my career has been being in bands and playing with (a lot) older men! Nothing to do with my playing ability or my looks, just down to the presumption of staying power I guess.

Quinn: I tell a lie, a gay Finnish skinhead came on to me in Sweden. Needless to say I ran for the icy Swedish hills!

Hannah: Do most drummers end up playing in a few bands because there’s so few of you? Or so few of you with your own kits anyway?

Quinn: I’d say cos there are less of us. Generally speaking not owning a kit isn’t a big problem – Steve Bruce is a case in point

Ray: I have a lovely kit that I’ve used around 4 times in the last 5 years, mainly for recording. Drummers are very much in demand and that is because nobody is taking up the drums. Especially in punk rock. It’s very flattering to be asked to play in 100 bands per year but I’m sticking with Knuckledust and Argy Bargy and the odd bit of moonlighting for Deadline. Purely because they’re all old mates and the gig tends to get in the way of our drinking weekends.

LeeLee: I agree with Raymondo. I also think that other members of bands, deep down, want to be drummers. It’s the best seat in the house!

~

A version of this article first appeared in the Rebellion Festival Programme 2013. To read other articles and interviews from the Rebellion Archives, visit www.hannahmcfaull.com.

Tickets for Rebellion 2014 are now on sale. For more info (or to buy one) go here.

All words by Hannah McFaull. More work by Hannah on Louder Than War can be found here. Hannah’s blog, An EastEnd Girl: Musings From E3 is here.

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