There’s music i’ve liked over the years, that (at least to me) has not particularly been attached to a scene. There’s record labels that have served as the base for particular scenes or genres: Blue Note (jazz); Megaforce (metal); Nonesuch (classical); Nervous (hip hop and house); Lookout! (East Bay punk)… For all intents and purposes, Minneapolis-based Amphetamine Reptile predominately has featured ‘noise rock’ bands (like the Cows, Today Is The Day and Unsane), but the label has also had bands such as Servotron and Supernova. i used to have a gang of AmRep releases on vinyl, and ended up selling a bunch of my records in order to move to another state. Little did i know that these records would go out of print and become incredibly difficult to find- and if you do see them floating around, they’re being sold for a ton of money.

i was actually listening to Supernova’s Ages 3 And Up (an album i actually used to have on vinyl, and currently have on CD, which was released on AmRep/Atlantic), and i thought to myself, ‘perhaps i should make a post featuring some AmRep bands’… So here we are. Since i’ve already mentioned Supernova (a band who is pretty fun live), i will post one of their songs first.

On ‘Invasion’ (from the above mentioned album), Art Mitchell (the bassist) plays one of my favorite riffs on the whole album. Not only is the bass the lead instrument here, but it’s a major component of Supernova as a whole. While many of the songs are inspired by science fiction, this is a song where the band spell out their name in the chorus.

‘Some Sara’ by Boss Hog (from the 10″ EP Girl +, which i do have the vinyl of in a box somewhere in another state), has some cowbell in the background- my guess is that it was recorded with the vocal mics? One of my favorite things about this band has always been the drums; very simple and tom heavy, Hollis (who also played guitar in the band Lo-Hi) had a punk rock style. i have met everyone in this band, but i used to know and hang out with Hollis and Jens (bassist). They were cool, humble peoples. i hope they’re all doing well.

Everyone in this post, i have seen live at least once. Helmet, i have seen about twice. As a punk/hardcore kid, i was really into their ‘stripped down noise’, as well as their desire to stay away from the 4/4. i am certainly not as good of a drummer as John Stanier, but ‘Ironhead’ (from Meantime, in which the vinyl edition was on AmRep and the CD/cassette version was on Interscope) is perhaps my favorite Helmet song of all time, so i wanted to try it out.

The main riff actually does remind me of the intro riff to Metallica’s ‘No Remorse’, just downtuned. i have no idea if that’s just me.

And finally… we have (the) Melvins, one of my favorite bands of all time, and a band i have seen about 3 or 4 times live. My playing doesn’t even compare to Dale Crover, one of my favorite drummers. Dude goes hard.

i should have worn my fro out for this one, in solidarity with my fellow fro wearer, Buzz Osborne.

‘Night Goat’ was originally released on 7″ (on AmRep), then reworked on the Houdini album (which was released on vinyl on AmRep, and CD/cassette on Atlantic). Lori Black (aka Lorax) was credited with playing bass on this song/album, but i think it was Crover who actually did. i’m playing the album version. Initially playing to this song, i did it similar to Crover, with more kick. When i record though, sometimes what i’ve practiced beforehand isn’t even present. This is exactly what happened with this song. What ended up happening is that LARS came out. i can’t seem to get away from it. His playing is in my subconscious. If you know Lars’ style, you know what i mean. i love Lars, so i’m not complaining. Still…

i think this was the first Melvins song i posted. Perhaps i will do a whole Melvins post. We shall see…

Metallica Fridays (no. 9): just as soon as the drums belong, then it’s time they malfunction…

So yeah… It’s been a time. Maybe Cliff Burton is looking down angrily and going, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING??!!” But everything that could go wrong did indeed go wrong.

The battery on the laptop i was using to record died (so i had to go plug it in); the camera i was using was about to die if i didn’t plug it in. The snare kept falling so low to the point where it became impossible to properly play. The post that was holding the snare popped out. The trigger to the kick randomly went out- then it was fine. It was one thing after another. Things have definitely happened before, but it was a combination of so many things that i just wanted to cry and quit.

But i didn’t, and got through it, mistakes and all.

This experience really did put things in perspective though. i’m pretty open in my appreciation for Lars Ulrich- which, besides my connection to Metallica’s music over the years (and especially since being an amputee) is the reason i decided to do these ‘Metallica Fridays’ posts. i decided to, for some reason, search a few posts on why he is hated as a drummer by so many. i saw the usual ‘he can’t keep proper time/he’s boring/he’s too basic’ reasoning. i started thinking about it, and for a guy who is not classically trained (or hasn’t had much training at all, in comparison to other drummers), the dude is great. If he was a metronome, Metallica would not be the same band. Is the fact that he is not a metronome good for someone who wants to practice Metallica songs, and is literally just starting out on drums?

Absolutely not. There are some songs of theirs i’ve drummed to (including one i’m posting today), and it was clear he was not using a click track. i do practice with one on occasion, but you have to throw all of that away when drumming to a Metallica song, for real.

i know that saying Lars is the anchor for the band may sound strange (given that people negatively critique his drumming consistently), but it was very clear to be during the 40th anniversary shows that he was. Metallica is his baby, and he uses drums as a means to serve the rest of the music. i also love how, during the bridge of a song (or even a solo) one (or all) of the band would turn towards him, or go behind him. i’m sure it’s a way for all of them to keep time with each other, but it still looks like they are getting energy from the anchor. In 2008 he spoke about how the negative criticism bothered him at one point, and as a result he “spent a lot of time overcompensating for that on the early records. But then you wake up one day and you’re like, whatever. It hasn’t bothered me for about 15 years. I’m no Joey Jordison, I’m no Mike Portnoy, and I have nothing but love and respect and admiration for all those guys. When I hear some of the young dudes, they blow my mind with what they can do with their feet and stuff — but it’s not something that makes me go, ‘I need to feel better about myself so I’m gonna learn how to do what they do with my feet.’ I’m not a particularly accomplished drummer but I am very, very, very good at understanding the role of the drums next to James Hetfield’s rhythm guitar. I guarantee you I’m the best guy in the world for that, and that’s enough for me!”

He understands his limitations and respects those who are technically much better than him, and it’s something i deeply respect. To me, Lars is a ‘hero’ to those of us who are not technical, and ‘basic’. Of course you always want to get better, but you don’t want to beat yourself up over the fact that you aren’t on the level of some of your favorite drummers/guitarists/bassists/pianists/etc. either.

So as usual, even with all the imperfections, we have another edition of ‘Metallica Fridays’. Today we have my second favorite song on what was for 30 years my favorite Metallica album. ‘Master Of Puppets’ is my 3rd favorite Metallica song of all time, but my second favorite song on the album is ‘Leper Messiah’- the first favorite being ‘Disposable Heroes’. i definitely messed up towards the end, and came in a fraction of a second early a few times, but it’s all in the journey.

Now we have a song from the album that knocked Puppets out of the number 1 spot: ‘2X4’. While playing to this song i just kept saying to myself, Lars is a dope drummer. His style is more diverse than people give him credit for. Does he have particular staples (like the crash on the 2)? Of course! But no one Metallica album sounds the same, so he couldn’t survive on any of those albums if his style had no diversity. Go listen to Load and tell me Lars sucks.

The mishaps also happened during ‘Leper Messiah,’ but the bulk of them happened here (to the point i wanted to cry).

i hope i still did alright though.

i’m really not trying to make you mad Cliff. i promise.

Metallica Fridays (no. 5): i Make A Ton Of Mistakes (Just Like Metallica)

i should start calling this ‘Metallica Saturdays’, if i keep this up!

Well, not really. Once again, there were a ton of technical mishaps, like the camera being in the incorrect configuration, computer freezes/crashes/battery death, totally losing parts of a recording, and so on. All of these things happened , and interestingly enough i began to think about Metallica. One of the reasons i appreciate them is because of how open they are in their imperfections. They stay making mistakes, and make fun of themselves about them. While they certainly don’t shy away from the occasional post-production fixxxing (see what i did there?), there’s plenty of evidence of ‘happy accidents’. And let’s keep it real: as celebrated as they were for the output in their ‘younger days’, a lot of those live shows were pretty sloppy… which is why it’s interesting to me that people attack them for any mistakes they’ve made in later years. They absolutely do make mistakes, but as a whole how they play now is far more refined, and less sloppy.

i also thought about this, because when you watch drumming videos people tend to not show mistakes. There are people who are excellent and barely make mistakes (if at all), but that can’t be EVERY person who produces content. The interesting thing for me in posting this content is not only watching my growth, but also recognizing common mistakes i may make, and figuring out how to make them better. One of my hopes is that someone who watches this (and is a drummer/bassist/etc.) could point out things i could do better.

So of course in the following posts i made some mistakes.

Of course.

Today is a shorter post.

Of course.

The first major mistake was erasing half the drum track. The camera (when filming) was in the correct position, but when i went to go edit it ended up being flipped sideways. i erased everything up to the bridge of ‘Master Of Puppets’. Master Of Puppets was actually my favorite Metallica album from the age of 14 up until this year, where Load knocked it out of the #1 spot. ‘Master Of Puppets’ was my second favorite song of theirs (after ‘Blackened’), until ‘One’ knocked it to number three. That said, ‘Puppets’ is by far, the greatest Metallica song to exist. It is the one song i would choose if asked what the one song by them someone should listen to. It’s absolutely got excellent lyrical content, but even without lyrics, the song takes you through an emotional journey. ‘Puppets’ is up there with ‘Home Is Where The Hatred Is’ in the pantheon of songs describing the journey of addiction.

The song also has my favorite James Hetfield solo…

For this one, the first portion of the video is me playing along with Lars, and the other portion (from the bridge on) is where i am playing. It was also the first time i drummed through the whole song in full (but alas, i erased the first half).

The next song is pretty appropriate, because i was struggling hard all day. i made a couple of mistakes here too, but you already know!

i’m trying to get my ‘Lars face’ right.

‘The Struggle Within’ is one of my absolute favorite songs on The Black Album (aka Metallica). It’s also one of the most fun to drum to.

Metallica Fridays (no. 4): Thinking About The 40th…

So here we are again… i adjusted the Alesis kit a little bit, and it definitely sounds better, but i need to work on adjusting the sound for each drum and cymbal individually… One day at a time.

Speaking of time… it has certainly passed quickly, since the 40th anniversary shows back in December. It was the first concert i had been to in a while, and the first since the accident. i am definitely grateful for the experience, and it didn’t complete, but helped to expand my journey since everything happened.

For this edition of ‘Metallica Fridays’ (which is actually a few hours late, but always on time) i thought a lot about my experience at the 40th, but i also thought a lot about Lars. i think it’s pretty easy to make fun of him and say he’s a bad drummer, but his style is unmistakable. And while i can never be him (nor should we want to be anyone else), given that he has been a major inspiration for me in this journey; i cannot deny that a few things rubbed off on me in terms of how i play- anyone who knows his style can probably tell. You listen to someone enough, those things happen.

We will begin this edition with a song we’ve posted before (my favorite Metallica song of all time)- except this time it’s on the Alesis. Playing on a more ‘traditional’ set (whether acoustic or electronic) is going to be much different than playing on drum pads, even if you set those up similarly to match a traditional set. Of course i messed up a couple times (and hit the rim somewhere in there), but i don’t think this version of ‘Blackened’ is bad. My favorite thing about it is that you can clearly see my gray hair. And i am a major fan of gray hair.

‘The Memory Remains’ is the type of song i wish i could write. it’s just that good. Load and ReLoad (and St. Anger) will someday get the respect they deserve. It’s the type of song, when you see it live, that’s pretty special too, to see everyone in the crowd singing along.

For some reason, once again, i lost part of the video. Such is life… It was the first instance of me utilizing the choke on the crash cymbal while playing this thing.

This one’s dedicated to Jesse.

Another song done at the 40th was the WONDERFUL surprise, ‘The Shortest Straw’. When i heard those opening notes, i lost it. …And Justice For All is my 2nd favorite Metallica album. People want them to repeat this album, but besides finding inspiration in it with albums like Death Magnetic, Justice can never be repeated. Nor should it. Not one of their albums sound alike, and that is a good thing.

This was the first day i played the song (as opposed to the many times i’ve played ‘Blackened’). The timing throughout this song (for a basic drummer like me) is not easy, i had to peek over a couple of times to see where i was at. i mean, when they’ve done the intro live even Lars has to keep time- and at one point they skipped the intro altogether.

There’s a few times i messed up or lost my place, and got right back in. But that’s life, right?

Dang, this band is so good.

Metallica Fridays (no. 3): The Imperfections Of Life

Tomorrow- February 12- will mark the first year since being hit by a semi truck. It’s surreal to still think about the impact an accident of that sort has on one’s body. i’ve come to terms with much of it (i kind of don’t have a choice), but it’s still strange to think about. i don’t look at myself in full in the mirror much, and i i feel like i accept everything more, looking down at my legs every day. When i happen to see my reflection in random places, and see my full self sitting in a wheelchair it just doesn’t seem real. It’s like those legs (or what’s left of them) belong to someone else. i don’t even hate the body i am in. As a matter of fact, i am very happy to have survived such a traumatic event.

i cannot predict what is going to happen on this first ‘anniversary’ (for lack of a better word); i do know that Metallica has been a massive soundtrack in coping with this journey. Being a young, angry kid i gravitated towards the thrash classics. St. Anger was released when i was approaching 27, but had it come out when i was 16 i would have embraced it… though i would not have understood and appreciated it in the same way i do as a 40-something adult.

i am around the same age as when they recorded Death Magnetic. There is no manual that can prepare you for life in your 40s. i’m not even talking about the typical societal expectations of ‘spouse/house/career’. All the things you may still enjoy from a younger age just hit differently.

The songs i chose to post for today’s ‘Metallica Fridays’ session are just that.

Interestingly, these songs gave me the most trouble to do. Everything kept going wrong- there were issues with the headphones (one pair i was using kept falling out and eventually decided to malfunction as i was playing (making it hard to hear much of anything), the other pair kept falling as i was playing); the hi hat trigger decided to go in and out (which hadn’t happened before or since), the memory in the camera was full (because i forgot to empty it- my fault), i had to suddenly go to the bathroom in the middle of playing… and so on. i feel like the universe gave me the micro of challenges, possibly as a way to acknowledge the macro of the trauma i’ve experienced.

i messed up a whole bunch on these songs, but these songs mean a lot to me. So i’m posting the mistakes and all. All i know is that i survived.

i survived a massive change to my body, and i dealt with what ever issues were thrown my way with doing these songs.

While trying to heal from a trauma, you end up processing a lot of things. ‘The Unforgiven’ is a song that, despite always liking it, i didn’t understand its significance until in that very process. The foundation of how to deal with anything (whether positive or negative) exists in the relationships with those who were your caregivers. . After experiencing such a traumatic event, there are people who say they care about you (and have been close to you) who suddenly become silent and/or unsupportive. When one (or more) of those people were the foundation, you begin to ask a lot of questions of yourself. You ask if it’s something you did. Even though you love them you become angry and resentful.

Me playing this song is a way for me to adjust to a process of forgiving myself, and just allow whatever happens to flow through. Despite all the mistakes, this was entirely healing to do.

i had to think about it. ‘One’ is not only my second favorite Metallica song (‘Blackened’ is the first), but i think it might be my second favorite song of all time (after ‘Home’). i loved the song before (and even listened to it on repeat before the accident). As a person who lay there in the hospital, unable to move and in an immense amount of pain- and eventually having to amputate a leg- this song means so much more to me now. The anguish of the character of Joe Bonham in the book (and film) Johnny Got His Gun was captured succinctly in the lyrics. The plainness and directness encapsulated everything i was feeling and experiencing as well. While it wasn’t a landmine (or artillery shell, like in the book), a truck took my leg from me. i remember nothing about experiencing the actual accident (which is a good thing, if you ask me). i was happy to have survived, so i remained as positive as i could while in the hospital… but so much of the time, i wanted to die.

Nothing about it feels real at all. i wish this on no one.

But… but… how are you playing ‘One’ with only one foot??!! You CANNOT possibly leave out what is arguably the MOST memorable aspect of the song (out of many memorable parts)!!!

Yes, i know. i played the ‘double bass’ on the SPD-30. i kept most of the song simple- no major fills or complex footwork. But i knew i had to put the double bass in. i really wanted to do the song to… commemorate the year since the accident. The song got me through a lot.

i mean, Metallica got me through a lot.

Metallica Fridays (no. 2): Jonny Z And First Plays

So here we go… As promised, since Metallica/Lars was the inspiration to get me back here on these drums, i wanted to have a specific day where i just posted playing to their songs. How i play is very basic, so in a way i was scared to even cover their material- i don’t play double kick, and i don’t do complex rhythms, at least at this stage. But still… how you do things is to just do them, and get better despite whatever limitations. i have one leg (which, even though i have accepted it still bugs me out to say), and the foot on the existing leg (which permanently has pins and rods) isn’t the strongest. So every time i play i am surprised! Whatever mistakes or hits i make, i’m still happy i am alive and get to bang on stuff.

As i was figuring out what songs to do for this post i heard that Jon Zazula (the co-founder of Megaforce Records, along with wife Marsha) passed. Jonny Z was the one who championed for Metallica when other labels weren’t into them. So of course, ‘Hit The Lights’, the first song Metallica ever recorded (for the Metal Massacre compilation); and the first song released on the first album (Kill ‘Em All) was the first choice to play to. It’s actually one of my favorite songs to play drums to.

i wanted to play another Megaforce track, and at the same time challenge myself- so i said… ‘Creeping Death’! No, it is not the most complex song on Ride The Lightning; however, i had never practiced or played it in its entirety before. i’m just doing a lot of experimenting. What you are seeing here is me playing it through in a first take for the first time, warts and all.

Interestingly, the ‘Guitar Hero’ versions to some of these songs are a bit different than the album versions, in terms of arrangement…

‘Fuel’ is a perfect example of where my limitations lie, and how i work around them. No wait… that’s ALL the songs!

Honestly, even though i love them all (and i say that unironically), the Load/ReLoad/St. Anger period is some of my favorite drumming from Lars. Load is actually my favorite Metallica album. The musicality, the lyricism, the production- they are all on point.

This is an incredibly fun song to play, and it’s even more fun to see it live! ‘Fuel’ to me is like, the Metallica version of Michael Jackson’s ‘Speed Demon’. Both awesome songs.

And of course, being a St. Anger fanboi, i wanted to do a song from it. Lars was putting in work on that album- don’t sleep. Should Kirk have had solos on it? Yes. Absolutely. Does the snare sound bother me? Not as much as it does other people. Should Bob Rock be considered a ‘hero of the day’ for his work on that album? Indeed. He stepped back in his primary role as producer, and became a member of Metallica, even if for an album (as well as some other sessions, and live performances). The whole album tells a specific story (some of which ‘invisible kids’ like me can identify with), and i appreciate that.

Honestly, it’s one of the Metallica albums i listen to the most. And again, i love all their albums.

Hopefully down the line- sooner than later, the album will be seen for the greatness it actually is.

Wherever you go Mr. Zazula, say hi to Cliff for us.

The Beginnings… And The End

Anyone who plays an instrument but doesn’t have access to their own knows what it’s like to get as much practice (and inspiration) in where you can fit it. Aside from the few inspirations i had, another one was Bill Ward. A lot of people don’t seem to list him in the pantheon of great drummers, but dude was the heartbeat of Sabbath- arguably, the foreparents of heavy metal… even though they were essentially a blues-inspired rock band. i’m obviously not as good as him, but admittedly, ‘Behind The Wall Of Sleep’ was a MASSIVE drum inspiration for me over the years- i definitely sent some nods to it in a few songs i’ve played.

So i decided to play along with it, in my own simple way.

…And being from NYC (and always hanging out on the Lower East Side/Loisaida) it was inevitable to run into some of the elder punk cats, and the Ramones would not be an exception. i met Joey (while i was DJing at a bar) and Dee Dee (at another bar, where i was taking pictures at a photo booth). The greatest irony is that, despite being born and raised in NYC, despite having a bunch of their records over the years, despite covering their songs in bands and despite having met a couple of the OGs, I HAVE NEVER SEEN THEM LIVE. Their first album was released seven months before i was born, and their final concert was three months before i turned 20.

Obviously i have seen footage of their concerts, and had the live albums. i used to bring Ramones tapes to school, and a bunch of kids would say, ‘Howard Stern is in a band? Word?’ (They were also (semi) regulars on Stern’s show, so another major irony (or not) happened- the band made their official breakup announcement on his show). It amazes me that father down the line they got, their live performances got even faster.

…So… i decided to have a little fun drumming to a couple of songs from their final show. i think people sleep on/underestimate how not easy Ramones drumming is. Each drummer carried a different style; however, Thomas Erdelyi laid the foundation by which proceeding drummers went by. As with anything else, i’m just having fun (and getting some practice in at the same time).