i Do What i Can Do, So i Do It

i continue to try an seek out other amputee drummers, and so far, i’m so amazed at all of the things i see. i am literally a baby in this experience (well, technically a toddler), and i have a ways to go before i can get to the level of a Caleb Graves, Jack Thomas, Jason Barnes and most famously, Rick Allen. It’s mostly dudes i have seen highlighted in the community- no surprise there.

i’m here representing those of us who are less known or acknowledged- or not known at all (raises hand here).

i thought about all of this because figuring out different things amid the limitations has been interesting. For instance, in a traditional set people who use double kick obviously use the left foot. i have never used my left leg for the kick before, so i was surprised at how fast i adapted. There are other things i have to sort out while playing, such as playing a particular pattern in place of the alternate open/closed high hat- such as the following song.

‘Is It My Body’ is probably my favorite Alice Cooper song. Frank Zappa found them interesting (and strange) enough to put them on. Their first few albums (of which Love It To Death (where the above song is on) is among them) were more straight ahead rock, as opposed to the metal of the proceeding years. Neal Smith seemed to be a pretty big fan of the open high hat.

But alas, i did what i could do.

Soooooooooo… i finally got a keyboard again, after years of not having one. i used to play piano all the time (and even wrote whole songs), but i was never proficient at it. i kind of forgot how to play; i hope it’s like what they say about bicycles- when you know how to do it you don’t forget.

i hope that’s true though, because i intend to ride again.

i can still play some notes, but the technique is TERRIBLE. i wouldn’t even call it a technique. i have never seen anyone play this bad- HA! But i wanted to show it anyway. Because you have to start from somewhere.

Go ahead. Make fun of me. i know i look like a little kid playing on a small Casio.

It’s okay though. i have Touré the octopus by my side.

‘Every Little Step’ at a time counts.

Speaking of… i got a request to play to some ’90s R&B. i did play to the one SWV song a few posts ago, but i couldn’t think about what else to do. Then i thought about the severely underrated Bobby album, by of course, Bobby Brown. My favorite BB song is the one i played above on piano), but Bobby is a much more mature work.

‘Get Away’ is the jam, but of course i had to punk it up (shoutout to Infectious Grooves). And of course, Lars was (subconsciously) all over this. i have to laugh about it at this point.

Drums are definitely a way to get away…

And finally, we have Toto.

My first exposure to ‘Hold The Line’ was actually Millie Jackson’s version (If you haven’t heard it go check it out). i have the album now, but the only Toto songs i remember knowing as a kid (besides the Thriller association) were ‘Georgy Porgy’ and ‘Rosanna’. Toto was one of those bands (like The Police, Hall & Oates, Wham!, The Doobie Brothers, Kenny Loggins, Ambrosia, etc.) that crossed over into the hood.

Jeff Porcaro was one of those drummers who prominently put the swing in rock music. i hope i did him justice here.

ima punk, ima punk, ima punkpunkpunk

i was watching a Mike Portnoy video, where he was demonstrating unconventional time signatures. While i have done a few odd ones myself during playing (and being in the midst of writing music right now), there were only a couple i could do with him, especially not having double kick. i’m also not as good as him. That’s not a good or bad thing. He’s been at it way longer than me, in all the years i’ve been drumming combined.

i guess i mentioned this because i am finally at the point where i am getting more comfortable with playing (after 20-odd years of not), to the point where i can write some basic (not yet Portnoy level) odd signatures. That’s a huge step from the first time i sat in front of the drums.

The next step: Practicing and getting decent at blast beats. Old school ones of course, since i am only using one foot for now. An even larger drumming goal: Blast beats with a prosthetic.

Until then, i’m just gonna continue to work on building the confidence, and having the fun.


A band i have seen live a couple of times and have always been a lot of fun is Rocket From The Crypt. There’s not too many rock bands that have a horn and organ section. i was listening to them one day and said, ‘they would probably be fun to drum to.’ Out of the many i could do, i narrowed it down to two.

At least for now. And i just realized that rhymed.

The State Of Art Is On Fire and Hot Charity are two favorites of mine in their catalog, and i decided to do one song from those- ‘Cloud Over Branson’. The other song is from Scream, Dracula, Scream (another great album), ‘Ball Lightning’.

Maybe i’ll drum to some Drive Like Jehu next…

My favorite part about ‘Lithium’ is Novoselic’s playing. He’s a solid player, but doesn’t seem to get a lot of credit. The bass is a bit more prominent in the version here (which was at the Reading Festival). i was really into Chad Channing and Dale Crover’s playing (they seem to be forgotten about as well); however, Dave Grohl goes hard on them drums. The dude is also a multi-instrumentalist, playing all the instruments on more than one Foo Fighters album himself.

i am bigger on Bleach and In Utero; but ‘Lithium’ is my jam.

i was just having a little fun here; nothing too serious.

When i was a young punk kid (and not a middle aged one like i am now), i played guitar in a band that covered The Misfits. i don’t remember the exact moment i heard them, but the first Misfits tape i bought was Walk Among Us. ’20 Eyes’ set the stage for the rest of the album.

One of my other favorites is, i would say, a favorite of many others as well- ‘Green Hell’.

i couldn’t round out this (halfway) punk set, without playing to my second favorite punk/hardcore band (after the Bad Brains), The Dead Kennedys. The lyrics will always be timeless, despite the very prominent past (and present) actions of band members (outside of Jello Biafra, who’s been pretty consistent since day one).

‘Police Truck’ speaks for itself. The band (the version i acknowledge anyway) only had a 6-year run, but it was a very impactful six years.

Harmonies And Childhood Memories…

i’ve always been that kid to sing the harmonies to songs. i don’t know why, but the melody never interested me as much. Obviously that’s not totally true, since you need a melody to build the tune. And i definitely love a good melody- but there was always something much more needed (and all of those things were in my head).

i’ve also never been much of a good singer, even though i absolutely love to sing. Like with playing other instruments i haven’t (yet) reached the heights of some of my favorite vocalists- Ella Fitzgerald (my favorite of all time), Sarah Vaughan, Donny Hathaway, Rachelle Ferrell… Being a punk kid, i wanted to, at the very least, be able to growl too, like barney Greenway or max Cavalera. i always wanted to have the simultaneous roughness, power and melody of Patti LaBelle, of Betty Davis, of Joyce Kennedy, of Phil Lynott. i wanted my voice to travel far like R.J. Dio, like Rob Halford, like Bruce Dickenson… i wanted to have that guttural YEAH like James Hetfield…

But i am just me. i don’t even have the warmth of a Tracy Chapman or Joan Armatrading, or a Joni Mitchell.

i don’t even sing like a Greg Graffin. i’m not saying this is a good or bad thing. It just is.

One of the songs where the harmony stayed in my head (shout out to the Buzzcocks) was ‘Struck A Nerve’ by one of my favorite ever punk bands, Bad Religion (of which Graffin is in). This song has one of my favorite intros of all time, and the song itself has some of my favorite chord structures. And the ‘stream of consciousness/self-reflective’ lyrics are always there.

The version i drummed to was from the live album Tested. Sadly, i missed them when they recently came to town. i found out about it a day later. i hope i get to see them at some point.

After drumming, i felt inspired to sing it a capella. i’m not the greatest singer, but as i said, i love it! No one else is gonna hear all the sounds going on in my head…

i was a kid who played with trucks as much as i played with dolls (i withdrew from all those gendered expectations early on without even knowing what that was). i loved playing with barbie dolls, but i never wanted to BE Barbie! i mean, her feet must hurt standing on her toes all day…

Being the burgeoning punk kid i was though, i was MASSIVELY into the Barbie vs. Jem battle. i knew of the Misfits before i got into The Misfits (if you know, you know). Jem and the Holograms went a little bit harder in the rock section than Barbie & the Rockers (but NOBODY went as hard as the Misfits- i mean- they had motorcycles shaped like guitars!). Jem & the Holograms were more like Cheap Trick, and Barbie & the Rockers were more like the E Street Band.

i used to wear out the Barbie & the Rockers tape though! One of the songs on it was ‘Born With A Mic’. It’s so bad, but good at the same time. i already know i am a basic drummer, but i don’t know how Marky Ramone does constant fast eighth notes for an hour. My arms were getting tired the few times playing through this song.

i need more practice!

i like both corn and chickens- though i only eat one of them. Brushy One String made a great song to groove to, discussing both of them. i did a little search of drum covers of ‘Chicken In The Corn’, and i actually found more than i expected to. So i figured, how can i groove to this in my own basic way?

Well… here it is.

Just Messing About…

Just like how i would always look at the deejay at a hip hop show, i would always tend to focus on the drummer when going to see bands. i never became a turntablist, but i did end up deejaying at clubs and bars off and on for years (and also doing radio solidly for 11 of those years). You look at the hundreds of drummers over time, and some of those end up being your favorites. And you say to yourself, ‘i will never get there.’ But is ‘getting there’ really the point? You want to be able to have inspiration from your favorite musicians, but you should never want to BE them.

i have no idea why this thought was just in my head… It’s gonna take me a long time before i am ‘as good’ as my favorite drummers (or ANY of my favorite musicians). Still, i try to visualize the first time i sat in front of a drum set and somehow knew how to create a beat (after time and time again of air drumming and banging on random things). It still seems very unreal, sitting in front of a set and banging on things.

i mean… i’m not horrible. It could be worse right? But i’m also realistic. i will never profess to be the greatest basic drummer of all time. But you know what? Someday i will graduate to being alright.

As for now, i’m just gonna keep messing about, and keep practicing.

And i decided to mess about and play to one of my favorite songs by The Jam, ‘Going Underground’. Like any great song, the lyrics are always on time.

…Can’t explain why the drumming i do seek (and destroy)…

i actually mistakenly erased a bunch of the video, so you get a brief one here, of me playing to SWV’s ‘Weak’. It’s nothing too complex (obviously). This is a ‘why not??!!’ situation. Let’s have some fun and bang on things, making a beat or two.

Remember to sing along…

i actually love ‘This Charming Man’ more now after playing drums to it, because for some reason (after hearing the song 50,000,000 times over the years (and even having the record)) i didn’t realize it was missing an 8th. i mentioned a couple of posts ago how i absolutely loved rhythmic illusions; this isn’t necessarily a rhythmic illusion, but it is a thing that will mess you up and confuse you if you’re not paying attention.

The reason i bought all those Smiths records was honestly, Johnny Marr. He was the best at doing that jangly guitar (and was also inspired by great players like Nile Rogers). The rhythm section of Mike Joyce (drums) and Andy Rourke (bass) were pretty dope too.

i wanted to be funny and put some gladiolas here, because… you know who.

A Little Bit O’ Half Time… And A New Song (Sort Of)

i ended up getting an Alesis Surge mesh kit. i am still figuring it out (of course), but it’s nice to have this along with the SPD 30, where i can make some extra patterns and sounds to compliment the Alesis. The hi hat pedal is open (echoing an acoustic set) so i had to put rubber bands on it in order to keep it closed (i only have one leg, so i gotta do what i gotta do). The other adjustment i made was to put the kick on the left side (because, you know, one leg and everything). i’m a below the knee amputee but my knee doesn’t bend so well right now. Whenever it gets to that point though i can use the prosthetic and eventually do some double kicks!

While i’m still new at playing around with this kit i ended up actually writing a song- well, sort of.

i am absolutely in love with rhythmic illusions- where a song is playing one rhythm and your brain is interpreting it to be another. It is fairly common in jazz and in the polyrhythms of traditional African music. In terms of popular music in the west, The Yellowjackets’ ‘Top Secret’, Metallica’s ‘Blackened’ and ‘Battery’; ‘Solitude Standing’ by Suzanne Vega, ‘Black Dog’ by Led Zeppelin are among some.

The first song i recognized as having a rhythmic illusion (despite hearing others in the past) is ‘Swap meet’ by Nirvana. i think the song begins on the 3 instead of 1 (Don’t quote me on that; i cannot read music and i am not great at tabs). i would always get mad (not really) when the drums kicked in, because they always ended messing up the beautiful rhythm in my head. Despite knowing the way the song is, i still see the ‘preferred’ rhythm.

And so i made a song around it. i also took the opening bass line from ‘Blew’ (also from Bleach) and pulled an Ulrich and Hetfield by arranging the drums as the primary driver to these particular riffs, then writing the lyrics last. It’s a silly little song about a cat- because cats are the best! Despite being inspired by Metallica (with a nod to Slayer) here, the song interestingly/unintentionally ended up sounding not unlike something Sonic Youth may have done.

You be the judge…

Thinking about all the songs i could have fun with, for some reason, one song did come up.

Y’all, tell me why it was ‘Billie Jean’? MJ is my favorite artist, but ‘Billie Jean’ is a song i’m okay with never hearing ever again. i said ‘Well, since you came up all in my face, why not switch you up?’ i envisioned something other than the very recognizable 4/4 ‘on the floor’ pattern. i messed around, and it ended up being mostly half time (which is kind of a running theme of this post. It also helped me enjoy the song a bit more. it just puts the song in a different space).

RUN DMC was my favorite group in hip hop as i was coming up. A simple beat could be one of the dopest, and Jason, Daryl and Joseph took inspiration from Billy Squire’s ‘Big Beat’ to create one of the most classic tracks with ‘Here We Go (Live At The Funhouse)’ (which many a hip hop, house and pop record have also sampled from themselves).

i love how Jam Master Jay (RIP) messed up a bit, and they kept it in. That threw me off as well, but i came back in. i hope.

One thing i do know is that i can’t count. HA!

You can consider me hiding under a rock, because i hadn’t heard all of ‘Seven Nation Army’ until i played drums on it. It’s pretty easy to see how not familiar i was with the song, but i went for it anyway. i know that Meg White is also a pretty basic drummer, so i’m just going along with her for the ride to the land of basic drummers. i’m just going where i am wanted.

Or am i? i didn’t get an invite.

Playing drums on it, i only heard all of the drumless version. So i still technically have not heard the actual song in full. What i did hear of the song, i know it’s more of a 4/4 rhythm. So i decided to play around with the half time as well (as you do)…

i hope i did alright though.

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).