Re: Rock Radio's Drummer List is super, super SUPER dumb, here is a better one

As usual, I'ma follow Chris' commentary on a fuckawful list with some of my own thoughts.

A bit of history: I love drums. I can't play them for shit, but I love them and have been trying to do so for years, and as a general rule I often have a tendency to overstate the value of a drummer relative to the rest of his band--wouldn't go so far as to state that a drummer is the most important member, or that ridiculously flashy and clinic-worthy 240 bpm playing are integral to a band being good... but even if your band has a pair of amazingly skilled guitarists, a solidly funky bassist and a vocalist with the pipes of Bruce Dickenson*, if your drummer sounds like s/he just rolled out of bed with a hangover and a click track approximately two seconds behind the rest of the band, bet your ass that I won't like your music. You might as well replace him with a drum machine--which are awesome by the way (*cough*Skuppy*cough*) but that cold, mechanical pulse can't impart the organic knockout punch of a proper skinsman on their A-game.

*No, Nicko McBrain, I like you just fine. Though your stage name is dumb.

Now in all fairness Rock Radio's list is not total ass like I expected it to be when I clicked on it. Certainly not as horrific as BBC's guitarist list. There are some solid, underrated participants here--a few long time favorites like Bozzio, Colaiuta, Gadd, Dailor, Morris (who was also great in Joy Division, thank you), even that douchenozzle Collins--say what you will about his musical sensibilities, put a ball gag in his mouth and hand him a set of sticks and he will likely dust off 98% of drummers on this Earth (sadly, that goes for Peart too). I also had to laugh that Portnoy was included--not so much regarding his actual inclusion, which I mildly disagree with, but the fact that he drums for A7X now. What's the matter, Mike? Not making enough cream with your fellow boring, pedantic Berklee grads?

But then we get to the rest of the list, and the order and it's just... wow. I think Joey Jordison, who is a halfway decent drummer stuffed into a flock of tone-deaf retards and primates banging around in dumpsters isn't even the most offensive pick--yeah, he is most definitely not #1, for reasons already established, but at least he has some modicum of talent. I have no fucking idea why that complete shit-sucking tool Travis Barker is on here, or Chad Smith, or Cozy Powell, or the loser from Toto... does that band even exist anymore? On the county fair circuit, maybe. And look Dave, I think you're fucking awesome, but just because you had the good fortune to be playing with a drugged-out generational symbol that had the good sense to end himself with a shotgun to the cranium when he saw the future and that future was Puddle of Mudd, doesn't mean that makes you qualified to be in the Top 10 of every "Best Drummer" list from here to fucking oblivion.

Sadly my bitter drunken ranting must come to an end, and I have to actually be constructive and offer some alternatives here. To wit:

Danny Carey (Tool, ZAUM, Green Jelly, Pygmy Love Circus)

Does Danny Carey look indisputably like a pompous shit in this photo? Why yes, yes he does. Unfortunately his main gig playing behind Maynard and Adam in Tool kinda promotes this. Does this deserved smugness in front of a huge quadrillion-piece kit in any way, shape or form degrade my opinion of this man's ability? Fuck no. Mostly eschewing the crazy windmilling of some of the other drummers here for organic, snakelike grooves that completely throw the concept of what human limbs are capable of in question (amazes me that he's close to celebrating his 50th B-Day), Carey's syncopated antics are always the highlight of Tool's best songs, whether it be the pulsing mathematical buildup of "Lateralus," the intense flurry of toms that is "Ticks & Leeches," the Bonham-on-acid performance of "Third Eye," or the tight synergy with bassist Justin Chancellor in "Forty-Six & Two."

Damon Che (Don Caballero, Bellini)

I hate to take away or diminish anything that the mighty Zach Hill has done, but Damon Che is clearly his stylistic daddy, along with at least half of the other math rock drummers from the late '90s to the present. The powerful and hot-tempered skinsman of former Touch & Go icons Don Caballero Mk. 1, Che makes even the adroit performances of his bandmates (including the incomparable guitarist Ian Williams, whose clashing ego was at least marginally responsible for the dissolution of the first lineup) melt into the shade, a manic postmodern firebreathing (literally) hybrid of Keith Moon and Stewart Copeland on a half-pound of uppers. Even as the only founding member of the current Don Cab lineup, he hasn't slowed down or gotten the least bit sloppy.

Tomas Haake (Meshuggah)

As you stare at that photo, you stare into the eyes of a Swedish death machine. All hyperbole aside, as the drummer for Meshuggah Haake is simply beyond most of the current paradigm. At least when I listen to Carey or some of these other extraordinarily trained musicians, I can sorta intuit what they do, and what piece of their kit they're going to hit next. While Tomas' style is clearly rigorously clean-cut and regimented in beats of mostly four--to him--the rest of us are simply trying to guess at what the fuck he's doing, exactly. The unyielding 4/4 crash cymbal in most Meshuggah songs is precise and robotic enough to shame most Roland-powered industrial outfits, but underneath that there's a brutally stuttering set of patterns and experiments in mayhem with four independent limbs that give Meshuggah its baffling chimera-like sonic signature. Enough big words, this man is a god, and will probably be studied by an entire school of metal and prog drummers for years to come.

Chris Pennie (Dillinger Escape Plan, Coheed & Cambria)

You see the size of Chris' kit? Pretty basic, right? This man will technically rape the likes of Peart and Portnoy and their house-sized sets with that, and he's just getting warmed up. As the former drummer of noisecore champions Dillinger Escape Plan, Pennie was in a band of equally talented individuals most comfortable changing time every four bars or so while keeping the tempo at a brisk 200 bpm on average, and he was the driver behind the wheel holding that psychotically fast machine just on the edge of launching itself off a cliff Evel Knievel-style. It's a shame to see his ridiculous fusion/hardcore stylings wasted on a bunch of boring emo-prog sasquatches like Coheed. I hope the money is good.

Brian Chippendale (Lightning Bolt, Mindflayer, Black Pus)

The prime mover of face-destroying bass 'n' drums duo Lightning Bolt, Chippendale is not a fancy instrumentalist eager to show off what he learned in class or a smooth set of hands trying to impress you with finely honed technique (though he's certainly no slouch). What he will do, though, is beat your soft ass and every surface of his set into an unrecognizable paste while shrieking and warbling all kinds of totally incoherent shit on top through his hood mic. He reminds me of Animal from the Muppets and that is a good thing, his performance imbued with the childlike glee one can only acquire by smashing things and making noise. Paired with equally stellar bassist Brian Gibson, Lightning Bolt is the loudest, craziest two-piece you've ever heard, all the while having way more fun than the average po-faced metal or hardcore band that tries to be this heavy.

Matt Cameron (Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Temple of The Dog, Smashing Pumpkins, et al)

Yeah, I know what you're thinking already--the fuck is this guy? But if there was a song from the early to mid '90s mainstream radio scene that you enjoyed, there's a very good chance that Matt Cameron was behind the drums for it. While his main gig throughout the '90s was in Soundgarden, he's been all over the place with other headlining acts (most recently Pearl Jam) and there's a damn good reason for that. Cameron's ability to take an odd-time groove full of ghost notes and jazzy accents and quietly blend it into the background of hits like "Outshined," "Fell on Black Days," and "Burden in My Hand" amongst others makes him a very well respected musician across the board, and while he may not consistently drop jaws like others on our lists, his effortless and tasteful dexterity behind the kit can definitely be appreciated by a discerning listener, and he's further proven his mettle by writing a fair number of good songs for the above bands to boot. Moreover if you think what Matt does is easy, try covering any track from Badmotorfinger on drums and eat your side of crow.

Gene Hoglan (Death, Dark Angel, Testament, Dethklok, Strapping Young Lad, et al)

In my mind there are two gods of thrash drumming--Dave Lombardo has already been featured, and I wholeheartedly agree with Chris' choice, but Gene's been around just as long if not longer, and has enjoyed a career just as varied as a badass musical mercenary with the likes of Dark Angel (the only thrash band on Earth faster than Slayer in '86), Chuck Schuldiner's landmark band Death, the bipolar industrial-metal death bomb Strapping Young Lad, and Gorillaz' metal dopplegangers Dethklok. While Gene can thrash along with the best of them (odd to see a 300-pound man move his hands and feet so fucking fast), his real talent is throwing in some seriously challenging cymbal work, touches of percussion like propellers and M60 shells and confounding syncopation over the insistent double bass pounding. Hoglan's signature is always immediately identifiable no matter who he's playing with, and he's an awesome guy and constantly in demand within the top echelons of the metal community.

John Stanier (Helmet, Tomahawk, Battles)

The name of John Stanier's game is discipline--all three of the bands above have benefited heavily from the man's utterly rock-solid yet subtly tricky grooves. From Helmet's minimalist post-hardcore to the space-age funk of Battles, Stanier's unique style lends itself well to any setting and has a classic yet thundering swing that belies his stated influences--John Bonham, Billy Cobham, Lenny White and Bill Bruford--all the while keeping a primal, catchy thump firmly front and center. When you manage to be entertaining for over eight minutes at a time with only marginal variation of the beat, that's serious talent.

Might post some more runners-up later, if I'm feeling ambitious.

8/13--as promised:

Brian Viglione (Dresden Dolls, THE WORLD/INFERNO Friendship Society)
Flo Mournier (Cryptopsy)
Morgan Agren (Fredrik Thordendal's Special Defects, Frank Zappa, Mats/Morgan)
Ben Koller (Converge)
Ted Parsons (Swans, Killing Joke, Prong, Jesu)
Trym Torson (Emperor, Enslaved, Zyklon)
Sean Reinert (Death, Cynic, Aghora)
Grant Hart (Husker Du)
Coady Willis (Big Business, Melvins)
Chris Frantz (Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club)
?uestlove (The Roots, Soulquarians)
Martin Lopez (Opeth, Amon Amarth)
Mick Harris (Napalm Death, Scorn, Extreme Noise Terror, Painkiller, et al)
David Sandstrom (Refused)



  1. I'm holding out hope that you're going to include John Sankey of DEVOLVED (not being pretentious, that's how they write their band name). Only drummer I'm aware of that has caused an epilieptic seisure.

  2. Sorry dude, I've never heard the guy. But I'll look into that.

  3. Fun fact: I was considering putting John Stanier on my own list, but I was like "Stephen's probably gonna want to make a list of his own and he's so juiced on John Stanier that he'll probably be able to talk about him way better than I can." And I think I was right!

  4. freaking awesome list, but both of you are missing out on two phenomenal drummers from the bands toe and pretend. videos attached:


    this is toe. the drummer is one of the most memorable and distinct and writes MUSICAL parts on the drums, which is something i never see. the song i attached is not the most technical but there are far more out there. not to mention that the video i attached is live and somehow ends up being the exact same duration as the recorded one, demonstrating his perfect tempo only possible due to his perfect groove.


    this guy is in a pretty obscure band that released their debut earlier this year-- his style plays in perfectly with the toe/dilute/american football style but sounds unlike any of the drummers those stated bands use. i don't know how to explain his actual playing though so it's in your best interest to listen-- although your mind might explode.

  5. adrian you moron, you write for this site, you can put up your own.