It’s been more than a month since it all went down, but my skin still crawls when I think about it. Maybe you’ve been there: in need of a drummer, you post an ad on [insert website/bulletin board here]. You word your post in such a way that, without sounding insufferable, communicates that you’re looking for a player of a certain caliber. You meet the first contestant. Not happenin’. You meet the next. Almost, but not quite. Third time’s the charm, right? Right. . . .
Sympathetic to the drag that is schlepping a drum kit, you agree to meet at his/her house, just out of town. Dodging doggie-doo landmines in the side yard, you pass a rusted-out El Camino (truck-bed pool must have sprung a leak) and squeeze into a garage “studio” that smells of popcorn and feet. Nice enough guy/gal, though. Still hopefully optimistic, you set your rig next to the cleanest soundproofing-mattress you can find as your drummer/host assumes the throne. You hear the first thwack of the kick drum, and your heart sinks.
“Lock in with the drummer.” After nearly 10 years working for Bass Player, this phrase ranks #2 in my book of interview clichés (a distant second to “Serve the song,” but that’s another column). My conditioned response upon hearing it—an exasperated eye roll—has become such a problem that I’ve taken to wearing dark glasses for face-to-face interviews for fear of outing myself as the cynic I’ve become. Well, no more. It took 20 years of playing with good drummers to spoil me, and mere moments of playing with a poor one to make me learn my lesson. That lesson? You sound only as good as the weakest link in your rhythm section. I may have missed it in my personal Thanksgiving proclamations, but I now have a proper New Year’s resolution: If you’re sounding good, give your drummer some. After all, you might be that weakest link.