February 1, 2011

A Drummer’s Perspective: A View From Behind The Kit

Filed under: Book Review — Real Rock News on February 1, 2011 (11:03)

I’m biased. I’ll admit that right off the bat. I’m a (very amateur) drummer, so a brand-new coffee table-style book featuring pictures of renowned drummers behind their kits is something that definitely caught my attention. Drummers are accustomed to being pushed to the rear. That in and of itself is not a problem, since it’s a long-standing tradition to set up the drums behind the rest of the group, especially when the drummer has one of these monster kits that could probably hide every other band member behind it if they decided to try.

neil-peart-from-a-drummers-perspectiveIt’s probably just us drummers – and perhaps a few air drummers – that have problems with the other aspect of how much attention drummers get whenever we get to see them perform. Live performances are undoubtedly the best way to get a good look at a drummer’s kit and their technique, depending on how close you can get to the stage or how powerful your binoculars are!

Catching your favorite groups on video is a different story. Most often it seems like we’re lucky if we can get a 2-second glimpse of the drummer every once in a while. The vast majority of face time is devoted to the folks who stand out front, particularly the lead singer. It’s always been frustrating for drummers who are trying to get a feel for what their favorite players are using, or how they choose to play.

Is that a 13-inch or 14-inch high hat? Was that a switch to a traditional grip for that drum roll? Those are the kinds of things drummers want to know but cannot often not see due to the fleeting attention they get on video or simply because they are pretty-well hidden behind their kit.

I don’t what this to come off as a rant, or worse yet, a whining piece that’s all about how underappreciated drummers are. I’d like it to be more about celebrating a new book that features a lot of great pictures of drummers and their kits. David Phillips, a U.K.-based author and drummer has published a brand-new book entitled A Drummer’s Perspective, a hefty hardcover that’s jam-packed with photos of drummers in action. This book is all about the photos, so don’t expect this to be full of the history and biographies on your favorite drummers. Phillips obviously had a very specific goal in mind with the publication of this book: Show us the drums! Yeah, and the drummers, too!

It may be obvious that someone like myself is most interested in pictures of drummers like Neil Peart, Nick Mason, Roger Taylor and Terry Bozzio, all of whom are featured in the book. This new release goes much further than that, however. Quite a few names were unfamiliar to me, but I’m already thinking about checking out some of these players based on their kits or the artists they have performed with. My first look at the book already helped me make a decision I had recently been mulling over.

Since it’s been a little more than 20 years before I was able to get behind a kit, I have been thinking a lot about whether I want to go electronic when I finally decide to pick up a new kit. My kids are grown now and my wife an I are on the verge of becoming “empty nesters,” so I see an opening in the near future for a place to set up a music room for a new kit.

Recalling my younger years of whaling away on an acoustic kit that could sometimes be heard by my neighbors three or four houses away (yes, I was in the house and the doors and windows were closed!) I was a little apprehensive about a new acoustic kit and how my wife’s brain may be rattled even if she was as far away in the house as possible from my little “studio.” Having always loved the look of an acoustic kit and my doubts about the feel and response of an electronic one, I was very doubtful about an electronic option despite the tremendous advantage of the peace and quiet it would provide for my wife and neighbors.

Paging through Phillips’ new book I came across a couple of photos of Thomas Lang playing a Roland electronic kit that was actually pretty nice-looking. Before too  long I was watching Lang play a very similar kit on YouTube at a demo at the 2007 NAMM event. That pretty much put my fears to rest regarding electronic kits – it’s clearly the way to go for an amateur like myself who wants to bang around a bit for the sheer enjoyment of it without rattling every window in the house and the silverware in the kitchen drawer.

As usual, I digress and should get back to the book. This colorful volume weighs in at over 2 pounds is about a foot wide, 10 inches high, with its 157 pages adding up to a little over a half-an-inch thick. You definitely do not want to be hit in the head with this thing!

It’s hard for me to gauge how interesting a book like this would be to a non-drummer, but for drummers I am almost willing to say that this book is a must-have. If you’re a notch or two beyond a drummer and are a no-holes-barred drum fanatic, I would say that you need this book in your collection. Rest assured that I will find a prominent place to display it in my new “studio” when I get the chance to set it up!

For more information or to order, visit the A&R Marketing website.

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