I once heard someone say that a band is only as strong as its drummer. I once heard someone else say a drummer will make or break a band. Those words could not be more true, that is if the drummer even shows up!
I challenge any musician to make a case that drummers are not the most difficult musicians to deal with. I don’t know what it is about them. Perhaps the ability to pound out complex rhythms takes away from their ability to act accordingly with the rest of society or to arrive to a gig on time. Maybe they know how rare a good drummer really is and they allow that knowledge to shift their attitude to that of a 5-year-old?
I’m not saying that all drummers are like this 100% of the time. In fact, I’ve found that most drummers (removed from musical surroundings or discussions) are some of the coolest people to talk to. However, once the conversation turns to organizing a rehearsal they transition to the maturity level of a toddler with ADD. They do things that make no sense within civilized society and then act as if they actions were completely justified. I will tell the story of what happened to me on Friday to highlight my points here.
When I returned from my vacation one week ago, I landed ready to play some music. I hadn’t jammed with anyone since camp had ended a month ago and was ready to apply my knowledge of spontaneous composition before it slipped to the back of my sub-conscience. I began organizing a jam for Friday afternoon. I immediately found a guitarist and a keyboardist (both from Camp MMW 2011) willing and able to make it into Manhattan as well as a friend of mine who plays Tenor, Alto, and Baritone Sax who was not only willing to play but to host the jam his townhouse in Harlem. A few years back he converted his basement into a full music studio that can accompany a 10 piece band. All that was left was to find a reliable drummer (haha, reliable drummer!) I called my friend who plays and he immediately said he was totally down to play Friday afternoon in Harlem. I told him I would text him the address on Friday morning and we would take it from there.
Friday morning rolls around and after a late breakfast and a bike ride to Roosevelt Island, I get the address of the townhouse from the sax player (which is on 152nd st) and text it to everyone telling them to meet there around 3:30.
“No Problem, Siked!” replied the guitar player who was planning on driving up from Central New Jersey.
“Sounds good, I already have my keyboard and my amp ready to go. Gotta go to Coney Island now but will see you there at 3:30” replied the keyboard player.
Then comes the drummer’s text from Brooklyn: “Ugggghh, that’s pretty far dude, why don’t we just have the jam at my place?”
“Fuck!” I thought to myself. “Here we go!” I opted to make a phone call rather than continue this conversation via text message. The phone rang 3 times and then he picked up.
“Yo man, what’s the deal?” I said. “Now you don’t want to make the trip to Harlem?”
“Dude,” he started. “I just drank too much last night and I’m not feeling too good. I’m down if we can jam at my place.”
“I didn’t even know jamming at your place was an option,” I responded. “Why didn’t you mention this before? My friend in Harlem has been getting his studio ready for us all morning. I got my friend driving from Jersey and the keyboard player is coming up from Coney Island right now.”
“I didn’t know you had all these people coming out and I didn’t know how far away it was.”
“It’s Harlem man, you are in Bushwick, of course it’s far.” I shot back. “I told you 3 days ago it was gonna be in Harlem and you said you were down.”
“Look man, I’m just too hung over today and I can’t make it out.” He mumbled into the phone. “Why don’t you just do the jam without me?”
“Dude,” I pleaded, “You’re the drummer! Without you there is no jam unless we decide to play to a metronome but you know that’s not gonna happen.”
“Well I guess the jam just isn’t gonna happen man. I’m sorry.”
I hung up the phone and all I could think was… “Fuckin Drummers!!”
If anyone knows a solid (and socially stable) drummer in New York City, please send me his name and number because I need to find someone who can lay it down in a jam without forcing me to take a xanax in the planning process!