It was 1997 or 1998 that I first heard the Good Riddance track "Fertile
Fields." At the time, I was aware of the fact that according to "Punk
Code" no drummer was to use a double bass pedal [Note: on rare occasions
it was permitted to use a double pedal on very impressive drum fill, but
this had to be one mind-bending fill. The drummer was required to return
to single-pedal time keeping immediately after the fill was completed].
The thing was, the song was just too fast, and I thought that perhaps
drummer Sean Sellers was using a double bass pedal on this particular
I knew that Sellers had only used a single pedal on their prior record,
the punk rock masterpiece A Comprehensive Guide To Modern Rebellion.
Take, for instance, the song "Steps," in which Sellers creative footwork
pushes the mid-tempo tune perfectly--you can hear both opened and closed
hi-hat work on the track, so it was was a pretty safe assumption that he
was only using a single pedal. But "Fertile Fields" was just too damn
fast, and you could hear him hit an open hi-hat at points in the
tune--perhaps an indication that his left foot was placed on a double
bass pedal instead of closing the cymbals...
As I entered UC Santa Cruz in 1998, a school located in the hometown of
Good Riddance, I engaged in a conversation with a fellow student about
Seller's great drumming. Shortly thereafter we began to argue over
whether Sellers was using a double pedal on the aforementioned track.
Mr. Contrary Interlocutor assured me Sellers was, in fact, only using a
A few months later Good Riddance played a local venue called
Palookaville (which has since gone out of business). The box office was
sold out of tickets, so we bribed the back door bouncer to let us into
the show. Sure enough, as Good Riddance set up their equipment, there
was no double pedal in sight. The only left foot modification was an
additional slightly opened hi-hat located near Seller's ride cymbal,
strategically placed so the drummer could play hi-hat open handed
without having to cross his arms (this also explained the open hi-hat
you hear him use throughout the tune). Sellers drove the band spot on
that night. When they played "Fertile Fields" his bass drum was all
If you haven't heard Seller's drumming on A Comprehensive Guide Modern
Rebellion or Ballads From The Revolution, you're in for a treat--they're
great records with some very impressive drumming. Sellers drives every
tune he plays on, always adding impressive rhythmic coloring and texture
at break neck speeds.
Good records are few and far between these days. Reflecting back on this past year, there is one record and two songs written by two different groups that I can recommend with confidence. The passion and sincerity of these two groups can still spark a little light in my cold dead heart, much like a cigarette lighter flickering in a completely dark room that never lights. No, I take that back, the tracks "Birthday Boy" and "The Queen Of Lower Chelsea" do get my blood pumping.
My favorite record of the year was The Drive By Truckers The Big To Do. This is a band from the Southeast who has two new releases on the horizon--a full length called Go-Go Boots, in addition to a new documentary on the band entitled The Secret to a Happy ending. The documentarty will focus on "the redemptive power of rock and roll." Believe me, I saw them perform at The Fillmore in May, and even as they sound-checked, hours before the doors opened, they were playing their hearts out. They dig their Skynrd and Neil Young while shootin' whiskey, they're great storytellers of the grotesque, and they're not about to apologize for any of it. Around a year ago the band recorded 25 tracks at one time and released 13 of those songs on The Big To Do. They will place the remaining tracks on their upcoming release Go-Go Boots (to be released February 15th). "Birthday Boy," the track that you would most likely label their single off The Big To Do, is a great song. How they recorded the tune is just as exciting (more on that later). But...if you are going to check out this group, I would recommend beginning with the records Decoration Day and The Dirty South, then simultaneously moving forward and backward in their discography. Believe me, it's all good. The Big To Do felt to me like the Drive By Truckers telling Southern stories accompanied by a great soundtrack. The record is solid and consistent--it's a tortoise, not a hare (which is why I don't think it would be as good of an introduction to the band as some of their other works). But, I'm going to move on now because I'll soon be posting an entire article on drummer Brad Morgan.
My other favorite track came off The Gaslight Anthem's American Slang. The song "The Queen Of Lower Chelsea" finds drummer Ben Horowitz playing on rims of his drums for part of the tune, and laying down a beautiful pocket. Like Brad Morgan, Horowitz plays for the song. He said in the September 2010 issue of DRUM! that "anything I do is always based on some kind of gut reaction based on what I'm hearing. If my process has changed at all I'd say it's more cerebral now than it used to be. I'm a lot more conscious of the flow of the song and fitting in with other people, finding my place in the arrangement. I definitely think about that stuff a lot more. Working with producers probably opened my eyes to that level of song writing that I wasn't exposed to before." Horowitz puts his money where his mouth is on his latest.
I love the lyrics to "The Queen Of Lower Chelsea," I love the descending bass line at the end of each verse, I love the catchy guitar work, I love how Horowitz puts ego aside and lays down a creative groove for the song (including the cool drum break in the middle of the song), and I really appreciated vocalist Brian Fallon's sincere note to the listener in the liner notes of the record. Fallon thanks his audience for enabling him to play music. "When I was a kid," Fallon writes "I wanted to play guitar and sing songs...I'll never forget that you all helped me along the way." The title track to the record also hits in the right place--I especially liked how the band bridged the first chorus into the second verse on this opening track.
Producer Ted Hut is worth mentioning too (since Horowitz brought him up). He appears to be Side One Dummy's go-to producer and engineer, and for good reason. My first exposure to him was his work with Flogging Molly, where the sounds he captures tend to have a dynamic range and raw quality to them. American Slang is no exception. I wondered what advice he might have had for Horowitz and the rest of the band on the two tracks mentioned above...
Anyhooo...have a Happy New Year! -Kamm December 31, 2010.
A couple of years ago, TRAPS Magazine placed Roy Haynes on the cover of the fourth issue. Not long after, the drummer invited us to watch him perform at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in Oakland.
For those of you unfamiliar with Haynes’ playing, here's the deal. Haynes is
the only drummer to play with the three most influential tenor saxophonists of all time: Lester
Young, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane and he played on some of the most influential albums in jazz history with artists such as Eric Dolphy and Chick Corea.
He has an extremely delicate touch around the kit and tunes his drums insanely high
(which is where his nickname “Snap, Crackle” comes from). His signature lick is
a quick snare and hi-hat triplet pattern played under a standard 4/4 ride pattern (“ding, ding, da ding”),
where the triplet ostinato is made by combing two staccato snare hits with a sharp hi-hat chick
(produced by the left foot snapping the two cymbals together quickly). The pattern sounds like
“Did-it-uhn-Did-it uhn-Did-it.” You can hear him play the lick on the title track of Pat Metheny’s
Question And Answer record, which happens to be my favorite Haynes drum track. Given who he's played with and the fact that he's been doing it since the late 1940's, it's not reaching to say that Roy Haynes influenced everyone. Over a decade ago I asked Bill Stewart who his biggest influences were--the first name
that popped out of his mouth was Roy Haynes. Last but not least, Roy Haynes is an entertainer. His wardrobe matches his drumming in both intensity
Here’s what I learned from him the night that DRUM! Publisher Phil Hood and I hung out
with him backstage at Yoshi’s.
The tie Haynes wore on the cover of TRAPS #4 was designed by Miles Davis, who happened to
be the previous owner as well.
Roy has one of the most original styles on the drum set of all time. When Phil asked him
when he became “Roy Haynes,” the drummer replied that he had always been Roy Haynes, but that when
he first started working he had to play more conservatively in order to pay his bills. I guess even
the most innovative musicians have to pay their dues at some point.
The producer of Oliver Nelson’s The Blues And The Abstract Truth originally wanted Philly
“Joe” Jones to play on the session.
Out of the blue, Haynes looked at Phil and I and said that someone once told him “good
drumming is felt, not heard.” He said that he always remembered that. I wonder if he thought about
that before he took the stage with John Coltrane in Newport, back in 1963. Because you can feel it.
The System That We Live Under: Jord Samolesky Of Propagandhi, Part 2
By Eric Kamm Published on June 26, 2010
To read part 1 of this series click here.
Kamm Can you start with an introduction to your group and discuss how you guys became involved in politics?
Samolesky Well, I guess as a band, we formed up here in Winnipeg [Canada]. In the very, very early 90’s we were getting together, becoming a band, learning our instruments, were inspired through music, and were just starting to go to some punk and underground metal shows. I think that was the music we were really taken by at the time, and really into and inspired by, and that’s probably the reason why we started picking up guitars and drums. And then I think just slowly over time, from our late teens into our early twenties, we actually started playing…in 1991.
I think by that point a political contribution was as much of an influence as a [musical] sound was. There was one band, MDC, in particular, and DOA here in Canada, that totally blew us away and that shifted our intentions of forming a band, into forming a political band. It was a real conscious decision to set it up like a political band for the get-go.
Kamm Were you and Chris [Hannah, Propagandhi’s primary lead vocalist and lead guitarist] politically active before that?
Samolesky I would say we were becoming politically conscious through musical avenues that we were interested in. We weren’t interested in political music exclusively. We listened to a lot of different kind of music, and stuff like that on top of it. But it was definitely how we wanted to represent ourselves if we were going to make our own band—just sort of join into that sort of scene and become active that way.
And so from 1993 to the present we’ve done four records with the label Fat Wreck Chords in the United States, and I guess over the years we’ve just seen the popularization of punk music through mainstream channels. Big sample bands would be like Green Day and Nirvana, and that kind of stuff, the integration of heavy music into mainstream life. And we’ve just seen that shell taken and manipulated by large companies. And, you know I think when the world’s youth movements were gaining a lot of consciousness and were acting, like with the whole Seattle thing, and all the Anti- G-7 and G-8 protests going around the world, anti-globalization movements were solidifying. And so you have all these companies clamoring for credibility with young people as young people are largely seeing this system that we live under as complete bullshit, and one that’s taken us on a highway to hell in all certainty.
And, I don’t know, we just kind of witnessed a lot of co-optation with music as a sound that was previously taboo in the mainstream, and you couldn’t sell fucking candy bars, and sweatshop-made clothing, fucking with that sort of sound attached to it.
Then all of a sudden it was like “we need something to be cool again to kids.” This cyclical co-optation of new forms of cultural discontent has been going on for years, I think with jazz music and rock n’ roll, and now hip hop and punk, and it’s just like…it’s a hard one to deal with on the inside as you’re part of this music machine. And you know some channels are independent, and others aren’t, and as a band we always strove to be as independent as we could of all that stuff, and criticize it. I think that’s an identifying factor in terms of what we try to do in the band.
Kamm So with the commercialization of all these aspects of the music industry, how have things become more difficult tour-wise, while trying to keep things independent?
Samolesky Well, we did a bunch of shows in the [United] States, and one of the prerequisites with our booking agents was planning not to play places that were sort of House Of Blues or Clear Channel-operated. That’s something we don’t want to do at all. And, we ended up playing lower-key indie clubs which is fine by us. I don’t think it’s difficult in keeping tours low key. You can always choose to go out on the road by yourself, or with a band or two that you know.
But I think, speaking in terms of festivals, a lot of festivals are complete… I don’t know. I find it so strange that a group of large bands who are drawing power, who are so large that they could pull these events off themselves somehow, by working it themselves or with people they know, or…to just open the door and allow companies like Van’s, who I think have pretty poor labor standards, to just tag their name along with this style of music and sell off their fucking crap, all these video game companies… I mean, if you take the time to look at the sponsor page on the Van’s Warped Tour, it’s like, you’d be surprised by the amount of corporate involvement, like Mastercard or Dodge trucks. It like, who invited these fucking fuckers along?
Kamm The U.S. Army too. The Army is going to set up a booth at this years Warped Tour.
Samolesky I’ve heard that they’ve done recruitment tables before at some shows, and then they were sort of pressured out. But…I believe you , that could be very true. And there must be some sort of division within their organizing as to who can stay and who can go. But, I heard at one point that people sort of, I don’t know, raised a big enough stink, that they kind of put the kibosh on it after a few times. But if they’re letting them back in again… I mean, who is making those decisions, and why? I mean, that’s just purely fucked in my opinion.
I would say that that would be the polar opposite way of how I would ever want to go on the road. More than being A-political, and just sort of music for the sake of having fun and leaving it at that. I have a bit of beef with that kind of idea.
But whatever…I can respect that, if that’s what people want to do. But this is crossing huge fucking lines, where, in my perspective, you’re entering enemy territory. You’re aligning yourself with the US government. Bands should be boycotting it, and saying Van’s Warped Tour has lost all credibility, and its time for it to fucking end.
Kamm As a band, do you view yourself more focused on a political message, or more on the music? You mentioned making music for the sake of making music, but also talked about the corporate interests involved in the scene now. I know that your label [G-7 Welcoming Committee] puts out a lot of political literature as well. What would you say your focus is these days?
Samolesky Yeah, I don’t really buy into any sort of band identity. I think we consider ourselves to be three fucking guys who’ve had our heads up, half-way up our asses for parts of our lives, that are trying to struggle with coming through a white middle class male upbringing, and trying to do something good towards the planet now that we know how fucked up it is. But we’re just sort of mildly incompetent, fucking kind of freaky prairie metal kids…and now we’re in our mid-thirties and our hair is falling out and turning grey, and [laughing] you know, a lot of that stuff just doesn’t matter to us, I guess. But in terms of what we do with our lives outside of the band, was that your question?
Kamm I guess I was asking if you are more focused on politics these days than music?
Samolesky Leading up to the last couple years we quit touring and put a lot of focus on the record. And that situation just dragged and dragged for a variety of different reasons. But in the meantime, in making our albums both aspects are really important to us. A political or social commentary is a prerequisite for us. Nonetheless, we do care a lot about the music make, and trying to give it our best shot is our mode of operation.
Since the last couple years we’ve been spending a lot of time here in Winnipeg, Chris does the G-7 Welcoming Committee label on the side, which is a political sort of operation in itself. I was part of that for a number of years, and I kind of got out of it a couple years ago; I didn’t like the office side of things, and I got tired of the year to year direction of that industry, and all the frustrations involved.
Around September of 2005 I began my three-year stint at DRUM! Magazine. On my first day of work I sat down at my space, about thirty feet from Editor-In-Chief Andy Doerschuck’s office, and began preparing old printed DRUM! Magazine articles for this website. At that time the individual cubicles were partitioned by six-foot dividers. The walls were brick and when everyone started talking, things were loud. Now Andy had a boom box that he pumped all the new promo records through, and the entire office got to listen. It was great because you got to hear to new music all day long!
I remember sitting at my desk and hearing this beautiful guitar line, accompanied by some very fusion-ish drumming on a ride cymbal, ride bell, China cymbal, and a side-stick on a snare drum. All of a sudden this huge distorted guitar hit these power chords accompanied by deep crash hits and a mean bass tone. The band halted for a few seconds, then the drummer started a very creative take on the standard punk beat. I could hardly sit still the music was so good.
About a minute into the tune the vocalist entered “A new Iron Curtain drawn across the 49th Parallel.” Politics. I can put two and two together—amazing metal influenced punk (thrash) mixed with social commentary usually equals Propagandhi. I drew up the courage and knocked on the side of my new boss’ door (which he always kept open) to ask about the band. “This is Propagandhi,” he said cheerfully. It was a promo copy of Potemkin City Limits, and he had been playing the opening track, “A Speculative Fiction.”
Shortly after this incident I caught the band performing at Slim’s in San Francisco. Before the group went on, they had a political activist come on stage and talk for a while about many of the incidents leading up to the 2006 Haitian election. Now remember, this was in 2005, years before their massive earthquake, and a time when nobody was paying any attention to the Haiti and their then recent political upheaval.
So…after the activist’s interesting talk, Propagandhi hit the stage and put on an amazing performance. Jord Samolesky, the drummer, had shaved just the top of his head and looked like a clown. He was playing an old red Pearl Export Series drum set, and it sounded amazing. It just goes to show you--it’s not what you play, it’s how you play it. The lead guitarist/primary vocalist, Chris Hannah chose to perform in a giant fluffy French fry costume and sunglasses. The show was so good that I mentioned it for weeks at work--political speeches, costumes, and all.
DRUM! used to have a section called Outspoken, in which a drummer could talk about any subject except the drums. Several months after Propagandhi’s performance at Slims, Andy asked me to interview drummer Jord Samolesky about Haiti. On Tuesday, January 17th, 2006 Jord spent an hour speaking to me on the subject, in addition to humoring me by answering all the other questions I had about his band and music.
After I wrapped up the interview and prepared it for the magazine, the Outspoken section of the magazine was removed entirely from the publication before Jord’s interview could be published. Luckily, several months later DRUM! ran one of their Special Warped Tour Issues, and several of Jord’s comments presented an interesting alternative take on the festival. So, while the article completely missed the point of the interview, at least Jord’s words didn’t go entirely to waste. In addition, Andy generously granted me permission to try to and submit a re-worked version of the article to Punk Planet as a freelance piece. Punk Planet told me to send the article along so they could have a look at it, and shortly thereafter their magazine went out of business. This just wasn’t meant to be.
Now fast-forward three years later. In 2009 Propagandhi released, hands down, the best full-length punk (or thrash) record of the year entitled Supporting Caste. The record is extremely progressive, poly-rhythmic, political, and by far their most melodic effort. Jord Samolesky is one of the most rhythmically intelligent drummers playing today, and he’s managed to capture an organic drum sound in a genre where it’s nearly impossible to play with feeling. You can listen to the entire record here (http://www.myspace.com/propagandhi/music/albums/supporting-caste-10998190). If you are not familiar with the group, I would recommend starting here, and working backwards through their studio records—all are great and unique in their own way.
Recently the band released The Recovered E.P. which features 3 “recovered” tracks from several of their earlier records. The tunes have been re-mastered and are available on iTunes, where all proceeds are being donated to Haiti. I thought this was also a wonderful opportunity to finally publish this great interview from early 2006. Although it’s long, I highly suggest reading through the entire thing, which I will be releasing in several installments. Jord has a lot of interesting things to say about world politics, drumming, and the music industry. This first installment will be an introduction to his band.