On Discovering Lagwagon
By Eric Kamm Published September 10, 2009
I remember I was riding a bus when I traded my Eric Clapton Journeyman cassette tape (with Phil Collins drumming on a few of the tracks) for a copy of Lagwagon’s Trashed. It was 1994. As I hit play on my walkman, the fastest cover of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” began. In some weird way, I haven’t really taken those headphones off since. Derrick Plourde was drumming on that particular record (a founding member of the band, who only played on their first three releases—Duh, Trashed, and Hoss). When that music first started playing, I remember thinking that I didn’t know it was humanly possible to play drums like that. Plourde’s precision and complexity around the kit was unfathomable, and to this day, in my opinion, only a few punk drummers have even come close to his pounding on those first three Lagwagon records.
Plourde worked hard at his craft—Lagwagon bassist, Jesse Buglione, once told me that Plourde would practice two hours before and after the band rehearsed. Stop and consider how fast and hard he was playing, and imagine doing that for six hours straight (I’m just guessing that he didn’t own a pair of brushes). In early interviews, vocalist Joey Cape used to comment that people would come to their shows and just stare at the drummer. Plourde was also a jack of all trades--in addition to drums, he also played guitar, and contributed many riffs to their songs.
If you visit Fat Wreck Chords’ website, you can listen to the opening track on Trashed, “Island Of Shame” (you might even be able to download the song). [Ed. note: Download it here.
Early on, Plourde sounded like a sped up Neil Peart after drinking way too much coffee. He was constantly listening to the Rush’s record Hemispheres, along with band RKL. In regards to RKL, many people (including NOFX frontman Fat Mike) credit RKL’s original drummer, Bomber, as the first person to play the standard, or modern, punk beat. If you listen to Neil Peart and Bomber and combine the two, it would probably sound like Plourde on the “Island Of Shame.”
Listen to the way that Plourde locks in with vocalist Joey Cape. Although many bands’ songwriting processes differ, often drummers will write their parts with the guitarists and bassist before vocals are added to the tune. 99.9% of these bands don’t go back and re-adjust their parts once the singer adds a melody (assuming the tune wasn’t written around a vocal melody). Plourde was obviously listening to what the entire band was doing.
Following the intro, as Plourde takes off into the standard punk beat, notice how he switches between playing the snare on the on-beat, on 1 &3 (0:22), and the off-beat, hitting the snare on 2 & 4 (0:29). He transitions between the two seamlessly. My favorite part of track is his transitions between the first chorus and second verse (0:58). The fill between his snare and hi-hit is incredible— “Di-Duh! Digga-di-don-don-digga-di-don-don-digga-di-gi-da-di-ga-da-DUH!”
Plourde was able to play at incredibly fast speeds, and start and stop instantaneously. The hesitations and rests he took were always very progressive and musical, and he brought tons of character and nuances to each of these musical spaces. Listen to the ending of the bridge leading into the tune’s outro (1:55-2:05).
I only got to see Derrick Plourde play once, and that was with the band RKL at the San Francisco Warped Tour in 2002. The sun was going down, and they were playing on one of the medium sized side stages towards the end of the Pier. In a touching gesture before the they started the show, Plourde put up a music stand on the front of the stage for the other musicians to see, and taped three sheets of paper to the stand with something written across them. As I took a closer look at the stand, I saw that he had written the words “Don’t Fuck Up” across the sheets of paper. Plourde sounded amazing at this particular performance—in particular his polyrhythmic hi-hat work over some pretty heavy progressive guitar riffage. I didn’t catch one drumming mistake the entire performance. His playing was truly unique, and you could tell that he just understood something special about the instrument. Earlier that day I had seem him walking around, so I went up to him and said “You know you’re the best drummer here?” He looked at me and warmly, but jokingly said “Shut the fuck up??!”
Trashed was the first punk record that I ever bought. A couple years ago someone broke into my car, and stole the original copy that I had purchased. To this day, it hasn’t really bothered me that much, 'cause I’m pretty sure that the album is permanently burned into my brain.