Talking Drums

Unspoken Double Kick Punk Code

Throughout life there are many unspoken rules acknowledged by everyone. For example, you always give a pregnant woman your seat on the bus, and you don't address your elders by their first name. I've even heard rumors that in the criminal underworld there are laws like no one ever touches attorneys in or outside of the courtroom--they're just understood to be off limits. And then there's that unspoken rule in the EpiFat punk genre--where every drummer has to play the Bomber Beat (straightforward punk beat) with a single kick pedal. There is, of course, one exception where a double pedal is permissible, and that's when playing drum fills. But, if you're going that route, those better be some mind-bending fills, and you must immediately move back to your single pedal for timekeeping. It's kind of like shooting the moon in the game of Hearts--it's an all or nothing deal.

So lets go back to 1999. That summer The Warped Tour had a solid lineup, including the likes of The Bouncing Souls, H20, The Vandals, Jimmy Eat World, Blink 182, The Deviates, Dropkick Murphys, Pennywise, Royal Crown Revue, and Less Than Jake. Back then my friend was interning at Side One Dummy Records, so in addition to getting us into Warped for free, he also hooked me up with the Suicidal Tendencies's latest release, Freedumb. At the time, I had only been familiar with Suicidal Tendencies through their connection to Infectious Grooves--a funk sideproject fronted by the same vocalist, Mike Muir. I had been drawn to Infectious Groove's record Groove Family Psycho because of the funk beat played on the opening track "Violent & Funky.

I had read the drummer's name in the liner notes to both records, but had never heard of him before. Both groups had elements that were extremely funky, aggressive, raw, but always extraordinarily technical. It was not music that you listened to in the same way that you did a pop-punk record, where pleasant melodies and harmonies are spoonfed to your ears. This music got right up in your face, and had to respected, whether you liked it or not. If you listen to Freedumb's third track "Scream Out," you'll see what I mean.

So as Suicidal Tendencies took the stage that day a tall extremely skinny drummer sat down behind the kit. He bent forward over his drums, almost as if his upper back were leaning exactly 45 degrees forward. His posture was either like that of a skilled boxer mid-match, or a tall scientist bending over a microscope. His arms flailed in every direction, but looked completely relaxed while doing so--relaxed like Tiger Woods looks when taking a practice swing. The precision in which he took aim with those sticks was like watching a skilled surgeon use chopsticks at the dinner table.

What followed was something that honestly has left an impression on me since. I will never forget the drummer's footwork that day. Every drummer can remember seeing things done on kit for the first time, where you say to yourself "I didn't know that was humanly possible." This drummer was playing some of the fastest fills I had ever heard before, and he was playing parts of them with just his feet. Now this was 15 years ago, so most of what's left of the memory is an overall impression of how he performed the tunes live that day. And I don't want to mistakenly describe someone else's style, so please don't quote me--but I have this vague recollection of these lightning fast call and response sixtuplets played between his hands and feet--where he'd play the first six notes on just his snare drum, then respond with six bass drum notes played simultaneously with crash hits. But, I'm positive that those forceful fills kept coming, and they certainly sounded improvised.

To this day, that was the single greatest reason that I've ever heard live, or on record, for an EpiFat drummer to use a double-bass drum pedal. That drummer, of course, was Brooks Wackerman.

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