Mikkey Dee: Shock The System

mikkey dee

The Drum-I-Nator

Solos are a love/hate affair with Dee. He did them regularly in the earliest days with Motörhead, but after awhile the feedback from the crowd grew tepid. He also started to read negative comments about them in the music press – not about his chops, but the whole idea of solos, which in the grunge era had completely fallen out of fashion. Dee was cool with that because he was sick of doing them anyway. “Then it’s, ’Oh, the show was great, but there was no drum solo, blah blah blah.’ No matter what you do, you’re never going to please everyone out there.”

Now that he has brought them back regularly since the mid 2000s, Dee enjoys them more than ever, and while they might sound the same to a casual audience member, each time it’s an adventure for the drummer. “It’s the transition [within] them that could vary from night to night,” he explains. “Sometimes I feel very stiff and square when I do the solo, like I’m just skipping between techniques, and other nights I flow in between them. Or I can stay on the snare drum quite a long time and just dig into that snare. So depending on how I feel I’d say 90 percent of the time it is the same every night.”

Sound checks are vital windows of time for Dee to experiment with different licks or fine-tune a groove. “I’m usually on stage a good hour ahead of all the other guys working on stuff. That’s where I practice,” he says. “I get great inspiration that way.” He definitely doesn’t waste these precious moments on stretching. “I don’t have a routine for that – usually just power-nap for like 20 minutes before.” [laughs]

It may be a bad example to set for younger drummers, but when you release albums as often as Motörhead, shedding by your lonesome while off the road is unthinkable. “Bodies take a lot of damage when you tour as much as Motörhead has over the past 20 years. And as a drummer, mentally, I really just don’t have it [in me to practice]. I come back from a tour and I hate my drums. I don’t even want to see them. I can’t dream of rehearsing here at home. I’d rather do it at sound check.”

While recording the first ten albums of his Motörhead career, Dee used no metronome at all. Around 2003, though, he started to use a click since it was part of the ProTools package that the band’s various producers began to use. “In the studio, it’s okay. It’s just a matter of learning how to play around them.”

On stage it’s another story. “Live, I hate them,” he says. “I understand the ones who need to play them because they have so much recorded stuff on their albums, but we don’t – so thank god for that. They do trust me back there to set the time. They can play around me a little bit, and it sounds just great when they do it.”

It goes without saying that Dee’s only experience with triggers was solely for audio consistency in the venue, not because of strength issues in his feet. “We knew we had no sound check,” he says. “It was easier to plug in and have the same sound basically every night.”

Dee is an unlikely figure in the evolution of triggering technology. Back before the company started building acoustic kits, Ddrum was the e-kit subsidiary of Sweden-based keyboard maker Nord. The company had devel- oped some trigger prototypes and thought Dee would be a good guinea pig. “It was Swedish-owned then,” he says. “A very nice couple owned the company and they wanted me to check them out. I said, ’Yeah sure,’ got endorsed by them, the whole bit. But it wasn’t really for me.”

He remembers his anti-triggering epiphany at a concert hall in Munich when the sound guy gave him a demo of how his drums sounded naturally. “After I found out how the kit sounded without them I said, ’No way.’ I guess I am a little old fashioned that way.”

As much as he is a product of metal, Dee, at 50, is just old enough to appreciate its roots in other genres. “Besides maybe some punk rock and heavy metal and some hard rock, I love to play fusion, jazz, and a bit of big band jazz. I’d rather be a decent drummer in a wider range than the best in only one type of music.” What might sound like mere dabbling, though, is ultimately in service of his stylistic foundation. “That’s what I try to bring into Motörhead, [something] you hear that’s kind of twisted, but you can still stomp your feet to it. As a general listener that is always the most important thing; they hear something going on, they just don’t know what it is.”

Lemmy and Campbell didn’t either, not at first anyway. The drummer thinks back to the title track he wrote on 1995’s Sacrifice, probably the drummiest Motörhead track – not just of the Dee era, but in the band’s entire catalog. “The guys just stood there and said, ’We can’t follow this, Mikkey.’ I come in with the backbeat and I turn it around twice. I used more of a Latin thing with a single kick and I put a double kick to it and simplified it, but it has a very strange time figure.

“I’ve had guys stand beside me onstage and see all the little ting-a- ling and little inflections I put in,” he adds. “They say, ’I had no idea you were doing all that other stuff because you don’t hear it out there.’ But it still gives me enjoyment to know I’m playing it that way.”

mikkey dee

Mikkey Dee's Kit

DRUMS Sonor SQ2 Vintage Maple (Custom Finish)
1 22" x 18" Bass Drum
2 14" x 7.25" Mikkey Dee Signature Snare Drum
3 10" x 10" Tom
4 13" x 11" Tom
5 14" x 12" Tom
6 16" x 16" Floor Tom
7 18" x 16" Floor Tom

Cymbals Paiste Signature
A 20" Power Crash
B 19" Power Crash
C 18" Heavy China
D 14" Sound Edge Hi-Hat
E 18" Power Crash
F 10" Splash
G 22" Precision Heavy Ride
h 14" Thin China
I 20" Heavy China
J 20" Power Crash
K 16" Thin China
L 19" Power Crash

Mikkey Dee also uses sonor hardware, DW 5000 bass drum pedals, Remo heads (Ambassador Clear, toms; CS Reverse Dot Coated, snare; Power Stroke 3 Black, bass), and Wincent sticks.

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