The Zildjian Drummer Love contest (sponsored by Zildjian, Converse, DRUM! and photographer Robert Downs) selected winners after viewing videos of 4500 contestants. Six finalists were selected in each region and regional winners were selected by an all-star judging team including Tommy Lee, Questlove, and Kenny Aronoff.
Before he won Zildjian’s Drummer Love Contest, Lem Williams sensed that things were about to change in his life. When his band, Catch N The Dream, played an outdoor show in Salida, Colorado, last summer, local officials had to shut down the town because people were flooding the streets.
“Man, I couldn’t even believe it,” says Williams from underneath the hood of a car in a Denver-area garage where he works as a mechanic. “People were coming up, having me autograph drum sticks and sign their arms. It was crazy.”
Of course, it was the 27-year-old’s ZDL submission, a cover of the Commodores’ “Brickhouse,” that turned our collective head. Williams makes the funk classic even funkier with redonkulous fills, tasty accents, and a li’l sumpin’-sumpin’ he copped from Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” (which he calls out with a word balloon in the video). “I didn’t even prepare anything musically,” he says of the video, which he decided to submit on a whim after a friend recorded it by accident. “It was one of our last songs of the night. I didn’t even know I was being filmed.”
Williams’ introduction to drums at age ten was equally serendipitous, beginning with his dad picking up a $20 kit from a garage sale and bringing it home for his son to play. “One of the drums was this ridiculous red glitter,” he remembers. “Another was like, zebra-striped, and the bass drum is zig-zag black and blue. I couldn’t find parts for it because the sizes were so odd they don’t even make them.”
As soon as he and his pops got it assembled, the young Williams took to the mongrel tubs like it was destiny. “I remember him asking, ‘How do you know what you’re doing?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ But I just kept playing. And then the next day he took it to my grandpa’s church and I’ve been playing in church since then.”
Although a natural, the self-taught drummer took it to the next level by studying DVDs of Dave Weckl, which goes some way toward explaining the surgical precision in his approach to funk drumming. “Dave Weckl had this real cool one on how to develop speed,” Williams says, which he customized into a warm-up routine. “I do three hits on each hand, like, one-two-three, one-two-three, in sets of ten, and try to keep up with my metronome, but start off slow. I do that probably before every show, too, because it gets my wrists and arms really loose.”
Williams digs the new set of Zildjian pies, but the benefits of winning the contest go beyond enhancing his cymbal collection. He recently got hollered at by a local hip-hop producer about a possible collaboration. “I haven’t heard back from him, though, so I don’t know what’s going to happen with that.”
No worries, Williams is dreaming bigger. “I want to play with a major artist,” he says. “I mean, to just be that drummer.”
If that doesn’t pan out, Williams will still be playing in the church, his spiritual and physical home (at least for few nights a week). “I feel so humbled and this is just such a blessing,” he says. “I want to give God complete acknowledgement because I believe that’s why I’m here.”
Name Lem Williams
Hails From Denver, Colorado
Influences Dave Weckl, Vinnie Colaiuta, Tony Royster Jr., Teddy Campbell
Band Chase N The Dream
Drums PDP X7