Thomas Lang Breaks With Tradition
Arguably one of the most identifiable aspects of Lang’s playing to have come out of all those years of repetitive training is his masterful command of traditional grip, which he has used unfailingly in every style of music he’s played throughout his entire career. Which is why I almost choke when he drops this statement: “I will never play traditional grip again.”
“I don’t want to say never, but … I’ve changed my grip after 37 years. I learned to play traditional. My teacher said, ‘This is how you play the drums.’ No argument, no discussion, this is it. So I did. And I’ve been playing like this all my life. And I’ve been playing very heavy music and loud music and complicated modern music with this crutch, which is a joke, a curse. This makes no sense at all. It’s a stupid solution to a stupid problem.”
Yikes. I can hear the gasps of horror from jazz purists everywhere as he’s saying this. But the truth is, Lang has just as much authority as anyone to make this kind of statement. “All my life I’ve been working with all these stupid things, with the left hand, with the angle of the hand with relation to the forearm. The exact location. Everything from whipping motion to finger control to Gladstone, Moeller, you know, all this nonsense, for so many years, with such determination.” In fact, Lang not only took trad grip to new technical extremes over the years, but became a veritable ambassador for it as a clinician.
Playing devil’s advocate, I mention that I’ve heard people talk about how an asymmetrical grip forces a different kind of communication between the hands, resulting in more creative interplay with the limbs.
“That was my thing! I said that!” he blurts out. “I put that in my videos. Other people say that it’s the exact other way around, that you have to have the same exact starting point. It doesn’t matter. There are different philosophies. But for many years I was a big advocate of the traditional grip because I felt like I had to be, or I had to reason with myself. I always wanted to be the guy who could play metal using traditional grip. But then I thought, why? Only because I need to prove to myself that it’s possible to play this? Because I’ve worked so hard on this grip, now I want to use it for everything? Even if it doesn’t make sense? I’m defending this stupid thing that makes no sense. And I’m defending it really well. I’m looking at myself, going, Yeah, this makes sense.
“I am over that now.”
These and other revelations about one of the world’s greatest technical drummers can be found in the June 2010 issue of DRUM! Magazine. To read the rest of the article, you can purchase a copy at your local newsstand, drum shop, or online by going here.