The rules of punk drumming have been officially pronounced dead. Our ruthless assailant of tried-and-true rhythms is Eric Moore, drummer for punk/thrash legends Suicidal Tendencies who, as you will see, had zero interest in the beaten path for 13, the band’s first studio album in – what else? – 13 years (not to be confused in any way with the new Black Sabbath album of the same name).
You’ll find a plethora of original drumming up and down 13, and the subtly schizophrenic approach of track #2, “Smash It” is no exception, pushing relentlessly forward with a surprising number of styles Moore effortlessly weaves together. “I wanted it different right out of the gate,” says Moore, who recorded the album at Def Jam Studios in L.A. “This song is about getting into it. You know how right before you get into a fight, you stare into somebody’s eyes, and just get pumped? ’Smash It’ is just really angry. It’s just about going berserk.”
Band: Suicidal Tendencies
Song: “Smash It”
But there’s a method to Moore’s madness, starting with the first microsecond of “Smash It,” which kicks off with a fast straight-stick volley on the snare, followed by a series of suffocating hi-hat chokes. Then, from 0:08—0:19, Moore unleashes a hyper, off-time polyrhythmic cascade where a fast/skippy hi-hat-snare-kick pattern goes off under raw, wiry guitar.
“In the intro, we go straight into it – it just has to attack you,” he states. “Then for the next section, [lead singer] Mike Muir said, ’I want you to be out of the box.’ We never want the drums to sound obvious. All punk music is always the same, so I want to play what the guitar player is playing, but I want to freak it so it’s not just a beat. It makes it way more interesting, and a lot more fun.”
Playing with a single kick (Moore does play double kick, but opted out of that configuration for “Smash It”), he then does go into a more traditional punk rock feel from 0:19—0:41, reeling off a solid, fast, and hyper-but-focused punk beat for verse one. “After that, the idea was to just jump into it so the people can get their slam on inside the pit,” says Moore. “You’ve got to have that energy, and this song brings so much energy. That’s how it came about – playing the off-time stuff, then for the verse we launch into the fast part.
“It’s more of a gallop,” he continues. “It’s like a horse trotting, and the bass drum is single-double-single-double, which gets you into a steady flow. That’s how I approach music all the time – even the fast stuff has to be grooving.”
At 0:42, a fast single-stroke snare fill shoots Suicidal Tendencies into the chorus, noteworthy here for its plainspoken efficiency. “It’s just a good build – it doesn’t have to be over the top,” Moore notes. “Sometimes you want to be outlandish, but it’s also good to be simplified and just go to the next part. That fill is a nice crescendo into the song. It’s all about being musical.”
From 0:43 —1:08, Moore cruises on the straight-ahead punk beat. After a big tom/snare fill at 1:10, a return to the intro’s hi-hat chokes injects fresh space into “Smash It.” “We wanted to make it breathe and still be heavy there,” he says.