Tucker Rule’s Fat Foot Feet

When emo kings Thursday hit the road to support their 2006 album, A City By The Light Divided, Tucker Rule knew what he had to do. And it wasn’t going to be pretty.

“I ended up adding a monster [28" x 14"] kick,” the energetic skinsman says. “There’s a lot of parts on the record where there’s a kind of blown-out kick drum sound. Rather than triggering something or playing something electronic, I wanted to re-create that using a giant eyesore of a kick drum. It’s huge, and it’s got this crazy low end. It sounds retarded!”

Just to be clear, he means retarded in the good, drool-inducing sort of way: Once the big kick sound of “Into The Blinding Light,” this month’s Drum Part, begins thumping upside your head, you can’t help but get a little slobbery. Try, though, to keep it off your shoes, because the song requires a firm, relentless fat foot for momentum and energy. Think you have the muscle? Read a little more before you try running through the transcription.

See, even Rule and the rest of the band tripped a little in the beginning. They spent about 18 months writing tunes for City, the longest period for any of their discs, and “Blinding Light” proved a particular problem. “We hit a roadblock with it,” Rule remembers. “We just couldn’t get the verse beats right. I was trying to do stuff that was too busy. I always wanted it toned down, but I felt like the part was meant to be crazy. So I experimented a lot with beats and stuff like that, and a lot of the guitar parts, like the ends of choruses, the rhythms of the guitars — we had different rhythms. And after writing for a year and a half, you kind of lose track of what every song is.”

Luckily, veteran producer Dave Fridmann  who has also recorded The Flaming Lips as well as Mogwai and Sleater-Kinney  was on hand to guide the way. “We were in the studio,” Rule recounts, “and I played him one idea, the crazy one. It was this ridiculous thing that made no sense at all, and if you didn’t play it perfectly, you sounded like an idiot. And I don’t play perfectly, so … that was an issue. And then I had this other one that ended up on the record. It’s kind of simpler, it’s got this thing with the floor tom, and he’s like, ’That’s perfect! What are you complaining about?’”

No complaints here. Rule thunders in with quarter-notes on the snare and driving sixteenths on the bass drum. This percussion-dense, almost metal-headish, intro then opens into the main verse groove, which has a funk vibe in the bass drum syncopations. Played as a two-bar phrase, the verse pattern gives the tune a quick rhythmic hook that Rule — all without losing momentum or the groove — switches up at will, particularly in a kind of call-and-answer between his hands and always-busy bass foot. Textured, compositional, intelligent  this is some mighty-fine power slamming.

And then it gets really interesting around the 2:00 mark. Beginning with measure 15, just after the relatively calm keyboard break, Rule launches into a tribal tom and (of course!) bass drum combination that’s difficult to wrap your wood around but well worth the effort. “It’s sort of like a flamadiddle on the toms,” Rule explains, “and the kick drum is landing between some of the beats, some of the tom stuff. It’s a weird flam pattern that I do when I’m playing by myself, when I’m practicing. One day, we were trying to come up with another part for the song, and I just started playing this beat.” And for the Thursday faithful, you actually have a bit of a head start: Rule played a similar rhythm on the chorus of “War All The Time,” from the band’s last record. It’s almost the same kick beat but with a slightly different hand pattern. Get them both down, and you might not want to play a hi-hat ever again.

Until, that is, you get to the bridge/breakdown section at the bottom of page XXX. All the instruments except drums and keyboard drop out, and Rule returns to a variation of the verse groove, but this time with some fast thirty-second-note bursts on the bass drum. Thinking about your double pedal?

“No double pedal,” Rule says. “I don’t like double pedals. I like having one strong foot. I feel like there’s a lot of stuff on all of our records that I could play with a double pedal — there’s a lot of fast kick drum parts — and I feel like that would be so easy, just kind of relax and slow it down and play double pedal. I do think that there’s bands that use it so well, but I have a feeling that if I had a double pedal I’d overuse it.”

Oh, don’t tease. We don’t mind a little pedal abuse. But Rule’s doing all right with just one thumping foot, just like another fellow who inspired legions of rock drummers to learn bass drum double strokes. “I was just listening to John Bonham, and kind of like, ’How does he do that?’ And then I just sat and listened to the record, and figured out my own way of how he did it. It’s kind of like a slide you do on the pedal board of the kick drum pedal.” Make the first stroke with your foot on the middle of the pedal board, and then slide your foot up the pedal to make the second stroke. Got it?

Beginners beware: This is not the fastest or most lick-laden tune we’ve ever transcribed, but the hard and heavy kicking can make even the best of feet falter. Take it from Rule, who’s been performing “Blinding Light” live now for a few months: “It’s a very tiring song because the drums don’t really stop, there’s a lot of different patterns in the song, and a lot of different body movements. Especially the intro and the ending are very kick drum heavy. By that time, my leg is pulsating. The pacing of the bass drum  it can get away from you. It’s something you really have to concentrate on.”

Now all you have to do is save up for an eyesore of a kick drum.

“Into The Blinding Light”

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