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Entry date: 8-15-2022 - Rhythm sectionals - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

Happy Monday. Recently, I saw a poll on social media about bands from the UK. It gave a pretty good list and said, “Pick three” or something like that. I had to choose the three I would want to keep, I guess, if I were to forsake all others. One the bands I chose was Happy Mondays. This is my stream of consciousness.

This week will be a another fun one, I think, with my students. We are going to talk about rhythm. I’ve got a pretty cool playlist going so far of interesting rhythms. My goal here is to lay a foundation so that by the end of the year, even my first graders can talk a little bit about how rhythms make them feel and be able to identify what rhythm is in a song.

I’m also going to tell them about a ‘rhythm section,’ too. This made the think.

I have a pretty unique perspective on this. I have been a part of a lot of rhythm sections. My first, of course, was in Hillbilly Devilspeak, beginning with EJ. That was a lot of fun. Terry and I called him “The Boy” although I don’t think he is too much younger than me.

EJ was really fun to play with and had a very unique style. He hit the drums hard and made our songs a lot more interesting with some killer, tribalistic dynamics. He allowed me to lock in with him and it taught me how to play bass really fast because he was willing to lock in with me, too, and let the riffs dictate where the songs would go.

He was the only drummer I played with for the first five years or so of playing bass. Alex and I used a drum machine when we did Son of Crackpipe, so we definitely told that drummer exactly what to do. That helped me improve my ability to play in time and was a great experience.

When EJ decided to leave the band, Shane stepped in and we worked for several months to dial it in with our new guitar player, Steve (AKA PaPa). Shane was a relatively new drummer at the time. Very new, really, but he and I locked in pretty quickly, too. Practicing was tough, a lot of the time, because I think Shane was pretty hard on himself and hadn’t built up a lot of confidence. He definitely showed u for shows, though, and has really become an excellent drummer over the years.

At some point around 2000 I joined my friend, Casey, in a band called Smug. We had Drew on guitar, as well, and a guy named Troy, I think, on drums. I feel really bad because I liked the guy and we played well together, but I’m not a hundred percent certain that was his name.

That band only lasted for a short time, maybe a year, and then we disbanded, and I never spoke to “Troy” again. We played a few fun shows, though. He was a solid drummer from the rock and roll school. I remember that he wore gloves and I thought that was a bit odd. Rhythm section number three if you are keeping track at home.

Number four was Pinky. Eric and I had gotten to know each other from Hillbilly and his band, Fluidrive, playing together. Eric is an excellent dude and I miss hanging out with him. I know I must tell the story of Pinky more completely soon, but Eric and I brought a lot to the table and became, if I say so myself, a pretty formidable rhythm section.

Eric hits the drums really hard and really well and is a beast behind the kit. He opened my eyes up very wide when I got lucky enough to play with him. No offense to Shane or EJ or Troy at all, but damn. Eric showed me how the game could be stepped up.

In a similar fashion to how EJ was able to bring a controlled chaos to Hillbilly, Eric brought a power and truly inventive presence behind the kit to Pinky that brought those riffs to life. I always called Pinky “Big Dumb Rock” when people would ask me what we sounded like, but it was Eric who brought the rock.

I love playing with Eric. We were able to get that chemistry going where I could give him a look, or he could give me one and we would know it was time to follow each other or make a change. That’s such an important piece for a rhythm section to have. You need to trust each other and be willing to listen.

After getting Pinky going, I joined North Side Kings when Richie, who had been playing bass, decided he wanted to play drums. Richie’s timing was all over the place, but when he was on, he was pretty good. I love playing those songs, though, and even though he wasn’t Eric, he was fun to play with. I wish we would have been able to connect a bit better.

On a side note, there was one show where Eric filled in for Richie and NSK sounded great.

Richie was number five, though, and number six would happen pretty quickly in the timeline after I joined NSK. Ray and Steve had decided to join forces and be a dual-guitar attack in Hillbilly, but they wanted to fire Shane and add Claire to the band, so Claire became number 6. I hated letting Shane go, but I think in the long run, it was best for everybody.

I could be wrong on this, but I think it motivated Shane to start on the path or, maybe more accurately, accelerate a bit more on the path to really get a lot better on the drums. It really took a bite out of our friendship, though, for a while. I’m very thankful he and I were able to move passed that time and resurrect one of my favorite friendships and collaboration.

To be continued, I suppose. I’m out of words for today.

See you tomorrow.

It's kind of crazy this is a Getty Image. Shane doesn't look super happy, but we were at Al's Bar in Los Angeles after a gig. I think we got a decent review from someone after that show, too. If I remember correctly, there is a funny story about this one that I probably will never be bold enough to tell.

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