The Non-Expert

Forgive the Drummer Some

Experts answer what they know. The Non-Expert answers anything. This week we solve the greatest mystery known to rock-and-rollers of every generation: how to find a decent drummer.

Have a question? Need some advice? Ignored by everyone else? Send us your questions via email. The Non-Expert handles all subjects and is updated on Fridays, and is written by a member of The Morning News staff.


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Question: My band needs a drummer. We’ve been advertising and asking around for a long time now, and still nothing. My main fear (because of a previous band) that the only willing drummer we find will be very uncooperative to play what we’d like him to play. What would you recommend as the best course of action?—Will

Answer: Will, here is the perfect Craigslist ad for finding a drummer for any rock and roll band:

Wanted: Good-running, 1991 Ford Econoline E150 Van, 100,000+ miles, interior lights throughout, drapes and blinds, wood trim, full-size bed, four captain’s chairs, home-built table in it.

The guy who owns that van is your drummer.

Maybe he’s played the drums before, maybe not. If he owns that van he probably played the drums for a while but sold them last year so he could sit in an overnight line to buy a Wii. Frankly, it doesn’t matter what he plays like because if your band were any good you’d already know a dozen unemployed drummers. In my neighborhood, I can put an open can of tuna on the stoop and have four out-of-work drummers at my door inside of an hour.

But that’s OK, too, because I’m going to tell you a secret.

In rock and roll, no one except other drummers can tell the difference between an excellent drummer and a terrible one. It’s a fact. The greatest rock band in history, the Beatles, had a drummer who couldn’t tap out the Frasier theme on a Pringles lid. At the height of their popularity, Def Leppard’s drummer lost one of his arms in a car accident and nobody even noticed. The White Stripes’ drummer is a nine-year-old girl. For most of its incarnations, Echo and the Bunnymen’s drummer was either nonexistent, dead, or the singer in Haircut 100 on all the Haircut 100 records except for the one that was popular.some Frank Beard-quality eye candy, you don’t have to worry about finding one who can play. The only important thing is that he owns a sweet van.

Once you’ve secured your van, however, you need to start hyping its driver. Talent is nothing, but perception is everything. Contact your street team or your SpyFace friends or your BFFs or whomhaveyou and tell them all how much your new drummer rocks. Be specific: Go to Google and, in quotes, type, “Neal Peart is.” This will give you a list of stock phrases you can begin applying to your new drummer all over town:

[Your drummer] is God.
[Your drummer] is the best, hands-down.
[Your drummer] is sick.
[Your drummer] is rad.
[Your drummer] is a genius.
[Your drummer] is the definitive stickman in the [your band’s subgenre] world.
[Your drummer] is fucking bananas.
[Your drummer] is a master craftsman.
[Your drummer] overshadows [your band] the way Sting overshadowed the Police.
[Your drummer] is one of the only people in the world who can outplay Mike Portnoy.

The next step is just as critical, however. After word has spread about how awesome your drummer is—but before your first gig—you want to spread the rumor that your drummer is ridiculously overrated. You can find some helpful phrases by going to Google and typing, “Lars Ulrich is.” This is important in case good drummers from other bands show up in the audience; when people hear bad things on the local club grapevine, they will assume all the other drummers in the club are jealous, and your drummer truly is all dank, and so forth. This is known as the Brian Urlacher Effect, after the Chicago Bears linebacker who is simultaneously considered by a majority of football fans as both the best and most overrated defensive player in the NFL.

Your question should not have been, “How do I find a drummer for my band?” but rather, “How do I get rid of my annoying drummer without also losing my sweet van with the captain’s chairs?” The problem now is that your fans are convinced that your drummer is the greatest thing since Nick Mason, but you have to go on van tour with a thumbless dweeb who couldn’t keep time with an Atomic clock, and while you just want to put your Pumas on the dash and listen to your iPod all the way down to Carbondale, he won’t shut up about the fact that when Han Solo is lowered into carbonite his wrists are tied behind his back, but when they pull him out seconds later his hands are frozen into cat-like claws in front of his body. Also, if that particular facility is used only for carbon-freezing, as Lando claims, and will likely kill any human immersed in it, how come the carbonite slab into which Hans has been perfectly hibernated has a built-in digital apparatus for monitoring human vital signs?


So really your question should not have been, “How do I find a drummer for my band?” but rather, “How do I get rid of my annoying drummer without also losing my sweet van with the captain’s chairs and the home-built table in it?”

Time to go back to your old friend Google. Type, “drummer left because,” and you’ll have dozens of proven ways to rid yourself of a percussionist. For example:

Band: Fluisterwoud
Reason for drummer leaving: “He was a session drummer, so there was no reason to use him in the future.”

Band: Those Left Behind
Reason for drummer leaving: “Bad grades.”

Band: Congo Square Blues Band
Reason for drummer leaving: “He started believing aliens were about to invade the earth.”

Band: Pencey Prep
Reason for drummer leaving: “Chronic knee problems.”

Band: Spiral
Reason for drummer leaving: “Artistic differences.”

Band: Sikth
Reason for drummer leaving: “Because he plays jazz.”

Band: Motion City Soundtrack
Reason for drummer leaving: “Because he got married.”

Band: Pharaoh of the Gods
Reason for drummer leaving: “Because his wife was pregnant and he said he was going to be the father and so he had to retire.”

Band: Diecast
Reason for drummer leaving: “Because of an argument that started over Brandon Fraser’s acting.”

Band: Murmur
Reason for drummer (No. 1) leaving: “Because he was too busy.”

Band: Murmur
Reason for drummer (No. 2) leaving: “Because (we found drummer No. 3).”

Band: Murmur
Reason for drummer (No. 3) leaving: “Because the recording process/vision in the studio wasn’t to (his) liking.

Band: Murmur
Reason for drummer (No. 4) leaving: “Because he needed to make money and we definitely weren’t doing that.”

Band: Murmur
Reason for drummer (No. 5) leaving: TBD

Band: Chicago Bears Shufflin’ Crew
Reason for drummer leaving: “Traded to the Broncos.”

As for your drummer not wanting to play what you want him to play, what’s up with that? Who ever heard of a drummer playing a totally different song than the rest of the band?

Oh, crap.

Is this Billy Corgan?