The Studio Drummer Chats!

Neil Peart

January 12, 2020 Season 3 Episode 2
The Studio Drummer Chats!
Neil Peart
Chapters
The Studio Drummer Chats!
Neil Peart
Jan 12, 2020 Season 3 Episode 2
Jonathan Cazenave

I'm taking a few minutes to talk about one of the most influential drummers of all time. Drummer Neil Peart.

Neil Peart died on Jan 7th 2020. He has been huge influence on me for several reasons and I wanted to share some of those with you. My condolences and sympathies go out to his family and friends. 

Show Notes Transcript

I'm taking a few minutes to talk about one of the most influential drummers of all time. Drummer Neil Peart.

Neil Peart died on Jan 7th 2020. He has been huge influence on me for several reasons and I wanted to share some of those with you. My condolences and sympathies go out to his family and friends. 

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Hello, everyone. Yesterday the passing of Neil Peered, best known as a drummer for Rush, also songwriter, lyricist author, was announced, and there are a lot of fantastic interviews with him and bios about him and so much great information out there about him, so I won't cover those things too much. But I did want to take a few minutes to talk about the influence and impact that he's had on me as a musician and as a drummer and as a person. My riel introduction to Rush was when Tom Sawyer came out it at the time, it was simply just a hit song that was on the radio, but it was a unique and sort of amazing hit song, but that time, period and one of the things that captured you instantly when you when you hear it, when you first heard it for the drums, along with the big you know, sent base and this sort of rhythmic, almost percussive lyric thing happening. And certainly everyone would listen to the song and would be waiting with bated breath until the middle section after the solo with the fantastic drum fills, which was sort of the climax of the song. This is one of those songs that for me when I think back on it certain moments, having heard it are frozen in time in my memory. Somewhere along the way, I'd say within a year to after Moving Pictures was released. I don't remember exactly why, but I started digging into the rest of the album, and at the time I was also playing a lot of fusion. Billy Cobb, Um, but Dixie drags my vision orchestra Jeff back Paul, like all that stuff And, of course, all the stuff that influenced Mr Pierre such a CZ but Zeppelin and the who. But it's a start to dig into that record. At some point, it really got a hold of me, and I started to recognize his sort of compositional brilliance and his drum parts. What I mean by that is that like a fantastic composition, every single note that he played had a purpose is particularly on that record and records like signals and in record previous to, um to moving pictures. Those are the ones I'm most familiar with, as I'll I'll discuss in a minute, but that if you look at a great composition and you break it down. Note for if you take like a a composition by Bach or her Moz art. And if you try to take a section out or remove notes or add notes, you realize that every note has a purpose and that each note is almost perfect in its placement. And that, to me, is one of the things that made his drumming so unique is he composed his drum parts. It's very, uh, it's only sort of allowed in maybe progressive rock and maybe some forms of metal like that. You don't hear that in a lot of styles of music. But even within those genres, you have to have this sort of really unique sense of of the song and of composition and of movement and the ability to create what's known as a motif or a theme and then refer back to the theme. And that is what really resonated with me. In his playing was his ability to compose drum parts very unique in the drumming world, and it's a concept I still use to this day. Even if I'm playing on a pop song, I still always try to focus on the vocals and play something that will help build the song in relationship to whatever the most important part of the song is if it's a pop song, probably the vocal, or if I'm playing an instrumental song, whatever instrument is carrying the melody, you have to kind of listen to the song with the songwriters mindset or a composer's mind set. And as the lyricist for the ban, he was certainly able to do that, and to me is one of the things that made his drumming so brilliant. His ability to play for the song composed the drum parts and create re occurring motifs almost like a hook that draw you back in to the song. I can't recommend enough the Hudson music taking Center stage video Siri's, which is probably the most in depth insight into his playing. And they do some really cool stuff like they take rush songs and you can see him play the songs. They'll take important parts, and he will play them solo in a studio. And then there's a slowed down version of him playing that with camera angles from behind the drum set. And then there's also live performance video of a drum cam, which is mixed mostly drums. With this, a little bit of the other instrumentation, so you can watch him place of the entire song live. So if you're interested in seeing how he actually plays some of those songs, that is the best. Look at that. And I use that video all the time with my students as we're going through some of those songs. There's also some great interviews, and he talks a lot about what was going on as they were writing those songs and how some of them came together. And it's a great look at his playing. I got to see Rush a few times through the years, live the last time being grace under pressure in the eighties, and then much later I saw them on the Clockwork Angels tour. By the way, they sounded fantastic on that tour. I'm so glad I got to see them in a really good sounding venue. They were playing amazingly, and the sound at that particular venue was really, really good. It was around the time of grace under pressure that my focus kind of shifted, and I found myself not devouring their records that came after that as much as I did everything from subdivisions and back. Speaking of grace under pressure. Have a quick story about the time I met Neil Period. Uh, it's it's humorous. It is to me anyway, and I'll keep it short. But we were hanging around backstage after the concert and I say we I was with a friend or two, and, uh, another friend of mine came up and there were maybe two or three other people, sort of just milling about and lo and behold by himself. Walking from the backstage ramp to the bus was Neil appeared completely no other band members, no security, no nothing. And one of the people that was in this very small group of people we were with, I think they were probably six of us ran up to him and, uh, with the album in hand, Sharpie in hand and said, Oh, Mr Period, you know, you're one of my absolute favorite drummers in the world. Would you please sign this? And I remember this like it was yesterday. He looked up at the sky, not not quite rolling, rolling his eyes, but he looked up upward and gave one of those and said Okay, and the He signed the album for the signature on there and and there may have been one of the person that handed him something to sign or something I don't know. And I remember being there distinctly. I had no presumption about meeting him or anything. I just kind of wanted to see him up close, you know, as a sort of a drumming here. I just wanted to, like, just wanted to look at him for a minute. You know, just just see what it was about. And in that moment, I got to see what he was about in that moment. So, you know, he was famously known for being shy, being uncomfortable being in the public eye, not wanting to really deal with the fandom, and was quoted as saying, And I'm going to just paraphrase this, but basically saying, you know, when I was a kid, I was a huge fan of the who, but I never would have been a 1,000,000 years, dreamed of going to their hotel room and you know, of trying to find them and get an autograph from them, and I I sort of this is kind of fresh in my mind because I've been listening in this state of Hill book, which, by the way, I highly recommend, um, about his travels through Canada, and it sort of, like, sort of view. It is kind of a Canadian thing, you know, the Canadians air known for being extra polite and being nice. And and, you know, I think for him the whole idea of somebody coming up to him and asked asking for his autograph was just kind of embarrassing And so and just, you know, just sort of opposite of how he was raised in his his own personal culture. So that was my, uh, my near miss with with Neil Appeared, and I look back on it fondly and has, as someone who's never been particularly starstruck, are never in my entire life, asked anybody for their autograph and certainly have been around a lot of very famous people. I I can understand where he's coming from. Around 1995 he kind of shook up the drum world and certainly his fans, by letting everybody know that he was taking his playing and tearing it down and building it back up from the ground up. He was almost starting over, and he was doing this with famous teacher iconic teacher Freddie Gruber. Freddie's approach was very unique, and he was an eccentric man and taught a lot of drummers his way of approaching the drums. And it was mostly away from the drum set, and it had to do with the idea of dancing on the drum set, this sort of concept of dancing like a tap dancer and pulling the sound of the drum. With that, he went from matched grip to traditional grip, which means he had to relearn his left hand. He repositioned his drums dramatically and he was quoted as saying, sort of asking himself the question. Can I go down to the basement every day in practice again, like I did when I was 13? If I can commit myself to that, will I be rewarded? I decided it was worth a try, and I did that for about a year and 1/2. So imagine this fantastic iconic drummer at the top of his game. Who decides I'm going to start over? I'm gonna you know, most people would bask in that of course, but he decided that he was going to revamp, remold, remodel, restart his whole entire drumming style from a technical standpoint. Later in 2007 he also went back to the drawing board with Peter Skin and wanted to take his drumming to the next level by studying jazz with Peter Erskine and specifically wanted to, as he put it, turned himself from a butcher into a surgeon. So he was looking for touch and dynamics and the delicacy that comes with playing a lot of jazz. As I've been thinking about Neil appeared, and not something I typically think of on a regular basis. Sometimes I do. I'm still in some of those songs in deep. I should say into some of those songs, because I still teach those songs, particularly the songs off of moving pictures To my students. Those are the best known songs, and so those are often the ones they want to learn. So we break him down, note for note and learn them, and they're they're still fun and challenging, but other than that, it's not something I think about on a daily basis. But as I was preparing for this podcast and thinking about what I wanted to say and going through these notes, I started to realize that his willingness to forever be the student has certainly been an influence on me. Also, because a few years ago, after a spending about maybe seven or eight years, really focused on composition and audio engineering and production, also playing drums during that time, but not really being super Super focuses a drummer, but but spending a lot of time playing a lot of guitar lot of keyboards as well. I myself really took my drumming back to basics and back to the drawing board and started to re examine my technique not only with my hands but also with my feet. And after having done that for the past three or four years, the rewards have been great. But I think that the fact that that story, the fact that he was willing to start over I remember the first time I read that with Gruber there was shocking, You know, again, you know, just it's such an unusual scenario for someone at his level at his fame, at his ability to just, you know, really start over. And I think that story in the back of my mind was one of the things that helps motivate me and helped me realize that I, too, could do that and didn't have to necessarily be afraid of starting over and that I did that idea of forever. Being the student is something that I definitely live by on a day to day basis. Meal appeared as a lyricist is, you know, well loved and respected all over. He covered so many different topics in such a unusual way, you know, from government oppression in 2112 tow the struggles of being a teen in subdivisions to philosophy, like the idea of free will and so many other just just even too fantastical stuff like Red Bar Chetta. I know many ah, musician that Waas prompted to learn more about philosophy and some of the things that he held dear and some of the some of the books that he read some of the author's that he likes because of his lyrical influence. Years after grace, under pressure and all the records that followed, I became aware of the fact that Neil Peers was writing books and I listened to a lot of audio books, and I read a decent amount, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out what a fantastic author he was. I guess I really shouldn't have been that surprised, but his books are fantastic, and if you haven't checked some of them out, I think the 1st 1 that I read may have been the masked rider cycling in West Africa. And there's not a lot in there about Rush or about drumming. But it's about his literal adventure on a bicycle riding through West Africa and the people that he encountered and the people that he traveled with. He was with a group of people, and it is fascinating, and it's it's interesting and gritty and funny, and I highly recommend it if you want something that's a little more focused on his work with Rush. Another excellent book is Road Show Landscape, with drums, a concert tour by motorcycle and again fun and a lot of inside into what his life was like during that time period. Hey has several other books and I've I've read them all or listen to them all, and they've all been fantastic. I'd like to end with a quote from Put Shot, which is one of my favorite songs off of Definitely a B side off of moving pictures. And remember the time period that this was written in the early eighties and how apropos the lyrics are today. I'm just going to read the last couple of lines here. These this is a particular line that always sticks in my head, it says. They say there are strangers who threaten us are immigrants and infidels. They say there is strangeness too dangerous in our theaters and bookstore shelves that those who know what's best for us must rise and save us from ourselves. Quick to judge, quick to anger, slow to understand ignorance and prejudice and fear. Walk hand in hand, Mr Fear, you will be missed by many. My sympathies and condolences go out to his family and friends. I am forever grateful for your music and words
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