The third blog by Down News writer David Boden from Castlewellan focusses on the art and practice of drumming, one of his passions.
Drummers are often believed to be a peculiar breed of individuals writes David Boden.
Outside of drumming circles non-musicians and players of other instruments may be described as ‘frustrated drummers’ . That is because there is something tangible about the power a drum can omit. We all have an inner drum that is our pulse, so drumming is also instinctual and tribal.
Over the past year, many people have been isolating due to Covid-19. This period would certainly be an opportunity for anyone to learn how to play a musical instrument. There is music in us all. We just have to dig deep and find it.
The initiation into drumming for me like many others was as an infant thumping the kitchen table with cutlery. Soon after The Muppets was the biggest show on television and I effortlessly found an affection for Muppets drummer, Animal.
Animal exemplified joy and the whole nutty professor element to the world’s most important instrument.
My first drum was a plastic marching drum that I got for Christmas in 1988.
I also had one cassette called ‘Bad’ by Michael Jackson whilst my older brother was a Def Leppard fanatic. In this musical era both artists were neck and neck at the top of the charts . Initially I cared little for Def Leppard until my brother told me about the drummer Rick Allen only having one arm. Then I was more impressed.
He could do with three limbs what many failed to do with four. Later I discovered he lost his left arm in a car crash in 1984 which gave me an insight to the loyalty of his band mates. That led me on a crusade to ask a question that doesn’t have a singular answer and that is ‘What is a disability?’
Around the age of 10 or 11, I was later introduced to some of the biggest names in rock when the Freddie Mercury tribute at Wembley Stadium was televised.
On that particular event the drummers having the greatest impact on me were Roger Taylor of Queen and Lars Ulrich of Metallica.
My brother would also come home with borrowed albums of bands such as Iron Maiden and Megadeth and the first question I would ask him was the name of the drummer.
At school I was continuously disruptive by drumming with my pens and books.
Aged 12 my uncle leant me his beautiful old Premier drum kit in blue sparkle for a while. Shortly after that I got my own Yamaha drum machine which was two pads and some backing tracks.
My elder brother took up guitar and was naturally talented. Another uncle passed an acoustic guitar on to me and my brother showed me a few chords. I later graduated to the electric guitar and that was an example of me being a frustrated drummer – drums were always my passion and for many, drums is a first choice of instrument but again many reluctantly settle with an alternative instrument due to lack of finances and physical space, and of course the issue of noise and neighbours.
In my mid teens my older brother started a band in our garage after I told him about a drummer and guitarist looking to start a band which I saw advertised on the notice board of the now defunct Music & Book Shop in Downpatrick.
His drummer was a nice chap who would show me a few basics and soon after I bought his kit.
I got involved in bands with fellow teenagers. We had more creative disagreements than harmony and consequently achieved little to nothing. However, we all identified with punk as there was a freedom in the speed and aggression and ability didn’t feature strongly on the agenda. That ethos took away frustration of having to be disciplined. It was all centred around attitude. It was more an attitude and lifestyle in which instruments served as the voice box.
Those were fads. I was always passionate about music so I realised fun to be a word that sat uncomfortably with me because I found pleasure from listening to music that wasn’t particularly happy. It meant more to me that it was real and of substance.
In my final teenage years I religiously bought the Modern Drummer magazine each month. I became educated on the history of the instrument and some of its most influential exponents.
I thought to myself, I want this to be my career and to be a successful musician you need to know more than the basics. So my gut reaction was the need to change my taste in music. I must confess I became quite the snob. I could only appreciate music that was overly technical. Instrumental passages , odd time signatures, pieces that were a minimum of 8 minutes long, sound effects and abstract use of language was the landscape.
Out of all instruments, drums would arguably be the one instrument closest to a sport. The choreography of coordinating two arms and two legs is akin to boxing above and dancing below. Drums are the pulse of every band.
Standard radio pop music is in the time signature of 4/4 which is 4 quarter notes in each measure. I play other forms of drums and percussion such as an Irish bodhran (pronounced boar-ann) made from goat skin, a Cajon ( pronounced ka-hone) whichever is a box drum and a glockenspiel which is like a piano played with mallets.
I often get into our garage at the outskirts of Castlewellan and practice on the drums. It’s just great fun.