3hree Things: (A Few Of) My Favorite Drummers At the Moment

Watch out for 3hree Things every Tuesday, in which Riley Breckenridge, drummer of Orange County's favorite local alt-rock band Thrice, gives his take on life in Southern California as an OC native.

3hree Things: (A Few Of) My Favorite Drummers At the Moment

Over the past couple of years, via Twitter and the comment sections of my blog and here at 3hree Things, I've received a decent number of inquiries about which drummers I'd cite as my main influences. I tend to shy away from addressing the question of drumming influences (or, at least, cringe when the question is posed) because I: a) always manage to brain fart and leave someone highly influential off the list, and b) find that who and what inspires me as a drummer is constantly changing. It's just a tough question to answer.

After getting a few more questions about my drumming influences during the roll out of my favorite albums of 2011 over the past few weeks, I figured it was probably time to address them here at 3hree Things. Rather than try to make the list comprehensive, or deciding to rattle off the names that might be fairly obvious or common (John Bonham, Dave Grohl, Jon Theodore, Josh Freese, Buddy Rich, JoJo Mayer, Gerald Heyward, Neil Peart, Joey Castillo of QOTSA, JR Conners of Cave In, etc.), I thought I'd try to narrow it down to three contemporary drummers I've found myself listening to a lot lately and that have provided me with inspiration to try to figure out how and why they play what they play, as well as how I can take what I learn by trying to figure out their parts and playing along to their records and make it my own without totally aping their creativity (or parts).

These are those drummers (in no particular order) . . .

1) Allen Blickle, Baroness
Song: "Isak"

There's a very Bonham-esque quality to Blickle's drumming on this song, especially in the triplet feel he's playing off the quarter notes on his hi-hats by doing doubles on the kick. His work here provided the inspiration behind the beat that opens the song "Yellow Belly" on Thrice's Major/Minor. Once I got comfortable with those doubles, I started experimenting by dropping them into different parts of bars of 4/4, and the "Yellow Belly" beat was born. I also love that Blickle is a basher, especially given the context of what Baroness is going for sonically. There are few things in music that irk me more than a drummer in a really heavy band that doesn't lay into his kit. Blickle lays into it and then some, keeps it steady and solid, doesn't overplay, and provides an awesome backbone for a band that absolutely crushes.

2) Dave Turncrantz, Russian Circles
Song: "Mladek"

I apologize for the audio quality here, but this is the best video I could find of this particular track, and despite being a bit dark, it gives you a pretty good look at Turncrantz's playing. I touched briefly on how much I appreciate what he does behind the kit in my review of Russian Circles' Empros album (No. 7 on my Favorite Albums of 2011 list, although if I compiled that list today, it'd probably land at No. 3 or 4). At the moment, I'd go so far as to say he's my favorite drummer. I'm blown away by how deftly he handles the variety of dynamics in Russian Circles' music and how tastefully he incorporates a wealth of chops into his playing without ever overplaying. The beat he drops into at the 2:06 mark in this clip is just gorgeous and groovy as hell, and that he's able to make it all look so effortless is equal parts inspiring and defeating (because I've tried to nail that section multiple times, and it ties my brain in knots). He's an absolute beast behind the kit and a huge inspiration.

3) John Stanier, Battles
Song: "Futura"

Flavorwire posted a hilarious end-of-the-year piece about "Stereotyping You By Your Favorite Album of 2011," with brief capsules about the sorts of people who like each record; the entry for Battles' Gloss Drop simply read, "Drummers." It's the truth, and it's because Jon Stanier is a freaking monster. His drumming on Gloss Drop is fantastic (mind-bending to try to figure out at times) and inspirational. And while I'm not about to start playing with my hi-hats at eye level, or with my right side crash 6-feet high, I've definitely learned a lot by trying to play along to Stanier's work. He was a highly influential to a generation of rock and metal drummers through his work with Helmet, and now he's influencing a whole new generation/genre of drummers through his experimental, mathy, syncopated, electronica-inspired drumming in Battles (and Tomahawk). That longevity, versatility and creativity is the mark of a truly incredible drummer.


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