Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"I'm the drummer."

When I play drums I think I am more "in" my body than at any other time in my life. I have a tendency to be somewhat clumsy and flail-y, knocking over my glass of water during an animated conversation or accidentally flinging something when I mean to hand it to someone.

But when I play it's like my body has this unconscious knowledge of what it needs to do and it just takes over. My arms and legs have memorized the parts, the rhythms and the patterns more than my mind could ever really be aware of. I sometimes feel like I could be woken up at 4:45 a.m., put behind my kit and be able to play a song with my band as if I'd been awake for hours, showered and had a hearty breakfast. My body just knows what to do and it's totally in charge. I sit inside of it and enjoy the ride, dancing on my drum throne while I pound out these beats I know better than my own reflection in a mirror.

Because of this I am sometimes amazed when I hear recordings of myself playing. It's not that I am not aware of what it involves to play the drums, the difference between a fast, mid-tempo or slow song or anything like that. But when I play it is a little bit like I am out of my body despite of how embodied I feel. It often feels a bit like slow motion and the astonishment comes in when I hear how fast I'm playing and yet it still sounds fluid, exact and right. I sometimes listen back to my playing and think "How did I not totally fall off the beat there? That shit is fast! When the hell did I learn to do that?!" A part of me that I am not always able to access in daily life takes over and while he is definitely me he is a me that surprises a lot of friends and sometimes surprises the fuck out of me.

I started teaching myself to play drums at the beginning of my junior year of college. I couldn't do a fill or a roll to save my life and I could barely manage a double kick on the bass drum without completely losing the beat altogether. Now when I listen to myself drumming I find myself thinking "I think I would like this drummer if I was just a listener and not the player." That may sound really egotistical, but it's not how I mean it. It means I am actually giving myself some credit - something very few creative people do. I have been driven crazy by people whose talent and ability blows my mind and I see or hear them putting themselves down, under-cutting their art or doing the self-deprecating thing. Yes, humility is a good quality to have for sure - I never feel like I am "done" learning on the drums. I will always be trying to grow and push myself further for as long as I play. But it's okay to say "Hey, I am a good drummer right now" and enjoy that feeling.

And for someone who used to have such health problems that he couldn't walk down a hall without gasping for breath, it's pretty damn satisfying to know that I can tear it up behind the drums and really fun to imagine what it'll be like to listen to myself playing 10 or 20 years from now. I just pray I don't feel the need to add 50 extra toms and 30 specialty cymbals to my kit like some old rocker dudes do.

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