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14 January 2018

Instructions for Drummers

The following are the instructions I provided to my two fellow drummers at the recent Boat Burning event "Music for 100 Guitars" at the 9:30 Club.

Jim and Erin: 

Here are some notes to help us prepare for Sunday.  

MOST IMPORTANT: Please listen several times to the set provided by Andras from our mini-rehearsal #1 so that you can hear what the drums are doing.   

​A few principles: 

1. Keep your eyes on the conductor and me at all times for cues. Don't zone out. 
2. Main goal is to provide the rhythmic backbone to each piece. 
3. Emphasis on steady tempo and dynamics.
4. Less is more in terms of embellishment, etc. We're "accompanists" to the guitars. 
5. Listen. Listen. Listen. 
6. Have fun. 

Notes on the compositions. 

1. Telephone:  Guitars start it off with 8 bars of the "reset" then drums come in bigly. Watch Andras for the count-off to each subsequent reset.  Hard stop at the end on the "and." 

2. Detuning: Drums provide the rhythm while guitars detune to all E. The rhythm for this is best described as similar to the one used by Phil Collins on Peter Gabriel's tune "Intruder" from the Melt album.  That was before Collins became a pop clown. He was a damn good drummer. Ah well. Watch Andras for the cue to end this piece. 

3.  Road is Full of Diamonds: Guitars start it off with 8 bars then drums come in subtly with 16th notes on the hats for 8 bars followed by a rhythm that can best be described as a "Dont You Forget About Me" Simple Minds thing.  Watch Andras for the "breakdown" (bridge) when drums stop for 8 bars. Drums then come back in with 8th notes on toms for 8 bars building mightily to big fat finish. Watch Andras for the finish. Ringing finish. 

4. Ascension: Guitars start it off with 14 bars then drums come in mimicking the rhythm established by the guitar using hats/ride, snare, and kick. about 2/3 or so through the tune when the guitars start squealing I'd like us all to abandon hats/ride in favor of floor tom.  It's a nice contrast and simple. Ringing finish with with just guitars squealing. No drum punctuation at the end. Watch  Andras for the finish. 

5. Iron Baggage: Drums kick it off with 4 bars of what I call a "Honky Tonk Woman on Speed" four on the floor rhythm which is the primary rhythm of the tune.  Guitars then come in with something like 16 bars of the first phrase, 8 bars of the second phrase, and 8 bars of the third phrase, followed by the first bridge for 16 bars. Then the whole thing repeats two more times.  Retard on the toms at the end to signal completion of the tune. No drum punctuation at the end. Let the guitars ring on their own. Watch Robin for the cues. 

6. Fits and Starts: Drums kick it off with four bars of pretty much straight four on the floor. Then guitars for an 8 bar phrase repeated twice, followed by an 8 bar phrase that is repeated 8 times, followed by a final 8 bar phrase that is repeated twice.  On the the last phrase abandon hats/ride and switch to floor tom or auxiliary percussion like a cowbell etc. and last 8 bars we're hitting everything in quarter notes to signal the end of the tune. Drums do a hard stop. Guitars will ring a little. Keep an eye on Robin. 

7. Wrench: Same guitar riff throughout.  Drums bring it up and down and back up.  Guitars start off with 8 bars of the riff (different than recording) then drums come in fairly quietly but urgently with four on the floor, kick hitting on 8th notes with hats to give it the urgency.  Simply build it dynamically keep your eyes on me as we build the crescendo and syncopate toward the top of it. Then we bring it all down to the original quiet urgency for several bars, again building to a crescendo. Keep an eye on me and Norm for the cue to finish. 

8. Lafayette Ridge:  Guitars and drums come in together with a repeated 3 bar march in four on the snare consisting of 3 flams-flam/triplet-3 flams-flam/triplet-2 flams-roll.  Guitars and drums do the same rhythm. This is repeated 8 times. Then bring in kick on quarter notes while continuing the snare march pattern. This is repeated 8 times.  Then bring in a light ride/crash on the 1 of each repeated phrase. This is repeated maybe 4 times followed by ride/snare/kick all basically continuing the march patter with some embellishment and fucking around....all of this is a slow building crescendo ...think about a hike up a mountain...more and more intense. This is followed by several bars of the same phrase but with guitar accents repeated several times at the beginning of each repeated phrase.  Use crash cymbals on the guitar accents. I do something funky on my toms that I will show you or you can stick with the march or do something else that makes sense. This goes on for several bars. The guitars then do a different version of the same phrase using faux 32nd notes that sounds like a triplet. During this section drums should switch to half-time doing a sort of John Bonham "When the Levee Breaks" beat.  This repeats several times. Guitars then switch to a quarter note "pulse" of the phrase which drums mimic on the snare for a few measures before switching to an intense eighth-note based rhythm while guitars are still pulsing in E finally going down in a blaze of disco fury. Hard stop. Watch Norm for cues. 

9. Hail, Storm: Guitars and drums begin together in a syncopated style for 8 bars in four. Drums then switch to a sort of deliberate and slow "slave ship" thing. Right hand should use "clangy" auxiliary percussion like a cowbell, trashy clangy cymbal, frying pan, whatever clangs and cuts through all the fucking guitars, while left hand should be hitting rack tom on 2 and 4 for several measures.  Then switch to a straightforward 8th note based rhythm on ride or whatever for pretty much the remainder of the tune returning occasionally to the "clang" for effect.  At the end we all return to the drum/guitar syncopated thing for 4 bars. Hard stop. Watch Geordie for the cue. 

10. Harmonic Synthesis: Drums start this off in four. Right hand on floor tom doing 8th notes, left hand on the snare with snares off on 2 and using rack tom and floor tom on the "and" of three and on four.  This goes for 8 bars then guitars come in slowly with whole notes in E. Drums providing fillls every 8 bars to signal a new guitar phrase.  This is the basic rhythm for the tune.  When the guitars do 16th notes we switch to the ride or hats or whatever.  When the the guitars switch back to whole notes we switch back to the basic rhythm (floor tom, etc.).  This repeated pattern occurs every 8 measures or so.  Got to keep a close eye on Andras throughout as he's signaling the guitars and those are cues for us too. Toward the end of the tune the guitars will switch to harmonics to mimic a clock or upside down music box/finger piano.  We should drop back and lightly embellish with flourishes on bells of cymbals. No drums or very light here.  Andras will signal us to bring down the percussion so that guitar harmonics are really featured. Gradually we'll bring things back up trading off small fills or whatever.  All of this leads to a massive, loud finale that will go on for a minute or so.  Lots of cymbals, triplets, etc by the drummers. Think of the final salvo of fireworks on the fourth of July.  Fuck it up. You get the picture. 

That's it. 

See ya on Sunday!

And an example of the outcome...

23 December 2016

Boat Burning with a touch of Tone "Harmonic Synthesis" @ Rock n Roll Hotel 12.8.2016

....and our 2016, which was interesting and productive, ended where it began but not really.  After all, the earth had turned 365 times, had been shaken many times both physically and figuratively, and had, of a sudden, become much darker. And by this last remark I'm not referring merely to the then-approaching (and just-passed) solstice.

It is in these dark times that we most need the light created by the art of noise and the noise of art. Make some fucking noise. Make some fucking art.

Boat Burning's "Duet" @ Rock n Roll Hotel 12.7.15

Basically, our 2016 started with this gig at the end of 2015 with Cleveland's great Rocket from the Tombs.

21 February 2016

"Trenches" from Boat Burning @ DC9 - January 2016

Here's a nice video shot by Davis White from Boat Burning's January 2016 gig at DC9. The basic structure of the composition, "Trenches," was imagined by Geordie Grindle with contributions along the way from each of the group's members. A really nice collaboration, best listened to at high volume with quality headphones or stereo speakers.

05 July 2015

My big, fat Greek referendum!: A tribute with Profs. Sherman & Yanni at the Acropolis

Today, the Greeks participate in an important and historic referendum, the consequences of which will help decide whether Greece remains part of "Europe" (as in the single currency...not the continent).

Lest we forget that Greek society and culture are really, really old and really, really resilient (not to mention that we have a lot to thank the Greeks for....like, say, Western Civilization) I post this educational video shot and narrated by Yours Truly almost exactly five years ago. The video features "Professor Sherman" and "Professor Yanni" who are really just Sam Sherman and his buddy Kilian Copp both of whom were, at the time, learned students of Greek mythology...

04 July 2015

Wave that flag. Wave it wide and high!

08 March 2015


On the 50th anniversary of the march for voting rights at Selma, Alabama, President Obama offered these inspiring remarks...