On Saturday night, one of our friendly followers came up to me to talk about my blog. Which is weird, because the idea on an internet ‘journal’ or whatever is that you connect with millions or random people who you’d never encounter in real life. This guy happens to be an old friend of mine, whose opinions on music I take very seriously, so it wasn’t entirely random. What WAS odd was that he came up with some suggestions, augmented later by another person I didn’t know read our shit, as to a new segment for One A Day.
The best way to describe Air Drumming is by referencing Air Guitar; the practise of shredding an imaginary Fender Strat when hearing the solo from Metallica’s Enter Sandman or pretty much anything by Iron Maiden. But since Guitar Hero entered popular culture, air guitar has been in some serious decline, mainly because mentally deficient kids can now press buttons on a plastic-shaped guitar and not feel like total dweebs doing so. I’ve been told there’s this thing called Rock Band which allows for fake bass and drums as well, but personally I think that’s going over the top. By the time you buy all the perhiperal shit, you might as well have purchased an actual instrument. God love fat children with no social lives…
While being a drummer myself, I know that air drumming is not something confined to those who study music. Rather, it’s that exhilirating moment when you hear a song that you know so perfectly and love so much that you can actually beat out every intricacy of the groove note-perfect, on pretty much anything. Common sites for air drumming include the steering wheel/side door of one’s car, friend/lover’s backs, your knees, your chest, a wall and an unfortunate computer keyboard. Of course, you can actually hit nothing and still get the desired effect, with the added incentive of looking absurdly ridiculous in any context. Air drummers are usually failed guitarists/models/actors trying to mine their last vestige of ‘talent’ before they have to go on a talk show and wig out like Joaquin Phoenix. Or they’re actual drummers like me, who go to concerts knowing the rhythms before they’ll be played, and quite often get diagnosed with ADD because they can’t stop hitting stationary objects.
This list is by no means definitive, and I’m sure the originator will have plenty to say on the matter. We have a comments button (at the bottom of this post next to author) for a reason, so feel free to air your opinions. But without further ado, I present.
One A Day’s… TOP 5 SONGS TO AIR DRUM TO
5. Rage Against The Machine – ‘Vietnow’
Delayed entries, weird time signature shit and just enough funky material to satisfy any child of the 90s, this cruelly ignored track off Evil Empire stands out as one that pretty much every drummer wants to conquer and any rock kid will try to emulate. Best utilised with two hands, preferrably on someone else’s body before jumping around like a maniac. The left hand hi-hat hits also add a lot to the performance aspect, assuming anybody else is watching you. and since sticksman Wilk locks in so tightly with the bass, it’s easy to hear just how intricate this stuff is.
4. The Prodigy – ‘Breathe’
The fact that the drums are fake and processed is pretty much negligible, have you heard dance music lately? Not only are England’s 21st centry bad boys the master of huge industrial/tech mashups, but writer Liam Howlett has a particular ear for rhythms. Between the crisp snare drum intro, the James Brown aping main beat and the syncopated sounds of whips hitting poles and frogs croaking, there’s something to latch onto for even the most musically hopeless. The fact that the 1994 epic is now a nightclub standard doesn’t hurt, either.
3. Kings Of Leon – ‘McFearless’
Before their Sex was on Fire, Nashville’s favourites recorded Because Of The Times, which garnered them lots more fans and infuriated thousands of others with its’ non-linear songs and stylistic jumping. The real star of the show was drummer Nathan Followil, who pulls out some extraordinary chops on songs like this to provide material for air drummers everywhere. At last week’s concert, most men found themselves tapping this complex beat into their unassuming girlfriend’s backs. Me, I was pounding it like there was no tomorrow. Sorry honey!
2. Michael Jackson – ‘Bad’
Soon to be moonwalking across the stages of the UK to save himself from an inevtable bankruptcy, the past has not been kind to the King of Pop. Which is a bit cruel considering he gave us this wonder, complete with lines like ‘Your butt is mine’ (something Prince rejected recording for fear of reprisal) and killer beats like this start-stop disco number. At weddings and barmitzvahs, MJ is the one who gets forty-year-old men trying to tap out his drum parts with their hands while simultaneously messing around with their feet. This set the tone for much of the music we listen to today, but it’s better executed and had Quincy Jones on production duties. Most people air drum this one with their feet, hitting all the gaps by freezing dead like zombies in the Thriller video. Brilliant stuff.
1. Queens Of The Stone Age – ‘Song For The Dead’
Saying this 5 minute epic is faultless is likely to encourage complaints, so let’s just say that in terms of air drumming, this track pretty much has it nailed, because the focus is squarely on the drummer. He so happens to be none other than Dave Grohl, modern legend and skin-smasher for Nirvana and Foo Fighters, who came in to give Josh and Nick of QOTSA some support on their career-defining record. I have memorised this song, which is pretty hard seeing how intricate it is, and beating this out in my car is one of the few unbridled pleasures of being a 21 yr old eight time divorcee. Triplet fills, double bass drum kicks, rumbling floor tom interludes and double time freak outs that just never end all add up to the song which to me defines air drumming. Veering from stoner metal to balladry to punk within the same piece of music, this is a drummer’s dream and nightmare, and it couldn’t have been done by anyone but Grohl. You will get RSI just trying to ape the last two minutes of the song, this I guarantee you.
Now go forth and smash shit!