DUI

SquadLeader

Gold Member
This is an interesting thread, for sure.

I'm a number of years (screw: over a decade!) away from my last steady live gig: the sort of situation where I'd played the charts several hundred times with the same folks, and could rely upon muscle memory to get me through seamlessly. Even then, I didn't self-medicate until after the set: with one glaring exception, about which more directly.

Lately, I find that I'm playing live more as a sort of a utility last-minute fill-in sideman, where I seldom know what is going to go down until I get there. With a lot of luck, I'll have one or two rehearsals to get things going. The gig I'm currently ramping up for is a big high-dollar benefit with a local blues band, and their charts are full of twists- and I'll get 4 rehearsals, and there's nothing on paper. If I'm not seriously on top ear-driven form, I'll be even more seriously fucked. Some of the arrangements are a trip!

Frankly, I like this sort of challenge these days. And, having said that: the idea of approaching such a gig even slightly compromised is beyond my comprehension. I'll have water, thank you. Afterwards? If it pours, I suspect that I'll drink it. Nastravya!

Now I can tell my brain-packed-in-cotton-batting story, I guess. The year, 1982. The venue, Chet's Last Call in Boston, right across from Boston Garden/North Station (above the Pink Pussycat Lounge, for folks who knew the neighborhood when it was still there). The band I'd founded, managed, and pushed to the world, had played a gig opening for Death in the Shopping Malls, and were loading out down the fire escape, as was good form in those days. My keyboard player lost control of his grip on my trap case, since he was trying to make time with a comely young brunette (he had the top handle, of course), and in the ensuing caramboulage, I ended up underneath said trap case, one flight down, with a torn ACL and MCL in my right knee. Which could be, and was, fixed surgically.

No troubs so far, right? Right-o. Except that that very night, I had booked us for the Saturday night headliner slot at Chet's only 3 weeks later (during basketball/hockey season- a plum gig). So we did it, anyway. And I discovered that 3 fresh prescription percodan and 2 shots of 100-proof Stoli will just very damned near make it not hurt too-much-ish, at least sufficiently to get through a 90 minute set with nine gazillion stitches, staples, and screws in the freshly-repaired knee on your freakin' kick drum side. Apparently, the 80s were a bad decade for getting knee surgery. You know what? Pain _hurts_, and it has a way of focusing your attention. But we did the gig we'd contracted for.

Here's the cool realization: I believe I sucked. I actually believe I sucked rocks through a freakin' *straw*, man. I'm not at all convinced that there are enough adjectives to describe the downright exquisite levels of suckitude I believe I traversed that evening. Arrangement? Fuck. Tempo? Fuckfuck. What _species_ am I? Fuckfuckfuck. Funny thing is that several of our fans said that that was a really good show: go figure. But cotton wadding and I just don't get along very well, I guess: I'm a control freak. It also set back my PT about 3 months... But, by Gawd, I'd said I would do it, and do it I did.

It is a good thing that the next few days are still a blur. Don't try this at home: your mileage will vary, and you won't like it. (;-) Never again!

Some folks can do the work a little bit out there. Some would seem to be able to do it a *lot* out there. Speaking strictly for myself, I would seem to be able to do it a *tad bit* out there. But, after all this verbiage, the question has to be: "WHY?"

You make the call!
Brilliant...
There should be a +feedback button somewhere for this...
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
We don't take ourselves particularly seriously..yet every gig we've played we've gone down a storm.
The message is clear. I've seen it 100 times before - some fabulous fun band starts thinking "hmm, we might be onto something" and start getting serious.

Pretty soon the magic is gone and you have this slick clone of what's popular at the time sans the sense of fun. Heck, even one of my old bands did it - we learnt the hard way.

In hindsight it shows both a misunderstanding of what audiences want and it also highlights the dissonance between what audiences like and what record companies want ... hence all the YouTube comments that go something like this: "I'm still in nappies and I like [some 60s or 70s track]".

People actually love all the juice and fire and soulfulness, but in its absence they'll take danceable economic rationalist plastic autotuned drum machine pretend-music.
 

dmacc

Platinum Member
.....Some folks can do the work a little bit out there. Some would seem to be able to do it a *lot* out there. Speaking strictly for myself, I would seem to be able to do it a *tad bit* out there. But, after all this verbiage, the question has to be: "WHY?"

You make the call!
One of the best stories I've ever read on any forum.

Larry, I don't think preparation and being able to improvise are mutually exclusive. In fact, I think it takes a lot of preparation to be able to improvise. To do the kinds of things you are talking about, and I've been on stages when this is happening, really requires being on your game. Having your chops and all your vocabulary so down cold that you can pull something out in reaction to something going on without having to think too hard about it. When the band is in the zone and feeding off each other, is not the time to be counting or trying to read a part down. Or remember that there was a fill you worked out that started on the 4, went across the bar and landed on the and. That has to come from within, from having practiced it so much that it just comes out when the mood is right. That is what I consider preparation. I've never been a transcriptionist (although I should do more so I can learn things and expand my vocabulary) or someone who plays something right off the record. For me to improvise fluidly takes time getting things into my ear, and under my hands, so I can remember the concept and make something of it when the right place comes up.
Perfectly stated.

I for one have never smoked any herb and just never cared to do so. I've been around more drugs than a Pharmacist growing up and just stayed away. I have no regrets. Drums and music saved me from all of that, actually..

For certain, I am not the same drummer with more than 1 beer in me and it's nor for the better. Water please for me all the time.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
I didn't know that people with oedipal complexes prepared for their nefarious activities. Wow :)
Hey, I'm from Detroit. This is how we talk. You wouldn't believe how much I edit my choice of words for this (family-friendly) forum. I could point you to some others where you get the unfiltered me. :)
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Larry, I don't think preparation and being able to improvise are mutually exclusive. In fact, I think it takes a lot of preparation to be able to improvise. To do the kinds of things you are talking about, and I've been on stages when this is happening, really requires being on your game. Having your chops and all your vocabulary so down cold that you can pull something out in reaction to something going on without having to think too hard about it. When the band is in the zone and feeding off each other, is not the time to be counting or trying to read a part down. Or remember that there was a fill you worked out that started on the 4, went across the bar and landed on the and. That has to come from within, from having practiced it so much that it just comes out when the mood is right. That is what I consider preparation. I've never been a transcriptionist (although I should do more so I can learn things and expand my vocabulary) or someone who plays something right off the record. For me to improvise fluidly takes time getting things into my ear, and under my hands, so I can remember the concept and make something of it when the right place comes up.
I agree with your concept, but not the word choice. Preparation, to me, implies practicing something specific you are going to play onstage. Improvising, beyond just keeping the beat chugging along, is listening and dropping in "off the cuff" little bits that you just felt, to ornament the leads. Which could take the form of dynamics, little accents, perhaps a 2 beat rest while the lead player "makes a point"...That to me isn't preparation, I think of it more in terms of being able to listen and react in the same motion. It means you have to be able to play your drums, and concurrently be able to listen, and also have the ability to anticipate or feel whats coming up, which assumes that you know what you want to do, and be able to do it automatically when the time is right, nothing to it. Granted I play groove based blues, so any ideas I have aren't going to be all that complex, like a Portnoy. But they are all custom fit for that particular lead. They are mostly nuanced based, little things that go right by, but really add a lot. It's all listening and reacting. I so get off on that. You still have to support the player without drawing attention away from them, it's more like you're goosing the lead from behind to push it along.

I like the bike riding analogy. When you ride a bike, you are not looking down at the pedals. You are focusing on the road ahead, (listening to the others) your feet are pumping the pedals, (playing drums on autopilot) and your eyes and your mind are navigating you around the potholes, and dictating how you maneuver the bike (improvising).

I can't practice that, it just happens. My drum playing and the ability to change what I'm doing on the fly are 2 necessary but different skill sets that need to work together seamlessly. It can be simplified by saying that I what I play is absolutely dictated by what I hear.

For instance I could be playing a song that we regularly do, but on this particular night, the lead player decides he wants to do a section of his solo super quiet, so he drops the volume way down in a place where he normally wouldn't. What are you gonna do, keep playing at the same dynamic? No, you will naturally quiet it down the second you realize it. Then, if during this blues lead, he decides to put a few bars of a disco-like feel to his lead, as soon as I hear that, I'm changing my blues feel to a disco "pea soup" type pattern on the hi hat. I know he's not gonna stay in this disco tangent very long, so I am anticipating how he will transition back in to the blues mode, and am right there with him. And since we're still quiet, I'm on the lookout for how he's gonna ramp it back up. And so on, until the end of the song. You get the picture. I don't know that you can prepare for that, other than having facility around the kit and the ability to play what you feel, by listening and reacting, with minimal losses.

I credit the many hundreds of hours attending open mic jams for that. You have to listen what is going on, and be able to react, or you're sunk. It's really not this lofty goal, everyone does it to some extent, listening and reacting. I will say that I think that skill should be developed for all it's worth though. It certainly serves me very well.
 
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bigiainw

Gold Member
I agree with your concept, but not the word choice. Preparation, to me, implies practicing something specific you are going to play onstage. Improvising, beyond just keeping the beat chugging along, is listening and dropping in "off the cuff" little bits that you just felt, to ornament the leads. Which could take the form of dynamics, little accents, perhaps a 2 beat rest while the lead player "makes a point"...That to me isn't preparation, I think of it more in terms of being able to listen and react in the same motion. It means you have to be able to play your drums, and concurrently be able to listen, and also have the ability to anticipate or feel whats coming up, which assumes that you know what you want to do, and be able to do it automatically when the time is right, nothing to it. Granted I play groove based blues, so any ideas I have aren't going to be all that complex, like a Portnoy. But they are all custom fit for that particular lead. They are mostly nuanced based, little things that go right by, but really add a lot. It's all listening and reacting. I so get off on that. You still have to support the player without drawing attention away from them, it's more like you're goosing the lead from behind to push it along.

I like the bike riding analogy. When you ride a bike, you are not looking down at the pedals. You are focusing on the road ahead, (listening to the others) your feet are pumping the pedals, (playing drums on autopilot) and your eyes and your mind are navigating you around the potholes, and dictating how you maneuver the bike (improvising).

I can't practice that, it just happens. My drum playing and the ability to change what I'm doing on the fly are 2 necessary but different skill sets that need to work together seamlessly. It can be simplified by saying that I what I play is absolutely dictated by what I hear.

For instance I could be playing a song that we regularly do, but on this particular night, the lead player decides he wants to do a section of his solo super quiet, so he drops the volume way down in a place where he normally wouldn't. What are you gonna do, keep playing at the same dynamic? No, you will naturally quiet it down the second you realize it. Then, if during this blues lead, he decides to put a few bars of a disco-like feel to his lead, as soon as I hear that, I'm changing my blues feel to a disco "pea soup" type pattern on the hi hat. I know he's not gonna stay in this disco tangent very long, so I am anticipating how he will transition back in to the blues mode, and am right there with him. And since we're still quiet, I'm on the lookout for how he's gonna ramp it back up. And so on, until the end of the song. You get the picture. I don't know that you can prepare for that, other than having facility around the kit and the ability to play what you feel, by listening and reacting, with minimal losses.

I credit the many hundreds of hours attending open mic jams for that. You have to listen what is going on, and be able to react, or you're sunk. It's really not this lofty goal, everyone does it to some extent, listening and reacting. I will say that I think that skill should be developed for all it's worth though. It certainly serves me very well.
I see where you're coming from Larry, but I'm not sure I agree. I'm not sure that what you describe is improvisation, as by your own admission, you are reacting to what is going on around you. You are prepared/have prepared by expecting the unexpected and by having enough skill to react to the changes. I think your right in terms of how you've learned your craft, essentially by doing rather than practicing in sterile conditions, but in the end it all adds up to the same thing- the facility to play what you feel is warranted by the musical situation at that time and place. You prepare by being musical and a musican!

I inhabit a similar vein myself and my band have had to bring in a dep for a pair of gigs later this month (they fall on the weekend our child is due and are on an island 200 miles away). The guy they have brought in is a great drummer, no question, and probably better developed in a technical sense than I am. But, and there is a but, the other guys, while they appreciate his playing, have all said that it's not the same. "He's not you!" is their take on it and how could he be. We've played together for years and there is a synchronicity between us that a more accomplished drummer won't necessarily get, and they did comment that he played on regardless of what hey did, where as I am used to their idiosyncrasies and am used to being able to/having to react, when things change on the hoof.

And I do that the same way as you, by listening.
 

wildbill

Platinum Member
Guess I'm an 'old stick in the mud'. I say - play straight or go home.

If you aren't getting the high from the music and playing itself, you're doing something wrong.
 

metal overlord

Gold Member
I rarely find myself having difficultly 'drumming under the influence'.
There has been a few instances though...

A while back, my bassist and I were relaxing before the show. My bassist, being an avid tea lover, brews up some tea. Little was I paying attention to this, because it is a regular thing of his. So he hands me a cup and says "try this, I added some special ingrediants to give it a little kick". Of course, I trust him and think nothing of his 'special ingrediants' and I down the cup. About 20 minutes later, I start feeling really weird. I became super light headed and everything was just weird. On my way onto the stage was when it started getting nuts. Everything became super blurry, colors became ultra-vibrant and everything seemed to have a tail if I moved my head fast enough. At this moment, I realized that my bassists 'special ingrediant', which he failed to warn me, was DMT. So as I'm trying to figure out what the hell is going on, our intro kicks in and it was about time we hit the stage. During this time, everything surrounding me began to form complex geometric formations, colors flashing and dancing about. The crowd was just a sea of moving objects, not even people. My drums were getting bigger and smaller, widening and then shrinking, my cymbals morphed and breathed a pulse. I have no recollection of what went on once our set began, but according to the rest of the band, I played just fine.

That was one of my scariest moments, haha. Tripping balls on stage
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
LOL @ MO. I shouldn't laugh but ... :)

My asthma has forced me to muster the willpower I'd have never managed otherwise. I just can't smoke anything without suffering for it (apart from a couple small, tentative cones a day in the vaporiser). I keep forgetting that it's self medication for ADHD. Ritalin or Dex make me crazy - I cant touch 'em.

So I have a jam tonight with bass & guitar (singer and keys sick). I was so hyper that I couldn't stop myself from throwing in crazy licks all over the place. I'm thinking "No no no! Play solid! Get it grooving" but I couldn't control it. Then on the drive home I got in a psycho killer rage over trivial BS.

I need nicotine and THC implants!
 

groove1

Silver Member
Agree that recording and listening later is the best way to determine if you were "burning"
when you thought you were, or perhaps it was earlier on when you thought you weren't?
Years ago we did this and then made necessary adjustments to perform better.
 
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