10 Most Truly Abysmal Drummers

Drummers are gasoline.  They are the fuel of any band.  They can make an average band sound good and a good band sound great.   A great drummer propels the music forward with groove, allowing the other players and indeed the listener to lose themselves in the sound.   These are my 10 favorite unheralded drummers (in no particular order), whose sense of style, creativity and sometimes power command my attention when I listen to their respective bands.

1. Jeff Burrows (The Tea Party, Crash Karma, The Art Decay) – An absolute monster behind the kit, commanding both power and touch.   Every song by The Tea Party and his current band, Crash Karma, is that much better because of his drumming, as he shows immense creativity and talent with acoustic drums, electronic drums and exotic percussion alike.  Whether grooving simply or polyrhythmically, he can do it all…and he’s a helluva lot of fun to watch live. Check out the debut CD of Crash Karma for his latest work.

seansmall2. Sean Kirkpatrick (Swell) – Deceptively understated drumming style.  Kirkpatrick provided the perect backbone for Swell’s music with an intimate feel to his drumming…loose, yet tight at the same time.  His rhythmic stamp is all over the Swell albums he drummed on, and in my opinion the Swell albums recorded without him (while still being good) just don’t quite sound like Swell to me.   How many drummers can you say that about?

jpgaster3. Jean-Paul Gaster (Clutch) – While this list is in no particular order, I have to make one exception.   Jean-Paul Gaster is my favorite drummer and has been since I first watched Clutch’s Full Fathom Five live DVD.   He’s just off the hook.  Grooves for miles, licks for hours and in total command of his style.   Go to a Clutch show sometime, and you’ll notice that everyone knows who he is.  Total respect.

barkmarket4. Rock Savage (Barkmarket) – His name just cracks me up and his drumming just makes my jaw drop.  Barkmarket was a unique band, often sounding like a migrane that just won’t go away set to jazzy, twisting algorhythmic beats.  He’s one of those rare drummers who can make suspended non-4/4 time signatures groove, and ya gotta be really good to make this kind of music work.

Terrybozzio5. Terry Bozzio (Missing Persons) – I must admit that my only exposure to Bozzio’s drumming is through his work with Missing Persons, most notably their Spring Session M disc.  While the sound was purely new wave, Missing Persons was an extremely talented lot with bassist Patrick O’Hearn moving on to make quite a name for himself as a new age artist and guitarist Warren Cuccarullo achieving success with Duran Duran while being widely respected for his playing.  As for Bozzio…his inventive and extremely creative drumming (fun to watch, too) propelled Missing Persons’ music, commanding attention without ever overshadowing the songs and he’s moved on to more jazz/fusion oriented stuff.  Did I mention that he cut his teeth playing with Frank Zappa?  Nuff said.

220px-John_Stanier6. John Stanier (Helmet, Battles) – The first thing that struck me about Helmet’s music was the almost insane percussive precision of their riffs.  An extremely tight outfit, Stanier was the glue that held Helmet together and, in my humble opinion, his performance on the Aftertaste disc says it all.   With chops for miles, he was dead-on with the groove and his intensity is just mindblowing.  Check out the song Birth Defect for a shining example.

jared7. Jared Champion (Cage the Elephant) – By far the youngest drummer on this list and the newest to the scene, I can’t help but think his band is poised for a bigger stage.  As with all great music, it’s the drummer who lays the foundation of the songs (along with the bassist), and Champion shows incredible talent and versatility on Cage the Elephant’s debut CD.  Straight forward rock grooves, funky shuffles and swaying blues beats are all played with style, flair and an obvious love for the music.

gaskill8. Jerry Gaskill (King’s X) – King’s X is just an amazing band, and Jerry Gaskill shows wonderful chops as well as restraint in his playing.   Stylistically, he’s all over the map with King’s X’s music ranging from slow Sabbatheque riffs (see In The New Age) to more uptempo fare like Moanjam or staccato rhythms like the chorus of Prisoner.   Played with equal parts precision and emotion, Gaskill is the perfect drummer for the unique power trio sound of King’s X…as an added bonus he’s got quite a voice for those heavenly harmonies.

kretz9. Eric Kretz (Stone Temple Pilots) – While Stone Temple Pilots’ popularity keeps them out of the Abyss as a band, I’ve always been amazed that Kretz doesn’t get more attention for his drumming.  To this day, I’ve not heard a band who can pull off a cover of Plush and have it sound as big and full as STP…and it’s because of Kretz.  Hi-hats open at just the right time fill in the spaces that, as a result, make that song flow rather than sound stacatto.  Listening to other STP fare it becomes evident that this is a drummer with both power and finesse, never overplaying and always complimenting the songs with tasteful fills and plenty of chops.

everett10. Everett Morton (The Beat a.k.a. English Beat) – A unique talent, Morton was the rhythmic propulsion of the original ska institution known as The Beat (stateside as The English Beat).  He plays the drum kit as a percussive smorgasboard rather than the familiar kick drum/snare/hi-hat style, often using rim shots where you would expect the snare drum to be.  Influential to Stewart Copeland of The Police, among others, Morton should be a household name.

11.  Maxwell “Beatamax” Hallett (Hot Head Show) – I know this is a “Top 10” list…but THESE go to 11.    Hot Head Show is a band with one EP to their credit at the time of this writing (The Lemon EP), and it’s probably the most incredible EP I’ve ever heard…by three extremely talented and creative musicians.  When someone’s drumming is so creative and diverse that it commands your attention as much as the other two instruments, that’s special.   Besides having a hilariously cool nickname, Beatamax’s style throughout the entire Lemon EP commands attention with insane syncopation…beats stop and start on a dime, weave through otherworldly time signatures, ska, punk, prog, and probably genre’s I’ve never heard of.  All the while, his drumming and his band are just a lot of fun to listen to.

Honorable Mention:  Joey Breland, BB Peters (Liquid Jelly Monkey Love/Seventh House), Joey Scott Harges (Lizzy Borden), Nick Menza (Megadeth), Reed St. Mark (Celtic Frost), Michael “Away” Langevin (Voivod), Joey Gold (Love/Hate)im

20 Responses to “10 Most Truly Abysmal Drummers”

  1. Lesley sylvia Says:

    Thank you thank you for recognizing jared champion……i saw cage play this past weekend in providence and his / their energy was soo apparent albut ensuring this bands staying power and promising future… Best new band out there!!! Lesley sylvia

    • moosejuice Says:

      Thank you for your kind words, too! I’ve never considered myself a critic…I just know what I like. I just love this band. Never had the pleasure of seeing them live yet, but I hope to next time they come through my neck of the woods. Jared has quickly become one of my fave drummers…period. My favorite band is Clutch, and Jean-Paul Gaster’s drumming intuitive and just perfect for the music they’re creating. I regard Jared and CTE in the same light. Some musicians and some bands just have that magic. Cheers!

      • Matt Jirrels Says:

        You haven’t seen anything until you see CTE live man. They are absolutly INCREDIBLE!! Jared throws it down on the set and Matt (lead vocals) knows how to command the crowd. It’s an amazing experiance! I caught them recently in Jacksonville, FL and they surpassed all of my expectations. Cage the Elephant is a band with unparralleled talent! It will be no surprise to this fan to see them go the distance!

      • moosejuice Says:

        I hear you. Can’t wait to experience CTE live myself. They are just incredible…one of the best CD’s of the past 20 years in my opinion. Thank you for coming to the Sonic Abyss and I hope you come back! Cheers:)

  2. Champion ROCKS!!! CAge the ELePhAnT is untouchable.

    • moosejuice Says:

      I absolutely agree. I mean his name IS Champion! haha Gotta award him a Doctorate of Abysmology for spreading the Abysmal word. Rock on my friend…

  3. You… don’t actually know what the word “abysmal” means, do you?

    • moosejuice Says:

      Actually, I do. You should read the section of the website entitled “Abysmal Law” and it will all make more sense. In the Sonic Abyss, Abysmal is a GOOD thing. However, by happy coincidence, Abysmal has more than one meaning:

      a·bys·mal (ə-bĭz’məl)

      1. Resembling an abyss in depth; unfathomable.
      2. Very profound; limitless: abysmal misery.
      3. Very bad: an abysmal performance.

      Remember…the Sonic Abyss is all about fun, and wordplay is prevalent:) Cheers!

  4. Nice blog and great DRUMMERS list.

    Not many people mention Jerry (from KING’s X) but he is a solid sticksman!

    Of course if you are going for chops and sickness then T.Bozzio will win hands-down, but I actually prefer: John Stanier (Helmet, Battles)!

    Nice choice -god I used to jam on HELMET all of the time back in the day. Very precise and machine like BUT with such a monster groove and killer sound. He always plays a perfect/catchy beat.

    Being a drummer of 20 years I still play “air-drums” in my car when I listen to HELMET.

    Check out my freshly-minted Metal blog called DEMOLISH Magazine.
    I will post a link to your great site, hopefully you will do the same for another Metal bro!


    Take care and rock on!

    Curt King
    Demolish Magazine

    • moosejuice Says:

      Brother thank you for the kind words and I will be linking to your site. Very cool site with tons of stuff (Toxik, Candlemass, Acid Reign) that brings back memories from my college days at LSU when I started a metal radio show called Steel Circus. Now THERE’S an 80’s metal name! lol I think it’s called Rusty Cage now, and it’s cool that it’s lasted all these years. Rock on

  5. Thanks for the link add! I really appreciate it. You can nab my logo off of the DEMOLISH site if ya’ like as I noticed that you have logos listed for the others. If not – no biggie.

    Thanks for the nice Demolish Blog compliments too.

    Memories from the good ole’ college days! ha ha. STEEL CIRCUS = def. a 80’s metal name and now that RUSTY CAGE -must be a left-over from when GRUNGE took over (maybe a nod to the great SOUNDGARDEN tune with the same name)…

    There were several college Metal stations around here as well back in those dayz.

    Anyway, I am off to dig in the vaults to see what other goodies I am going to post next.

    Rock on!

    Curt King
    Demolish Mag.

  6. tradinghigh Says:

    One really needs to consider Stanton Moore of Galactic when compiling a list of most relevant snare-men.

  7. send me your email add as I have a rare KING’s X promo photo for you.


    Curt King
    Demolish Mag.

  8. No way Terry Bozio even belongs on this list..The guy’s a master drummer..Rest assured in the world of drumming he is anything but abysamal. He is revered as one of the best. Any style of music put in front of him he would make come alive from punk rock, heavy meatle, to jazz and or classicle. I read an interview with him where he said he would cry himself to sleep at night as a teen cause he was’nt born black and because of this he would never be able to sound like tony Williams (his personal fav (( as well as Vine caliuta’s)). I certainly can identify with that. He paved the way in that ostinado thing he does. A drummer friend of mine talking about terry’s drum video says…”The coolest drum things you’ll never be able to do”. He just one of those musicians who are at another level.

  9. Good to see respect for Everett Morton… in my opinion, one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, drummer and percussionist I have ever heard. I used to think he would layer his sound with multiple tracks… until I saw him live several times doing the unbelievable. It was astonishing… and he was always so relaxed. I saw him once carry on a conversation with a roadie during a mad drum solo! Definitely can see touches of the same style in Stewart Copeland (who was absolutely awe-inspiring, as well, but much more intense).

    Have to admit I was stunned to see the word “abysmal” on the same page as Everett Morton… was glad to read the explanation to see its meaning on this site!

    • moosejuice Says:

      Glad to hear from you, man! Thanks for leaving your comment. Truly incredible drummer and fun to watch! Cheers

  10. abysmal means really really bad

  11. RandomTemple Says:

    Dude! … Dude! Jean-Paul KILLS. My drum teacher when i was like 12 burned me everything from Pitchfork til Blast Tyrant, with a breakdown of each, including tracks to listen to for drums in specific, and I’ve bought everything from them since, including Bakerton’s shit. He also took me to see them that same year, and it blew my little adolescent fucking mind! And I saw Jared with CTE earlier this year, and they are by far one of my favorite bands to come out of the woodwork in the last few years. Nice list man! Well done! (Oh and of course Terry and the others are just phenomenal)

    • moosejuice Says:

      Thanks for stopping by and joining in the JP hero-worship! lol I like to call him Jean-Paul “The Master” Gaster. Clutch is my favorite band and it was after watching the “Full Fathom Five” DVD for the first time that I really stopped to take notice of just how excellent JPG is. Sounds like you had a smart drum teacher, too! Rock on, my friend. Cheers

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