If it were going to happen at all, it would have happened by now. I’ve heard reams and reams, droves and droves of cocksure rhetoric on Neil Peart. I’ve heard this ex-junkie I used to work with go “Fu** John Bonham” and then put on Sublime after we’d just had Sublime on the last night. I’ve heard Neil Peart fans endorse Greta Van Fleet. And I’ve seen 2112 grace all-time lists, only to completely fall short of Rolling Stone’s top 500.
I don’t really need a lot of evidence to prove that John Bonham is best drummer of all time… how about “Wearing and Tearing”; the last track on Coda, the band’s career-closing outtakes and odds-and-sods album? The band is on this trippy, frenetic, funky groove and “Bonzo” is right there, pummeling the whole thing to death with relentness kick/snare verbosity and extreme rhythmic precision. There’s a couple other songs I could look to: “In My Time of Dying”; “Whole Lotta Love”; “Black Dog”; but for time constraints and irrelevance to my subject matter I think I’ll leave off.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge fan of Rush. My favorite member of Rush is probably Alex Lifeson, with his invincible riff opening up “Red Barchetta” and jazzy, rubber-fingered take on “YYZ”; with my second-favorite being the indefatigable Geddy Lee and his cutting, sensitive poetry in the lyrics to “Tom Sawyer.” You can probably even guess my favorite Rush album by now although Signals (1982) did take things in a refreshing if a bit poppy turn the next year.
Maybe, for a whitey, I’ve got too much black in me. I need the funk. And Harold Brown’s parts are just so simple. I mean there’s Stevie Wonder. I could be a total geek government spy and say Stevie Wonder, who played every instrument in the studio on the track “Superstition,” for one.
But drumming and rock and roll go hand in hand, as, yes, John Bonham taught us. Rock and roll brought us the “drum solo,” driven, I think, to pretty solid stature, by Ginger Baker on “Toad.”
It follows, then, perhaps, anyway, that the band that rocks out the hardest should have the best drummer. The dude from Helmet was solid, Jimmy Chamberlain from the Pumpkins showed some prowess (though not on “Today”; needless to say). Dave Grohl’s, well, not a drummer anymore, but when he was he was obviously pretty good. Matt Cameron’s a bada** but played in pop bands his whole life, essentially.
Rage against the Machine was a band that took grunge rock and added a rap element to it. The very nature of their identity was confrontational mayhem, too, entrenched as they were in inner-city LA, and with a lead singer in Zach de la Rocha whose Mexican heritage propelled him into volumes of biting political diction. Tom Morello’s guitar riffs are some of the best of all time, in their stately but profuse aggression and swagger. Tim Commerford was in lock step the whole time.
What kind of drummer would fit into this? Somebody who was classically trained, can play septuplets at 160 b.p.m., can twirl the sticks over his head and smoke a cigarette while he’s playing? I mean, the table was already set. The bases are loaded… all we need is a single to win the game.
And I’m still trying to discern whether or not Rage was TIGHT. I’m leaning toward yes… at least by Battle of Los Angeles, at least.
Anyway, what I was getting at before is that there’s such a thing as showing off skills and there’s also such thing as understanding, flawlessly, how to be the drummer in your band. Chad Wilk helped propel Rage against the Machine’s alt-rock street cred into the stratosphere by showing up, playing three-note fills when he had to (although these even tended to be fairly intricate, incorporating a snare-tom combo, etc., instead of instrumental uniformity), and yes, hitting those cymbals on the upbeats in “Know Your Enemy.” Y’all got any more of those cymbals? (And it’s true, his fill toward the end of “Bulls on Parade” of solely snare 32nd-notes is actually pretty physically impressive… I could see Neil Peart slipping a disc in his back trying to mimic it.)
Generally, “Bulls on Parade” will make for a pretty credible blueprint on the genius of Chad Wilk. The song is grunge rock, at its core, and so has to play on the radio, thereby less catering to jazzy or complex drum beats. Wilk takes his vegeance within this ubiquity in a couple of key, subtle ways. First of all, the rhythm in the beat he begins with is incredibly creative and off-kilter. He actually hits the snare so hard on the one beat that you don’t even notice that he’s hitting an unorthodox instrument (typically the kick drum always gets some love on the one). He then hits the kick on the up-beat of the one (or one eighth note following the one beat, if you prefer), also crashing that cymbal on the one, making for a perplexing, but invigorating, drum lead-in to the song. With the strong help from Wilk, you could make a fervent case for “Bulls on Parade” as Rage’s best song (along with some glorious aid from bass sound, likely behooved by a couple digital remasters). In the most important part of the song, then, the chorus, Wilk gets defiantly simple with his rhythms and techniques, and this is something I like about him. He doesn’t hog the spotlight from the other band members or the general musical interface that’s being established.
Nonetheless, throughout, and in other songs as well, he’s got this effortless way of hitting the kick at odd, unorthodox beats, something that takes an incredible amount of bodily coordination and also requires an auspicious enough musical mind to discern what beats will create the most tension. Is Wilk my favorite member of Rage? Not by a long shot. The best aspect of Rage was de la Rocha’s street poetry and the second-best was Tom Morello with those defiantly simple but distinct, power and memorable guitar riffs. Wilk, though fit into the overall puzzle perfectly, and can probably dance better than Dave Grohl, too. I’m not sure why that’s important, but the fact remains, nonetheless.
<script async src=“https://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js?client=ca-pub-5127494401132808”
<!– Google Tag Manager –>
new Date().getTime(),event:’gtm.js’});var f=d.getElementsByTagName(s),
<!– End Google Tag Manager –>
<!– Google Tag Manager (noscript) –>
height=“0” width=“0” style=“display:none;visibility:hidden”></iframe></noscript>
<!– End Google Tag Manager (noscript) –>