From DRUM! Magazine’s February 2018 Issue | Text, Music, And Video By Jimmy Keegan
Stewart Copeland and Bill Bruford are among a handful of players who have looked to the past to move things forward. Both drummers challenge the rules of rock and roll while maintaining the groove. Whenever I’m looking for a new approach to playing something simple, I start by looking to traditional rhythms: Afro-Cuban, Persian, Arabic, Polynesian, and so on.
In this lesson I refer to a piece by Spock’s Beard from the Extended disc of Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep called “Postcards From Perdition.” Ex. 1 picks up after the guitar intro, where the entire band enters.
Although the majority of this song is in 4/4, all of the melodic instruments are playing moving melodies and counter melodies. Consequently, there is no root bass line for the bass drum to follow. This leaves room for fun.
My job was to simply groove and hold down the fort while everyone else went here and there. I liked that this song seemed to ignore bar lines. It was time to break the rules.
I have always enjoyed the way in which many Afro-Cuban and Latin rhythms and phrases seem to leave off beat 1. It’s usually played, but it’s often reserved for a bell or something small. I decided to follow this concept and leave off the 1 as much as possible. This placed a greater emphasis on the snare or beat 2. I also threw in an extra snare hit every so often. It created a kind of musical round between the other instruments.
After this song was finished I noticed a great similarity to the Yes song “Roundabout” (although the drums are not nearly as hip as Mr. Bruford’s). This never occurred to me while recording the track.
Once you’ve learned all the rules, which ones will you break?
A professional drummer from age ten, JIMMY KEEGAN has performed with artists as diverse as Santana, Kenny Loggins, Bruce Dickinson, John Waite, and Selena. Currently the drummer for Spock’s Beard, he has found a niche bringing pop sensibilities to a complex genre.