Late night is Steve Reich’s time

Being a fan of all things minimal I naturally drain inner pleasure by Steve Reich‘s compositions. His music has also influenced many contemporary acts I admire such as Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds from the ambient scene but also bands like Tortoise etc.

This post is being written after midnight, probably the only hour of the day that I could grasp this kind of music at its full potential.

Being a drummer you can learn something pretty important by listening to Steve Reich. Perseverance. If played right, one insisting single musical pattern can make people delve into the music regardless if it holds for 3 minutes or for 10. In a way, you convince the mind to follow a path by repeating a simple, understandable procedure. I believe that pocket works the same way drumming-wise.

Another useful thing is soloing ideas. Most of this music is based on pure syncopation and the beauty of creating a simple melodic line that stretches a percussive pattern. To me that’s too close a drum solo composition. Luckily, Reich has even made a record just for that:

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Major Influences #2 : Bill Ward

As I said, this section is going to be all about honesty. I literally admit I’m ripping off one of these guys’ licks/thoughts each time I touch the drumset.

Thinking back about my highschool days when I was still growing some conciousness towards music I can only remember the first time I sat down and listened to Black Sabbath’s, Paranoid album. I recently paid that record a visit again and I realised one thing: I can still remember every drum/guitar part by heart. I can literally sing-along drum fills and guitar licks still to this day. So I said, this has to mean something.

It probably means that even though I like to think of myself as a: Ringo-Bonham-Mitchell type of guy, the truth lies deeper underground in the deep poisonous stomach of Bill Ward.

You want Bonham-eque, laid-back grooves? You got em. You want crazy fills around the toms like the ones heard on “Are Your Experienced”? You also got ’em. You want Ringo sloppiness? Take all you want as there’s plenty of it. Bill Ward did it all. By the way, did you know he had a recorded drum solo? Cause I ‘ve long forgotten about it..

So we have a guy with all the required skills -and enough attitude to wreck of block of pretentious music douchebags- that didnt actually manage to build a name for himself. Hmmm..

This live performance is hauntingly good, even for Ozzy who -some years later- decided it was time not to sing like a decent singer anymore. Skip through to “Behind The Wall Of Sleep” for some proof if you ‘re bored to watch the whole thing.

The more I follow his career the more I can’t make any sense. Maybe Black Sabbath wasn’t so much about the musicality like Led Zeppelin or Cream were. Or maybe their “heavier” side of things wasn’t popular enough during the rise of arena rock (The Who etc.). Or just maybe it’s because they looked like a bunch of drunk nobodies spending time between the stage and well… prison (let’s face it) for the most their career.

You think heavy cymbal hitting on top of heavy riffing is something particularly fresh? Oh well, have a go at this:

Point is: we gotta give credit where its due. And Bill Ward has a helluva impact on most rock drummers of today’s industry. Just THINK about his relation with the guitar riffage and then take a good look at yourself and your friends that play low tuned beatdowns etc…

PS. It’s not just Ward’s drumming. I also used to think that Tony Iommi is a drummer with a guitar in his hands. His use of syncopation is so rhythm-related (even when he’s soloing) that you could easily imagine a drummer playing the same phrases and make absolute sense.

Having said that, I must confess that as a practice routine I used to play an improvised drumming transcription of Iommi’s solo on War Pigs. Useful? HELL YEAH.